Historian’s Corner

 

Historian’s Corner

By Bob Babcock, Past President/Historian

After serving as your president, I am honored to continue to serve as the 4IDA historian. My role now will be to focus on history of the entire 100 years of service by the 4ID.

First, I have reprinted the 1920 book, History of the 4th Division in the World War, written by COL Christian Bach, the Chief of Staff during WWI. That book, in hard cover, can be purchased from the https://www.deedspublishing.com/ website. All profits from book sales will be reinvested into research and making more out of print books and other historic information and stories from all eras available to our members.

            My next project is to re-energize my focus on publishing a book – War Stories 2 – which will include your stories that you will send me from your service in World War II, Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and today’s mission in Eastern Europe. Please send your stories to me at babcock224@aol.com in a Microsoft Word document.

75 Years Ago This Week: 4ID in WWII

As I'm sure most of you realize, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of when our 4ID fought their way across Europe. Since that is my favorite part of 4ID history, I will put out a weekly feature on what happened with the 4ID 75 years ago each week. It will be on the history link of the 4ID Association web page, the 4ID Association Facebook page, on my personal Facebook page, and permanently posted on my www.americansremembered.org web page.

I will be starting in February with monthly summaries for February through May, covering the 4ID's training in England, then on the first week of June (D-Day week), I will start with after action reports, pictures, maps, anything I can pull out of my archives on a weekly basis to post. I plan to continue doing that until the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8 May 2020.

And, for those of you who like to read WWII books on the 4th Infantry Division, you can find several of them on the bookstore section of my www.deedspublishing.com web page.

I'm looking forward to taking this journey down memory lane - there is a reason that those who fought WWII are called the "Greatest Generation". Steadfast and Loyal.

75 Years Ago - 4ID in WWII - Issue #3 - Training in England, March 1944 - (See Previous Issues Below)

In this third edition of our journey with 4ID through World War II, 75 years ago this month, we will focus on their training in March 1944. Our next two editions will cover training in April and May and then we will dive into weekly issues as D-Day happens in June and continue through V-E Day in May 1945. Feel free to share this with whoever you want.

From the 4ID Yearbook published in 1946:

The general operation against Hitler's Atlantic Wall was now crystallized, and the target date determined. For each hour there was a specific job, representing an essential step in preparation for readiness on that target date. Slapton Sands, along the south Devon coast, was cleared of civilians. Water covered an area in the rear of this beach and resembled closely the water obstacle prepared by the Germans who had flooded the area in the rear of the Normandy beach, which, if all went well, would see us on D-Day. Here landing rehearsals, complete with naval fire support and German air and E-boat opposition, were held many times.

From Chaplain Bill Boice's History of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in WWII:

England was beautiful, as beautiful and quaint, as old-fashioned and sincere as another century. The 22nd Infantry Regiment, detraining at Devon, was split and sent to the various camps that could accommodate it. Regimental Headquarters and the 2nd Battalion went to a camp outside the town of Danbury. The 1st Battalion was somewhat inadequately quartered in ancient and forbidding buildings in Newton-Abbott. The 3rd Battalion, plus cannon and anti-tank companies, was stationed some distance away at South Brent in a camp which consisted almost exclusively of Quonset huts. 4th Division Headquarters was at Tiverton. The nearest English city of any size was Exeter, a favorite shopping place soon to become known to us...

Torquay was the Atlantic city of south England and most of the officers and enlisted men went to Torquay for relaxation, usually to the excellent Red Cross Clubs.

...At a meeting of all the officers of the Division, General Omar Bradley, then commanding the First Army, chosen to storm the beaches, told the officers that originally it had been planned to storm the beach with one United States Infantry Division. This division, picked by the top men of the General Staff, had been the 4th Infantry Division. The officers returned to their Regiments sobered, realizing that theirs was a job from which there was no turning back...

...Training in squad problems, the handling of weapons, camouflage, use of artillery and mortars, assault tactics, pole charges, bee-hives, and the bazooka were given to the men, squad by squad, until they became thoroughly familiar with their particular job. Certain tactics were taught, then company, battalion, Regimental, and Division problems involving these same tactics were run, in order to familiarize the troops with their practical application. Weak spots within the organization were discovered and removed. Officers were shifted in their command. Day by day, the tension increased as it became evident that the long-promised second front would soon be a reality.

