31st Infantry Division (United States)

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31st Infantry Division
31st ID SSI.svg
31st Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active
  • 1917–1919
  • 1924–1945
  • 1946–1954
  • 1954–1968
Country United States
Branch United States Army
TypeInfantry
SizeDivision
Nickname(s)"Dixie Division"
Motto(s)It shall be done
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Albert H. Blanding
John Cecil Persons
Clarence Ames Martin

The 31st Infantry Division ("Dixie") was an infantry division of the United States Army National Guard, active almost continuously from 1917 to 1968. Composed of men from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi at various points in its existence, the division saw service in both World War I and World War II, and was mobilized during the Korean War, although it was not sent overseas in the latter.

Organized in 1917 during World War I from the national guardsmen of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, the division deployed to France in September 1918, arriving weeks before the Armistice of 11 November that ended the war. In France, it was reduced to a cadre and most of its troops used to provide replacements for units already in France. It returned to the United States in December and was demobilized in January 1919.

The 31st was reorganized in 1923 with national guardsmen from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It was mobilized in 1940 during World War II, and spent several years training in the United States. In 1944 it was sent to the Pacific Theatre of Operations, fighting in the New Guinea campaign and in the Battle of Mindanao. After the end of the war the division was demobilized in December 1945.

In 1946, the 31st was reactivated with Alabama and Mississippi units. Mobilized during the Korean War, the division served stateside at Camp Atterbury and Camp Carson. The 31st was demobilized in 1954 and reorganized in Alabama and Mississippi. During the height of the Civil rights movement, Mississippi elements of the division were called up to restore order during the Ole Miss riot of 1962, while Alabama elements were Federalized to ensue school integration during 1963 and to keep order during the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. In 1968 the division was eliminated, with its units becoming part of the 30th Armored Division.

World War I[edit]

Organization and training[edit]

According to the 5 May 1917 organization plan of National Guard divisions, the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia guard units were to form the 10th Division, though it was not organized at the time.[1] On 18 July, the War Department designated the National Guard troops of these three states to form the 31st Division. For training, the division was directed to concentrate at Camp Wheeler on 3 August; the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia National Guards were drafted into federal service two days later. However, the units of the 31st did not begin concentration until 25 August, when Major General Francis J. Kernan took command.[2] Kernan was replaced by 56th Field Artillery Brigade commander Brigadier General John L. Hayden, the senior brigade commander, on 18 September.[3]

The division included the 61st and 62nd Infantry Brigades and the 56th Field Artillery Brigade by the end of the concentration period. The 61st included the 5th Georgia Infantry, separate Georgia infantry companies, and detachments of the 1st and 2nd Georgia and 1st Florida Regiments of Infantry; the 62nd included the 1st Alabama and 2nd Florida Infantry, and detachments of the 1st Florida and 1st Georgia Regiments of Infantry and of the 1st Alabama Cavalry; the 56th included detachments of the Georgia Field Artillery, the 1st Florida, 1st Georgia, and 2nd Alabama Regiments of Infantry, and of the 1st Alabama Cavalry.[2]

Panoramic photograph of the 124th Infantry at Camp Wheeler, January 1918

On 1 September, the 31st was reorganized in accordance with the tables of organization of 8 August, which called for a square division with four infantry regiments. As a result, the 61st Brigade included the 121st and 122nd Infantry with the 117th Machine Gun Battalion, the 62nd included the 123rd and 124th Infantry with the 118th Machine Gun Battalion, and the 56th included the 116th, 117th, and 118th Field Artillery Regiments with the 106th Trench Mortar Battery.[4] During October, the division was reinforced with 10,000 men from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, transferred from Camps Gordon, Jackson, and Pike, as it began systematic training on 22 October.[2] On 15 March 1918, Major General Francis H. French became division commander; he was replaced by Major General LeRoy S. Lyon two months later.[3]

A film showing activities of the division at Camp Wheeler, February 1918

The 31st transferred almost all of its infantry privates and about half of its artillery privates from November to June, including 4,300 who were sent to Camp Merritt. In June, 9,200 men from Michigan and Illinois transferred to the division, followed by 5,700 from Illinois in July. By 21 July, the division fielded 24,000 men, with its officers mostly from the Organized Reserve Corps and the National Army. The 56th Field Artillery Brigade left to train at Camp Jackson on 24 July, while the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Infantry relocated to Camp Greene on 20 August. During the latter month, 2,000 men, including 1,200 from Camp Travis, joined the 31st.[2] On 28 September, 61st Brigade commander Brigadier General Walter A. Harris took command of the division, leading it until 14 November.[3]

