103d INFANTRY DIVISION WORLD WAR II ASSOCIATION
103d Infantry Division History: World War II
Without doubt, up until even today's deployed soldier, Mail Call was, and remains, one of the most favorite times. You always looked forward to news from home. Many times, before the advent of the ability to use cell phones, email, Facebook, Tweets, and modern gizmos, the only way to communicate with your loved one in the field was a letter. All were cherished, no matter the news. Many soldiers would open their letters from the wife scan quickly then shout, as he danced about, it's a boy! Or a girl! Yes, by this time his baby may indeed be months old but that's the first he heard. Some soldiers were waiting for the news on the birth of a child, and they were captured, having to wait months, or years before they found out whether his wife had delivered and everyone was fine. Many times, the news was sad, lots of news was glad, some mail brought the heart breaking Dear John story from your girl friend that Jody had wooed her away from you. Jody, was the one guy everyone hated. He was the guy who stayed behind. Most of the time, Jody was characterized as a coward, but always a womanizing demon. The point here is that Mail Call represents all sorts of information. In this section, we will place items of interest for current researchers, but mainly for the nostalgic trip back in time to those days of World War II where it is hoped that these items bring back only the good memories of times spent with buddies, waiting for Mail Call.
You worked hard, sweated, marched, communicated, shot, and now that glorious day has come when you get 14 days off to go home. Furlough! What a wonderful sound, that word. It was very important, during the train up days, that soldiers leaving on furlough understood they were representatives of the U.S. Army, their unit, and their buddies. Also, there were admonishments about how to care for oneself in preventing the acquisition of unwanted disease. There's an old story that enlisted soldiers caught venereal disease; officers had a 'cold.' One the veterans of the 103d recently ran across the letters of instruction that he received just prior to departure on furlough from the 411th Infantry Regiment. Click Here to view those papers.
Letters Home & V-Mail
You can read historical accounts of World War II, but the very essence of what was going on, the hardships endured, the feelings of the soldier were contained in those letters home. The 103d Association is honored to have families share the letters from their loved ones. We are putting those together as they come in; what you see here is a small collection available to us at this time. We certainly welcome you to send us scanned copies of the letters. If you send the originals, we will handle them with respect, scan them, and return them to you. Now, Click Here to view a bit of history from their perspective.
A letter from PFC Earl Parker, who was spending time in an Army Hospital on sick leave, was written to his old buddy PFC Leonard Salathe. Here's a copy of the letter furnished us by the family of Leonard. Click Here.
A collection of letters from Sergeant Gordon Flenniken give a snapshot of how the GI viewed the war are available. Understand these letters are exactly as they were written to his wife, unedited, and represent his own feelings about his experiences. Click Here to Read.
Do you remember bugle calls? Everyone remembers at least one or two; particularly Retreat where in some units formation was held and salutes rendered to honor our nation's flag. We've found a list of Bugle Calls posted by Virginia Tech. Link to List.
Evacuation Orders Stateside For Wounded
What happened when a soldier was wounded and required evacuation back to the United States for medical care? Well, as with anything else in the Army, it required an order; an Evacuation Order to be more precise. One of the 103d veterans, Robert Rathgeber, recently discovered his Evacuation Order back Stateside after his battle wounds. Here's how the Army handled those orders. Click Here.
Religious Services, Bibles, & Spiritual Almanac
The Army was concerned about the religious well being of its soldiers. Since the Chaplain Corps was created, July 29, 1775, over 25,000 chaplains have served; administering to the spiritual and religious needs of more than 25 million soldiers and their families. The Army Chaplain has been present in over 270 major combat engagements. The Chaplain Corps has lost 400 in combat, dating back to the battles at Lexington, Concord Bridge, and Bunker Hill. It was General George Washington who encouraged the assignment of chaplains at the Regimental level and ordered the performance of religious services at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. During the Revolutionary War, three chaplains fought alongside soldiers. It has long been recognized that chaplains are noncombatants. The Geneva Conventions, however, are silent on whether chaplains may bear arms. Protocol I, 8 June 1977, Article 43.2 does state that chaplains are noncombatants, thus they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities. Six chaplains have received our nation's highest award, The Medal of Honor; four from the Civil War and two during Vietnam.
A "Spiritual Almanac for Service Men 1943-1944" was put out by the Christian Commission for Camp and Defense Communities. To view a complete copy of this Almanac, Click Here.
During World War II, one of the more popular keepsake gifts for soldiers going off to war was the steel-covered New Testament. There are seven words engraved on the heart-shield Bible's metal covering: "May this keep you safe from harm." Stories abound where this Bible, as well as The Soldiers' New Testament, have stopped bullets, thus saving a soldier's life.
