Chapter 1: We Begin Preparation

Twice within the past quarter of a century the men of the great Northwestern States have left  their families, homes and jobs and have sailed to the far corners of the world to fight for Democracy.  The familiar red-gold-and-blue shoulder insignia of the 41st Infantry Division first made its appearance in World War I . Then, as at the beginning of World War II , the 41st was composed of Northwestern States’ National Guard units and was predominantly composed of National Guardsmen from Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington, supplemented by Selective Service enrollees from every state in the Union. But it was the destiny of the original Sunset Division, after it had reached Europe, to be broken up and to have its men used as replacements in other divisions. Consequently, the original 41st Division, the fifth division to go overseas, was denied the distinction of fighting as a unit.

When the American troops returned from France after World War I and began readjustment to civilian life, many members of the Division returned to their National Guard status. In addition to the infantry companies and artillery batteries the reorganized Guard included other units—signal, medical, quartermaster and engineer. The schedule consisted of weekly drill nights and summer encampments, which meant in nearly every case that the civilian-soldier had to give up his annual two-weeks vacation. Officers and men devoted thousands of hours at home to strictly military problems. Summer encampments found them at Camp Withycombe, Camp Clatsop, Medford. Vancouver Barracks, Camp Murray, Fort Lewis and Fort Harrison at Helena, Montana.

In 1929 the late George Ared White was promoted from Brigadier to Major General in the National Guard and took command of the 41st. He remained in command until his death on 23 November 1941.  General White was a genius at military organization and was also a politician of great talents when the needs of his beloved Division demanded political leverage.

The training of the 41st broadened its scope year after year. In August 1937 the Northwest

saw it's greatest concentration of troops since 1917, when thousands converged on old Fort Lewis, in maneuvers involving some 14,000 men along the milky, glacier-fed Nisqually River. General White commanded a “Blue” Army of 41st Division soldiers 9,000 strong, charged with the task of crossing the Nisqually, defended by a “Red” Army of 5,000 under the command of Brigadier General George C. Marshall, then commanding the 5th Infantry Brigade at Vancouver Barracks, later Chief of Staff of the greatest army ever assembled on the face of the earth.

Finding a point on the Nisqually undefended by the “Reds,” probably because of the difficulties it offered, Brigadier General Thomas E. Rilea, commanding the 41st Division’s 82d Infantry Brigade, sent his troops over the stream in a daring night crossing, and the maneuvers ended with the Division successfully accomplishing its mission—just as it was to do a short time later on the battlefields throughout the far-flung Pacific Theater.

Opposed to the 41st in those August 1937 maneuvers were troops of the Regular Army’s 3d Infantry Division.  From that time these two divisions were to be friendly, but earnest, rivals until the fortunes of war sent the Sunsetters to the Southwest Pacific while the 3d opposed the Axis in North Africa and later on Continental Europe. Rivalry was keen as to which division would depart first for overseas and when the time came the 41st received the nod.

War clouds had become darkly ominous in the summer of 1940 and the Division’s summer encampment at Fort Lewis in July and August lengthened from the customary two weeks to three. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his message to Congress on 16 May, had spoken of the desirability of having authority to call out the National Guard. A new note of tenseness and realism was evident as the summer maneuvers progressed and everywhere there was talk that the unit would be back in camp before many weeks passed.  General White mentioned it to key officers and when Guardsmen returned to their homes they left much equipment, including tentage, at Camp Murray, the National Guard encampment adjacent to Fort Lewis proper. Around 27 August all officers of the Division received “ immediate action“ letters from General White instructing them to prepare for federal induction by 16 September. In towns and cities of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana the Guard units intensified recruiting, determined to bring their outfit to full strength by the date set for federal induction. Some did report to Fort Lewis better than one hundred per cent strong.

Paperwork incident to federal induction proved to be tremendous, but long before the date arrived General White had the Division’s key noncommissioned officers familiarize themselves with the induction program and the papers were ready long in advance of their need.

Federal induction meant that many men and officers had to be weeded out. Discharges were granted to men who had persons solely dependent upon them for financial support. Some were over age and a few were too young, having misrepresented their age in order to enlist. Vacancies were filled by new enlistments. Physical examinations resulted in some losses among the officers, and Reservists were assigned in an effort to fill the gaps.

