The 32nd 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association

WW2 32nd Division insignia

The 32nd Infantry Division

in World War II

"The Red Arrow"


link Mobilization, Training and the Move to Australia
link Papuan Campaign - Strategic Situation & Overview
link Papuan Campaign - The Advance to Buna
link Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Buna
link Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Sanananda
link Back to Australia - Rehabilitation and Training
link New Guinea Campaign - Saidor
link New Guinea Campaign - Aitape
link New Guinea Campaign - Biak
link New Guinea Campaign - Morotai
link Leyte Campaign
link Luzon Campaign - The Villa Verde Trail (this link will take you to a different web site, until the process of moving all of the files is completed)
link Luzon Campaign - Mopping Up (this link will take you to a different web site, until the process of moving all of the files is completed)
link Occupation of Japan (this link will take you to a different web site, until the process of moving all of the files is completed)


book cover
Mr. Howard Kelley, a 32nd Infantry Division Veteran, has written a book describing his service during World War II. In Born in the U.S.A. - Raised in New Guinea, he shares some of his most personal experiences as a member of the 'Red Arrow's' 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry. This book offers a rare, first-hand glimpse of the 32nd Infantry Division in World War II, as seen through the eyes of an enlisted GI. Click on the book cover to the left, it will take you to Mr. Kelley's web site, where you will find information about how to purchase this book.


Mobilization, Training and the move to Australia

In August of 1940, Congress passed the legislation necessary to order National Guard units into active Federal Service during peacetime. The National Guard troops could not be required to serve for more than 12 months or outside of the Western Hemisphere.
All 18 existing National Guard divisions, plus countless, smaller, non-divisional units, would be called up in the months that followed; the 32nd Division was among the first. The National Guard of the United States was activated in 20 increments between 16 Sept. 1940 and 23 June 1941. The 32nd Division was part of the second increment.
On 15 October 1940, the 32nd Division (consisting of National Guard units from Michigan and Wisconsin) was called to Active Duty. The Division was commanded by Major General Irving J. Fish and had a strength of approximately 11,600 soldiers. Like almost all units in the National Guard, and even the Regular Army, at this time, the 32nd Division was not at full strength and did not have all of the equipment it was authorized.

"See You In a Year"
copyrighted image
"Honoring Those Who Have Served through Art".
A.M. Stencel
Stencel Military Fine Art

When the Division was called up, it was basically the same “square” division that it was during World War I. It was centered around the 125th and 126th Infantry Regiments of the 63rd Infantry Brigade from Michigan and the 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments of the 64th Infantry Brigade from Wisconsin. The 32nd Division's 57th Field Artillery Brigade was comprised of the 120th, the 121st and the 126th Artillery Regiments of the Wisconsin National Guard.

The 119th Field Artillery Regiment of the Michigan National Guard had recently been detached from the 32nd Division and assigned to the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, headquartered in Michigan. The 72nd FA Brigade included the 182nd FA, 177th FA, and 119th FA, all Michigan National Guard. The 126th FA, which took the place of the 119th FA in the 57th FA Brigade, had recently been converted from the 105th Cavalry Regiment of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Some of the major unit commanders at this time included:
63rd Infantry Brigade - Brigadier General Thomas Colladay
    125th Infantry Regiment - Colonel Matthias A. Weisenhoefer
    126th Infantry Regiment - Colonel William Haze
64th Infantry Brigade - Brigadier General Paul B. Clemens
    127th Infantry Regiment - Colonel Forrest H. Himes
    128th Infantry Regiment - Colonel William A. Holden
57th Field Artillery Brigade - Brigadier General William S. Wood
    120th Field Artillery Regiment - Colonel Jim Dan Hill
    121st Field Artillery Regiment - Colonel Waldemar F. Breidster
    126th Field Artillery Regiment - Colonel Frederick C. T. John
On 20 October LTC J. Tracy Hale Jr. succeeded COL Himes as commander 127th Inf.

In October 1940, the Division went to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana.

The living conditions for the soldiers at Camp Beauregard were not the best, so some soldiers unaffectionately nicknamed it 'Camp Disregard.' The poor living conditions were partly the result of the fact that the camp was designed to accommodate one regiment, but the entire 32nd Division was sent there anyway.
On 16 November 1940, the 32nd Division Tank Company of Janesville, Wisconsin (informally known as the Janesville Tank Company), which had been detached from the 32nd Division, entered Federal service with a strength of 114 officers and men. The unit's name would be changed to Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion, 1st Armored Division.

