Summary of an original article by Raymond S. Johnson
The 15th New York Infantry was authorized in 1913 and was not formed until 1916. The armory was a cigar store
with a dance hall above it on Seventh Ave. and 131st Street, Harlem. Two hundred Negro residents in the city, who
had previous military service, became the nucleus for the new regiment. Overcoming many obstacles, Colonel William
Hayward, a former Nebraska National Guard officer, succeeded in obtaining rifles and uniforms. After the declaration
of war 6 April 1917, the 15th New York was the first unit in the city to be recruited to war strength.
They trained at Camp Whitman (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and guarded areas around New York City. After a short time of
training in South Carolina, they were shipped overseas arriving in France on 27 December 1917. The regimental band
was considered the best in the A.E.F. and toured France traveling 2000 miles and covering 25 cities. The band did
much to publicize the arrival of American troops and lift sagging French morale.
After a couple months of laborer duty, the regiment was designated as the 369th U.S. Infantry and was sent to serve
with the French. The men were issued French helmets and brown leather belts and pouches, although they continued
to wear their U.S. uniforms.
8 April 1918 the 369th went into the trenches as part of the 16th French Division and served continuously to July 3rd.
The regiment returned to combat in the second battle of the Marne. Later the 369th was reassigned to Gen.
Lebouc’s 161st Division in order to participate in the Allied counterattack. 19 August the regiment went
off the line for rest and training of replacements. 25 September 1918 the 4th French Army went on the offensive
in conjunction with the American drive in the Meuse- Argonne. The 369th turned in a good account of itself in
heavy fighting, sustaining severe losses. They captured the important village of Sechault. At one point the
369th advanced faster than French troops on their right and left flanks. There was danger of being cut off.
By the time the regiment pulled back for reorganization, it had advanced fourteen Kilometers through severe
In Mid-October the regiment was moved to a quiet sector in the Vosques Mountains, It was there on 11 November,
the day of the Armistice. Six days later the 369th made its last advance and on 26 November is reached the banks
of the Rhine, the first Allied unit to get there.
Although one Medal of Honor and many distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to members of the regiment,
the most celebrated man in the 369th was Pvt. Henry Johnson. In May 1918 Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts fought
off a 24-man German patrol, though both were severely wounded. After they emptied their three round clips, Roberts
used his rifle as a club and Johnson battled with a bolo knife. Johnson was the first American to receive the Croix
Photographs show that the 369th carried the New York Regimental flag overseas. The French government awarded
the regiment the Croix de Guerre with silver star for the taking of Sechault. It was pinned to the colors by General
Lebouc at a ceremony in Germany, 13 December 1918.
In re-capping the story of the 369th Arthur W. Little, who
had been a battalion commander, wrote in the regimental history “From Harlem to the Rhine” that it was
official that the outfit was 191 days under fire, never lost a foot of ground or had a man taken prisoner, though on
two occasions men were captured but they were recovered. Only once did it fail to take its objective and that was due
largely to bungling by French artillery support. There were 1500 casualties.
Today the lineage and tradition is carried on by the 369th Transportation Battalion, 2366 Fifth Ave., N.Y.C.
Back to 369th Infantry Regiment during World War One
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
March 30, 2006