World War I began in Europe in 1914, however, the United States remained neutral until 6 April 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the joint resolution declaring that a state of war now existed between the United States of America and Imperial Germany. Three months later, in August 1917, U. S. National Guard units from twenty-six states and the District of Columbia united to form the 42nd Division of the United States Army. Douglas MacArthur, serving as Chief of Staff for the Division, commented that it “would stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.” In this manner, the 42nd became known as the “Rainbow Division.” It comprised four infantry regiments from New York, Ohio, Alabama, and Iowa. Men from many other states, among them New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Indiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, South Carolina, Missouri, Connecticutt, Tennessee, New Jersey, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania also joined the division and became machine gunners, ambulance drivers, worked in field hospitals, or served in the military police.
The Southeastern Department commander recommended that the 4th Alabama Infantry be assigned to the 42nd. The commander of the 4th was Colonel William P. Screws, a former regular army officer who had served from 1910 to 1915 as the inspector-instructor for the Alabama National Guard. Screws was widely regarded as one of the major assets of the Alabama National Guard, and his reputation was likely a prominent factor in the selection of the 4th to join the 42nd. To upgrade the 4th Infantry to war strength, […]