Beginnings and the 103d Infantry Division
3. Introduction to the Division Units and Men
A brief description of some of the army units involved in this narrative may be helpful in describing how an infantry division is constituted and organized.
In outline form this would be in military terminology, A Division Table of Organization. However for this document the description of the division elements will contain more detail than available in an outline.
The 103d Infantry Division was just one of many such Infantry divisions fighting the war in different places around the world and was unique only in the fact that it was committed to action in Europe after many other divisions and fighting units had been engaged for months and/or years.
In any event, the 103d made
a good contribution. All the men quickly became aware of the caution
necessary in new situations and the responsibility to act aggressively
in support of the other units of the division, its supporting troops and
the divisions fighting on our common front.
The 103d Infantry Division XXX (indication on a map - 3 regiments) was organized to improve upon the older, awkward pre-war "rectangular" infantry divisions having four infantry regiments. The 103d was one of the newer, streamlined, "triangular" divisions having three infantry regiments. Each regiment, in turn, had three infantry battalions, each battalion had three rifle companies.
This arrangement made for a very flexible operation. In an attack, two regiments would carry the thrust of the attack and the third would be held in reserve to guard against attacks by the enemy around the flanks of the forward regiments, or to attack through the forward regiments to take advantage of sudden breakthroughs or to dig in and provide covering fire for the forward regiments if they were forced to fall back.
Each regiment arrayed its troops in the same manner with two battalions forward and one in reserve and each battalion did the same with its three rifle companies, and a heavy-weapons company and each rifle company followed the pattern with its three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon.
This arrangement also permitted rapid changes of direction of the main thrust with the resultant confusion of the enemy. Never lose sight of the fact that the most important man in any army is the infantry soldier. It is he who must ultimately dig the enemy out of his defenses and force him to surrender. The Infantry is called the "Queen of Battle", apparently a reference to the most powerful piece on a chess board, the queen. An infantry division is structured to make the most effective use of the individual infantry soldier.
(Editor's note) In some of the Infantry training camps and facilities, the Infantry was referred to as the "Queen of Battles" on Military Post signs, etc. In this more liberal age, 1994, that term could be misunderstood and even lead to ridicule and violence.
When I saw it as a young man coming from near HOLLYWOOD, California it was a little amusing, however, after being in a very small way associated with the soldiers of the infantry, while I still do not understand that description, my respect for the infantryman is unlimited.
The infantryman and his squad members advance, conquer and occupy the terrain, denying it to the enemy. In a sense, the individual soldier is the most important unit of a nations armed forces. The tank forces that sometimes accompany him (and to a great extent depend on the infantryman for protection during the advance) can't hold the advance alone. All of the overhead support from the airforce (tactical and strategic), material supplied overland and by sea, the artillery support, even the division Special Troops - important as we all know they are - can only help the infantryman as he hikes and then crawls forward to push the opposing infantry back and defeats him.
It is apparent that the Army, its men and its top leaders, recognize the importance of the Infantry Soldier.
Above all the other ribbons and awards on the uniform, the Combat Infantry Badge is worn by those proud men who have earned it by their very special service.)
The infantryman required close-up support from heavier weapons such as 60mm mortars and 50 caliber machine guns carried by his company's weapons platoon. The division also had its own artillery soldiers equipped with 155mm and 105mm howitzers.
The 103d Infantry Division consisted of the 409th, 410th, and 411th Infantry Regiments organized as discussed herein. In addition to its infantry battalions, each regiment had a Headquarters Company and a number of specialized units such as a Cannon Company equipped with 105 millimeter howitzers.
The infantry rifleman, even with the support of his company, battalion and regiment special units, could not do it all by himself.
He had to be fed, clothed appropriately for the weather conditions, and supplied with ammunition and other materials needed for the conduct of the war.
Other organic units included a Division Headquarters group, a Headquarters Company, Headquarters Special Troops, the 103d Infantry Division Military Police Platoon, The 103d Infantry Division Signal Company*, The 103d Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop*, The 103d Quartermaster Company, The 803d Ordinance Company, the 103d Infantry Division Band, the 103d Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment*, the 103d Division Artillery*, The 382d Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm howitzers)*, the 383d Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm howitzers)*, the 384 Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm howitzers)*, the 928th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm howitzers)*, the 328th Combat Engineers Battalion*, and the 328th Medical Battalion. The specialists of the last two units were dispersed through out the division.
Those identified by an (*) were either combat units or units that had substantial numbers of their personnel attached to combat units. The division had five companies of Special Troops, an Engineering battalion, and a Medical battalion.
The division required special transportation when sudden realignment of troops was necessary, and 6th Corps military police were employed to ensure the smooth flow of traffic in critical situations.
Large enemy mine fields
had to be cleared, roads swept of mines, and larger bridges built or rebuilt,
often under intense enemy fire, by support units of the division.
Weapons, radios, telephones, vehicles, and other gear had to be maintained and repaired as needed by support units that were better equipped than the division repair and supply units.
These attached units typically included large-ordinance repair, signal depots, Corps motor pools and repair.
In addition to these "utility" units, the division was supported by heavy artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, and even such diverse units as psychological warfare, electronic countermeasures, searchlight battalions, and tactical air support with its army airforce officer controllers joining the most advanced infantry units to direct very effective strafing and bombing of the terrain almost within rock-throwing distance ahead of the infantry squad scouts.
Within the division, a network of radio, wire, and messenger communications was provided to convey important information about the combat situation to field commanders who promptly transmitted orders via these communications channels to the troops actually fighting the battle and to those units supporting the effort.
Obviously, there is much more to an infantry division than just a lot of infantry soldiers carrying rifles. There were more than 20,000 men in the 103d Infantry Division, only about half of whom were actually rifle-carrying infantrymen. There is some indication, that number may be as small as one in ten men who were infantry squad riflemen in the United States armies.
This is not to say that the rest were in plush rear-echelon jobs, out of harm's way, far from it, as will be noted later.
Most of the support requirements
of the division and its units were all met by specialized units that were
organic to, that is basic parts of, the 103d Division or by specialized
forces attached to the division or its regiments to meet specific needs
that developed during combat.
Members of the division, particularly the combat infantry men had to be kept healthy, provided with prompt and appropriate medical assistance when wounded, and, if necessary, quickly transported to a field hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries.
The doctors of the Medical battalion were officers who for the most part had been called to military service from civilian occupation, however there were Regular Army officers also serving. All of these well trained and important men were addressed as "Sir".
These doctors usually did not move closer to the front-line action than the Battalion Aid Station, a tent encampment just behind the combat action being conducted by the infantry fighting companies. At these positions, the doctors were able to concentrate their resources in preparation for treating the wounded soldiers in most cases within a half-hour of the wounding.
