Heroes: the Army
A Brief History of the
102nd Infantry Division, U.S. Army
European Theater of Operations
A Brief History 102nd Infantry Division, US Army "The Ozarks"
compiled by Wilson R. Reed, Brig. Gen. US Army (retired)
a new report
At the request of the editor, General Wilson Reed has provided us with his written history of the Ozarks.
As he has said: "History, you know is more than just a chronology of events. It is basically a story of people and how they responded to these events. The brevity of my article has forced me to lose the "good story" approach but I have been faithful to the purpose" mentioned.
One of the purposes of this brief history was to get something in print which could be copied and taken to school by Ozark grandchildren. "This is where my grandfather fought in WWII." It would always be nice if "grandpa" could be persuaded to go along and answer questions. We are still shocked by an elementary school teacher who told an Ozark grandson "Your grandpa must be 100 years old if he was in WWII." Evidently she has never learned much history of WWII herself.
Another use of such a history might be for the Ozark to take it to his local paper sometime before Veterans Day and say: "I was here, and if you like I will answer questions.
The Ozark history, unlike that of some of the other divisions, seems not to have been well publicized. One of the missions of a Long Range Planning committee is to get the Ozark history better known, particularly among the second and third generation Ozarks.
Another comment by Gen. Reed is that this history goes well with the Ozark map developed by Doc Moore and now in its second printing. The Ozark history book is no longer in print, and it was originally written more as a chronology of events than to tell the story of the men who were there. That we continue to do in "Ozark Replay"
The only question Gen. Reed did not answer in his history was "How did the Ozarks get their name? We have been told that it was the policy of the military in WWI to get a division all from one geographic area, thinking they would have like speech patterns, habits, etc. Unfortunately, when a division was badly mauled in combat, this left a geographic area devastated because it lost so many young men. The policy was changed in WWII to get a division's members from all over the country, but the Ozarks were originally a "paper division" in WWI from the Ozark area, hence the name.
In the beginning there was World War I. The 102nd Infantry Division, "The Ozarks", was constituted as a "Paper" Division of the Organized Reserve in June 1921 with Headquarters in St. Louis, MO. It was ordered into actual Military Service at half-built Camp Maxey, TX on 15 Sept. 1942, for individual training, under the Xth Corps of the Third Army.
Think back to that fateful year: in April, Bataan fell and the Doolittle raid struck Japan; in May, the Coral Sea was the scene of the US first Naval victory; in June, Midway proved to be the turning point of the war in the Pacific; and in Sept. the 102nd Infantry Division US Army, was born at half-built Camp Maxey, TX &emdash; foretelling the defeat of Germany.
The Division took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers, Sept.-Nov. 1943, and then transferred to Camp Swift, TX for small Unit and combined arms training. In March 1944, the status of the Division changed from providing troops to other Units to receiving replacements in the form of 3250 ASTP soldiers, who needed training from practically Square One.
In July 1944, the Ozarks, minus major equipment, entrained for Camp Dix, for final training and shakedown preparatory for embarkation 12 Sept. 1944, thru the NYPOE, (New York Port of Embarkation) Camp Kilmer, NY for "The Crusade in Europe. "
All thought they were headed for the Port of Embarkation, but this rush to glory was checked by Orders for the 405th and 406th Regiments to Philadelphia to take over the City Transport-ation System, whose operators were on strike. The Troops performed so nobly that the City unofficially adopted the Ozarks as "Philly's Own."
Led by Brig. Gen. Frank A. Keating (a veteran of WWI and the 1919 Allied invasion of Russia) the Division sailed for the Atlantic shores of France. For the second time in the space of 25 years, American soldiers would again be on the battlefields of Western Europe, contesting whether Freedom or Tyranny was to be the future of the world. What was this outfit? Who were these men? That really is one question &emdash; these were the Fighting Men of One-oh-Two, The Mighty Ozarks! Farmers and Merchants - rich and poor - many only in their late teens, from all states in the Union, save Alaska, which already had a War of its own in the Aleutians.