The Soldiers' New Testament
The Soldiers' Steel-Covered New Testament
Just a Bit of Humor
Throughout the history of our military forces, humor has always helped soldiers get through some of the toughest times. Probably one of the most widely known in World War II was Bill Mauldin's cartoons featuring Willie and Joe. The officers who served in pre-war periods were not that keen on Mauldin's depiction of the spit shine attitude even during combat. One of his cartoons landed him in front of Old Blood and Guts Patton who threatened to have "his ass in jail" for "spreading dissent among the troops" with a cartoon depicting Patton's order for all men to be clean shaven, even in combat. General Eisenhower intervened on SGT Mauldin's behalf, telling Patton that Mauldin was essential to high morale among the men. One such piece of comedic relief was the creation of some GI to warn all who followed about the perils that lay ahead. It is titled, "First Epistle To The Selectees." Click Here to read.
First 7th U.S. Army Unit to Enter Germany
The "doughboys" of the 103d Infantry Division are touted in the press as "the first unit of America's 7th Army to cross into Germany." Read the original article written by Gordon Gammick of the Des Moines Register, Click Here. The article was filed 17 December 1944.
59th Evacuation Hospital - Epinal, France
Many Cactusmen, wounded or suffering a disease, were evacuated to the 59th Evaucation Hospital in Epinal, France. The movement and preparation of hospital staff and equipment to Epinal, Vosges, was completed 5 October 1944. In this area, the hospital occupied buildings pertaining to the French military hospital of Golbey, which was previously occupied by the Germans. There were 900 beds and one group of buildings equipped as operating rooms. During this time, the hospital was about 15 miles from the front lines allowing for the quick transfer of battle casualties from the Clearing Stations. To view pictures of the 59th Evacuation Hospital buildings, Click Here.
France Remembers Those Who Fought for Their Freedom
A group of French citizens have banded together to honor American soldiers who paid the ultimate price in the fight to free France from Axis tyranny. The following message was received from Karen Sallier, a young French girl who adopted the grave of Cactusman Corporal Francis J. Los, Company D, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus). Corporal Los is buried at the American Cemetery in Epinal. Here is the message from Mlle. Sallier:
I just want to let you know that now it's official, the association about the adoptions of graves at the Epinal American Cemetery has been created. The name of the association is "U.S. Memory Grand Est France".
I'm in charge of the "young section". Our goals are to help the people who have adopted grave(s) to find information about the soldier(s) and his family and help people to get in contact, make know what those soldiers have down to liberate France ...
And if one day, the association has enough money, help an American family to come to France and to the Epinal American Cemetery and see the grave of their family member who was a soldier.
Do not hesitate to ask me more information or the mail adress of the president of the association. I'm sure she will be glad to get contact with you and with all the member of the 103d association.
Unrecognized Valor of PFC Lew Y June
It was a cold, icy day when the men of Company C, 410th Infantry Division arrived at the village of Schirrhofen. Little did they know they were about to encounter one of Hitler's elite forces, the 6th SS Mountain Division. Initially, the men of Company C surprised the SS troops. But that was short lived as they counter attacked. A grenade landed amidst the men and they were all spared instant death when PFC Lew Y June did what can only be described as a totally unselfish act of love and kindness to his fellow brothers in arms. June pounced on the grenade. This is the story of unrecognized valor. It is hoped that someone, somewhere, will read this account from one of those saved and take action to institute a well deserved acknowledgement for PFC June's heroic action. PFC June gave his life for his fellow man. "Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
The Diary of PFC Frank E. Block
1st Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 410th Infantry Regiment
Rarely do you find a day by day account of activities of a unit from the late stages of advanced training through the entire period of combat and into days of post-combat. PFC Frank E. Block, 91 years old as of May 29, 2014, kept such a diary from the last days of training at Camp Howze, Texas, through the movement to Camp Shanks, NY and subsequent deployment to France. His diary provides a fascinating glimpse into history, but more so, from the perspective of the soldier assigned at the Platoon level during combat. Enjoy The Diary of PFC Frank E. Block.
Remember your ID Card when assigned to the European Theatre of Operations?
Ms. Karen Knight, daughter of S/SGT Steve Adamek, Cannon Company, 409th Infantry Regiment, found her late father's ID card and sent this picture. S/SSG Adamek spent the war assigned to the 5th Infantry Division where he fought in five battle campaigns and was transferred to Cannon Company June 17, 1945. Since the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) was slated to return to the
States in September, 1945, S/SGT Adamek, with sufficient points for return to the States and discharge, was transferred from the 5th Infantry Division to Cannon Company. There was a major push to rotate veterans out of the 103d Infantry Division into units that were designated for transfer to the Pacific Theatre, in preparation for the invasion of Japan, or units assigned occupation duty in Germany.
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