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WWII US Army 36th Division German Made Shoulder Patch
Item #: VF3881
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Theater made 36th Division shoulder sleeve insignia. Patch is in excellent condition worthy in any collection. 

World War II

The 36th was called up again for active federal service on 25 November 1940, during World War II (although the United States was neutral at this stage), at San Antonio, Texas, departing for its mobilization station at Camp Bowie, Texas, on 14 December 1940. The division was the first to land on the European Continent, commanded by Major General Claude V. Birkhead, moved to Brownwood, Texas, on 1 June 1941, where it participated in the VIII Corps Brownwood Maneuvers until 13 June 1941. The division then returned to Camp Bowie.

The division then moved to Mansfield, Louisiana, and took part in both the August and September 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers. The division, now commanded by Brigadier General Fred L. Walker, a Regular Army officer from Ohio, then returned to Camp Bowie on 2 October 1941, where it was reorganized from a square division into a triangular division on 1 February 1942, just weeks after the United States entered World War II, as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. As a result of this reorganization, the 144th Infantry, plus numerous supporting units, were transferred out of the division.

The division then moved to Camp Blanding, Florida, on 19 February 1942, and participated in the Carolina Maneuvers between 9 July 1942, and 15 August 1942. The division then was staged at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, on 17 August 1942, for its port call to the European Theater Of Operations (ETO). During its time at Camp Edwards, the division conducted mock assaults of Martha's Vineyard Island in preparation for future amphibious operations.

The division departed the New York Port of Embarkation (NYPOE) on 2 April 1943, for service in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO).

Organizations

Pre 2 October 1941 square organization
  • HHC, 36th Infantry Division, TXARNG
    • 36th Military Police Platoon
    • 36th Signal Company
    • 111th Ordnance Company
    • 111th Engineer Regiment (CBT), TXARNG
    • 111th Medical Regiment
    • 111th Quartermaster Regiment
  • HHC, 71st Infantry Brigade, TXARNG
    • 141st Infantry, TXARNG.
    • 142nd Infantry, TXARNG
  • HHC, 72nd Infantry Brigade, TXARNG
    • 143rd Infantry, TXARNG
    • 144th Infantry, TXARNG
  • HHB, 61st Field Artillery Brigade, TXARNG
    • 131st Field Artillery Regiment (75mm), TXARNG
    • 132nd Field Artillery Regiment (75mm), TXARNG
    • 133rd Field Artillery Regiment (155mm), TXARNG
2 October 1941 triangular reorganization
  • HHC & Special Troops, 36th Infantry Division, TXARNG
    • 36th Military Police Platoon
    • 36th Signal Company
    • 36th Quartermaster Company
    • 36th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment
    • 36th Mechanized Reconnaissance Troop
    • 736th Ordnance Company (LM)
    • 111th Engineer Battalion (CBT), TXARNG
    • 111th Medical Battalion
  • 141st Infantry Regiment, TXARNG [cited by Heinz Guderian in his order of battle, prepared after the war at Allied request, as rating #2 of all Allied forces in the ETO] 
  • 142nd Infantry Regiment, TXARNG
  • 143rd Infantry Regiment, TXARNG
  • HHB, 36th Division Artillery, TXARNG
    • 131st Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
    • 132nd Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
    • 133rd Field Artillery Battalion (105mm), TXARNG
    • 155th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm), TXARNG
1944–45 augmentations
  • 191st Tank Battalion (26 August 1944 – 31 August 1944)
  • 753rd Tank Battalion (15 August 1944 – 26 December 1944); (4 March 1945 – 29 March 1945); (29 April 1945 – 13 June 1945).
  • 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion (15 August 1944 – 29 March 1945; 29 April 1945 – 13 June 1945).
  • 822nd Tank Destroyer Battalion (29 April 1945 – 1 May 1945.
  • 443rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion (AW)(7 December 1944 – 13 January 1945).
  • 442nd Regimental Combat Team (11 September 1944 – 13 October 1944).

Combat chronicle

The 36th Division landed in French North Africa on April 13, 1943, and trained at Arzew and Rabat. However, the training was hampered by the need to supply guards for some 25,000 Axis prisoners of war (POWs) who had surrendered at the conclusion of the Tunisian Campaign in May. It was assigned to Major General Ernest J. Dawley's VI Corps, part of the Fifth Army, but attached to the Services of Supply, North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), for supply. The 36th Division was originally intended to take part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, but Lieutenant General George S. Patton the Seventh Army commander, preferred to use experienced troops instead and the 36th Division remained in North Africa. The Fifth Army was commanded by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, who knew the 36th Division well from his time as chief of staff to Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, and specifically chose the 36th Division, rather than the more experienced 34th Infantry Division, together with the British 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions, to spearhead the Allied assault landings at Salerno, Italy, which was given the codename of Operation Avalanche.