The six ships of the Division Convoy weighed anchor in NY Harbor on 15 Sept. 1944, the second anniversary of the Division's activation at Camp Maxey, for a twelve-day crossing to Cherbourg, France, by way of one night at anchor in the harbor of Weymouth, England. Debarking at the temporary facilities in Cherbourg Harbor (the mulberry break water, the floating docks, the scurrying ferries) consumed three days. The troops were hurried to their bivouac in the rain-drenched orchards of "Area M" in the vicinity of St. Pierre Eglise.
Very shortly the Division was required to give up most of its transport, with operating personnel, to run the "Red Ball Express" carrying essential supplies (ammo, gasoline and food) forward to the Main Supply Route to support the rapidly advancing front line troops in Northern France and Belgium. The elements remaining in Area M undertook intensive training in the cold and wet to keep blood circulating. With the return of The Red Ball vehicles and troops, the Division prepared for its introduction to War. It was transported in echelon and committed piecemeal to the areas of Eastern Holland and West Germany near the Siegfried Line:
* 21-26 October, the 405th RCT to Waubach, Germany, attached to the 2nd Armored Division, relieved the Armored Infantry. In the fighting near Waurichen on 27 Oct., the first Ozark was wounded, the next day the first Ozark was KIA, both of 405-I company.
* 27 Oct., the 407th Infantry Regiment ar rived to bivouac near Brunsum, Holland, attached to the 29th Infantry Division. Three days later it relieved two regiments on a line Hatterath - Teveren - Waurichen.
* 30 Oct, 406th Infantry Regiment reached Herzogenrath, Germany, under control of the 30th Infantry Division.
* By noon 5 Nov. all Artillery Battalions were in position, surveyed and in communication; the first Division Artillery concentration was placed in the city square of Geilenkirchen, the hub of the Siegfried Line in this area.
By 3 Nov, Division Headquarters had regained control of all of its Units, and the Ozarks moved to pursue their mission of clearing all enemy from the area between the Dutch border and the Roer River in their sector. On the face of it, this appeared to be a tough mission; in execution it proved to be tougher even than it had looked. The way was barred by top flight Panzer-Grenadier and SS Troops taking full advantage of the battlefield debris and the remains of the Siegfried Line, fighting stubbornly to deny the advance of the Ozarks further into their homeland. But advance they did. The litany of towns and villages captured in the mud and snow of the German winter tells a story of its own:
Immendorf, Puffendorf, Apweiler, Beek, Geronsweiler, Geilenkirchen, Glimbach, Roerdorf, Wurm, Waurichen, Linnich .....All tenaciously defended by skilled and veteran troops, well armed and determined. Each village exacted a price in blood and misery. By the end of 1944 the Ozarks stood triumphant on the West bank of the Roer River, training and stockpiling rations, gasoline and other supplies essential to the most difficult of military operations, a combat river crossing under observation and fire of a determined enemy.
The assault on the Roer and the advance to the Rhine, "Operation Grenade", called for the US Ninth Army, serving under British Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group, to force a crossing of the Roer and attack generally Northeast, while the Canadian First Army was to attack Southeast between the Maas and Rhine Rivers from the vicinity of Nijmagen, Holland. These two armies would converge and meet in a pincers movement, encircling all German forces in that area west of the Rhine. Simpson's Ninth Army, the right arm of the pincers, was to attack with the XlXth Corps on the right and Gillem's XlIIth Corps abreast. Within the XlIIth Corps, Keating's Ozarks in the center were to force the crossing. The 84th Division would be on the left and the 29th Division on the right. This was a crucial day. The course of the war would depend on the next few hours.
The Ozark plan for the crossing was to attack with two Regimental Command troops abreast. Col. William's 405th on the right, would cross at Flossdorf and Ruhrdorf: Col Dwyer's 407th would cross on an extremely narrow front at Linnich; Col. Hurless' 406th was initially the Division Reserve. Once the Division Bridgehead was established, the Ozarks were to expand it to the XIIIth Corps Bridgehead and be prepared to attack to the North. This was the plan. Now how did they do?
7 Feb: First information on "Operation Grenade" received, covering assignment of objectives, organization for combat, regimental boundaries and administrative information. DDay was to be 10 Feb., H-hour 0330 hours.
Preparations started for the Battle.
