Outline of 45th
WW II History
Origin of the
The 45th was activated
as a National Guard Division
in 1924 in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
Division adopted the
Thunderbird shoulder patch in 1939 after the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany
used the swastika, a symbol that bore a resemblance to the original
patch. The Thunderbirds were “federalized” on 16 September,
President Roosevelt declared a “limited national emergency.”
- 157th Infantry Regiment
- 179th Infantry Regiment
- 180th Infantry Regiment
- 158th Field Artillery
- 160th Field Artillery
- 171st Field Artillery
- 189th Field Artillery
- 120th Engineer Combat
- 45th Reconnaissance Troop
home is Fort Sill,
where initial Divisional training
took place. The 45th took part in the Louisiana maneuvers in 1941 as part
of the 3rd
Army. In preparation for taking part in the North African Campaign, the
moved to Fort Devens,
Plans changed and the
Division then trained at Pine Camp, New York
where they experienced cold and snowy conditions. Later the 45th moved
to Virginia and underwent mountain
training. By the time the Thunderbirds departed the US for the invasion
of Sicily, they were one of
the most highly trained divisions in the entire US Army.
The Division departed
the States on 8 June, and arrived on 22 June, 1943 in North Africa,
trained further for the Sicily
invasion at Arzew, French Morocco.
– Operation Husky, 9 July-17 August, 1943:
On the morning of
10 July, 1943, the 45th, commanded by Major General Troy H.
Middleton landed as part of Patton’s Seventh Army on the
easternmost beaches of
the American landings. Pushing north, the 45th took part in
to Palermo before turning east toward Messina. Fighting
the coast with the 1st Infantry Division on their right
45th took Santo Stefano. After taking Motta Hill on 26 July
fierce 4 days of fighting at “Bloody Ridge”, Patton, on 30
July, pulled the
Division out of the line in preparation for the invasion of the Italian
In Italy and
Sicily the mountains were often too steep and paths too narrow for
vehicles to carry supplies and ammo to the frontline troops. GIs became
expert Mule Wranglers and teamsters as this was the only way to get
supplies up and to bring down wounded soldiers from the rugged
mountains. Sometimes the going was too difficult even for the mules and
the soldiers had to carry the mules' loads themselves. This photo
illustrates the legendary stubbornness of these animals, perhaps
matched only by the stubbornness of GIs like this one.
Operation Avalanche, 9 September, 1943 – 21 January, 1944:
Now part of the Mark Clark’s Fifth
Army, the 45th was in reserve for the landings at Salerno, with
the first elements of the 179th Regiment going ashore
the morning of 10 September. The Division’s arrival was just in
time to stop
the German attempt to split the beachhead and destroy the landing
through a gap in the lines along the Sele River.
Moving inland, the
45th crossed the Calore
River on 27
September, the Volturno
on 3 November and took Venafro, all against increasingly stiff
the allies pushed towards Cassino,
progress slowed due to determined German defenses and difficult weather
Division was pulled off the line on 15 January for rest and
recuperation and to begin training for Operation Shingle.
of the Division move up one of the narrow mountain paths toward
– Operation Shingle, 22 January- 24 May,
The 45th began landing at Anzio
on 22 January, 1944, with the 179th
Regiment seeing the Division’s
first action of the campaign at Aprilia, also known as “the
factory” on 27
January. By mid-February,
the 45th was positioned astride the “Via
Anziate,” the road leading
February, six German divisions struck at the 45th Division
in an attempt to drive to the sea and destroy the beachhead. The
for four days and nights causing horrendous casualties on both sides.
Thunderbirds were driven back but did not break and the German attack
achieve its objective. At the end of the month, the Germans tried to
through the 3rd Division but failed there as well. Three
would pass before enough men and materiel would be ashore to break out
beachhead and move further inland. Following the successful attack on
Gustav line in mid-May, the Anzio
breakout began on 23 May, 1944. On 25 May, the 5th Army
north from Cassino, joined the Anzio
forces and turned towards Rome.
After the fall of Rome, the 45th
preparing to invade southern France
as part of Operation Dragoon.
The Division heads for Rome
after breaking out of the Anzio Beach head.
France – Operation
Dragoon, 15 August-14 September, 1944:
Initially to be
undertaken simultaneously to Operation Overlord in Normandy, Dragoon was postponed
mid-August due to shortages in landing craft needed to carry out both
The 45th landed against light resistance and began the rapid
inland, spearheading the drive for the Belfort Gap. After coming ashore
Ste. Maxime, just southwest of Cannes, the division headed west towards
Marseille before turning north at Peyrolles. The German defenders were
to effectively stage a cohesive defense against the rapid advance of
Seventh Army and by September 1st, the 45th had taken
15 days the Division had moved approximately 250 miles from the landing
beaches. By September 15th, the Thunderbirds advanced only
miles, indicating that the German defense was strengthening as the
approached the Vosges
This is the first CP of the 180th
Regiment in Germany.
