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97th Infantry division – Trident

97th Infantry division – emblem

This division was established in 1918 in Camp Cody in New Mexico. It did not take part in the combats of World War I but it lost more than 100 men during the Spanish flu epidemic at the training camp. At the end of 1918, the division was disbanded and transferred to the reserve – the officers were transferred to other units.

Since 1922, its emblem consisted of a white trident in a blue field. The whole emblem in the shape of a shield is bordered by white trim. The individual arms of the trident represent the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The blue colour is the blue of lakes in these states and the white trim reminds of snow on the mountain tops in the same states. Ironically, almost the same trident was also the emblem of the German 2nd Panzer Division against whom the 97th Division fought later as it approached Cheb.

During the World War II, the 97th Division was reactivated at Camp Shift in Texas on 25 February 1943. Its first commander was General Louis A. Craig who was replaced by Brigadier General Milton B. Halsey in January 1944.

In July 1944, the division was moved to Camp San Louis Obispo, California, and it was decided that it would undergo intensive amphibious training and that it would be deployed in combat in the Pacific. Till late October, it conducted, in conjunction with the Navy and the Marines, training of landing on special beaches at Camp Allan, Cornado Strand, San Clemente Island, San Nicolas Island and Camp Pendleton. In November 1944, the division was concentrated at Camp Cook, California, right in the Pacific Ocean about 30 km from Santa Barbara. It underwent further landing training there.

The situation changed after the Ardennes offensive in December 1944 when it was necessary to supplement the sparse U.S. troops and the 97th Division was sent to Europe. 140,000 men left New York on 19 February 1945 and they reached Le Havre in France on 1 March. Here it remained in Camp Lucky Strike until 27 March. This day, the division moved from France, where it crossed the German border near Aachen the following day. In early April, it was deployed in the battle of the Ruhr Pocket where other 16 American divisions were already fighting. The 97th division crossed the Rhine near Bonn and was preparing to overcome the Sieg River, where they applied very well their original amphibious training. After crossing the river, the division unit fought for the cities of Siegburg and Leverkusen. Solingen surrendered without fight and Düseldorf capitulated later. Several soldiers received bronze and silver stars for combat operations and Pfc Joe R. Hastings received the Congressional Medal of Honor as the only man from the division. Unfortunately, he was killed in another bold action four days later.

After the occupation of the Ruhr area, the entire division moved by trucks 560 km to Hof and Markredwitz near the Czechoslovak border. On 23 April 1945, the division was in Wundsiedel where it was transferred to XII Corps of the 3rd Army and began to take over the section from the 90th Infantry and 2nd Cav. That day, the division liberated the Flossenburg concentration camp near the Czechoslovak border.

97th ID US Army in ChebMap of 97th ID of US Army marching

The 782nd TB, 820th TDB and 444th AAA were also incorporated into the division. With these support troops, the division launched, on 24 April, an operation to conquer the access to Cheb and to conquer the city itself too. After a relatively difficult and biggest fight ever, with which the U.S. Army met in Czechoslovakia, Cheb was conquered on 26 April. However, this victory was paid for by 46 fallen soldiers and 150 wounded ones in this space. Later, on 28 April, there followed several hours of the battle of the Cheb Airport during which about 16 soldiers were wounded. On 29 April, the division began hand over the section to the 1st Infantry Division and all the units of the 97th Division began to concentrate along the Czechoslovak border from Dyleň Mountain to Domažlice.

On 1st May 1945 the 97th Division was allocated to the V Corps and on 5 May the entire division, with the 1st ID on the left flank and the 90th ID, and later the 2nd ID, on the right flank, started to advance to western Bohemia. During this advance, the division had to allow the passage of the troops of the 16th AD to Pilsen. The 97th Division, the 386th Regiment and part of the 389th Artillery Battalion, got to Pilsen as well by a back route via Touškov and, according to the testimonies of the veterans of these units, they occupied one building very important for them – the brewery – but they had to hand it over, much to their disappointment, to the officers of the 16th AD by the evening of 6 May and to retreat from Pilsen to the area of Touškov and Konstantinovy Lázně where the divisional headquarters was. Unlike the other units, the 97th Division received an order to move to Germany to the Bamberg area by 15 May.

In June 1945, the entire division went to the USA and, after a 30-day holiday, the division concentrated again at Fort Bragg in North Carolina where it prepared again for initial deployment in combat against Japan.

In late August, the division left Seattle and set off on a journey to Yokohama. During a 48-hour stop on the island of Ivo Jima, the soldiers heard of the surrender of Japan. The division arrived in Japan in early September and remained there in the area of Honshu Island, where it had to take care of the logistics and the living needs of about 4 million Japanese till 31 March 1946 when the division returned to the USA and was disbanded.

97th division was reactivated in 1969 as a reserve ARCOM division (Army Reserve COMmand) and it serves as a training unit for military police, medical staff, administrative units and logistics. Its emblem is also slightly modified and the interpretation of the emblem is also different from the original. Four medical units from this reactivated division took part in the Vietnam War.

Division commander

Brigadier General M. B. Halsey March – May 1945

Division structure

303rd Infantry Regiment 303rd Artillery Battalion (105 mm) 322nd engineer Battalion
386th Infantry Regiment 365th Artillery Battalion (105 mm) 322nd medical battalion
387th Infantry Regiment 389th Artillery Battalion (105 mm) 97th locker patch company
97th reconnaissance unit 922nd Artillery Battalion (105 mm) 797th dílenská rota
97th spojovací rota MP squad Company HQ

Larger liberated sites in Czechoslovakia

303rd Infantry Regiment Mariánské Lázně, Teplá, Toužim, Úterý
386th Infantry Regiment Frant. Lázně, Hazlov, Tachov, Rozvadov, Bor, Přimda, Kladruby, Stříbro,Plzeň
387th Infantry Regiment Cheb, Konstant. Lázně, Nečtiny, Manětín, Klenovice

Losings

Fallen in battle 214 soldiers
Injured in battle 721 soldiers

Honors

Medal of Honor 1
Distinguished Service Cross 2
Distinguished Service Medal 1
Silver Star 96
Legion of Merit 2
Bronze Star 347
CONVOY OF REMEMBRANCE 1945 – 2007 - Veteran 97th ID mister John Del Santo

A veteran of the 97th ID, Mr. John Del Santo, participated personally in the entire route, on board one of the club jeeps, of the CONVOY OF REMEMBRANCE 1945 – 2007 and 2008 organized by our club. We all bow to his stamina and life optimism.

The veteran, who served with the 9th Infantry Division in Tunisia, parachuted with the 101st Airborne Division in Normandy; after healing his wounds (from artillery shrapnel explosion), he was deployed in defence of Bastogne in the Ardennes (where received the Silver Star and was promoted to Lieutenant) and was assigned to an artillery battalion the 97th Infantry Division with whom he passed from Le Havre via Aachen, crossed the Rhine near Bonn and arrived to the Czechoslovak border and participated in the conquest of Cheb, he got to Město Touškov via Rozvadov, Peřejov, Nové Domky and Bor near Tachov got to Touškov, and he participated in the liberation of Pilsen on 6 May 1945. In the World War II, he was awarded the Silver Star once, the Bronze Star twice and the Purple Heart twice. After the World War II, he was transferred back to the 101st Airborne Division with whom he fought in the Korean War and during the Vietnam War he served as an instructor of paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. In 1978, he retired with the rank of Colonel.

Thank You John!

2012 © Military Car Club, Plzeň. Vyrobilo studio WEB&DTP. Aktualizace 28. 4. 2015