In unity there is strength.
No better example of the truth of this maxim could be found than in the fighting record of the 31st Infantry Division.
The “Dixie” Division originally was composed of men from three “Deep South” states, but when it went into battle in the Pacific there were just as many “damyankees” as “Johnny Rebs” in its ranks. And, when it hit the beaches of Morotai to open the drive that later led to the liberation of the Philippines, its Doughboys were alternately whistling “Dixie” and “Marching Through Georgia.”
Forgotten was the War Between the States, and finished were the fist fights over the relative merits of Grant and Lee, Sherman and Stonewall Jackson. The Division had poured it on the Japanese from New Guinea to Mindanao, with a Blue and Gray cooperation that had made it a scourge to the Nips.
The 31st wasted little time overseas before getting into combat. After a brief training period in the bush of Oro Bay, New Guinea, the 31st’s fighting regiments moved into action. One combat team, the 124th, went to Aitape, and the other two, the 155th and 167th, to Wakde-Sarmi. The 124th caught a heavy assignment for its first action. In the bloody fighting along the Driniumor River, the 124th killed more than 3,000 of the enemy and played a major part in breaking the back of the by-passed Japanese Eighteenth Army. Fighting was much lighter at Wakde-Sarmi, but the 155th and 167th accounted for more than 1,000 Japs while on the Maffin Bay perimeter which guarded a Fifth Air Force airstrip.
In September 1944 the Dixie Division sailed from Maffin Bay for the reconquest of Morotai, and on the 15th of the month hit the beaches of this Dutch island, less than 350 miles from the Philippines.
Despite a treacherous landing beach, on which even bulldozers dropped from sight in muck, the Doughs of the Dixie quickly secured a beachhead and by noon of D-day had seized Pitoe Airdrome. Morotai gave our forces control of the Halmahera Sea and cut off 20,000 Jap troops on the island of Halmahera. For seven months, while Mindanao was by-passed in favor of the Leyte operation, and, later, Luzon, the 31st maintained the perimeter defense for the Thirteenth Air Force. Companies lived on outposts for weeks at a time, supplied by barge and plane; men on the “line” spent their nights on guard in pillboxes; patrols poked continuously into the mountainous jungle in quest of Japs driven to the interior. Several thousand Nips were killed on the island during the seven months, ferreted out by ones, twos, and small forces.
On Mindanao, the 31st expected to fight in the open country, but the Dixiemen found the Sayre Highway no open road. The Doughs fought the Japs in neck-high cogon grass, and in deep forests. The Division’s bloodiest fight on Mindanao came when they met the Japs below the Maramag No. 1 airstrip. Here the fanatic Japs had dug in beneath great tree roots. For seven days of close fighting the Americans hacked and dug at the Japs with bazooka, mortar, artillery and small-arms fire. In many instances the Dixies had to root out the Japs with the bayonet.
The 155th Infantry took over the point of the march from Maramag, and scored a rousing rout of the enemy when it surprised an enemy force sunning itself along a stream. In a quick attack the 155th killed 96 Japs while losing but one man.
The Division was commended by Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, commanding the Eighth Army, for its execution of the operation which split all Jap forces in central Mindanao.
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
There are 18 soldiers of the 31st Infantry Division World War II still listed as missing in action.
|Private First Class Paul R. Ainsworth 155th Infantry Regiment 01/17/1945|
|Private First Class John Beri 167th Infantry Regiment 07/29/1944|
|Staff Sergeant Lee H. Box 124th Infantry Regiment 09/17/1944|
|Private Valiant O. Clark 124th Infantry Regiment 05/08/1945|
|Private First Class Earl B. Futch 155th Infantry Regiment 08/29/1944|
|Private First Class Bays C. Hampton 167th Infantry Regiment 07/01/1945|
|Private First Class James E. Howard 167th Infantry Regiment 08/11/1944|
|Private Joseph L. Howell 124th Infantry Regiment 08/26/1945|
|Sergeant Thomas E. Kemp 124th Infantry Regiment 08/03/1944|
|Captain Howell S. Kopp 114th Field Artillery Battalion 09/25/1944|
|Private Ralph G. Langdon Headquarters 02/01/1946|
|Private First Class Samuel M. Lowe 124th Infantry Regiment 08/06/1944|
|Private First Class Leo E. Menard 155th Infantry Regiment 01/20/1945|
|Private First Class Thomas A. Pease 155th Infantry Regiment 08/29/1944|
|Private First Class George E. Reidy 167th Infantry Regiment 08/11/1944|
|Private First Class William M. Trautwein 167th Infantry Regiment 07/29/1944|
|Private First Class Joseph A. Truhel 167th Infantry Regiment 08/11/1944|
|Private Ralph W. Young 124th Infantry Regiment 06/06/1945|
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