Thursday, November 10, 2016

New York State History Month: Loren Bundy’s World War I Uniform

Each November, we mark New York State History Month with a series of blog posts on items from the Alice’s collection that have a connection to the state. In 2014, we looked at early-19th century transferware depicting scenes from locations in New York State, and in 2015, our theme was items made in New York. This year, we will be featuring items associated with the military service of three New York men.

The Bundys’ cottage in Chazy
Photo from Miner Institute Archives
We begin with a uniform worn by Loren S. Bundy of Chazy during World War I. The son of Leon and Kate Bundy, Loren was born in Vermont in 1896. Around 1910, the family moved to Chazy, where Leon Bundy became the head of the construction department at Heart’s Delight Farm. Loren Bundy (then working as a bookkeeper in Hudson Falls, NY) registered for the draft in 1917 and was inducted into the army at Plattsburgh in September of that year. He then went to Camp Devens in Massachusetts for training, and arrived in France in late July 1918—just a little over three months before the end of the war. He returned to the United States in June 1919. 

Coat, breeches, puttees, and overseas cap
Service coat. Red chevron indicates honorable
discharge; lower chevron is for overseas service.
The basic components of the uniform issued to Loren Bundy and other men who served in the US Army during World War I had been developed in the early 20th century in response to changing needs and conditions that had become evident during the Spanish-American War. New materials—khaki cotton for summer and olive drab wool for winter—were introduced as well as new styles of clothing. The museum holds four pieces of Bundy’s uniform: a khaki service coat or blouse, olive drab breeches, puttees (strips of cloth that were wrapped around the lower legs), and an overseas cap. The complete uniform also would have included a shirt, campaign hat (worn in the United States but replaced in France by the overseas cap), steel helmet, trench coat, and hobnailed shoes. In addition, Bundy would have carried a haversack to hold his tent, blanket, canteen, mess kit, entrenching tool (i.e., a shovel) and other equipment. He also would have been issued a gas mask in its own bag.

Bundy would have learned how to use all this equipment, as well as his weapons, during training at Camp Devens in eastern Massachusetts. Established in 1917, Camp Devens was the primary training center for the northeast region during World War I—over 100,000 men were trained there, and another 150,000 passed through when the camp became a separation center in 1918. Camp Devens was the home of the 76th Division, made up of troops drafted mainly from New England; the division consisted of two infantry brigades, one field artillery brigade, engineers regiments, signal battalions, field hospital units, and Loren Bundy’s unit, the 301st Supply Train. He was assigned to Company B, under the command of Lieutenant John L. Fox.

Souvenir postcard folder from Camp Devens
Sylvester Benjamin Butler, a captain in the 301st, kept a scrapbook of his WWI experiences, and his family has put some of his letters and other mementos online, giving us a glimpse into life at Camp Devens and in France. (Butler also did his officer’s training at Plattsburgh.) Upon their arrival in France, the 301st was stationed in the village of St. Armand-Montrond. Butler wrote of it, “All the houses are of stone or cement, & those not right in town are of one story only beside the attic. They seem located in such higglety-pigglety fashion, which the prevalence of high walls only serves to accentuate. The people are most cordial and welcome the American troops into their homes & buildings. The men are all trying hard to get the language. We fortunately have quite a few French speakers. The little French children are delightful; they are all learning the American salute and they do like to be noticed.” Censorship regulations prevented him from describing the unit’s military activities,  but as he reminded his mother, “I don’t want you to forget if I write all about people & scenery & white cows that I’m not on a Cook’s Tour or an Agricultural Experimentation Board.”

Loren Bundy’s overseas cap with MTC insignia
Butler reported that in March 1919, part of Company B had been “sent up to Vendonne [Vendôme] on special duty as a MTC detachment with the 6th Cavalry.” The MTC, or Motor Transport Corps, was established in August 1918 to procure, record, and maintain all motorized transport for the armed forces. Loren Bundy must have been part of this group, because the insignia on his collar and overseas cap is the winged helmet of the MTC, rather than the “T” of the Artillery and Supply Trains.

By the summer of 1919, Loren Bundy and many of his fellow Clinton County servicemen were back in New York. Tucked into the pocket of his uniform was the ticket for a “Mother’s Seat” at the county’s Welcome Home Celebration, issued to Kate Bundy. This extravaganza, held in Plattsburgh on August 5, deserves a post of its own. It started with a parade in which more than 1500 returned Clinton County soldiers, marines, and sailors marched, along with Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans. They were followed by some three dozen floats constructed by towns, businesses, and organizations, which depicted everything from a Red Cross tent to a model of a NC-4 airplane large enough to hold the entire Lynch-Bourdeau Orchestra.

Advertisement from the Adirondack Record
August 1, 1919
The parade ended at the Normal School campus, where everyone assembled and local lawyer Charles J. Vert gave an address. Afterwards, the “doughboys” were served a turkey dinner, and then the crowd shifted to the barracks, where spectators had the opportunity to see several boxing and wrestling matches, as well as a baseball game between the Post team and Port Henry. In the evening, there were two concerts in downtown Plattsburgh, followed by a fireworks display and finally dancing on Clinton Street until midnight. As the Daily Press concluded its coverage, “THUS ENDED A PERFECT DAY.”

For Loren Bundy, life seemed to return to normal after the excitement of the Welcome Home Celebration. He went to live in Poughkeepsie and married Violet Mandeville, a teacher originally from Lockport, NY, and they had a son, Leon Meade Bundy. In 1931 the family returned to Clinton County, eventually settling in Plattsburgh, where Loren worked as a teller for the Plattsburgh National Bank for thirty years. In 1942, he once again registered for the draft, though at the age of 46 he was unlikely to be called into service. This time, it was his son who joined the US Navy. Loren died in 1974 at the age of 77; he and Violet are buried in Riverview Cemetery in Chazy.

Although the United States’ involvement in World War I was relatively brief, it had a lasting effect on the men who served in the military. New York sent more soldiers to fight in WWI than any other state; New Yorkers represented about 10% of all US troops. Then there were the thousands of New Yorkers who worked as nurses, as members of voluntary associations, and at home on the farms and in the factories. The many new agencies created within the federal government to address the demands of wartime would change Americans’ relationship with the state; the suffrage movement received new impetus from the involvement of women in the war; and the Great Migration of African-Americans from the south to the urban centers of the north would produce new cultural and political movements. New York State—from the city to small towns like Chazy—would play an important role in all of these changes.

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