Rhineland, 15 September, 1944-21 March, 1945:
relieved the 45th on 18 September and the Division moved
the Vesoul area. The Division took the strongly defended city of Epinal on 24 September, crossed the Moselle River
foothills of the Vosges
Rambervillers on 30 September. By now, progress was measured in yards
than miles. The Thunderbirds were fighting in forests, hills and small
and encountering increasingly stiff resistance. The
Division crossed the Mortagne
River on 23
October and continued east
toward the Meurthe
were pulled off the line on 9 November for a short rest period,
the Saverne area on 23 November. On the 25th, the Division attacked the
Kaiser Wilhelm built to protect the Alsace Regions north of Mutzig,
crossed the Zintzel
and advanced through the Maginot
Line. On 15 December, the Thunderbirds crossed the border into Germany, making them the first US
the Seventh Army to enter the enemy homeland. In the following days the
attacked the bunkers and trenches of the Siegfried Line under the close
of Division artillery, tanks and tank destroyers. The German Winter
began on 16 December in the Ardennes
Forest and is more
commonly known as the Battle of the
Bulge, was drawing US
north to counter this attack. The 45th was forced to
their advance positions and spread out to cover more territory. This
repositioning of US Divisions lead to Seventh Army going on the
the Bulge could be reduced. From 2 January, to 16 February, 1945, the
was in defensive positions along the Moder River.
again pulled back for a rest period before smashing through the
on 17 March.
An M 10 tank destroyer drives
through a section of Dragon's Teeth that make up a part of the
Soldiers of the Division disembark after crossing the Rhine in
Europe, 22 March-11
On 26 March,
1945, the 45th crossed the Rhine between Worms
and reached Aschaffenburg on the night
of 28 March after crossing the Main River. Fierce German resistance in
this town kept the 157th Regiment occupied for eleven days before the
finally fell into their hands. The Division entered Nurnberg on 20
April, crossed the Danube River on 27 April,
and on 29 April,
the 45th liberated 32,000 prisoners of Dachau concentration camp. The
on 30 April, 1945 where it remained as the occupation force through May.
The Color Guard is ready for the victory parade in Munich, Germany.
arrived in New York in June, 1945
continuing on to Camp Bowie,
Texas. The 45th
Infantry Division was deactivated on 7 December, 1945, reverting to a
Guard Division, but serving only Oklahoma.
Happy Soldiers of the 45th
Infantry Division aboard the ship home from Europe.
The Division was re-federalized in 1950
and in March, 1951 shipped overseas and to Korea where it served until
accumulating 429 days in combat. It went back to National Guard status
January, 1969 when it was restructured into an infantry brigade, an
group, and a support command, with state headquarters providing general
and logistical support. These units all retain the Thunderbird patch
state headquarters group which uses the Indian Head patch.
WW II Division
The 45th served 511 days in
combat and suffered
over 20,000 casualties; killed, wounded and missing.
The Division was awarded 7
Distinguished Unit Citations.
For their service in WW II, members of
the Division were
- 8 Medals of Honor
- 61 Distinguished Service
- 3 Distinguished Service
- 1,848 Silver Stars
- 38 Legions of Merit
- 59 Soldier’s medals
- 5,744 Bronze stars
Note: Information for this
outline was compiled from the sources listed below.
More detailed information can be found from these sources and from
at these websites. The information in this outline is, to the best of
knowledge, accurate. Any errors founds in this outline are my own.
Whitlock, Flint. The Rock of Anzio.
From Sicily to Dachau:
A History of the U.S.
45th Infantry Division. Westview Press, 1998.
45th Infantry Division,
The. The Fighting
Forty-Fifth. The Combat Report of an Infantry Division. Army &
Publishing Company, 1946
157th Infantry Regiment, The. Eager for Duty. Army &
Navt Publishing Company, 1946
180th Infantry Regiment, The. 180th Infantry. A regiment of the
45th Infantry Division. F. Bruckman KG., Munich, Germany,
Mauldin , Bill. The Brass Ring.
N.Y. Berkley Publishing Co., 1971.
Infantry Division, World
War II Reenactors and
Venturing Crew” website: http://www.45thdivision.org/home.htm