37th Engineers, U.S. Army

"First Across the Rhine"




Photos of the 37th Engineers

Regimental Song

Pvt. James O. Williams, Co. D, St. Louis, Mo.

Pvt. Norval Burnside, Co. D,  St. Louis, Mo.

37th Missourians Aboard Troopship R.M.S. Mauretania.

Company D Survivor Roster



The 37th Engineers of the First Army were 1,600 hand picked men, primarily electrical and mechanical experts,  from every State in the Union. According to records of Pvt. James O. Williams, Co. D, they first were sent to Ft. Meyers, Virginia training. From there they left to go overseas aboard the ship, Marratana, leaving New York harbor on 30th June 1918.  On July 7th arrived in Liverpool, England, where they boarded a train for South Hampton.  Boarded another ship and crossed the channel to Sherburg, France on either the 9th or 10th of  July. From there they took another train to "Camp Williams", located 1/2 mile from Is-Sur-Till. Here they worked here for six weeks (located bout 90 miles from the front).

Although the regimental headquarters was in Buzancy, France, individual companies of the 37th seemed to have been spread out across the western front, not wholly assigned to any specific location or division. Being detailed to various missions, extending from the coast of France to Switzerland. Company D's headquarters, for instance, was at Douie, France, five miles from Verdun. Company D is known to have participated in the following battles: St. Mihiel offensive, Verdun 1918 offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive. They did everything from building machine shops, carpenter shops, barracks, power stations, warehouse to maintaining the water supply to the troops. They also strung communication and electrical wires from trench to trench on the front line. As with other Engineer regiments, it is likely they built fortifications, bridges, set mines or rigged up boobytraps.

 In December, the regiment was later transferred to the brand new Third Army were it took part in the crossing into Germany. Co. E, of the regiment is reported to have been the first force of Americans to cross the Rhine at Coblentz on Dec 7th 1918. In March of 1919, the regiment was ordered home, arriving at Newport News, Virginia March 20, 1919 aboard the troopship, U.S.S. Princess Matoika. It is known they remained at Camp Zachary Taylor through the end of March before departing for their homes.


Patch of  the Third Army, from the uniform of Pvt. James O. Williams,  Co. D 37th Engineers. The 37th was transferred to the First Army by December 1918.  

Anyone having information, photos, or historical items relating to the 37th Engineers, please contact Scott K. Williams at email:  showmemule"at"earthlink.net   (to control computer generated spam mail I intentionally replace the @ with "at". In order for the email address to work one must manually remove the "at" and replace with @. Sorry there is no hyperlink. Otherwise I get inundated with junk mail.  I must warn you that I do not regularly check email and I often become so short on time I can't reply to everyone. I apologize.



Photos of the 37th Engineers

(Photos taken of the 37th or by members of the 37th)

Co E 37th Engineers drilling at Ft. Meyers, Va  (May 26, 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams' collection)

Another photo of Co E 37th Engineers drilling at Ft. Meyers, Va  (May 26, 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams' collection)

37th Engineers bunkhouse at Ft. Meyers (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Pvt. James O. Williams, Co E 37th Engineers at Ft. Meyers.(Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Platoon 3 Co. F 37th Engineers' HQ (Chateau at Chatel Chemery, France) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Close-up of Platoon 3's HQ at Chateau Chemery, France (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Another view of Platoon 3's HQ ( Oct. 15-27 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Platoon 3 Co F returns from Chemery (Nov. 12, 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection) 

Platoon 3 Co. F arriving in truck at Briquency (notice capture German helmet) Nov 2, 1918. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Along route returning from Chemery, Nov. 12 1918 (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

French Engineers repairing small bridge (North of Tannay, Nov. 12 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Light U.S. Tank (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Light U.S. Tank (front view)

No-Man's Land near Charpentry, France  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Bridge destroyed by Huns, repaired by American Engineers (Apremont, France)  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Street in Grand Pre, France, Nov. 2, 1918 (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Grand Pre, France. City Square, Nov. 1 1918  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