A U.S. Navy Landing Ship-Tank (LST-1) landing American Army troops --possibly from the 36th Division-- on an Italian beach, via a causeway.

Note: This photograph is believed to have been taken during the Salerno landings in September 1943..

The division first saw action, in the Italian Campaign, on September 9, 1943, when it landed by sea at Paestum and fought in the Battle of Salerno against intense German opposition. The Germans launched numerous fierce counterattacks on September 12–14, but the 36th, which at one stage during the battle was holding a 35-mile sector of the front (six times more than a full-strength infantry division was able to hold), repulsed them with the aid of air support and naval gunfire, and, with the help of paratroopers of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, advanced slowly, securing the area from Agropoli to Altavilla. After sustaining over 4,000 casualties in its first major action, the division spent the next few weeks behind the lines, where it remained in the Fifth Army reserve, absorbing replacements and training for future combat operations. Despite the heavy losses, the 36th Division was considered to have fought well, and four men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The 36th Division returned to combat in mid-November, after six weeks of rest, now under Major General Geoffrey Keyes' II Corps command. It captured Mount Maggiore, Mount Lungo, and the village of San Pietro despite strong enemy positions and severe winter weather. This grueling campaign against the Bernhardt Line was marked by futile attempts to establish a secure bridgehead across the Gari River, erroneously identified as the Rapido on January 1, 1944, to February 8. The division attacked across the Gari River on January 20 but was harshly repulsed by the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, and the 141st and 143rd Infantry Regiments were virtually destroyed and the attack was stopped on January 22. In 48 hours the 36th Division had sustained 1,681 casualties, 143 of them killed, 663 wounded, and 875 missing, out of almost 6,000 men who took part. Many of the casualties consisted of newly arrived replacements who were poorly trained. German losses were minimal, with only 64 killed and a further 179 wounded. A company commander in the 143rd Infantry said, "I had 184 men. Forty-eight hours later, I had 17. If that's not mass murder, I don't know what is."

Strong controversy flared among the officers of the division and Lieutenant General Clark, the Fifth Army commander, was severely criticized for having ordered a difficult frontal attack and was accused of having caused the disaster. After the war Congress, urged by veterans of the division, conducted an investigation into the causes and responsibility for the defeat on the Gari River. Clark was absolved of blame and he personally believed the attack to be necessary, in order to attract German reserves from Northern Italy to prevent their use at Anzio, where an amphibious assault, codenamed Operation Shingle, was being launched by Anglo-American forces in an attempt to outflank the Winter Line, capture the Italian capital of Rome and potentially force a German withdrawal away from their formidable Winter Line defenses. However, the German reserves identified in Northern Italy had already been drawn forward onto the front of the British X Corps during the First Battle of Monte Cassino a few days before, thus making the 36th Division's assault unnecessary, although this was unknown to Clark at the time.

After assisting the 34th Infantry Division in the attack on Cassino and fighting defensively along the Gari River, the severely depleted 36th withdrew from the line on March 12, for rest and recreation. The division arrived by sea at the Anzio beachhead on May 22, under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott's VI Corps, to take part in Operation Diadem, with the breakout from the beachhead commencing the following day. It drove north to capture Velletri on June 1, and entered Rome on June 5, 1944, the day before the Normandy landings. Pushing up from Rome, the 36th encountered sharp resistance at Magliano, but reached Piombino on June 26, before moving back to Paestum for rest and recreation. In July Major General Walker, who had commanded the 36th Division since September 1941, was replaced by Major General John E. Dahlquist.

On August 15, 1944, as part of the U.S. 6th Army Group, the division made another amphibious assault landing, against light opposition in the Saint-Raphaël-Fréjus area of southern France as part of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. A rapid advance opened the Rhone River Valley. Montelimar fell, August 28, and large German units were trapped. On September 15, the division was attached to the French First Army. The 36th advanced to the Moselle River at Remiremont and the foothills of the Vosges. On September 30, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd RCT, a Japanese-American unit) was assigned to the 36th to help shore up the division. The 442nd was subsequently used to spearhead the capture towns of Bruyères and Biffontaine where they faced stiff opposition. On October 24 the 143rd Infantry relieved the 100th and 3rd Battalion who were sent to Belmont, another small town to the north, for some short-lived rest. On October 23 the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry were cut off just beyond the town or Biffontaine. On October 27 the 442nd RCT was called back in to save this Lost Battalion.

The 100th fielded 1,432 men shortly before, but was now down to 239 infantrymen and 21 officers. The 2nd Battalion was down to 316 riflemen and 17 officers, while not a single company in the 3rd Battalion had over 100 riflemen; the entire 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team was down to less than 800 soldiers. On October 13, 1944, when attached to the 36th Infantry Division, the unit was at 2,943 rifleman and officers, but in only three weeks 140 were killed and 1,800 were wounded, while 43 were missing. For this action, the 442nd RCT would earn 3 of its 7 Presidential Unit Citations.

