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Forestry Veterans… 10th and 20th Engineers

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Cool article I ran across about how Forestry helped win WWI.

Trees are so darn useful and historical.

The Forest History Society : World War I – 10th and 20th Engineers

The 10th and 20th Engineers – An Overview

When the United States entered the first World War in April 1917, one of the first requests from their French and British Allies was for regiments of trained lumbermen. Timber was in constant demand for almost every phase of military operations in Europe, and limitations on trans-Atlantic shipping space meant that nearly the entire timber supply had to come from French forests. In order to maintain this supply, the forests would have to be carefully managed. The Allies agreed that American forestry units would work in France’s forests, producing materials in accordance with the principles of French forestry. The U.S. Army, with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, state foresters, and lumber trade associations, immediately began recruiting experienced foresters, loggers, and sawmill workers for these new regiments.

The new recruits were first formed into the 10th Engineers (Forestry) under Col. James A. Woodruff. The regiment trained at American University in Washington, D.C., during July and August of 1917 before being sent to France, arriving in early October. Increases in wood requirements by the Allied forces necessitated the immediate creation of a second regiment, the 20th Engineers (Forestry), under the command of Col. W.A. Mitchell.

Photo from Forest History Society Photograph Collection, Durham, N.C. (FHS4788)

Company C of the Twentieth Engineers washing up their mess kits after dinner, American University training camp, 1917.

The 10th and 20th Engineers operated in various areas of France’s forestlands, managing forest growth, felling and logging timber, and operating sawmills. The men of these regiments produced wood that was then transported to American forces throughout Europe. The wood was used for building roads and railroads, constructing barracks, erecting telephone poles, supporting trenches, and various other building and construction projects. The already highly experienced men making up the regiments were able to streamline the lumber manufacturing process almost immediately. The troops of the 10th and 20th Engineers, along with several other engineering regiments and battalions, were eventually combined in October of 1918 into the 20th Engineers (Forestry), the largest regiment in the entire American Army. The 20th would be referred to as “not a regiment, except in name, but a great manufacturing establishment.”

The forestry units would greatly exceed all expectations of production. The mills they operated produced over three times their rated capacity. During the month of October 1918 alone, over 53 million board feet was cut by the forestry troops. This high level of work efficiency would continue beyond the end of the war, as production continued until May of 1919 in order to fill previously arranged purchase contracts. Overall, the forestry regiments were considered an immense success, and their work was crucial to the victory of Allied military operations in Europe.

Photo from Forest History Society Photograph Collection, Durham, N.C. (Kephart42)

Tenth Engineers loading logs in Mortumier, France, 1918.


Written by vaphc

November 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Nice info. Learning lots from your blog. Keep up the good work.


    November 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

    • Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. Appreciated. Glad you like the info.


      November 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

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