On 16 September 1940, the 41st got the inevitable call, and the Division was ready. On that same day in the Nation’s capital. President Roosevelt affixed his signature to the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime draft in the history of the United States.  The country was girding itself for a war which everyone hoped would never come, but which many knew could not be averted.

The call for National Guardsmen and Selective Service enrollees was for a one-year period of military service. The Army at that time included but twenty-seven infantry divisions, nine being Regular Army while the remaining eighteen were National Guard divisions.  The 41st was one of four National Guard divisions to be summoned on the original 16 September date. Units immediately reported to their home armories, from where they began an orderly process of movement to Camp Murray. On 23 September, one week after federal induction, the entire Division had closed in on the Washington camp.

The Division, with its friendly rival, the 3d Division, and some other troops, was activated as I X Corps, commanded by Major General Kenyon A. Joyce. Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt commanded Fourth Army, the next higher echelon. Upon arrival at Camp Murray the Division numbered something in excess of 14,000 men and officers. The addition of draftees later brought it to wartime strength of 18,300.

The first and most vital job facing the Guardsmen was the organization and building of “Swamp” Murray into a livable, comfortable winter training camp. Headquarters of the 66th Artillery Brigade landed an enviable site, setting up its camp on the edge of blue, forest-bound American Lake, the only relatively dry and grassy spot in the entire area. The three artillery regiments were down the line, separated from headquarters by a large muddy parade ground, while the infantry brigades were scattered on either side of Highway 99, all the way from Tacoma to Tillicum. The now legendary khaki-colored pyramidal tents stretched over wooden frames served as home. There were some kitchens and showers in permanent buildings but the Sunsetters had the use of only temporary structures.  Some people were indignant over living conditions but Division medical officers cited health records to disprove ever growing gossip that epidemics of respiratory diseases were numerous.

On the second day after induction, and from that day on, for almost six months, the 41st’s Camp Murray was typical of hundreds of other tent camps which had sprung up over America. The men cursed the place for the mud, cold, and remoteness, then lauded it because it was built from almost nothing but their own ingenuity.

Frigid, magnificent Mt. Rainier looked down over the Sunsetters on the clear sunny days while the men trained for war in the evergreen western forests, the peaceful valleys of the Nisqually River, the little farming towns like Rainier, bound together by a web of country roads, the rolling quiet countryside that stretches from the shores of Puget Sound to the Cascade Mountains. Camp Murray lay about forty-five miles from Seattle, while 150 miles south from Murray was Portland, city of roses and charming girls. Between the camp and Seattle was grey, smoky Tacoma and, south again between Fort Lewis and Portland, lay Olympia, capital of Washington. Camp Murray grew cold, wet and lonely as winter fell, but it was not completely unendowed.  The government was busy building the huge Fort Lewis cantonment which later became “permanent” home to the men of the 41st. By October 1 Swamp Murray had been converted into decent living quarters except for the everlasting trimming which still would be going on if the unit had never left.

October saw the beginning of training. Basic training problems and teamwork were first on the agenda.  Men learned to work together in squads, then by platoons, companies, regiments, brigades, and finally as a whole division. Basic training was rigid, the hours being long and the supervisors tough. From the very beginning at least one field problem a week was conducted and there were overnight bivouacs scheduled, mainly to practice the theory of communications preached in camp during the day. The vast Fort Lewis range offered hundreds of acres of every type of terrain for training and maneuver. By November the artillery range, centered around bleak Nisqually Lake, was in operation and each day the big guns rolled out of camp in the early morning mist, to return again by the chilly sunset light at the end of a fast, hard day. By December, in addition to stepped-up daily training schedules in the field, two-day problems were under way, with the infantry and artillery deployed over the range in tactical defensive and offensive operations.

General George C. Marshall, then Chief of Staff of the Army, injected new ideas into the training. Different arms and services were combined to form combat teams. A battalion of artillery joined forces with an infantry regiment and an engineer company so that the commanding officer could go into the field with a little army of his own, self-sufficient to live and fight for days and weeks at a time. This objective was to be fulfilled in later days of hard fighting in the jungles and islands of the Pacific Theater where Nature and terrain demanded the employment of small combat teams rather than full divisions or armies. This early and far-sighted training at Camp Murray and Fort Lewis made the formation of such combat teams much easier and more effective when needed under actual combat conditions.