Following is a story from my book War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku:

Billy Cater, Cambridge, OH - Service Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment

Captain "Big Hawk"

The Regiment was newly-arrived in England and was in the process of drawing all equipment, including vehicles. Captain Hawkins (Big Hawk) was the motor officer and I, as a lieutenant, was his assistant. Our living quarters were in a thin-walled barracks and conversations could be heard through them.

We had a few unassigned jeeps so I could slip out a jeep and several of us could go pub hunting at night. On returning one night, driving blackout, I made a wrong turn, tried to switch back and hit a stone fence head on, but managed to get it back to the motor pool. All I could hear through the wall that night was Captain Hawkins talking about the punishment he would dish out to the guilty party. I made a deal with the medic motor sergeant: He was to really complain, but would take the jeep and fix it and I would see that he would be favored forever. Big Hawk and I were good friends and I could never tell him I was the culprit, even after the war.

(Note: Both Billy Cater and "Big Hawk" are deceased now, but Billy's son and Big Hawk's daughter are regular readers of this trip down memory lane).

From COL Gerden Johnson's History of the 12th Infantry Regiment in WWII:

... The month of March brought new and rigorous training as combat problems got underway amid blinding snowstorms on the freezing windswept wastes of the famous English Moors near Dartmoor. Returning on the 10th, there was barely time to pack for another move from the regimental area. On the 13th we temporarily left Exeter, Bye-Pass Camp, Exemouth and Budleigh-Salterton for two weeks of ship-to-shore training with the U.S. Navy. A rail movement was made to Plymouth where the 12th embarked on three APA's anchored in the harbor.... Following extensive practice in organizing boat teams and reaching boat stations in blackout, several days were spent in learning how to debark with full equipment down rope ladders and nets....

... Having completed tactical landings of battalion landing teams, staffs began busily preparing a problem for the entire regimental combat team, while the men got in some well-earned rest as the three APA's began the return to Plymouth. This new problem was called Exercise BEAVER and on March 25th we went over the sides and landed on a strip of beach called Slapton Sands on the southern coast of England. It was our first prelude to invasion. By the next day, all units were back at their stations and normal training was resumed....

Training continued at a fast pace. There was no question in the minds of anyone in the 4th Infantry Division what they were training to do, thus they remained very focused on their training mission.

Issue #4 will come out in early April, hopefully the first weekend. A reminder - feel free to share this with anyone you know who will enjoy this history lesson.

Steadfast and Loyal.

Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President

Landing craft: 4th Infantry Division Soldiers work with the Navy during amphibious training exercises in Southern England, March 1944.

IMG 5338: General Eisenhower visiting the 4ID in March 1944.

 

 

 

Church: From George Knapp's book, A Chaplain's Duty - This is the Methodist Church at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England where we had our Protestant services for 12th Infantry Regiment in February through May 1944... The pipe organ was very good. I had Easter Services 1944 in this church, both Sunrise and regular services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4ID HQ IMG 5336 - "Collipriest" - the 4th Infantry Division command post at Tiverton, Devon, England from February through May 1944.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt: On 25 March 1944, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. joined the 4th Infantry Division as a Deputy Commanding General. On D-Day, he earned the Medal of Honor and became a legend in 4ID history.

 

75 Years Ago - 4ID in WWII - Issue #2 - Who is 4th Infantry Division?- (See Issue #1 Below)

We had great response to Issue #1 of this journey we are beginning. I'm looking forward to a great look back into the history of the 4th Infantry Division's fight across Europe from D-Day to VE Day. 

The thought hit me that while we 4th Infantry Division (4ID) veterans and Family members are familiar with the accomplishments and some trivia of the 4th Infantry Division, many reading this have no idea who the 4ID is.

Let me introduce you to the 4th Infantry Division:

The 4ID was formed at Camp Greene, NC on 10 December 1917 - two weeks after the 3rd Infantry Division was formed there.

Our 4ID patch is four Ivy Leaves, named after the Roman numeral IV (we old timers know that IV means 4 in Roman numerals, not sure if they teach that any more). In the History of the 4th Division in the World War book, there is a statement: In the language of flowers, ivy means Steadfast and Loyal... Thus, Major General Cameron gave us the motto - Steadfast and Loyal, which remains our motto to this day.

We deployed to France in May 1918 for entry into World War I. We lost our first casualties before landing in France when a German U-boat torpedoed one of our troop ships.

The 4ID represented the US on the 4th of July 1918 when they participated in a parade in Paris, down the Champs Elysees. Later in July, we were engaged in our first battle with the Germans. By Armistice Day on 11 November 1918, the 4ID had earned five battle streamers for their actions in World War I. 