2nd Photo of Grand Pre, France. City Square, Nov. 1 1918  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Destruction at Grand Pre, Nov. 1 1918.  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Demolished building at Grand Pre, Nov. 1, 1918. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

More destruction at Grand Pre, Nov. 1, 1918 (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Empty Shells fired by American Artillery (near Fleville, France)  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

78th Division coming out Briquenry, France  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

2nd Photo of 78th Division "coming out", Briquenry, France Nov. 2, 1918.  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

37th Engineers checking out a German "long Rifle" Artillery Piece, south of Buzancy (Nov. 3, 1918)

German Prisoners, under U.S. guard, Repairing Roads (near Tannay, France)  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

More German Prisoners repairing roads near Tannay, France (Nov. 8 1918) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Captured Photo of German mounted on mules  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Capture Photo of German's at leisure. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

French Troops in Argonne (near Tannay, France) Nov. 8, 1918.  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Destruction along a French Road Oct. 18, 1918.  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

French Officer, mounted traveling on Tannay-Chemery Road. (Nov. 12 1918).  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Co. A, 16th U.S. Engineers (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

42 cm German artillery gun, abandoned by German Troops.  (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Heavy American gun arriving south of Fleville, France. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Tree loaded with TNT booby-trap (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

French Troops marching on road from Sedan to Chemery. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Destruction from German land mine (Acid fuse type) that blew up five days after Germans evacuated. (South of Chatel Chemery) (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

German Gas Locomotive at Chatel Chemery, Engineers investigating, Oct. 18, 1918. (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Captured 16" German Gun (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)

Three German Prisoners (Pvt. J.O. Williams collection)



The Gallant Thirty Seventh

Song dedicated to the Thirty-Seventh Engineers, by Pvt. H. E. Van Sander, Co F, 37th Eng.

We are the finest gang of technical men,
we've trained ourselves for years,
And decided that we'd do our bit,
And enlist in the Engineers.
We came to France to win the war,
and did on November eleventh.
By some we're called the forty thieves,
But we are the Thirty Seventh.

Oh the gallant thirty seventh,
The pride of the ladies dear.
And when we're on parade my word,
This remark was often heard
There's no mistaking the thirty seventh,
She ought to go twenty years.
Yes Sir!  No Sir! the society Engineers.

I'll ne'er forget the days we've spent,
In dear Fort Myer Camp.
We had Senators and Presidents,
To watch us drill like champs,
We had aplenty to eat and aplenty to drink
And nothing to bring us tears.
But who was the gang that growled the most,
The dirty old Engineers.


One day we got the word
To sail for sunny France.
We packed our grips for a hurried trip,
We certainly worked like champs.
We had safety boats and safety belts
And six inch guns in the rear.
But Fritz was afraid to show his head,
And so were the Engineers.


We'll ne'er forget the days we've spent,
In England's restless camps.
Our necks were bent and our backs were broke,
And our legs were filled with cramps.
There were Sammies here and Tommies there
And they gave us three rousing cheers,
But who hated the lousy leather necks.
The dirty old Engineers.


Finally we landed in dear old sunny France,
At a place called Gievres,
A big U.S. Supply Camp.
They had mountains of shovels,
And mountains of picks,
And they worked us to our best.
But who was the gang that hated Gievres
And Colonel Bell's rest ?


From Gievres we finally landed in Ramervillers town.
The cafes that sold the wine,
We did them up brown.
We had beaucoup Cognac and beaucoup Champaign
And we drank the best of beers.
The girls they had a hell of a time,
And so did the Engineers.


No matter where you'd go,
From Switzerland to the coast,
You'd find the Thirty Seventh in the line.
It always was their boast.
They gave the Dutchman electric juice,
And the Kaiser let out a yell,
Oh! Hindy!  The Thirty Seventh
Is shocking Germany into Hell!


