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The Third Infantry Division of WWII

The 3rd Infantry Division is one of the few American divisions that fought the Axis on all European fronts during World War II. It fought in 531 consecutive days of combat action, participated in four amphibious assault landings, suffered 4,922 killed in action, and 18,766 wounded. The Division ended the war perched on the ruins of Hitler?s Eagles Nest at Berchtesgaden in May 1945.

The division first saw action as a part of the Western Task Force in the invasion of North Africa, landing at Fedala on 8 November 1942, and captured half of French Morocco. Eight months later, on 10 July 1943, the division made an assault landing on Sicily, Licata town on the beach, to west, called Torre di Gaffi and Mollarella and on the beach, to east, called Falconara. Fought its way into Palermo before the armor could get there, and raced on to capture Messina, thus ending the Sicilian campaign.

Nine days after the invasion of mainland Italy, on 18 September 1943, the 3rd landed at Salerno. Seeing intensive action along the way, the division drove to and across the Volturno River by October 1943, and then to Cassino, where the battle of Monte Cassino would later be fought. After a brief rest, the division was part of the amphibious landing at Anzio, 22 January 1944, as part of VI Corps of British and American units. It would remain there for four months in a toe-hold against furious German counterattacks.

On 29 February 1944, the 3rd fought off an attack by three German divisions. In a single day of combat at Anzio, the 3rd Infantry Division suffered more than 900 casualties, the most of any U.S. division on one day in World War II. The division’s former commander, John P. Lucas, was replaced as head of VI Corps by the 3rd Division’s then-commander Lucian Truscott.

In late May, VI Corps broke out of the beachhead with the 3rd Division in the main thrust. Instead of defeating the Germans, Clark sent the division on to Rome. This allowed the enemy forces, which would otherwise have been trapped, to escape. The division was then removed from the front line and went into training for Operation Dragoon … the invasion of Southern France.

On 15 August 1944, D-Day for Dragoon, the division landed at St. Tropez, advanced up the Rhone Valley, through the Vosges Mountains, and reached the Rhine at Strasbourg, 26–27 November 1944. After maintaining defensive positions it took part in clearing the Colmar Pocket on 23 January, and on 15 March struck against Siegfried Line positions south of Zweibrücken. The division advanced through the defenses and crossed the Rhine, 26 March 1945; then drove on to take Nuremberg in a fierce battle, capturing the city in block-by-block fighting, 17–20 April. The 3rd pushed on to take Augsburg and Munich, 27–30 April, and was in the vicinity of Salzburg when the war in Europe ended.

Elements of the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division captured Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden in May 1945.

During the war, the 3rd Infantry Division suffered 4,922 killed in action, and 18,766 wounded with a further 636 who died of wounds in 531 consecutive days of combat. The division’s battle honors for World War II include:

Algeria-French Morocco ∆ Tunisia Sicily ∆ Naples-Foggia Anzio ∆ Rome-Arno Southern France ∆ Rhineland Ardennes-Alsace Central Europe

∆ – Indicates arrowhead device for amphibious assault landing

During World War II the 3rd Infantry Division earned 39 Medals of Honor  … more than any other division in the Second World War.


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