134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
By Major General Butler B. Miltonberger, Former Commanding Officer, 134th Infantry Regiment
and Major James A. Huston, Assistant Professor of History, Purdue University
Transcribed by Roberta V. Russo, Palatine, Illinois
In 1917 the Regiment trained at Camp Cody, New Mexico
Honor has come back, as a
king to earth,
And paid his subjects with
a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our
And we have come into our
America's reaction to the surpassing swiftness of the Nazi blitzkrieg in 1940 was one of immediate concern for her own defenses. Military preparation in time of peace was something foreign to the American mentality, but the lessons of Germany's war in the West were lessons which suggested that delay might mean catastrophe. Even William Jennings Bryan's "A million men shall spring to arms overnight" would be insufficient in the face of totalitarian war. Allied defeats in Europe successively brought further steps toward military preparedness in the United States. Industry began converting to war production; military appropriations leaped to record figures. Then late in August, 1940 Congress authorized the President to mobilize the National Guard, and less than a month later it passed the first peace-time conscription act.
For members of Nebraska's 134th Infantry Regiment, this legislation took on a very personal meaning when the Regiment was called into Federal service just two days before Christmas that same year. Mobilization was a procedure familiar to the men concerned. They were familiar with their organizations and equipment and ways of doing things through the training of weekly drill periods, the annual summer camps or maneuvers, service in times of domestic disturbance.
It was no surprise to a man of the 134th that his regiment had been called, and yet when the order came it demanded a response of anticipation, of expectation, of wonder at the future. As he donned his O. D. uniform - complete with service cap or campaign hat, breeches with wrapped leggings, and of course, the inevitable black necktie, perhaps he paused momentarily to inspect the one item of insignia which he wore in common with every other member of the 134th Infantry, officer or enlisted man - the regimental "crest". Perhaps first to arrest his glance would be the scroll beneath the shield, a scroll whose inscription would imply a connection with the Indian country, for the words - LAH WE LAH HIS - had come from the Pawnee.
"The Strong, The Brave" was the English translation for those Indian words, and they were appropriate for a regiment proud of its military tradition. The motto suggested a description of the regiment of the past, but it was a challenge for the regiment of the future. Its bravery would increase with its strength, and its strength would grow with its bravery.
The 134th Infantry claimed as its own tradition of the First Nebraska, which traced its beginnings back to 1854 and 1855. There had been Indian troubles associated with the opening of the West, and it had been necessary for Nebraskans to depend upon their volunteer militia for protection. Full military operations had been soon to come with President Lincoln's call for volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War. The First Nebraska had been with Grant at Fort Donelson and Pittsburgh Landing, and then with Freemont in Missouri. Mounted as cavalry in 1863, the unit had finished its Civil War service in Arkansas. Already travel had become a part of the Regiments tradition, for I t had moved by marching, by rail, and by steamboat, some 15,000 miles in the course of the war.
Vaguely, but prominently in that tradition of the 134th Infantry which associated it with the Indian Wars loomed the figure of W. F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody. Whether as scout, or aide-de-camp on the Governor's staff, or with the regimental commander, Buffalo Bill Cody's renown for daring and skill and selflessness grew as a model to be emulated by succeeding members of Nebraska's militia. A feature of the Indian disturbances had been the development of friendship between the Pawnee and the Nebraska troops. They had shared a common enmity with the Sioux, and when the Pawnee Scouts had been organized in 1865 they had very soon proved their value. Indian troubles had persisted until the Sioux were defeated for the final engagement with Indians in the Battle of Wounded Knee, December 29, 1890. It was a tribute to the assistance of the Pawnee that their words had been chosen for the regimental motto - LAH WE LAH HS.
