35th Infantry Division Memory

For never forget...
Santa Fe
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Chapter 15

Occupation and Home


One minute after midnight on 9 May 45, 335 days after the Allied forces stormed ashore in Normandy, the peace which Europe had dreamed of for nearly six years, was a reality. This was the hour that all the world had yearned for, and the battle weary doughboys of the veteran "Santa Fe" Division were among the millions who drew a grateful breath at the end of bloodshed and destruction. Emblazoned on their minds was an indelible road map, showing 1600 combat miles which had let them through endless battle across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and Germany.

The cessation of gunfire was not the cessation of the Santa Fe's role in the Victory in Europe. For the war's end brought occupation duties, the 35th's area of responsibility being the city of Hannover and surrounding countryside.

Coming as a surprise to the American troops, was the attitude of the vanquished German population. So long had they endured the round-the-clock bombardment and sleepless nights, that the actual end of suffering seemed as an unbelievable blessing. Theirs was a spirit of cooperation and mild gratitude amplified by the presence of American troops, which seemed to give them, assurance that peace, although defeat, had really come at last. The thousands of displaced persons who slaved in German bondage for many long months, were simply uncontrollably exuberant in their rejoicing at liberation. They danced in the streets and even spat upon their former boss-drivers. The presence of armed Santa Fe men averted much wholesale retaliation.

The stay in Hannover area was a short one, for on 17 - 18 May units of the 35th Division were relieved of their governing and policing duties by British and the American 84th Infantry Division, and the Santa Fe was sent to Recklinghausen, Germany. After eleven days in that area the division gave the keys of Recklinghausen to the 3rd British Division, on 30 May 45.

Then followed the division's major occupation job. By motor and rail, it moved to the 15th Army area in the vicinity of Koblenz on 1 - 4 June to relieve the 66th Infantry Division in governmental and occupational duties. Subordinate units of the division were assigned areas and took over governments. The MG and CIC Teams began screening out the Jerries, registering residents, re-establishing some form of government, providing water, transportation and other public utilities. The job was a large and responsible one.

The 137th Infantry, arriving in the area, took on Military Government responsibilities, security and occupation duties in the Landkreises St. Goar, Zell, Cochern and Simmern. The 320th occupied Landkreises Neuwied, Altenkirchen and Koblenz. Division Artillery, with the 448th AAA AW Battalion attached, occupied Landkreises, Birkenfield and Kreuznack. The 134th, having arrived first and early, was already at Mayer and Ahrweiler.

While the maximum number of troops were assembling for training to maintain a strong mobile reserve in each company or similar garrison unit, many members of the division took advantage of the Army's liberal policy of granting passes, leaves and furloughs. Many of the Santa Fe men went on some of the most desired of the world's sight seeing tours. Some were fortunate enough to select the direction in which they preferred to venture. Many chose a few days in Paris, some elected to take a week on the Riviera, some wanted to see England and Scotland, and a few even visited the Alps of Switzerland. All returned to their units possessed of unforgettable memories of the places known only in stories to the vast majority of Americans.

Now that the shooting was over everyone relaxed. But there were raids for contraband to be conducted in the Koblenz Sub-Area and many problems which required hard work. Even so, each found his opportunity for relaxation. An extensive athletic program was introduced, and within a short while the 35th boasted one of the finest baseball teams in Europe. The 35th Division defeated the 106th Infantry Division in a thrill-packed game at Koblenz when the "Santa Fe Stadium" in that city was dedicated.

The work and efforts of the chaplains of the 35th Infantry Division are worthy of commendation. Their spiritual ministrations, moral counsel, and religious guidance contributed immeasurably to the proper and complete preparation of the combat soldier for the effective and efficient performance of his duties. Their selfless and conscientious devotion to duty under the most difficult conditions and circumstances inspired self-confidence and hope. They held daily religious services, for large or small groups wherever conditions permitted; comforted the wounded and dying at the aid-stations and on the battlefields, and visited the soldiers at their gun-emplacements and in their foxholes. They also gave spiritual comfort to the sick and wounded at the hospitals, and rendered appropriate religious services for the dead at the cemeteries.

At all times the chaplains made themselves available for whatever ministrations or services that they might render, not only to soldiers, but to their families as well. Because of the confidence that was placed in them and the respectful positions that they held, the chaplains were able to help comfort the anxious and bereaved loved-ones of the many wounded and killed soldiers. In the special ministrations, they wrote several thousand letters of condolence to parents, wives, and relatives.

As a consequence of their work, the chaplains were regarded by the soldiers and their families as friends in time of need, and as consecrated men of God who walked by their side representing the things for which they fought.

The Information and Education program found many active participants while the division underwent a considerable amount of exchange personnel. High point me who would not be eligible for service with the 35th Division in the Pacific were transferred to units destined for eventual return to the United States for discharge and inactivation. Low point men were assigned to the 35th to replace those men with longer service.

On the 11th of July, the entire division, less the 137th Infantry Regiment, moved by motor and rail to Camp Norfolk Assembly Area, near Sommesous, France, arriving there on 12 July. At Camp Norfolk, the division received even more low point men to bring it up to full strength with men destined to fight on another front with the 35th Division. The 1st and 2nd Provisional Battalions were created to administer the newly joined men. On the 14th of August the long awaited news of the defeat of Japan was received. V-J Day was spent in mingled feeling of emotion and conjecture of the future of the Division. Beginning on 15 August, the division moved, in a four-day period, to the Port of Le Havre for transportation to England.

On 11th of July, the 137th assembled at Camp White Tie, near Brussels, Belgium. Here the regiment had the signal honor of acting as guard of honor for President Harry S. Truman, who was en route to the Potsdam Conference.

Following this duty the 137th sailed on the S. S. Cristobal on 23 August, arriving 31 August at Boston Harbor and Camp Myles Standish. From there the troops went on recuperative furloughs to assemble with other units of the division later at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky.

The division, less the 137th, departed from Southampton, England, on 5 September, aboard the "Queen Mary" - the world's third largest liner afloat, and holder of the trans-Atlantic crossing record. The Santa Fe arrived in the United States five days later, dropping anchor in New York Harbor on 10 September. From there the troops entrained for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and then scattered throughout the country on thirty and forty-five day furloughs.

The trip back from Europe aboard the Queen Mary, with its recreational facilities, library, post exchanges, news broadcasts, USO groups augmented by local talent and movies, made the voyage almost that of a peacetime tourist trip. Messing was excellent in quality and quantity, and the quarters, while necessitating double bunking, were adequate.

At Camp Breckinridge, the division's strength was quickly cut. High point men went back to civilian life, their job finished. The low point men were transferred to other active units.

On the 7th of December, four years after Pearl Harbor, the 35th Infantry Division ceased to exist as a unit of the Army of the United States.

Thus ends the history of a combat division - the history of the men of the "Santa Fe," who accepted the great responsibility of carrying the fight to the enemy.

This is a history of the faith and courage of the common soldier who, in the great tests of combat, pounded through the hedgerows of St. Lo - stopped the Hun at Mortain - battered out victory at Bastogne - cut his way through the Siegfried Line, and swept the Germans across the Rhine to the doorsteps of Berlin.

This is a history of men to whom fate entrusts the safekeeping of the great luxuries, Liberty and the Four Freedoms - men who day and night listened to the angry whispers of sudden death - men who lived and died for those they loved - men, who in closing the final chapter of World War II, return to their homes; American Citizens with an inner knowledge of their duties well done.

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