The 32D Infantry Division
in World War II
The ‘Red Arrow’
Occupation of Japan
The war was over, but the problem of the disarming and occupation of Japan remained. The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division had an early part in this final phase of the long struggle. The 1ST Battalion, 127TH Infantry, commanded by Lt. Col. Powell A. Fraser, was selected to be flown to Kyushu, southern most of the four main Japanese islands. The battalion landed at Kanoya in southern Kyushu on 4 September 1945, only 5 days behind the earliest troop landings anywhere in Japan. Functioning under the commanding general, Far East Air Force, the battalion had the mission of holding the Kanoya airfield for the staging and refueling of Allied aircraft, until it was returned to Division control on 2 November.
Lt. Col. Fraser, from Brunswick, Georgia, had earned the DSC for his actions on 11 Jan. ’43 as 1st Lt. and Cdr. of Co. E, 127TH Inf. at Tarakena, New Guinea. He later earned the Silver Star and Bronze Star w/3 OLCs.
The rest of the Division was reassigned to Sixth Army on 7 September and assembled along the familiar shores of Lingayen Gulf. Scheduled to leave for Kyushu in early October the Division entered into a busy period of personnel changes, replacement and repair of equipment, drawing of supplies, and preparation for loading onto transports for the sea voyage to Kyushu.
Some of the changes experienced in the 121ST Field Artillery Battalion during this period will give some idea of the difficult problems met by the Division. The battalion turned in its tractors and was re-equipped with M-4 prime movers to haul its 155mm howitzers. On 24 September, a new commander, LTC Clarence E. Seipel, was assigned and joined. (LTC John B. Taylor, who had been in command of the battalion during the Leyte and Luzon campaigns, had left the battalion late in August.) Between the 17th and 30th of September, the 121ST received 222 replacements.
The integration of large numbers of replacements into a military unit is always difficult. With the stimulus of war ended, the Division had a major problem in the necessity of making new arrivals, who had not experienced combat with the Division, into Red Arrow men proud of themselves and their units.
One of the means adopted to build up Division spirit was the publication of a mimeographed summary of the Division’s accomplishments during the war. Perhaps some of the statements in it are subject, in the cold light of history, to qualifying phrases. On the other hand, later developments would permit increases in some of the figures. For example, eleven Medals of Honor were in the end bestowed upon Red Arrow men instead of the six listed. See 32nd Division in World War II Highlights for some of the information contained in the summary.
An interesting indication that some men of the Division had kept on working on the Army’s education courses in spite of the demands of combat operations is to be found in an item in Red Arrow News for 24 September 1945: “A small number of End-of-Course Tests has been received at Division I&E Office. They include: Radio for Beginners, Electricity for Beginners, Small Business Bookkeeping and Accounting, and Elementary Photography. Unit I&E Officers who need copies please advise Division I&E at once.”
On 20 September 1945, the Division took time out from its preparations for the move to Japan to dedicate a monument to those who had been killed in the Villa Verde Trail operation. The little two page mimeographed program had an outline drawing of the Red Arrow insignia on the first page along with this text:
“To dedicate the 32D Infantry Division Monument, erected by its members in memory of their comrades, those officers and men who made the supreme sacrifice along the Villa Verde Trail, January 30, 1945 – May 28, 1945.”
Santa Maria, Pangasinan Province, Philippine Islands.
1151, 20 September 1945.
32D Division Band.
INVOCATION Chap. D. F. X. Shannon.
INTRODUCTION Brig. Gen. Robert B. McBride, Jr.
DEDICATION Major General Robert S. Beightler.
BENEDICITION Chaplain W. E. Cooley.
VOLLEYS Firing Party, 126TH Infantry.
TAPS T/4 I. Petraszewski, T/5 B. Guzik.
NATIONAL ANTHEM 32D Division Band.
LUNCHEON 1st Lt. A. G. Miros.
