Major General Henry A. Greene arrives to take command of Camp Lewis on August 26, 1917.

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 8/25/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20396

On August 26, 1917, Major General Henry A. Greene (1856-1921) arrives at the U.S. Army's Camp Lewis in Pierce County to command the camp and prepare the 91st Division for combat in World War I, which the U.S. entered the previous April. A progressive officer, he believes the army can return men home with higher moral standards. Greene devotes much time and energy to combating what he views as the negative effects of vice -- prostitution, gambling, bootleg liquor -- on the camp's soldiers. He cordons off the "Joy Zone," a shanty town outside the camp gates that offers such attractions. Then, when Seattle officials fail to heed his warnings to stop tolerating vice there, he issues a general order banning troops from visiting the city, which won't be lifted for 47 days, following a city cleanup of vice areas. Greene also arranges to construct with private funding an amusement zone to provide soldiers with more wholesome activities. It will be named Greene Park in his honor. But General Greene will never lead the 91st Division in combat, as he is demoted one rank and reassigned following a violation of contracting rules.

A Progressive and Effective Staff Officer

Henry A. Greene was born in Beacon, New York, and grew up in Fishkill, New York. His father was a machinist, but Henry sought a more challenging future with a free education and military career. In 1875 Henry Greene was accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in June 1879, 16th in a class of 66. Selecting the infantry, Greene's first assignments were at Texas frontier posts.

On December 21, 1881, Greene married Augusta Barlow (1859-1949). Taking on the varied duties of an army officer's wife, Augusta Greene frequently participated in community events.

Henry Greene was promoted to first lieutenant in July 1886 and soon recognized as a progressive officer with administrative ability. That same year he was appointed adjutant of the 20th Infantry Regiment; Greene served four years in that role.

Taking Command

By April 1891 Greene had become a captain, and was selected to command a Regular Army company of Sioux Indians. He recruited the Sioux and organized his company at Camp Poplar River, Montana. The program was innovative, with the army enlisting Indians who had not long ago been considered enemies. One thousand Indians enlisted for five-year terms. However, they encountered prejudice in the War Department and among many soldiers who feared Indians becoming non-commissioned officers and giving orders.

An inspection of Captain Greene's company found his Indian soldiers squared away with haircuts, proper uniforms, and orderly barracks. Captain Greene had also taught the Indians of his company English. Some of the other Indian companies were less successful. By 1895 few Indians remained in the army, and the program was deemed a failure in May 1897.

Moving Up the Ranks

When his Indian company was disbanded in October 1894, Captain Greene was assigned to the U.S. Infantry and Cavalry School. In recognition of his teaching abilities Greene was made an assistant instructor, teaching courses in law and strategy.

In 1898 Greene returned to the 20th Infantry Division, in command of Company H, for service in the Spanish American War. Following a short stateside assignment, Captain Greene was on the field in the Philippines. Promoted to major in May 1900, Greene became aide to the military governor of the Philippines.

Additional administrative positions followed, Army Assistant Adjutant General and then duty on the War College Board to select officers for the general staff. Performing well in these important duties, Greene was quickly promoted to lieutenant colonel and named to the general staff, with chief-of-staff duties soon following.

In 1903 Greene arrived at the War Department in Washington, D.C., and served on a major reorganization task force. In 1906 came another promotion, this time to colonel and command of the 10th Infantry Regiment. He took the regiment to Alaska and Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, followed by Texas border duties, and then the Panama Canal Zone.

With the Mexican Punitive Expedition in 1916, Greene, by then a brigadier general, organized National Guard units into provisional divisions in Texas and Arizona for border protection against raids by Pancho Villa (1878-1923). While headquartered at Douglas, Arizona, Greene's troops often got into trouble due to gambling and prostitution. Greene, working with local officials, cleaned up the area.

Commanding Camp Lewis and Dealing with Vice

On August 5, 1917, Greene was promoted to major general and received orders to Camp Lewis to command the 91st Division and the camp. He arrived on August 26 while the camp was under construction. Greene's first duty was to identify his unit commanders.

Camp Lewis officially opened on September 5, when the first drafted troops started arriving to fill the newly formed units. Soon Major General Greene encountered the same problems with vice at Camp Lewis that he had dealt with in Arizona in 1916. Just outside the camp entrance was a shanty town, called the Joy Zone, of businesses catering to soldiers. Mixed in among the legitimate stores were places of vice, including prostitution and bootleg liquor.

By October 17 the situation had become critical, with 1,400 men (out of a camp population of 35,000) in the camp hospital with sexually transmitted diseases. A cordon was placed around the Joy Zone to prevent soldiers from entering.