The gallant thirty seventh
Were first into Germany,
As the crack troops to pioneer,
For the new third Army,
We salvaged a yacht, cruised down the Rhine
And up the old Moselle,
And let the Huns know we were there,
With our familiar yell.


The boys went out a salvaging
In a couple of German shacks;
Took everything from six inch guns
to rusty carpet tacks;
Took rifles, pistols, rusty swords
And a couple of dirty belts.
And when the officers said, "you're pinched"
Their eyes stood out like welts.


Old Pete Sealey lead the crew,
And he was a good one too,
By salvaging we got the things
With which we had to do.
We had Minkler, Beaucoup Bixby, Spring
And Hurry Up Charlie Schnell.
We're mighty proud of our Officers,
So lets go with a yell-Y-e-e o.


Major Kelly led the boys,
Up and down the line.
Through old France and Luxemburg,
And also on the Rhine.
And when we landed in Coblenze,
He was in our corner there.
And now he's taking the boys all home,
By the way of Saint-Nazaire.


Colonel Smitten came from Gievres,
To command this salvaging band.
And as we paraded by,
He said, "Boys you're grand".
I'm with you now and I'm going to stay,
No more will I roam.
We're mighty proud of you Colonel too,
And glad you're taking us home.


On the way to Saint-Nazaire
The gang was ditched one day.
And made to hike through rain and sleet,
To te town of old Corne.
Where we were soused, drilled, and deloused.
And inspected every day.
We'll never forget Colonel Shoe-String,
And the misery of Corne.


Now that all is over,
And we are homeward bound.
A happier crew of men:
I don't believe could' er be found.
We are mighty glad we've done our bit,
We'r mighty proud to say,
We've licked the Hun and so have won
For the dear old U.S.A.


Oh! the gallant Thirty-Seventh,
The pride of the ladies dear.
And when we're on parade; my word,
"Theres no mistaking the Thirty-Seventh
She ought to go twenty years".
Yes Sir! No Sir!  We'll be mustered out with cheers.


Pvt. James O. Williams, Co. D  37th Engineers

   Pvt. James Oliver "Ollie" Williams, grandfather of author, was born May 10, 1888 in Christian County, Missouri, the son of David Vance Williams and Martha Jane Luce. He was an electrician by trade.   Newly wed to Miss Lily Amelia Morris (d/o Frank Wesley Morris and Martha Amy Carter) on Nov. 29th 1917 in St. Louis, Mo. They made their home at 3735 Lucky Street in St. Louis. Ollie was the grandson of Joseph Mack Williams, a Civil War veteran of the 72nd Enrolled Missouri Militia.

Pvt. James O. Williams enlisted on March 23, 1918. Initially assigned to Company E, sometime after basic training at Ft. Meyer, Virginia he was transferred to D Company. In France, he participated in the battles of St. Mihiel offensive, Verdun Sector, and Meuse Argonne Offensive. He was discharged on April 5, 1919.  During his time in France, one of his best buddies was Pvt. Norval Burnside, also of Company D.  On numerous occasions Burnside had forgot his gas mask before going out on patrol, but his comrade Williams  never forgot to bring it along. On one occasion when Williams had taken ill, Burnside went out alone and he forgot his gas mask. On this occasion in Oct. 1918, during the Argonne Offensive, there was a German gas attack. Burnside became extremely ill from the toxic effects of the gas, but fortunately survived.  

[Norval Burnside, born March 27, 1894 in St. Louis, Mo. was the son of James Burnside (a Scottish immigrant and veteran of the Union Army-fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek).  He was by trade an "Oiler", married (wife's name Matura ____) and resided at 125 Horn Ave. in St. Louis. He had enlisted in the 37th Engineers on March 14, 1918. He saw action at St. Mihiel, Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne.]