The enlisted-men medics, were a well trained group of highly dedicated and respected men who served with foot soldiers in Infantry companies at the most advanced and dangerous positions. These men were often within shouting distance (sometimes close enough to whisper) of the advancing infantry soldiers, and those engineers, tank-men and others who were the front line.
These very necessary and appreciated members of the combat team were called "MEDIC!" at times of desperate need, and at other times when they cared for the many day-to-day health care needs of the GIs, they were called just plain "Doc", but with a great deal of respect and admiration.
To witness closely as some of us have, the apparent disregard of the enlisted Medics for their own safety in efforts to recover and treat wounded soldiers and then to see the Medics become casualties themselves, is an experience never to be forgotten.
To sit beside a wounded soldier and try to comfort him and reassure him that help is on the way when you know all of the other Medics in the area are completely occupied with previous casualties, reinforces your respect for the competence, dedication and importance of the individual efforts of the Medic to provide the rapid emergency treatment that is necessary to bind up the wounds sufficiently to prepare the casualty for the sometimes delayed transit to more extensive treatment at the Battalion Aid Station and beyond at the Field Hospital.
The doctors of the Medical Corps would occasionally move into the most forward positions to administer to the soldiers whose wounds were beyond the Medic's fairly extensive training and experience, and not within his medical ability.
Several doctors of Medical battalion serving the 103d Infantry Division and its attached units were wounded or killed for their dedicated efforts.
Men of the Engineering battalion supported front line units by clearing obstacles created by the retreating enemy and/or natural forces and repairing roads and bridges with hasty repairs while under enemy fire in some cases. Although the infantry fighting units had some explosive-mine sweeping equipment, the engineers were very often with or ahead of advancing units sweeping for mines under very adverse conditions.
Of the six companies of Special Troops, the 103d Signal Company, is of particular interest in this report and will be described in some detail later.
Of the other five, the Quartermaster Company was the supplier of all the equipment needed to keep the division operating, with the exception of the arms, ammunition, explosives and vehicles needed to fight a war. The Quartermaster Company had an additional task, the very important job of recovering and caring for our dead soldiers.
The 803rd Ordnance Company part of the Special Troops, supplied and did much of the more detailed maintenance on small arms, artillery and automatic equipment of the entire division and repairs on vehicles, and instruments.
The Headquarters Company supplied the clerical services for Division Headquarters. The units below Division had to do their own paper work and keep adequate "official" records.
The Military Police Company was mostly for traffic control on the roads behind the regiments. They often "did go in harm's way" when the combat units were attacking in force and traffic needed to be guided around hazards and positions that were under enemy fire. However, they were often much more involved with, and in danger from poor drivers of trucks, jeeps, tanks, etc.
The Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Company) were specially trained soldiers who employed lightly armored and agile vehicles such as a four-wheel-propelled "scout car" to probe and explore enemy defenses and deployments.
All together, the organic units of the 103d Infantry Division (including its three infantry regiments) suffered losses of 4,063 men killed, wounded, or missing in action in the short time (250 days) that it was in combat. We, members of the 103d Signal Company, had many friends among those killed and wounded, men we had trained with, gone to school with, or just met in the conduct of our operations.
The casualties sustained by the combat units that were attached to the 103d Infantry Division are not known but some units such as the 614th Tank Destroyers sustained heavy losses.
However, to put the 103d Infantry Division's losses in perspective, in all of World War II, 58 million people were killed or missing and the wounded were at least 10 times this number and uncountable.
There were 405,398 Americans killed in action, and 670,846 wounded during World War II.*ROM
The 103d Infantry Division's losses do not seem large by comparison. Nevertheless, we must never lose sight of the fact that each and every one of the killed, wounded, and missing was an individual human being with relatives and friends, and whose loves and aspirations would never be fulfilled. It is easy to forget this and become numbed by the sheer weight of statistics that run into millions.
4. Preliminary 103d Div. and Signal Company Organization and Training
From 1921 until activation in 1942, the 103d was a reserve division in the Mountain West, with units in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The emblem of the division, the Saguaro cactus, is symbolic of the saguaro of Arizona, the only state in which it flourishes. The emblems of the individual units reflect this history, such as the Arizona Copper Star of the 409th, the American Indian Sia Sun Symbol of both the 410th and the 384th Artillery, the Snowy Mountain Peaks of the 411th, and the proud motto of the 383rd Artillery: "The West Never Fails."
Once the division went off to war in 1942, it never returned to its original homeland. After World War II, reserve units of the 103d were scattered around the upper midwest, including Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, until inactivated in 1959.
To introduce timely information and to give significant background information, excerpts from the official records of the 103d infantry division and the 103d division signal company will be included in this form.
103D INFANTRY DIVISION
TRAINING YEAR - 1943
At Camp Claiborne during activation and organization.
On August 8,1942 parts of the division were reorganized. The 103d Division Artillery Band and the 411th Infantry Regiment Band were disbanded and in their place the 103d Infantry Division Band was activated.
Other organizations activated were Headquarters Special Troops; 103d Infantry Division, Medical Detachment; Cannon Company, 409th Infantry; Cannon Company, 410th Infantry and Cannon Company, 411th Infantry.
First change in the original general staff had occurred November 27, 1942, when Maj. Russell R. Lord (0253043) was announced as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, to take the place of Col. Garrison B. Coverdale (017148), who was transferred to an overseas assignment. Major Lord, of Alton, Ill., an artillery officer, had reported to the 103d Division November 24, and the next day was detailed to the General Staff Corps with Troops and assigned to the division general staff.
December, 1942 was a month of organization for the newly-activated 103d Infantry Division. The bulk of filler replacements reported from reception centers to bring the division to full strength. Further schooling of the cadre, reception, classification and assignment of more than 13,000 new men, and complete occupation of the division's area at Camp Claiborne were accom plished.
The division began its basic training of the fillers, raw recruits, 4 January 1943, under the Mobilization Training Program. Basic training was conducted for thirteen weeks until April 3,1943.
Unit training was held from 10 April to 26 June 1943. On 19 April construction of the Mock Village (Combat in Villages Course), Infiltration Course, and Close Combat Course was completed and the courses placed in operation to train troops of the division. The Army Ground Forces (AGF) Physical Fitness Test was given to the personnel of the division during the period 7-12 June 1943.
During 1943 the division was visited by the Third Army and Army Ground Forces commanders. On May 6, Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges, commanding general, Third Army, inspected the division in training at Camp Claiborne. The late Lt. Gen. Leslie J. McNair, commanding general, Army Ground Forces, (he was declared "late" sometime after 1943 and before this report was made) arrived at the Army Air Base at DeRidder, La., 18 October to visit the maneuver area, and the 103d Division was among the units he inspected. Combined training of units was conducted 27 June until 4 September 1943.