The monument thus dedicated to the 891 men of the Division who lost their lives in the campaign is a solid cement Red Arrow bearing a plaque which reads: “Erected by the officers and men of the 32D Infantry Division, United States Army, in memory of their gallant comrades killed along the Villa Verde Trail. January 30, 1945 – May 28, 1945.” Erected by Co. A, 114TH Engineers.
photo added 30 Jun. 11
The 32D Division’s Villa Verde Trail monument dedicated on 20 September 1945 near San Nicolas, Luzon, Philippines.
General Beightler concluded his dedicatory address with the words, “Men of the 32D, you have performed nobly in this war.”
General Valdes, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, although not listed on the program, was present as the representative of President Osmena, and expressed the Commonwealth’s gratitude for the part the 32D Division had played in the liberation of the Philippines.
Beginning with the movement of an advanced party on 9 October 1945, the Division moved out from Lingayen Gulf during the next few days. The trip was not without danger. Rough seas not only added to the normal discomfort of crowded transports but made more difficult the detection of floating mines.
The excellent little booklet on the history of the 32D Division, published by the Division’s Public Relations Office in January of 1946, gives the picture of the arrival of the 32D in Japan:
On 14 October, the great convoy of 32 ships nosed slowly into the tortuous
harbor of Sasebo, vast Japanese naval base, and dropped anchor before its final
objective, Japan. Quickly, administrative details ashore were checked and then
the 32D moved inland and spread over its zone of occupation, some
9,000 square miles. Strange sounding names which had only been designations on
maps assumed new meanings. The 128TH Infantry and the 107TH
Medical Battalion moved into the Yamaguchi area. The 126TH was
dispatched to Kokura and Moji; Division Artillery headquartered at Oita;
Division Headquarters, the 127TH Infantry, and the 114TH
Engineers established themselves at Fukuoka, long famed as the seat of Japanese
The soldiers of the 32D took stock of Japan. They found a rugged country, intensively cultivated, with excellent railways and miserable roads. In the cities, modern buildings sandwiched flimsy houses. Every available inch of land was gardened.
The population stood wooden-faced, awaiting orders.
The 32D Division’s area of responsibility eventually encompassed northern Kyushu and southern Honshu. The Div. HQ was established in a modern, 4-story building in downtown Fukuoka. [added 24 Mar. ‘14]
The Division, under General McBride, faced the grave problems inherent in any military occupation of a conquered country intensified by the great gulf of difference in beliefs, customs, and language between the Americans and Japanese.
At the time of the surrender, the Japanese had, according to General Marshall, an army of two million men and a remaining air strength of 8,000 planes of all types, training and combat, still available to defend the homeland. The Emperor’s soldiers had amply proved their willingness to literally fight to the death. The surrender terms had farsightedly provided for the use of the prestige of the Emperor to insure the surrender and disarming of these forces, but there was always a chance of fanatical resistance, guerrilla activities, and concealment of arms and ammunition.
As one Division officer said, “The job was unquestionably preferable to the assault landing which we had expected to make as part of the planned Coronet operation in March of 1946, but in some respects it had more headaches.”
Basically, the job was to supervise the demobilization and disarmament of the Japanese armed forces in the Division’s area and to act as surveillance force, but the ramifications of the occupation missions were many and difficult. There were thousands of Koreans, Chinese and others to be repatriated – and controlled, fed, and given medical attention until they could be shipped out of Japan. On the other hand, there were thousands of Japanese who must be returned to their homes before conditions could be stabilized. The requirements of everyday living had, of course, been disrupted both by Allied air raids and by the wartime demands of the Japanese government. Something approaching normal standards of water supply, food distribution, sanitation, medical care, and police and fire services had to be reestablished. Agriculture and manufacture had to be encouraged to meet the needs of peacetime economy.
