83rd Infantry Division (United States)

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83rd Infantry Division
83rd Infantry Division SSI.svg
83rd Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active1917–1919, 1921–1946, 2014–present
Country United States
Branch United States Army
Garrison/HQFort Knox, Kentucky, U.S.
Nickname(s)"Thunderbolt" (special designation)[1] or "Ohio Division"
EngagementsWorld War I

World War II

CommanderCOL Joseph L. Thomas, Jr. (since June 29, 2021)[2]

The 83rd Infantry Division ("Thunderbolt"[1]) was a formation of the United States Army in World War I and World War II.

World War I[edit]

The division was activated in September 1917 at Camp Sherman, Ohio. It was initially made up of enlisted draftees from Ohio and Pennsylvania, with a cadre of Regular Army, Officers Reserve Corps, and National Army officers. Later groups of enlisted men assigned to the division to replace men transferred to other units came from Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The division went overseas in June 1918, and was designated as the 2nd Depot Division. It supplied over 195,000 officers and enlisted men as replacements to other units in France without seeing action as a complete formation. Certain divisional units saw action, such as the 332nd Infantry Regiment, in Italy (Battle of Vittorio Veneto). Its commanders were Maj. Gen. Edwin F. Glenn (25 August 1917), Brig. Gen. Frederick Perkins (13 January 1918), Brig. Gen. Willard A. Holbrook (23 March 1918), and finally Maj. Gen. Edwin F. Glenn (3 April 1918). It was demobilized in October 1919.

Order of battle[edit]

  • Headquarters, 83rd Division
  • 165th Infantry Brigade
    • 329th Infantry Regiment
    • 330th Infantry Regiment
    • 323rd Machine Gun Battalion
  • 166th Infantry Brigade
    • 331st Infantry Regiment
    • 332nd Infantry Regiment
    • 324th Machine Gun Battalion
  • 158th Field Artillery Brigade
    • 322nd Field Artillery Regiment (75 mm)
    • 323rd Field Artillery Regiment (75 mm)
    • 324th Field Artillery Regiment (155 mm)
    • 308th Trench Mortar Battery
  • 322nd Machine Gun Battalion
  • 308th Engineer Regiment
  • 308th Field Signal Battalion
  • Headquarters Troop, 83rd Division
  • 308th Train Headquarters and Military Police
    • 308th Ammunition Train
    • 308th Supply Train
    • 308th Engineer Train
    • 308th Sanitary Train
      • 329th, 330th, 331st, and 332nd Ambulance Companies and Field Hospitals

Shoulder patch[edit]

The shoulder sleeve insignia of the 83rd Division insignia consists of a letters in gold spelling out the word "O-H-I-O" on a black isosceles triangular background. The insignia was selected during World War I because the division contained mostly Ohio draftees.[3]

Interwar period[edit]

The division was reconstituted in the Organized Reserve on 24 June 1921 and assigned to the state of Ohio. The headquarters was organized on 27 September 1921.

World War II[edit]

Order of battle[edit]

  • Headquarters, 83rd Infantry Division
  • 329th Infantry Regiment
  • 330th Infantry Regiment
  • 331st Infantry Regiment
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 83rd Infantry Division Artillery
    • 322nd Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 323rd Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
    • 324th Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
    • 908th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
  • 308th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 308th Medical Battalion
  • 83rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
  • Headquarters, Special Troops, 83rd Infantry Division
    • Headquarters Company, 83rd Infantry Division
    • 783rd Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
    • 83rd Quartermaster Company
    • 83rd Signal Company
    • Military Police Platoon
    • Band
  • 83rd Counterintelligence Corps Detachment
  • 453rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion Detachment

Combat chronicle[edit]

The 83rd Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Robert C. Macon, arrived in England on 16 April 1944 with its first divisional headquarters at Keele Hall in Staffordshire.[4] After training in Wales, the division, taking part in the Allied invasion of Normandy, landed at Omaha Beach, 18 June 1944, and entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan, 27 June. Taking the offensive, the 83rd reached the St. Lo-Periers Road, 25 July, and advanced 8 miles (13 km) against strong opposition as the Normandy Campaign ended.