During the phase of combined training, the division moved by motor march on August 8 and 9 to an area west of Camp Claiborne near Slagle, Simpson and Hineston, La., for "D" Series maneuvers. The first three problems were controlled. In these the division moved against one of its infantry battalions. The last three problems were free maneuvers, in which two combat teams of the division moved against the third combat team. The division returned to Camp Claiborne on September 2-4 and prepared to participate in Third Army maneuvers.
Movement to the Third Army maneuver area by motor march was begun on the morning of September 15, and the division closed in bivouac in the vicinity of Hawthorne, La., late in the afternoon of September 17,1943.
In the first phase of the Fourth Maneuver Period, from September 20 to 30, a series of four field exercises, so-called flag exercises, was conducted under the control of Third Army Director Headquarters to afford the division commander the opportunity to train his division as a complete organization. Combined training was furthered by attachment of special units such as additional field artillery, antiaircraft automatic weapons battalions and tank destroyer battalions.
Following the flag exercises,
a series of six phases of two-sided maneuvers was held.
In Phase 2, the 103d Division initially remained concealed while the 102d Division opposed the VIII Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan and composed of the 99th and 84th Divisions.
Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson then took command of the Provisional XXI Corps, and the 103d, moving to the flank of the 102d, participated in a Corps attack.
In Phase 3, the 84th defended against the VIII Corps, commanded by General Sultan and composed of the other three divisions. The 103d and the 102d attacked abreast, the 103d on the left (south) blank. The 99th, marching by night, enveloped from the north.
In Phase 4, the VIIICorps, commanded by General Sultan and composed of the 102d and 103d Divisions, attacked the Provisional XXI Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles C. Haffner, Jr. The XXI Corps conducted a delaying action for two days, the 99th Division opposing the 102d and 103d Divisions. It then counter-attacked with two divisions, the 84th Division (which had been attached later) and the 99th Division.
In Phase 5, the 103d defended against the other three divisions, which comprised the VIII Corps under the command of General Sultan.
In Phase 6, the 99th defended
the river line against the XIX Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Willis D.
Crittenger, which had replaced the VIII Corps Headquarters. In this
operation, the 99th and the 84th attacked the bridgehead with the 103d
enveloping on the right, making two night marches. This was followed
by a river crossing as a continuation of the attack on the bridgehead.
Phase 7 was a repetition of Phase 5, with the 102d defending. The 103d was the interior division of the attacking force, composed of the XIX Corps (84th, 99th and 103d Infantry Di visions).
OUR MEN: SEDENSKY
When World War II broke out, the draft was continuing to call men, I volunteered for the army.
I was sent to the 37th (Ohio Division) and assigned to the 74th Brigade Headquarters Company. The 37th was a "square division", it had 2 brigades of 2 regiments each.
(Editor's note: The army soon recognized the need to reconstruct the infantry divisions into the familiar 3 regiments of the 103d Infantry Division we served in. Sedensky was a part of that interesting transition.)
Perhaps the most challenging period of time for the men who were to become the original officers and men of the Signal Company started when they had arrived in groups or as lonely individuals at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. For many of the new recruits this was to be a period of basic training combined with special technical training. For the officers and enlisted cadre who were there to conduct that training, it was also a period of training and experience to become the leaders the U.S. Army had assured them they already were.
The official records tell part of that history - some of OUR MEN share their experiences for a very significant part of the story.
103D SIGNAL COMPANY
Office of the Commanding Officer
Camp Howze, Texas
21 June 1944
The 103d Signal Company,
one of the several Special Troops Companies of the 103d Infantry Division,
was constituted as an Organized Reserve Unit and assigned to the Eighth
Corps Area, on 24 June 1921. The Company was ordered to be made active
at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, effective 15 November 1942, as a component
of the 103d Infantry Division, to be allotted-10 Commissioned Officers,
1 Warrant Officer, and 311 EM, (enlisted men, including non-commissioned
Prior to that date the 103 Signal Company had no other history but, was apparently an inactive part of the Organized Reserve 103d Infantry Division created in 1921.
During the middle of October 1942 the first group of Officers constituting the original Officer Cadre began arriving at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Among the first to arrive was Lt. Col. Carolus A. Brown, (then Captain) newly appointed Division Signal Officer. Shortly afterward Captain Kenneth C. H. Colman (then 1st Lt.) arrived to make preparations for the reception of the remainder of the Officers and men.
The original Officer Cadre
was generally graduates of the Officer Candidate School at Fort Monmouth,
New Jersey. They were:
2nd Lt. JOSEPH A. ALLISON, Message Center Officer.
2nd Lt. BERNARD BECK, Sig C Radio Officer.
2nd Lt. DENNIS A. DELANEY, Telephone & Telegraph Officer.
2nd Lt. CHARLES A. DEWS, Supply Officer.
2nd Lt. MAURICE A. HANNON, Sig C Motor Officer.
2nd Lt. JOHN C. MITCHELL, Sig C Construction Officer.
2nd Lt. JACK OWENS, Sig C Radio Intelligence Officer.
2nd Lt. JULIUS S. SEDENSKY, Sig C Construction Officer.
(1995 Editor's note: Some of these
original officers continued to serve the 103d Division Signal Company until
the time of breaking up the company after the war in Europe had ended.
Capt. Beck and 1st Lt. Sedensky then went with many of the members of the
old company to the 45th Division Signal Company stationed near Munich,
An enlisted cadre of 21
men was assigned to the 103d Signal Company from the 85th Division Signal
Company, per par 24, SC#1 Hq. 103D Infantry Division. Authority of
transfer from the 85th Division was SO#120 Hq. 85th Infantry Division dated
6 October 1942.
The enlisted cadre was as
HANSON, HAROLD H.
|FINKBEINER, JAMES A.||S/Sgt.||33266644|
|NEWMAN, RAY C.||M/Sgt.||18034160 *|
|WOLF, THURMAN K.||T/3d||17051271 *|
|HENDERSON, F.C.||1st Sgt.||8852535 *|
|ROE, R.||T/Sgt.||12065129 *|
|ST. CIN, E.C.||T/Sgt.||37182784|
|FISHER, E.||S/Sgt.||6232072 *|
|CHILDERS, J.W.||T/4th||18034146 *|
|GILL, ODES F.||T/4th||6284853|
|BUSBY, J.O.||T/4th||18128737 *|
|DAVIS, R.J.||T/4th||37125335 *|
|CLEMMER, RALPH F||T/5th||34303835|
The men indicated by *, left the company before shipment overseas.
This cadre was augmented on 10 November 1942 by Pfc's Nixon, Nordstrom and Penick per par. 15 SO.#24 Hq. Midwestern Signal Corps School dated 7 November 1942.
(1995 Editor's Note: Most of these Non-commissioned officers continued with the 103d Division Signal Company through basic training, maneuvers and overseas combat service. Without exception, they were competent and successful in all phases of their service. They were joined by additional NCO transfers and promotions of men from the ranks of the company.)
