Why “Doughboy”? revisited

Last week, a page from the 1920-21 Fort Benning yearbook The Doughboy was posted which explained the quest to find the origins of the word doughboy, a term referring to US Army infantry.

The style of writing was humorous. This was the beginning of the Roaring 20s, which was characterized by breaking tradition and formality in contrast to the somber mood of WWI. However, humor is also a tool used to deal with trying conditions. Recall the 77th Division’s “Our Company” which was written in rhyme form, or the 81st Division’s play, “The Bloody War.”

The yearbook had many samples of this writing style and contained oodles of comics. Some would describe the yearbook as “a hoot.” Many of the documents from this period that were used to write the WWI Profiles were written this way.

The 1936 version of the yearbook had returned to a more formal writing style, although some comics were included.

To reiterate, three possible origins of doughboy as US Army Infantry were presented, and the term was traced back to the Revolutionary War.

  • Soldiers kept the piping on their uniforms white by applying pipe-clay, referred to as “dough.”
  • “Dough ball” was used to describe a certain type of button worn on the Infantry overcoats in the early parts of the nineteenth century.
  • The Cavalrymen started it, making fun of infantry because they have to plod along through the mud.

And one additional theory is presented by The History Channel.

  • During the Mexican War of 1846-48, American infantrymen made long treks over dusty terrain, giving them the appearance of being covered in flour, or dough. As a variation of this account goes, the men were coated in the dust of adobe soil and as a result were called “adobes,” which morphed into “dobies” and, eventually, “doughboys.”

Please contact Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range with any additional documented theories.

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