CusterMen MENU Italian Campaign At The Front Books Armies Maps 85th Division GI Biographies Websites

Dated:  December 29, 2012
  

Custermen

    The 85th 'Custer' Division in World War II
  Including 328th Field Artillery Battalion & Other Units
     The purpose of this web site is to provide some historical information on the 85th 'Custer' Division in World War 2.  I began this project by trying to tell the story of veterans, like my Dad.  Since then, I've added information collected over the years, including historical documents obtained from the National Archives.  For example, I have the Operational Reports for my Dad's unit, the 328th Field Artillery Battalion.  The detailed history of the 85th Division is taken from the booklet "From Minturno to the Appennines", which was published for distribution to the GI's before the war ended.  In addition to this published document, I have added comments and explanations and an un-published supplement that covers the last month of the war.
    A brief history of the 85th Division is provided below for quick reference.  The Main Menu of The Italian Campaign has a basic history of the battles, generals, unit organization and glossary.  More will be added later, such as Maps to illustrate these battles.   THE GREATEST GENERATION provides short biographies of veterans who were in Italy and provides a personal touch to the war.

   "Custermen" was a name used for the soldiers, or the me, who served in the Custer Division.


Main Menu
 The 85th Custer Division in World War 2

See Brief History, below.

 
History of 85th 'Custer' Division Complete Unit history, 
entitled "Minturno to the Apennines".
328th Field Artillery Battalion
 
History & Records of this Supporting Unit.   
310th Combat Engineer Battalion
 
History of another Supporting Unit.
Photos From Italian Front
 
Un-published photos collected from Veterans.
Stories from the Front
 
Stories from GI's.
Camp Shelby Photos & History of the primary Training base in Mississippi.
Desert Warfare Center Map and brief history of California training camps.
List of Reference Books
 
Books on history of Italian Campaign.
THE GREATEST GENERATION Biographies of Soldiers who fought in Italy.
The Italian Campaign General History Main Menu: 
Battles, Generals, Units, & Maps.

   If for some reason a link doesn't work, then refer to the Site Map to find a page.  Email me any problems you find.  Check out my Mail Bag for latest emails and some suggestions.
 
  Email Comments to:
 


  Steve@custermen.com

   Mail Bag

A selection of email 
received since January 2003.
 
 
Disclaimer:  This website is not associated with any veteran's organization or any official U.S. Army or Department of Defense organization.

 
 
Copy Right Notice:
No photos, text, or pages of this website may be used without prior written permission.   All information contained within this website is from my private collection or records in public domain or property obtained with permission.




A Brief History
of the
85TH INFANTRY DIVISION
General Nickname:  Custer Division.
Shoulder patch:  A khaki circular patch containing the initials "C" and "D" in red.
Publication:  "The 85th Infantry Division in World War II"; by Paul Schultz; The Infantry Journal.
World War I Activated: 25 August 1917.   Overseas: August 1918.
Major Operations: A depot division; saw no combat. One regiment went to Russia to fight the Bosheviks.
Commanders: Maj. Gen. J. T. Dickman (25 August 1917),
Brig. Gen. S. W. Miller (25 Nov 1917), Maj. Gen. James Parker (18 Dec 1917),
Maj. Gen. Chase W. Kennedy (27 Feb 1918), Brig. Gen. G. D. Morse (23 Dec 1918).
Inactivated: April 1919.
World War II Activated: 15 May 1942. Overseas: 24 December 1943.
Campaigns: Rome-Arno, North Apennines, Po Valley.
Distinguished Unit Citations: 5.
Decorations:  Medal of Honor- 4 ;  Dinstinguished Service Medal- 3 ;  Silver Star- 545;
                     Legion of Merit- 29;  Soldier's Medal- 37 ;  Bronze Star Medal- 4,988.
Commanders: Maj. Gen. Wade H. Haislip (May 1942-Feb 1943),
Maj. Gen. John B. Coulter (Feb 1943 to inactivation).
Returned to U. S.: 25 August 1945, on which date it was inactivated.
        
Combat Chronicle The 85th Infantry Division arrived in Casablanca, French Morocco, 2 January 1944. It received amphibious training at Port aux Poules near Arzew and Oran, Algeria, 1 February to 23 March, then embarked for Naples, Italy, arriving on 27 March. A selected advance detachment appeared on the Minturno-Castelforte front north of Naples, 28 March. The Division was committed to action as a unit, 10 April 1944, north of the Garigliano River, facing the GUSTAV Line, and held defensive positions for a month. On 11 May, it launched its attack, taking Solacciano, Castellonorato, and Formia. Itri fell, 19 May, and the 85th continued to mop up the Gaeta Peninsula. Terracina was taken and the road to the Anzio beachhead was opened. The Division pursued the enemy to the hills near Sezze until pinched out by friendly forces from Anzio. The GUSTAV Line had been smashed and the 85th started for a rest area, 29 May, but was ordered to the Lariano sector, which the Division cleared by the 31st. Driving on Rome, the 85th pushed through Monte Compatri and Frascati, entered Rome, 5 June 1944, and advanced to Viterbo before being relieved, 10 June.

