Friday, March 8, 2013

Into the Fire


Full Title: Into the Fire: 275th Infantry Regiment in World War II

Author: Tim Desiderio
Illustrated by Roy T. Veary

Publisher: Trafford Publishing (2004)
 
377 pages; 59 photographs; 33 illustrations;
 
Contents: Before the Fire; Europe's Inferno; Toward the Fire; Into the Fire; Through the Fire; After the Fire; Battlefield Commissions; Decorations; The Price of Victory
 
     The book is a nicely printed in large format on plain paper pages. The cover is glossy and bound tight and clean. The text is large print and easy on the reader's eyes. All photographs are clear and appear to be carefully chosen to ensure such. The illustrations are mostly maps with unit dispositions and axis of advance with the remainder being images representing the accompanying text. All maps are pertinent and do well to relay a better understanding to the numerous unit actions.
 
     The author's military experience is quite evident through his use of military terminology and a keen understanding of tactical maneuvering. His writing is quite readable and is without backtracking or re-covering of previously presented ideas. The text is accompanied with numerous footnotes showing his desire to present an accurate picture of the events as they actually occurred. Overall, I was exceedingly pleased with this purchase and recommend it to not just those seeking out information on the 70th Division, but insight in general on what it was like for those divisions who were raised in the later stages of the mobilization period.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wingen-sur-Moder in Film

     By the winter of 1944-45, the German Army's fate was already sealed. This does not mean that the struggles for control of the battlefield across wide swaths of frontage were always without imminent peril. The Soldiers of the 70th Division's 276th and 274th Infantry Regiments were to find themselves pitted in a knock-down drag-out fight with two German Divisions for the village of Wingen-sur-Moder.
 
     The German 361st Volksgrenadier Division was of the Wehrmacht's most recent reorganizing efforts. This meant that it was smaller with only two fighting regiments, but was more than compensated through heavy issuing of assault weapons like the MP-44, and increased issuing of antitank weapons like the Panzerschreck. The 6. Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS "Nord" brought its own advantages as well. While there were no mountains in the area, there was plenty of cold weather. The "Nord" Division had been waging war in Finland since late 1942 where the cold weather was an enemy by its own rights.
 
     The below video is of the fighting in and around Wingen-sur-Moder. It also contains images of the local inhabitants and their plight. In its short few minutes, the viewer can gain a significant sense of the human toll the fighting took in materials, spirit, and especially lives. Fighting in the bitter cold only adds to the level of human suffering for both soldier and civilian alike.
 
 
     For  a more in depth description of the battle of Wingen-sur-Moder, please follow this link to an excellent article written by Allyn Vannoy for World War II magazine in May of 2004.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saarbrucken, 20 March 1945

     An excellent photographic study of the men of the 70th Division during Operation Undertone. There is one exclusionary soldier who appears to not be familiar to the group, or perhaps even from the 70th Division. He is likely a passer-by simply enjoying the respite from active battle and lover of the accordion. This soldier is furthest to the rear on the left half of the photograph. His uniform consists of a Jacket, field (also known as the M-1941), and Trousers, wool, od. His shirt collar, protruding from his field jacket, is not completely distinguishable, but is like that of a Shirt, flannel, od, coat style. His lack of multiple layers of clothing provides evidence that he is likely not an infantryman or other front line soldier expected to endure the cold weather without benefit of shelter or vehicle heater.
 
     While the 70th Division soldiers' uniforms and equipment are all quite similar, there are numerous minor variations and uncommon occurrences. I will continue to discuss each soldier from left  side of the photograph to right (disregarding the passer-by).
 
     The Medic is wearing the Jacket, field, M-1943. He is wearing rank insignia of Private 1st Class. Wearing of rank on the field jacket is generally quite rare amongst wartime photographs of the 70th Division. He is wearing Boots, service, combat, composition sole which were the only footwear (other than Shoe pac, 12 in, M-1944) worn by the Divisions personnel in the European theater. Slung across his shoulder is an unidentified strap. Due to its width, it is possible that it is for a Holster, shoulder, M3. Attached to his belt (which is obscured from view) is a pair of Pliers, wire cutter and its associated carrying pouch. Both the wire cutter pliers and shoulder holster are not typically issued items to medical personnel.
 
     The second soldier (first standing) is wearing two shirts under his field jacket, layered for extra warmth. The bottom shirt (closest to his skin) is a flannel while the next layer is a Jacket, herringbone twill. Attached to his field jacket is a Hood, jacket, field, M-1943.
 
     The third Soldier appears to be clothed identically to the second. The edge of an outer trouser pocket on his right hip is visible which gives away their type as Trousers, herringbone twill. His equipment worn is is the standard Belt, cartridge, caliber .30, M-1923 for soldiers issued with the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1. Out of the routine is his wearing of Suspenders, belt, M-1936. This item was typically reserved for enlisted men issued the Browning Automatic Rifle, Caliber .30, M1918A2 or officers issued Bag, field, canvas, M-1936.
 