But the problem was not confined to the shanty town outside the camp gates. Seattle, the region's largest city and a popular destination for off-duty soldiers, had been identified by army officials as having a vice syndicate, tolerated by those in authority, which was contributing to health problems at Camp Lewis. In public speeches Greene claimed that Seattle had 2,300 prostitutes, wide-open gambling, and bootlegging. (Liquor prohibition had been in effect statewide since 1916.) Greene threatened to quarantine Seattle if it did not rid itself of prostitution, gambling, and bootleg booze. Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill (1866-1919) challenged Greene's claims and did nothing.

In an effort to keep his troops away from Seattle and other dens of urban vice, Greene worked to provide them with more wholesome entertainment close to their barracks. He sought and received War Department permission to construct with private funding an amusement zone at the camp, with theaters, pool halls, restaurants, food stands, and other attractions. On October 22 local business leaders formed a company to build the amusement zone, and by November plans were drawn up.

But constructing the amusement zone would take time, and in the face of Mayor Gill's inaction, General Greene took immediate action to protect troops from Seattle vice. On November 22, 1917, he signed General Order No. 52, which banned officers and enlisted men from entering Seattle. He was troubled by the vice in the city and felt that it was not safe for soldiers.

At the Front in France

Soon after signing the general order, Greene and his son and aide, Major James S. Greene (1882-1938), left for France to familiarize themselves with combat conditions at the front. General John J. Pershing (1860-1948), the American Expeditionary Forces commander, had all 32 commanders from the stateside training camps visit the combat zone. This gave him an opportunity to evaluate each officer. Pershing found 10 of the generals to be too old or otherwise not physically capable of the rigorous demands of their position, and on the list that Pershing provided to the Secretary of War was Major General Greene.

While Greene was in France, his wife stood in for him at the camp and local events. One time that she was observing gas training, the wind changed direction and she was overcome by a whiff of chlorine gas, but quickly recovered and downplayed its effect.

Lifting the Ban and Building Greene Park

Brigadier General Frederick Foltz (1857-1952), who served as acting camp and division commander during Greene's absence, had his top military police officer, Colonel Matthew E. Saville (1870-1942), keep an eye on Seattle and Mayor Gill's efforts to clean up vice in response to the ban on troops entering the city, which significantly impacted its economy.

Gill's efforts included replacing his chief of police, Charles L. Beckingham (1874-1942), with a reform chief, Joel F. Warren (1858-1934), on December 12, 1917. Warren began his work with a raid on a major gambling center. Warren also arrested police officers who had seized liquor and then resold it. On January 8, 1918, after 47 days, Foltz lifted the ban on Seattle and expressed his thanks to Mayor Gill for his success in cleaning up the city.

Foltz also presided over the construction of General Greene's pet project, the amusement zone, which Foltz named Greene Park in the camp commander's honor. Greene Park was dedicated on March 1, 1918, two days before the return of its namesake.

Homecoming Sweetness Is Short

General Greene returned home on March 3, 1918, arriving at Tacoma's Union Station to an impressive homecoming welcome. An army band was at the station to greet him, along with many citizens. During his absence a commander's house had been erected at Camp Lewis and the Tacoma Rotary Club furnished it. This was just one example of the community's respect and love for Major General Greene. Another example was letters written by mothers of soldiers thanking him for his kindness and concern for their sons.

Unfortunately for Greene, not all of the community was as favorably disposed toward him. On June 10, 1918, he was ordered to appear before the War Department to answer a complaint lodged by W. H. Paulhamus (1865-1925), head of the Puyallup and Sumner Fruitgrowers Association, in a letter to Washington U.S. Senator Wesley L. Jones (1863-1932). Paulhamus claimed that General Greene and his aide Major Maurice Welty (1886-1961) violated federal contracting rules by awarding the Thurston County Farmers Association a contract to supply all vegetables and fruits for Camp Lewis without allowing the growers from Puyallup and Sumner group to bid on the contract.

Sixteen days later Greene was demoted to brigadier general and informed he would not lead the 91st Division, which he had been training, in combat. The War Department investigation concluded that both officers violated the rules. Major Welty was reduced in rank to captain and reassigned. Major General Greene lost one star, his rank reduced to brigadier general, and was assigned to duty in the Philippines.

It was sad that Greene, who had such a distinguished career, including combat experience, leading troops, and effective staff duties, saw it end with a demotion. Later it would become evident that at Camp Lewis Greene had devoted too much energy to being a father to his troops. He emphasized recreation and soldier morals while not paying sufficient attention to his aide's actions in contracting. Moreover, when the 91st arrived in France training deficiencies were noted. Additional training was required, delaying the division's entry onto the battlefield.

After Camp Lewis

A disheartened Greene would not go with his troops to France. Instead he received orders to the Philippines on July 22, 1918. Brigadier General Greene commanded the Philippines department from August 1918 to November 29, 1918. During his short command in the Philippines, Greene successfully oversaw military-camp construction. At the mandatory retirement age of 62, he requested retirement and the Greenes retired to Berkeley, California.