On 27 November, Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion left Janesville in a convoy of trucks bound for Fort Knox, Kentucky. At Fort Knox, new M-3 light tanks were issued along with other vehicles and equipment.

In February of 1941, the 32nd Division moved to Camp Livingston, Louisiana.

On 12 August 1941, congress narrowly passed legislation that would allow the Federal service of the National Guard to be extended from 12 to 18 months, and would permit the National Guard to serve outside the Western Hemisphere.

In August and September of 1941, the 32nd Division was participating, in the words of then COL Jim D. Hill, CO of the 120th FA Regiment, "in a series of the most grandiose field exercises and full maneuvers ever staged any time, anywhere, before or since, by American troops. (430)" These exercises were collectively referred to as the Louisiana Maneuvers. They started out pitting division against division, then built up to corps against corps, and culminated in the grand finale of Lieutenant General Walter Krueger's Third Army taking the offensive against Lieutenant General Ben Lear's Second Army.

"The Great Maneuvers"

    "Lear's Second Army (Red) Order of Battle included 3 'square' Infantry Divisions (Guard), 2 'triangular' Infantry Divisions, two Armored and one Cavalry [horse] division. Krueger's Third Army (Blue) consisted of 8 'square' Infantry Divisions (Guard), two 'triangular' Infantry Divisions, one Tank Group of only 60 light tanks, 3 Anti-Tank Battalions, one Cavalry [horse] Division and one Cavalry [horse] Brigade. Each Army Commander had 300 Air Corps planes at his disposal. A company of paratroopers was present and operational for the first time in American history. Note that Lear was comparatively light and nimble with a tremendous preponderance in armor and enjoyed all the advantages inherent in being on the defense in most difficult terrain. The opposing Third Army was heavy with 330,000 officers and men, weak on proportional motor vehicles and short on Armor and modernity of Divisional organization and equipment.
    "Initial deployment for Krueger's Blues, with Headquarters at Lake Charles, was from Beaumont, Texas to Bayou Teche, Louisiana. Lear's Red Second Army initially was deployed North and East of the Red River from Alexandria Northwesterly to Shreveport and Caddo Lake on the Texas border. The river line and its terrain were unfavorable to tank tactics, hence Lear with some logic crossed the river on a wide front for a strong thrust forward to seize the comparatively open Peason Ridge country where the preponderance of Red Armor would be most advantageous. Red Cavalry swept wide from the Northwest flank to help foreclose the mortgage on Peason Ridge country and threaten Blue's flank from the line of the Sabine River. But the Red Cavalry did not sweep wide enough and started its flanking movement too soon. Krueger's Third Army Blue Cavalry successfully screened its own Army's open flank but also used its weight and mobility to sweep still more widely and cut deep into Red's rear North and East of Mansfield, Louisiana. While the horse cavalry war was proceeding along a line that would have met with the warm approval of both Phil Sheridan and Jeb Stuart, Blue Army's eight 'square' Guard Divisions were proving to be far less cumbersome and awkward than their obsolete organization and shortage of equipment had appeared to dictate. By temporarily 'grounding' a part of each division while all vehicles did fast shuttle movements, Blue Infantry from the Guard Divisions appeared amazingly soon in areas where time and space factors had suggested impossibility.
    "Fast shuttle motor movements reconcentrated the 'square' Divisions for coordinated attacks upon specified objectives on their fronts. Thus each Division fought its own little war within its zone of action. Lear's Red Armor was denied the ownership of Peason Ridge with its potential for a quick defensive victory through offensive tactics.
    "The Red Air Force was either less lucky or not so well handled. Moreover, it had been beefed up with some Navy fliers who knew not the terrain and who had no opportunity to become integrated into an instinctively reacting membership of their entire team. The 300 Blue planes were credited with more successful missions. A Blue paratroop drop of 127 officers and men, as rear area raiders and saboteurs, wrecked General Lear's Red communications. They stank up Lear's own headquarters with smoke bombs simulating complete destruction, which could have claimed Lear as a casualty. "A re-e-edicu-u-lous performance!" General Lear sputtered in the lobby of the Camp Polk movie theater shortly prior to the grand critique.
    "The Umpires must have partially thought likewise. The squad that pulled the stunt was ruled out because its only hostile identification was a short, thin strand of blue baby ribbon. This notwithstanding, the tide of battle forced Lear to displace his Headquarters to the rear. But it was the Cavalry that ended the long, hot, dusty campaign. With the Guard Cavalry Brigade screening and thus containing the entire Red Cavalry Division, the Blue Division of horse Cavalry swept far to westward and came in behind the Red forward positions to capture and destroy supplies. These included the Red gasoline depot. There could be but one Umpire ruling. The Red tanks and other mobile vehicles were declared immobile as their fuel tanks became empty.
    "The maneuver war was over except for the equally grandiose critique. In it there was almost as much yapping about improperly policed, vacated bivouac areas as there was about tactics and strategy. This fell alike upon all units, Regulars and Reservists in the 'triangular' Divisions and Guardsmen in the 'square' Divisions. This situation was indeed bad throughout the maneuvers for the simple reason that the thrifty Louisiana farmers broke out their shovels and opened all the marked and dated kitchen refuse pits as fast as the sites were vacated so that their hogs could get at the garbage. Maneuver Headquarters . . . must have been aware of this, for one of the Guard Regimental Executive Officers sought a measure of remedial action by switching the markings upon otherwise properly-covered kitchen pits and the latrine trenches. There appears to have been a civilian complaint. In any event, the Guard officer received a written rebuke for having displayed an unsanitary sense of humor. (Hill 431-33)"
About October of 1941, the Division organized a regimental combat team for the Carolina maneuvers (held later in November). It was called the 128th Regimental Combat Team but it consisted of units from the 126th, 127th and 128th Infantry, 120th Artillery, 107th Engineers, 107th Medical Regiment and other personnel from the Division.

