The 97th Infantry Division
During World War II
As a result of
the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the German and
Italian declaration of war on the United States four days later, American
military officials were confronted with the difficult task of fighting a war on
two fronts. The War Department commenced a program of enlarging the Armed
Forces as rapidly as possible. Army planners estimated that the war probably
would require 100 divisions. These divisions would consist of citizen-soldiers
led by officers of the regular Army, the Officers' Reserve Corps, the National
Guard, or the Officer Candidate School program. During 1942 and the early part
of 1943. Organized Reserve divisions were called to active duty as soon as
training facilities, personnel, supplies and equipment became available.
The 97th Infantry Division was reactivated on
February 25, 1943 at Camp Swift, Texas. The Trident Division's first commander
during World War II was Major General Louis A. Craig, brother of former Army
Chief of Staff, General Malin Craig. The cadre consisted of over 600 trained
officers and enlisted personnel, most of whom came from the 95th Infantry
Division stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. After completing the basic
training at Camp Swift, the Division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers
during the fall and winter of 1943-1944. The grueling training in the bayous,
swamplands, and burned-out stump forests of Louisiana increased the stamina of
the soldiers and strengthened their military skills. The weather that winter
was terrible. The sleet, rain, and snow turned dirt roads into quagmires. The
Christmas services under leaden December skies were long remembered by the
soldiers of the Division. The Louisiana Maneuver area served as a proving
ground. During those four months, the men of the Division learned to sleep on
the ground, live in wet clothes, and value comradeship, but above all, they
became tough and proficient soldiers.
On January 23, 1944, Brigadier General Milton B
Halsey assumed command of the 97th Infantry Division. He became the only
general to command the Trident Division in combat. After graduating from the
United States Military Academy at West Point in April 1917, he served with
troops on the Mexican border and saw service overseas during World War I. Some
of General Halsey's important prewar assignments included service on the War
Department General Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of Supply and
Personnel for the 8th Corps area, and Chief of Staff of the 29th Infantry
Division. General Halsey went on to lead the 97th Infantry Division through two
phases of training, overseas movement, and two major campaigns in the European
Theater of Operations. He was considered congenial but firm, and also dynamic,
yet cool and levelheaded under pressure. He placed great emphasis on
discipline, training and professionalism. Throughout the Division the "Old
Man" became known for his genuine personal interest in the soldiers who
wore the Trident patch.
Because of his exceptional military competence
and concern for his men. General Halsey was seen by his troops as a leader who
could accomplish a mission with minimum bloodshed. Because of his success
during the training phases and combat operations in Europe, General Halsey has
a unique place in the history of the 97th Infantry Division.
In February 1944 the Division was moved to Fort
Leonard Wood, Missouri for additional training. While at Fort Leonard Wood, the
Division was inspected by Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson,
accompanied by Congressman Dewey M. Short of Missouri. Mr. Patterson and Congressman
Short spent the day observing and participating in training and reviewing the
97th Infantry Division at its first formal review on the post. Both gentlemen
were very favorably impressed by the Division's training record and overall
War Department officials decided that the 97th
would receive amphibious training and then be sent is the Pacific for
operations against the Japanese. In July 1944 the Division relocated to Camp
San Luis Obispo, California, near Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. Under the
supervision of the Navy and Marine Corps, the Division began training for
amphibious operations. Realistic amphibious training and exercises took place
at Camp Callan, Coronado Strand, San Clemente Island, San Nicolas Island and
Camp Pendleton. In September 1944 the 97th was transferred to Camp Cooke,
California, situated directly on the Pacific Ocean, about 30 miles north of
Santa Barbara. At this location, instructors from the Navy and Marine Corps
provided further amphibious training. Units of the Division became skillful in
amphibious landings and the establishment of beachheads. By the end of 1944 the
Trident Division had been training for a period of almost two years and was in
a relatively high state of readiness.
Although the 97th was one of the best trained
divisions in the Army, it had to deal with the problem of having substantial
numbers of its soldiers transferred to other units. For example, in 1944
approximately 5,000 soldiers were "stripped" from the Division while
is was undergoing training a Fort Leonard Wood. Some of these men were sent as
far away as the China-Burma-India Theater where they were assigned to Merrill's
Marauders, an American unit that fought remarkably well against the Japanese in
the jungles of Burma. However, most of the soldiers transferred from the
Division went to Europe. The "stripping" process had a negative
effect on strength levels, morale and military effectiveness.