OUR MEN: SEDENSKY
When I was in the 37th Div., we only had one person in charge of a section that took care of everything that had to do with wire. I spent about a year with the 74th Brigade Headquarters Company and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant with the title of "wire chief". It was a headquarters company, but was like a small signal company.
When they began to cut out the "square divisions" the 37th division was getting ready to go overseas, all of us non-coms decided that we wanted to stick together through any transitions - a company of about 90 men that was going to be expanded for combat service in a 3 regiment division.
The senior non-coms from the National Guard outfits, as the 37th Ohio Division was, began to make other deals, some of them applied for Officer Candidates School.
A couple of us junior fellows signed up for OCS. That was the toughest 3 months - standard OCS, not Signal Corps at Monmouth or any of that easy stuff.
Rattle your brain for 3 months to see if you could take the stress. I saw senior non-coms in the program just drop out, they couldn't (or wouldn't) take the pressure and work.
At an inspection there, if you had just a wrinkle that slapped it to you, tough as hell. When it was all over, they told us that "What we want to do is see if you can stand the pressure and still think and make decisions - you get a little smart or can't take it - out you go. It was good training.
After the "basic-OCS", some of us went to Signal Officers training at Monmouth, while other of the new lieutenants went to other branches of the army.
After graduating from the wire school at OCS, I was sent to the 103d Division with a group of officers.
Starting 4 December 1942 the 103d Signal Company began receiving their filler, recruit replacements. By the 12 of January 1943, the 103d Signal Company had received its quota of fillers, the majority of whom came from Illinois and Michigan; with some coming from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and South Carolina. All during the training and maneuver period following the initial basic training of the soldiers that joined the division to fill out its full quota of qualified men, men were chosen for special initial or supplementary technical training. Some of this training took place at special training centers away from Camp Claiborne.
Bob Gill, still a very important part of our 103d Signal Company veterans and support group in 1995, has written a wonderful reprise of conditions, life and "existence" during that wonderful time for OUR MEN during the very early days of the Signal Company.
OUR MEN: GILL - Louisiana, '42
As young lads, mostly from the midwest and southeast sections of the country, we assembled at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana in the fall of 1942. Nothing markedly different, one from the other, except those from the southeast wore blue fatigues. We from the upper midwest were slightly jealous that those ole southern boys had been issued "blues" and we had to settle for "grays" (OD's actually) but we sequestered our hurt feelings and ancestral pride and even vowed never to mention the old Civil War -- unless we had absolutely nothing else to do. Of course, the "nothing else to do" time was eradicated by the fine cadre of officers and non-coms who greeted us upon arrival. Usually when they got through with us for the day we were ready for the sack to rest up for the next go-around. We learned right quick-like their primary objective was to remove excess fat from our bellies and from between our ears.
The midriffs fell victim to the multiple calihoopnic procedures; double time in place, side straddle hop, push-ups, burpees, duck waddle, obstacle course, twelve-minute run, close order drill and hikes. Most interesting about the calihoopnics was that we early on had about 32 officers it seems and each time the cadence would change a different voice would be directing the exercise.
There were times when we suspected those rascals just might be taking turns 'cause they always looked fresh, even though we were pooped.
On close order drill I used to get the biggest charge out of SGT. DAVIS. Slight of stature, wiry, and with a voice ten times his size. He used to get quite frustrated with anyone who seemingly had two right feet and consequently was certainly not marching to the same drummer as he.
After about five minutes
of frustration he'd pick up a big rock, stick it in the guy's left hand
and tell him, "when I say LEFT, your foot on the side with the rock better
be hittin' the ground!!!".
Another amusing close order drill item was Lt. KILEY's cadence. He apparently had been in the cavalry and brought with him a sing-song cadence: "Dress to da right - Dress to da right - Dress to da right", unusual but effective.
The hikes (12 mile forced and 25 miler each month as I recall) were usually like a stroll in the park, duck soup as far as I was concerned - except for one memorable episode. When we lit out this particular morning it must have already been 105 in the shade (hey - you're right - no shade) and as the trek progressed and the sun bore down, the ranks dwindled, as one by one the fellows fell out (literally, that is).
Well, just before noon at the base of a hill, long since having finished my allotted canteen of water and long since having quit sweating, I half decided that I'd had enough of that hike and was going to sit down before I, too, fell down. Then somebody said, "Chow truck's at the top of the hill." For the moment that meant two things, lister bag full of water and a possible ride back to camp if I hadn't revived in time to resume the hike. The Army never understood this young fat body of mine - when the sweat gushed out like it had on that day - IT NEEDED WATER. No problem, settled down by the lister bag, consumed two canteens of water (no food, thanks) and was raring to resume the hike. The hiking was certainly more bearable after restoration of body water balance and the noon day sun was over the hill. We hit some shade shortly and the few that were left in ranks were ready to complete the hike. That was not to be, however, as some "two-star" cruising the back roads apparently decided that asking men to hike on such a hot day was cruel. We were only a couple miles from camp and had to wait for trucks to cart us back to the company area. Also recalled is the fact that because we didn't finish, we had to do the whole blessed 25 at a later date.
The youth of my compatriots
was witnessed in many ways, perhaps the most memorable as follows:
Hess, being of tender age, had apparently contracted measles just before coming in the Army and proceeded to break out after our random assignment to hutments. As a consequence, our hut was quarantined for a couple of weeks, during which time we practiced a few things which were not necessarily included in the Army Manual.
Of course, we were isolated
in that we had a latrine for our sole use, went to the mess hall before
everyone else, did not have to stand formations; in fact, we were treated
pretty much like lepers. This did not deter us from having a good
time as we were led in calihoopnics by our hutment leader, Sgt. AMBROSINO,
learned a little bit about short sheeting, bunk flipping, and the like.
Also, we converted the shower room in the latrine to a very shallow swimming pool in which we could at least slide from wall to wall. Hey! This Army life was a bash!
Saturday Morning Inspections - HESS, being inspected by Lt. Ellsworth (himself quite boyish in appearance), was standing in such a place that the morning sun was streaking across his face. On Hess' chin, glistening in the sunlight, were about three ½" long chin whiskers. Because he annunciated so distinctly, I guess, I can recall very vividly his querying, "Private Hess, how often do you shave?"
"Once a week, Sir", responded Hess. Again, annunciating very precisely, Lt. Ellsworth said, "Well, Private Hess, you're a big boy now and you'll probably have to begin shaving twice a week."
Another memorable inspection involved Tisch and Capt. Beck and occurred some time later, after we had been assigned to various sections and different huts. Tisch, on a field problem, had captured a chameleon which he had subsequently tethered to our clothes bar at the heads of our bunks. CAPT. BECK's eyes slowly drifted back and forth the length of the clothes bar as he stood in front of TISCH. When the good captain's neck turned the proper shade of red, he established, without hesitation, that the chameleon was indeed Tisch's pet and pets of this sort did not belong on one's clothes bar and the penalty was the digging of one practice 6' x 6' x 6' sump pit in the hard pan out beyond the calihoopnic area.