Some of the more immediate problems at the Sasebo Navy Yard and in the City of Sasebo had already been met by the 5TH Marine Division which had begun to land in the area on 22 September. The 32D Division had in fact “joined the Marines” – to some extent at least. Initially, it had been planned that a Marine amphibious corps consisting of the 2ND, 3D and 5TH Marine Divisions was to occupy Kyushu. “At the last moment,” in the words of one Marine unit’s history, the 32D was substituted for the 3D Marine Division in V Amphibious Corps, commanded by Major General Harry Schmidt, USMC.
The 5TH Marine Division had met with no resistance in the Sasebo area, and the 2D Marine Division also experienced nothing but willingness to cooperate on the part of Japanese officials and the civilian population in the Nagasaki area.
The 32D Division gradually took over from some of these Marine units. The difficulties inherent in the occupation tasks were augmented, and efficiency in solving problems often reduced, by the continuing turnover of officers and noncoms as demobilization policies were applied. Most units were also below table of organization strengths. The 126TH Infantry, for example, had on 1 December 1945 a strength of only 132 officers and 2,708 enlisted men in spite of the fact that it had received 327 replacements late in November.
The various Division services were also handicapped by shortages and rapid turnover of personnel. The Division finance officer’s staff, with a high percentage of inexperienced clerks and many payroll changes, was so hard hit that the Division’s first payday in Japan was delayed twenty days. More serious, for a time, was the acute shortage of medical officers. For a brief period there were only 23 doctors available for duty in the entire Division.
The near hysterical pressure in the States for rapid demobilization made orderly readjustments in units charged with occupation missions very difficult. The 32D, during its time in Japan, was put to a test in matters of administration, discipline, and morale which was comparable in everything but physical hazard and hardship to the tests it had met in combat.
The fact that the 5TH Marine Division was gradually withdrawn from all occupation duties during the period 23 November to 8 December in preparation for its return to the States increased the 32D Division’s area of responsibility. Rather typical of changing requirements was the experience of the 121ST Field Artillery Battalion. It was originally attached to the 128TH Infantry, then to the 127TH Infantry for about 2 weeks, the shifted to attachment to the 13TH Marine Regiment of the 5TH Marine Division for about 3 weeks, and then re-attached to the 127TH . Incidentally, it also required a new commanding officer (LTC William M. Keane) during the period that these changes were taking place.
Some of the experiences of the 126TH RCT in carrying out its occupation duties in northern Kyushu also typify the Division’s experiences in this trying duty. This combat team, commanded by COL Nicholas D. Woodward, and later by COL Gerald G. Epley, consisted for much of the occupation period of the 126TH Infantry; the 129TH Field Artillery Battalion; Company A, 114TH Engineers; Company A, 107TH Medical Battalion; 32D Division MP Detachment; 95TH Counterintelligence Corps Detachment, a small section of the 37TH Military Government Detachment, and a section of the 171ST Language Detachment.
Foot and motor patrols were used to maintain surveillance of the RCT’s area of responsibility. Intelligence inspection teams investigated possible locations of concealed arms and munitions. Inventory and disposition teams were organized to evaluate captured stores and to inventory and, where appropriate, to destroy war materiel. Liaison was established with civilian officials and a Korean repatriation center in Tobata.
The regimental I&R Platoon of the 126TH Infantry investigated all the islands in the RCT’s zone. “The patrol,” says the report of this operation, “discovered the islands had been a carefully planned antiaircraft network for the defense of northern Kyushu and southern Honshu (the main Japanese island to the north of Kyushu). Searchlights, generators, radar, AA gun batteries, command posts, dummy positions and radio stations were included in the net to provide both and antiaircraft warning system of the first magnitude and a deadly concentration of antiaircraft firepower.”
Many extensive defenses were, incidentally, well along in construction throughout Japan. Among the early discoveries of the 5TH Marine Division were 150 swift, wooden suicide boats designed for use against invasion ships. Our troops were in complete agreement with the opinion that an invasion would have been costly.
