MEMORIAL DAY–The History of the 36th Infantry Division–The “Texas” Division

The 36th Infantry Division was organized at Camp Bowie (Fort Worth), Texas, 18 July 1917, from units of the Texas and Oklahoma National Guard during World War I. The Division left Newport News, Virginia, in July and August of 1918, for France. The 71st Brigade of the Division saw combat at St. Etiennes-Arnes and on 10 October 1918, the entire division relieved the 2nd Infantry Division and pushed the Germans to the Aisne River.

When the war was over, the Division saw occupation duty, then returned to Camp Bowie and were released from active duty on 20 June 1919. By that time, the Division had adopted a shoulder patch consisting of an Infantry Blue Arrowhead with a green “T” superimposed over it. The arrowhead stood for Oklahoma and the “T,” for Texas. After the war, the 36th was reorganized and became an “all Texas” division, and the Oklahoma units became part of the 45th Infantry Division.

Between World Wars I and II, the Division conducted drills at home stations and annual training periods at Camp Hulen at Palacios, Texas.

On 25 November 1940, the Division was mobilized for World War II, with active duty station at Camp Bowie, in Brownwood. It took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941, trained at Camp Blanding, Florida, and Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and in April 1943 began its move overseas. It landed in North Africa, conducted amphibious training and on 9 September 1943, landed in Italy at Paestum in the Gulf of Salerno. The 36th was the first American combat division to land on the continent of Europe.

The Division fought in the Italian Campaign as part of the 5th United States Army in such notable actions as Mt. Lungo, San Pietro and the Rapido River. In the Rapido River action, the Division lost the better part of two of its three regiments – 141st and 143d – in unsuccessful attempts to cross the river. The attempted crossing was made to divert German troops from the landing of allied troops at Anzio. On 25 May 1944, the Division landed at Anzio and led the breakout toward Rome. The Division captured Velletri on 1 June 1944, and opened the gates of Rome for the 5th Army. The Division was then pulled out of Italy and landed on the beaches of Southern France on 15 August. Driving up through Southern France, the 36th was attacking and breaking the Siegfried Line when the war in Europe ended. The 36th had spent 400 days in combat, accepted the surrender of Field Marshal Hermann Goering, won seven campaign streamers for its colors, taken part in two assault landings and 14 of its members had won the Medal of Honor. The Division had the ninth highest casualty rate of any Army Division in World War II.

The 36th Infantry Division was organized as part of the Texas National Guard following World War II. It went through various reorganizations including a major reorganization in 1959. At that time, regiments were replaced by battle groups. In 1963, brigades took the place of battle groups.

In 1968, both the 36th and 49th Divisions were deactivated and replaced by three separate brigades. In 1973, the 49th Armored Division was reactivated, with the lineage and honors of the 36th Infantry Division inherited by the 36th Brigade of the 49th Armored Division.

On 1 May 2004 the 49th Armored Division was reorganized as the 36th Infantry Division.

During WWII 14 members of the 36th Infantry Division were awarded the Medal of Honor.

This article was written by BG John C. L. Scribner with the Texas Military Forces Museum.

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