In a grinding offensive, the division crossed the Meurthe River, breached the Ste. Marie Pass and burst into the Alsatian Plains. The enemy counterattacked, December 13, 1944, but the 36th held the perimeter of the Colmar Pocket. Two days later, the division was released from attachment to the French First Army, and returned to the control of VI Corps, now under Major General Edward H. Brooks, under the Seventh Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch. The German counterattacks out of the Colmar Pocket were so fierce, that at times, the field artillery was forced to fire over open sights at point blank range to stop them. On December 20, 1944, the division resumed the attack, advancing northward along the Rhine River to Mannheim meeting heavy resistance at Haguenau, Oberhofen, and Wissembourg. In this action Company "G" of the 143rd Infantry received a Presidential Unit Citation. On 27 December 1944, the division was reassigned to Major General Frank W. Milburn's XXI Corps of the Seventh Army, and was pinched out and returned to Seventh Army reserve on December 30, 1944. On the afternoon of October 30, 3rd Battalion broke through and reached the 141st, rescuing 211 T-Patchers at the cost of 800 men in five days. However, the fighting continued for the 442nd as they moved past the 141st Infantry. The drive continued until they reached Saint-Die on November 17 when they were finally pulled back.

The division was taken out of the line for the first time since it had landed in the south of France. On January 3, 1945, the division was reassigned to Major General Wade H. Haislip's XV Corps. In January 1945, the division was reassigned to VI Corps. It returned to the line early March. The 36th was reassigned to the Seventh Army on March 29, 1945, and moved to the Danube River on April 22, 1945. The 36th Division has been recognized as a liberating unit for its work securing the subcamps of the Dachau concentration camp system.

The 36th Division was reassigned to the XXI Corps on April 27, 1945, and attacked the Künzelsau area on the 30th. Members of the 36th Division's 142nd Infantry arriving as reinforcements on May 5 tipped the Battle for Castle Itter in favor of a combined U.S. Army/Wehrmacht defense against a Waffen SS attack, the only time German and American forces fought side-by-side in World War II.

By May 8, 1945, otherwise known as Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day), the 36th Division was based in Kitzbühel, Austria where it captured Generalfeldmarschall- Gerd von Rundstedt, the commander of all German Armed Forces on the Western Front, and its final station was at Kufstein, Austria on August 14, 1945.

After 400 days of combat, the 36th Infantry Division returned to the United States in December 1945. It was returned to the Texas Army National Guard on December 15, 1945.

The Lost Battalion

The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, long with the rest of the 36th Infantry Division, was mobilized for federal service on 20 November 1940. Earmarked as part of the reinforcements to U.S. Army troops in the Philippines, the Battalion was detached from the 36th Infantry and sailed on the USS Republic on 21 November 1941 for Pearl Harbor. From there it was diverted to Australia, learning of the surprise attack and U.S. entry into World War II en route.[Before the end of the month the Battalion was bound for the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies.

It took part in the Battle of Java and fought fiercely at Porong with several other Allied units until it was captured by the Japanese. Information on the unit's fate after the Dutch surrender in Java failed to reach the U.S. government, resulting in its subsequent nickname, "The Lost Battalion." As prisoners, the men were forced to work in Burma and Thailand as slave laborers on the Burma-Siam "Death Railway" of The Bridge on the River Kwai fame, as well as coal mines, docks and shipyards in Japan and other southeast Asian countries. Conditions were poor, treatment harsh, and mortality exceptionally high. Others died in U.S. submarine attacks en route to Singapore and Japan, and more yet were killed by American bombers. It was through debriefing of some survivors of the POW convoys who had been rescued by U.S. submarines that the Government first learned of the unit's fate.

When liberated, the men were scattered throughout Southeast Asia in Java, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, French Indo China, Japan, China and Manchuria.

Note, the 36th Infantry Division also for a time lost its 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment on the 24th October, 1944 in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France. The attached 442nd Regiment was sent into rescue them.

Unit awards

  • Presidential Unit Citation: 12.

Personal awards

  • Medal of Honor: 14
  • Distinguished Service Crosses: 80
  • Distinguished Service Medals: 2
  • Silver Stars: 2,354
  • Legion of Merit Medals: 49
  • Soldier's Medals: 77
  • Bronze Star Medals: 5,407
  • Air Medals: 88

Casualties

  • Total battle casualties: 19,466
  • Killed in action: 3,131
  • Wounded in action: 13,191
  • Missing in action: 494
  • Prisoner of war: 2,650