Looking immediately above the scroll - that is to say at the base of the shield - the soldier would notice the figure of a palm tree. Here was an apparent connection between the regiment and the tropics. Yes, it had been tropical service in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. May 16, 1898 - just 20 days after the order for mobilization, the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry had entrained for California. It had been a rail movement over three routes - the Burlington and Missouri River, the Union Pacific, and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific. It had been a movement characterized by gay welcomes at the station en route: sandwiches, coffee, cigars, fruit, flags, bunting, flowers - and admirers' addresses. It had been the first regiment to arrive at San Francisco's Camp Merritt from outside the state, and on June 15, it had sailed for Manila. There had been a pause off Wake Island on July 4, while "a party went ashore, hoisted the Stars and Stripes and took possession in the name of the United States of America". The First Nebraska had arrived at Manila Bay on July 17 - amidst the wrecks of the Spanish fleet which Dewey had left ten weeks earlier - and went into Camp Dewey (five miles south of Manila) where they had pitched their shelter tents in a peanut patch. It had been the rainy season, and the traditional rain and mud of warfare had engulfed them. After a minor defensive action on August 2, the First Nebraska had participated in the big attack against Manila - a joint operation involving the VII Corps and Admiral Dewey's naval support. "The sight that morning with thousands of armed men moving forward in battle formation, the shrill calls of bugles, and the boom of naval guns as Dewey opened fire, battle flags floating in the breeze, black smoke belching from the ships' funnels and everything combined to make a scene of military splendor that will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it". But already the Spanish War had ended, and the total casualties of the expeditionary forces around Manila had been 17 killed and 106 wounded.
Higher on the shield of his regimental insignia (technically in dexter chief), the soldier of the 134th would see represented the Katipunan sun - a symbol taken from that new and worse conflict which had awaited the First Nebraska at the termination of the Spanish-American War. A secret military organization of the Filipinos, the Katipunan society, under the leadership of Aguinaldo, had been quick to transfer its hostility from the defeated Spaniard to the newly-arrived American. Dedicated to the expulsion of all foreigners from the Philippines, the society insured fidelity by requiring each of its members to sign an oath in blood. Aguinaldo then had sought to extend the society's regulations to include all male Filipinos. Such was the nature of the enemy which had faced the Regiment when the Insurrection broke out on February 4, 1899, in response to the challenge and shot of a First Nebraska bridge guard. If Manila had been an easy victory, it had been made up in the warfare against the Filipinos. This action had reached its climax in the battle at Quinqua where the First Nebraska had found itself in something of a trap when Colonel John Stotsenburg, the regimental commander, had arrived on the scene to order a charge. The response had been such as to cause General Hale, an eye-witness to the action, to exclaim. "There goes the First Nebraska, and all hell can't stop them!" And hell had not stopped them that day as the Nebraskans had overrun the insurrectionist trenches, but it had been a costly victory; the leader who had inspired the charge had fallen as a bullet pierced his heart. Colonel Stotsenburg, formerly professor of military science and tactics at the University of Nebraska, had won high honor in American military tradition; his name endured in Fort Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands. Brigaded with the First Nebraska in that grim warfare had been the Twentieth Kansas - the regiment later to be associated with the Nebraskans again as the 137th Infantry.
As his glance paused over the palm tree, the 134th soldier undoubtedly would notice the snake entwined thereon. This might recall to him stories of the regiment's service on the Mexican border on 1916 - 17 - of the mobilization at the state fair grounds at Lincoln (the Regiment was called the 5th Nebraska then), of the not-too-complimentary remarks of the inspector general for the Central Military Department prior to the muster of the Regiment into Federal service, of the training and field experience at Llano Grande, Texas, of the return to Nebraska and the state bonus of $25 per man. And a very personal association stems from the service on the Mexican border, for in those days, it was "Corporal" Miltonberger, and later, "Sergeant" Miltonberger.
In those days (1917) it was "Sergeant Miltonberger."
pposite the Katipunan sun on his regimental insignia (i.e., in sinister chief), the 134th soldier would see the olla (a more picturesque way of saying "water jug"), which, with its red steer skull, he might recognize as the insignia of the 34th Division , the division with which the Regiment had been associated during World War I. The Nebraska National Guard had been called to Federal service July 15, 1917, and the Regiment had arrived at Camp Cody, New Mexico, where (now designated the 134th Infantry) it had joined with the National Guard units from Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to form the new 34th Division. During October and November 5,000 draftees had arrived for the division from Camp Dodge and Camp Funston, but losses - from orders for replacements, sickness, and transfers - had totaled about 4,000. Then in June, 1918, the division - and of course the 134th Infantry with it - had lost practically all of its trained personnel to meet the requirements of the A. E. F. automatic replacement system. (And in the process your Sergeant Miltonberger, 134th Infantry, had found himself headed for combat with the 4th Division.) Once again, however, the unit had been filled with new men, and within two months it had moved to Camp Dix preparatory to overseas shipment from New York. The 134th Infantry, with division headquarters, had sailed in September and disembarked in Liverpool after a 13-day voyage (while the remainder of the division remained quarantined at Fort Dix until October 12). After a short stay in rest camps, then, the Regiment had moved to France via Cherbourg and LeHavre. It had gone to the Labrede Area to begin the training program on which General Pershing had insisted for all newly-arrived divisions. But once again the division had fallen prey to demands for replacements, and with less than two weeks of the training program completed, orders had come to skeletonize the division. These orders had indicated that the division was to be subject to reconstitution, but a few days later (October 29), word had come that reconstitution no longer was contemplated, and it had been reduced to a record cadre. The 134th Infantry, as such, therefore, had not seen action in World War I, but in its tradition it remembered the service of those original Nebraskans and their successors who had gone out to other units for their full share of combat service.