Letter of Pvt. James O. Williams 

(Letter written on paper with a U.S. flag in the upper left, words, "With the Colors" at top center and the YMCA emblem in the upper right). Envelope addressed  to my grandmother, Mrs. Lily Williams, 3735 Lucky St., St. Louis, Mo. USA)

Souilly, France, Nov. 24, 1918 

My Dear Sweet Little Wife,

     Well today is Sunday and I am just fine and dandy and just as happy as can be.  I received your letter of Oct. 27th a few minutes ago and the one with the chewing gum, it is fine. I also got a letter from Father and Aunt Harriet. Well dear today is fahter's birthday.  I have just written him. 

Well Sweetheart I am going to tell you right where I am and what I am doing. I am about 1 mile north of Souilly. Have been here five weeks. We built power house, machine shop, carpenter shop and warehouses and regular barricks to live in.  I am now working in the tool room. I like it fine.  I am attached to regimental headquaters at present.  I am in the First Army.  I left the Company at Douie.  That town is about 5 miles from Verdun on the road to St. Mehiel.  The company is now at Bellkeep--that is right near Verdun--there is lots of very interesting things to see.  During the St. Mehiel drive I was on water service.  All had to do was to keep pumping water to the dough boys and operate small elect.-light plants. I was at Ambly the time I wrote you telling you about my friends (the cooties).  I hiked to that town on a Sunday morning with a full pack and believe me it was full to every step I took.  I thought of that funny picture that you sent me of that rucky going up that hill.  That picture I sent you was taken at St. Gazer.  I never will forget the short stay in that town.  The whole company was given freedom to a French camp. The boys sure had a time if I ever get in a big town again I will have picture taken again.

     I was over to Souilly got you some cards.  That is about all they have there, you see there isn't any stores out here in these towns.  

     Well dear I supose you would like to known when I arrived over here.  Well, I rode the Marratana across the Atlantic, left New York harbor on the 30th of June, was out in the center of the ocean on the 4th of July.  It was the greatest 4th I ever spent.  Not even a firecracker to shoot.  I arrived at Liverpool on the 7th, ankered and stayed on board all night and planted my feet on land on the 8th that night.  I mailed you the letter that King George written to me and then marched about 6 or 8 blocks, got on a train and traveled all night arrived at South Hampton the next morning.  Marched out to a rest camp--rested for about 3 hours, returned and loaded on a boat and  crossed the channel that night.  That was another night that I will never forget--the next day firmly lnaded in France--the place is Sherburg. Hiked to another rest camp.  Stayed 2 days and then started on that long trail that goes winding through France.  Traveled by railroad for about 4 days and finally landed at Camp Williams that is about 1/2 mile from Is-Sur-Till and there I worked for about 6 weeks.  That was about 90 miles from the front.  Didn;t here any guns at all and at last it came time to go up in active service.  Douie was our headquarters until after the St. Mehile drive, moved to St. Mihile, stayed a short time and then back to Douie.  These towns have all been shot to pieces.  I am going to get some post cards and send you especially the towns that I have been in.

I am expecting to join my company again next week.  Well Sweet heart, I sure praise God for answering our prayers, he has not only answered ours but millions of others.  Hearts have been filled with joy.  Well honey I am in hope of being home with you in a few months now.  Well Sweet heart I will quit for this time. Tell Daddy, Mother and Grandma I send my best wishes.  Tell Mary I send Hell-o.

I hope that St. Louis hasn't any more cases of the Flue--we don't have that decease over here.  If there is I don't know of it.  By By for this time. May God bless you my dear.  I remain as ever yours forever true husband as long as there is life.  Here is a couple of kisses xxx.

Pvt. James O. Willliams, Co D 37th Engineers, A.E.F.  France

See also members of the 37th Engineers (HQ and 2nd Battalion that came across the Atlantic aboard the troopship R.M.S. Mauretania.

Missourians in World War I


Copyright 2001, Scott K. Williams, Florissant, Missouri