Everything did not go smoothly during the early days. Every man could not realize the necessity for this severe training with the hardships and sacrifices which it entailed. The story is told that one platoon of the l62d Infantry Regiment had to make two marches one day because some of the men filled their packs with pillows, making an impressive looking, but light load.  Much to the chagrin of all, their company commander caught on.

While the majority of the Division was hard at work on a training program, hundreds of officers and men were sent to special schools: Infantry, Artillery, Ordnance, Cooks and Bakers, and many others. Successful completion of these highly concentrated courses meant qualified officers and men to do a better job, and in many cases promotions.

The men trained diligently and by Christmas they were acclimated, eager troops. Never did they lose sight of the date, 16 September 1941, the day of release, the end of the government’s one year military training program. Some men were soldiers preparing for war, but the mass of junior officers and enlisted men were “play” soldiers, thinking in terms of continuing peace, even while they marched, drilled, fired on the ranges, operated communications and donned the old service gas mask to walk through heavy concentrations of chloracetophenone and adamsite. The dormant threat of the Rising Sun in the Far East and the threat of Hitler’s hordes in Europe did not bother most of them.  There were only a few who anticipated the day of battle, and recognized on the horizons to the east and west the roar of guns mightier than their own.

As a reward for the fine job done by all, General White announced on 1 December that an eleven-day furlough would be granted at Christmas time to all members of the Division. Homesick GIs loudly cheered the news but when the long-awaited day arrived some members of the Grants Pass company couldn’t keep their furlough dates because some of the men had contracted measles and the unit was quarantined. However, between 10,000 and 11,000 men did get home for the holidays and appropriate entertainment was provided for those remaining behind.

Back from the well deserved rest the Sunsetters dug into their training with a new vigor. Three months of the twelve had been put behind them. Only nine months remained—if nothing went wrong.

A new problem was at hand. The Division must increase its strength from 14,000 to 18,300. In February the first of 7,000 Selective Service men began to arrive.

Actually, they were to boost the Division’s strength to around 21,000. The problem was to conduct basic training for these green men, and at the same time continue advanced training for the Guardsmen. General White selected 3,000 of his best officers and noncoms to form a training cadre to get the selectees into shape.  Work at North Fort Lewis cantonment had been progressing slowly but some of the heated frame barracks were ready for occupancy. In February 1941 the men began the trek a mile down the road to the new 41st Division cantonment, two square miles of gleaming white barracks, warehouses, theaters, mess halls, orderly rooms and service clubs. Just before the men had departed for the holiday season, General White had trucked the entire Division’s personnel down to see the sprawling new area. Now, two months later, the men moved into the area for a stay of twelve months, though at that time they didn’t realize it would be that long. Priority for the new quarters was given to the draftees who were fresh from civilian life and less able than the seasoned Guardsmen to stand the rigors of living in the tents of Swamp Murray. General White continued to live in his tent at Camp Murray, directing the separate training efforts. By mid-April, however, the entire Division was housed in the newly constructed comfortable barracks.

The regiments still were training as combat teams and the men were learning new battle problems in the Rainier-Roy region along the banks of the Nisqually River. By now seven months of hard training had been completed and the men had learned their lessons well.  They were ready to perform as a division. At the close of April and early in May they were scheduled to go through a series of three division field exercises which were to be the largest, and the most difficult, of the large-scale training assignments yet given them. These exercises also were to bring an end to the division maneuvers for the 41st in the Fort Lewis area.

The men had drilled long for this assignment. The drivers, especially, had developed cats’ eyes as they moved over the forested plains, threaded narrow tortuous roads, crossed streams, advancing, attacking and withdrawing under cover of total darkness, every vehicle, every light blacked out. How well this training was to pay off a short time later! On the night of 28 A p r i l , the Division moved into defensive positions for the start of maneuvers which were to have their climax on 3 May with a smashing coordinated attack.

The maneuvers had drawn “McNair’s Flying Circus,” headed by Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, who, as Chief of Staff of GHQ, had direct supervision of all training. On his staff was a promising young lieutenant colonel by the name of Mark W . Clark. Also present was Colonel Dwight D . Eisenhower, then Chief of Staff of I X Corps. It was at the conclusion of this inspection that the discerning McNair rated the 41st as the top-ranking National Guard division and one of the three top divisions of the whole Army.

