36th Division in World War II


The Italian sun, crisp and not too warm on Invasion Day, had given way to cooler breezes, grayer days, rain, more rain, and snow. The firm ground had mired into deep mud, turned again to raw dust that freely swirled at the slightest stir. Great mountains and pleasant valleys had played intimate host to many a dispassionate soldier from the far-off Better Land during the eight-and-one-half months campaigning just concluded. Of the Italian fighting, Texans would remember mostly, the weather and terrain.

Though the Germans were the real enemy, they had been whipped on the beaches, bettered in the merciless wintry months at San Pietro and Cassino, outsmarted at Velletri and flailed northward in the running, open-field drive above Rome. In weather, terrain, and fighting, the 36th had experienced a poignant variety, fitting it well for the job next to come.

In Italy's rain and cold . . .

Joe could still smile

On the Salerno plains where the Division readied itself for another invasion, a ceremony took place described thusly by Ken Dixon of the Associated Press:

WITH THE AEF IN ITALY (AP).-With bayonets fixed, eyes right and two flags flying, tired soldiers of this veteran outfit said farewell to their general this week -- passing before him in voluntary review.

They are the men of the Thirty-sixth Division. He is Maj. Gen. Fred L. Walker.

The 57-year-old general was being called home after three years to command Fort Benning, Georgia. He didn't want to go and his men didn't want to lose him.

This division hadn't staged a review in more than two years. Besides, the men are worn, thin and haggard from more than a month's constant fighting and a 250-mile chase of Field Marshall Albert Kesselring's troops.

But they wanted to do something. So they polished up the brass and each battalion unfurled the Stars and Stripes and the red flag of Texas, with its one white star, and they stood in rigid lines before him -- stretching thousands strong in the sunlight across the dusty fields.

The general's voice was husky when he stepped up to the field public address system and thanked them.

The bugle shrilled sharp and cold and the drums rattled a brisk and throbbing beat and the troops of the Thirty-sixth Division - all of Texas and veterans all-marched smartly by.

It wasn't down Broadway or Main Street, but across a battlefield they'd won with their own buddies and their own blood. They were not parade soldiers but tired fighting men. Here and there a shoulder pad or piece of equipment was missing and weariness stared starkly out of almost every face.

But there was a high-priced pride in their stride, in their sharp salute, in their "eyes right" for a leader they loved, for whom they were saying with the highest tribute they had:

"Good-bye and good luck, sir - and we are sorry."

General Walker bids farewell


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