Mobilizing the South : the Thirty-First Infantry Division, race, and World War II / Christopher M. Rein.

Rein, Christopher M. [Browse]
Tuscaloosa : The University of Alabama Press, [2022]
xiv, 325 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm


Summary note
"Throughout its history, the United States has fought its major wars by mobilizing large numbers of citizen-soldiers. While the small, peacetime, regular army provided trained leadership and a framework for growth, the citizen-soldier, from the minuteman of the American Revolution to Civil War volunteers and the draftees of World War II, have successfully prosecuted the nation's major wars. But the Army, and the nation, have never fully resolved the myriad problems surrounding the mobilization and employment of reserve troops. National Guard divisions in World War II suffered from neglect during the interwar period and Great Depression, and regular Army commanders often replaced or relieved National Guard officers, which generated lingering resentment. At the same time, draftees from across the nation diluted the regional affiliations of many units, with a corresponding effect on morale and esprit de corps. Chris Rein's study of one division, recruited from the Gulf South and employed in the Southwest Pacific Theater in 1944 and 1945, highlights the challenges of reserve mobilization, training, and the combat deployment of National Guard units. His account demonstrates the still-strong connections between the local communities that hosted and supported National Guard companies before the war, even after an influx of new personnel nationalized the units and they shipped overseas. The 31st Division, reorganized after combat deployment in World War I, consisted primarily of infantry regiments from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and, until 1942, Louisiana. Mobilized for federal service in late 1940, the division participated in the critical Louisiana and Carolina Maneuvers in 1941, but then languished for the next two years as a training organization, though it provided trained cadres and replacements for other divisions the Army deployed to Europe and the Pacific. In 1944, the division finally shipped overseas, enduring the brutal conditions in the Southwest Pacific, but successfully conducting landings on the New Guinea coast in support of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's "island hopping" campaign directed at liberating the Philippines. After a change in leadership, on the second day of the amphibious assault on Morotai, the division supported the liberation of Mindanao, the southernmost major island in the archipelago, before redeploying for demobilization at the end of 1945. Rein's study traces the division's decades of duty from the interwar period, when it contended with a series of devastating natural disasters, through its mobilization and combat deployment. However, within the 31st Division's story, there are several significant issues that remain highly relevant for reserve deployment today. The first centers on the issue of World War II-era National Guard leadership. The Army implemented a "purge" of overage and less competent National Guard division commanders in order to replace them with younger officers of the regular Army. Maj. Gen. John C. Persons, a pre-war Birmingham resident and Alabama National Guard officer, commanded the division throughout the peacetime mobilization and training and the first operation in New Guinea, only to be summarily fired on the second day of the Morotai landings, an action not adequately explained in the existing literature. The second issue concerns the Army's "nationalization" of regional units. While this policy has the benefit of spreading any casualties across the nation, rather than duplicate the horrific losses of the "Bedford Boys" of the 29th Infantry Division that devastated one small Virginia community, it also erodes regional identity and esprit de corps. This work is a case study of the strength and weaknesses of units with a regional identity and explores the connections with the home front once that identity erodes. It also examines the Dixie Division's operational and strategic evolution, but just as importantly details drawn from soldiers' correspondence and oral histories to show how their exposure to a larger world, including service alongside African-American and Filipino units, changed their views on race and post-war society"-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Origins, Personnel, and Support for Civil Affairs
  • Natural Disasters, Federal Support, and Preparations for War
  • Mobilization, Training at Camp Blanding, and Peacetime Maneuvers
  • Stateside Training Division and Final Preparations for Deployment Overseas
  • Transit to the Pacific, Theater Training, and Preparation for Combat
  • New Guinea: Combat on the Driniumor River and at Maffin Bay
  • Amphibious Assault at Morotai and a Change in Leadership
  • Morotai Interlude: Garrison Duty in the South Pacific
  • The Liberation of Mindanao and the Battle of Colgan Woods
  • Victory, Redeployment, and Peace
  • Appendix: Home Stations of 31st Division Units at Mobilization, November 25, 1940.
Other title(s)
Thirty-First Infantry Division, race, and World War II
  • 9780817321345 (hardcover)
  • 0817321349 (hardcover)
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