The 100th Infantry Division in

World War II

What makes them so special?

Activated 15 November 1942 at Fort Jackson, SC, under the command of Major General Withers A. Burress (VMI, Class of 1914), who commanded the division throughout its training in the States and all of its combat in the European Theater.

One of only 11 divisions (out of the 90 US Army divisions in WWII) to be commanded by the same officer from activation to the end of the War.

Comprised of men from all 48 states.

Truly an All-American outfit.

Using a 1,500-man mostly Regular Army cadre, trained 15,000 recruits from basic training, through Tennessee Maneuvers (Second Army No. 4 Tennessee Maneuvers, 17 Nov 43 - 18 Jan 44) to full combat readiness; lost about 3,000 men as replacements for units already in combat.

Not only a combat division, but a valuable adjunct to the Army training base.

During a Supplementary Training Period from January 1944 to September, 1944, incorporated over 3,000 replacements, mainly from the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), and again reached full combat readiness by the late summer, 1944.

The ASTP "Scholars in Uniform" proved a valuable addition to the highly-trained, physically-hardened division.

During 1944, the 100th also performed duties as the Army's "Show Division," putting on assault and firepower demonstrations for VIPs from the US and abroad; training exhibitions for selected businessmen; honor guard activities at Radio City in Manhattan; and providing a provisional battalion of 1,200 hand-picked men as the featured unit in the Fifth War Loan Drive in NYC.

Not only a combat division, but an indispensable part of the effort to maintain morale at home and confidence of allies overseas.

Entered combat in mid-November 1944 in the Vosges Mountains of northeast France, as part of VI Corps of the United States Seventh Army under Lieutenant General Alexander Patch.

The Division survived the "Hurricane of 1944" in the North Atlantic en route from the NY Port of Embarkation to the Marseilles.

Tore through deeply-entrenched German resistance in the craggy High Vosges Mountains in two weeks of savage fighting.

Practically destroyed the brand-new, full-strength German 708th Volks-Grenadier Division in the process of penetrating the Vosges Mountains by assault for the first time in history Since the 1st century BC, Romans, Huns, Burgundians, Swedes, Austrians, Bavarians, Germans and even French forces had tried and failed, but in the late autumn of 1944, in the face of nearly constant rain, snow, ice and mud, the US Seventh Army did what no other army had ever done before. For its success in ripping the Germans out of their trenches on the formidable heights overlooking Raon L'Etape, the 1st Battalion, 399th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Division's first Presidential Unit Citation, the collective equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross for individual valor. Lieutenant Edward Silk, of the 2d Battalion, 398th, won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the rout of the German forces.

Pursued elements of the German 1st Army through the Low Vosges to the Maginot Line.

Overcame stiff resistance by the 361st Volks-Grenadier Division at Mouterhouse and Lemberg and advanced on the Maginot Line. (3/399th Infantry won a Presidential Unit Citation for its assault of Lemberg.) Attacking into the Maginot, elements of the Division seized Fort Schiesseck, one of the Maginot forts attacked by the Germans in 1940, from the same direction, i.e. the south. In 1940, the German 257th Infantry Division failed to take Schiesseck, whose French garrison only surrendered a week after the rest of the French Army. In December of 1944, the 100th Infantry Division took the 14-story deep fortress, replete with disappearing gun turrets and 12-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete walls, in a four-day assault, 17 - 20 December 1944.

Defeated the combined attacks of two German divisions, which were strongly supported by tanks, super-heavy tank destroyers, artillery and rockets, in early January 1945, during the last German offensive in the West, Operation NORDWIND.

After giving some ground initially, the 399th Infantry Regiment tenaciously defended Lemberg in the face of a determined assault by the entire 559th Volks-Grenadier Division and parts of the 257th; on the left, the 397th Infantry refused to be pushed out of the village of Rimling, where it blunted the attack of the vaunted 17th SS Panzer-Grenadiers, the "Götz von Berlichingen" Division. Although the Germans had expected to surround and annihilate the 100th in two days, the Division's stubborn defense completely disrupted the Germans' efforts to regain the strategically-critical Saverne Pass. While the German offensive raged on throughout January on the Alsatian Plain, the 100th's defense in the snows of the worst winter of the 20th century was the single most significant factor in blunting the last German thrust of the war in the West. In recognition of their extraordinary accomplishment, the 3d Battalion, 397th Infantry Regiment (plus H/397th) was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their defense of Rimling. For his key role in that action, Technical Sergeant Charles F. Carey of the 397th received the Congressional Medal of Honor -- posthumously.

Highlighted the Seventh Army's drive into Germany in March, 1945 with the seizure of the Bitche, a heavily-fortified town in the Low Vosges Mountains.

Since the erection of the enormous sandstone citadel there in the early 1700s, the town had been continuously fortified with concentric rings of outworks, including several major Maginot forts, dozens of concrete pillboxes, and thickets of barbed wire and minefields. Although it had been invested several times, most notably in the Franco-Prussian War and in the 1940 campaign, Bitche had never fallen. From this point on, after the 3d Battalion, 398th Infantry won a Presidential Unit Citation there, the entire Division became known as "The Sons of Bitche."

Fought one of the last major battles of World War II in Europe with the assault river crossing of the Neckar River at Heilbronn, 3 - 12 April 1945.

In the teeth of fanatical resistance, fueled by an errant RAF bombing raid which had mistakenly hit the city center and turned the enraged populace into enthusiastic helpers of the city's defenders, the 100th launched an amphibious assault across the narrow but swiftly-flowing Neckar. While under constant observation and direct fire of dozens of guns emplaced on the hills surrounding Heilbronn to the east, the men of the 100th clawed their way into the city center and destroyed the German garrison by 12 April. Three battalions, 1/397th, 2/397th and (for the second time) the 3/398th earned Presidential Unit Citations in the process of eradicating this, one of the last major centers of German resistance. PFC Mike Colalillo won the third -- and last --Congressional Medal of Honor to be awarded to a soldier of the 100th Division during this battle as well.

In all, in 185 days of uninterrupted ground combat, out of an authorized strength of 13,688 officers and enlisted men, the 100th Infantry Division sustained 916 killed in action, 3,656 wounded in action, and lost 180 men missing in action. The overwhelming majority of these were sustained by the three infantry regiments, which together were authorized 9,771 men; in other words, considering that the infantry units were rarely maintained above 80% strength, about 50% of all the infantrymen in the Division became casualties in the course of achieving the Division's magnificent record. In liberating or capturing over 400 cities, towns and villages, they defeated major elements of eight German divisions. In this process, the men of the 100th inflicted untold casualties on the enemy, the only calculable number of which is the 13,351 enemy prisoners taken.

In return, in addition to the Presidential Unit Citations and Medals of Honor listed above, the soldiers of the 100th Infantry Division earned 36 Distinguished Service Crosses and over 500 Silver Stars for valor in combat. To preserve the esprit de corps and fellowship forged in their grueling training and six months of bitter combat, the men of the Division formed the Association of 100th Infantry Division in 1946, and have held annual reunions ever since.

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