These problems were overcome to a certain extent
by the high quality of many of the replacements and additional training. In
1943 the War Department had tens of thousands of highly intelligent enlisted
personnel participating is the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and
aviation cadet training, Soldiers in the ASTP studied engineering,
communications, optics, and other subjects at colleges and universities before
reporting to their units. Aviation cadets were trained to become fliers or
serve in technical and mechanical positions. Because of manpower shortages, the
War Department in 1944 dissolved the ASTP and drastically curtailed the
aviation cadet training program. Over 73,000 ASTP trainees and 24,000 aviation
cadets were assigned to the Army Ground Forces. The 97th Division was fortunate
that many of its replacements came from these sources of high-quality
In the fall of 1944, while undergoing amphibious
training in California, the Division was notified that it would be sent to the
Far East in December. The men of the 97th began preparations for overseas
movement. The War Department later changed the embarkation date to early
January 1945. In the middle of December, these plans were abruptly altered. On
December 16, 1944 in an attempt to cut the Allied Forces in two, the German
Army launched a massive offensive through Belgium's Ardenne Forest. This
offensive became known as the Battle of the Bulge because of the large bulge in
the front lines. By the middle of January, American units had retaken most of
the ground they had lost, but suffered approximately 75,000 casualties. Because
of the high number of American casualties during the Battle of the Bulge,
several American units earmarked for the Pacific, including the 97th Infantry
Division, were ordered to the European Theater of Operations for the final
assault on Nazi Germany.
The Division traveled to the east coast by train,
arriving on February 13, 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. On February 19 about
14,000 men of the 97th Infantry Division departed from New York in a large
convoy of ships. German submarines were still operating in the Atlantic ocean.
On several occasions during the voyage, destroyers had to drop depth charges in
order to prevent enemy submarines from attacking the convoy. On March 1 the
Division arrived at La Havre, France and proceeded to a nearby staging area
called Camp Lucky Strike. The 97th left Camp Lucky Strike on March 27. On the
following day the Division crossed the German border a few miles west of
Aachen. A short time later it passed through the streets of that battered city.
In early April the Trident Division became involved in a major offensive
operation in the Rhur area.
Although the industrial importance of the Rhur
had been greatly diminished by heavy bombing raids in early 1945, Army Group B,
consisting of about 350,000 German soldiers, still defended the region as the
American forces approached. The Battle of the Rhur Pocket was one of the last
major battles of World War II. Over 825,000 American and German soldiers fought
in the Rhur. Three American Armies (the First, the Ninth, and the Fifteenth)
were involved in the liquidation of the Rhur pocket. Seventeen American
Divisions, including the 97th, fought in this battle which took place during
the period from April 1, when the pocket was closed by the junction of the
First and Ninth Armies in the vicinity of Lippstadt, to April 19, when the last
resistance took place near the Rhur River. After the battle was over, more than
325,000 Germans, including 30 general officers, were prisoners of war. The
senior German commander in the Rhur pocket, Field Marshal Walther Model,
reportedly committed suicide rather than surrender. With the defeat of the Army
Group B, Germany lost control of the war, and from that time on was only able
to offer token opposition to the advancing Allied forces.
During the battle of the Rhur Pocket, American
infantrymen faced several levels of enemy resistance. Sometimes the Germans
offered only slight or token opposition and then quickly surrendering. Advancing
American units frequently encountered moderate and stiff resistance prior to
enemy capitulation. SS troops, members of an elite military unit of the Nazi
party, usually fought to the death.
Combat operations in the Rhur took place in the
cities, villages, forests, and hilly and level rural areas. American
infantrymen had to be prepared to cross rivers and canals quickly and fight in
all types of terrain. The Germans did not resort to trench warfare or a solid
defense line in the Rhur. They used a strongpoint system of defense. These
fortified positions were made more formidable by the presence of 88mm guns. The
German 88mm gun was the single most famous artillery piece used in World War
II. These guns were very effective as anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and
anti-personnel weapons. Because the Rhur had been a prime target of allied
bombers, many 88mm guns were located throughout the area. The strongpoint
defense system was designed to enable the Germans to pull back from one
strongpoint to another, and then inflict heavy casualties on the attacking
forces. Generally, the enemy fought a careful and often skillful delaying
action. The effective use of strongpoints, the 88mm guns, understrength but
veteran infantry units, and the presence of SS troops help explain why some
American units sustained relatively high casualties. The Battle of the Rhur
Pocket was not a simple and easy mopping-up operation.
