On November 17, 1921, the 3d Infantry Regiment arrived at Fort Snelling, MN. The Regiment had departed Camp Perry, OH in September and marched to Fort Sheridan, IL for a short break. The snows started early, and the 940-mile exercise was not without incident. The Regiment became acclimated in this way to its old home in Minnesota and its old mission. This mission to be taken up when the regimental commander found that cold weather equipment, including skis, snowshoes, and sled mounts for machine guns had been turned-in by units recently stationed in North Russia.
The Regiment settled into a twenty-year peacetime mission of training National Guard and Reserve troops from the surrounding states and in the local camp of the Civilian Military Training Corps. For a few weeks a year, these men began to get some military training and a basic introduction to military life. The program was particularly important during the Great Depression, as it provided a structured life, with some pay, for men not otherwise employed.
The Regiment called Fort Snelling home for twenty years, earning the nickname “Minnesota’s Own.” The history of Fort Snelling and The Old Guard crossed paths multiple times in the 19th century. The Regiment left Fort Snelling again in January 1941, deploying to Newfoundland to protect North Atlantic shipping lanes and trade long before the U.S. formally entered World War II.
On November 11, 1921, the third anniversary of the World War I armistice, the Unknown Soldier was laid to rest next to Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, just completed the previous year.
The Unknown Soldier’s remains were placed in the crypt atop two inches of French soil, brought back for the ceremony, amid wreaths and gifts bestowed by other members of the Allied forces, and even the Crow Nation, all to honor the Unknown Soldier.
On September 26, 1921, the 3d Infantry Regiment set out for its new assigned post, Fort Snelling, MN. Due to the post-World War I cuts in defense, there was no funding for transportation. The Regiment set out on a 938-mile road march to comply with its orders.
The Regiment had already been on the move that year. At the start of 1921, the Old Guard was stationed at Camp Sherman, OH, having left Camp Eagle Pass, TX the previous year. In August 1921, orders came down from the War Department. The Old Guard was to march from Camp Sherman to Camp Perry, OH (173 miles). At Camp Perry, the Regiment, along with the 2d Infantry Regiment, helped run the annual National Rifle Match. On August 24, the day after their arrival at Camp Perry, regimental command passed from Colonel Paul Giddings to Colonel Alfred Bjornstad.
Once the rifle matches were completed on September 25, the 2d and 3d Infantry Regiments started their march to Fort Sheridan. Once at Fort Sheridan, the Regiment stayed four days to rest and resupply. The Perry-Sheridan leg of the march would be 308 miles, taking the regiments 19 days to cover (including two rest days). From Fort Sheridan, the 3d was to march on to Fort Snelling, where they would spend the next twenty years and earn the nickname, Minnesota’s Own.
The Fort Sheridan-Fort Snelling leg of the march will be covered in a future post.