After a period of training, elements of the division took Châteauneuf-d'Ille-et-Vilaine, 5 August, and Dinard, 15 August, and approached the heavily fortified area protecting St. Malo. Intense fighting during the Battle of Saint-Malo reduced enemy strong points and a combined attack against the Citadel Fortress of St. Servan caused its surrender, 17 August. While elements moved south to protect the north bank of the Loire River, the main body of the division concentrated south of Rennes for patrolling and reconnaissance activities. Elements reduced the garrison at Ile de Cézembre, which surrendered, 2 September. On 16 September 1944: in the only surrender of a German Major General to U.S. troops, Botho Henning Elster surrendered with 18,850 men and 754 officers at the Loire bridge of Beaugency.[5][a] The movement into Luxembourg was completed on 25 September. Taking Remich on the 28th and patrolling defensively along the Moselle, the 83d resisted counterattacks and advanced to the Siegfried Line defenses across the Sauer after capturing Grevenmacher and Echternach, 7 October. As the initial movement in operation "Unicorn," the division took Le Stromberg Hill in the vicinity of Basse Konz against strong opposition, 5 November, and beat off counterattacks.

Moving to the Hurtgen Forest, the 83rd Division thrust forward from Gressenich to the west bank of the Roer. It entered the Battle of the Bulge, 27 December, striking at Rochefort and reducing the enemy salient in a bitter struggle. The division moved back to Belgium and the Netherlands for rehabilitation and training, 22 January 1945. On 1 March, the 83rd Division advanced toward the Rhine in Operation Grenade, and captured Neuss. The west bank of the Rhine from north of Oberkassel to the Erft Canal was cleared and defensive positions established by 2 March and the division renewed its training. The 83rd Division crossed the Rhine south of Wesel, 29 March, and advanced across the Munster Plain to the Weser, crossing it at Bodenwerder. The division crossed the Leine, 8 April, and attacked to the east, pushing over the Harz Mountain region and advancing to the Elbe at Barby. That city was taken on 13 April. The 83rd Division established a bridgehead over the river.

On 11 April 1945 the 83rd Division encountered Langenstein-Zwieberge, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp.[7][8][9] At the camp, the troops found approximately 1,100 inmates. The inmates were malnourished and in extremely poor physical condition. The 83rd Division reported the death rate at the camp had been 500 per month. Also, that the prisoners had been forced to work 16-hour days in nearby mines, and were shot if they became too weak to work. After liberation, the death rate continued at approximately 25–50 people per day, due to the severe physical debilitation of the prisoners.

To slow the spread of sickness and death, the 83rd Division ordered the local German mayor to supply the camp with food and water. Also, medical supplies were requisitioned from the U.S. Army's 20th Field Hospital. In addition, the 83rd Division recovered documents for use by war crimes investigators.


  • Total battle casualties: 15,910[10]
  • Killed in action: 3,161[10]
  • Wounded in action: 11,807[10]
  • Missing in action: 279[10]
  • Prisoner of war: 663[10]

Assignments in ETO[edit]

  • 8 April 1944: VIII Corps, Third Army
  • 25 June 1944: Third Army, but attached to the VIII Corps of First Army
  • 1 July 1944: VII Corps
  • 15 July 1944: VIII Corps
  • 1 August 1944: XV Corps, Third Army, 12th Army Group
  • 3 August 1944: VIII Corps
  • 5 September 1944: VIII Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group
  • 10 September 1944: Ninth Army, 12th Army Group
  • 21 September 1944: Third Army, 12th Army Group
  • 11 October 1944: VIII Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group
  • 22 October 1944: VIII Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group
  • 8 November 1944: Third Army, 12th Army Group
  • 11 November 1944: VIII Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group
  • 7 December 1944: VII Corps
  • 20 December 1944: Attached, with the entire First Army, to the 21st Army Group
  • 22 December 1944: XIX Corps, Ninth Army (attached to the British 21st Army Group)
  • 26 December 1944: VII Corps, First Army (attached to British 21st Army Group), 12th Army Group
  • 16 February 1945: XIX Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group
  • 8 May 1945: XIII Corps

