The Princeton Bantam Boys

Taking a break on the Somme

Bantams taking a break on the Marne

Ralph did not note the date or location of this photo.  This may be fall of 1917.

           Seeing several groups depart before the Battle Creek Unit, Ralph made a snap decision and requested transfer to the under-strength Princeton University volunteers.  He was told they would leave within days.   The request was immediately granted.  They needed men.The Princeton unit already had the French designation as the Section Sanitaire Unis 523 or S.S.U. 523 [523rd United Sanitary Section]

          Known as the “Bantams and Pigeons,” they were lightheartedly named for the chicken coop they converted into a barracks on the outskirts of the Princeton University campus.  No cost was spared in its $3.12 construction! The name grew on them, sort of like a wart.  Loving irony, they adopted a white rooster on a red background as the 523rd emblem. 

         Assembled by Professor Root at Princeton, the men shipped to Allentown below their authorized strength of forty-five.  Receiving inquiries from medics from Ohio State University, but having several members leave for Officer Candidate School, the unit was nine men short.  At the end of July 1917, Ralph, five of his friends and three Ohio State boys formally joined the Bantams. All the details are outlined in my book Private Heller and the Bantam Boys: An American Medic in World War I.


The initial Bantam officers were:

Captain Chaudron, Lieutenant Lyon with Sergeants Lee and Stevens.


Bantam Staff Officers

Bantam Staff Officers

I believe these were the officers commanding the Princeton Bantams.


The Boys on a cold morning,

The Boys on a cold morning,

Ralph never identified the Chinese man in this photo.  Many Chinese took part in the Great War as soldiers or laborers on the Western Front.  In this picture, some of the Bantam Boys wear French helmets called “Adrians.”


More to come!