     The accordionist, while still wearing Trouser, field, has at least temporarily removed his Jacket, field and wearing a Jacket, herringbone twill as his outer garment. Attached to his belt is a carrier, shovel, intrenching, M-1943. The carrier seems to be of a transitional manufacture as the edge tape (od #7) is considerably darker than the body (od #3).
 
     The fifth man has dressed down even further and is wearing as an outer garment simply his flannel shirt. Affixed to his shirt is his coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. The badge was likely presented only a short time prior to the taking of the photograph. Wearing of such awards in combat was not standard practice. A presentation ceremony might also explain the real occasion behind the soldiers' gathering. His HBT trousers have been bloused for increased circulation of air.
 
     The sixth man seated is wearing the standard fare as the others in the group. What makes him unique is the wearing of a 70th Infantry Division, Insignia, shoulder sleeve on his field jacket. There are comparatively few photographs with men of the Division actually wearing the insignia during its time in active combat. Most of the photographs that do exist, the insignia is on the flannel shirt. This soldier too is wearing an unidentified strap slung across his right shoulder. The associated pouch/holster/etc. is visible, but indistinguishable. Lastly, his intrenching tool carrier is different from the accordionist's as it of one solid color. Based upon the comparative shade, it is likely the darker, olive drab #7. Much more clearly visible than on his counterparts are his outer hip pockets as his left pocket is billowed considerably.
 
     The seventh and final man is wearing the same. Affixed to his field jacket is the Purple Heart ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Attached to his cartridge belt is his Bayonet, M-1942.
 
     The last note of commonality among the infantryman is the apparent lack of Jacket, field, pile, od. This is more commonly known as the liner component to the field jacket. The tell-tale sign is the lack of increased girth brought on by this layer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

By the Numbers


70th Infantry Division "Trailblazers"

    The division insignia consists of a white ax, a snowy mountain, and a green fir tree on a red background. The white ax is in recognition of the pioneers who travelled the Oregon Trial to the Willamette Valley, site of Camp Adair where the greater part of the division's training was accomplished' the snowy mountain represents Oregon's Mt. Hood; and the green fir tree finds its origin in the insignia of the 91st Division, from which the cadre of the 70th Division was drawn.
 
Command and Staff
Commanding General
10 December 1944 Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Herren
3 February 1945 Maj. Gen. Allison J. Barnett
Assistant Division Commander
3 February 1945 Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Herren
Division Artillery Commander
3 February 1945 Brig. Gen. P. P. Rodes
Chief of Staff
10 December 1944 Col. Leo H. Bessette
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1
10 December 1944 Capt. Charles R. Smith
3 February 1945 Lt. Col. Elmer J. Willson
1 April 1945 Lt. Col. Duane M. Witt
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2
10 December 1944 Maj. Robert G. Seely
3 February 1945 Lt. Col. Elias C. Townsend
12 February 1945 Maj. Robert G. Seely (Acting)
8 March 1945 Lt. Col. Elias C. Townsend
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3
10 December 1944 Lt. Col. James L. Richardson
12 February 1945 Lt. Col. Elias C. Townsend (Acting)
8 March 1945 Lt. Col. James L. Richardson
16 April 1945 Col. James L. Richardson
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4
10 December 1944 Capt. Joseph J. Schmidt
3 February 1945 Lt. Col. Daniel F. Munster
Adjutant General
10 December 1944 Lt. Col. Bernard V. Merrick
Commanding Officer, 274th Infantry
10 December 1944 Col. Samuel G. Conley
Commanding Officer, 275th Infantry
10 December 1944 Col. Charles S. Pettee
7 January 1945 Col. John H. McAleer
Commanding Officer, 276th Infantry
10 December 1944 Col. Albert C. Morgan

Statistics
Chronology:
Activated 15 June 1943
Arrived in European Theater of Operations 18 January 1945
[Task Force HERRON arrived 10 December 1945; entire division arrived 18 January 1945]
Arrived Continent 18 January 1945 (D+156)
[Southern France D-Day is 15 August 1944]
Entered Combat:
First Elements 26 December 1944
Entire Division 3 February 1945
Days in Combat 83
Campaigns:
Rhineland
Central Europe
Casualties (Tentative):
Killed 605
Wounded 2,674
Missing 666
Captured 21
Battle Casualties 3,96
Non-Battle Casualties 4,235
Total Casualties 8,201
Percent of Table of Organization Strength 58.2
Individual Awards:
Distinguished Service Cross 10
Legion of Merit 7
Silver Star 185
Soldier's Medal 9
Bronze Star 886
Air Medal 18
Prisoners of War Taken:
8,694

