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[102nd Infantry Division Patch] History, 102d Infantry Division, USAR

A short pocket history of the 102nd Infantry Division printed by the division in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

[102d Infantry Ozarks]







A large, golden "O" on a field of blue. Within the "O" is the letter "Z," from which is suspended an arc, both the letter and the arc being in gold. The patch thus represents the word "Ozark," original plans having been intended for personnel to be drawn from the Ozark Mountain area of the United States.



The 102d Infantry Division was created shortly after the close of World War I, but did not achieve real stature until World War II when it carved on the battlefields of Hitler's Germany a brilliant record as a fighting force.

When Japanese bombers delivered their surprise blow against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the men who would man the 102d Division's machine guns, rifles, tanks and artillery were for the most part merely names and numbers on selective service rolls throughout the country.

The division itself existed only on sheets of paper which had been gathering dust for about 20 years. On 21 June 1921 the division -- which had been authorized in the waning months of the First World War -- was constituted as an organized reserve division on paper, and then all but forgotten.

Not until a national crisis arose was the division activated, molded around a small, experienced cadre of men from the Second Infantry Division and swelled to combat strength with carpenters, clerks, lumberjacks and lawyers from the four points of the compass.

The division's name and patch have a history dating back to the days when French explorers came upon skillful Indian bowmen in what is now Missouri and Arkansas and called the region "Terre aux Arcs" or "Land of the Bows."

Early American settlers later modified the name to "Ozarks," the region from which the men of the 102d were originally slated to come.

On 15 September 1942 the 102d was ordered to active duty to begin forming and training at Camp Maxey, a new post in northeast Texas.

The progress of the war had not yet showed signs of turning. Nazi troopers were moving forward through Stalingrad in door-to-door fighting. Rommel's African corps was hammering at El Alamein. Our mighty aircraft carrier Wasp was sinking in the waters of the Solomon Islands. America's first major offensive operation was encountering bitter resistance from newly reinforced Japanese on Guadalcanal.

With this as a somber backdrop and a spur, training was begun in earnest. Fifteen thousand raw recruits streamed into Camp Maxey during October, November and December.

Their arms were sore from shots; soon their feet were sore from the tough soldiering that was immediately demanded of them.

Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson assumed command. Under his direction the draftees and enlistees were welded into a modern military force.

The men were taught to drill, to hike, to shoot, to dig in, to obey orders and to think in terms of an objective as having overall, life-or-death importance.

The men responded. A new division with great potential came to life. Its test would be a severe one. But it would score well.


Early in the life of the division it was decided to point the training toward breaching the dreaded Siegfried Line.

The Ozarks, as they were commonly called, took part in Third Army maneuvers in Louisiana in the fall of 1943 and then shifted to Camp Swift, Texas, for more specialized training.

In December of 1943 General Anderson left the division to assume command of the XVIth Corps. He was succeeded the following month by Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) Frank A. Keating.

In June of 1944 the 102d was moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, on its first leg of the journey overseas.

But before the big move, two regiments were ordered to Philadelphia briefly to cope with a transportation strike which had crippled the city.


In August the division went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, for final processing and then traveled by troop transports to Cherbourg. Thence by train, truck and foot they moved through France, Belgium and Holland -- destination: the Siegfried Line.

By November of 1944 the Allied armies had driven the Nazis from France, had penetrated Germany at several points and were developing a full scale attack against the Siegfried Line. This vaunted defense position had already been pierced by the First Army at Aachen but the front had subsequently stabilized.


Plans called for attack through the line at Geilenkirchen. Ninth Army was selected for the job and the Ozark Division was assigned to this sector.

This portion of the line consisted of pillboxes with walls 8 to 10 feet thick, some even disguised as out-houses, barns and haystacks. These strong points were protected by belts of mines and barbed wire, trenches, foxholes and anti-tank ditches. Tanks, self-propelled guns and assault guns were dug in on the reverse sides of slopes and behind pillboxes.

The division's initial mission was one of defense -- sending out patrols to keep pressure on the enemy, shelling the enemy's rear areas, acting as a screen behind which preparations for the attack could be made.