But as our National Guardsmen of the 134th Infantry adjusted his uniform and made his way through the streets of his home town to the local armory, his thoughts probably were not focused on the significance of his regimental badge or the traditions of his Regiment - though undoubtedly there was a deep awareness of all these influences in the background of his thought; probably his thoughts were running to anticipation of the future and reflection on his own experience with the Regiment. If he had not participated in the reorganization of the Guard after World War I, he certainly had heard about it, and the early difficulties of training. As an "old timer' now, he probably had been on hand during the troubles of 1935 - the first flood duty on the Republican River - then the trouble in Omaha growing out of a two-month old street car strike, when the best of tact and consideration was required in that tense situation - and then there had been the "water rights" dispute in Scotts Bluff County.
More prominent in the thoughts of the soldier of the 134th would be recollections of summer camps and maneuvers. Now that he was participating in the mobilization of the division, perhaps he would recall the first assembly of the 35th Division - made up of National Guard units from Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri - at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1937, to participate in Fourth Army Maneuvers. There he had first become fully conscious of the magnitude of a division, and its Santa Fe cross insignia and taken on new significance. Again there had been the Army maneuvers in Minnesota in 1940 - only a few months before mobilization - and still the men of the company were telling tales of the size and abundance of Minnesota mosquitoes.
Maneuvers in Minnesota (1940): Maj. Stoll, Capt. Thomsen, Col. McCormick.
But probably the fondest memories of the National Guard experiences centered around the summer camps at Ashland, the site for all summer encampments - except those special occasions in 1937 and 1940 - since 1923. There, chow lines in the hot sun, before small, trim, white mess halls, quarters in pyramidal tents supported by wooden frames, assemblies in the horseshoe stadium, refreshments in the attractive masonry National Guard Canteen, sick call in the neat little frame hospital, field exercises out on those lands which once had been the bed of the Platte River - all these would be such as to demand a nostalgic recollection in the repetition of similar experiences in the days to come. Best of all, those new experiences would be in the company of those same men who had become familiar at Ashland.
No doubt the soldier of the 134th would be looking forward to renewing those acquaintances, and he would remember those who had impressed him during that last camp at Ashland. Trying to recall some of their names, he might have thought of some of the boys from Nebraska City - Company A - Sergeant Gerald Felthauser, Corporal Leslie Gump, and Privates First Class Ed Parish and Jack Stewart, and the McGinnis boys, Bill and Clarence, and Privates Herb Rawlings, and Joe Simms, and Melvin Van Winkle.
With Company B, from Falls City, he might remember First Sergeant Harper Marsh, and Sergeant Woodrow Mosiman, and Corporal Joe Pool, and Private First Class Tom Harmon, and Privates Gilbert Simmons, and the younger Pool, and the two Kirkendalls, and he would remember the two Nanomantubes, even if he could not recall their names.
Several names no doubt would stand out as he thought of Company C, from Beatrice, the company claiming distinction as the regiment's leader in rifle marksmanship. There would be, for example, First Sergeant John Pope, and Sergeants Paul Carstens and Garold Gormley, Joe Van Lieu, and, of course, Sergeants Francis Mason and Lorin McCown, and then there was Corporal Harlan Heffelfinger, and his younger brother, Hugo (a private), and Corporals Kenneth McRae and John Conley, and Privates Starkey and Jim Faris and Orval Black and Don Naumann.
Of course there would be a number of names of Company D, North Platte, which must have impressed the soldier during the camp. Proud of its record of winning the award for the best National Guard company in the state four years in a row, the machine gunners had boasted of such representatives as First Sergeant Dan E. Craig, Sergeants Claude Faulkner and Raymond Plaugher, Corporals Byron Mudge and Jim Kovanta, Privates First Class Don Barraclough, Bob Faulkner, and Vic Janecke, and Privates Charlie Hake, Jim Jeffers, Willie Ellis, and Ray Gillespie.
