I have a decent number of WWI books; I've combed through WorldWarOne.com and have a ridiculous number of links bookmarked, I've searched every combination of "WWI", "American", "soliders", "trenches", etc. that I can think of, and still the problem is this: most of the American-related information I'm finding is more along the lines of troop movements, battles and outcomes, policies, formation of the AEF, that kind of thing.
It's driving me batty, as my characters are American, and fascinating at it is, I can't exactly use the reams of available information about deployment and procedures of British/French/Canadian troops to answer the questions I have.
1) I have two characters who joined the Army in February or March of 1917 - they're both just grunts throughout the war, very little formal education. I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong), that Army regulars were deployed first, but I'm unable to find a clear definition of "regular". Men who were already in the Army and out of basic when war was declared, or were they required to have a certain number of months/years of service? Or was it more a training issue? They're a sniper/spotter team, if that matters.
1a) When would be the earliest that these two could actually be fighting? I've found one reference to Americans not being on the field in divisional strength by October of 1917, which leads me to believe that some soldiers were there in non-divisional strength earlier than that. I currently have them Over There in September or October 1917, and I suspect that may be too early, generally speaking.
2)I know Pershing didn't want to break up US units to let the British/French use as reinforcements or let anyone else have tactical command over them. However, I'm a bit confused, because I keep finding variations of this quote (from Wikipedia, because it's late and I don't want to dig out the AEF book), and it sounds a little contradictory to me: "Pershing wanted an American force that could operate independently of the other Allies, but his vision could not be realized until adequately trained troops with sufficient supplies reached Europe."
So how exactly was that being handled? Were intact American units being stationed alongside Allied troops in the trenches/on the battlefield, under their own commanders, until able to operate independently?
2a)Also a clear definition of "unit" in this context would be appreciated. I've seen "unit" used to describe everything from a squad to a divison.
3)I also see in several places that Pershing didn't want to get involved in trench warfare, but I assume that until the American army could operate as an independent whole, American troops were indeed stationed in the trenches, and would largely have been there til around September 1918? I don't need a specific location, I'm fine with just saying, "France" or "Belgium".
I think that's it, and sorry about the length - just trying to be as specific as I can. Thank you in advance for any help you can give!