Overseas deployment and demobilization[edit]

The USS Orizaba departing from New York in 1918

The division began its overseas movement in September, relocating via Camp Mills to the Brooklyn, Hoboken, and New York Ports of Embarkation. The 106th Engineers and Train were the first to depart from New York on 16 September, arriving in Scotland on 29 September. On the latter date, the Advance Detachment of the division sailed from Hoboken, arriving at Brest on 7 October. The division headquarters (aboard the USS Orizaba), most of the infantry, the 106th Field Signal Battalion, and the 106th Train Headquarters and Military Police sailed between 30 September and 11 October. They landed at Brest between 13 and 21 October, except for the 117th and 118th Machine Gun Battalions and the 106th Train Headquarters and Military Police, which arrived in England on 17 October. The 56th Field Artillery Brigade sailed with the remaining infantry and trains between 14 and 28 October, and landed at Brest between 25 October and 9 November, except for the 124th Infantry, which landed in England on 24 October. The troops in England spent a brief period in rest camps, then moved to Brest through Cherbourg and Le Havre.[5]

For duty with the Services of Supply, the 106th Engineers, without Train, relocated from Le Havre to Brest on 4 October. Once in France, the 31st was planned to become the seventh depot division, a cadre formation responsible for processing replacements.[6] Due to a personnel shortage caused by heavy casualties suffered in the Meuse–Argonne Offensive, the 31st Division was ordered skeletonized on 17 October, and two days later the division headquarters, both infantry brigades, the 116th Machine Gun Battalion, 106th Supply Train, and 106th Train Headquarters and Military Police moved to Le Mans, with some units relocating through the Loches area, while the remaining units were detached from the division when they arrived at Brest. The division was ordered reduced to a record cadre on 29 October, although the 56th Field Artillery Brigade was detached to Camp Coëtquidan for training. The 106th Trench Mortar Battery of the brigade relocated to Vitrey on 4 November, preceded by the 106th Field Signal Battalion, which left for the Signal Corps Replacement Depot at Cour-Cheverny on 30 October.[7]

The division headquarters, the 61st and 62nd Brigades, the 116th Battalion, and 106th Train Headquarters and Military Police were skeletonized early in November. Most of its personnel were transferred to the 2nd Depot Division as replacements, except for a record cadre numbering 10 officers and 102 men. The 106th Sanitary Train, which had remained at Brest, relocated to Camp de Souge on 25 November, and thence to the American Embarkation Center at Le Mans in December, where it was skeletonized. On 27 November, the record cadre and 56th Field Artillery Brigade (without the 106th Trench Mortar Battery) moved to Brest, from which they sailed aboard the USS Manchuria between 9 and 10 December. After arriving at Camp Merritt on 20 December, they moved to Camp Gordon on 1 January 1919, where the record cadre and 56th Brigade demobilized on 14 January.[8]

Elements of the division remained in France for several months longer, however. The 106th Supply Train relocated to Camp de Souge on 29 November. The 106th Trench Mortar Battery and part of the 106th Sanitary Train sailed on 2 and 15 January, respectively. The 106th Field Signal Battalion departed Bordeaux on 18 April, and the last units of the division overseas, the 106th Engineers and 106th Supply Train, returned to the United States on 5 July.[8]

Interwar period[edit]

Under the National Defense Act of 1920, the 39th Division was allotted to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, part of IV Corps, in 1921. On 1 July 1923 it was reorganized, less the Arkansas units, and renamed the 31st Division, following the recommendations of a joint board of Regular and Guard officers, due to its allocation to states which raised the 31st Division in World War I.[10] In August 1924, the division, except for the 124th Infantry, conducted squad and platoon level training at Camp McClellan, its designated mobilization training center, due to its troops being relatively inexperienced. Its headquarters was organized and Federally recognized on 15 October of that year, stationed at St. Augustine, Florida, under the command of Major General Albert H. Blanding of Florida. During the interwar period, the division was organized in accordance with a square organization similar to its World War I structure, although a separate headquarters for Special Troops (Military Police, Signals, Ordnance, and Armor) was created and medical and quartermaster regiments added.[9]

During the interwar period, the division did not train together in most years, as separate summer camps were held for the units of each state. Florida units trained at Camp J. Clifford R. Foster, Alabama units at Camp McClellan, Mississippi units at Camp Shelby, and Louisiana and sometimes Mississippi units at Camp Beauregard. The division staff, which included men from all four states, conducted joint summer training at Camp McClellan between 1924 and 1926 and 1929 and 1931, Camp Beauregard in 1927, Camp Foster in 1928, and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, in addition to participation in multiple corps area and army command post exercises, including the September 1936 Third Army command post exercise at San Antonio. On 4 March 1933, the divisional headquarters was relocated to Bartow, Florida.[9]

