Fighting Men: The 7th Infantry Division
The US 7th Infantry Division had seen minor action in France at the close of WWI. When the Second World War broke out, the 7th was reactivated in 1940, largely with personnel drafted into the US Army in the initial phase of the 1940 peacetime draft. The Division was in California during the Pearl Harbor attack and patrolled the coast to allay the local populace’s fears of a Japanese invasion.
After some reorganization, the 7th was comprised of the 17th, 23rd, and 159th (a California National Guard Unit) Infantry regiments, four battalions of artillery and the standard arrangement of medical and support troops needed to support the division in combat. For most of 1942, the 7th was designated a motorized division as part of experiments undertaken by the army to develop new tactics in the face of German Blitzkrieg warfare. After realizing that the motorized infantry division concept simply wasn’t feasible and that the vehicle assets were better issued to the armored divisions, the army returned the 7th to the standard infantry division model.
The Division took part in the invasion of Japanese held Attu Island, part of the ALutian island chain, in May of 1943. Fighting up and down, snow-covered, barren hillsides, the 7th suffered some 600 casualties while killing over 2,300 of the Japanese garrison and taking 28 prisoners. In the wake of the battle, the 159th Regiment was replaced with another California National Guard Regiment, the 184th Infantry. The 7th launched an attack on Kiska the next month but found the Japanese had abandoned the island prior to the landings. The Aleutians had finally been cleared of the enemy.
For the next several months, the 7th trained in Hawaii for upcoming amphibious assaults in the central Pacific. The 7th took part in attacking the Marshall islands, in which they performed well, taking Kwajalein during a battle that lasted the first four days of February, 1944. With Kwajalein taken far easier than expected, the 7th helped secure nearby Eniwetok Atoll later that month, putting the Allies several months ahead of schedule.
The 7th spearheaded the invasion of Leyte in October of 1944, and fighting for the island lasted until early February of 1945, leaving the 7th little time to train for the invasion of Okinawa. The 7th Division, as part of the joint Army and US Marine US 10th Army, took part in the invasion of Okinawa. For eighty-two days, the 7th engaged in some of the most fierce combat of the entire war in the Pacific. Each successive ridge-line that the 10th Army fought for was dotted with caves, tunnels, and bunkers that the Japanese fought for to the death. It wasn’t until late June, with resistance finally broken on the southern tip of the island that the battle for Okinawa came to an end. The 7th was slated to take part in the invasion of Japan, but the atomic bombings forced Japan’s surrender before the invasion could be mounted.
The 7th’s WW2 casualties and awards
Medals of Honor: 3
Distinguished Service Cross: 26
Silver Stars: 982
Hundreds of other medals were awarded.