Historic Hempstead Plains - Nassau County, Long Island
The 41st Division of the AEF (1917).
| The 41st Division was assembled at Camp Greene North Carolina. It was called the SUNSET Division
due to the fact that the division was composed of Western States personnel. They arrived by traveling over the
Sunset Trail. Hence the name Sunset Division. Ordinarily this division probably would have left through Newport
News Virginia. Strangely enough, it did not. I do not know the reason for it, but it must have been logistically
In October of 1917, the 41`st was sent North to Camp Mills, where additional Western State soldiers (approx 10,000) were added to bring it up to full Division strength. Division strength was approximately 28,000 men. In Mid October the 42nd Division had begun to move out. The 41st would move in until the abandonment of Camp Mills in December of 1917. The abandonment of Camp Mills began on December 7th. Conditions at Camp Mills were terrible, the weather had turned very cold in November. Camp Mills was essentially a tent city with very few amenities for the men. Camp Mills was really only intended for the formation of the 42nd Division. It's use was being pushed to the limits in the extreme weather. Western States Governors called for investigations, with the requisite official denial of the conditions. In early December 1917, enough was enough, and Camp Mills was to be closed for good.
On December 13th, a bad snow and ice storm would abruptly accelerate the pace of the Camps abandonment. The storm would collapse large numbers of the tents. Much of this equipment had already been in use during the Mexican Border Wars. Large numbers of soldiers would need to find shelter in the middle of the night. A train would attempt to take many into New York City to find shelter, none would be found. The train returned at 2 A.M..
The Citizens of Hempstead and the surrounding community would open churches, buildings, anything that could provide relief. That was the last straw, most soldiers were gone the next day. A number of Soldiers had to be dug out of collapsed and frozen equipment.
The 41st moved to Camp Merritt, most of the construction on Camp Merritt was now complete. The soldiers would have heated wooden barracks, showers, and commissary facilities. Basically the good life.
Their stay would be brief and they would be known as the first full Division to pass through Camp Merritt.
Much to their dismay, the 41st Division would achieve another first. Upon arriving overseas it would find out that it was now the first of the depot divisions (replacements to front line units). Early fighting units having already engaged the enemy in combat were now needing replacements. So the 41st achieved another first. The only intact units of the 41st serving at the front lines would be the 41st's 66 Field Artillery Brigade. The other units would be spread though various combat divisions as replacements V. Fitzgerald 1999
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