1921 - 1968
"During World War II, as in World War I, the 5th Division saw much action in the European Theater. For those so interested, these actions are well described by M. Yves J. Bellanger in his web site1 and in the Society of the Fifth Division web site2. For a more personal perspective, reproductions of the only known collection of DIAMOND DUST (The Fifth Division Newspaper in WW II) for the period 26 Jan 1945 through 23 May 1945 are available on compact disks3. These are from the files of Laurie Campbell Toth, the daughter of the A. Bruce Campbell who was the DIAMOND DUST editor during the period Nov 1944 to Jun 1945. The 5th Division was instrumental in the liberation of Czechoslovakia. Sketches made by a liberated Czech show the attitude of the civilian population. The last battle causality of the war for the Fifth Division and possible the US Army was PFC Charles Havlat, Company C, 2nd RCT, 803rd Tank Destroyer Bn who died of gunshot wounds 5 hours and 59 minutes after the unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945. Details of a Czech memorial to PFC Havlat are shown in an appendix.
However the 61st Regiment was not called to the Division Colors for the war. Rather the Regiment remained part of the Home Guard did not deploy overseas and saw no combat and was officially disbanded 11 November 1944. As an aside there was indeed a US Army 61st Armored Infantry Battalion in World War II. It served with the 10th Armored Division, having been activated in October 1944 at Ft Benning. It saw action in both France and Germany, participating in the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe Campaigns. After a short period of occupation duty the Battalion was deactivated at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia, October 1945. This battalion operated under the colors of the 54th Infantry Regiment from which most of the units of the 61st AIB had been formed. There also was a 61st Infantry Regt in the Pacific. This, however, was a Japanese unit, commanded by a COL Gempachi Sato and part of the invasion force attacking Corregidor.
While not mentioning the 61st Regiment by name, a web site of the US Army Center of Military History provides an interesting discussion of the rolls and missions of the Home Guard during World War II4. To quote the author of the above CMH paper, Charles E. Kirkpatrick, "The history of the American Theater encompassed no great battles, and the Army played no significant part in its few skirmishes. Thus it passed almost unnoticed. In a sense, however, this campaign was the most important of the entire war, for success in securing the nation proper from external attack was the foundation for Allied victory. Secure from outside attack, the nation built armed forces capable of global action and developed, manufactured, and distributed the modern weapons to equip both these forces and those of many of America's Allies."
Although reconstituted 10 August 1950 and activated 17 August 1950 at Ft Jackson as a unit of the 8th Infantry Division5, the 1/61 saw no action in the Korean Conflict. In June of 1954 the 61st, as part of the 8th Division, moved to (then) Camp Carson. During the months of Nov and Dec 1955, the 61st participated in the Louisiana maneuver "Exercise Sage Brush". This was the largest Joint Army Air Force operation since WW II. Shortly after the 61st Regt returned to home station, the 8th Division was alerted for Operation Gyroscope (a transfer to Germany). As part of this move the 61st was relieved from assignment to the 8th Division
and again inactivated 1 September 1956 at Ft Carson. Many of the 61st officers and men remained with the 8th as part of the newly joined 5th Regiment.
1) Web Site - M. Yves J. Bellanger (Off this web site, use "Browser Back" to return)
2) Web Site - Society of the Fifth Division (Off this web site, use "Browser Back" to return)
3) Web Site - DIAMOND DUST (Off this web site, use "Browser Back" to return)
4) Web Site - US Army Center of Military History (Off this web site, use "Browser Back" to return)
5) Web Site - 8th Infantry Division (Off this web site, use "Browser Back" to return)