After two years of occupation duty in Germany, the division returned to Camp Lewis, WA and was deactivated in 1921. While on occupation duty, the National 4th Infantry Division Association (4IDA) was formed. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 4IDA at our 100th reunion in Springfield, MO in August of this year.

You read in Issue #1 how we were reactivated in 1940 to fight in World War II. Fast forwarding, our division has served Cold War occupation duty in Germany from 1950 to 1956, served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970, served four tours in Iraq, and all brigade combat teams of the 4ID have served multiple tours in Afghanistan and back in Europe as a deterrent against the rising Russian threat. At this writing, 4ID Headquarters is serving in Afghanistan, their second deployment there. 

Some interesting tidbits about the 4ID... 

Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. landed in the first wave of 4ID troops on D-Day, proclaiming, "We will start the war from here" when they landed 2,000 yards off their targeted beach. For his actions that day, he earned the Medal of Honor (there were four other 4ID Soldiers who earned the MOH in WWII).

Ernest Hemmingway attached himself to the 4ID during World War II and is a significant part of our WWII history.

 

J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye which many of us read in school, was an interpreter and interrogator with 4ID in WWII. 
 

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Hamburgers, was a cook with 4ID in Cold War Germany in the 1950s. 

 

The founder of Rolling Thunder, Artie Muller, who honor our Vietnam fallen every year on Memorial Day in Washington, DC, was a fire team leader with 4ID in Vietnam (he served in my company).

From 1995 to 2002, the 4ID was, once again, an experimental division in what was called Force XXI, testing equipment, electronics, tactics, etc. that made the 4ID the most lethal division in the world as we entered the 21st century. That is why they were chosen as the assault division to attack into Iraq through Turkey at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The 4ID was assigned to Saddam Hussein's hometown in 2003-2004 and were the unit, along with special operations forces, who captured Saddam on 13 December 2003.

Three former 4ID Commanding Generals served later as Chief of Staff of the Army: MG John L. Hines (1924-1926), GEN Dennis J. Reimer (1995-1999), and GEN Raymond T. Odierno (2011-2015).

Current Sergeant Major of the Army, SMA Dan Dailey, served three combat tours in Iraq with the 4ID, as Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of 1-8 Infantry, as CSM of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and as 4th Infantry Division CSM.

You also may ask, "Who is Bob Babcock and what qualifies him for doing this?"

I served two years with the 4th Infantry Division as a rifle platoon leader and executive officer with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment during our training and first year of deployment from Fort Lewis, WA to Vietnam in 1965-1967. The 4ID is the only active duty division I ever served with - am very proud of it and our history. 

I became an active member of the 4ID Association (4IDA) in 1991 and have missed only one reunion since then. In the early days, I sat and listened to the stories of our WWII veterans about their fight in WWII. In 1995, the last WWII Regimental commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment asked me to take over as leader of their dwindling group of WWII veterans and open it up to 22nd Infantry veterans from all wars. Over the next ten years, I listened and collected lots of stories and memories from those WWII vets. 

As our WWII vets began to fade away and die, I made it one of my objectives when I became president of the 4IDA in 1998 to preserve their stories. In 2001, I published my first book, War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku, which has 325 WWII stories, 25 Cold War stories, and 100 Vietnam stories. I also appointed myself as historian of the 4IDA and continue to hold that job 20+ years later. 

In 2002, I became a founding official partner of the Veterans History Project, part of the Library of Congress, with my Americans Remembered non-profit organization. We have interviewed hundreds of WWII and other veterans. 

During the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I led a group of ten 4ID WWII veterans and their Family members on a week's tour of Normandy (I learned more from them than they did from me, and I remember all they told me). 

In 2009 to 2011, I was hired by the Department of Defense as the 4ID historian, a job that went away with Army downsizing. Since then, I continue to publish military books and stay in touch with veterans of all wars.

Enough for now - stay tuned and on 4 March Issue #3 will talk about the 4IDs training days in England as we continued to prepare for D-Day and our fight across Europe...

Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President
 

75 Years Ago - 4ID in WWII - Issue #1

Starting with this first issue, I am going to tackle a year and a half long project to bring the history of the 4th Infantry Division in WWII to all who want to follow it during this historic 75th anniversary commemorative year.