Around October, General Wood was succeeded by Brigadier General Ellerbe W. Carter as Commander of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth L. Hallenbeck became the commander of the 125th Infantry, taking the place of Colonel Wiesenhoefer.

In mid-October 1941 the 192nd Tank Battalion, including the former 32nd Division Tank Company (now Co. A of the 192nd), was moved by rail to San Francisco, California. The 192nd was sent to the Philippines, where with the 194th Tank Battalion became the Provisional Tank Group on Luzon. This Tank Group included the tank companies from the National Guard Divisions from California (40th), Kentucky (38th), Illinois (33rd), Minnesota (34th), Ohio (37th) and Wisconsin (32nd).

Prior to the creation of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions on 15 July 1940, the only armored force the US Regular Army had was an experimental Mechanized Cavalry Brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Just prior to the induction of the National Guard divisions, their organic tank companies were declared non-divisional GHQ (General Headquarters) Troops. As a result, each division was stripped of its tank company and those companies now came under the direct control of the new and growing Armored Force, with then BG Adna R. Chaffee as its first Chief. When it was recognized that US forces in the Philippines needed some tanks for a more balanced force against the rising threat from Japan, BG Chaffee selected the 6 National Guard tank companies mentioned above. The tank companies of the 18 National Guard Divisions represented the oldest, most-experienced, and best-equipped armored units in being in the US. These National Guard tank companies had been training with World War I French tanks (FT-17) up until about 1940 and only now were being equipped with the M-3 light tank.
On 3 December 1941 the 632nd Tank Destroyer Battalion was formed at Camp Livingston, Louisiana from personnel of the 32nd Infantry Division.
When the 'square' National Guard divisions were 'triangularized', each was required to create one tank destroyer battalion from surplus units (for some reason, the 41st Division was not faced with this requirement). These battalions were numbered in the 600-series with the last 2 digits indicating the division it came from. There were 7 additional tank destroyer battalions created from the 7 brigades of National Guard corps artillery. They were numbered in the 700-series with the last 2 digits indicating the brigade it was created from. These battalions were non-divisional units, they were GHQ Troops under the control of the Armored Force (so technically they were not organic to the parent unit). However, some of these tank destroyer battalions went overseas as an attachment to the parent unit and were, for the most part, considered organic to them. Most were separated, some were redesignated to become part of an armored division, others were inactivated with their personnel absorbed into some other Armored Force unit.

The 632nd Tank Destroyer Battalion was, essentially, treated as an organic unit of the 32nd Division. It went to Australia with the 32nd Division. It fought with the 32nd at Aitape and Saidor. It went into the battle for Leyte with the 1st Cavalry Division, but later joined the 32nd on Leyte. On Luzon it was initially attached to the 13th Armored Group but subsequently served with 37th, 44th and 32nd Divisions on Luzon.