From out in Western Nebraska there would be Scotts Bluff's Company E, with Corporal L. D. Asher and the other two Ashers, Harry and Ward, and Francis Ginther and Cliff Keiser, and Roy Houser, and Fred Knaub.
There would be First Sergeant Clinton Nagle of Company F coming from Hartington, and Sergeants Walter Carstens and Don Jones, and Corporals Fred Buckman, Lou Hirschman, Cliff Livermore and Joe Peitz, and Privates First Class Bob Martenson and Art McClain.
Prominent among the men of Company G, from Hastings, would be Sergeants Carlyle McDannel and Sylvester Ryan, and Corporals Don Kresbach and Virgil Keith, and Privates First Class Jim Bassett and Bob Howell, and Privates Dick Arnold and Jim Hiatt.
Company H, from the railroad town of Grand Island, would include such names as First Sergeant Clifford Sanderson, Sergeants Francis Swartz and Francis Callihan, Corporal Jack Clark, Private First Class Milton Stonebarger, Private Earl J. Ruby.
From the state capital, Lincoln, would come Company I, and certain to be remembered among that military company would be its "old soldier", First Sergeant Frank Conner, a man who wore two wound stripes from World War I, and already carried five hash marks on his sleeve to indicate a service of at least 15 years. Others with Company I would include Sergeant Bob Failing, Corporal Bill Harris, Pfc. Ernest Heinz, Privates Elmer Dunbar and Don Hansen.
Acquaintances in Omaha's Company K might include Sergeants George Buchanan, Willard Cole and Chris Jensen, Privates First Class Bill Brodbeck, Evon Redman and Ted Mezger, Privates Lawrence Langdon, David O'Keefe and Andrew Siedelman.
Omaha's other rifle company, Company L, had included such men as First Sergeant Dick Melcher, Sergeants Pete Larson, Art Hursh and Jacob Redl, Corporals Dick McDermott and Ed Moe - a man who had missed neither an armory drill nor a summer camp in eight years - Privates Sam Basso. Don DeVoe, Tom Lawless.
The Third Battalion's machine gun company - Company M of Seward - would bring with it, among others, Sergeants Paul Wiehenkamp and Paul Jones, Corporal Leron Stromer, Pfc. Earl Noxon, Privates Bill Baumbach, Albert Detmer, Charles Foster, Lloyd Whitmore.
There would be other units from Omaha: Regimental Headquarters Company, with Corporal Byron O'Keefe and Private First Class Vincent Nehe; 2nd Battalion Headquarters, with Sergeants Leslie Wilson and Leroy Littell, Corporals Lysle Abbott and Earl Sorenson, Pfc. Dick Reed, and Privates Rodney Brown and Robert and William Hill. First Battalion Headquarters, with Sergeants Leslie Wilson and Leroy Littell, Corporals Lyle Abbott and Earl Sorenson, Pfc. Dick Reed , and Privates Rodney Brown and Robert and William Hill. First Battalion Headquarters Company, then of Nebraska City, had included Sergeants Herb Bueler and Cliff Persell, Corporal John Preston, and Privates First Class Bob Belcher and Frank Erwin; 3rd Battalion Headquarters Company, at Lincoln in those early days, had included Sergeants Hans Schnitter and Frank Scott, Privates First Class Herbert Hill and George Thacker, Privates Arnold Nelson and Alfred Schwartz.
Again from out on the western fringes, at Gering, would be the Antitank Company - which just recently had exchanged its short-barreled 37mm guns, the ones with the wooden-wheeled carriages, of a howitzer company for the new 37mm antitank guns. Its ranks had included Sergeants Everette Boggs and John Reavis, Corporals Don and Townsend Rubottom, Privates First Class Victor Flohr and Hearly Tanner, Privates John Hoover and Oliver Stuckey.
There remained on other - one of the so-called "spare parts" units - whose members were likely to be more familiar to the soldier of the 134th through their association with administrative functions of the Regiment: Service Company, at York. Here was the company with the stripes - Master Sergeants Robert Moline, John Pfenning and John Roth, and First Sergeant Worth Downer, and Staff Sergeant Del Kuntzelman, Michael Luxford and Paul Voss; then Sergeant Milton Maurer (younger brother of one of the first lieutenants) and Sergeant Virgil Hyde, and Corporals Dean Grass and Ronald Thorpe, and Pfc. Robert Barth and Private Homer F. Barth. Even more familiar would be the Regimental Band under the direction of Warrant officer George McCall. And not to be forgotten were the medics - the "attached medics" - of the medical detachment at Omaha; Staff Sergeant Luther Thompson, Sergeants Herman Kortright, Norman Mannweiler, Fred Schultz, Corporal Clare Sherrets.