9 Feb.: At 1800 hours the river starts to rise rapidly. The Germans had opened the flood gates of the dams upstream near Duren due to the approach of the US First Army. The river expanded to a width of one and a half miles, with a current of nine miles per hour (13 ft./sec.)
10 Feb: H-hour for "Grenade" postponed twenty- four hours .
13 Feb: "Grenade". postponed until Roer River returns to its normal banks.
21 Feb: "D" Day H-hour definitely set for 0330
23 Feb: Preparation fires to start at 0245 by 22 Artillery Battalions (about 240 tubes) and lasting until H-hour for "Grenade.
It was a cold, sloppy, miserable predawn. It was a day of fear and pain &emdash; a day of heroic endeavor and calm endurance, a day of self-sacrificing comradeship and uncommon valor. All were there pushing together through the dark and unknown to the glowing victory. On that day they joined the brotherhood of valor, which exists unto today in their comradeship of courage. The Ozarks rose from their foxholes, basements, and gun emplacements to force a combat crossing of the raging Roer and lead Simpson's Ninth US Army across Germany to victory on the Elbe.
Ninth Army's drive across the Rhineland plain can only be described as spectacular. As the Ozarks pushed east from the River, the hottest action developed in two areas: first at Tetz, just over the Roer, the second at Boslar, about a mile east of Tetz. In both of these areas, artillery fire was brought down on our own troops at their request, an extreme measure enjoyed by neither Doughboy nor Redleg. It was one helluva day! With the repulse of the Armored attacks on the 405th at Boslar, the capture of Gevenich and Glimbach by the 407th, the Division had established its bridgehead. The 406th had been committed on the right flank, as the 29th Division was unable to keep up, and that flank became exposed.
24 Feb. At H-hour 1000 for the 405th attack on Hottdorf, with a ten-minute artillery preparation. All day the buildup on the east bank continued as the Regiments continued their advance and heavier bridges were put in. At 1600 hours, the 379th Field Artillery Battalion crossed the river at Ruhrdorf and went into position at Tetz, the first artillery battalion to make the crossing. With the front lines arching thru Hottorf, the XIIIth Corps bridgehead was established and the crossing was considered successful.
The Ozarks never received the recognition they deserved for this brilliant feat of arms. The Marines landing on Iwo Jima the same day, garnered all of the media attention.
Shortly, the Ozarks had cleared up the major western defensive belt protecting Munchen-Gladbach, one of the great prizes of the war this far. The Ozarks were disappointed to learn that, having encircled the city, it was to be bypassed. It was here that the Ozarks learned a new method of aircraft identification popular among the German troops:
"If the planes are dark colored,
they are British."
"If the planes are light colored,
they are American.
"If the planes are invisible,
that's the Luftwaffe."
On 1 March, it became clear that the German military forces were fleeing from the 102nd Division. What a reputation can do! Little opposition to the advance was encountered, many prisoners being taken. The target for the day was Krefeld on the west bank of the Rhine. As the Ozarks approached the outskirts of the city, opposition stiffened, all static, no active defense, all isolated, non-supported. During the night of 2-3 March, all effective resistance inside Krefeld was withdrawn. By 1000 hours the Division was in control of all of Krefeld south of the East-West thoroughfare. Contact was established with the 84th Inf. Div. north of this line. At 1200 hours Krefeld was officially declared to have fallen, and "Operation Grenade" came to an end on the Rhine.
Stars and Stripes, the Armed Forces Newspaper, paid tribute to the 102nd Infantry Division with a headline, "OZARKS DOUGHS CAPTURE 4000, 86 LOCALITIES." The story continued, "Maj Gen Frank A. Keating's Ozark doughboys ---- paced Ninth Army's whirlwind push to the Rhine, capturing over 4000 prisoners and enveloping three cities, Erkelenz, Viersen, and Krefeld."
In those 33 long miles from Linnich to Krefeld the 102nd Infantry Division had hiked and fought its way not only through the heart of the Rhineland but also up the long road of fame as well. The Ozarks had built a superb fighting team, which they made the bulwark of Freedom, illustrious in the annals of conflict and honored among Men of Arms.
