At the Casablanca Conference, early in 1943, the Allies vowed to make their enemies “bleed and bum in expiation of their crimes against humanity.” That struck the men of the 63d Division, when their outfit was activated the following June, as an estimable idea, and the division promptly adopted the vengeful nickname “Blood and Fire.”
After a year and a half of training in the States, the 63d sailed for Europe to do what it could about helping to carry out the Casablanca promise. Late in 1944, the men who wear the blood-tipped dagger thrust into the German lines for the first time.
The first fight of one regiment—the 254th Infantry—was especially notable. Attached to the 3d Infantry Division during the fierce struggle for the Colmar bridgehead on the Seventh Army front from January 22 to February 6, the whole regiment was among units cited for outstanding performance of duty in that sector. Struggling forward through knee-deep snow that concealed deadly land mines, the 254th helped to cut off Colmar from the Rhine in what was officially described as “one of the hardest fought and bloodiest campaigns of the war.”
In February, with the whole Division reassembled, the 63d crossed the Saar north of Sarreguemines and led the Seventh Army back onto German soil, from which it had been forced to pull back, and the Division captured the fortress town of Ommersheim. A few weeks later, the 63d led the Army into the lower Siegfried Line on a two-mile front, just south of Saarbrucken.
Early in April, the Blood-and-Fire men destroyed the 17th SS Division, fought through the Hardthauser Woods, crossed the Neckar River, and forced the enemy to retreat to new positions south of the Kocher River.
Then when the Germans in the south began to fall back in disorganization, the 63d was one of the outfits that pursued them relentlessly, striking at the near-beaten enemy forces. It chased ihe Germans through Württemberg and Bavaria down to the Danube, crossing the river at Günzburg and going on down to Landsberg, at the edge of the Bavarian Alps.
The Germans, who were great ones for burning books, always regarded Heidelberg as their principal seat of learning. It was thus perhaps only justice that the “Blood-and-Fire” Division should have been the American outfit that fought its way into the university city and captured it at the end of March.
Funny thing, too: there wasn’t a single book deliberately burned.
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
There are 16 soldiers of the 63rd Infantry Division World War II still listed as missing in action.
|Private First Class Joseph Caetano 254th Infantry Regiment 02/03/1945|
|Private First Class Herman Clark 253rd Infantry Regiment 04/06/1945|
|Private Robert L. Craig 253rd Infantry Regiment 01/31/1945|
|Private Raymond P. De Capito 253rd Infantry Regiment 01/04/1946|
|Private First Class Andrew J. Fortuna 253rd Infantry Regiment 02/08/1945|
|Private First Class Joseph M. Hartley 254th Infantry Regiment 03/03/1945|
|Private First Class William P. Hennessey 254th Infantry Regiment 01/15/1945|
|Private First Class Robert W. Hoffman 254th Infantry Regiment 03/04/1946|
|Private Walter A. Losee 254th Infantry Regiment 03/04/1946|
|Private James P. McLaughlin 254th Infantry Regiment 03/04/1946|
|Private Curtis L. Nabors 254th Infantry Regiment 03/03/1945|
|Private First Class Delmar D. Rains 253rd Infantry Regiment 01/03/1945|
|Private Ralph A. Sheeler 254th Infantry Regiment 03/03/1945|
|Private Orbin E. Thead 253rd Infantry Regiment 01/31/1945|
|Private First Class Stanley D. Wilmore 254th Infantry Regiment 01/08/1946|
|Sergeant Jack Zarifian 253rd Infantry Regiment 04/06/1945|
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