On 18 November the attack jumped off with the 84th Division moving through front line positions under support fire from a 102d regiment.

In the operation one of the great tank battles of the war ensued, during which one company of a tank destroyer battalion (attached to 102d Division Artillery) destroyed 16 German tanks.

The unit was cited for the "audacity and brilliant tactical skill" of its operation.

Meanwhile an infantry regiment was attached to the 2d Armored Division for the attack and seized Apweiler and Gereonsweiler after storming through curtains of fire from pillboxes, machine guns, tanks and German 88's manned by crack Panzer and SS troops.


Praising the regiment for its action Maj. Gen. E. N. Harmon said: "The fighting quality displayed . . . is in the best traditions of the service and has won the respect and commendation of the 2d Armored Division."

For troops whose previous offensive experience had been gained in mock battles in the swamps of Louisiana, who only a few short weeks before had enjoyed cold beer in New York, it was a proud accomplishment.

Over 1,000 prisoners had been taken. Another 204 had been killed. The push to the Roer was well under way.

The division was consolidated and its headquarters moved from Robroek, Holland, to Ubach, Germany.

The Ozarks smashed through several towns in a drive toward Linnich on the west bank of the Roer River. In Roerdorf, a regiment turned the fight into a rout. The enemy suffered high casualties and a severe blow to its prestige as troops of crack German outfits jumped into the river and tried to swim to safety.


During this operation the division encountered the worst enemy artillery fire it was to face. Roads and towns throughout the area were continuously pounded by guns of all calibers. The enemy didn't hesitate to place murderous artillery and mortar fire on towns which their own infantry was still defending.

But before the attack could be pushed across the river, von Rundstedt unleashed an all-out counter-offensive through the Ardennes in Belgium starting on 16 December.

The 84th, 2d and 7th divisions were shifted south to help halt the German drive in this, the Battle of the Bulge. This left the 102d defending the entire XIIIth Corps sector with a front of almost 8 miles. Service and supply units, even company cooks, were to get the feel of front-line defense before the winter snows disappeared.


Operations during this period included efforts to convince the Germans that a sizeable force was building across from their positions. Tanks moved back and forth to give an impression of great armored strength. Dummy tanks and artillery pieces were erected. Mines were laid, barbed wire strung, foxholes chopped in the ice-hard earth.

By the end of December the Germans were convinced that something was brewing. At dawn on the 30th of the month they sent a raiding party of 150 men toward Ozark positions.

The Jerries ran into wire defenses thrown up only a few hours earlier. Division artillery, guided by accurate fire commands from our forward observers, plastered the raiders. Sixty-seven were killed, 34 captured; the enemy spent the rest of the day evacuating the wounded.

The big job in January was to eliminate a German strongpoint in the Roer-Wurm confluence, defended by a portion of the old Siegfried Line. Extensive plans included the issuance of white snow suits to camouflage the men against the snow. But the Germans melted away in front of the Ozarks.

This description was reported in the New York Times in an Associated press dispatch:

"BRACHELEN, Germany, Jan. 26 -- This badly battered old city, ten miles inside Germany, and six surrounding villages, were in American hands tonight without an artillery shell being fired.

"The last plug was knocked from the Siegfried Line in this sector at a cost up to noon, of nine casualties. A hundred Germans are prisoners and the rest have fled into the blue, tree-topped hills to the east along with the civilians.

"Most of the casualties were wounded by the mine fields, as Brig. Gen. Frank A. Keating's 102d Infantry Division, white-cloaked against the snow, surged forward early this morning and overran 97 pillboxes.

"The division struck three regiments abreast against such light opposition that plans for an elaborate artillery barrage were cancelled..."


Toward the end of February, it was decided to send the Ninth Army in a plunge across the Roer toward the Rhine. The 102d Division was chosen to spearhead the attack.

The Ozarks poised their strength on a narrow front between Linnich and Roerdorf. Every weapon, organic and attached, had been emplaced and sighted. Everything was closed up against the Roer, like a tightly coiled spring about to snap loose in fury.

Artillery batteries were practically against the banks of the river. Service elements and dumps were within striking distance of enemy artillery. The division command post was barely 300 yards from the water's edge.