Following this problem Corps Headquarters authorized a vacation and a tired but happy group of men with a month’s pay burning holes in their pockets headed for home. When they returned to Fort Lewis they were ready for their part in the “biggest show of military might ever seen on the Pacific Coast.” With high-ranking Army and Navy officers. Governor Charles A. Sprague of Oregon and Governor Arthur B. Langlie of Washington in the reviewing stand, and 15,000 spectators massed on the parade ground, the 41st Division, 3d Division and other units, 45,000 strong, passed in review while planes roared overhead.  Spring and summer brought garrison life of the highest traditional plane, and with it rumors that the 41st would “fight” for six weeks on the dry, scorched, sun-baked hills of California’s hinterland. Next was the long march to Hunter Liggett Military Reservation for the long-planned Fourth Army maneuvers.

Beginning 19 May 1941, the Division departed by rumbling truck convoys and trains for the 1,100-mile march from Fort Lewis to Jolon, California, where the next two months found 65,000 troops engaged in the largest and one of the most realistic war games ever to be conducted on the Pacific Coast.

The first of four long motor columns started south and made its first stop at Vancouver Barracks. Early the next morning the column moved across the Interstate Bridge, eastward through Portland, Gresham and over the Wapinita Highway to Bend for the second night’s bivouac. Twenty-five hundred officers and men, in four hundred vehicles, comprising troops of the 81st Infantry Brigade and detachments from the l l 6 th Quartermaster, l l 6 t h Medical and l l 6 t h Engineer Regiments, made up this first column. On the third day it moved from Bend to Klamath Falls; on the fourth day to Red Bluff, California; the following day to Marysville; the sixth day to Modesto. On the seventh day it reached Jolon, the destination.

The second column of 41st troops to cover the route was 4,000 men of the 66th Field Artillery Brigade.  The third convoy of 2,500 troops included what remained of the 116th Engineer, 116th Quartermaster, 116th Medical Regiments, 41st Signal Company and 41st Ordnance Company. The final convoy was composed of the 82d Infantry Brigade and numbered about 2,000 officers and men. Other troops of the 41st Division, 3d Division and I X Corps travelled in twenty-seven troop trains, which left Fort Lewis on 22 May, their arrival coinciding with that of the motor columns.  As the last motor column reached Bend the townspeople turned out to cheer. The reason was that Company I , 162d Infantry, was a Bend National Guard unit. In celebration of the homecoming a parade was staged and General Rilea granted overnight passes to the men.

Men will long remember the hospitality of the people of Marysville, California. City after city vied with one another to make the visiting troops welcome but Marysville outdid all others.

The final column reached the reservation on 28 May. Columns of the 41 st had only one major accident during the trip and this did not involve any loss of life.  Health of the command was excellent and only sixteen of the Division’s 18,000 men were hospitalized. California sunshine had tanned the Northwesterners to the tint of their Indian comrades of Montana’s l63d Infantry, giving them their first taste of the heat they were soon to encounter in the far-off Southwest Pacific.

Division training and maneuvers took place during the first three weeks of the period while the last ten days, beginning 23 June, consisted of operations pitting a Blue army of 34,000 troops of the 41st Division and 3d Division against opposing Red forces of Major General Joseph W. Stilwell’s 7th Division and the 40th Division. The Blues were charged with the task of defending the California section against the numerically inferior Red force. A l l that day the Northerners moved northwestward across the sun-baked Hunter Liggett expanse, up gulches and through tree-filled meadows, raising columns of dust, pausing to cool their feet as they walked through shallow streams. Outnumbered, Stilwell’s Reds were pushed back fifteen miles in three days of heavy “fighting” and another phase of the Sunset Division’s training was history.

Jolon, the one-house, no-bar community that stood guard over the Hunter Liggett vastness, still is a password among veterans of those early days. It is symbolic of two months of fast maneuvering over snake-infested, parboiled hills and droughty valleys of California’s hellish southeastern reaches. But like all distasteful things, the Jolon stay had both its week-end silver linings in visits to San Francisco, Carmel and Los Angeles, and its end.