Ultimately we graduated from the rigors of constant body building endeavors, were divided into various groups, hopefully to develop other talents. Assignment to the Radio Section involved learning and practicing to receive and transmit Morse code via continuous radio waves (CW), and learning and practicing phonetics for modulated voice radio communications. Since most of our communication responsibility would involve (CW) we spent a good deal of our training time with earphones strapped on to keep the ditty-dahs from escaping. Of course, some in the radio section arrived there by virtue of having developed code skills prior to military service. One such individual, "Pappy" SKYLES (dubbed Pappy of course because of his age - he, by comparison was ancient to most of us - probably all of 36 or 37 years old) was the envy of most because he could sit there and copy 35 words per minute clear text in longhand and carry on a conversation at the same time. Clear text was not the Army way of sending messages, however, and GI block printing, not longhand, was the Army's prescribed method for recording the generally four or five letter coded groups.
As we neared our peak training efficiency, all high speed operators having attained the capability of receiving and sending 22 words per minute, we suddenly were challenged with an order which would supposedly change those requirements to 26 words per minute. Wow!!!
Everybody, especially Sgt. BOITOS, went nuts and we spent night and day at the code tables taking code. A steady diet of that old ditty-dah can get to ya!! Pappy was the one to watch - to him this was a challenge -- the rest of us had nothing to prove -- but, he was a telegrapher!!!
As if it was last evening, I can still see Pappy as he struggled with this challenge. Of course, to copy code at any speed one must remain relaxed and retain at least one or two words in the noggin while copying that far behind the transmission. This is not as easy to do with coded text as with clear text (regular words). He would begin very relaxed, very smoothly for about two or three minutes; then his printing would become labored, his strokes jerky, his knuckles would whiten and suddenly he would scratch his pencil across what he had printed, hunch back on the bench for a moment, relax and then start all over again. After many frustrating attempts he would suddenly stand up, throw his pencil, pull off the headphones, slap them heavily on the table and loudly proclaim, "DAMMIT - IT CAN'T BE DONE." Fortunately, it was discovered that the 26 wpm requirement pertained only to copy by mill (that's typewriter in civilian parlance) and did not apply to field operation.
We did receive some transitional training which involved, among other things, climbing telephone-type poles. As I recall, everyone was awarded 3 or 4 attempts at climbing the old practice poles with hooks and belt.
A goodly number of the rookie pole climbers found that going up was relatively easy, but when they would arrive at the top they would suddenly realize they really hadn't discovered how to kick the spurs out and descend properly. Some, unfortunately, would pull their butt to the pole, their spurs would peel out and they would slide down the pole, arriving at the bottom with a chin full of splinters. (Ha-ha time for the old hands.) Of course, we had a few guys who had worked at the pole climbing trade and seemed more at home in the spurs and belt up a pole than on the ground. FRAZIER and LEE had one little practice trick - they'd drop a glove from the top of the pole, kick out their spurs, catch the glove on the way down and kick the spurs back into the pole, stopping their descent about 3 feet above the ground. Fantastic!!!
Range Experiences - Signal
people aren't really supposed to be shooters so we didn't really receive
that much training, but the few days involved did present some fun moments,
Louisiana range conditions - Early morn before daylight, cold, clad in long wool overcoats, board the trucks, out to the range, by daylight it has already warmed considerably and a stiff breeze is blowing dust and sand into one's eyes. The wind, of course, ushers in a torrential downpour which turns the dust into a sea of red mud - before two o'clock in the afternoon it has dried, is hot, and the dust is once again blowing into one's eyes. Louisiana!!!
.03A3 rifle (Springfield 1903 Bolt Action) - rugged old weapons, accurate - just the thing for trying to pick off those live birds that were sitting on some of the unused targets down range - off to the left there.
Also used them for launching grenades. Some more ha ha's when those two respected Sgts. told the other Sgt. to hold the butt of the weapon about three or four inches from his shoulder when he fired it or it would kick. Wow!! Ouch also.
M1 Carbines - The first attempts at qualifying on the weapon most of us were destined to be assigned were almost hilarious - my attempt in particular.
We first fired transitional rounds for zeroing, then record rounds at the reduced range - so far I'm doing fine, fairly good score, move to the extended range, flip the old "L" site to the long range, draw a bead and Pow -- absolutely no response from the pits - ask for a spot on the target - down comes the target, up goes the target - MAGGIES DRAWERS - Spotter confirms that I missed the whole bloomin' target board (and that thing's big as a house). Try one more with the same results. Hey, only one more shell to find that rascal before I fire for record!! Enlisting the help of Lt. FAULK who, incidently, was a crack shot, I handed him the piece and said, "Let's see you hit that target board, sir", to which he replied with that smirkish grin of his, "What do ya mean that target board?" Very sheepishly I told him that I had fired twice and did not strike the target board.
Then he really grinned, took the weapon inserted a shell, assumed the prone position and fired - absolutely no action in the pit - he called for a mark on target 28 - MAGGIES DRAWERS.
"Give me a mark - I want to know where I hit that board!!" - MAGGIES DRAWERS - Prone position, fired again - immediate response from the pit, target lowered, elevated and - MAGGIES DRAWERS - Well, Lt. Faulk arose and with no evidence of grin or smile stalked back to the spotter's phone and I'm sure the boys in the pits heard something like "!!#@*%**/ - I know I didn't score, but I want to know RIGHT NOW where I hit that damned target board."
Down went the board - up went the board and immediately the spotting stick indicated a mark in the lower left hand corner of the target board. One more shot from the prone position - bullseye! As he handed my piece back to me the smirkish grin had returned and talking out the side of his mouth as he did, he said, "Ya see that upper right hand corner of that target board - ya shoot 3 feet to the right and 3 feet above and ya'll hit the bull every time." Obviously I was not going to hit the bull always but his instructions did allow me to be one of the twenty six or so that qualified that first day. Somehow CAPT. BECK was not overly impressed with the number of qualifications (or lack thereof) and was not a bit bashful about letting us know at special formation that "we would be on the range morning, noon and night 'till the company was qualified." With that statement imbedded in our memory banks and armed with 30 caliber pencils the first-day qualifiers manned the targets from the pits and the guys on the firing line the second day qualified in fine fashion.
M1 Garand - Nice weapon. Fired a full course the first day for transition and second day for record. In a friendly competition with Bud HARRIS, I trailed him by some eight points, his advantage having been gained in slow fire. The second day I improved my slow fire score so that I was only down three points going into rapid fire.
I figured "gotcha!" 'til the weapon settled in for the second shot in the standing to kneeling position and look-through the peep I couldn't see the front sight. The foolish thing had fallen off. Joe hammered it back on with a pair of battery pliers - no re-zeroing - end of competition. To those in the pits who had a small wager going, sorry I let you down.
