103rd Infantry Division (United States)

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103rd Infantry Division
103rd Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia.
Active1921 – 1945
Country United States
Branch United States Army
Nickname(s)"Cactus Division" (Special Designation)[1]
EngagementsWorld War II
Anthony McAuliffe

The 103rd Infantry Division ("Cactus Division"[1]) was a unit of the United States Army that served in the U.S. Seventh Army of the 6th Army Group during World War II.

It was variously assigned to the VI Corps, XV Corps, and XXI Corps. By war's end it was part of VI Corps' dash across Bavaria into the Alps, reaching Innsbruck, Austria, taking the Brenner Pass, and earning the honor of linking up with the U.S. Fifth Army coming north from Vipiteno, Italy, joining the Italian and Western European fronts on 4 May 1945.[2]

Interwar period[edit]

The 103rd Division was constituted in the Organized Reserve on 24 June 1921, allotted to the Eighth Corps Area, and assigned to the XVIII Corps. The division was further allotted to the states of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico as its home area. The division headquarters was organized on 31 August 1921, at the State Capitol in Denver, Colorado. The headquarters was moved on 29 March 1922 to the Kittredge Building at 16th Street and Glenarm Place in Denver and remained there until activated for World War II. To encourage esprit de corps, in 1922 the division’s officers adopted the nickname “Rocky Mountain Division” after the majestic mountain range that defined much of the division’s home area. However, this nickname soon gave way to the moniker “Cactus Division” after the unit’s shoulder patch. To maintain communications with the officers of the division, the division staff published a newsletter appropriately titled “The Cactus.” The newsletter informed the division’s members of such things as when and where the inactive training sessions were to be held, what the division’s summer training quotas were, where the camps were to be held, and which units would be assigned to help conduct the Citizens Military Training Camps (CMTC).

The large geographical area of the division made it difficult to bring subordinate units of the division together for virtually any training events except for those units in Denver. The division headquarters, special troops, 206th Infantry Brigade (less one regiment), 176th Field Artillery Brigade (less one regiment), and a few other assorted units were located in Denver. Inactive training period activities of the division were generally conducted at the local level near concentrations of division personnel. One event that turned out large numbers of the Denver members of the division was the Memorial Day parade held in that city each year. The subordinate infantry regiments of the division held their summer training with the 25th Infantry Regiment at Fort Huachuca and Camp Stephen D. Little, Arizona, and with the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment. at Fort Logan, Colorado. Other units, such as the special troops, artillery, engineers, aviation, medical, and quartermaster, trained at various posts in the Eighth Corps Area. For example, the division’s artillery regiments trained at Fort Bliss, Texas, with the 82nd Field Artillery, or at Fort Francis E. Warren, Wyoming, with the 2nd Battalion, 76th Field Artillery; the 328th Engineer Regiment trained with the 2nd Engineers at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and later at Fort Logan; the 320th Medical Regiment trained at Fort Sam Houston with the 2nd Medical Regiment; and the 328th Observation Squadron trained at Brooks Field and some years at Fort Bliss.

On a number of occasions, the division participated in Eighth Corps Area and Third Army command post exercises (CPXs) in conjunction with other Regular Army, National Guard, and Organized Reserve units. These training events gave division staff officers’ opportunities to practice the roles they would be expected to perform in the event the division was mobilized. Unlike the Regular and Guard units in the Eighth Corps Area, the 103rd Division did not participate in the various Eighth Corps Area Maneuvers and the Third Army maneuvers of 1938, 1940, and 1941 as an organized unit due to lack of enlisted personnel and equipment. Instead, the officers and a few enlisted reservists were assigned to Regular and Guard units to fill vacant slots and bring the units up to war strength for the exercises. Additionally, some officers were assigned duties as umpires or as support personnel. However, for each maneuver, the division maximized the number of participants. For example, for the 1938 maneuvers at Fort Francis E. Warren, Fort Bliss, and Fort Huachuca, the 103rd Division provided 228 officers to Regular Army units and 53 to units of the National Guard's 45th Division. Similar numbers participated in the two succeeding Army maneuvers.[3]

World War II[edit]

Plaque honoring the US 103rd Infantry Division in WW II.
Plaque listing the units comprising the US 103rd Infantry Division in WW II.
Statue of soldier in combat from US Army's 103rd Division

Combat chronicle[edit]

The 103rd Infantry Division was ordered into active military service on 15 November 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The officer and enlisted cadre came from the 85th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and the enlisted fillers arrived from reception centers located across nearly the entire country, comprising installations in the 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Service Commands (Camp Grant, Illinois, 4,060; Fort Custer, Michigan, 3,845; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1,307; Camp Dodge, Iowa, 1,036; Fort Snelling, Minnesota, 990; Eighth and Ninth Service Command reception centers, 921; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 600; Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 600; Fort McPherson, Georgia, 537; Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, 526; Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 218).

During 1944, the division lost 2,550 enlisted men from transfers to other divisions or to overseas replacement depots, and replenished its ranks with men transferred from antiaircraft artillery, coast artillery, and tank destroyer units, and aviation cadets and Army Specialized Training Program students reassigned to other duties. After nearly two years of training, the 103rd departed the United States for Europe on 5 October 1944. The division arrived at Marseilles, France, 20 October 1944. It relieved the 3d Division at Chevry on 8 November, arrived at Docelles (Vosges) on 9 November, and attacked west of St. Dié, 16 November, in its drive through the Vosges. Meeting heavy resistance all the way, it crossed the Meurthe River, took St. Dié on 23 November and captured Diefenbach on 29 November and Selestat on 4 December.

