The 36th Division, also known as the "Texas Division" and the "T-Patchers," was organized at Camp Bowie (then in Fort Worth, Texas) on July 18, 1917 from National Guard units. The division served in France during World War I, remained for occupation duty, and then returned to Camp Bowie and was released from active duty on June 20, 1919.
On November 25, 1940, the 36th Division was once again called to active duty at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas. In 1941, the Division went to Louisiana for maneuvers, where it had mock battles with General Walter Kreuger's Third Army. In February 1942, it moved to Camp Blanding, Florida and prepared to go overseas. Orders changed, however, and instead of shipping out in the summer, the Division continued training in the Carolinas. The Division then spent the winter in Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and, in April 1943, left for North Africa, where it was held in combat reserve.
The 36th Division finally saw action on September 9, 1943, when it landed at Paestum, Italy in the Gulf of Salerno. They were the first American combat unit to land in Europe. It spent the next 11 months fighting in the Italian campaign. After securing Salerno, the 36th Division moved forward to attack Altavilla and Hill 424. Heavy fighting ensued through September 14, and then, with reinforcements, Allied forces won, securing the Salerno plain.
From the Salerno plain, the 36th Division began a slow move toward Rome. Italian mountains and winter weather combined with German forces to make the advance to Rome slow and dangerous. In the months between November 1943 and the fall of Rome on June 5, 1944, the 36th Division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Italian campaign. Significant engagements included San Pietro, Anzio and Velletri.
Not all 36th Division engagements were successful. One of the bloodiest and most heavily debated engagements
was the attempt to cross the Rapido River January 20 and 21, 1944. Although most officers thought an attempt to cross the Rapido was doomed to fail, General Mark W. Clark ordered the crossing. The operation did fail, and the result was 2,128 casualties and the loss of the better part of the 141st and 143rd regiments. In 1946, the 36th Division Association requested an investigation into the Rapido River crossing and the role of General Clark. The United States House of Representatives' Committee on Military Affairs held a hearing and exonerated Clark, although they did acknowledge the heavy price in lives that the 36th Division paid.
On August 15, 1944, the 36th Division left Italy and landed on the beaches of Southern France. It fought its way northward in France, entered Germany and Austria, and served until the war ended in May of 1945. After six months as occupation troops, the 36th Division returned home.
After World War II, the 36th Division became part of the Texas National Guard. In 1968, the Division was deactivated. Today, its lineage and honors rest with the 36th Brigade of the 49th Armored Division of the United States Army.
Scope and Contents of the Records
This videocassette, 36th Division: History and Heritage, Volume 1. documents the reunion of members of the 36th Division in Italy during September 9-13, 2000. During World War II, the 36th Division fought in Italy between September 1943 and August 1944 and in France, Germany, and Austria between August 1944 and May 1945. The reunion commemorates the fifty-seventh anniversary of the division's landing at Paestum on the Gulf of Salerno in September 1943. Its veterans revisit battlefields at Paestum, Capaccio, Mt. Lungo, Velletri, Alta Villa, Rapido, Salerno, Mt. Sammucro / Hill 1205, San Angelo, Monte Cassino, San Pietro, Rome, the Liri Valley, Mt. Rotondo, and Naples.
Sibley Cooley recorded the video during the reunion.