Doughboy Center

The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

78th Division




36th Division in Training


Passage of the Draft Bill six weeks after the declaration of war permitted the Army to begin mobilizing the 4 million man "National Army" contemplated by the most recent General Staff contingency plan. By November 11, 1918, 2,057,675 military personnel would arrive in France. Slightly over half of the 2 million+ were combat effectives and of the remainder about 30% had already become casualties. The bulk of the rest, about 644,000 men, were assigned to the logistical arm, the Services of Supply.

1st Division Officers

[Apparently these numbers includes American sent on to Italy and Northern Russia, but not the two full regiments sent to Siberia. Nor, does it seem to include the crews of US Navy vessels and anyone still training stateside.]

Some other interesting details:

  • Only half of the expected AEF reached France before the Armistice; the rest were still training stateside.
  • In the busiest single month, July 1918, 313,410 Americans arrived in French ports.
  • About 180,000 members of the AEF in France were black Americans.
  • At the Armistice, the US Air Service was operating 45 Squadrons with 740 airplanes.
  • Civilian Employees and Volunteers supporting the AEF overseas totalled 42,644 men and women.
  • Of the 4.7 million Americans were mobilized during the war about 4 million were in the Army, 600,000 served in the Navy and 79,000 were Marines.
  • The maximum number of Doughboys in Hospital in the European Theater at one time: 190,564.

32nd Division Arriving in France


Fighting units were organized as follows. Four regiments of about 4,000 infantrymen each were combined with machine-gun, artillery, engineering, logistical and other support units into divisions which normally totalled 28,000 men each. Fighting power in World War I was reckoned by the number of divisions committed to battle. The US divisions were roughly 2.5 X the size of the other belligerents' divisions. This is one reason why British, European, and even American commentators chronically underestimate the level of US combat operations in the war. For instance, in the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in the Champagne region in October 1918, the AEF committed its 2nd and 36th Divisions -- over 54,000 men, yet the American victory there is rarely mentioned in accounts of the Great War.

Two or more divisions were combined into Corps; and two or more Corps were combined into Armies. Usually though, in discussing or doing research on the AEF's units it is best to keep track of the Division number. Also for understanding their experience, training and operational performance it needs to be understood that there were several types of American Divisions plus some special cases. They can be sorted out by the source of their recruits.

Divisions 1, 3-8:
Regular Army and Volunteers
Division 2:
Hybrid of Regular Army and US Marines
Divisions 26-42:
National Guard Units combined into divisions, by states or contiguous states. The 42nd "Rainbow" division was an exception have contingents from twenty-six states and the District of Columbia
Divisions 76-91:
National Divisions: Regular Army Cadre with draftees
Division 92
Negro regulars and volunteers with mostly white officers
Division 93:
Never formed as a division. Its four regiments of black volunteers plus National Guardsmen and primarily white officers were separately assigned to French divisions and fought with distinction.

The 2nd Division Arrives at the Front

Thirty-four of these double plus size divisions saw action in France or Flanders including some [a half dozen at the end] assigned to the other Allied armies. The four segregated black regiments were assigned to French divisions. Also, four other US infantry regiments and support personnel were deployed away from the Western Front: the 332nd Rgt in Italy; the 339th Rgt in Northern Russia; and the 27th and 31st Rgts in Siberia.

The core of the AEF was eventually composed of three armies under American command, although the Third Army was used for occupation service only. The First Army was organized in August 1918 and fought its first battle at the St. Mihiel Salient. Two weeks later it initiated the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In October, the Second Army was organized and took responsibility for the area East of the River Meuse during the later stages of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and conducted some attacks towards Metz from what was formerly the baseline of the St. Mihiel Salient.

By the War's end, the American units in France and Flanders commanded 83 miles of the 392 mile long Western Front. The other Allies held sections of the following lengths:

Belgian Army - 25 miles, British & Commonwealth - 70 miles, and French 214 miles.

Hollywood's View of the Doughboys' Arrival
The Cast of the Big Parade

Many Doughboys were not in combat units. The 650,000 men assigned to the Services of Supply operated ports and railroads; or acquired, distributed, and even manufactured weapons, supplies and food. The medical establishment was also substantial including field, train and base hospitals with over 200,000 beds; medical and nursing staff; and both military and volunteer ambulance services. There were also specialized units such as military police, gas warfare and so forth.

Killed and Wounded

Total Killed
     Battle Deaths
          Gas Deaths [incl. above]
     Other Causes
Total Wounds
Not Mortal
     Gassed [incl. above]
Total Killed &

* This figure requires some clarification. The total includes all the "Battle Deaths", those killed in the combat zone from "Other Causes", plus those who died in service while still back in the States, most frequently from the Spanish Influenza. Of the 116,000 total about 82,000 died in France and Flanders. Thirty-three thousand of those who died in theatre are buried in the overseas U.S. Military Cemeteries maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The remainder were returned to America for burial at their families decision.

** These numbers, however, also understates the longer term fatal consequences of combat, especially gas warfare, on the Doughboy population. Being gassed made an individual much more vulnerable to the Spanish Influenza of 1918, which assaulted the lungs. Fatalities from "Other Causes" include some indeterminate number of men who were gassed then caught the flu and subsequently died. Also, being gassed weakened individuals in the long term against all types of respiratory illness including tuberculosis and pneumonia. Baseball great Christy Mathewson was the most famous case of premature death from the gassing --- later respiratory illness sequence. Anecdotal reports suggest this number is potentially great.

*** Does not include psychiatric cases. As of 1921, 5,016 cases of "Shell Shock" were reported for AEF members according to the Surgeon General's office.

Sources and thanks: Veterans of World War I of the USA, Inc.; World Almanac 1998; American Armies and Battlefields in Europe; E.M. Coffman's The War to End All Wars; Stalling's The Doughboys and Frank Friedel's Over There. Scott Schoner, Glen Hyatt and Gary Butler helped with the photos. MH

To find other Doughboy Features visit our

Directory Page

For Great War Society
Membership Information

Click on Icon

For further information on the events of 1914-1918 visit the homepage of

The Great War Society

Additions and comments on these pages may be directed to:
Michael E. Hanlon ( regarding content,
or toMike Iavarone ( regarding form and function.
Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2000, The Great War Society