The 97th Division's first assignment in Germany
was to occupy defensive positions along the western bank of the Rhine River
opposite Dusseldorf. While in this location, Division infantrymen were involved
in small unit actions with German patrols. A few Nazi soldiers were killed or
captured. The Division Artillery Commander was Brigadier German Sherman V.
Hasbrouck, a 1920 graduate of the Unit4ed States Military Academy at West
Point. His four field artillery battalions, the 303rd, 365th, 389th, and 922nd,
fired across the Rhine destroying gun emplacements, road junctions, and
military installations. The 97th was soon on the move to join other divisions involved
in the early phase of the Battle of the Rhur Pocket.
The Division moved south, crossing the Rhine near
Bonn. Its mission was to establish positions on the southern bank of the Sieg
River which runs at a right angle to the Rhine, and be prepared for offensive
operations. Along the southern bank of the Sieg River to the right of the 97th
were the 78th, 8th, and 86th Infantry Divisions, The 13th Armored Division was
in reserve and would be committed once the terrain was suitable. These divisions
formed the XVIII Airborne Corps which was commanded by Major General Matthew B.
Ridgway, a 1917 graduate of the United States Military Academy. General Ridgway
and General Halsey were classmates at West Point.
On the northern bank of the Sieg River, XVIII
Corps faced understrength elements of four German Divisions identified as the
59th, 62nd, 363rd, and 11th Panzer Divisions. More than a dozen additional
enemy division. most of them understrength, were also trapped in the Rhur
pocket. Located throughout the pocket were elements of many types of enemy
units including airborne, armored, SS, anti-aircraft, etc. The mission of XVIII
Corps, and III Corps to the east, was to clear all territory south of the Rhur
River. The mission of the 97th Infantry Division was to cross the Sieg River in
coordination with the other infantry divisions of the XVIII Corps and attack
north towards Dusseldorf.
On April 6 at 5:00a.m., the Corps launched its
attack across the Sieg River. The 97th Infantry Division on the left and the
86th on the right maintained their defensive positions as the veteran 8th and
78th divisions crossed the river in assault boats and established positions on
the northern bank. The next day all four Divisions were on the move.
In the 97th Infantry Division’s sector, bridges
across the Sieg River had been destroyed or seriously damaged. Initially,
engineer assault boats had to be used by the infantry to cross the river. At
11:00 a.m. on April 7, all four field artillery battalions began a one-hour
bombardment of enemy positions on the northern bank. The supporting fire made
it possible for units of the 386th Infantry Regiment (Combat Team) to cross the
river in assault boats, receiving only small arms fire. Causalities were
negligible. The high level of training had paid off. During the next two days,
units of the 387th and 303rd Infantry Regiments crossed the Sieg. Most units
met only light resistance crossing the river. A few companies received heavy
enemy machine guns, mortar, and artillery. Some of the machine gun fire came
from a castle on the northern bank. The castle was soon hit by mortar and
artillery fire. Enemy fire from several other positions on the high ground on
the northern bank continued to hit one of the crossing areas. After a vicious
fight, infantry units of the 387th neutralized the enemy positions.
This action facilitated the work of the
engineers. Lieutenant Colonel Erland A. Tillman, commander of the 322nd
Engineer Battalion, was responsible for building an adequate number of bridges
to accommodate the flow of supplies and reinforcements across the Sieg River.
During the first five days of the operation, the 322nd, assisted by other
engineer units, constructed five treadway bridges, two infantry support bridges,
and six infantry support rafts. In addition, two seriously damaged bridges were
repaired, and a damaged railroad bridge was repaired and planked.
Once across the Sieg river, the infantry began
their coordinated drive toward Dusseldorf. The first objective of the 303rd
Infantry Regiment was clearing enemy units from the city if Siegburg, located
near the northern bank of the Sieg River. The artillery began the operation by
firing on suspected German positions in the city. Units of the 303rd entered Siegburg
on April 9 and initially encountered very light resistance.