The division crossed the Zintzel river at Griesbach, 10 December 1944. Pushing through Climbach, the 103rd crossed the Lauter River into Germany, 15 December, and assaulted the outer defenses of the Siegfried Line. On 22 December, the division moved west to the Sarreguemines area where an active defense was maintained. The enemy offensive did not develop in its sector and the 103rd moved to Reichshofen, 14 January 1945, to take up positions along the Sauer River. On 15 January, General Anthony "Nuts" McAuliffe was redeployed from the Battle of the Bulge and given command, which he retained until July 1945. Defensive patrols were active and a limited attack on Soufflenheim on 19 January was repulsed by the enemy. On 20 January, the division withdrew to the Moder and repulsed German advances near Muehlhausen, 23–25 January. The 103rd's offensive began on 15 March 1945. Crossing the Moder and Zintzel rivers and taking Muehlhausen against sharp opposition, the division moved over the Lauter river and penetrated the defenses of the Siegfried Line.

As German resistance disintegrated, the 103rd reached the Upper Rhine Valley, 23 March, and engaged in mopping up operations in the plain west of the River Rhine. In April 1945, it received occupational duties until 20 April when it resumed the offensive, pursuing a fleeing enemy through Stuttgart and taking Münsingen on 24 April. On 27 April, elements of the division entered Landsberg, where Kaufering concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau, was liberated.[4][5] The men of the division crossed the Danube River near Ulm on 26 April. On 3 May 1945, members of its 409th Infantry Regiment captured Innsbruck, Austria with little to no fighting. The 411th Infantry Regiment continued on to take the Brenner Pass and earn the honor of linking up with the 88th Infantry Division of the Fifth Army, which had been fighting its way north up the Italian peninsula. Troops met at Vipiteno, Italy, near the Austrian border, on 4 May 1945, joining the Italian and Western European fronts.[2]

After Victory in Europe Day, the division received occupational duties until it left for home and inactivation. It returned to the continental U.S. on 10 September 1945, and was inactivated on 22 September 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.


  • Total battle casualties: 4,558[6]
  • Killed in action: 834[6]
  • Wounded in action: 3,329[6]
  • Missing in action: 88[6]
  • Prisoner of war: 421[6]

Order of battle[edit]

Components of the 103rd Infantry Division included:[7]

  • Headquarters, 103rd Infantry Division
  • 409th Infantry Regiment
  • 410th Infantry Regiment
  • 411th Infantry Regiment
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 103rd Infantry Division Artillery
    • 382nd Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 383rd Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 384th Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
    • 928th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
  • 328th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 328th Medical Battalion
  • 103rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
  • Headquarters, Special Troops, 103rd Infantry Division
    • Headquarters Company, 103rd Infantry Division
    • 803rd Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
    • 103rd Quartermaster Company
    • 103rd Signal Company
    • Military Police Platoon
    • Band
  • 103rd Counterintelligence Corps Detachment

Assignments in the European Theater of Operations[edit]

Attached units[edit]

The following units, or their constituents, were attached for a time to the 103rd Infantry Division during its career:

Antiaircraft Artillery[edit]

  • 353d Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion
  • 354th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion


Field Artillery[edit]

  • 69th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
  • 242nd Field Artillery Battalion

Tank Destroyer[edit]

Post war[edit]

The 103rd was activated as an Organized Reserve Corps division on 7 May 1947 in Des Moines, Iowa. Its combat elements were reorganized and redesignated as the 205th Infantry Brigade and the 103rd Operational Headquarters in February 1963. The 103rd Operational Headquarters was redesignated as the 103rd Command Headquarters (Divisional) in June 1963. In December 1965, the unit was reorganized as the 103rd Support Brigade.

In September 1977, the unit was redesignated and reorganized as the 103rd Corps Support Command (COSCOM), the first Corps Support Command in the United States Army Reserve. On 15 September 1993, the 103rd COSCOM inactivated, followed by the creation of two new reserve units: 19th Theater Army Area Command (CONUS) and 3d COSCOM (CONUS). On 14 February 2006, the 103rd was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 103rd Sustainment Command. The 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command was activated as a reserve command, effective 16 September 2006. The division shoulder patch is worn by the United States Army Reserve 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).[8]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950. United States Army Center of Military History.

  1. ^ a b "Special Unit Designations". United States Army Center of Military History. 21 April 2010. Archived from the original on 9 July 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b Fifth Army History • Race to the Alps, Chapter VI : Conclusion [1] Archived 13 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine "4 May; the Reconnaissance Troop, 349th Infantry [88th Division], met troops from [103rd Infantry Division] VI Corps of Seventh Army at 1051 at Vipiteno, 9 miles south of Brenner."
  3. ^ Clay, Steven E. (2010). U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919–1941 Volume 1, The Arms: Major Commands and Infantry Organizations 1919–1941 (PDF). Combat Studies Institute Press. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2012.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Report After Action: The Story of the 103d Infantry Division, Ralph Mueller and Jerry Turk; 1945, Wagner'sche Universitats-Buchdruckerie, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria; distributor, The Infantry Journal, Washington 6, D. C., pp. 131–135
  5. ^ "Excerpt on Web from Report After Action, ibid". nuspel.org. Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths in World War II, Final Report (Statistical and Accounting Branch Office of the Adjutant General, 1 June 1953)
  7. ^ Sources: 1. The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950. 2. Order of Battle of the United States Army, World War II, European Theater of Operations, Office of the Theater Historian, Paris, France, December 1945.[2]
  8. ^ "103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)". United States Army Reserve. Archived from the original on 24 September 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2011.

External links[edit]