Original U.S. WWII 36th Infantry Division Grouping - William Swafford
Original Items: One-one-of-a-kind. A fantastic grouping that belonged to Sergeant William R. Swafford (ASN: 38039693) who was born in 1912 in Wichita County, Texas. During WW2 he was assigned to the 142nd Infantry regiment, 36th Infantry Division who fought in World War Two.
Included in this grouping are the following items:
- Original WWII M1 Helmet liner manufactured by Westinghouse and painted with Sergeant Chevrons and the 36th Infantry Insignia as well as white flames.
- Original WW2 Dog tags (4 total) named to William R. Swafford with ASN 38039693.
- Original WWII 1943 dated Musette bag
- Original Pair of U.S. WWII enamel Distinctive Unit Insignia that read "Fortis Et Fidelis".
- Original WWII My Life int eh Service memory book with writing, photos and more.
- Original photos, currency, pins, badges and more.
- Many more items not listed but can be seen in the photos.
All in all a fantastic grouping from Texas Division soldier that served and fought in Europe with the 36th Infantry Division!
History of the 36th Infantry Division in WWII:
The 36th Division landed in French North Africa on 13 April 1943, and trained at Arzew and Rabat. However, the training was hampered by the need to supply guards for some 25,000 Axis prisoners of war (POWs) who had surrendered at the conclusion of the Tunisian Campaign in May. It was assigned to Major General Ernest J. Dawley's VI Corps, part of the Fifth Army, but attached to the Services of Supply, North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), for supply. The 36th Division was originally intended to take part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, but Lieutenant General George S. Patton the Seventh Army commander, preferred to use experienced troops instead and the 36th Division remained in North Africa. The Fifth Army was commanded by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, who knew the 36th Division well from his time as chief of staff to Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, and specifically chose the 36th Division, rather than the more experienced 34th Infantry Division, together with the British 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions, to spearhead the Allied assault landings at Salerno, Italy, which was given the codename of Operation Avalanche.
The division first saw action, in the Italian Campaign, on 9 September 1943, when it landed by sea at Paestum and fought in the Battle of Salerno against intense German opposition. The Germans launched numerous fierce counterattacks on 12–14 September, but the 36th, which at one stage during the battle was holding a 35-mile sector of the front (six times more than a full-strength infantry division was able to hold), repulsed them with the aid of air support and naval gunfire, and, with the help of paratroopers of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, advanced slowly, securing the area from Agropoli to Altavilla. After sustaining over 4,000 casualties in its first major action, the division spent the next few weeks behind the lines, where it remained in the Fifth Army reserve, absorbing replacements and training for future combat operations. Despite the heavy losses, the 36th Division was considered to have fought well, and four men were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The 36th Division returned to combat in mid-November, after six weeks of rest, now under Major General Geoffrey Keyes' II Corps command. It captured Mount Maggiore, Mount Lungo, and the village of San Pietro despite strong enemy positions and severe winter weather. This grueling campaign against the Bernhardt Line was marked by futile attempts to establish a secure bridgehead across the Gari River, erroneously identified as the Rapido on 1 January 1944, to 8 February. The division attacked across the Gari River on 20 January but was harshly repulsed by the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, and the 141st and 143rd Infantry Regiments were virtually destroyed and the attack was stopped on 22 January. In 48 hours the 36th Division had sustained 1,681 casualties, 143 of them killed, 663 wounded, and 875 missing, out of almost 6,000 men who took part. Many of the casualties consisted of newly arrived replacements who were poorly trained. German losses were minimal, with only 64 killed and a further 179 wounded. A company commander in the 143rd Infantry said, "I had 184 men. Forty-eight hours later, I had 17. If that's not mass murder, I don't know what is."
Strong controversy flared among the officers of the division and Lieutenant General Clark, the Fifth Army commander, was severely criticized for having ordered a difficult frontal attack and was accused of having caused the disaster. After the war Congress, urged by veterans of the division, conducted an investigation into the causes and responsibility for the defeat on the Gari River. Clark was absolved of blame and he personally believed the attack to be necessary, in order to attract German reserves from Northern Italy to prevent their use at Anzio, where an amphibious assault, codenamed Operation Shingle, was being launched by Anglo-American forces in an attempt to outflank the Winter Line, capture the Italian capital of Rome and potentially force a German withdrawal away from their formidable Winter Line defenses. However, the German reserves identified in Northern Italy had already been drawn forward onto the front of the British X Corps during the First Battle of Monte Cassino a few days before, thus making the 36th Division's assault unnecessary, although this was unknown to Clark at the time.