Sniper fire increased as the Americans advanced
through parts of the city. Then several units of the elite German 3rd Parachute
Regiment and a few determined SS troops opened fire. Using small arms, machine
guns, and grenades, soldiers of the 303rd aggressively attacked the enemy
troops, street by street, house by house. Despite fierce resistance by the
Germans, by nightfall Siegburg was under American control.
The next morning the 303rd continued its drive
toward the north. Company G, commanded by Captain Thomas W. Mellen, attacked
the Glockner Works, a machine factory complex at Troisdorf, near Siegburg. The
company ran into stiff resistance. Several men were killed or wounded. After
reinforcements arrived, Company G resumed the attack with a frontal attack on
the main building. As the American soldiers entered the building. the enemy
troops retreated through holes in the floor, created by sliding lathes, and
went down as deep as four floors beneath the ground level. Firefights took
place in tunnels and rooms under the factory building. Finally, flame-throwers
had to be used against the Nazi to force them to surrender.
The 386th Infantry Regiment also had to overcome
stiff resistance at a number of enemy strongpoints in the advance northward.
Perhaps the most dramatic action involving the 386th was the assault on the
small town of Drabenderhohe, a communications center and roadnet hub. The town
was located on a high hill defended by 88s, 20mm guns, 40mm dual purpose flak
guns, small arms, and automatic weapons. Company C, commanded by Captain
Llwellyn R. Johnson, was given the job of taking the town.
On April 12, the 1st and 3rd platoons attacked
strong enemy positions defending the approach to Drabenderhohe. A number of
soldiers were seriously wounding by withering enemy fire. The extraordinary
courage, leadership, and determination of Private First Class Joe R. Hastings,
a squad leader of a light machine gun section, helped clear the path for the
company's advance into Drabenderhohe. Hastings was killed four days later in
another action. for his exceptional heroism on April 12, Hastings was awarded
the Medal of Honor posthumously. He was the only member of the 97th Infantry
Division to be awarded the nation's highest decoration for valor. A copy of Hastings’s
citation is included in this booklet.
After artillery fire on Drabenderhohe, Company C
attacked the town, but after a short, fierce battle, was thrown back with heavy
casualties. German positions on the high ground were then subjected to an
exceptionally heavy artillery and mortar barrage. This effectively neutralized
most of the enemy's firepower. Captain Johnson moved out in front of his troops
and led the advance over 1,500 yards of fire-swept terrain in the attack that
took the town. He was awarded the silver star for his action.
The combat experiences of the 387th Infantry
Regiment as it advanced in the central sector of the Division front were
relatively similar to those of the 303rd and 386th Infantry Regiments. On some
occasions the enemy offered stiff resistance in wooded areas and small towns.
These strongpoints were overcome by the courage, skill, determination, and
firepower of the 387th and its supporting artillery.
By April 14 enemy resistance was beginning to
disintegrate throughout the Rhur pocket. After clearing Spiegburg and Glockner
Works at Troisdorf, the 303rd Infantry Regiment advanced northward against very
light resistance. On April 14, the 303rd approached Leverkusen, site of the
I.G. Farben Industry, one of the world’s largest chemical works. After the
artillery bombarded the town, the infantry closed in, but met almost no
resistance. Within a few hours the 303rd continued its advance northward,
leaving the industrial center a pile of smoldering rubble.
Thousands of German soldiers began surrendering.
Division artillery was given the responsibility for handling the large number
of prisoners who were beginning to clog the roads. General Halsey was concerned
about maintaining adequate communications and transportation behind the
On April 16 all three infantry regiments crossed
the Wupper River. The next day the 386th captured Solingen, headquarters of a large
manufacturer of cutlery, without incident. The 386th and 387th pressed on to
the Rhine River to eliminate any possible escape route for German forces left
in the Division's sector. The 303rd advanced through Hilden to the outskirts of
Dusseldorf, the final objective of the Division. In better days this large
industrial city of 500,000 inhabitants had been the economic, political, and
cultural center of the Rhur area. As the 303rd approached the city and began
preparations for an attack, a "free" movement gained momentum within
Dusseldorf. The purpose of this political group was to salvage the remnants of
the once proud industrial center. Lieutenant Colonel Victor M. Wallace,
commander of the 3rd Battalion, received official credit for the capture of Dusseldorf.