The long journey back to Fort Lewis started during the first week of July and the men were in high spirits since a ten-day furlough was in store for them. Nearly three thousand tired, but happy, California Selective Service men already were wending their way home, having been screened out at Jolon. The return trip was eventful in that dysentery hit the ranks in Red Bluff and plagued the convoy the remainder of the way.  Oregon men got a break as motor columns of former National Guard units were permitted to break away from the convoys for visits to home towns. Such units visited Milwaukie, Hillsboro, Newberg, Medford, Grants Pass, Rosebury, Eugene, Woodburn, Oregon City, Forest Grove, St. Helens, Silverton, McMinnville, Salem, Dallas, Corvallis and Lebanon. Thousands of Portland citizens swarmed to Swan Island airport to greet the suntanned veterans of the “California wars.” Pits were dug at Swan Island and civilians and uniformed men alike shared barbecued lamb, venison, beef and baked Chinook salmon. That same evening Mayor Earl Riley of Portland reviewed some 3,500 parading troops.

At 0500 Sunday, 13 July, the troops were on the last leg of their journey to Fort Lewis where training was resumed. Furloughs and leaves were arranged so that all men and officers might get time off and still leave enough behind to continue training. All were to be back on duty by 1 August.

On 2 August a new name was given to the Division.  Following issuance of a War Department directive which said that henceforth a division would be designated by the arm of its major combat element, the Sunsetters became officially the “41st Infantry Division.” At the end of ten days of freedom members of the Division straggled back and brought normalcy with them. Fourth Army maneuvers, on an even larger scale than the California games, were to be held on the Olympia Peninsula of Washington, chiefly in the area between Olympia and Shelton. The latter half of August and part of September found the 41st Division participating in these war games, which became a battle against rain and mud. The maneuver almost was washed away by continued summer rains and developed into a back-breaking effort to keep vehicles from miring down and to keep the men in dry socks.

These maneuvers differed as much in their character from those at Hunter Liggett as the western Washington climate differed from that of the parched California hills. At the Hunter Liggett games large forces of men and artillery opposed each other in great clashes. It had been a realistic war, so realistic, in fact, that on one occasion men of opposing forces discarded their arms and resorted to fists to settle the issue. The western Washington maneuvers lacked this realism. In brief the plan for the maneuvers was:

A great Oriental army and navy was approaching the west coast. Seattle, Portland and Tacoma were certain objectives of attack. The enemy surely would strike at the harbor defenses and defense plants. Defending American forces were not to know where, how or when the enemy would strike. The maneuver was to test the troops’ ability to mobilize and move from a cantonment, ready to fight after an unexpected attack.

The maneuvers got under way at midnight on 10 August when the mythical invading force was reported somewhere off the West Coast under cover of a dense fog bank. For two days the “invaders” waged a “war of nerves” and then struck at the mouth of the Columbia River, at the Puget Sound forts and McChord Field.  The 41st deployed south and west, spreading out over the heavily wooded lower peninsula. Making a record run from California, the 7th and 40th Divisions swung into line beside the 3d and 41st Divisions and the maneuvers ended.

Opposing the defending forces was a handful of California Regulars, already stationed in chosen spots along the Washington coastline, awaiting the orders of the umpires. These Red forces were magically transformed by the umpires into sizable forces to suit the needs of the maneuvers. A squad of Reds became a battalion or regiment and captured Blues but could not be captured. Near McCleary, members of a 41st patrol ran into a dozen jeeps, thought they could handle the situation easily and attacked. They were surprised to discover that these twelve jeeps represented forty-eight tanks. At Montesano, the umpires created two hundred tanks out of thin air, to the consternation of the realistic Sunsetters. Artillerymen standing by silent guns and fighting a paper war whose front was far away over the hills, welcomed the opportunity to fire several blank rounds for the benefit of news photographers.

Blacked-out troop movements through the dark, dripping forests, breaking camp at midnight to move men and ponderous equipment over long unused logging roads, the transportation of supplies in a never-ending procession of trucks, all of these were realistic.

Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and General Marshall had been among those witnessing the final phases of the maneuvers. At a later press conference both expressed satisfaction with the improvement shown. Meanwhile, the halls of Congress were reverberating with talk of continuing service beyond the one year period and the whispers of an American entry into the war were growing more loud and distinct. Yet, in August 1941—less than four months before Pearl Harbor—the 41st still was short of weapons, using Ersatz machine guns made of wood, tanks so designated by placards on truck windshields, and an odd assortment of other innovations. War, not in months, but in the hopes and prayers of Americans, still was far away.  As soon as the Division returned to garrison, the sun came out maliciously to shine almost uninterrupted through another perfect Indian summer. Talk in Congress had materialized into action and the raw National Guard outfit federalized just one year ago was a veteran force facing at least another winter and spring of soldiering.  But spirits remained high because there was another furlough, this time fifteen days, in the offing.  And in September 1941, after a f u l l military review before General DeWitt, held on the dusty 3d Division parade ground, the men scattered throughout the country for another two-week sojourn of civilian life. Little did they realize that their next furloughs would see them walking the streets of such far-off places as Melbourne, Sydney and Rockhampton, Australia, nor that those furloughs would come only after the 41st had received its baptism of fire and its hallowed dead had been counted and buried, after the bays and villages of an island called New Guinea were to be as familiar to them as the rivers, lakes, towns and cities of the United States.