The 23d of February was a crucial day. It opened for the Ozarks on a thunderous note: a 45-minute Div/Arty barrage.

The 102d was the first division to get all of its units across the swollen, churning river. The bridgehead was established and the road to the Rhine had been opened.


In less than a week the Ozarks cleaned up the major western defensive belt protecting Munchen - Bladbach and proceeded north, continuing to spearhead Ninth Army's deep thrust.

In three days of bitter fighting, the division captured Krefeld, a city of 170,000, key railroad and communications center and site of a large rocket factory built in caves. The date was 3 March.

The Stars and Stripes paid tribute to the division with a story headlined: "Ozark Doughs Capture 4,000, 86 Localities." There followed an account of how the 102d "paced Ninth Army's whirlwind push to the Rhine." In the 33 hard miles from Linnich to Krefeld the division overran 86 towns and cities and earned a reputation as one of the best combat divisions in the European theater of operations.

The sagging Germans expended considerable effort to prepare strong defenses on the east bank of the Rhine.

As late as 15 March, however, before these defensive positions were complete, a patrol from the 102d reconnoitered a point 4 miles east of the river -- the deepest penetration yet made into Germany.

The Nazis shifted their crack 2d Paratroop Division to a position across from the Ozarks. The fact that this division was committed to defend the southwest approach to the Ruhr industrial district, and the Uerdingen - Duisberg sector in particular, was interpreted as indicating the great consternation with which the menacing position and the reputation of the Ozark Division was viewed by the German high command.

On 30 March the 102d extended north and south, thus occupying an 18-mile front from Romberg nearly to Dusseldorf.

In the fight for the Ruhr the 102d was initially slated for a role of deception, holding the 2d Paratroop Division south near Uerdingen while Ninth Army made an end-run further north.


Patrols were intensified. Artillery thundered around the clock. A great store of captured German rockets was turned against the enemy. In rear areas our troops rushed to and fro in confusing movements.

The deception worked. By the time the Germans realized the Ozarks' tactics were merely a ruse, Ninth Army had secured the Wesel crossing and the Ruhr was well on the way toward capture.

The 102d crossed the Rhine early in April and hurried across the rolling fields of Munster Bay. During the move they combed 3,000 enemy soldiers from wooded ridges in the Teutogebirge area.

In three days of bloody fighting for the Wesergebirge area, about 1,600 prisoners were taken; another 600 were killed.

On 13 April in fighting near Breitenfeld, an I & R Platoon fought its way out of an ambush to win a presidential citation. It read in part:

"...the platoon was given the mission of screening the advance of the infantry. As it proceeded two miles ahead of the regiment it was ambushed and cut off from the main body ... Although taken under intense fire from a stubborn enemy firing from the distance of 75 yards, the officers and men, with sheer valor and aggressiveness, fought off numerically superior forces... Because of the persistence and rapidity of the assault the enemy forces were compelled to give ground, but nevertheless continued to resist stubbornly until members of the I & R Platoon rushed their positions and eliminated them individually in their foxholes. During this action they killed and wounded a large number of enemy and captured the remainder, thereby annihilating a strong enemy force which would have constituted a serious threat to the advancing regiment. The fearless determination, daring and intrepidity of all members of the (platoon) reflect great credit upon themselves and is in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service."

An example of the kind of individual courage shown that day was when Sgt. Paul J. Padgett of Detroit, although having had one arm pierced by a bullet, rushed a foxhole, wrestled a rifle away from the German occupant, then killed him with his own weapon.


The capture of Gardelegen, an ancient town surrounded by a moat, and containing a large air field and air force replacement center, is an event that will never be forgotten by those involved, for two reasons: the German commander was tricked into complete surrender; inside the town were found the remains of a grisly crime.

Lt. Emerson Hunt, liaison officer between Ozark Headquarters and his tank battalion, was not aware that the town was still in enemy hands when he was captured by its outguards.

During questioning he demanded to be taken to the highest ranking German officer. He then succeeded in convincing this man, a colonel in the Luftwaffe, that American tanks were ready to blast Gardelegen from the face of the fatherland.

