Veterans Day chronicles of the Red Arrow Division

   When the shooting war starts, where does the Army General get his “grunts?” His infantry? Infantry, from the Latin ‘infant’, or inexperienced, foot soldier – in other words – a kid – to carry the rifles, march on foot, sleep on the ground, fight in the dirt and mud, in the blazing heat, in the rain, in the bitter snow, to shoot and kill the enemy – those other kids or infantrymen, on the other side of the battle line.
   In the Alsace campaign during the First World War, many of these kids came from their activated National Guard units in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. They came from many walks of life, but primarily they were the farm boys, the truck drivers, the coal handlers, the grain scoopers and hod carriers – all young, not very experienced or educated (yet…they were so young.)
   Some with wives, many with girlfriends, but all with mothers. Most of them were good outdoorsmen; many could shoot a turkey clean through its ears, or put a bullet straight into a deer’s heat in a single shot. Good skills for a boy whose destiny was to carry a rifle.
   These young fighters had their beginnings at Gettysburg, as volunteers - again from Wisconsin and Michigan, and Indiana - who became known as the “Iron Brigade.”  They fought the battle of the first day against enemy troops as they marched eastward toward town on the Chambersburg Pike (now US 30,) took heavy losses at Seminary Ridge, and finally defended the southern edge of the battlefield at Culp’s Hill, never to become dislodged from the assaults on them of the second and third days.
   They again fought on the Mexican border in the Spanish American War. But during peaceful times, their numbers shrank, so they retained members in their National Guard units, preparing, maintaining, waiting for the next call from the generals – as a shooting war would surely began anew. Soon, they would come - in Divisional strength, from California, Tennessee, Ohio, New York City, Alabama, all over the country - wherever a boy was found who could shoot a rifle and march off to the next battle. Soon they melded into the 32nd Infantry Division… later on to become known as the famed Red Arrow Division, active in both World Wars.
   The 32nd Division was sent to the hottest, most active part of the First World War – to the quagmire of trench warfare, in Eastern France, where they ate and slept in mud trenches, but nearly every day receiving orders to hurl themselves over the crest of the trench to run forward, facing and shooting at the enemy in the trenches opposite of them - through the hail after hail of rifle fire, machine guns and mortars. Many died doing so. But eventually they broke out, making it impossible for Germany to continue the war, earning the Red Arrow name and badge.
   Here’s the history of the Red Arrow Division during the First World War, from the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veterans Association website:
   • Arrived in France, with about 27,000 officers and men, on 16 February 1918, the sixth division to join the A.E.F.
   • Served six months in combat, from 18 May to 11 November  1918, with only 10 days in a rest area.
   • First American troops to set food on German soil - In Alsace in May 1918.
   • Fought on five fronts in three major offensives - the Aisne-Marne. Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne.
   • Captured Fismes in the Marne offensive after and advance of 19 kilometers in seven days.
   • Fought in the Oise-Aisne offensive as the only American unit in General Mangin’s famous Tenth French Army, breaking the German line which protected the Chemin de Dames.
   • Twice in the line in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, fighting continuously for 20 days, penetrating the Kriemhilde Stellung, crossing the Meuse and starting drive to flank Metz.
   • Fought and defeated 23 German Divisions, capturing 2,153 prisoners.
   • Gained 38 kilometers in four attacks and repulsed every enemy counter attack.
   • In action east of the Meuse when the Armistice was signed.
   • Suffered over 14,000 casualties from all causes. Casualty figures vary from one source to another, but the division suffered from 2,898 to 3,245 soldiers killed and approximately 10,900 soldiers wounded in action, non-battle injuries, or incapacitated due to illness. [updated 12 Feb. ‘14]
   • Received at least 20,140 replacement soldiers from nearly every state in the country. [added 12 Feb. ‘14]
   • Marched 300 km to the Rhine for Army of Occupation duty as front line element of the Third U.S. Army. Occupied the center sector in the Coblenz bridge head for four months, holding 63 towns and 400 square km of territory.
   • Over 800 officers and men decorated by American, French, and Belgian governments, including 275 Distinguished Service Crosses. The colors of all four Infantry Regiments, three Artillery Regiments and three Machine Gun Battalions wear the Croix de Guerre during WWI.
   • Insignia is a Red Arrow, signifying that the division shot through every line the enemy put before it.
   • Awarded the nom-de-guerre of “Les Terribles” by the French.”
   It is especially fitting we honor these young men, our fathers and brothers - 100 years later, for their distinguished service - and the lives they sacrificed for us.
   So, it’s not just a highway sign. When you pass by one, give a salute. They fought in the dirt, so we could drive on asphalt.
   George Powless
   Paw Paw

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes
32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-5080

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