The Rag-Tag Circus[edit]

During the rush to the Elbe river, wartime correspondents nicknamed the 83rd "The Rag-Tag Circus"[11] due to its resourceful commander, Major General Robert C. Macon, ordering the supplementing of the division's transport with anything that moved, "no questions asked".[12]

The 83rd moved as fast as an armored task force in an assortment of hurriedly repainted captured German vehicles: Wehrmacht kubelwagens, staff cars, ammunition trucks, Panzers, motor bikes, buses, a concrete mixer, and two fire engines. Every enemy unit or town that surrendered or was captured subscribed its quota of rolling stock for the division, usually at gunpoint. These newly-acquired vehicles were quickly painted olive-green and fitted with a U.S. star before joining the 83rd.[13] The division even seized and flew a German Bf 109.[12]

From the air the column bore no resemblance to either an armored or an infantry division. But for a number of U.S Army trucks interspersed among its columns, it might easily have been mistaken for a German convoy.[12]

U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center[edit]

The 83rd United States Army Reserve Readiness Training Center trains soldiers in leader, functional, and DMOSQ programs.


Nicknames: Thunderbolt Division, The Rag-Tag-Circus and the Ohio Division.

See also[edit]


  • Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950. The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States. United States Army Center of Military History.
  • 1944: Botho Henning Elster (German Wikipedia) – a surrender at Beaugency


  1. ^ The troops under Elster's command were not an organised fighting unit. They consisted of the various occupation forces from along the Atlantic coast and down to the Pyrenees. They had limited supplies of ammunition and rations, and no radio contact with Germany. They had marched as far as the Loire, but with bridges down and American troops patrolling the North bank, there seemed no reasonable prospect of achieving a crossing. To avoid needless loss of life, Elster negotiated a surrender. Whilst he was a prisoner of war, he was tried by the Reich War Court in Nazi Germany, in his absence, and condemned to death.[6]


  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. ^ "83rd U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center welcomes new commander". U.S. Army Reserve.
  3. ^ "83rd INFANTRY DIVISION - Order of Battle of the United States Army - WWII - ETO | U.S. Army Center of Military History".
  4. ^ "83rd INFANTRY DIVISION - Order of Battle of the United States Army - WWII - ETO | U.S. Army Center of Military History". history.army.mil. Archived from the original on 30 December 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  5. ^ 83rd Infantry Division, PRO (25 September 1944). "20,000 Nazis Surrender" (PDF). 83rd Spearhead. London. pp. Volume 1, Number 2, Page 1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  6. ^ Hellwinkel, Lars (2014). Hitler's Gateway to the Atlantic: German Naval Bases in France 1940-45 (Kindle ed.). Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing Limited. p. Kindle location 2581. ISBN 978-184832-199-1.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "WWII Veteran Interview Olshaker 3 of 6". Archived from the original on 27 June 2021. Retrieved 7 December 2019 – via www.youtube.com.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 7 December 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ a b c d e Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths, Final Report (Statistical and Accounting Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, 1 June 1953)
  11. ^ Leiser, Ernest. "The Rag-Tag Circus - They Make History" (PDF). Stars and Stripes. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 December 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Ryan, Cornelius (1966). The Last Battle. London: Hachette UK (published 2015). ISBN 9781473620087. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  13. ^ Neff, John C. (August 1947). "Race to the Elbe" (PDF). LXI (2). Infantry Journal. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 September 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]