Before Pearl Harbor, the 27th Division was commonly known as the “Empire” or “New York” Division, having been composed originally of National Guardsmen from the Empire State. But within a few months of the Japs’ attack in Hawaii, the 27th began to travel, and it moved so much during the next three years that now many of its soldiers call themselves “The Galla Vanters.” Some liked the name “Tokyo Express,” too, and lived up to it when they were among the first Americans to occupy Japan.
After patrolling the west coast of the United States for a few weeks immediately after war was declared, the 27th sailed for Hawaii and manned defensive positions at Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii while training for action farther to the west.
In November 1943 the Division earned its first battle stars. An invasion convoy steamed into the Gilbert Islands, and, while the 2nd Marine Division stormed into the hell of Tarawa, the 27th’s 165th Infantry Regiment, with attached troops from other units, went ashore at nearby Makin. It was a quick fight —three days long—but it took its toll of the Galla Vanters, including the regimental commander of the 165th. This was the outfit that in World War I, as part of the 42nd Division, had earned immortal fame as the Fighting 69th.
World War I affected the modern 27th in one other way, too. The Division’s shoulder patch combines a monogram of “NY” with the stars of the constellation Orion—not because of any nights spent in the field looking at the skies, but because in 1918 the 27th decided to pay permanent tribute to its leader, Major General John F. O’Ryan.
After Makin, the 106th Infantry took the small island of Majuro without opposition, and then on to join in the fighting for Eniwetok, in the Marshall Islands, the following February.
The Division fought as an entire unit for the first time at Saipan. Going in on June 17, 1944, two days after D-day, the 27th, fighting alongside two Marine divisions, found itself up against fanatical Jap garrisons entrenched in caves and concrete fortifications. It was a tough campaign all the way through, but it was toughest on July 7.
“Banzai!” Shrieking their suicidal battle cry, the Japs poured out of their caves and into the 27th’s positions in a nightmare of close-in combat. For forty-eight hours the desperate fighting went on, with battle lines virtually indistinguishable as units of both sides mingled in deadly embrace. Well over 2,000 Japanese corpses were counted when the banzai charge was finally stopped, and there were many tales of individual heroism and initiative among the men of the 27th—like the story of the Medics who, cut off from their normal supply of bandages, improvised dressings out of rifle cleaning materials and captured Japanese flags.
Next stop: Okinawa.
Nowhere in the Pacific had the fighting been worse. Dug in at defensive positions of their own choosing, the Japs resisted as only they can. The 27th fought grimly along Kakazu Ridge—“the area of greatest enemy activity,” a corps commander said—and on April 19, after a 3,000-yard advance, took the important Machinato airfield. Before he was killed, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner of the Tenth Army said of the 27th, “They have paid heavily and they have shown lots of guts.”
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
There are 72 soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division World War II still listed as missing in action.