From 8 to 10 March, the Division occupied a stretch of the west bank of the Rhine from Krefeld southward 8 miles for defense against enemy patrols and to maintain watch for enemy activity. On 11 March it relieved elements of the 95th Infantry and 2nd Armored Divisions between Nierst and Rhinehausen to the north. On 30 March the Division extended its sector, taking over from the 84th Infantry Division on the north and the 11th Cavalry nearly to Dusseldorf ---- truly a "Watch on the Rhine."
The enemy on the opposite shore proved to be the 2nd Paratroop Division, at the time one of the strongest and best equipped German units. The mission of the Ozarks was to keep the German 2nd there by ruse, deception and the Ozark reputation for river crossing, so it would not be moved north to interfere with the Ninth Army crossing at Wesel. Too late the Nazis discerned that the Ozarks had no intention of crossing at Uerdingen, site of the shattered Adolph Hitler Bridge. By then the Ninth Army had secured the Wesel crossing, and the Ruhr was as good as lost to the Germans.
On 4 April, the Ozarks moved north to cross the Rhine at Wesel, as part of the XlIIth Corps. This Corps, spearheaded by the 5th Armored Division, was to attack northeast toward Stendal on the Elbe River. The 102nd was to follow their path to the Elbe. As usual with armored outfits, they practiced "Germans cleared to the ditches", leaving the dirty job of mopping up the countryside to the infantry outfits.
The 102nd, in order to perform its mission while keeping up with the armor, chose to organize for combat as three Regimental Combat Teams with attachments of AAA, tanks, tank destroyers, chemical mortars, and Combat Engineers. Division Headquarters and Division Artillery Headquarters undertook to confine themselves to support, coordination and intelligence activities. This streamlined configuration was ideal to contend with the many small unit actions occasioned by the demoralized and retreating enemy hastily defending some terrain features such as small bridges or crossroads.
On 12 April, When the Ozarks headed east from Hanoiver for the Elbe River, hardly a man even dreamed that those 150 kilometers would be crossed in 4 days. The greatest obstacle to progress was the large numbers of German soldiers trying to surrender.
One notable exception arose on 14 April &emdash; the 2nd Btn 405 encountered heavy automatic fire from the direction of bypassed Gardelegen. The American artillery went into position and was ready to fire when a German sedan with motorcycle escort, conspicuous under large white flags, dashed up. It was a Luftwaffe colonel, the Commendant of the Gardelegen garrison, intent of finding an American commander to whom he could surrender. Col. Lauren Williams, CO of the 405th agreed to accomodate him, and punctually at 1900 hours the Luftwaffe colonel reappeared to escort Col. Williams into town where the entire garrison, its arms already stacked, stood neatly drawn up for surrender. On this decorous note the battle for Gardelegen ended.
However, the surrender was ill-timed because it interrupted the goulish activities in a barn on the outskirts of town. There, the following morning, were found the charred and smoking bodies of over 300 slave-laborers, prisoners of the Nazis, who had been deliberately burned to death by their captors. Investigation disclosed that 1016 political and military prisoners, part of a larger group being herded west to escape the Russians, had perished here. Under Gen. Keating's stern supervision a memorial cemetery was established, to be kept forever green by the citizens of Gardelegen.
All organized resistance had ceased except for a small pocket on the river east of Stendal. This small thorn persisted for nearly a week, as stubborn as it was tactically worthless. On 21 April the 405th Infantry Regument launched a surprise attack, killing 60 enemy and capturing 125 after a short but spirited fire fight. Thus, forbidden to cross the Elbe, the Ozark's shooting war ended on the fist day of Spring 1945.
Attention then concentrated on the possibility of contacting the Russian forces, still some 20 miles away across the Elbe, but obviously approaching. Several patrols &emdash; as large as a reinforced company, as small as a squad &emdash; crossed the river. None contacted the Russians. C-407 was ambushed and captured by German Army units. The ambush killed 3 Ozarks and wounded 19. When the ambushers discovered they had Americans they apologized and helped evacuate the wounded to the American lines. The I&R platoon, 407th Infantry crossed the river at Tangermunde and returned shortly with 75 POWs, while a squad from 406-G crossed the river, bound for Havelberg, returning in 2 hours with 165 POWs.
