Training the New Immigrant Soldier
Mobilized for federal service, the Italian volunteers from New Haven and the Jewish draftees of New York were now ready for intensive training. In the fall and winter of 1917–18 they began to learn the rudiments of trench warfare—of artillery barrages, bayonet attacks, and full-scale assaults in no man's land. Training respectively in Landaville, France, and at Camp Upton, the members of the Twenty-sixth National Guard and Seventy-seventh National Army divisions rushed to become combat ready. Like millions of other enlisted men in camps on both sides of the Atlantic, these ethnic soldiers were discovering what the war would be like “over there.”
Their training experiences deserve close attention for two reasons. First, the men spent most of their time at training areas rather than at the front. The Italian machine gunners were in federal service for nearly a year before spending eight months in a variety of combat sectors. For New York's conscripted Jews, the ratio of instruction to frontline duty was almost two to one. Second, the same blend of federal control and local voluntarism that had shaped their mobilization also affected the training process. The Italian guardsmen had to undergo a new course of instruction, one that satisfied both the needs of modern warfare and the demands of a highly critical regular army. In sharp contrast, the green conscripts of the Seventy-seventh Division knew no other form of training and relied heavily on their own initiative and their city for support. Despite the government's desire to mold the training process to a single standard, the experiences of the National Guard and the draft army continued to diverge.
Preparation for war had a sustained and complicated influence on the ethnic