America's best known division, the 42nd, does not believe in hiding its light under a bushel.
Visitors to torn, battered Germany, report that one can follow the path of the fighting 42nd by keeping an eye out for rainbows painted on the sides of buildings.
Let an element of the Division halt for a moment and some GI, paint brush in hand, would splash the red, gold and blue of the rainbow, for all to see.
The 42nd got its nickname in World War I when one of its majors, noting that its personnel was drawn from 26 states and the District of Columbia, said “This Division will stretch over the land like a rainbow.”
The major who inspired the nickname has moved up in grade since that time. He is now General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
The 42nd was late getting into action against the Nazis, but once in the line, it fought with the same dash which characterized the World War I Rainbow, in the Champagne, Champagne-Marne, and Aisne-Marne offensives.
The Division first faced the Wehrmacht in December 1944, when, under the Seventh Army, it was given the unglamorous role of plugging gaps and weak spots on the army’s right flank near Saarbriicken. Near the middle of February the Rainbows were readied for the attack, and it was at this time that the Division was officially announced as part of the Seventh Army.
A month later, the 42nd made its first penetration of Germany. In bitter weather, the men with the rainbows ’round their shoulders, drove through the Hardt Mountains. Early in April the towns of Dahn and Busenberg fell to the slugging Doughs. These conquests were made doubly difficult by the weather and terrain. Vehicles could not be used on the icy mountain roads, and it was necessary to move in supplies by pack mule.
Rolling east of the Rhine, the 42nd took Fiirth and Schweinau, drove on to capture Schweinfurt, and then joined in the assault on Nürnberg.
The 42nd was the first division to reach Munich, and from Munich it went on to infamous Dachau, and helped liberate 32,000 inmates of this nightmarish Nazi prison camp.
The Rainbows moved into Austria, collecting prisoners by the thousands. One of the Nazi “prizes” to fall into the Rainbow’s hands was Major General Wilhelm, German communications chief.
Following V-E Day, the Rainbow occupied Ritsbah, the Hollywood of Germany.
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
There are 33 soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division World War II still listed as missing in action.
|Private First Class Lawrence E. Brucker 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/10/1946|
|Private First Class George S. Callahan 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/16/1945|
|Private John C. Castle 232nd Infantry Regiment 03/08/1946|
|Private First Class Glenn F. Chaney 242nd Infantry Regiment 02/24/1945|
|Sergeant Robert L. Christman 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/05/1945|
|Private First Class Arthur W. Crossland 242nd Infantry Regiment 03/15/1945|
|Private First Class John Durda 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/18/1945|
|Private First Class Sidney L. Erdman 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/10/1946|
|Second Lieutenant Dallas B. Hartwell 222nd Infantry Regiment 01/06/1945|
|Private First Class Gilbert J. Himelhoch 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/05/1945|
|Private First Class Howard C. Holmes 242nd Infantry Regiment 03/15/1945|
|Private First Class Tom A. Hubbard 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/06/1945|
|Private First Class Worley D. Jacks 232nd Infantry Regiment 03/07/1945|
|Private First Class William W. Kinsie 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/18/1945|
|Private First Class H. L. Lapides 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/21/1945|
|Private James B. McCartney 222nd Infantry Regiment 03/02/1946|
|Second Lieutenant James A. McPhee 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/10/1945|
|Sergeant James R. Metcalfe 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/19/1945|
|Staff Sergeant Carl L. Pasco 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/19/1945|
|Private First Class Franklin H. Peeler 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/18/1945|
|Private First Class Wilbur J. Roeder 242nd Infantry Regiment 04/26/1945|
|Private James H. Runyan 242nd Infantry Regiment 03/06/1945|
|Private Manuel Saenz 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/17/1945|
|Private Bernhard W. Schkade 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/19/1945|
|Private Robert L. Skaar 222nd Infantry Regiment 03/10/1945|
|Private First Class Arthur G. Skirrow 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/21/1945|
|Private First Class Robert B. Stevens 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/18/1945|
|Private Robert J. Svec 222nd Infantry Regiment 02/21/1945|
|Private Ranny J. Verrett 232nd Infantry Regiment 01/05/1945|
|Private First Class John C. Vollmer 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/09/1945|
|Private Johnnie L. Walden 242nd Infantry Regiment 03/03/1945|
|Staff Sergeant Graydon E. Waters 242nd Infantry Regiment 01/09/1945|
|Private First Class John F. Young 222nd Infantry Regiment 03/10/1945|
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