The 104th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army. Today, it is known as the 104th Division (Leader Training) and based at Fort Lewis, Washington, as a training unit of the United States Army Reserve.
Activated in 1921, the division was created as an infantry unit with a focus on nighttime combat operations. Deployed during World War II, the division saw almost 200 days of fighting in northwestern Europe as it fought through France, Belgium, and western Germany, fighting back several fierce German counterattacks as it advanced through the theater throughout late 1944 and 1945. This was the only combat duty that the 104th Infantry Division has served during its history. At the end of the fighting on 7 May 1945 (V-E Day), this division was in central Germany opposite the troops of its allies from the Soviet Army.
After World War II, this division was reorganized primarily as a training division for Reserve forces. After several decades, the division then expanded its role to conducting entry-level training for soldiers of all branches of the Army in the northwestern United States. Its role and size have expanded over that time due to consolidation of other training commands, and the division subsequently took charge of a number of brigades specializing in various entry-level training for soldiers of all types.
The 104th Infantry Division was first constituted on 24 June 1921 as the 104th Division, before being organized and activated in October of that year in Salt Lake City, Utah. Assigned to the division were the 207th and 208th Infantry Brigades, containing the 413th, 414th, 415th, and 416th Infantry Regiments. As a unit of the Organized Reserves, the division represented assets from the states of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. In 1924 it received its shoulder sleeve insignia. The division would not see significant duty until World War II.
At the outbreak of World War II, the 104th Infantry Division began preparing to participate in the war in Europe. The division was ordered into active military service on 15 September 1942 under the command of Major General Gilbert R. Cook, and was reorganized as the 104th Infantry Division at Camp Adair, Oregon. The 207th and 208th Brigades did not reactivate as part of an army-wide elimination of brigade commands within its divisions. The division was instead centered on three infantry regiments; the 413th, the 414th, and 415th Infantry Regiments. Also assigned to the division were the 385th, 386th, 387th and 929th Field Artillery Battalions, as well as the 104th Signal Company, the 804th Ordnance Company, the 104th Quartermaster Company, the 104th Reconnaissance Troop, the 329th Engineer Battalion, the 329th Medical Battalion, and the 104th Counter Intelligence Detachment. From that point it began training as a division in preparation for deployment to Europe. The division trained in the northwestern United States during the next two years, earning its name "Timberwolf Division" from its time in the area. The division was the first army division to train specifically for fighting in nighttime conditions. After training at Camp Adair, the division participation in the Oregon Maneuver combat exercise in the fall of 1943.
The 104th Infantry Division sailed for the Western Front on 27 August 1944. It landed in France on 7 September 1944. In early October, Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr. took command of the division. He had previously commanded the 1st Infantry Division, "The Big Red One", in North Africa and Sicily and would command the 104th during most of its time in combat. The division was assigned to III Corps of the Ninth United States Army, part of the Twelfth United States Army Group. The division then organized and assembled at Manche, France before heading into combat.
Joining the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the division moved into defensive positions in the vicinity of Wuustwezel, Belgium on 23 October 1944. The Timberwolves were then assigned to British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group under the British I Corps, along with the U.S. 7th Armored Division, in order to clear out the Scheldt Estuary and open the port of Antwerp. While the U.S. 7th Armored Division was assigned static duty holding the right flank of the gains made during the failed Market Garden operation, the 104th Infantry Division was to assist the First Canadian Army in the taking of the Scheldt. The Timberwolves traveled across France by train and debarked near the Belgian-Dutch border and waited for word to attack, taking the place of the experienced British 49th Infantry Division on the left flank and the Polish 1st Armored Division on the right.
The Americans were given responsibility for taking 22 miles of wet, low country from the Belgian border to the Maas River. The width of their front was approximately 8,000 yards. General Allen planned to employ all three of his regiments at the same time, shoulder to shoulder. The 104th began combat operations on 25 and 26 October, and began to attack the Germans, who offered varying levels of resistance. Along the division's front, the Germans were spread thinly and did not have continuous lines of defense. However, they did possess deadly strong points, and endeavored to make the Timberwolves' progress as time consuming and costly as possible, making heavy use of mines, booby traps, and roadblocks. Despite this, advance was steady, though paid for in the lives of the 104th Division soldiers. Conditions were rainy, chilly, wet and muddy. Moisture seemed to grip everything and everyone. Sleet beat down on the troops, who went for days soaked to the skin and slimy with mud. On 30 October, after five days of continuous operations the division had pushed about 15 miles to within sight of the Mark River and had liberated Zundert, gained control of the Breda-Roosendaal Road, and overrun the Vaart Canal defenses. Leur and Etten fell as the division advanced to the Mark River, arriving there by 31 October. A coordinated attack over the Mark River at Standdaarbuiten on 2 November established a bridgehead and the rest of the division crossed the river. With the Allies firmly on the north side of the Mark River, German resistance collapsed. For the next two days, the Timberwolves pursued enemy remnants north to the Maas River. Zevenbergen was captured and the Maas River was reached on 5 November. That same day, General Allen received orders from the U.S. First Army, releasing it from British control. While the bulk of the division moved near Aachen, Germany, elements remained to secure Moerdijk until 7 November, when they were relieved. During this time, the division was reassigned to VII Corps of the U.S. 1st Army, also part of the Twelfth Army Group. By 7 November, the fighting in the Netherlands cost the Timberwolves 1,426 casualties, including 313 killed and 103 missing. Montgomery and the Canadian commanders sent their congratulations, and General Allen disseminated copies of their letters to his regiments and wrote a personal letter of thanks to everyone in the division, concluding with his favorite motto, "Nothing in Hell must stop the Timberwolves!" As a result of the actions of the 104th and their Allied counterparts, the Scheldt Estuary was cleared. The Royal Navy took three weeks to sweep the estuary waters clear of mines, and in early December 1944, the port of Antwerp was open to Allied shipping.