 

Chapter 2: The Fallen Commander

Sadly, men of the 41st learned of the death of their beloved commander, Major General George A. White, who died at his home in Clackamus, Oregon, 23 November 1941 Illness had overtaken the Division commander during the last days of the Hunter Liggett maneuvers but he refused the advice of physicians, who urged him to rest, and went through the trying western Washington war games. Only those closest to him realized he was a very sick man, but a man determined to carry on until he could relinquish command for perhaps a brief period of treatment and recuperation. The night of the Division’s review he went to his residence on the post, unable to attend a function for which he had made plans. His passing marked the end of the first phase of military life for the Division.

General White was more to his men than the twostar commander who controlled their destiny and much of their everyday lives. He was a man who lived with and as a soldier among soldiers. W i t h him, the enlisted man came first. Many were the stories told to illustrate that side of his character. One had its setting in the fir woods of western Washington during the August maneuvers of 1941. Everything in the maneuver was supposed to simulate battle conditions as nearly as possible.  Two “must” rules were that troops carry gas masks and wear steel helmets at all times. The helmets were far from comfortable. Every man knew better, but occasionally a soldier would ditch the heavy headgear.  That’s what a noncom in the signal truck had done when General White, walking alone from his tent, came upon the soldier unexpectedly.  “Haven’t you got a helmet?” the General asked.

“Yes, sir,” replied the noncom apprehensively.  “Get it on,” said the General, without raising his voice, and added, “Do you think I like to wear the damned thing any more than you do?”

For that offense a commissioned officer would have drawn a rebuke that would have stung him for a week.  The General had his own method of dealing with enlisted men. His formula was sternness tempered with a sympathetic understanding of the soldier’s makeup.  Men in the ranks swore by him.

During the long march through California to the Hunter Liggett maneuvers entertainment programs were offered the troops in virtually every town. All too often this entertainment took the form of dinners for high-ranking officers and dances to which only commissioned officers were invited. Some towns extended themselves to entertain the enlisted men but most feted the officers royally and virtually left the soldiers to fend for themselves.

General White shuttled back and forth along the line of march, observing the troop movements, watching the columns roll through towns and cities. At one particular town he arrived at the bivouac area just as a civic delegation began to discuss plans for the entertainment of troops that night with the commanding officer of the column. The delegation was introduced to the General and he invited them to continue with their plans. He stood listening. Finally he interrupted:

“Do I understand you are planning these parties for the officers?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” one of the delegates replied.

“That’s fine,” said the General. “What are you doing for the enlisted men?”

“Why, we haven’t we were thinking about “ It was evident they hadn’t gotten to that stage of the planning.

“Gentlemen,” said the General, very firmly and quietly, “we appreciate your hospitality. It’s fine of you to entertain us. But the officers have money. They can entertain themselves. The enlisted men are the ones who need to be entertained, and they have been overlooked too many times while the officers were wined and dined. Now i f you want to entertain, take care of the enlisted men first. If there is anything left, then you can take care of the officers. Otherwise, by God, I‘ll restrict every officer to the bivouac area.” General White was intensely proud of the 41st Division.  During the western Washington maneuvers he was irked when news stories spoke of the rival 3d Division as the “crack 3d Division” and spoke of the 41st simply as “the 41st Division.” One day he called two offending wire service correspondents to his tent and asked:

“How is it that when you write about the 3d Division you call it the ‘crack 3d Division’ but always speak of us only as the ‘41st Division’? Can’t you think up some nickname or adjective for us? Or don’t we deserve one? Call us the “lousy 41st Division,’ if you want, but call us something.”