On 7 December 1941, in conjunction with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began bombing the Philippines in preparation for an amphibious assault a few days later. Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion (formerly the 32nd Div. Tank Co.) fought against the Imperial Japanese Forces in many engagements and rear guard actions, and rendered assistance in covering the eventual retreat of our forces into Bataan.

In January and February 1942, the 32nd Division was reorganized into a “triangular” division, centered around three infantry regiments. As a result, the 125th Infantry Regiment was detached from the Division; and the three existing artillery regiments (120th, 121st and 126th) were converted into four battalions (120th, 121st, 126th and 129th; three battalions of 105 mm howitzers and one battalion of 155 mm howitzers).

The 1st Battalion of the 120th Field Artillery Regiment became the 120th Field Artillery Battalion. The 2nd Battalion of the 120th Field Artillery Regiment became the 129th Field Artillery Battalion. The 1st Battalion of the 121st Field Artillery Regiment became the 121st Field Artillery Battalion. The 1st Battalion of the 126th Field Artillery Regiment became the 126th Field Artillery Battalion. The 2nd Battalions of the 121st and 126th Field Artillery Regiments combined to become the 173rd Field Artillery Regiment, later redesignated the 173rd Field Artillery Group. The group was composed of the 173rd Field Artillery Battalion and the 985th  Field Artillery Battalion (formerly 2nd Battalion, 126th FA Reg. and 2nd Battalion, 121st FA Reg., not positive which was which). The 173rd FA Group served in the European Theater and it appears that one battalion fought in Italy (Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, North Appenines,  and Po Valley Campaigns) while the other battalion fought in northern Europe (Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe Campaigns).
The engineer, medical and quartermaster regiments were also converted into battalions as part of the reorganization to a 'triangular' division. When the reorganization was complete, the 32nd Infantry Division consisted of the following units:
Division Headquarters and Headquarters Company
Military Police Company
126th Infantry Regiment
127th Infantry Regiment
128th Infantry Regiment
Division Artillery Headquarters and Headquarters Battery
120th Field Artillery Battalion (LTC Harold A. Morgan)
121st Field Artillery Battalion (LTC Melvin L. McCreary)
126th Field Artillery Battalion (LTC Ross J. Quatsoe)
129th Field Artillery Battalion (LTC Kenneth J. Hough)
107th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Colonel Ralph A. Loveland)
107th Medical Battalion (LTC Carl Hanna)
107th Quartermaster Battalion (MAJ Donald M. Farris)
32 Signal Company
32nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop
632nd Tank Destroyer Battalion (not officially organic to the Division)
In January of 1942, General Fish was reassigned to other duties when he became over-age for combat command. General Fish had been associated with the 32nd Division and the Wisconsin National Guard for many years; he served on the Mexican Border with the Wisconsin National Guard in 1916 and served with the 32nd Division in World War I.
In truth, the creation and enforcement of this 'over-age' policy was little more than a thinly veiled excuse to get rid of senior National Guard officers and give their desirable commands to Regular Army officers. To make a long, complicated story short, the Regular Army in 1940 was bloated with officers, especially colonels but other officer ranks as well. This excess in officers was partly caused by the fact that the strength of the Regular Army was drastically reduced after World War I; they got rid of many enlisted soldiers but kept many officers. Also, the promotion system for officers between the wars was very ineffective. Sometimes the Regular Army officers that replaced these so-called 'over-age' National Guard officers were themselves over-age or later became over-age but were not replaced when they did. Another tactic used to replace National Guard officers with Regular Army officers was to give the National Guard officers extremely rigorous physical examinations, much more thorough than those given to enlisted soldiers, junior officers or Regular Army officers. In this way they could create more vacancies for Regular Army officers by claiming that some of these National Guard officers suffered from often unnamed or nonexistent ailments. This information is not being included here to imply that these Regular Army officers were in any way undeserving or unqualified for these positions. It is only being included to point out that some National Guard officers were treated in an unjust and unprofessional manner by some in the Regular Army.
On 9 February 1942, Brigadier General Edwin F. Harding took command of the Division. He was promoted to Major General on 13 February.
MG Harding came to the 32nd Division from the 9th Infantry Division, where he had been assistant division commander. Before that he had been commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment (at that time the 27th Inf. was assigned to the Hawaiian Division). He had graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1909. He was a native of Franklin, Ohio.
Brigadier General Albert W. Waldron was assigned to the Division around this time as commanding general, 32nd Division Artillery.

