Hardcover. Oblong folio measuring 16” x 11”. String-tied black cloth over stiff paper boards with “Book No. 9. Order Nos. 1278 -” printed in white on the front board. Contains 251 gelatin silver prints measuring 3½” x 5½”, with the negative number stamped on the back. There are a handful of loose prints which show the typed credit “Engineer Reproduction Plant” on verso. About fine album with fine photographs.
An extensive photo album documenting the efforts of the 317th Engineers, an African-American unit, during World War I. The album begins with a handwritten title reading “Photographic Record of the 317th Engineers in France 1918 Order No. 1278 Series 1 to 273.” Official military photographs depicting the regiment’s engineering efforts throughout the war. The images show the men at work, ruins of churches and homes, and the bodies of fallen soldiers. The Engineers were a support unit for the 92nd Infantry “Buffalo Soldiers” Division which was organized at Camp Sherman, Ohio in 1917 and consisted of Black draftees from across the United States. In the summer of 1918, the 317th traveled to Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges where they were primarily responsible for the creation and repair of roads and train tracks. During this time the 92nd moved from sector-to-sector toward the Forest of Argonne where they would see combat in the war’s last major offensive. These photographs feature men constructing wooden roadways, connecting French and German train-lines, building bridges over various rivers, and creating pathways over large craters that had been blown into existing roads.
Another job of the 317th was to reconfigure a section of trenchline in Saint-Die after American forces created a salient in the town of Frapelle. This operation required the repositioning of bunkers, observation points, firing steps, machine gun posts, and barbed wire fencing, all of which are pictured here. There are also photographs of the 317th Medical Regiment and the 317th Engineers military band, which was led by Thomas E. Green and toured stateside after the war’s close. Additionally included are photographs of French soldiers, officers, and engineers. Parts of the 92nd served under and alongside the French Army after the American Expeditionary Force and the British Army refused to have desegregated units. The 92nd’s white commanding officers made a series of major mistakes during the Meuse-Argonne offensive which led to the division being seen as a failure. The officers relied on racial stereotypes to shift the blame onto the Black soldiers, who were unjustly faulted when they returned home.
An arresting album documenting the military experience of an African-American unit in World War I.