71st Infantry Division (United States)

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71st Infantry Division
US 71st Infantry Division.svg
71st Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active1943–1946
1954-1956
CountryUnited States
BranchU.S. Army
NicknameThe Red Circle
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
William Westmoreland
Willard G. Wyman
 
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71st Infantry Division
US 71st Infantry Division.svg
71st Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active1943–1946
1954-1956
CountryUnited States
BranchU.S. Army
NicknameThe Red Circle
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
William Westmoreland
Willard G. Wyman
US infantry divisions (1939–present)
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70th Infantry Division75th Infantry Division

The 71st Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army in World War II.

World War II[edit]

Early history[edit]

The division was first organized as the 71st Light Division (Pack, Jungle), intended for use in the mountainous jungle areas of the Pacific theater. Smaller than the standard infantry division, at about 9,000 personnel, it had as its primary means of transport hundreds of mules controlled by several Quartermaster Pack Companies of African-American muleteers, and for artillery several battalions of 75mm pack howitzers, which could be broken down and carried by mule train. The 14th Infantry Regiment, a Regular Army unit which had been stationed in the Panama Canal Zone for years prior to the war and had received extensive training in jungle operations during that time was assigned to the division to provide the nucleus of jungle expertise. After training at Camp Carson, Colorado, the division was sent to Hunter Ligget Military Reservation in the mountains inland from Big Sur, California, where it maneuvered against the 89th Light Division as a test of the light division concept. As a result of the test it was decided that the light divisions had insufficient manpower and firepower to be effective and the concept was abandoned. The 71st Division was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, where it was reorganized and retrained as a standard infantry division, although it remained unusual in having Regular Army infantry regiments assigned to an AUS division.

Combat chronicle[edit]

The 71st Infantry Division arrived at Le Havre, France, 6 February 1945, and trained at Camp Old Gold with headquarters at Limesy. The division moved east, relieved the 100th Infantry Division at Ratswiller and saw its first action on 11 March 1945. Their ouster of the Germans from France began 15 March. The division moved through outer belts of the Siegfried Line, captured Pirmasens, 21 March, and crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim, 30 March. The 71st continued the advance, taking Coburg without resistance, cutting the Munich-Berlin autobahn, 13 April, and capturing Bayreuth after fierce opposition on 16 April. Moving south, the Division destroyed Schönfeld, 18 April, took Rosenberg, crossed the Naab River at Kallmünz on 24 April and crossed the Danube on 26 April. Regensburg fell on the next day and Straubing on 28 April. As resistance crumbled, the division crossed the Isar on 29 April and entered Austria, 2 May.

Participated in the liberation of concentration camps including one in Austria called Gunskirchen Lager on 4 May. A pamphlet was produced by the US Army after they liberated the camp, called "The Seventy-First came to Gunskirchen Lager." The book recounts in detail, and with very graphic photos, the tragedy they found in the camp. The complete booklet is available for free on-line.

The 71st organized and occupied defensive positions along the Enns River and contacted Russian forces east of Linz, 8 May, the day before hostilities ceased, having gone further east than any other U.S. Army unit. The division was assigned occupational duties until it left for home and inactivation 1 March 1946.

During the last several weeks of the war, the 761st Tank Battalion, an African-American unit that earned a high reputation for its effectiveness in combat, was attached to the 71st Division and fought with it. The 71st Division is also the formation in which Lt. John D. Eisenhower, General Dwight Eisenhower's son, served.

Assignments in the ETO[edit]

Alaska[edit]

In 1954 the 71st Infantry Division was reactivated in the northwest United States and Alaska as the division headquarters for several geographically separated units, to include the 53d Infantry Regiment headquartered at Fort Richardson, Alaska, with additional units stationed at Fort Greely, and the 4th[1] and 5th[2] Infantry regiments at Fort Lewis, Washington. In this status it was known as a "static division" not capable of or intended for deployment. (A second "static" unit, the 23d Infantry Division, was activated in the Caribbean region.) The division lasted in this status for less than two years, being inactivated at Fort Lewis on 15 September 1956. (Source: "71st Infantry Division and ALASKA Tab" by Craig A. Rotthammer, Trading Post magazine, October–December 2010.)

General[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.history.army.mil/books/cg&csa/Westmoreland-WC.htm and David Halberstam, 'The Best and the Brightest,' Ballantine Books, New York, 1992/3, p.556