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Attack, Attack, Attack
















As the potential of U.S. involvement in World War II became more evident, initial steps were taken to prepare troops what for lay ahead through "precautionary training."[1] The 34th was deemed one of the most service-ready units, and Ellard A. Walsh was promoted to major general in June 1940, and then succeeded to division commander in August.[2]


The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was signed into law 16 September, and the first conscription in U.S. history during peacetime commenced.[3]


The 34th was subsequently activated on 10 February 1941, with troops from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. The division was transported by rail and truck convoys to the newly constructed Camp Claiborne in Rapides Parish, Louisiana near Alexandria.[4]


The soldiers started rigorous training including maneuvers in Alexandria starting 7 April 1941. The 34th then participated in what became known as the Louisiana Maneuvers and became a well-disciplined, high spirited, and well prepared unit.  In the early phase of the maneuvers, General Walsh, became too ill to continue in command and was replaced by Major General Russell P. Hartle on 5 August 1941.[4]


On 8 January 1942, the 34th Division was transported by train to Fort DixNew Jersey to quickly prepare for overseas movement. The first contingent embarked at Brooklyn on 14 January 1942 and sailed from New York the next day. The initial group of 4,508 men stepped ashore at 12:15 hrs on 26 January 1942 in BelfastNorthern Ireland. [5] While in Northern Ireland, Hartle was tasked with organizing an American version of the British Commandos. During this organizational period, a unit of U.S. Army Rangers and the 168th Commandos were formed.


On 20 May 1942, Hartle was designated commanding general of V Corps and Major General Charles Ryder, took command of the 34th. The division continued training in Northern Ireland and Scotland until it boarded ships to travel to North Africa for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, in November 1942.


The 34th saw its first combat in French Algeria on 8 November 1942. As a member of the Eastern Task Force, they landed at Algiers and seized the port and outlying airfields. Elements of the 34th took part in numerous subsequent engagements in Tunisia, notably at Sened Station,[6] Sidi Bou Zid and Faid Pass, Sbeitla, and Fondouk Gap. [7] In April 1943 the 34th assaulted Hill 609, capturing it on 1 May 1943, and then drove through Chouigui Pass to Tebourba and Ferryville.[8] The Battle of Tunisia was won, and the Axis forces surrendered.


The 34th now stationed in Oran, trained intensively for the invasion of the Italian mainland, with the main landings being at Salerno (Operation Avalanche) on 9 September 1943, D-Day. The 151st Field Artillery Battalion went in on D-Day, 9 September, landing at Salerno, while the rest of the division followed on 25 September. Engaging the enemy at the Calore River, 28 September, the 34th, as part of the VI Corps, relentlessly drove north to take Benevento, crossed the winding Volturno three times in October and November, assaulted Monte Patano, and took one of its four peaks before being relieved on 9 December.


In January 1944, the 34th was back on the front line battering the Bernhardt Line defenses fighting along the Mignano Gap. [9] The 34th took Monte Trocchio as the German defenders withdrew to the main prepared defenses of the Gustav Line. On 24 January 1944, during the First Battle of Monte Cassino they pushed across the Gari River into the hills behind and attacked Monastery Hill. The performance of the 34th Infantry Division in the mountains has been called one of the finest feats of arms carried out by any soldiers during the war.[10]

The unit sustained losses of about 80 percent in the infantry battalions. They were relieved from their positions 11–13 February 1944. Eventually, it took the combined force of five Allied infantry divisions to finish what the 34th nearly accomplished on its own.


After rest and rehabilitation, the 34th landed at the Anzio beachhead 25 March 1944. The division maintained defensive positions until the offensive of 23 May, when it broke out and took Cisterna, raced to Civitavecchia and the Italian capital of Rome. The 34th, now commanded by Major General Charles Bolte, drove across the Cecina River to liberate Livorno, 19 July 1944, and then took Monte Belmonte in October during the fighting on the Gothic Line. Digging in the south of Bologna for the winter, the 34th jumped off the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy, 15 April 1945, and captured Bologna on 21 April. The pursuit of the routed enemy to the French border was halted on 2 May upon the German surrender in Italy and the end of World War II in Europe.[11]


The 34th Infantry Division participated in six major Army campaigns in North Africa and Italy. The division is credited with amassing 517 days of front-line combat, [12] more than any other division in the U.S. Army. One or more 34th Division units were engaged in actual combat for 611 days. The 34th was credited with more combat days than any other division in the war. The 34th suffered 3,737 killed in action, 14,165 wounded in action, 3,460 missing in action, and 1,368 men taken prisoner by the enemy, for a total of 21,362 battle casualties. Casualties of the division are considered to be the highest of any division in the theatre when daily per capita fighting strengths are considered. The division's soldiers were awarded ten Medals of Honor, ninety-eight Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, 1,153 Silver Stars, 116 Legion of Merit medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, 2,545 Bronze Star Medals, fifty-four Soldier's Medals, thirty-four Air Medals, with duplicate awards of fifty-two oak leaf clusters, and 15,000 Purple Hearts.




1 Johnson, Jack (Winter 2012). "Allies". Newsletter for Members and Friends of the Military Historical Society of Minnesota. XX(1): 1–3

2 Army Navy Journal 77. Washington, DC: Army and Navy Journal, Incorporated. 1904. p. 38.

3 Background of the Selective Service System. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 7 June2013.

4  Camp Claiborne Louisiana, Western Maryland's Historical Library. Retrieved 7 June 2013.

5 Jeffers, H. Paul (2007). Onward We Charge: The Heroic Story of Darby's Rangers in World War II. Chapter 2: Penguin Books.

6 Staab, William (2009). Not for Glory. Vantage Press. p. 69.

7 Howe, George. "U.S. Army in World War II, Mediterranean Theater of Operations – Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West. Hyperwar Foundation. pp. 423–437

8 Howe, George. "U.S. Army in World War II, Mediterranean Theater of Operations – Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West". Hyperwar Foundation. pp. 423–437

9 Atkinson, Rick (2008). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944. Macmillan. p. 260.

10 Majdalany, Fred (1957). Cassino: Portrait of a Battle. Longman, Green and Co. p. 87.

11 "34th Infantry Division". U.S. Army Center of Military History. 

12 "History of the 34th Infantry Division". Minnesota National Guard. 

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