Elements of the 31st were called up for state duty several times during the interwar period. Its Louisiana and Mississippi units were called up to provide emergency relief due to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Florida units provided relief in response to the 1926 Miami hurricane, the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. They also helped to enforce the 1928–1930 Mediterranean fruit fly quarantine.[9]

Blanding became Chief of the National Guard Bureau on 30 January 1936 and was temporarily replaced by Louisiana Brigadier General Louis F. Guerre during his tenure in that position, which lasted until 30 January 1940. In August 1938, the division was reunited for the Fourth Corps Area concentration of the Third Army Maneuver in the De Soto National Forest, during which it operated as part of the provisional IV Corps. Between 17 and 23 December 1939, the division staff conducted supplementary winter training at Jackson Barracks to prepare for the upcoming Louisiana Maneuvers. During the maneuvers, held in the Kisatchie National Forest during August 1940, the 31st operated as part of IV Corps against VIII Corps. On 10 November the division headquarters relocated to Birmingham; Blanding retired on 18 November and was replaced by Alabama Major General John C. Persons, who led the division for most of the next four years.[9]

World War II[edit]

  • Called into federal service: 25 November 1940; Camp Blanding, Florida (National Guard Division from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi).
  • Overseas: 12 March 1944.
  • Campaigns: New Guinea, Southern Philippines.
  • Distinguished Unit Citations: 1.
  • Awards: MH-1; DSC-7; DSM-3; SS-178; LM-11; DFC-1; SM-73; BS-948; AM-77.
  • Commanders: Maj. Gen. John C. Persons (25 November 1940 – September 1944), Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin (September 1944 to inactivation).
  • Returned to U.S.: 12 December 1945.
  • Inactivated: 21 December 1945

Order of battle[edit]

  • Headquarters, 31st Infantry Division
  • 124th Infantry Regiment
  • 155th Infantry Regiment
  • 167th Infantry Regiment
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 31st Infantry Division Artillery
    • 114th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 115th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 117th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 149th Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
  • 106th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 106th Medical Battalion
  • 31st Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
  • Headquarters, Special Troops, 31st Infantry Division
    • Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry Division
    • 731st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
    • 31st Quartermaster Company
    • 31st Signal Company
    • Military Police Platoon
    • Band
  • 31st Counterintelligence Corps Detachment

Mobilization and training[edit]

As a result of World War II, the division was mobilized along with the entire National Guard and inducted into Federal service on 25 November 1940 at home stations. Instead of being sent to Camp McClellan, the 31st went to Camp Blanding, arriving on 22 December to discover that it was still under construction. After being strengthened by Selective Service draftees, the division participated in the IV Corps Louisiana Maneuvers in August 1941, the GHQ maneuvers near Good Hope Church between September and October as part of IV Corps, and the First Army Carolina Maneuvers near Ruby and Chesterfield, South Carolina during October and November as part of IV Corps, before returning to Blanding.[9]

Combat chronicle[edit]

The 31st Infantry Division arrived in Oro Bay, New Guinea, 24 April 1944, and engaged in amphibious training prior to entering combat. During the war, at various times its units included the 124th Infantry Regiment, the 155th Infantry Regiment from Mississippi, the 156th Infantry Regiment, and the 167th Infantry Regiment.

The 156th Infantry Regiment of the Louisiana National Guard was separated from the 31st Division on 14 July 1942. The unit was sent to England and then to Oran, Algiers where they were redesignated the 202nd Infantry Battalion and assigned military police duties due to the large number of French speaking members in the unit. Portions of the unit participated in the D-Day landings with the entire unit being reunited on 24 June 1944. The unit was later used to guard the Allied Expeditionary HQs. The unit returned to the US on 11 March 1946.

Alerted on 25 June 1944 for movement to Aitape, New Guinea, the 124th RCT left Oro Bay and landed at Aitape 3–6 July 1944. The combat team moved up to advanced positions and took part in the general offensive launched 13 July, including the bloody Battle of Driniumor River.

Soldiers of the division landing on Morotai

Meanwhile, the remainder of the division relieved the 6th Infantry Division in the Sarmi-Wakde island area, 18 July 1944, built bridges, roads, and docks, patrolled the area, and engaged small units of the enemy, trying not to provoke a large scale counterattack by the enemy. Over 1,000 Japanese were killed in these actions. In mid-August the division began to stage for a landing on Morotai, leaving Aitape and Maffin Bay, 11 September 1944. The division made an assault landing on Morotai, 15 September 1944, meeting only light opposition. During the occupation of Morotai, elements of the division, primarily the 167th Infantry Regiment, seized Mapia, 15–17 November, and waded ashore on the Asia Islands, 19–20 November, only to find the Japanese had already evacuated.