Though it might be require a roster for the 134th soldier to name all of the officers of the Regiment, most of them would have become familiar by now. Of course everyone would remember the regimental commander, Colonel Clyde E. McCormick, and members of his staff: Major Fred H. Stoll, Captain Harold L. Collier, Captain Howard R. Turner, Captain Lee W. Heaton, and Captain Alfred Thomsen, recently commander of Company L. Among the officers of the special units the soldier probably would remember Capt. Albert L. McGill and 2nd Lt. Holton R. Adamson, Headquarters Company; Capt. Harry Beckley, 1st Lt. Raymond J. Anderson, 1st Lt. Arnold I. Maurer, and 2nd Lt. Clark E. Valentine, Service Company; Capt. J. Ned Allison, 1st Lt. Leslie J. Laughlin, and 2nd Lt. Warren C. Wood, Antitank Company, and the medical officers: Major Rolland R. Ensor, Capt. Norman H. Attwood, Capt. Floyd L. Paynter (the dentist), 1st Lt. Leo V. Hughes, and 1st Lt. Clinton C. Millett.
Officers of the 1st Battalion had included, in addition to the commander (it was now Major Miltonberger, lately captain of Company D), 1st Lt. Leslie Yager and 2nd Lt. John Pitzer of Headquarters Company; Capt. Ray A. Thurman, 1st Lt. Thomas S. Morton, and 2nd Lt. Robert R. Wilson, Company A; Capt. Merven F. Myers, 1st Lt. Leo L. Smith, and 2nd Lt. Dewey E. Jackson, Company B; Capt. Dean E. Coonley, 1st Lt. Alford C. Boatsman, and 2nd Lt. Harrison F. Scott, Company C; Capt. Fred C. Petersen, 1st Lt. Denver W. Wilson, and 2nd Lt. Dale M. Godwin, Company D.
In the 2nd Battalion it had been Major Louis R. Eby commanding, and 1st Lt. James A. Bradley and 2nd Lt. Thurston J. Palmer, Headquarters Company; Capt. Ora A. Eatwell, 1st Lt. Harold M. Runyon, and 2nd Lt. Kenneth E. Eckland, Company E; Capt. Lloyd R. Hardy, 1st Lt. Julius Stejskal, and 2nd Lt. George E. Ready, Company F.
And in the 3rd Battalion: Major Edward J. Geesen, commanding, and 1st Lt. Clifford L. Dier and 2nd Lt. Keith K. Turner, Headquarters Company; Capt. Rolla C. Van Kirk, 1st Lt. Clarence J. Stewart, and 2nd Lt. Foster H. Weyand, Company I; Capt. Edwin C. Gatz, 1st Lt. Harry B. Jacobsen, and 2nd Lt. Emil C. Wagner, Company K; Capt. Earl H. Kelso, 1st Lt. Wallace B. Hall, and 2nd Lt. Albert B. Osborne, Company L; Capt. Erwin A. Jones, 1st Lt. Paul C. Hauck, and 2nd Lt. Harold J. Firnhaber, Company M.
Change, no doubt, had brought new faces and promotions since the last encampment at Ashland, but it would be interesting to see what they had been.
And so as the soldier of the 134th Infantry made his way to the local armory, wherever it might have been, there mingled within him the rich traditions of his regiment, of his state, of his nation. Out of that heritage of the 134th Infantry, and esprit de corps had planted itself, and he was a part of it. Commanders and comrades had come and gone, but each had contributed a bit of his own personality to the larger personality of the Regiment, and it seemed that the Regiment - and indeed each company - had developed a soul of its own. The soldier of the 134th Infantry, a volunteer now answering the call of his country, represented that great common denominator of America - the Middle West, and he breathed the spirit of the heartland. His state was the state where the corn belt of the Midwest met the Great Plains of the Far West, where the improvements of the 20th Century touched most intimately with the pioneer days of the 19th. He shared the common burden of soldiers everywhere - he carried with him the hopes and the fears of all which he held dear.
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