Thompson SubMachine Gun - This was, of course, before the advent of the Grease Gun and there is a dandy story about the guarding of a cryptography session over at Division Signal Office -but I'll leave that for someone else to tell.
Maneuvers and Louisiana Climate - Being 1/3 polar bear and having spent all of my earlier years above the 45th parallel, acclimating to the sweaty, steamy surroundings of the Camp Claiborne area did not come easy for this ole boy.
Especially on maneuvers - at least in camp one could take a shower two, three times a day but on maneuvers it was different. You'd sweat so much that the green fatigues would turn white with body salt and even those little shoats (wild pigs) that wandered the underbrush smelled better than we, I suspect. I've heard tell they occasionally used to set up shower tents on maneuvers but I don't ever recall visiting one. I do recall one real shower when on break. It started to rain, we jumped out of the truck, peeled down to the skin and lathered up in good fashion. No sooner had we done this and it started to hail - that's the gospel - and did it sting!!!
Louisiana creepy crawlies - Back home, about the most bothersome creatures we would encounter in the boonies were black flies and mosquitoes, neither of which were poisonous. Not so in Louisiana I was told - Mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, scorpions, snakes, etc., etc. and lots of them poisonous were told. Strange we didn't even give this a thought when we crashed on the ground to sleep. IMMANUEL WILK identified for me the first scorpion I had ever seen and, of course, this precipitated a little discussion concerning creepy crawlies.
The discussion ended promptly when one of those itty bitty (about 16" long and as big around as my left pinkey) light green tree snakes dropped out of the tree against which Lt. POST's camp chair was resting and directly into his lap -end of discussion about scorpions.
Gordie SWINDELLS, having
erected his mosquito bar one evening, was inside smoothing out the blankets
when he suddenly remarked, "Oooh, look at da pretty snake, look at da pretty
snake." Slim took two long steps to the side of the carryall, retrieved
the fire axe off the side hanger, turned back toward Gordie's mosquito
bar and with one swipe cut that rascal in two. Gordie says, "Oooo,
what 'dya do that for, that was pretty." Slim says, "Yeah, pretty
deadly, that was a coral snake."
ED WHITE toted a king snake back to camp after "D" series, kept it in a two quart jar as I remember and as long as he didn't live in our hutment who cared where he kept the jar??
Vehicular Experiences -
Louisiana topography in the camp and maneuver area was not that much different
than most other states with regard to obstacles presented to truck and
vehicular movement. Military application posed the problems - black-out
drives, driving where there were no roads, camouflaging, digging in the
front end of the hard pan, to name a few.
Two memorable black-out drives come to mind - one was on a truck driver-training run with CHARLIE LITTLE in a jeep - we were whipping along, windshield down and my eyes were watering so much that I saw absolutely nothing from the time we left the camp and we returned.
At one point he asked me
if I wanted to drive and I just said "nope".
Another black-out drive that shook us up slightly was probably the longest we ever made. It took us on one of those sandy two-tracks that traverse the Peason range. The Peason range, some of you will recall, was the rolling plains of burned-over timber land which was heavily infested with humongous yellow pine stumps, two to four feet in diameter and protruding from one to four feet above the ground and also black as a pocket, I might add. We managed to wallop two, both of which brought us up 'astanding.
Digging in - Occasionally during maneuvers we had to dig a ramped depression that would accommodate the front end of our vehicle (supposedly to protect the radiator and engine from damaging enemy fire). That hard pan was tough!! One evening we settled in the scrub oak area, dug the front end in and went to chow. When we returned, we discovered we were too close to the next vehicle, so we moved and dug in again, filling the first hole in the process. As darkness approached, another vehicle moved in and parked very close to us. No, we didn't move again - we were there first. The other vehicle and at least one of its occupants proved quite interesting. Next morning on our return from chow a fellow was leaning against the front fender reading a newspaper from my little whistle stop home town. Sure enough, at least until he revealed that he was with Corps and had been deliberately jamming our radio net lately, here was a friend from home.
Camouflage - More frequently than digging in the truck, we practiced the art of camouflaging with scrub oak branches or whatever. One guy (ART VERNON) was such a master of this art that he hid his truck so well that he couldn't find it himself. For this, he was awarded the opportunity to dig two 6' x 6' x 6' sump pits.
No real serious vehicular problems for our outfit during maneuvers, as I recall - some close ones like pealing off some wooden guard rails off some of those narrow wooden bridges and one flipped carryall.
Maneuver Radio Operation
- Playing at war, of course, gave us lots of time to practice sending and
receiving messages (in Morse code - voice operation was not our bag).
We did use the SCR 195 and some walkie-talkies on occasion, for familiarization
mostly, however. The topography, distances and atmospherics gave
some good experience with actual field conditions. And then, of course,
there were fun times when we acted as decoys for the opposing force's direction
finders or when we would slip into someone elses' net on the sly for a
Windup of Maneuvers - As
the maneuver session wound down it was heading into fall and, believe it
or not, it could get quite cool in the piney woods of Louisiana.
Every time we'd stop long enough to build a fire we would dig a large shallow
pit and do so. Lots of pitch-filled pine stumps to feed the flames.
If there just happened to be one or two of those little shoats wandering
around that weren't quick enough to escape we'd have roast piglet for a
As the fire subsided, we would stroke the embers throughout the pit, cover them with dirt and that became the base on which we slept very cozily.
With the pleasant aroma of pine pitch fires in the air it was "westward ho the wagons" and we were trekking to Camp Howze, Texas.
(1993 Editor's note: See, I told you Gill made a significant contribution!)
OUR MEN: KRAFT
I was drafted December 1942, sent to Fort Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan, then to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
Became part of the Special Troops Battalion, which included the Combat Engineers, Quarter Masters Co., Recon. Troop and the Signal Co. (which I was assigned to) maybe because I worked for Michigan Bell before being drafted. After Basic and Specialist training by many of us, we used all this skill in Division and Army Field maneuvers in Louisiana.
The Signal Co. consisted of Telephones & Telegraph, Radio, Construction, Headquarters and Message Center sections.
In March, 1943 I was sent to Camp Crowder, Mo. for Splicer training till the end of May, then returned to Camp Claiborne, La. for maneuvers.
103d SIGNAL COMPANY REPORT
The 103d Signal Company departed Camp Claiborne, Louisiana along with the 103d Infantry Division for "D" series maneuvers in the vicinity of Woodworth, Louisiana. Returned to Camp Claiborne, 1900, 31 August 1943.
lst Lt. BERNARD BECK took
command of the Signal Company on 10 September 1943.
On 20 September 1943, the 103d Signal Company along the 103d Infantry Division left Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for third Army maneuvers in the vicinity of Leesville, Louisiana. After two months of hard, grueling maneuvers the company departed third Army maneuver area 16 November 43 to assembly area at Merrysville, Louisiana.