On April 16 the Battalion established a command post in the outskirts of the
city. Representatives of the "free" movement visited the command post
and promised to surrender the city without further assistance. General Halsey
and elements of the 3rd Battalion entered Dusseldorf and went directly to the
police presidio, headquarters of the Gestapo and city police. After a brief discussion,
Dusseldorf formally surrendered.
After operations in the Rhur pocket were
completed, the 97th Infantry Division was quickly transferred to the Third Army
sector along the Czechoslovakian border. On April 23, 1945 the division, under
control of XII corps, opened its command post at Wunsiedel, Germany. Its
mission was to help protect the left flank of the Third Army as it advanced
southeast to attack enemy forces in southern Germany and Austria. The first
objective of the Trident Division was to seize the city of Cheb, located just
inside the Czechoslovakian border. Cheb was the site of the communications and
administration center, a war factory, and a large airport.
As the 97th prepared for the invasion of
Czechoslovakia, Flossenburg concentration camp was discovered in the Division's
sector of the Bavarian forest. Established in 1938, Flossenburg was originally
used for political prisoners. By World War II, it had become an important
forced-labor center housing 30,000-40,000 worker-prisoners in the main camp and
several satellite facilities. Flossenburg was operated under the supervision of
SS troops. Later in the war, Flossenburg also served as a transit camp for Jews
detained for extermination camps.
When American troops arrived at the gates of
Flossenburg, they discovered about 2,000 extremely ill prisoners and scores of
unburied corpses inside the compound. The Division rushed medical personnel to
Flossenburg and initiated a preliminary war crimes investigation. Shortly
before the liberation of the camp, approximately 15,000 prisoners had been
force-marched to other camps. In addition to many shallow graves of prisoners
shot during the forced march, American soldiers discovered mass graves in the
area around Flossenburg. The Americans learned that thousands of people had
died at Flossenburg from starvation, disease, and at the hands of Nazi
executioners. Some prominent individuals were murdered at this camp. For
example, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a well-known Lutheran clergyman and
outspoken anti-Nazi, was executed at Flossenburg about a week before the
arrival of American troops. General Hasbrouck, the first senior American
military officer to arrive at the camp, was shocked by what he saw and learned.
The general, who spoke German fluently, directed a local official to have all
able-bodied men and older boys help bury the dead. Photographs, transcripts of
interviews, and other evidence of war crimes were collected and forwarded to
appropriate military authorities. Allied soldiers and the people of the world
were beginning to understand the magnitude of the atrocities committed during
the period of the Third Reich.
On April 25 regiments of the 97th Infantry
Division, supported by armored units, invaded Czechoslovakia and advanced
toward Cheb. Division headquarters, however, remained on the German border.
Intelligence reports indicated that the 97th might encounter elements of the
2nd Panzer Division, which by coincidence also had a Trident as its insignia.
Some units of the 97th met only light opposition while others advanced against
considerable resistance including 88s, minefields, small arms fire, roadblocks,
and booby traps. The effective use of infantry, artillery, armor, and engineers
forced the enemy to retreat westward. Nine hours after the attack began, units
of the 97th were in Cheb. The enemy garrison had withdrawn to the east. Only
snipers and a few small units remained in Cheb. Most of these enemy soldiers
escaped during the night. On April 26 all resistance in the city ceased. Cheb
was the first Czechoslovakian city liberated by American forces. On April 28
units of the 387th Infantry Regiment, supported by artillery and armor,
attacked and secured the Cheb airport. More than 600 prisoners were taken in a
brief engagement. American casualties were very light.
Division units on April 29 were ordered to shift
a few miles southwest to the area near Weiden Germany. On April 30 the Trident
Division came under the control of V Corps. The broad mission remained the
protection of the left flank of the Third Army. Corps plans called for
coordinated infantry and armored attack toward Pilsen, and anticipated eventual
contact with the advancing Russian forces. By late April, German resistance was
disintegrating throughout Europe. In early May, Russian forces were in control
of Berlin; Hitler was reported dead. In this setting, V Corps began the attack.