While under American command on 16 November 1944, the division went on another offensive, taking Stolberg and pushing on against heavy resistance. Eschweiler fell on 21 November and the enemy was cleared from the area west of the Inde River, including Inden by 2 December 1944. Lucherberg was held against enemy counterattacks on 3 December, and all strongholds west of the Roer River were captured by the 23rd. It took temporary command of the 60th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 104th actively defended its sector near Duren and Merken from 15 December 1944 to 22 February 1945. During that time, it was reassigned to XIX Corps of the Ninth United States Army. It then moved across the Roer taking Huchem-Stammeln, Birkesdorf, and North Duren. On 5 March, after heavy fighting, it entered Köln. After defending the west bank of the Rhine River, the division crossed the river at Honnef on 22 March 1945, and attacked to the east of the Remagen bridgehead. During this time, some of the division's assets fell under command of the 1st Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Division. After a period of mopping up and consolidation, it participated in the trap of enemy troops in the Ruhr pocket. The 104th repulsed heavy attacks near Medebach and captured Paderborn on 1 April 1945. After regrouping, it advanced to the east and crossed the Weser River on 8 April, blocking enemy exits from the Harz Mountains. The division then crossed the Saale River and took Halle in a bitter five-day struggle from 15 to 19 April. The sector to the Mulde River was cleared by 21 April, and after vigorous patrolling, contacted the Red Army at Pretzsch on 26 April. The division took temporary command of assets from the 69th Infantry Division in early May.Total battle casualties: 4,961
Killed in action: 971
Wounded in action: 3,657
Missing in action: 96
Prisoner of war: 237
The division returned to the United States on 3 July 1945. Upon return, it continued the process of demobilization until 20 December of that year, when it was inactivated. The division suffered 1,294 killed in action, 5,305 wounded in action, 385 missing in action, and 27 prisoners of war. The division suffered a further 6,396 non-battle casualties, for a total of 13,407 casualties. The division took 51,727 German prisoners during the war, most of whom surrendered following the armistice.
During World War II, soldiers of the division were awarded two Medals of Honor, 14 Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, 642 Silver Star Medals, six Legion of Merit medals, 20 Soldier's Medals, 2,797 Bronze Star Medals, and 40 Air Medals. The division received 9 Distinguished Unit Citations and three campaign streamers during 200 days of combat.
The division was reactivated on 1 December 1946 in the organized reserves in Portland, Oregon. It began taking on the responsibility of holding training programs for new soldiers of the US Army Reserve. In July 1948, the division held its first session of summer training. By the end of the training, it had turned out 300 new reservists. By 1952, the division was turning out 1,500 new reservists per training camp. The division was reorganized specifically as a training division in 1959. In 1961, the division was relocated to Vancouver Barracks, Washington.
In 1967, the division was reorganized. As part of an army wide initiative known as the Reorganization Objective Army Division plan, the division's regiments were disbanded and replaced with larger and more versatile brigades. The 1st Brigade, 104th Division, activated at Vancouver Barracks, and the 2nd Brigade, 104th Division activated at Pasco, Washington. Meanwhile, the 3rd Brigade, 104th Division, as well as the 4th Brigade, 104th Division both activated at Fort Lawton, Washington. Each of these brigades carried the history of other historic units which fought under the 104th Infantry Division in World War II. The 104th Division was then assigned the mission of conducting One Station Unit Training, Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Combat Support training. 1st Brigade took on basic combat training, while 3rd Brigade undertook combat support training, 4th Brigade conducted combat service support training.
In 1996, three more brigades were added to the division's structure. The 5th Brigade, 104th Division was activated at Salt Lake City, Utah. The 6th Brigade, 104th Division was activated at Aurora, Colorado. The 7th Brigade, 104th Division activated at Vancouver, Washington. The 5th Brigade conducted health services training, 6th Brigade took charge of professional development training and 7th Brigade provided training support to the other brigades. These units were redesignated from other training commands and put under the command of the division.
Two additional provisional brigades were created under the 104th Division in 1999; the 8th Brigade, 104th Division was created at Fort Lewis as a unit for training Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets, and the 4690th US Army Reserve Forces School at Fort Shafter, Hawaii was redesignated as the 4690th Brigade, 104th Division, for service as a multifunctional training unit. In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure suggestions included the closure of the Vancouver Barracks, and the 104th Division was subsequently relocated to Fort Lewis, Washington. In 2005, the current Distinctive Unit Insignia was designed under the direction of Major General Terrill K. (TK) Moffett. The 104th received its new distinctive unit insignia in 2006.
In October 2007, the division was renamed the 104th Division (Leader Training). This change reflected a change in the division's mission, specifically training officer and non-commissioned officer candidates in their assigned fields.
ASUA – Army Superior Unit Award 1 JAN 05 – 31 DEC 06 – Iraq, Campaigns: Iraqi Governance – 29 June 2004 to 15 December 2005; National Resolution – 16 December 2005 to a date to be determined
Several people who served with the 104th Infantry Division later went on to achieve notability for various reasons. Among these people are rabbi Gunther Plaut, paleontologist Charles Repenning, Governor of Iowa Leo Hoegh, New York City mayor Ed Koch, New York governor Hugh L. Carey, and generals John R. Deane, Jr. and Bryant Moore. In addition, actor James G. Snitzer was a member of the 104th and died in combat in 1945. NFL Player Bob Shaw also served with the 104th and was awarded the Bronze Star during World War II.
In addition, two soldiers from this division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service in combat. They are Willy F. James, Jr., for scouting German positions while being pinned down by machine gun fire, and Cecil H. Bolton, who led a company of men on the attack despite wounds from a mortar shell.