Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ASTP and the 100th Division

As mentioned in Norm's recollections, he was a member of the !00th Division, 399th Infantry Regiment, Company A:

From the Website on the 100th Division

Greeting Center for the new member of the 100th, Spring 1944
The 100th was thus "backfilled" with thousands of replacements from a variety of sources. Air crews and other personnel from the Air Corps filled the ranks, as did soldiers from antiaircraft units and service support outfits. Ironically, the largest single source of replacements for the men who shipped out to join other units already in combat was the ASTP, which was broken up in early 1944; the Army needed riflemen more than it needed Hungarian radio intercept operators or chemical engineers. That they were especially bright (the ASTP required a 115 general technical score for admission; Officer Candidate School required a 110!) was an added bonus in the bargain for all concerned. The challenges of the modern battlefield required using every possible advantage.
Grenade Training for the 100th

Additional  roadmarches toughened the new infantry physically and mentally while bonding
the new men with their veteran buddies
 Thus, the 100th Infantry Division embarked on a "Supplemental Training Period" designed to assimilate the new arrivals, while building on the experience already gained by the vast majority of the Division's soldiers since late 1942. The chain of command instituted an especially vigorous physical regimen as well, not only to toughen the ASTP men, fresh from college campuses around America, but to help psychologically weld them together with the "veterans" who were already present. A strong intramural athletic program only added to this effect.

Throughout the Division's tenure at Fort Bragg, rumors abounded regarding the Division's ultimate role in the war. The temporary issue of camouflage utility uniforms led some to believe that the Division was bound for the Pacific; ranger training made some believe the outfit was headed for Norway. Some hopeful few believed the emphasis placed on physical conditioning and drill -- actually a coherent attempt to build discipline and cohesion -- indicated that the 100th was really only a "show division." This latter rumor was reinforced by numerous visits by dignitaries such as the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, and dozens of generals, senior businessmen, and the like. The participation by a select provisional battalion of the Division's smartest marchers in the Fifth War Loan Drive in New York City did little to allay this rumor of nothing but stateside soldiering in the 100th's future.

Nothing could have been more untrue. On 10 August 1944, the Division was alerted for deployment to the European Theater of Operations. The words of the Story of the Century say it best,
To the accompaniment of martial strains from the 100th Division van, first elements of the Century, carrying full field packs and horseshoe rolls, boarded the long line of waiting Pullmans and flopped onto prearranged seats. For several moments the inspiring tunes, which had paced our steps on uncounted reviews across the drill fields of Bragg and Jackson were drowned in the cacophony of grunts and curses as we shifted duffel bags in an effort to make ourselves comfortable. Then, noses and foreheads pressed to windows, we watched Fort Bragg hide behind a curve in the railroad.

By 30 September, the Division had closed on Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where preparations were made for embarkation in New York. Final passes were granted, essential classes were taught, and the staff and chain of command made last-minute plans and adjustments. On 5 October, the Division loaded aboard the George Washington, George Gordon, McAndrews, and Mooremac Moon. The convoy, which also included the entire 103d Infantry Division and the advance party of the 14th Armored Division, set sail the next morning, bound for Marseilles -- and combat.

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