The 97th had the 1st Infantry Division on its
left flank and the 2nd Infantry Division on its right. The Trident Division's
drive to Pilsen, which began on May 5, encountered very little resistance.
Fearing harsh treatment at the hands of the Russians, German soldiers
surrendered in large numbers to American units. More than 10,000 prisoners were
taken by the 97th during the first 14 hours of the assault. The Division drove
deeply into Czechoslovakia halting northwest of Pilsen. General Halsey had the
Division headquarters moved to Tachov. The 97th became the first American
division to establish a command post in Czechoslovakia. The command post was
later moved east to Konstantinovy Lazne. Acting on orders from V Corps, the
16th Armored Division passed through the lines of the 97th Infantry Division
and entered Pilsen on May 6 as liberators. Some units of the 97th also went
into the city later that day.
On May 7 all American units were directed to halt offensive operations pending announcement that the war in Europe was officially ended. Although there were violations, both sides observed a general cease-fire. On the same day Lieutenant General Karl Weisenberger, commander of German XIII Corps, formally surrendered at the headquarters of the 97th Infantry Division after preliminary arrangements had been made by Colonel William D. Long, commander of the 387th Infantry Regiment. General Weisenberger had learned from his intelligence sources that General Hasbrouck spoke German, and asked to meet with him. In a brief conversation, the enemy commander complimented General Hasbrouck on the discipline and other professional qualities of his troops. On Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, May 8, contact was made with a Russian patrol several miles north of Pilsen near the town of Zlutice.
Soldiers of the 97th Infantry Division were involved in some of the last hostile actions to take place in the European Theater of Operations. For example, Private First Class Domenic Mozzetta of Company B, 387th Infantry Regiment, fired at a German sniper in the woods near Klenovic Czechoslovakia shortly before midnight on May 7, 1945. Another incident took place on V-E Day. As the men of the Trident Division waited for the official announcement that the war in Europe was over, a lone German fighter plane swooped down and strafed the command post of the 3rd Battalion, 303rd Infantry Regiment. The defense fire against this plane was among the last official combat action in the European conflict.
On V-E Day, religious services were conducted throughout the 97th Infantry Division area. General Halsey issued the following statement:
"Though the combat history of this division has been relatively short, the part we played in bringing about the downfall of German forces on all fronts has been of utmost importance. You, as members of the division, can look back for many years and say, 'The Trident was on the march when the bell rang.'
Even as we rejoice in victory, however, there is sadness in our hearts, for the road through he Rhur Pocket and into Czechoslovakia is marked by crosses bearing of our comrades who valiantly and unselfishly gave their lives that the cause of freedom might endure and flourish.
We thank the merciful Almighty God for the victory he has given us in Europe. Let us remember Him. On Sunday, May 13, 1945, let us join the millions of thankful people the world over in worship
In our hearts we pray that God will remain with us in the tasks that lie ahead, for the division as a unit and for each and every one of us as individuals. What lies ahead for the wearers of the Trident, I cannot say, but the Trident Division will be at the right place, at the right time, and with a military record that justifies the pride and loyalty of all its members."
Various units of the 97th held special memorial services after V-E Day to honor men killed in Germany and Czechoslovakia.
The Division remained in postwar Czechoslovakia for a few days, and them was ordered back to Germany. On May 15 the Division command post was established in an old castle at Memmelsdorf in the vicinity of Bamberg. The soldiers of the Division learned that they would soon be ordered back to the United States, given thirty-day furloughs, and then sent to the Pacific to participate in the invasion of the Japanese home islands. In late May the men of the Trident Division traveled by truck convoy to Camp Old Gold located near Yerville, France. In the middle of June, the 97th shipped out of Le Havre on the Brazil and several other troopships. In the latter part of June, the Trident Division arrived in New York, received a grand welcome home from the fireboats and the civilian populace, and proceeded by train to Camp Shanks, near Nyack, New York. The soldiers then received thirty-day furloughs.
