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Thursday, February 4, 2010

805 Pioneer Infantry A.E.F.

"Victory – History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry American Expeditionary Forces

There’s an old cedar chest in my living room from my great grandmother Underwood that is used to protect valuables, especially around the holidays when the house is filled with “handlers and touchers.” But, a couple of days ago I went to retrieve an old picture, and felt something hard under the quilts and blankets. It was a long forgotten box - never been opened. In there was an old Bible, some letters and notes, and this semi-hard cover book from 1919 with worn leather and an imprint of “805th Pioneer Infantry A.E.F.” and the American Eagle perched on top. (Click on book to left to see cover clearer). In the right hand corner was “July 5th 1918 July 8th 1919.” There even appeared to be an autograph. The Book was titled “Victory – History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry American Expeditionary Forces” authored by Major Paul S. Bliss in 1919.

I knew Great-Uncle George Strader served in WWI, his service folder was destroyed in the NARA St. Louis file. And, I didn’t have any particulars about his service, so I thought. But, Victory gives a thorough overview of the duties, challenges and environment of the 805 Infantry during this one year span as they were transported from Kansas to Europe and mobilized throughout France. It also had a small picture on page 108 when Great Uncle George served in France at the
Mouzon-Tower, and his name is listed as a Corporal of Company D on page 112, which corresponds with family folklore.

What I can gather is the 805th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, AEF, known as the Bearcats, was a "colored" unit formed at Camp Funston, Kansas. This unit served with the 1st Army and Advance Section Command in France during WWI and was a labor force of ditch diggers, undertakers and railroad mechanics. The 805th landed in France on July, 1918 and served in Europe until July 1919; and supposedly saw 39 days of action.

Although Victory gives details on all of the companies, my interest is on Company D, that Great Uncle George served. Company D, traveled from Ft. Riley Camp Funston 25 August 1918 to Kansas City where they boarded the Wabash train to Detroit. They were able to stop in Moberly, Mo. for a proper military send off by the “colored citizens” of the town. From Detroit, they took passage by ferry to Canada, stopping in Niagara Falls for a short visit before reporting to Camp Upton, Long Island, 30 August 1918. On Sept. 1, they were shuffled off to Montreal Canada where they were shipped to Camp Romsey in England. Having yet to arrive in France, they crossed the English Channel for France on 28 September. (pgs 107-111)

The Bearcats were most proud of their undefeated baseball team where they played at the diamond at Chateau de Chehery, on the eastern edge of the Argonne Forest. According to page 205, the diamond field was built “between the road and the Aire River.” The 805 also had boasting rights for their “Regimental Band.” The organized band was “sent out to various companies of the regiment and to other organizations…”(pg.209).
Wishing all happy treasure hunting.

Kathleen Brandt


  1. Kathleen, this truly is a treasure. I think you were meant to find it!

  2. You are very lucky to have this piece of treasure in your possession.

  3. Hi my great-great grandfather pvt.ben sledge served in this company are there a list of names or photos in that book ?

    1. Although we know Ben M. Sledge served with Company G of 805, in referencing the book, he is not pictured or listed with the Company. His military service records may provide more information. We know he served overseas, but perhaps with another company. We do not have an indexed list of all of the service men of AEF 805.

  4. Does anyone know about the 808 Pioneer Infantry? My uncle was assigned to that unit and saw action in France.

    1. I have uncovered most of the information known through the newspapers. The Afro American wrote about the 808 and its well-known band quite a few times. Here is one: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2211&dat=19181129&id=xSUmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7P0FAAAAIBAJ&pg=2838,5156501&hl=en

    2. I'm searching for more info on the 808th as well. My great-uncle served as well. He is buried in the Meuse-argonne cemetery in France.

  5. Awesome piece of history! How exciting. :)

  6. Your work is truly appreciated! Mother's father was Henry Sias 805th and father's father Thomas Bowden 803rd.
    Very cool discovery for me since it's Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day w/in the next few weeks.
    100th Anniversary of my Grandfather's both making it from war alike. Honored and blessed!