On August 19, 1921, Henry Greene was summoned to the Alameda County Courthouse for jury duty. As he was climbing the courthouse steps, he bent over to pick up a piece of paper and dropped dead of a heart attack. An impressive funeral was held in San Francisco. Brigadier General Henry A. Greene was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where his wife Augusta Greene was buried beside him following her death in 1949.

The Greene Park amusement area was a lasting Henry Greene contribution, surviving 10 years past his Camp Lewis command. However, with additional recreational facilities opening on Fort Lewis, as the post was soon renamed, Greene Park faded, with the concept of wholesome recreation becoming embedded in the Fort Lewis culture generally. As of 2017, the only Greene Park building still standing was the former Salvation Army Red Shield Inn. The structure is an iconic three-story wood-frame building, now housing the Lewis Army Museum.

Remembering Henry A. Greene

In 1918 sculptor Allan Clark (1896-1950) created a bust of General Greene. The bust was donated first to the Ferry Museum and later to the Lewis Army Museum, where it is now on exhibit.

On March 16, 1929, a memorial tree was planted at the Fort Lewis main gate in honor of Major General Henry A. Greene. The planting was part of a ceremony to dedicate the Boulevard of Remembrance, a tree-lined memorial running from the Nisqually River to Ponders Corner (near the current location of I-5 exit 124). The boulevard honored World War I veterans, organizations, and women who contributed to the war effort. A northern red oak donated by Anna H. Weyerhaeuser (1864-1933) honored Greene. At the tree, a stone with a copper plaque recorded the service of Major General Greene in establishing Camp Lewis and as commander of the 91st Division. The tree was removed during the construction of Interstate 5 in 1957. Most of the boulevard's trees have been lost to I-5 construction, and none of the surviving trees have retained their plaques recording who they honored.

Also in 1929, the Greene Memorial Association, a citizens group, sought to honor Major General Greene and his strong commitment to Camp Lewis and the local area. The group pushed for a building at Fort Lewis to be named in his honor. Fort Lewis officials identified as most appropriate the Greene Park Salvation Army annex building, standing next to the Red Shield Inn. The Fort Lewis post office was located on the first floor and the second floor became a Masonic hall, Henry A. Greene Lodge No. 250. The Masonic Lodge remained until about 1970, when the building was demolished. Later, a western white pine was planted at the location, and a plaque was inscribed to recall both General Greene and the Masonic Lodge that once stood on the site.

In 1939 several streets at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana were renamed to honor early commanders of the post. Among these was Spring Valley Road, which became Greene Avenue to honor Henry A. Greene, who as a colonel commanded the fort from 1908 to 1910. Among Greene's contributions to Fort Benjamin Harrison was the establishment of a good relationship between the post and nearby communities. Fort Harrison closed in 1996 and the former main post area is now within the city of Lawrence.


Sources:

Alice Palmer Henderson, The Ninety-First: The First at Camp Lewis (Tacoma: John C. Barr, 1918); Donald Smythe, Pershing: General of the Armies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); Bryan L. Woodcock, 91st Infantry in World War 1: Analysis of an AEF Division's Efforts to Achieve Battlefield Success (Pickle Partners Publishing, 2014); Roger Sale, Seattle: Past to Present (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976); "Maj. Gen. Henry A. Greene," The Seattle Times, August 19, 1917, p. 1; "Three Brigade Leaders Ready to Begin Work," Ibid, August 26, 1917, p. 14; "Seattle Closed to U.S. Soldiers," Oregonian, November 23, 1917, p. 7; "Amusement Park at Camp Is Named for General H. A. Greene," Bellingham Herald, January 1, 1918, p. 7; "W. H. Paulhamus and Associates Head New Company," Oregonian, January 1, 1918, p. 2; "Officers and Men from Camp Lewis No Longer Barred from This City," The Seattle Times, January 9, 1918, p. 1; "Ban Off Seattle," Oregonian, January 10, 1918, p. 6; "General's Wife 'Gassed' -- Mrs. H. A. Greene Overcome by Fumes of Chlorine at Camp Lewis," Oregonian, February 20, 1918, p. 1; "War Zone Viewed," Ibid., March 4, 1918, p. 9; "Maj. Gen. Greene's Bust Presented to Museum," Bellingham Herald, May 30, 1918, p. 4. "Philippine Berth Gen. Greene's Lot," Oregonian, June 21, 1918, p. 1; "Camp Lewis Head Removed from Post," Ibid, August 3, 1918, p. 1; "Major General Henry A. Greene," Ibid, August 20, 1921, p. 1; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Camp Lewis: Greene Park -- A Soldier Amusement Park and Social Experiment" (by Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed August 25, 2017).


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