Shortly after General Harding assumed command, the Division moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts and began preparing to be shipped to Northern Ireland.

On 25 March 1942, the Division was notified that it was being sent to Australia to help halt the Japanese advances in the Southwest Pacific and attempt to put the Japanese on the defensive. The Division boarded troop trains and headed for San Francisco. The 107th Engineers had already sailed for Europe so the 114th Engineer Combat Battalion from New England hastily took their place in the 32nd Division.

The 32nd Division, along with the 41st Division, would become part of I Corps in Australia. Major General Robert L. Eichelberger, a classmate of General Harding’s at West Point, was the I Corps commander. I Corps had been scheduled to participate in Operation Torch in North Africa later in the year, until a last minute change sent it, too, to Australia. General Eichelberger had seen sudden changes of mission before (and he would see more in the future), during World War I, when scheduled to go to France, a last minute change found him as assistant chief of staff of our American Expeditionary Force in Siberia, Russia.
On 9 April 1942, Bataan fell to the Japanese. All surviving members of Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion became prisoners and, along with the other American and Philippine forces who surrendered to the Japanese, participated in the infamous "Death March." Three years later, after the defeat of Japan, the 35 remaining men of the Janesville Tank Company were released from POW camps and returned home. The Company had 114 officers and men when it entered Federal service on 16 Nov. 1940.

On 22 April, the 32nd Division sailed from San Francisco bound for Australia. Just before they left, the Division picked up some 3,000 replacements, most of these had just finished basic training (the Division was still short around 1,800 men).

On 14 May 1942 the 32nd Division reached Adelaide, South Australia. It was sent to Camp Woodside (east of Adelaide) and Camp Sandy Creek (north of Adelaide).

In July of 1942 the Division relocated to Camp Tamborine, near Brisbane on Australia's east coast.

On 30 August, Camp Tamborine was renamed Camp Cable, in honor of Corporal Gerald Cable, a soldier in Service Company, 126th Infantry. CPL Cable was making the trip to Brisbane by boat; he was killed when the boat was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine; giving him the distinction of being the first soldier of the 32nd Division to be KIA in World War II.

The 900-mile move from Adelaide to Brisbane was rather difficult. Much of the Division's equipment and personnel were shipped by railroad (some also went by sea). Each Territory in Australia had its own (different) rail gauge (gauge refers to the distance between the two rails). The trains had to stop at the border of each territory; the train was then unloaded and all the equipment and soldiers had to be loaded onto a different train that was compatible with the rail gauge in the next territory. The 32nd Division crossed the borders of four Australian Territories before it reached Brisbane.
In August 1942 the 107th Engineer Battalion (Michigan National Guard and formerly part of the 32nd Div.) and the 112th Engineer Battalion (Ohio) were combined to form the 112th Engineer Regiment in Ireland.

Next Section - Strategic Situation And Overview On The Eve Of The Papuan Campaign

Blakeley, H. W., Major General, Retired. The 32nd Infantry Division in World War II.  The Thirty-second Infantry Division History Commission, State of Wisconsin, n.d.
Cannon, M. Hamlin.  Leyte: The Return to the PhilippinesU.S. Army Center of Military History, 1954.
Drea, Edward J.  New Guinea - The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II.  U.S. Army Center of Military History, n.d.
Hill, Jim Dan, Major General, Retired.  The Minute Man in Peace and War.  Harrisburg: The Stackpole Company, 1964.
Jungwirth, Clarence J.  Diary of a National Guardsman in World War II.  Oshkosh, WI: Poeschl Printing Company, 1991.
Milner, Samuel. Victory in Papua.  U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1957.
Papuan Campaign - The Buna-Sanananda Operation.  Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, War Department, 1945.
The Red Arrow - 1955 - The 32nd Division, Wisconsin National Guard.  n.p., 1955.
Smith, Herbert M., Lieutenant Colonel, Retired. Hannibal Had Elephants II.  Eau Claire, WI: Rev. William A. Heins, 1995.
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revised 8 October 2005
since 15 March 1999