He said that since he wasn't certain where his own battalion headquarters were located at the moment, it might be wise for the Germans to surrender to the nearest American commander who, judging by the noise, was only then approaching from Estedt.

No sooner said than done. Lt. Hunt was sent back to notify his tanks that complete surrender would be arranged. A Nazi major accompanied him through the German outposts to American lines.

It might be noted here that except for two platoons of tanks at Estedt, our armor was far, far away.

Terms were quickly agreed to and the German colonel accompanied Colonel Williams, CO of an infantry regiment, into town where the entire garrison, its arms already stacked, stood neatly drawn up for surrender. On this note the "Battle for Gardelegen" ended.

In a barn on the outskirts of town were found the charred and smoking bodies of over 300 slave laborers, deliberately burned to death by their captors.

Investigation disclosed that 1,016 political and military prisoners had perished here. Part of a larger group, they were being driven west to escape the Russians when their guards suddenly learned that the fall of Gardelegen was imminent. The prisoners were slaughtered to prevent the possibility of their turning on their captors in the event of sudden liberation.

Freshly dug common graves mutely testified to the haste with which all evidence of the atrocity was being concealed. Another day and no trace would have remained.

Toward the end of April all organized resistance had just about vanished. For the German soldiers the war with the Americans was over, and they surrendered in droves.


Two news accounts quickly outline the picture.

Lowell Thomas said in his nightly NBC broadcast on May 4:

"General Eisenhower's announcement here at Supreme Allied Headquarters tonight seems to have put the quietus on any hope that anyone may have had for a VE-day proclamation this week. But (his) is a thrilling statement, VE-day or no VE-day. 'German forces on the Western Front have disintegrated' -- those are his first words. 'Today what is left of two German armies surrendered to a single American division -- the 102d, commanded by Maj. Gen. Frank A. Keating.'"

And on the same day Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press put it this way:

"Germany's once proud Wehrmacht is dying a shameful death on the banks of the Elbe.

"SS Panzer troops -- once Germany's elite -- paddle across the river on makeshift rafts. Sometimes they swim, leaving their medal-bedecked tunics behind.

"The swarm of soldiers clogging the east banks by the tens of thousands is more than a beaten Army. It is a fear-stricken horde -- afraid of the Russians with a fear that only a guilty conscience can inspire.

"Anyone standing on the Elbe could not help but feel the war is over, VE declaration or no.

"That generals are standing in line is no figure of speech.

"At one regimental command post of the 102d Division there were two generals, one a Panzer Army commander, and half a dozen colonels, all trying to surrender their units..."

The two enemy armies which surrendered to the 102d were the German 9th and 12th Panzer Armies.

On 7 May 1945 Russian troops made contact with American forces at the Elbe and for the men of the Ozark Division the shooting war was over, after 181 days of combat.

During its valorous campaigns the 102d captured 147,000 and killed more than 4,000 enemy troops. In addition, the Ozarks captured or destroyed 345 enemy planes, 24 tanks, 14 railroad guns, 67 hated 88's, and carloads of ammunition and military equipment.

Occupation duty followed until March of 1946 when the division sailed for home.

With the end of hostilities the 102d was deactivated. But not for long.


On 15 September 1947 the division was activated as part of the Organized Reserve, under the command of Maj. Gen. Leif J. Sverdrup.

During World War II General Sverdrup had served as General Douglas MacArthur's chief engineer, and was in large part responsible for the building of a vast system of air bases throughout the southwest Pacific.

Under his command the 102d was developed from small beginnings into one of the largest and best reserve divisions in the country. The division area encompasses all of Missouri and southern Illinois.

On 31 January 1958 General Sverdrup retired and was succeeded by Brig. Gen. (now Maj. Gen.) William H. Harrison, who had previously served as division artillery executive officer, chief of staff, and division artillery commander with the 102d.

During the war General Harrison was a top staff officer of General George S. Patton.

To General Harrison fell the task of guiding the transition of the 102d into a pentomic division capable of effectively operating -- if necessary -- on the atomic battlefields of modern warfare.

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