12,000 Men Gather Near Blaney Overnight, Move Into Action
The small community of Blaney which was aroused at 3 o’clock this morning by thousands of big army trucks rolling by, declared a virtual holiday today when the citizens awoke to find their town completely encircled by the military might of the 30th Division.
The area of Blaney was chosen as the headquarters of the 30th, and was the pivotal point from where three columns of motorized soldiers, numbering more than 12,000 officers and enlisted men, fanned out today at noon for a three-column attack on an enemy army reported moving toward Fort Jackson from the opposite side of the Wateree river.
The road between Columbia and Blaney was still Cluttered with army trucks this morning, moving up supplies to the front lines before the big advance started. The citizens of Dents, Pontiac and Blaney found shady spots by the side of the road as the troops whirled by on the way to an imitation battle which will be carried out under war conditions.
The 30th Division, at war strength of 1,000 officers and men and with full war field equipment, moved out of Fort Jackson late yesterday afternoon in groups with the main body reaching Blaney at 3 o’clock this morning. The movement, made in 3,000 trucks, was
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successfully carried out without the use of light. Several thousand of the 30th troops are serving as the enemy troops.
This morning, the 30th was joined by officials of the First army corps from Columbia, the mechanized troops of the 102nd Cavalry, and planes of the 105th Observation squadron which worked from their base at the Columbia airport.
Maj. Gen. Henry D. Russell, commander of the 30th Division, was in the bovine area with his staff officers this morning, when he issued an order to move south to contact a Brown enemy army moving across the Wateree river and into the Fort Jackson reservation.
At noon today, General Russell gave the order for his troops to move out in three columns to contact the enemy. Intelligence reports have shown that the enemy had bivouacked eight miles south of the old Camden, road last night and was moving northward toward the fort this morning at 10 o’clock.
General Russell issued the command for his troops, all former national guardsmen from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, and selectees from those states, to drive the enemy troops back across the Wateree river.
As the motorized division began rolling, the mechanized troops of the 102nd Cavalry protected the imaginary First corps troops on the right and the Blue (the 30th Division) was protecting the left flank.
Intelligence reports showed that a Brown enemy corps of two divisions was stationed at Orangeburg. (Imaginary), while the 7,000 troops of the 59th Infantry brigade re-enforced made up the actual enemy troops.
General Russell said that the Maneuver was a “perfectly free” exercise in which the staff officers of both the Blue friendly troops and the Brown enemy units are using their own strategy without a definite pattern of subsequent orders to follow.
The 30th Division headquarters in the field was cleverly concealed from air observation, the trucks being parked under trees and camouflaged. Military Policemen were stationed at every road around Blaney. The division headquarters site was ringed by a row of field artillery and anti-tank guns as well as infantry soldiers concealed in fox holes as guards.
Miles of wire had been strung during the morning keeping up contact between headquarters and the unit headquarters scattered around Blaney in a radius of five miles. Planes of the 105th squadron, some of which were being used by the enemy troops, occasionally flew over on reconnaissance duties while friendly planes brought back reports on the enemy troop movements.
While the maneuver is “perfectly free” as to its development, officials expected that contact would be made on the Fort Jackson reservation late today or during the night.
The Brown enemy force was represented by the 121st Infantry, the 118th Infantry, the 119th Field artillery, and attached units of the 105th Medical and Engineer regiments, while the Blue force was made up of the rest of the division with the 102nd Cavalry mechanized units attached.
The problem will continue through Friday although a halt to hostilities will be called tomorrow when the officers will hold a critique and discuss the progress of the battle. Then the “war” will be resumed until Friday.
The maneuver in which the 30th began action late yesterday is the first divisional field exercise held at the fort since the 6th Division was here last winter. In this mock battle, everything except for the firing of live cartridges is as near like wartime conditions as possible.
The 30th Division, led by Maj. Gen. Henry D. Russell, went to a concentration area near Blaney this morning at 3 o’clock which was as far as the orders issued them went. On the other hand an enemy army composed of the 59th Infantry brigade reinforced, was the encamped 5 miles south of the Old Camden road.
The Blue 30th Division in opposing the Brown 59th brigade sent out reconnaissance planes of the 105th Observation squadron today to try to located the enemy positions and officials reported that they expected to make contact sometime during the day.
At 9 o’clock this morning, the 30th Division received a warning order to move toward the South from their position near Blaney. From that point, the strategy of General Russell commanding the Blues and that of Brig, Gen. T. E. Marchant commanding the Browns will be used with only occasional supervising orders from corps headquarters.
Officials of the First army corps with headquarters in Columbia were supervising the big field exercise. These officials are also acting as umpires, judging when a group is captured and when when are killed or wounded.
More than 3,000 trucks, 10,000 rifles, field artillery pieces and pistols, and full field equipment are being used in the maneuver. Blank cartridges have been furnished the troops for all the guns to further aid in simulating actual warfare.