On 3 May the Russians at last appeared. To the Ozarks of 2nd Battalion 405th fell the honor of first greeting our Allies of the East. They met at Sandau a war-torn but joyful party of the 1185th Inf. Regiment, 156th Russian Division. Thousands of German soldiers, civilians and displaced persons (DPs) of every nationality fleeing the Russians, crowded the east bank of the Elbe, pleading for permission to cross. They crossed on debris, on hastily contrived rafts, on rubber tubes, in wash tubs, on planks. They crossed singly and in groups. Guilty fear of the Russians was palpable.
In his 4 May 1945 nightly broadcast, Lowell Thomas said, "General Eisenhower's announcement here at Supreme Allied Headquarters tonight said 'German forces on the Western Front have disintigrated. Today what is left of two German Armies surrendered to single American Division &emdash; the 102nd, commanded by Maj Gen Frank A, Keating."'
Thus ended WWII in Europe. As far as the Ozarks were concerned, V-E Day could only be an anti-climax.
Operation "Eclipse" had become effective 25 April. This meant that Gen. Keating was henseforth the Military Governor of any area occupied by the 102nd Division. An enormous stretch of the Elbe then came under Ozark control; at one time they controlled 50 miles along the river. Patrolling, policing, searching for arms and ammunition, guarding a wide variety of military, cultural and industrial installations, were among the routines of the Occupation Day.
When higher headquarters, in their wisdom, sorted out the requirements, the 102nd was designated "Temporary Occupation", meaning occupation duty for now, but "on the hook" to redeploy to the Pacific Theatre if the war there lasted long enough. Fortunately, VJ Day eliminated that apprehension for the Ozarks.
The Ozark occupation area along the Elbe was a part of the Russian Zone. In June 1945 when the Russians demanded that all US Forces get out of their zone, the Ninth US Army headed south en mass in eight lanes of military traffic on the Autobahn. Ozark headquarters shifted to Vilshofen on the Danube near Passau, with responsibility for 50 miles of border with the Russian one (which was also the Czech border).
The major activities 'occupying the occupiers' were administering, policing, supporting and guarding the large number of POW and Displaced Person camps. The largest POW camp contained 25,000 SS troops, all intent on staying for the food, clothing and shelter in a ravaged country. The DP camps, usually holding about 3000 quarreling and vengeful ex-slave-laborers, released prisoners and refugees from the war's devastation, needed everything, but foremost, protection from each other. The magnitude of the human degradation and desperation were measureless, though evidenced daily by the number of suicides and murders committed.
Add to this the difficulties engendered among the Ozarks themselves by the "Point System" of redeployment home of eligible individuals, which quickly reduced the ability of the units to accomplish any mission. In Bayreuth and the surrounding area, including 75 miles bordering the Russian Zone, and 60 miles of Czech border running south from Hof, the Division completed its assignment to the Occupation Force in February 1946. It shipped home by way of Le Havre, France (Camp Lucky Strike) through New York Harbor to Camp Kilmer, NY, where on 12 March 1946 it was deactivated. It should be noted that, due to the workings of the "Point System", something less than 15% of the officers and men sailing home under the Ozark banner had been with the Division in combat.
The 102nd Infantry Division had served some 1248 days &emdash; from the brush and dust of Texas, across the canals of Holland's Limburg, through the Third Reich's "impregnable" Siegfried Line, across the flooded Roer and the mighty Rhine to the rushing waters of the River Elbe. It made history in Simpson's "Ghost Ninth Army" (as the papers called it) as it wrote VICTORY in colors of valor and blood. The count of prisoners taken by the Ozarks reached 146,000; of the enemy who fell against them, over 4,000.
The OZARKS, the fighting men of One-oh-Two &emdash; The Front Line &emdash; The Cutting Edge &emdash; perhaps not the architects of victory but certainly among its carvers in the pantheon of Freedom. Proud to be Ozarks. Proud to be Americans.
The men of the
102nd Infantry Division
compiled by: Wilson R. Reed
Brig. Gen US Army (retired)
----- Brig. Gen US Army (retired)
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "A Brief History of the 102nd Infantry Divsion" by Wilson R. Reed, Brig. Gen US Army (retired), was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 1, Oct/Dec. 2001, pp. 12-19.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 28 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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