Before World War I units that later comprised the 27th Division, drawn from the New York National Guard and known as the “Empire Division,” participated in Gen. John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico against the revolutionary Pancho Villa from June 1916 to early 1917. This experience proved to be valuable in preparing the division for service in World War I. The New York National Guard provided troops, many of them recently returned from Mexico, to guard water facilities supplying New York City in February 1917. Anticipating the entrance of the United States into the war, New Yorkers had become fearful of German sabotage.
After the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson called the National Guard into federal service. Units from the New York National Guard moved to Camp Wadsworth near Spartanburg, South Carolina, for training. Here they were designated the 27th Division in July 1917. The division filled out with additional troops acquired through selective service—the “draft”. The division departed for Europe in May of 1918. Upon its arrival it was attached to the British Fourth Army, and later the British Third Army, for training. Their training completed, on June 30 the division joined the British Second Army and was attached to the British XIX Corps, with whom they would first enter combat.
The arrival of the 27th Division on the Western Front provided much needed reinforcement to Allied forces who had endured four long years of warfare and massive German offensives beginning in March of 1918. On July 5, 1918, the British XIX Corps placed the division on the Eastern Poperinghe Line southwest of Ypres inside the Dickebush Lake and Scherpenburg sector. During the Ypres-Lys Offensive the 27th Division launched an attack that came to be called the Battle of Vierstraat Ridge, which raged from August 31 to September 2. In this assault the division moved the Allied line forward two kilometers, a creditable achievement against formidable opposition in their first battle.
The 27th Division again went into battle in September 1918 during the Somme Offensive, a determined effort to penetrate the German Hindenburg Line. On September 24, the division entered the front lines, and the next day became part of the American II Corps serving under the Australian Corps of the British Expeditionary Force. The attack began on September 27 with the mission of securing Quennemont Farm, Guillemont Farm, and a prominent terrain feature called “The Knoll.” Strong resistance by an entrenched enemy prevented substantial gains, and losses were heavy. The division attacked again on September 29, and despite the loss of their tank support and heavy enemy machine gun fire, secured Quennemont Farm and The Knoll. The courage and perseverance of the 27th Division produced important results, but at a great cost; the division lost 337 men killed and 658 wounded in a single day. The 27th Division persisted in the Somme Offensive through October 21, after which it was withdrawn to outside of Amiens, France for reconstitution. Here it remained until the armistice of November 11, 1918. After months of grueling service on the Western Front during which they suffered 8,209 casualties, the 27th Division embarked for New York in February of 1919.
A total of 972 men from the 27th Division are buried or memorialized in ABMC cemeteries: 798 in Somme American Cemetery, 103 in Flanders Field, 29 in Meuse-Argonne, 16 in Oise-Aisne, 14 in Brookwood, 11 in Suresnes, and one in Aisne-Marne.
Constituent Units of the 93rd Division
53rd Infantry Brigade
54th Infantry Brigade
52nd Field Artillery Brigade