The officers and enlisted men of the 97th Infantry Division reassembled at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the first few days of August. At Fort Bragg, soldiers prepared baggage and equipment for travel to Fort Lawton, Washington. They received orientation for duty in the Pacific and a very limited amount of training. On August 6 an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, Nagasaki became the target of the second atomic bomb. Within a few days, Japan surrendered. For the soldiers of the Trident Division, Victory over Japan (V-J) Day, August 15, was an occasion for great rejoicing. If the soldiers of the 97th had to go to Japan, it was better to go as an occupation force. On August 19 units began to leave Fort Bragg for the west coast. It took almost a week for the troop trains to cross the country. In late August and early September, units of the 97th Infantry Division left Fort Lawton, boarded ships to Seattle, and sailed for Japan. On September 2, while some units were preparing to leave for Seattle, Japanese formally surrendered on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
The Trident Division served as part of the occupation forces in Japan from the latter part of September 1945, through the end of March 1946, when it was inactivated. Major General Herman F. Kramer was the commander during this period. After leaving the Division, General Halsey went on to serve successfully in other assignments. Halsey received the Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his achievements as the wartime commander of the 97th Infantry Division. Before assuming command of the 97th on September 17, 1945, General Kramer had commanded the 66th Infantry Division and served as the military governor of Coblenz, Germany. General Kramer was fortunate to have Brigadier General Frank H. Partridge as the assistant division commander. General Partridge, an officer with extensive military experience, was the only individual to serve in this position during the training, combat, and occupation periods. Because of his experience, leadership ability, and very likable personality, Partridge was an asset to Craig, Halsey, and Kramer. Because he had been with the Division since the days at Camp Swift, Partridge was a valuable source of information and provided a sense of continuity to the command.
General Kramer and some elements of the Division arrived at Yokohama on September 24, 1945. The Division command post opened the following day at Miizugahara Airfield, located about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo. The 97th was assigned to XI Corps of the Eighth Army. Disposition of the Division's units for occupation duty began gradually, and by December the 97th had reached its maximum deployment. Units of the Division occupied six prefectures or provinces: Saitama, Gumma, Niigata, Nagano, Fukushima, and Tochigi. The terrain in the prefectures varied from rugged mountains to flat plains. The Trident Division was responsible for an area of more than 21,000 square miles having a population of approximately 12.000,000. This area is roughly equivalent to the land area of West Virginia. The size of the population is about equal to that of Pennsylvania.
During the occupation period, the Division's primary task was the confiscation and disposal of Japanese military weapons and equipment. Substantial quantities of small arms were collected and dumped in the ocean. Military aircraft n ammunition, and equipment were destroyed. Special teams collected and inventoried equipment, documents, and other items thought to have military intelligence value. Troops guarded Japanese military installations, airfields, railroad facilities, radio stations, and factories that had not been destroyed during the war. Food, gasoline, and clothing belonging to the Japanese military were turned over to Japanese officials for distribution to civilians. The engineers helped repair roads, bridges, school buildings, and some other public facilities. Division personnel were actively involved in humanitarian projects such as helping to provide medical treatment and food for orphans and other needy people. The 97th also located tons of silver bars and coins. These valuable assets were shipped to the Bank of Japan in Tokyo.
The Japanese people were cooperative and very respectful. During the entire initial phase of organizing the Division's occupational zones there were no incidents of resistance or sabotage. The only troublesome occurrences reported during the early months of the occupation were a few isolated attempts by individual Japanese to steal food, fuel, or clothing. These cases were delta with immediately and firmly, and there were no undo complications. Considering the overall circumstances, the relations between the Japanese people in the six prefectures and the occupation force developed remarkable well. Vindictiveness and cruelty were absent. The 97th Infantry Division performed its occupation duties in a highly professional and frequently benevolent manner.
After the Japanese surrender, the United States rapidly demobilized. The occupation of Japan proceeded very smoothly. It became clear that a large occupation force of citizen-soldiers was not needed. There was also political pressure to bring troops home. The War Department decided to inactivate the 97th Infantry Division in Japan effective March 31, 1946. During the first three months of the new year, units and individual soldiers were ordered home and discharged. On the specified date, the Trident flag was furled and returned to the United States.
The spirit of the Trident Division during World War II can be partially grasped by understanding the character of some of the men who served in the unit and the events that dramatically affected their lives. The heroism of Hastings and Johnson at Drabenderhole has already been described. Three other events help provide further understanding of the essential character and strength of the men who wore the Trident patch.
In the assault on the Glockner Works at Troisdorf, one platoon was immediately cut off as it entered a building in the factory complex. A firefight developed in which several soldiers of the platoon were killed or wounded. The platoon's position was untenable. For Sergeant Leslie Fishman, the solution to the problem was obvious: the Germans should surrender.