Left Merrysville, Louisiana on 19 November 43 at 0748 and arrived Camp Fannin, Texas early on the morning of 20 November 43 and arrived at new station, Camp Howze, Texas at 1745 on 20 November 1943. Other units of the division arrived at various times.
OUR MEN: POST
After graduation Signal Corps Officers' Candidate School, I expected an assignment back into radio intelligence, but I was assigned to the 103d Infantry Division as Radio Officer in April of 1943. I got married on April 18, 1943. I had leave for ten days and then had to report. That was the last time I was in radio intelligence in the army.
I had just come through the radio school. I was well versed on how to run and conduct a school in radio. I began to set up training sessions for all the members of the radio section to enhance their capabilities in voice radio and CW, code. We had a set up in a classroom where they would sit with ear phones, listen to code and write down what they heard. They learned accuracy, number one, and speed, number two.
You had to be able to receive code and send code. We had classes where you'd be trained to send code and someone would hear your code. Eventually we had field sessions where they did it with the actual equipment they used in combat. The radio people were taught the various pieces of equipment they had. The ins and outs of the equipment and all you'd need to know, such as short terms for talking on the radio. Such as "able, baker" for A, B, C and so on. I still know code.
We set up a school for not only the signal company, but also for the whole division. This was for signal people in the infantry regiments and the artillery components. They sent people to these classes. I set it up just prior to my leaving the signal company in June or July 1944.
I was an umpire in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1943. I did amphibious training in Ft. Story, Virginia at the end of 1943, for a week or two.
I did not go overseas with the 103rd. Shortly after D-Day the army needed radio officers in Europe. Without warning I was ordered to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to be sent overseas as a replacement officer. While preparing to leave the 103d, I was asked to take a group of new recruits through the obstacle course.
Foolishly, I ran the course in my oxfords, rather than combat boots. Coming down off of the twelve foot wall my foot hit a rock and my ankle twisted severely. Most of the tendons and ligaments were damaged and I was hospitalized for two months.
(Excerpts from a letter for Sgt. GORDON SWINDELLS to Lt. Clemens POST, Fort Monmouth Regional Hospital.)
OUR MEN: SWINDELLS
...When you left, Lt WILKES took over as radio officer. I have all the respect in the world for Lt Wilkes but in my estimation he couldn't compare with you as a radio officer.
He is a wonderful company commander and we enjoyed his leadership while Captain BECK was gone. Captain Beck is also a fine man, and even though he is a little G.I. at times, he is a fine leader....
Sgt. BOITOS is running the section now and doing a superb job of it. He is a fine leader and I am glad to have a man like that to work for. He is a little rough at times, but that is to be expected. He knows his job and wants us men to know ours...
OUR MEN: NANEY
I went into the service in 1942 and was sent to Camp Grant, Illinois, then on to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, where we got our basic training. We had maneuvers and the whole lot in the Louisiana swamps. I remember going through Arkansas on our way down and can you still see all the good-looking broads along the railroad tracks? Nice, huh. Then we came to Louisiana and we thought we were out of this world, but we survived the first round pretty good. Then came discipline... and I mean discipline. My only grief was SGT. McSEARLY. Remember him? Most of my memories are pretty flat, but one time I recall LT. MITCHELL asking NATOLI if he had a razor (he sure looked wooly). He said, if I recall, "Yes, but no time to use it..."
OUR MEN: BILL ERMELING - 27 September
I am working in the Orderly Room most of the time and do have access to a typewriter and some periods to use it for personal letters.
We are back in camp (Claiborne)
- it is nice in some ways, but devilish in others. It is definitely known
that we are going to some other camp after maneuvers, but where, no one
It is noon chow. For some reason, the mail has not been leaving the maneuver area promptly. In some instance it has been held over a week or more. What the cause is no one knows, but a postal inspector has been sent out to check on the delay.
We have had nothing but rain and damp cold for the past week. I have been wearing long under at night and the better half of the day. This darn country sure has a lousy variety of weather. The natives are the only ones capable of surviving without contracting some disease such as malaria or dying from snakebite. The whole year is a long horrible nightmare.
I will try to give you a picture of what goes on while the division is on tactical maneuvers. At the present time the division is on flag maneuvers. This means just what is says. We have no opposing force, but the umpires place flags in the area of contact. These show which force has fire superiority, who has control of what terrain, and who has a superior force at such and such a place. The C.G. (Commanding General) is given a situation and it is up to him to maneuver his division into a position where he'll have the red force at a disadvantage. On the thirtieth of this month, we'll start the regular maneuvers. But, even on these flag maneuvers, so far, five men ha e been killed through accidents during blackout driving. It is really rough.
The Signal Company, in garrison, is maintained as a company, but as soon as we hit the field it is broken up into smaller units. Each of these small units is attached to one of the combat teams.
(A combat team is compose of one infantry regiment with supporting artillery, an attached section of engineers, Signal Company wire teams and radio teams, and support from a recon troop plus tank destroyers and anti-aircraft.)
The Division CP (Command Post) consists of various generals, the Division Commanding General, Assistant Division Commander, Division Artillery Commanding General, HQ. Commandant, Division Signal Officer, Signal Company HQ, Engineer Co. and supporting Recon, anti-aircraft artillery, and the wire head.
We usually are located five or six miles behind the front lines, but in the modern version of war it's no safer that the main line of defense. Enemy recon penetrate that far and farther and enemy artillery carries much farther.
We have to dig fox holes every place we set up. Sometimes we move every day - it just depends on how far we advance or retrograde. The soil is the hardest damn stuff in the country, most of it being clay mixed with roots. Today a camouflage unit came around and gave us advice as to how to get the most concealment from the surrounding terrain.
All of this typing is being done during a tactical situation, which means blackout regulation. All we have is candle light to work by.
We set up in a tent big enough for a company to drill in. It is a devilish job to put up and sometimes it has to be done several times a day. At night we string our hammocks up inside. There is one center pole to which we attach one end of the hammock. Then we pull the other end trough the corners of the tent. There being four of us, the tension is equally divided between the four hammock going to the four corners of the tent.
OUR MEN: BILL ERMELING - 25 October
An unusual number of rumors have had their run since we've been in the field regarding what camp we would him next. Many felt we'd go back to Claiborne; others thought Livingston or Polk more likely. A few prayed for Fort Sam Houston (the best camp in the entire south) and others for the P.O.E. (Point of Embarkation). But just a day or so ago, a new rumor got off with a bang. The 103d would move to Camp Howze, Texas.
It is believed we'll move out right from the field, but no one knows if the move will be by rail or convoy. I'm not sure which I would rather contend with, a long ride in a G.I. truck or the work of loading the division on flatcars.
All during the training and maneuver period following the initial basic training of the soldiers that joined the division to fill out its full quota of qualified men, men were chosen for special initial or supplementary technical training. Some of this training took place at special training centers away from Camp Claiborne, ie. Fort Monmouth Signal Training Center, etc.