World War II combat survivors of Company B, 124th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 31st Infantry Division. The regiment arrived at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation on 14 December 1945 and was inactivated two days later at Camp Stoneman, California, where this photo was taken.

Other elements reverted to Sansapor, where they maintained and operated the base. On 22 April 1945, the division landed on Mindanao to take part in the liberation of the Philippines. The division was helped by the Filipino troops under the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary units and the local organized Christian and Islamic guerrillas fight the Japanese. Moving up the Sayre Highway and driving down the Kibawe-Talomo trail, fighting in knee-deep mud and through torrential rains, the 31st forced the enemy to withdraw into the interior and blocked off other Japanese in the Davao area. With the end of hostilities on 15 August, the 31st and the Philippine Commonwealth military were accomplished the surrender of all Japanese forces remaining in Mindanao.

The division returned to the United States and was inactivated at Camp Stoneman on 21 December.[11]

Casualties[edit]

  • Total battle casualties: 1,733[12]
  • Killed in action: 340[12]
  • Wounded in action: 1,392[12]
  • Prisoner of war: 1[12]

Postwar[edit]

The division was reorganized postwar in Alabama and Mississippi, with its Alabama part federally recognized at Birmingham on 1 November 1946, followed by the Mississippi part at Greenville on 2 December.[11]

After the Korean War broke out in 1950, the division was called to active duty on 16 January 1951 at Birmingham. No units were deployed, but individuals representing three-fourths of the authorized strength were sent to either Korea or Japan as replacements.[13] The 31st Infantry Division was transferred to Fort Carson, Colorado in February 1954 from Camp Atterbury. The 31st Division as an active service formation was then inactivated, with its personnel and equipment transferring to the 8th Infantry Division on 15 June.[14] Meanwhile, in Alabama and Mississippi, units of the National Guard of the United States were organized to replace those on active duty, including a NGUS division headquarters at Birmingham on 26 June 1953.[11]

The 31st Infantry (NGUS) Division was effectively reformed with units from Alabama and Mississippi, with its headquarters moving to Mobile on 10 December 1956 and back to Birmingham on 2 May 1959.[18] It served as a National Guard division until its inactivation on 14 January 1968.[11]

The division headquarters became the headquarters of the 31st Brigade, 30th Armored Division at Tuscaloosa on the next day. The headquarters company of the 2nd Brigade became the headquarters company of the new 31st Brigade.[11]

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 31st Brigade, 30th Armored Division was reorganized and redesignated 1 November 1973 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 31st Armored Brigade, and relieved of assignment from the 30th Armored Division. Location changed 1 February 1979 to Northport, Alabama.[11] In 1984-5 the 31st Armored Brigade comprised the 1st Battalion, 131st Armor Regiment, 2nd-152nd Armor, 1st-167th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 117th Field Artillery, E Troop, 31st Cavalry and the 31st Engineer Company.[19] In 2002 it started transitioning to a chemical brigade, initially designated the 122nd. In November 2002 the brigade was redesignated the 31st Chemical Brigade.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson 1998, p. 40.
  2. ^ a b c d Historical Section, Army War College 1931, p. 173.
  3. ^ a b c Historical Section, Army War College 1931, p. 170.
  4. ^ a b Historical Section, Army War College 1931, p. 171.
  5. ^ Historical Section, Army War College 1931, pp. 172–173.
  6. ^ Wilson 1998, p. 69.
  7. ^ Historical Section, Army War College 1931, p. 175.
  8. ^ a b Historical Section, Army War College 1931, pp. 174–175.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Clay 2010, pp. 225–226.
  10. ^ Wilson 1998, pp. 100–101.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Wilson 1999, p. 652.
  12. ^ a b c d Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths (Statistical and Accounting Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1 June 1953)
  13. ^ Globalsecurity.org, 31st Armored Brigade (Separate), accessed May 2009
  14. ^ "Divisional Redesignations". Military Review. 34 (4): 66. July 1954.
  15. ^ Mississippi Secretary of State 1964, p. 268.
  16. ^ Alabama Department of Archives and History 1959, pp. 345–347.
  17. ^ "Dixie Division Finishes Effective Field Training". The Winston County Journal. 23 July 1964. Retrieved 18 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  18. ^ History of the 31st Chemical Brigade, accessed May 2009
  19. ^ Isby & Kamps 1985, p. 385.

References[edit]