After assisting the 34th Infantry Division in the attack on Cassino and fighting defensively along the Gari River, the severely depleted 36th withdrew from the line on 12 March, for rest and recreation. The division arrived by sea at the Anzio beachhead on 22 May, under the command of Major General Lucian Truscott's VI Corps, to take part in Operation Diadem, with the breakout from the beachhead commencing the following day. It drove north to capture Velletri on 1 June, and entered Rome on 5 June 1944, the day before the Normandy landings. Pushing up from Rome, the 36th encountered sharp resistance at Magliano, but reached Piombino on 26 June, before moving back to Paestum for rest and recreation. In July Major General Walker, who had commanded the 36th Division since September 1941, was replaced by Major General John E. Dahlquist.
On 15 August 1944, as part of the U.S. 6th Army Group, the division made another amphibious assault landing, against light opposition in the Saint-Raphaël-Fréjus area of southern France as part of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. A rapid advance opened the Rhone River Valley. Montelimar fell, 28 August, and large German units were trapped. On 15 September, the division was attached to the French First Army. The 36th advanced to the Moselle River at Remiremont and the foothills of the Vosges. On 30 September, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd RCT, a Japanese-American unit) was assigned to the 36th to help shore up the division. The 442nd was subsequently used to spearhead the capture towns of Bruyères and Biffontaine where they faced stiff opposition. On 24 October the 143rd Infantry relieved the 100th and 3rd Battalion who were sent to Belmont, another small town to the north, for some short-lived rest. On 23 October the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry were cut off just beyond the town or Biffontaine. On 27 October the 442nd RCT was called back in to save this Lost Battalion.
The 100th fielded 1,432 men shortly before, but was now down to 239 infantrymen and 21 officers. The 2nd Battalion was down to 316 riflemen and 17 officers, while not a single company in the 3rd Battalion had over 100 riflemen; the entire 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team was down to less than 800 soldiers. On 13 October 1944, when attached to the 36th Infantry Division, the unit was at 2,943 rifleman and officers, but in only three weeks 140 were killed and 1,800 were wounded, while 43 were missing. For this action, the 442nd RCT would earn 3 of its 7 Presidential Unit Citations.
In a grinding offensive, the division crossed the Meurthe River, breached the Ste. Marie Pass and burst into the Alsatian Plains. The enemy counterattacked, 13 December 1944, but the 36th held the perimeter of the Colmar Pocket. Two days later, the division was released from attachment to the French First Army, and returned to the control of VI Corps, now under Major General Edward H. Brooks, under the Seventh Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch. The German counterattacks out of the Colmar Pocket were so fierce, that at times, the field artillery was forced to fire over open sights at point blank range to stop them. On 20 December 1944, the division resumed the attack, advancing northward along the Rhine River to Mannheim meeting heavy resistance at Haguenau, Oberhofen, and Wissembourg. In this action Company "G" of the 143rd Infantry received a Presidential Unit Citation. On 27 December 1944, the division was reassigned to Major General Frank W. Milburn's XXI Corps of the Seventh Army, and was pinched out and returned to Seventh Army reserve on 30 December 1944. On the afternoon of 30 October 3rd Battalion broke through and reached 1st Battalion, 141st, rescuing 211 T-Patchers at the cost of 800 men in five days. However, the fighting continued for the 442nd as they moved past the 141st Infantry. The drive continued until they reached Saint-Die on 17 November when they were finally pulled back.
The division was taken out of the line for the first time since it had landed in the south of France. On 3 January 1945, the division was reassigned to Major General Wade H. Haislip's XV Corps. In January 1945, the division was reassigned to VI Corps. It returned to the line early March. The 36th was reassigned to the Seventh Army on 29 March 1945, and moved to the Danube River on 22 April 1945. The 36th Division has been recognized as a liberating unit for its work securing the subcamps of the Dachau prison camp system.
The 36th Division was reassigned to the XXI Corps on 27 April 1945, and attacked the Künzelsau area on the 30th. Members of the 36th Division's 142nd Infantry arriving as reinforcements on 5 May tipped the Battle for Castle Itter in favor of a combined U.S. Army/Wehrmacht defense against a Waffen SS attack, the only time German and American forces fought side-by-side in World War II.
By 8 May 1945, otherwise known as Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day), the 36th Division was based in Kitzbühel, Austria where it captured Generalfeldmarschall- Gerd von Rundstedt, the commander of all German Armed Forces on the Western Front, and its final station was at Kufstein, Austria on 14 August 1945.
After 400 days of combat, the 36th Infantry Division returned to the United States in December 1945. It was returned to the Texas Army National Guard on 15 December 1945.
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