SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- One of World War I’s most heroic battlefield story features a bookish lawyer, a millionaire who charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, a carrier pigeon that’s now in the Smithsonian, and draftee Soldiers from New York City who served in the 77th Division.
One hundred years later, the story of the 550 men of the “Lost Battalion” –American Soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in the Argonne forest– still resonates.
It’s been the subject of countless books, a 2001 TV movie, and a 2016 song by the Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton.
But the “Lost Battalion” wasn’t actually lost, nor was it even a battalion.
Major Charles Whittlesey, the commander, knew right where his men were located. It was their higher headquarters who weren’t sure where they were.
And Whittlesey was only the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 308th Infantry Regiment. The regiment’s 2nd Battalion was also present, along with a company from the 307th Infantry Regiment. But as senior officer, Whittlesey took charge.
The regiments were part of the 77th Division. The division was a “National Army” division made up of drafted men who were not in the Regular Army and not part of the National Guard.