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world war 1 military records of caost and geodetic survey personnel


William Bowie, Major, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army:

Late in July and early in August, 1918, William Bowie, Chief of the Division of Geodesy of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, was consulted by officials of the Division of Military Mapping of the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, in regard to field methods for carrying on certain large scale surveys for defense purposes along our coasts and it was soon found by those officials that it was desirable that Mr. Bowie be commissioned and attached to the Division of Military Mapping.

He was offered a commission as Major of Engineers but as this was a lower rank than he would have been entitled to had he been transferred by executive order, it was necessary for him to be granted a furlough while serving with the army. R.L. Faris, Acting Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Honorable William C. Redfield, Secretary of Commerce, were willing that Bowie should accept a commission in the army but the Secretary asked that the Chief of Engineers, Major General William M. Black, make a formal request for his services with the army. This was done by General Black in a letter addressed to the Secretary of Commerce, dated August 10, 1918, which read in part as follows:

“Mr. William Bowie, hydrographic and geodetic engineer of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey has special qualifications which eminently fit him for duty in charge of the land defense map project under the Division of Fortifications and Mapping of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. If consistent with your policy, and provided his services can be spared, it is requested that Mr. Bowie be granted permission to accept a commission as major in the Engineer Reserve Corps.

“It is understood that the Act covering transfer of United States Coast and Geodetic Survey personnel to the War Department by executive order prescribes the rank they shall have upon transfer. As such transfer would give Mr. Bowie the rank of Colonel, and as the head of the mapping division in this office is only a Major, Mr. Bowie’s services could not be utilized in the grade of Colonel. The highest grade in the Engineer Reserve Corps is that of Major, and the position in this organization of this office to which it is proposed to assign Mr. Bowie carries the rank of Major.”

On August 13, 1918, Secretary Redfield sent General Black a letter in reply which read, in part, as follows:

“Pursuant to your favor of the 10th instant, I am very glad to consent that Mr. Wm.Bowie, Chief of the Division of Geodesy of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, be granted a furlough for the period of the national emergency and that he be given permission to accept a commission as Major in the Engineer Reserve Corps.

“Mr. Bowie is willing as a matter of public duty to waive the lawful rank to which he is entitled and to accept the financial sacrifice involved and we are very glad to have him of service in connection with the matter for which you are good enough to say that he has ‘special qualifications’.

Mr. Bowie was granted a furlough from the Coast and Geodetic Survey for such time as he might be needed in the army. On August 17, 1918, he was commissioned a major of engineers and on the same date he reported for duty at the office of the Chief of Engineers, Washington, D.C. On August 23, 1918, he was assigned to duty in the Division of Military Mapping, under Col. E.H. Marks, Chief of the Division of Military Mapping.

The particular work assigned to Major Bowie was the surveying and mapping at certain military camps where the training of troops was being carried on and special defense maps in certain areas along the coast of the United States. In addition to this work he prepared detailed specifications for the special defense surveys and maps and also prepared the manuscript (except tables) for special publication No. 59 of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey which describes the grid system which is now used by the army in the United States for military maps.

In addition to his other duties, he acted as liaison officer between the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Division of Military Mapping of the Corps of Engineers , with the result that very valuable assistance was rendered the army by the Division of Geodesy of the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Having completed the duties for which he was needed in the army and having systematized the specifications for the special defense maps, and the war having ended, he was honorably discharged form the army on February 28, 1919, and on the following day he resumed his duties as Chief of the Division of Geodesy of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

From the beginning of the war until he entered the army as a major of engineers, Major Bowie was in constant consultation with officers of the Division of Military Mapping of the Corps of Engineers in regard to carrying on of control surveys in the southeastern states of our country for use in making military surveys and maps and also in regard to projection tables to be used by the army in this country and in France. All of the efforts of the Division of Geodesy were placed at the disposal of the army in furthering its military surveys and maps in critical parts of the country and preparing the necessary mapping projection tables.

Just before he entered the army, he devised the grid system for military maps in the United States which was adopted by the army. A description of this grid system and the necessary tables for its use are contained in special publication No. 59 of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, of which Mr. William Bowie and Mr. O.S. Adams, Mathematician of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, are co-authors. The tables were prepared under Mr. Adams’ immediate direction.