Composition
274th Infantry
275th Infantry
276th Infantry
70th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
270th Engineer Combat Battalion
370th Medical Battalion
70th Division Artillery
882d Field Artillery Battalion (105mm howitzer)
883d Field Artillery Battalion (105mm howitzer)
884th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm howitzer)
725th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm howitzer)
Special Troops
770th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
70th Quartermaster Company
570th Signal Company
Military Police Platoon
Headquarters Company
Band

Attachments
Antiaircraft Artillery:
433d AAA AW Bn (Mbl) 12 Feb 45-20 Jul 45
Armored:
Co C, 753d Tk Bn 28 Dec 44-2 Jan 45
Co B, 191st Tk Bn 29 Dec 44-1 Jan 45
3d Plt, 636th Tk Bn 29 Dec 44-1 Jan 45 [sic]
Co A, 753d Tk Bn 29 Dec 44-2 Jan 45
781st Tk Bn (less Cos A and D) 3 Jan 45-16 Jan 45
714th Tk Bn (12th Armd Div) 12 Feb 45-17 Feb 45
749th Tk Bn (less Co A) 16 Feb 45-15 Mar 45
Combat Command A, 12th Armd Div 2 Mar 45-8 Mar 45
740th Tk Bn 15 Mar 45-16 Mar 45
772d Tk Bn 22 Mar 45-24 Mar 45
Chemical:
Co C, 83d Cml Mort Bn 13 Jan 45-15 Feb 45
99th Cml Mort Bn (less Co A) 16 Feb 45-15 Mar 45
Engineer:
2755th Engr Combat Bn 18 Jan 45-8 Feb 45
Field Artillery:
69th Armd FA Bn 1 Jan 45-5 Jan 45
160th FA Bn (45th Div)(105mm how) 5 Jan 45-7 Jan 45
158th FA Bn (45th Div)(105mm how) 8 Jan 45-12 Jan 45
499th FA Bn 8 Jan 45-12 Jan 45
17th FA Obsn Bn 8 Jan 45-13 Jan 45
501st Armd FA Bn (14th Armd Div) 10 Jan 45-13 Jan 45
93d Armd FA Bn 13 Jan 45-8 Feb 45
69th Armd FA Bn 15 Jan 45-8 Feb 45
494th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 10 Feb 45-13 Feb 45
495th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 11 Feb 45-12 Feb 45
494th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 17 Feb 45-9 Mar 45
495th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 17 Feb 45-9 Mar 45
493d Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 13 Mar 45-17 Mar 45
494th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 13 Mar 45-17 Mar 45
495th Armd FA Bn (12th Armd Div) 13 Mar 45-17 Mar 45
Tank Destroyer:
Co C, 822d TD Bn (SP) 8 Feb 45-19 Feb 45
648th TD Bn (T) 20 Feb 45-31 Mar 45

Detachments
Infantry:
274th Inf 1 Jan 45-2 Jan 45 (to 79th Div)
2d Bn, 276th Inf 1 Jan 45-2 Jan 45 (to 79th Div)
275th Inf 1 Jan 45-8 Jan 45 (to 45th Div)
274th Inf 3 Jan 45-17 Jan 45 (to 45th Div)
2d Bn, 276th Inf 5 Jan 45-9 Jan 45 (to 79th Div)
2d Bn, 276th Inf 9 Jan 45-13 Jan 45 (to 45th Div)
274th Inf 17 Jan 45-22 Jan 45 (to 103d Div)
274th Inf 22 Jan 45-29 Jan 45 (to 45th Div)
274th Inf 29 Jan 45-8 Feb 45 (to 100th Div)
 
*All information obtained from The U.S. Army Center of Military History

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Introduction

Well hello Joe, what do you know?
 
Please allow me to introduce myself and the purpose of this blog. I am a hobbyist- historian, collector, and reenactor. As with many other like minded hobbyists, my interests are varied, and cover numerous eras, conflicts, and nations. This blog is for sharing the study of the U.S. Army experience in World War II, in particular the men, equipment, battles, and achievements of the 70th Infantry Division "Trailblazers".
 
I am drawn to the story of the 70th Infantry Division as one of the all to often overlooked units of the Army filled with not just career soldiers, but of volunteers, and especially draftees. These divisions are rarely represented at reenactments, talked about in documentaries, or paid homage to in history books. Their personal stories are typically constrained to their family members or inner circles of friends at the local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.
 
As stated at the beginning, this blog will eventually contain various items of interest for the 70th Infantry Division from how they lived, to what they wore, where they were, and to what they accomplished. Please feel free to provide comment [or correction] on the material presented as the fostering of comradeship is always welcomed and appreciated!
 
"Trailblazers"