General White’s unflagging efforts to better the living conditions of his command, his ceaseless and successful efforts to train as thoroughly as possible in those days of peace, a combat division of National Guardsmen and civilian soldiers, and his own dominant and completely just administration of his command endeared him personally to the legions under him. By his own strong acceptance of responsibility he brought upon himself an untimely death that left the men of the 41st visibly shocked.

In a solemn funeral cortege Oregon troops bore the body of their commanding general over crowded streets to its final resting place in Riverview Cemetery. Portland had never witnessed such a procession.

It was also in November that the 218th Field Artillery Regiment, less one battalion, left Fort Lewis for San Francisco, bound for the Philippines. Meanwhile the rest of the Division trained night and day. New methods constantly were being added to the program, and for the first time the artillery conducted a fire problem with the use of an airborne observer-spotter.  Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Meyer, brigade S-3, borrowed a Piper Cub from nearby McChord Field, and before the assembled Division brass demonstrated the idea, which later made the artillery so effective against the Japs in the Pacific and the Germans and Italians in the European Theater. It was during this month that talk of streamlining the square division was being tossed back and forth, but at this time the G I was concerned mainly with the approaching Christmas season and the furlough which it had heretofore brought.  On 2 December Brigadier General (later Major General)

Horace H . Fuller, Commandant of the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was appointed General White’s successor. This West Point graduate, who formerly had commanded the 3d Division Artillery, was already in Tacoma when the announcement was made. He was met the following day and escorted to Fort Lewis by General Rilea, where he assumed command of the Division with the words:  “I have watched the progress of this Division since its induction into federal service. Its record is one of achievement and it is recognized as one of the topflight divisions of the Army. I feel highly honored in assuming command of this fine organization.” General Fuller was destined to lead the Sunsetters through the depressing days after Pearl Harbor, through months of arduous training in Australia, and finally into New Guinea—Salamaua, Hollandia, and bloody, awful Biak.

World War II began for the United States in the skies over Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of Sunday, 7 December 1941. While the Jap was carrying out his attack, men of the 41st were enjoying weekend passes in Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Tacoma; sleeping late after Saturday night’s relaxation, skiing on Mt.  Rainier’s snow-covered passes, or just sitting around a late breakfast table listening to Sunday morning’s radio programs and reading the funny papers. Some men were in church, singing the old hymns and the first Christmas carols of the season, praying for world peace, their very hopes being blasted even while they knelt in prayer. This day had been set aside for special observance by the Division. It was the occasion of the dedication of the chapel for the 162d Infantry, the first formal chapel dedication in the Division cantonment.

In cities and towns throughout the northwest, as soon as the news had been flashed over the radio and across theater screens, and when the first black headlines hit the streets, hundreds of soldiers began filling bus terminals. By 1300 that afternoon, the big Greyhounds were rolling toward Lewis with shouting, excited and bewildered soldiers. By 1700 the Division cantonment area was swarming with men. Office buildings

and barracks were blacked out; literally thousands of soldiers still were pouring through the main gate, leaving friends and parents in cars outside the now off-limits area; pure rumor and official orders contested one another and no one seemed to know just what to do that night. After being told that the air alert was to be the continuous blowing of the Fort Lewis fire alarm, almost two miles away, many hopped into bed for a try at a good night’s sleep. Others were carrying out orders to take up defensive positions guarding the Oregon and Washington coasts. Quiet coastal communities miles from the nearest Army cantonment, apprehensive that night as the flood of reports on the Pearl Harbor disaster poured in, were startled as columns of trucks and ponderous guns rumbled through their streets and disappeared into the darkness.  Within a week the Division was scattered thinly from the Canadian border south, from Port Angeles on the inner side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Aberdeen and Camp Clatsop, 150 miles south of Fort Lewis.  With the 115th Cavalry, a former Wyoming National Guard regiment, on the Division’s left, it had thrown up a fairly formidable bulwark all the way to the California border against the possibility that the Japs might follow up their Pearl Harbor strike with an assault against the American coast. Quartermaster units faced the problem of long supply lines and daily convoys moved through Seattle and Everett north to Burlington.  On the western side of Puget Sound the supply line led through Shelton to Sequim and Port Townsend. The Grays Harbor defense area was supplied by convoys which delivered to depots at Aberdeen. Truck platoons from the 116th Quartermaster Regiment moved to Vancouver to assist in hauling supplies to Fort Stevens and other coastal defenses and also down into central Oregon to Salem.

