Camp Claiborne, Louisiana
Camp Claiborne, Louisiana,
August 1941 – January 15, 1942
The invasion of Poland by Germany September 1st 1939 led to the declaration of war against Germany by Great Britain in the morning of September 3rd, and by France that afternoon. The US began preparations in the event that the war would lead to their involvement as it had done some twenty-two years before.
In the Fall of 1940, the 34th Infantry “Red Bull” Division, together with many components of the National Guard and Regular Army, assembled for maneuvers at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. There were an additional nine times the 34th Infantry Division was alerted for induction into Federal service. Offices were closed, men quit their jobs, and others discontinued schooling in anticipation of active duty. Finally, on February 10, 1941, the 34th Division was activated with troops reporting at their respective stations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. The troops were then moved south by rail and truck convoys to the newly constructed Camp Claiborne in Louisiana.
Major General Ellard A. Walsh was the Commanding Officer. Troops received rigorous training. The summer was reported to be especially “muggy, oppressive, Louisiana mid-summer-heat, broken only by perpetual afternoon tropical rains…” As demonstrated in the April 7, 1941 maneuvers in Alexandria and again the 1941 Louisiana Fall maneuvers, the troops were well-disciplined, high spirited, and prepared for war.
In the early phase of the Louisiana Fall maneuvers, General Walsh was ill and had to leave the Division. On August 5, 1941, Major General Hartle assumed command of the 34th Infantry Division during these maneuvers which also involved the Second and Third U.S. Armies. Hartle was described as follows: “Possessed of a strong and forceful personality and with a natural military bearing, General Hartle quickly impressed the officers and men of the Division. His influence was felt from the highest to the lowest echelon and his profound knowledge of military tactics served to make the 34th one of the outstanding Divisions during these great maneuvers.” After the Fall maneuvers, the 34th Infantry Division returned to Camp Claiborne to resume intensive training.
In January 1942, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the 34th Infantry Division under the command of Major General Hartle became the first U. S. Division shipped overseas. Private Henke of Hutchinson, Minnesota, was credited as being the first American soldier to step off the boat in Northern Ireland in support of the war effort.
Reference: “Chapter VII Claiborne Days,” History of the Famous 34th Infantry Division, Lt. Col. John Hougen, Alexandria, Va: 1949.
The postcard of Camp Claiborne is used with permission of Ken Freeman, The Alexandria Retrospective,
United States. Army, Biography; World War, 1939-1945, United States; Hartle, Russell P.