THE INFANTRY SOLDIER – THE HEART AND BACKBONE OF THE AMERICAN ARMY

From the T-Patch 36th Division News

By Clarence Lasky

141st Infantry Regiment

The veteran and much publicized 36th “Texas” Division have pushed the Krauts around in Italy and now France—pushed the “supermen” over hundreds of miles on battlefields, and now, right into the Hun’s backyard.

In France, it was a case of hitting the enemy by surprise with everything possible, dig him out and flatten his beachhead defenses and chase hi continually without a let up. That, they did with the air-corps, navy, artillery and engineers all chiming in, until now, he is back up on the doorsteps of his fatherland.



Yes, the infantry did the bloody and toughest part. You’ll find soda jerkers, salesmen, farmers and truck drivers in this branch and a man from about every job and profession in America. Some now are battle wise, weary and have had their share, while others are replacements, who have to acquire battle instincts. Not long ago, these doughfeet were having a snort at the nearest bar, dancing in a ballroom with their sweethearts, making future plans with their partner in life—but now, they’re engaged in some of the hardest fighting imaginable in the toughest terrain possible. Just look back in Italy, when everywhere we turned, observation was incessantly on us, and now the same is beginning to hold true again. As one buck sergeant put it, “When someone asks who took those mountains, crossed that river, captured the most prisoners—why one doesn’t have to look far or think for a moment, as he knows it’s his own battle-tested and unsung, 36th.

henry waskow

Insignia of the 36th Infantry Division

Talk to any other branch of service—tankmen, engineers, quartermaster, navy—any of them—and they will all respond “Yes, it’s the foot soldier who has the toughest and hardest life and full credit goes to him for winning wars. It’s unbelievable what load and hardships he has to endure.” The big battles and victories that are blared over the radio and which headlines the front pages are now resting in history books for the GI Joe. In later life they will be fond recollections.

No grade school youngster will know of Hill 695 in the Vosges Mountains where a battalion of the 141st Regiment was without food, water, ammo and medical supplies for 7 days and survived the ordeal with miraculous courage until other elements attacked, attacked and attacked, time and time again to relieve pressure on them.

Again, now one will probably recall the battle of Montelimar, where a regiment had the retreating German 19th Army encircled, emplacing tremendous casualties on both manpower and vehicles.  Yes, the Jerries escaped but not until they paid dearly and severely.  One look at the battlefield afterward revealed thousands of the “supermen” dead, vehicles strewn from hell to high water, tanks burned and now charred wreckage. How the infantry managed to hold and inflict such heavy casualties will only be revealed when one looks through the regimental history.



36th infantry division

Men of F Company, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division watch the line in Leimersheim, Germany

No one can fully describe how it feels to live in a foxhole, mud covered from persistent rains with cold and mist nipping at every living organ. Clothes wet, weapons rusty, hunger, sickness and sudden death are reflected on the foot soldier, who wanders around in a green OD suit with an M-1 as his basic weapon. Yes, that’s his basic instrument but he is versatile, inasmuch as he can handle all weapons efficiently. He drives anything from a bicycle to a 2 ½ ton truck, cooks, lays wire, and can repair all deficiencies with his mechanical aptitude.

The question arises how does the foot soldier does it—one word expresses fully the answer, GUTS. It carries him through when artillery and mortar fire is continually pounding, when attacking a wooded area and what lies beyond an unknown factor, walking cautiously through a mine field, night patrols when one cannot see his hand in front of his face.

It’s the doughboy all right—the guy who plods along overloaded the guy who, if lucky, gets 5 or 6 hours of sleep out of the 24 hours in a day. Mud up to his ankles, emplacements full of water, all night marches—Yes, that’s Joe of the Infantry with the aid of other branches of the armed services.

Yes, the Infantry is the heart and backbone of the American Army.



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