Albert L. Bowman, Private, U.S. Army:

Served as a clerk in the office of the Coast and Geodetic Survey until October 31, 1918, when he was drafted for service in the U.S. Army. No further information is available.


Mart Braden, Private, U.S. Army:

Served as a hand with one of the field parties operated under the Division of Geodesy until July 24, 1918, when he separated from the party and entered the U.S. Army as a private.

O.B. Brittingham, Wireless Operator, Second Class, U.S.N.R.F.:

Transferred to the service and jurisdiction of the Navy Department with the Coast and Geodetic Survey Steamer ISIS, by Executive Order, No. 2707, on September 24, 1918. He was enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force and served on the U.S.S. ISIS, the length of his service is not known at this office, as he did not return to the Coast and Geodetic Survey.


John S. Brookbank, Private, U.S. Army:

Served as an apprentice engraver in the office of the Coast and Geodetic Survey until February 26, 1918, when he resigned and entered the U.S. Army as a private.


Dave Brown, Private, U.S. Army:

Served as a hand with one of the field parties operated by the Division of Geodesy until June 18, 1918, when he separated from the party and entered the U.S. Army as a private.


George S. Brown, Officers’ Cook, U.S.N.R.F.:

Transferred with the Coast and Geodetic Survey Steamer SURVEYOR, by Executive Order No. 2707, on September 24, 1917. He was enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force and served on the U.S.S. SURVEYOR until March 31, when the vessel was returned to the Coast and Geodetic Survey.


Ralph M. Brown, Private First Class, U.S. Army:

On May 13, 1917, soon after the declaration of war with Germany, Ralph M. Brown, who from December 19, 1906, had been Chief of the Library and Archives Section of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, tendered his resignation for the purpose of offering his services to the U.S. Army. His resignation was accepted, effective May 21, 1917, with expressions of appreciation from the Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey for the worthy motive that prompted him to take up new duties in defense of his country.

On May 20, 1917, at Washington, D.C., he volunteered his services and was enlisted as a private in the Washington unit of the U.S. Army Ambulance Service.

Until December 25, 1917, he was in training camps in the State of Pennsylvania. On December 26, 1917, he sailed for France and arrived at Brest on January 10, 1918.

After being in camp for about two weeks in St. Nazaire, France, on January 28, 1918, the corps to which he was attached proceeded for the Champagne front, passing through Nantes, Angers, Chartres, Versailles, Meaux, Montmirail and Epernay, arriving at the front on February 9, 1918.

From February 9 to August 18, 1918, he was on the Champagne front, engaged as an ambulance driver with the 2nd Colonial Division of the 5th French Army, with Base at Ludes, 11 Kilometers South of Reims. He was attached to the French Section Sanitaire 515, Etats unis d’Amerique, operating at Sillery, Verzy, Verzenay, Paisieulx, Ville Dommauge, Eceml, Courmes, Guenx, Bouloure, Bezannes, and Reims.

From August 6 to 20, 1918, he was in the rest area at Tours-sur-Marne, and then returned to the Champagne front with the 5th French Army, which remained at this front until October 5 and then advanced to the vicinity of Mezieres where it arrived on November 11, 1918, the day of the Armistice.

On December 4, 1918, the Army to which he was attached was en route to the Rhine and from January 6 to March 23, 1919, was in Germany, working posts in Ludwigshaven, Speyer and Landau.

On March 26, 1919, the army returned to Versailles and on April 12, 1919, sailed from Brest for the United States on the U.S. Transport GREAT NORTHERN. Mr. Brown landed at New York on April 20, and on April 22, 1919, he was honorably discharged as First Class Private at Camp Dix, New Jersey. He served during nearly the entire period of the war, was on defensive battles and campaigns at Rheims, Sillery, Aisne and Champagne-Marne and offensive battles at Aisne-Marne and Oise-Aisne.

He served under the commands of Lieutenants Lowe, Hulbert and Barrett.

It is worthy of note that Mr. Brown was on constant duty at the front from January 28,1918, when he left St. Nazarine until March 23, 1919, when the unit to which he was attached started back from Germany, a period of fifteen months with only two weeks rest.

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