Approaching Christmas seemed only a thing of memory to cold, wet soldiers, who, not being very well oriented on the enemy’s positions, imagined the winter forests to be full of Japanese, and who saw in late brush fires and unguarded night lights threats of sabotage.  The task of guarding still peaceful country roads, woods of blue spruce, cedar and fir, and isolated fishing and resort towns palled and the possibility of imminent attack by the enemy seemed less real as the days passed. Shortly before Christmas a number of the units were returned to the cantonment area. Half the outfits were manning posts on the Washington coast while the other half lived in restricted but comfortable freedom behind the “lines.” Some outfits gave parties and dances in the recreation halls at Christmas. Visiting restrictions were relaxed over the holidays, but few, and lucky indeed, were the men who were able to obtain passes.

The 218th Field Artillery was in convoy from 800 to 1,000 miles out at sea when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor. It was ordered back to San Francisco at once. Upon arrival at the port it was staged at Golden Gate Park for a week, then moved to the Presidio of San Francisco where it set up a defense for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation. In January this unit returned to Fort Lewis, a deliriously happy bunch of men, coming home after two months of uncertainty, which included five days of official “overseas” service. The same men were to return once again three years later, just as happy, but wiser, tested and not found wanting in battles that had spread them over a thousand miles of coral islands and jungle wastes.

January and February of 1942 brought further radical administrative and tactical changes as the 41st passed from a square to a triangular division. In the streamlining process the I 61st Infantry Regiment was removed and later became part of the 25th Division of Guadalcanal fame. The 162d, 163d, and 186th Infantry Regiments remained with the Division. Out of the headquarters companies of the 81st and 82d Infantry Brigades, the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop was formed.

Reorganization of the field artillery was a little more complicated since the new table of organization called for four battalions instead of the original three regiments.  The 66th Field Artillery Brigade was disbanded and out of it was formed the 41st Division Artillery Headquarters. Brigadier General Marshall G. Randol, who had commanded the 66th Brigade, became artillery commander but was soon retired and Brigadier General Ralph Coane assumed command. The new artillery setup included three light battalions and one medium battalion armed with thirty-six 105mm howitzers and twelve 155mm howitzers. The 218th Regiment was split into two battalions, one retaining the 218th designation while the other became the 902d Battalion, which later became part of another Army unit. The 146th Regiment also became two battalions, one keeping the original number while the second became the 167th Battalion. The l48th Regiment became the 205th Battalion, which remained with the 41st Division, and the l48th Battalion, which eventually became a part of I Corps artillery in the Southwest Pacific Theater.

From excess personnel of the field artillery and one company of the 116th Engineers, the 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion was formed. Other personnel became the 41st Military Police Platoon, designated a part of Division Headquarters Company. What had been known as the 116th Engineer Regiment now became the 116th Engineer Battalion and the 116th Medical Regiment and 116th Quartermaster Regiment also became battalions, the latter being made a company after the Division arrived overseas. The Signal and Ordnance Companies remained unchanged.

Following the streamlining process the principal elements of the 41st Infantry Division were:

41st Infantry Division Headquarters
162d Infantry Regiment
163d Infantry Regiment
186th Infantry Regiment
41st Division Artillery Headquarters
146th Field Artillery Battalion
167th Field Artillery Battalion
205th Field Artillery Battalion
218th Field Artillery Battalion
641st Tank Destroyer Battalion
41st Reconnaissance Troop
116th Engineer Battalion
116th Medical Battalion
116th Quartermaster Battalion
41st Signal Company
741st Ordnance Company

Secret orders already were on their way from Washington which were to send the 41st Division three thousand miles across the Pacific within a month and a half.  Rumor had it that Australia was to be the new base.  During these busy days Fort Lewis saw many strange sights. Each week-end brought hundreds of cars, filled with parents, relatives, wives and sweethearts, into the area to repeat the good-byes which had been said the previous week-end. Living was now on a day-to-day basis. Training was secondary to the re-equipment program.  Because there were strictly enforced pass regulations—six hours at first and later a few 24-hour passes---the post theaters, post exchanges and service clubs were jammed with overflowing crowds each night of the week. Morale ran high and expectations were far ahead of the brasshats’ schedules. Nobody, despite the discouraging and often tragic news from both the Pacific and European fronts, believed the war ahead would stretch through three and a half years.