|Private First Class Robert L. Alexander 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Sergeant John A. Alois 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Jesus Avalos 102nd Engineer Combat Battalion 07/04/1945|
|Private First Class John J. Baczewski 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Richard N. Bean 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Winfred W. Bennett 105th Infantry Regiment 06/21/1944|
|Private Emerson L. Bledsoe 105th Infantry Regiment 07/10/1944|
|Sergeant Glen R. Buckmaster 106th Infantry Regiment 07/11/1944|
|Private First Class William T. Carneal 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Frederick C. Davy 105th Infantry Regiment 06/25/1944|
|Private First Class Charles E. Dobson 106th Field Artillery Battalion 07/07/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Louis S. Doddo 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|First Lieutenant Seymour P. Drovis 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Stanley M. Dubiel 165th Infantry Regiment 06/17/1944|
|Private First Class Henry J. Elliott 105th Infantry Regiment 04/19/1945|
|Private John G. Franco 106th Infantry Regiment 08/17/1944|
|Private First Class James L. Gamble 105th Infantry Regiment 06/23/1944|
|Private Claudio N. Garcia 102nd Engineer Combat Battalion 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Bernard Gavrin 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Sergeant Fred George 105th Infantry Regiment 04/20/1945|
|Private First Class John J. Gilmore 165th Infantry Regiment 05/29/1945|
|Private Richard T. K. Goo 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Harrold L. Goodman 105th Infantry Regiment 06/28/1944|
|Private First Class Samuel F. Greenawalt 106th Infantry Regiment 04/28/1945|
|Private Jackson Griffith 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Paul Guice 105th Infantry Regiment 04/19/1945|
|Staff Sergeant Carl N. Hajek 105th Infantry Regiment 07/12/1944|
|Private John T. Harrelson 165th Infantry Regiment 04/28/1946|
|Second Lieutenant Albert Herman 27th Reconnaissance Troop 01/26/1944|
|Second Lieutenant Harold W. Hicks 105th Infantry Regiment 04/24/1945|
|Sergeant John E. Hurlburt 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private James R. Jackson 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Technician Fifth Grade LeRoy Jones 105th Infantry Regiment 07/12/1944|
|Private First Class Carl E. Jung 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Edward W. Kalinske 106th Infantry Regiment 07/11/1944|
|Private Howard E. Keech 165th Infantry Regiment 04/29/1945|
|Private First Class Vernon A. Koon 106th Infantry Regiment 06/25/1944|
|Private First Class Wallace H. Kracht 105th Infantry Regiment 05/01/1945|
|Private First Class Harold W. Lee 165th Infantry Regiment 04/27/1946|
|Technician Fifth Grade Crummett E. Lough 165th Infantry Regiment 06/17/1944|
|Sergeant John V. Malik 105th Infantry Regiment 06/23/1944|
|Sergeant Carroll A. Mansfield 106th Infantry Regiment 05/17/1943|
|Private First Class Walter R. Marchewka 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Technical Sergeant Edward B. McAuliffe 165th Infantry Regiment 06/17/1944|
|Private First Class John D. McMahan 105th Infantry Regiment 07/14/1944|
|Private First Class Earl W. McMahon 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Anthony F. Mendonca 106th Infantry Regiment 06/28/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Benedict C. Nolgo 165th Infantry Regiment 04/22/1946|
|Private First Class Anthony D. Nowara 105th Infantry Regiment 04/20/1945|
|Private First Class Raul M. Olivas 102nd Engineer Combat Battalion 07/14/1944|
|First Lieutenant James W. O'Neil 249th Field Artillery Battalion 06/30/1944|
|Private First Class Francis R. Paulman 165th Infantry Regiment 05/29/1945|
|Private First Class Eliseo Perez 165th Infantry Regiment 04/22/1946|
|Private First Class John B. Produit 105th Infantry Regiment 07/11/1944|
|Private First Class James O. Rainwaters 165th Infantry Regiment 04/21/1944|
|Private Max E. Raulston 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Captain Henry W. Reaves 105th Field Artillery Battalion 05/22/1945|
|Staff Sergeant James F. Rhodes 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Lewis N. Rockwell 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private Edward M. Ryan 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class Michael Sabo 105th Infantry Regiment 07/10/1944|
|Private First Class Frank N. Saetes 105th Infantry Regiment 07/18/1944|
|First Lieutenant George M. Sandburg 106th Field Artillery Battalion 07/02/1944|
|Private First Class John H. Sanders 165th Infantry Regiment 06/17/1944|
|Private First Class Joseph Scherer 105th Infantry Regiment 07/13/1944|
|Private First Class Julius L. Schumacher 106th Infantry Regiment 05/24/1945|
|Second Lieutenant Willliam F. Sixkiller 165th Infantry Regiment 07/13/1944|
|Private First Class George F. Smith 106th Infantry Regiment 04/20/1945|
|Private First Class Vincent R. Thomey 106th Infantry Regiment 06/27/1944|
|Sergeant George J. Webster 165th Infantry Regiment 04/26/1945|
|Private William Yawney 105th Infantry Regiment 07/07/1944|
|Private First Class George A. Zeim 105th Infantry Regiment 06/27/1944|
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