Sergeant Fishman and Second Lieutenant W. Christianson, a company officer who was cut off with the platoon, persuaded Nazi soldiers to lead them to the officer in charge. While admitting that they were hopelessly surrounded, Fishman and Christianson warned the enemy officer that an American battalion would soon be in position to attack the Glockner Works and that the wisest course of action would be for the Germans to surrender immediately. Within a short period of time, six German officers and 170 enlisted men were prisoners of Lieutenant Christianson and Sergeant Fishman. The courage, initiative, and determination illustrated by this example were attributes of many of the men in the Division.
The second incident provides insight into the fine relationship, particularly the sense of loyalty, that existed between General Hasbrouck and his enlisted personnel. During the operations against Cheb, General Hasbrouck came forward in his jeep with his aide to observe an artillery bombardment. He and his aid left the jeep and set out on foot for the high ground for a better view. Although the general did not know it, there were German patrols in the area. After observing the bombardment, the general returned to find his driver, Private First Class Leslie I. Brooke, and his vehicle had disappeared. At this time the general and his aide came under fire from a German patrol. General Hasbrouck and his aide defended themselves with their pistols, and sensibly withdrew toward an American position with the Germans in pursuit. Although they used up all their ammunition, both officers made it back safely. Determined to find out the fate of his driver, General Hasbrouck borrowed a rifle squad; returned to the contested area; located his driver's carbine; subdued a small village; and learned that his driver and vehicle had been captured and were out of reach. At the end of the war the Germans released Brooke unharmed. Commenting on this event, Colonel William D. Long, commander of the 387th Infantry Regiment, wrote.
"We took pride in the fact that our division artillery commander was one of the few general officers who had ever expended his twenty-one rounds of pistol ammunitions with genuinely serious intent."
The seizure of a bridge during the Rhur operation by two members of the 32nd Engineer Battalion provided further insight into the fighting spirit of the Trident Division. Captain David P. Hale and his jeep driver, while on reconnaissance, encountered an intact Class 70 bridge. They were unaware that the bridge was defended by 80 Germans with a machine gun. As they crossed the bridge, the enemy began firing. Hale was armed only with a pistol. Twice wounded in his arm and with 26 bullet holes in the jeep, the driver held his course on the bridge. The jeep came to a stop on the German side of the river practically in front of the enemy machine gun position. The Germans were amazed at the unbelievable courage or unmitigated gall of the advancing American patrol and immediately surrendered. Without delay, Captain Hale put his prisoners to work clearing the bridge of previously placed demolitions. The seizure of this bridge and the two previous incidents bring into focus the human dimension of combat and the fiber of the men of the 97th Infantry Division.
Teh civilian-soldiers who served under the Trident banner during the World War II period performed their duties in an outstanding manner. Their training and discipline served them well in Europe and during the occupation of Japan. Although the soldiers of the 97th were in combat for only a month, they established a record to be proud of and a legacy that would endure. In Europe these men were involved in countless firefights, artillery duels, patrols, and night operations. The adversary, although on the brink of defeat, still had the capability to inflict casualties on the American forces. The relatively low casualties of the Division were due, in part, to careful planning, thorough training, and competent leadership. The substantial number of combat decorations earned in a short period of time by the soldiers of the Trident Division testified to their valor and the difficulty of their mission. The offensive operations directed against Sieburg, Troisdorf, Drabenderhohe, Leverkusen, Dusseldorf, Cheb, and Pilsen reflect the aggressive spirit, initiative, courage, determination, and the will to win that were so characteristic of the Trident Division. During its brief combat history, the 97th proved its effectiveness by capturing 48,796 prisoners and occupying more than 2,000 square miles of enemy territory. Even the senior German commander on western Czechoslovakia paid tribute to those who wore the Trident patch.
Occupation forces sometimes sow the seeds of the next war. This was not the case of the Trident Division. The occupation of the six Japanese prefectures was characterized by military professionalism and human compassion. The men of the Trident Division participated in important historical events in Europe and the Far East that helped shape the second half of the twentieth century. Their hard work, accomplishments, sacrifice, and heroism constituted a military heritage worthy of emulation.