|Country United States|
|Branch United States Army|
|Active 15 March 1943 – 2 October 1945
1 May 1948 – 12 October 1950|
Allegiance Army of the United States
The 106th Infantry Division was a division of the United States Army formed for service during World War II. Two of its three regiments were overrun and surrounded in the initial days of the Battle of the Bulge, and they were forced to surrender to German forces on 19 December 1944. The division was never officially added to the troop list following the war, despite having been almost completely organized in Puerto Rico by 1948; subsequently, the War Department determined the division was not needed and inactivated the division headquarters in 1950.
World War II
The 106th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company was constituted on paper on 5 May 1942, five months after the United States entered World War II. It was actually activated on 15 March 1943 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, with a cadre from the 80th Infantry Division. Following Basic and Advanced Infantry Training, the Division moved on 28 March 1944 to Tennessee to participate in the Second Army #5 Maneuvers.
The 106th Infantry Division relieved the 2nd Infantry Division in the Schnee Eifel on 11 December 1944, with its 424th Infantry Regiment was sent to Winterspelt. Prior to the battle, according to the US Army Service Manual, one division should be responsible for no more than 5 miles (8.0 km) of front. On the eve of the battle, the 106th was covering a front of almost 26 miles (42 km).
In the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign, the Germans attacked the 106th on 16 December 1944. The division's 422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments were encircled and cut off by a junction of enemy forces in the vicinity of Schonberg. They regrouped for a counterattack, but were blocked by the enemy. The two regiments surrendered on 19 December. The Germans gained 6,000 prisoners in one of the largest mass surrenders in American military history. Nearly 50% of the division's strength was brushed aside in the first days of the Battle of the Bulge.
The remnants of the division were reinforced by the 112th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division and withdrew over the Our River and joined other units at Saint Vith. Along with the city of Bastogne to the south, St. Vith was a road and rail junction city considered vital to the German goal of breaking through Allied lines to split American and British forces and reach the Belgian port city of Antwerp. A scratch force of 106th Division personnel, in particular the division's 81st Engineer Combat Battalion, was organized and led by the 81st's 28-year-old commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Riggs, in a five-day holding action (17–21 December) on a thin ridge line a mile outside St. Vith, against German forces vastly superior in numbers and armament (only a few hundred green Americans versus many thousands of veteran Germans). For this action, the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for gallantry. The defense of St. Vith by the 106th has been credited with ruining the German timetable for reaching Antwerp, hampering the Bulge offensive for the Germans.
The 81st and other units, including 168th Engineer Combat Battalion, pulled back from St. Vith on 21 December, under constant enemy fire, and withdrew over the Saint River at Vielsalm on 23 December. The following day, the 424th Regiment, attached to the 7th Armored Division, fought a delaying action at Manhay until ordered to an assembly area. From 25 December to 9 January 1945, the division received reinforcements and supplies at Anthisnes, Belgium, and returned to the struggle, securing objectives along the Ennal-Logbierme line on 15 January after heavy fighting. After being pinched out by advancing divisions, the 106th assembled at Stavelot on 18 January for rehabilitation and training. It moved to the vicinity of Hunningen on 7 February for defensive patrols and training.
In March, the 424th advanced along the high ground between Berk and the Simmer River and was again pinched out at Olds on 7 March. A period of training and security patrolling along the Rhine River followed, until 15 March, when the division moved to St. Quentin for rehabilitation and the reconstruction of lost units.
The division was reconstituted on 16 March when the 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) and the 159th Infantry Regiment were attached to replace the two lost regiments. The division then moved back to Germany on 25 April, where, for the remainder of its stay in Europe, the 106th handled POW enclosures and engaged in occupational duties.
In the meantime, the 422nd Infantry Regiment and the 423rd Infantry Regiment were reconstituted from replacements in France on 15 April, were attached to the 66th Infantry Division in training status, and were still in this status when the Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945.
1942 ("Triangular") Organization
Campaign participation credit
World War II
All infantry members who received the Combat Infantryman Badge were also later awarded the Bronze Star.
Shoulder sleeve insignia
Kurt Vonnegut served in this division and used his experiences during the Battle of the Bulge (and captivity as a prisoner of war) in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds (died 1985), who was captured on 19 December 1944 as a member of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, was recognized in 2015 by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum as the first American serviceman from World War II to be honored with the title Righteous Among The Nations for risking his life to save Jewish-American POWs under his command from being taken from the POW camp in Germany to concentration camps, where they likely would have been murdered or worked to death.
Futurologist Donald Prell served as the leader of an anti-tank platoon in the 422nd Infantry Regiment, and several years following the war, researched the “biological basis of personality” after having been captured and undergoing being bombed while locked in a boxcar with 59 other POWs and then being starved whilst in a German POW camp.