My plan between now and 8 May 2020 (75th anniversary of VE Day) is to give us a monthly dose of what our 4ID troops did between January and May 1944. And then, starting the first week of June this year (D-Day anniversary), I will switch to weekly updates and follow our WWII forefathers in their fight across Europe to victory on 8 May 1945.

I will use historic material from the 4ID yearbooks published in 1946 and other history books, stories from memories provided to me 20 years ago by the 4ID vets who helped win the war in Europe (and published in my War Stories book in 2001), the official After Action Report of 4ID in WWII, pictures as I can find and use them, and anything else that I can find that appears to be of interest to those who love the history of the 4ID.

I plan to make this available in several places: my personal (Bob Babcock) Facebook page; the 4ID Association Facebook page; the 4ID Association webpage (www.4thinfantry.org); and my Americans Remembered web page (www.americansremembered.org). I plan to leave all these up permanently on the Americans Remembered web page.

I likely will find other places to broadcast these historic reports that will be coming out. I encourage anyone who reads these to forward them to your contacts who have an interest in the 4ID history from WWII. We don't want to be spam or a nuisance, but I know a lot of people care about WWII history that I am unaware of and do not have contact with.

Let's get started...

= = = = = =

In this first issue, we will set the stage with the reactivation of 4ID in June 1940 and follow them through their deployment to England in January 1944. This history comes from the 4ID Yearbook that was published in 1946:

Once again war clouds gathered over Europe and it became necessary to increase the size of the armed forces of the United States.

As part of this expansion, the 4th Division was reactivated on June 1, 1940, at Fort Benning, Ga., composed initially of the following units: the 8th, 22nd, and 29th Infantry Regiments, 20th, 29th, 42nd, and 44th Field Artillery Battalions, 4th Engineer Battalion, 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Quartermaster Battalion, 4th Signal Company, 4th Reconnaissance Troop, and the 4th Headquarters and Military Police Company. Units of the Division were below strength and training was retarded until training areas and aids were pushed to completion.

Then in August 1940, the Division was selected to act as an experimental unit for the development of methods recently demonstrated by the German blitz through Belgium and France, and designated the 4th Division (Motorized), and later re-designated 4th Motorized Division in 1941. Thus began a three-year, wide-open experiment, (initially, equipment was not available) although ideas and theories were many and vigorous. The Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 saw the 4th Motorized Division using trucks, some borrowed, some retrieved from salvage dumps, in lieu of armored half-tracks. Gradually the equipment problem was met and the now full-strength units were prepared for whatever might be the country's need. Pearl Harbor resolved any doubts; the purpose of the men and the extent of their responsibility was evident.

In the fall of 1941, the 12th Infantry Regiment replaced the 29th Infantry in the 4th Division. December 1941 saw the Division move to newly-completed Camp Gordon, Ga. For more than two years, Gordon and Augusta were "home'' for the 4th. In July 1942, the Division was withdrawn suddenly from the Carolina Maneuvers, returned to Gordon, and alerted for overseas movement. This was the first in a series of false alarms which, though disturbing, kept personnel aware of the ultimate objective of the continuing intensive training.

Landings were made in Africa in November but the 4th continued to assault through Boggy Gut, Ga. On Christmas Day, the Division again was alerted. Much equipment had been crated, clothing marked, and physical examinations undergone when, at seemingly the last minute, the move was halted. In April 1943, a permanent change of station was ordered, Fort Dix, N.J. becoming the next station of the 4th. It was here, on August 4, 1943, that the 4th Motorized Division was reorganized as the 4th Infantry Division, in which form it has remained.

Early in September 1943, the Division headed south once more, this time to Camp Gordon Johnston, at Carrabelle, Fl., on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Here realistic amphibious training was undergone, and familiarity was developed with the variety of assault landing craft and techniques evolved in anticipation of the invasion of Festung Europa.

Again alerted for overseas movement, the Division shifted to Fort Jackson, S. C., in December, where final personnel adjustments were completed.

As the year 1944 opened, the Division moved to Camp Kilmer, N.J., a staging area of the New York Port of Embarkation. This last alert "took," and on the morning of January 18, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division put to sea. On January 29th, their convoy entered the port of Liverpool, England. Within minutes of landing, the mark of the enemy was plain for all to see as troops marched from ships to trains through block after block of bombed homes, warehouses, and docks.