Machine guns and small arms were uncovered at various places. Bomb dumps, ammunition works, arsenals and airfields gave up great quantities of arms and munitions.
Early in January 1946, a surprise raid was made on all shrines and temples in the 126TH RCT’s area. These religious areas had generally been off limits to American troops, and it was believed desirable to check them. “The inspection,” says the 126TH’s report, “disclosed the presence of sabers, bomb casings, artillery shells, airplane propellers and similar objects in many Shinto shrines. Quantities were too limited to be of military value, but the objects were considered significant because of their obvious symbolic meaning as related to State Shintoism.”
The 126TH RCT found 109 military installations in its area. Most of the ammunition discovered was dumped into the sea, but the bulk of the war material was cut up by Japanese workmen under the supervision of U.S. Army personnel. The Yawata Steel and Iron Works, largest producer of steel in the Orient, was used to melt down much of the scrap. “In all,” reported the 126TH, “more than 6,100 machine guns, 813 artillery and coastal guns, 3,826 mortars and grenade dischargers and 247 airplanes of various types were destroyed. This comprised the bulk of the 1,130,521 tons of scrap steel turned over to the Japanese Home Ministry.”
The 126TH operated a repatriation center in Tobata capable of handling 2,000 persons at one time.
Housing for the troops was a continuing problem aggravated by several fires. Smallpox also broke out among the troops with some deaths, and a further handicapping of activities because of necessary quarantines.
Military training was continued to the maximum degree possible. In the 126TH Infantry virtually every man in the command fired a record course with his basic weapon. Many men voluntarily took school courses in subjects which they felt would help them when they returned to civil life. In the 126TH RCT a total of 186 men enlisted for the Regular Army between 1 December 1945 and 15 February 1946.
Throughout the Division, athletics were encouraged by every means possible. The 126TH Field Artillery Battalion defeated the 2D Battalion, 126TH Infantry, in the final game of a hard fought Division basketball league.
On 31 December 1945, the 32D was transferred to the control of General Eichelberger’s Eighth Army as one of the steps in the relief of Sixth Army from occupation responsibilities in anticipation of its inactivation.
In January 1946 the whole picture suddenly changed. The 32D Infantry Division was to be inactivated in Japan. The Division began turning over its occupation duties to other units, mostly to the 2D Marine Division, and concentrated on getting its equipment turned in, its records completed, and its men ready for transfer to other commands of for return to the States and civil life.
On 25 January General McBride represented the Division at ceremonies at Kyoto incident to the inactivation of Sixth Army, and the departure of General Krueger.
During February, these activities, plus recreational events, continued. On 28 February 1946 the Division was formally inactivated.
Back in the States, however, reorganization was soon in progress. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 8 November 1946, Headquarters 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division was again Federally recognized.
THE RED ARROW WAS AGAIN AN ACTIVE DIVISION!
Bibliography (primary sources for historical information regarding the 32D ‘The Red Arrow’ Infantry Division’s exploits during World War II):
Blakeley, H. W., Major General, Retired. The
32D 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 Philippines. U. S. Army Center of Military History, 1954.
Carlisle, John M. Red Arrow Men: Stories About the 32nd Division on the Villa Verde. Detroit: Arnold-Powers, Inc., 1945.
Drea, Edward J. Defending the Driniumor: Covering Force Operations in New Guinea, 1944. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1984.
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.
Mayo, Lida. Bloody Buna. Canberra, Australia: Australian National University Press, 1975.
Milner, Samuel. Victory in
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 32D Division, Wisconsin National Guard. n.p., 1955.
Smith, Herbert M., Lieutenant Colonel, Retired. Four Score and Ten: Happenings in the Life of Herbert M. Smith. Eau Claire, WI: Heins Publications, 1995.
Smith, Herbert M., Lieutenant Colonel, Retired. Hannibal Had Elephants II. Eau Claire, WI: Rev. William A. Heins, 1995.
revised 30 May
created 28 December 1999