Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wiley Thomas "Tom" Snyder drafted for World War I

The first of three drafts was on June 5, 1917, when all American men between the ages of 21 and 31 had to register for the draft.   Here is Tom's draft card:

Tom registered in Winston-Salem as Wiley Thomas Snyder.  His card lists his age as 21 and birthday as January 29, 1896.  [This is incorrect - he was actually 25, born January 29, 1892.]  Tom’s address was Devonshire in Winston.  He was a machinist at R. J. Reynolds’.  He was single with no dependents.  He was medium height, stout, with blue eyes, and light hair.  He signed the card “W. T. Snyder.”   His photograph is below -- I guess this is how "stout" looked in 1917!

Tom was inducted into the Army in Winston-Salem on September 18, 1917.  He was a mechanic in Company D, 1st Battalion, 321st Infantry, 161st Infantry Brigade, 81st Division (the “Wildcats”). He was immediately sent to Camp Jackson (now Fort Jackson) near Columbia, S.C., for training.  

The first group of soldiers had already arrived at Camp Jackson on September 5,  so he was in one of the first groups there.  Upon arrival at Camp Jackson, no matter what time of day or night, the recruits were lined up, given a bed sack, and taken to a field with a straw rick and told to fill up their bed sacks.  Then they marched back to camp, got a sewing kit, and had to sew their bed sack closed.

The men lived in tents and had to cut timber and build barracks and other buildings.  Supplies were lacking, especially uniforms and guns.  Company D started target practice using wood sticks instead of rifles.  Every soldier was issued a gas mask and taught how to use it because WWI was the first war in which poison gas was used as a weapon.

Tom spent eight months at Camp Jackson.  Below is a photograph  of him in his uniform, probably taken around February 1918. 

Background for this post is from R. Jackson Marshall III, Memories of World War I: North Carolina Doughboys on the Western Front (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1998).

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