The Division was established in scattered villages in Devonshire with the Division Command Post at Tiverton, near Exeter. Even before unloading had been completed at Liverpool, the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his deputy, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, visited the 4th. This was but the first in a series of inspection by distinguished British and American higher commanders. We made welcome additions to the Division family, in the form of the 70th and 746th Tank Battalions, the 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the 1106th Engineer Group, the 377th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, the 87th Chemical Battalion Motorized, and the 801st and 899thth Tank Destroyer Battalions, which would be with us during the assault and, in some cases, for many months thereafter. For the actual assault the 1st Engineer Special Brigade would support the Division; therefore, personnel of this Brigade were participants with us in the planning phase and landing exercises.

Following are two stories from my book War Stories Volume I: D-Day to Liberation of Paris:

Harper Coleman, Tucson, AZ - Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment
Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida

Location: Carabelle, Florida, on the shorts of the Gulf of Mexico. Time: October, November, and part of December in 1943. We came by Pullman train from Kentucky to Tallahassee, Florida. From there we were taken by truck to the camp. I was assigned to Company H of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

The training was all amphibious: we got on and off landing craft out in the Gulf of Mexico, and then back to the beaches of the camp. There was some other training, such as long hikes. One hike was for twenty-five miles in less than seven hours. Quite a few did not make this all the way, but I did. One of the incidents that I remember well happened in the Gulf of Mexico, off Dog Island. We had gone out one night and storms came up. The LCVPs were separated in the storms. The next day the Coast Guard found our craft, along with two others. We were headed toward Mexico, or so they told us. They turned us around and took us back to the right shore on Thanksgiving Day 1943.

After this, sometime in December 1943, we left there and went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We were there only a few weeks, mostly to get new equipment and clothing, do some guard duty, and spend a few times in town.

Early in January of 1944, we went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. On January 18, we were put out to sea on an English ship. We were about eleven days on the water. The meals were typically English - boiled mutton (sheep) and turnips - none of which was very appetizing. Our lieutenant at the time kept us pretty well supplied with snacks from the officers' exchange, which kept us from getting too hungry. We were offered one meal per day on the ship, and as I recall, we rarely ate it.

When we left New York harbor, everyone was required to stay below deck. Our company, either lucky or unlucky, was part of the guard detail to make sure this was done. I happened to be on deck at the time and saw some of the sights going out of the harbor.

William C. Montgomery, Long Beach, CA - Company A, 4th Medical Battalion
Troopship in January

... From the ferry, we went to a New York pier, a gigantic warehouse-like building, with gangplanks leading up to a ship we couldn't see. Red Cross women gave us coffee and doughnuts while we waited to board. They were angels.

The ship was a large liner called Capetown Castle, formerly on the England-South Africa-India run. It was manned by British merchant seamen, some of whom eked out their wages by selling us baths in the otherwise unused passenger bathrooms. I don't remember any of us took exception to this little racket...

Our quarters had been the Grand Ballroom. Pipe bunks with canvas slings on rope lashings were built up to the ceiling, perhaps six or seven bunks high. We had to fight with our duffel bags and other gear for sleeping room on the narrow canvas.

During the crossing, we were routed out of the bunks each morning for breakfast, given time to go to the commissary when it was open, then mustered out on deck to stand a good part of the day for boat drill. I think the real idea was to get us up and out of the incredible crowding, into the fresh air, and onto the broad decks where discipline was easier to maintain.

Some of our people were so seasick they would not raise their heads and were left in their bunks. The rest of us, when we were in our bunks, played cards or gambled, cleaned weapons, sharpened knives, straightened gear, wrote letters, read, sang, or horsed around.

It was midwinter and the trip was fairly rough. We were on a big ship. I remember looking a the destroyers on the edge of the convoy as they bobbed in and out of sight behind huge seas, wondering how you stayed alive on such a tiny boat. The roughest time was the final night of the eleven-day trip. We anchored in the Irish Sea, probably waiting for port space somewhere. The ship pitched and rolled around violently. I thought it was going to roll completely over several times. Nobody had fallen out of the bunks during the entire crossing, but they did that night.

The next day we finally steamed into what turned out to be Liverpool. I was astonished to see the British dock workers dressed in everyday clothes. In the US, workers doing heavy work like handling ships' lines wore overalls, coveralls, or rough clothing that seemed to be more appropriate.

I remember marching through blacked-out Liverpool that night, so it must have taken some time to unload the ship. We went on a train...

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This concludes Issue #1. I plan to put the next issue out around 4 March, then repeat it on or around the 4th of April and May... then we will go to weekly updates the first week of June.

A reminder - feel free to share this with anyone you know who will enjoy this history lesson.

Steadfast and Loyal.
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President