Upon the close of Army maneuvers November 15, the division moved into non tactical bivouac near Merryville, La., and three days later began, by rail and motor march, its permanent change of station to Camp Howze, Texas.
The division closed in Camp Claiborne at 0501 November 23, 1943. The units of the division arrived at Camp Howze at different times because of various times of departure. The Signal Company was a unit that arrived earlier than most.
(1995 Editor's note: during the division reunion in Dallas, a "home coming picnic" and parade had been organized by the people of Gainesville, Texas for us. It included a bus tour of the sight of old Camp Howze. Most of the structures have long since disappeared, only the areas of the water towers were most clearly defined - they gave some of the sharper minds a bearing for finding significant land marks including the Signal Company site.
In the park at Gainseville a dedication of a memorial to the men who had trained and served with the divisions that had past through Camp Howze was held.
It should not be surprising that men who had served at Howze had found roots there and had established families in Gaineswille. Some of them had important positions in the thriving community.
One of these veterans reviewed the history of Camp Howze that forms the basic part of the following.)
Camp Howze was one of many
temporary U.S.ARMY training camps that sprang up during the mobilization
period just before and after the United States entered the war after Pearl
Harbor Day, December 7,1941. Most locations were chosen to be away
from population centers in the states west of the Mississippi River; Texas,
Louisiana and California had several each.
Howze was located on the plains and gently rolling hills south of the Red River that formed the Texas- Oklahoma border. The nearest town was Gainesville, Texas. The most attractive population center was Denton, Texas a few miles farther south.
Denton was the site of the North Texas State Teachers College (NTSC) and Texas State College for Women (TSCW). All of the student body at TSCW and most of the student body at coeducational NTSC were young, attractive, charming, southern ladies. It was a popular setting for the soldiers seeking various types of knowledge, carnal and otherwise.
The first men to be trained at Camp Howze were in the 84th Infantry Division, that had been reactivated at the beginning of World War II after having been inactive since its service in France during the first World War.
These men came into a camp that was still in the processing of being made livable for normal human beings - an ongoing effort that was never really accomplished until possibly some time after the last of the 103d Division had left for a "European Interlude".
In August of 1942, the 84th surely must have had all of the problems and discomfort and much more to complain about than did the next division, the 86th that rushed in just as the 84th was hurriedly sent off to try to improve the war effort.
The cadre of the 86th, the Black Hawk Division arrived in November of 1942 to take advantage of whatever carryover lessons they could get from the departing 84th officers and non-commissioned officers.
In January,1943 the very young men, 17 and 18 years old recruits who formed the "Kid Division" started their training at Howze and then a stretch of field maneuvers in Louisiana before being shipped to Camp Pendleton in California in preparation for duty in the Pacific Theater.
The overall Allied strategy dictated that the war in Europe should be given priority, so the 86th was redirected to the east coast and sent to France to become part of General Patton's 3rd Army fight force.
In November 1943 the 103d Infantry Division, the last division to train there, arrived at Camp Howze after a motor march from Camp Claiborne and the Louisiana Maneuver Area where they had been in training.
The combination of the tar-paper walls and the inefficient, smelly, dirty coal heating made the winter of 1943 at Camp Howze almost as pleasant as the winter of 1944 in the Vosge mountains of France.
But, the nearness of Denton with its ample supply of college girls seeking educational opportunities and Dallas (BIG D.) which had everything did make the off duty hours more bearable - some said "really enjoyable".
The many Service Clubs at Howze had plenty of girls at the week-end socials, enough to even draw out the bashful "wall flower" soldiers. There were lots of young fellows in the army, most of them away from home and family for the very first time. The aggressive training of the duty hours - eye gouging, groin kicking, etc. just didn't seem to have been much help in social situations.
In the 9 months at Howze many romances blossomed and many military weddings took place in the 11 Unit Chapels of the camp.
Almost every home in Gainesville took in an army wife, with or without kitchen privileges. Many solders "went home" every evening for whatever domestic life that was possible.
There was less "aid and comfort" for the single soldiers in Gainesville with its small cafes and a few meeting places, a stone-dry town. There were two USO (United Service Organization) meeting and entertainment halls that did help but it just didn't compare to the action and excitement of Oklahoma City to the north or Dallas to the south.
OUR MEN: BILL ERMELING - December
This Camp Howze has marvelous recreational facilities. There are two service clubs which have dances every Sat. and on Monday nights, free sew nights (they sew patches, etc. on).
There are stage productions by a group from either Dallas or Denton, and juke box dancing anytime.
Howze is really centrally located. We're only two hours from Ft Worth and Dallas, 30 miles from Denton the home of 3000 girls going to school at Texas State College for Women, and seven miles from Gainsville. Prices are very reasonable and transportation facilities are excellent. The Texas women are as beautiful as rumored and the shortage of men is so acute that women actually ask us for dates.
It is windy as hell and the barracks (34 men in each) are anchored to the ground (with cement blocks sunk in about 2 ft.) by three guy cables on each side of every building. Draw your own conclusions!
UNIT HISTORY - CONTINUE
The first phase of post-maneuver training began November 29, 1943. The 103d Signal Company went through three phases of post maneuver training. During the third phase dual training was initiated to permit two or more men to do each specialized job in the company......
CAPTAIN GALLAGHER was assigned to the division as assistant Division Signal Officer on 13 June 1944; he came from the 67th Signal battalion, Camp Bowie, Texas.
Howze, Texas 11 August 1944
1. Original Unit
a. Designation - 103d Signal Company.
b. Date of organization - 24 June 1921.
c. Place of organization - Eighth Corps Area.
d. Authority for organization - Unknown.
e. Sources from which personnel obtained - Organized Reserves.
2. Changes in Organization
(1) Unit - 103d Signal Company.
(2) Place - Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
(3) Date - 15 November 1942.
b. Stations (permanent or temporary)
(1) Arrived Camp Claiborne, La., 15 November 1942.
(2) Departed Camp Claiborne, La., 15 September 1943.
(3) Arrived Louisiana Maneuver Area, 17 September
(4) Departed Louisiana Maneuver Area, 19 November 1943
arriving 1745, 20 November 1943.
(5) Arrived Camp Howze, Texas, 20 November 1943
(1) Change of Station.
(2) Length of march - 344 miles.
(3) Motor March from Merrysville, La. to Camp Howze, Texas, leaving at 0748,
19 November 1943 arriving 1745, 20 November 1943.
(4) Condition of roads and weather, good.
d. Campaigns - None.
e. Battles - None.
f. Commanding officers in important engagements - None.
g. Losses in action - None.
h. Former and present members who have distinguished themselves in action - None.
/s/Julius S. Sedensky
JULIUS S. SEDENSKY
1st Lt, Sig C.