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Lone Sentry: Unit History: 102d thru Germany



The 102d Infantry Division carried into combat no battle honors, no campaign record, no valorous history. Its only traditions were those of the army as a whole, and those which its officers and men brought with them from every corner of America... Its test by fire was in a sense not only a test of the effectiveness with which the planners forged brand new divisions to meet the crisis of World War II but also a test of the American ideal.
When Japanese bombers struck Pearl Harbor the 102d Division's riflemen, machine gunners, artillerymen, and aidmen were, for the overwhelming part, members on selective service rolls throughout the country. The division itself existed only on paper that had been gathering dust for twenty years. It had been constituted in the Organized Reserve on 21 June 1921, and allocated to Missouri and Arkansas, with headquarters in St Louis.
And from the Indian bowmen who were found by the French in the legendary hills of this region comes the division name and shoulder patch. Called by French explorers TERRE AUX ARCS or "land of the bows", AUX ARCS became OZARKS in American folklore. The arc in the insignia actually represents a bow symbolizing "marksmanship”, colored gold for "valour", on a background of blue for "distinction”. Distinction, valour, marksmanship these are the ideals.
But men who were to bring the division alive came not only from the Ozarks. They hailed from Waxahachie in Iowa, from Kidder in South Dakota, from Presque Isle in Maine, from Chicago, Detroit, St Louis, from the everglades of Florida, from the lake district of Wisconsin, -- with Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, New Jersey and Michigan furnishing about two-fifths of the total. Some of them had been born abroad, in Germany itself -- and in fifty-three other countries as well.
They did everything Americans do. They were clerks and grocers, section hands and lawyers, millwrights and barbers, lumberjacks and teachers, bookies and biologists, embalmers and seamen, chemists and trappers, toolmakers, musicians, turbine operators, farmers, welders, librarians, butchers, nurses, well-drillers, cowhands and ministers. It was the mission of Major General John B. Anderson, aided by officer and enlisted cadre from the tradition-laden 2d Infantry Division, to mold these men into a fighting team.
The present unit was activated 15 September 1942 at Camp Maxey, a new post in northeast Texas. The camp was little more than half built and the whine of machinery and clatter of hammers filled the air as the cadre received their colors and unit standards.
War was then at an ebb tide for the Allies. German shock troops were inching forward in Stalingrad street by street. Rommel's horde was hammering at El Alamein. Our mighty carrier Wasp was sinking in the waters of the Solomon Islands. America's first offensive operation was encountering bitter resistance from newly reinforced Japanese on Guadalcanal.
Time was short, but training was thorough and tough. Recruits, all with sore arms and some with tags still on their new uniforms, streamed into Camp Maxey during October, November and December -- 15000 of them. On Texas plains where dust and mud abounded side by side, they learned soldiering from the bottom up. They learned to drill, to hike, to shoot, to hit the ground, to dig in, to bracket the enemy with big guns, to read maps, to build bridges and tank traps, to lay wire and mines. They learned to keep guns firing, men healthy, vehicles rolling, rations coming, radios transmitting, and water pure. Pistols, carbines, rifles, tommy-guns, BARs, machine guns, mortars, bazookas, 105s, 155s – they learned them all. They operated as squads, then as sections, and platoons and companies, then as battalions, regiments, and infantry-artillery combat teams. In the CPs clerks discovered the intricacies of army procedure, the "channels", the importance of serving their fellow soldiers.

[France, Cherbourg, Paris]

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