The Boys from Company B in Lander joined in a protest after they were issued ill fitting Union Suits, or long johns. After dying the garments pink, and marching on the state capitol, they played leap frog back at Camp J. B. Kendrick in Cheyenne, now known as F.E. Warren Air Force Base. (Collection of Jean Mathisen Haugen)
By Jean Mathisen Haugen for County10.com
(Lander, Wyo.) – The United States had managed to stay out of the World War that had sprung up in 1914–one hundred years ago this new year. But in 1916, they discovered Germany was baiting Mexico to enter the war, attack the United States and when they won, much of the U.S. southwest was to be returned to Mexico. Pancho Villa, an erstwhile bandito raided over the border into the small town of Columbus, New Mexico and in the fighting, several Americans were killed. The result was the American “Punitive Expedition” shortly organized under the leadership of General “Black Jack” John Pershing and composed mainly of National Guard units called from all over the U.S.
The Company B boys of the Lander area were called up (they were previously known as the Pushroot Rangers, organized in 1876 as a local militia). First they were sent to Fort D.A. Russell (now F.E. Warren Air Force Base) at Cheyenne for training. Among them were such locals as Maury Logue, Charles Hoyt, Pete Svilar, Virgil Abbott, Herb McCoun, Bert Rhodes, Kime Hancock, George Lee, John M. Hornecker and brother Ralph R. Hornecker, Ed Savage and Chick Iiams. The Captain was George Harnsberger along with top sergeant Lon Baldwin.
Not everything was deadly serious though. As often happened with the U.S. military, mistakes were made. In this case, the union suits (underwear) issued to the men were either 14 sizes too large or too small. The boys were patriotic but this was ridiculous. So they had a demonstration and burned a few of the ill-fitting garments, then dyed the rest pink and then briskly marched out to parade in front of the State Capitol down Carey Avenue. They were then briskly caught up with and nearly court-martialed. The officers lacked a sense of humor.
The “Riverton Review” newspaper headlined ‘UNION SUIT PARADE TO SHOW APPROVAL OF NEW UNDERWEAR”–Cheyenne almost saw a BVD parade. Nearly 100 enlisted men, a majority from Company B, started for Cheyenne from Camp Kendrick, all dolled up in pink union suits which had been slipped on over their uniforms. A sentry yelled “halt” until his throat was sore.”
Back at camp the boys posed as models for a photo and another photo depicted them playing leapfrog.
They did go on to the border, chased Villa in Mexico, then in 1917 were sent on to World War I in France.