he struggled to succeed on the farm and in business, Harry
S. Truman found success in the military. Starting from the
rank of Private in the National Guard of Missouri, Truman
left military service 37 years later as a Colonel in the
U.S. Army Officers' Reserve Corps. On active duty during
the First World War, Captain Truman excelled as the commanding
officer of a field artillery battery. His intelligence,
practical experience, and work ethic proved invaluable.
"Captain Harry" was highly respected by the nearly
two hundred men of Battery D, and that respect kindled lifelong
after the Grail
After the United States entered the First World War in April
1917, Harry Truman reenlisted in the National Guard of Missouri.
His decision was not a simple one. At 33 he was older than
most soldiers, and as a farmer he was not required to serve.
His sister and mother would have to manage the farm without
him, and quitting his oil business meant sacrificing potential
riches. Worst, though, his marriage to Bess would be postponed
- perhaps forever. Nevertheless, Truman felt compelled to
join his friends in serving his country in wartime. Within
weeks Truman's artillery unit was mobilized for Federal
service, and after eight months of training in Oklahoma,
he was sent to France with the advance detail of the 35th
D and the Battle of Who Run
In July 1918, the officers and men of the 129th Field Artillery
moved to Camp Coetquidan in Brittany for advanced training
in the use of the 75mm field gun under simulated combat
conditions. It was here that Captain Truman took command
of Battery D. Despite early attempts by some of the men
to intimidate him, Truman made the noncommissioned officers
accountable for discipline and promised to back them up.
Battery D soon realized that Truman knew what he was doing
and followed him loyally for the rest of the war.
"We plastered 'em!"
Early in September 1918, the 129th Field Artillery undertook
one of the longest and most brutal road marches of the war,
from the Vosges mountains to the Argonne forest. The men
guided their horses and equipment over one hundred miles
of crowded, muddy back roads to the new American sector.
This march and the five days of intense combat that followed
were the ultimate test for Battery D. In the closing weeks
of the war, the 129th Field Artillery moved into action
for the final time on the old battlefields of Verdun. They
fired their last shots fifteen minutes before the Armistice
took effect. Battery D had fired more than 10,000 shells
during the war.