After rehabilitation and training, the 85th took over the defense of the ARNO RIVER Line, 15 to 26 August. The Division attacked the mountain defenses of the GOTHIC Line, 13 September, and broke through, taking Firenzuolaon the 21st. The 85th advanced slowly through mud and rain against heavy resistance taking La Martina and gaining the Idice River Valley road, 2 October, and reaching Mount Mezzano on the 24th overlooking the Po River Valley. From 27 October to 22 November, 1944, defense areas near Pizzano were held. On the 23d, the Division was relieved for rest and rehabilitation.

The 85th relieved the 1st British Division, 6 January 1945, and limited its activities to cautious patrols until 13 March. After a brief training period, the 85th thrust southwest of Bologna, 14 April, pushing through Lucca and Pistoia into the Po Valley as enemy resistance collapsed. The Panaro River was crossed on tile 23d and the Po River the next day. The Division mopped up fleeing Germans until their mass surrender, 2 May 1945, in the Belluno Agordo area.


Campaigns

Rome-Arno
North Apennines
Po Valley

Awards

Medal Of Honor:  4
Distinguished Service Medal: 3
Silver Star Medal:  554
Legion of Merit:  29
Soldier's Medal:  37

Bronze Star Medal:  4,988

[These combat chronicles, current as of October 1948, are reproduced from The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, pp. 510-592.]
 

 
 

ORGANIZATIONAL CHART of 85 INFANTRY DIVISION
Org Chart for 85th Division
  Other basic Charts of regiments and divisional artillery are found at Org Charts.
 

 



Organization of the 85th Infantry Division in WW2:

Commanders:
      Brig-Gen Wade H. Haislip   -  Initial Organization & Training
      Major-Gen John B. Coulter  -  Training - Aug 1945

Units:
     337th Infantry Regiment
  
  338th Infantry Regiment
     339th Infantry Regiment
  Divisional Artillery:
       328th Field Artillery Battalion
      
329th Field Artillery Battalion
       403rd Field Artillery Battalion
       910th Field Artillery Battalion
   Support Units:
         85th  Recon Troop
         310th Engineering Battalion
         310th Medical Battalion
         85th Signal Company
         85th Quartermaster Company
         785th Ordnance Company
    Attached Units:
         756 Tank Bn - May 1944
         6681st Signal (Pigeon) Company - May 1944

         5th Mule Pack Group(Italian)
  - May 1944
 

 Unit Commanders:                         
       Col. Raymond C. Barton, Asst Div. Commander - 1942
       Brig-Gen Lee S. Gerow, Asst Div. Commander, 1943
       Col. William T. Fitts, Jr,  Chief of Staff - 1943
       Col Jay W. MacKelvie, Division Artillery Commander - 1942 - Sept 1943
       Brig-Gen Pierre Mallett,
Division Artillery Commander - Sept 1943
       Col. James F. Brady(WP 1926), CO 339 IR - March 1944

Ship Transports:
      Dec 1943 -  USA to Casablanca, N. Africa
        
USS General Alexander E. Anderson (1) -  Div. HQ, 339 IR & 328FA
         USS General William A. Mann  -  338 IR, 329FA, 310 Med, & 310 Engr
         HMS Andes  -  337 IR, 910FA & Special Units
      Mar 1944 -   N. Africa to Naples, Italy
        
10 March:  HMS Letitia   - 339 IR
        
24-27 March: SS Nightingale, SS Lyon, SS Stanton, HMS Almanzora - Remainder of Division
      Aug 16 - 25, 1945 -   Naples, Italy to Hampton Roads, VA
            USS West Point

       (1)  USS General Alexander E. Anderson was the troop ship that brought home the POW's from the camp at Cabanatuan, Phillipines, that was liberated in January 28, 1945.  Reference the Epilogue from the book "The Ghost Soldiers".  This raid was depicted in the recent 2005 movie "The Great Raid".  At the end of this movie are actual film footage of the released captives making their voyage to San Francisco aboard the USS General Alexander E. Anderson.





DUI Pins of the 85th "Custer" Division  
Note:  All pins are Brass, except the 338 Regiment.  The 339 Regiment pin is Sterling for Officers.

   
337 Infantry Regiment
338th Infantry Regiment
339th "Polar Bear" Infantry Regiment
 
337 Infantry Regiment
"VIS ET VIRTUS"

338 Infantry Regiment
"MARCHONS"
 339 Infantry Regiment
"Bayonet Decides"

(Russian text)

 
328th Field Artillery Batln
329th Field Artillery Batln
310th Medical Battalion
310th Engineer Battalion
328 Field Artillery
"WE ARE READY"
329 Field Artillery
"SINEMORA"

310 Medical Battalion
"RES SACRA MISER"
310 Engineer Battalion
"PERAGIMUS"


For a complete unit history entitled "Minturno to the Apennines", go to HISTORY OF 85th 'CUSTER' DIVISION.

For more info on insignia of the US Divisions in Italy refer to Allied Units in Italian Campaign


Veteran's Cap
Cap of the Polar Bear Association, a veteran's organization of the 339th Infantry Regiment.
Circa 1960.



Go to  The Italian Campaign History  Menu.

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