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42nd Infantry Division
42nd Infantry Division (Mechanized)

The 42nd Infantry Division [Mechanized] is the National Guard's Northeast division, and has units in many states. In 1993 the 42nd Division was consolidated with elements of the 26th and 50th Divisions to form one National Guard division. The Division now has elements in eight different states: New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, and New Mexico.

In August 2002 Army Secretary Thomas E. White approved a plan to restructure elements of as many as four Army National Guard divisions. The plan would withdraw older tanks, and turn four brigades into general-purpose "mobile light brigades." The changes, tentatively scheduled to take effect in fiscal year 2008, focus on units with aging M-1 tanks and M-113 APCs that are costly to maintain and have no prospect of being deployed in combat. The change will convert about one-third of the Guard's heavy brigades, including 3,000 vehicles, to mobile light brigades. All were light units in the 1970s and became heavy units in the 1980s and 1990s. The changes may be limited to two divisions, with a total of four heavy brigades -- each with 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers -- to be transformated into light brigades. This includes three brigades of the New York-based 42nd Division. Two brigades from the 38th Division, in Michigan and Ohio, are expected to be merged into a single brigade and transformed into a light unit. The 42nd Division's 3rd Brigade is based in Buffalo, with subordinate units in New York, Buffalo and Staten Island; the Montpelier, Vt.-based 86th Brigade, with subordinate units in Melrose, Mass., and St. Albans, and Rutland, Vt.; and the Ft. Dix, N.J.-based 50th Brigade, with units in Riverdale, Woodbury and Port Murray, N.J.

The Rainbow division was unique. It was the only division composed exclusively of National Guard units drawn from different locations throughout the United States. The Rainbow Division's history as a unit began with America's entry into World War I, when individual states competed with each other for the honor to be the first to send their National Guard units to Europe. The government decided to create a division composed of hand picked National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia. The Division received the name "Rainbow Division" during its organization at Camp Mills, Long Island, New York, based on the observation of the Chief of Staff of the Division [Colonel Douglas MacArthur] that "The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other." To further characterize the nickname, the adopted division insignia resembles a rainbow in bright, red, gold, and blue colors.

The Rainbow Division was conceived in part to quicken the deployment of United States troops to Europe. This was based on the belief that formed National Guard units could be activated and trained more quickly than could new units composed of green draftees. The prewar standing regular army was small and for the most part, unprepared for a modern war. Some National Guard units had recent combat experience in the Mexican Border Operation of 1916-1917. Using the National Guard may have been partially politically inspired since use of the Guard would likely evoke public support for the War.

The 42nd Infantry Division was activated in August 1917 and organized in September 1917. The Division formed for training at Camp Mills, New York. The division faced many growing pains. It was short of everything, from uniforms to weapons. The logistics of supporting a 28,000 man division overwhelmed its officers and NCOs. Additionally animosity between units resulted in numerous fights and incidents. This was particularly evident between Alabama and New York guardsmen, probably due to the vast cultural differences.

The Division arrived in France in November 1917 and entered the front line in March 1918, where it remained in almost constant contact with the enemy for 174 days. After gaining experiences in trench warfare, the Rainbow Division became the first American division to have total responsibility for a section of the front. This occurred in the Baccarat sector and included 16 kilometers of the front line. The Rainbow Division's combat record ranks it as one of the best divisions in the AEF. During it's time in France, the 42nd Division participated in six major campaigns and incurred one-out-of-sixteen casualties suffered by the American Army during the war. Major operations: Champagne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. Days of combat: 264. Casualties: Total 14,683 (KIA-2,058; WIA-12,625). Commanders: Maj. Gen. W. A. Mann (5 September 1917), Maj. Gen. Charles T. Menoher (19 December 1917), Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur (10 November 1918), Maj. Gen. C. A. F. Flagler (22 November 1918).

The 42d Division was not organized as a National Guard division after World War I. The Rainbow division was redeployed to the United States by March of 1919 and individual units returned to their home state. The 42nd Division's service officially came to and end in May 1919. In retrospect, the experiment of combining the individual National Guard units to form a division was a success. The tradition of the American citizen soldier was alive and well. While the individual Guard regiments maintained a strong regimental cohesion they also developed esprit de corp as a division. After the war this was evident in the formation of the Rainbow Association, one of the most active post war divisional veteran's groups.

With the onset of America's participation in the Second World War, the 42nd Division was activated 14 July 1943 as an Army of the United States [AUS], not National Guard, Division. At the July 1943 reactivation ceremony, the new division commander, Brigadier General Harry Collins echoed MacArthur's sentiments on the 42nd Division's unique status when he said, "The Rainbow represents the people of our country."

The three regiments and a detachment of the Division Headquarters arrived in France at Marseilles, 8-9 December 1944, and were formed into a Task Force Unden, under the Assistant Division Commander. Assigned to VI Corps, Seventh Army, the Task Force entered combat in the vicinity of Strasbourg, relieving elements of the 36th Infantry Division, 24 December 1944. Defending a 31-mile sector along the Rhine, north and south of Strasbourg, the Task Force repulsed a number of enemy counterattacks, at Hatten and elsewhere. After throwing back an enemy attack, 24-26 January 1945, Task Force Linden returned to Seventh Army Reserve and trained with the remainder of the Division which had arrived meanwhile.

On 14 February 1945, the Division entered combat as a whole, taking up defensive positions near Haguenau in the Hardt Mountains. After a month of extensive patrolling and active defense, the 42d went on the offensive, attacking through the Hardt Mountains, broke through the Siegfried Line, 15-21 March, cleared Dahn and Busenberg, and mopped up in that general area, while the Third Army created and expanded bridgeheads across the Rhine. Moving across the Rhine, 31 March, the 42d captured Wertheim, 1 April, and Wurzburg, 2-6 April, after a fierce battle. Schweinfurt fell next after hand-to-hand engagements, 9-12 April. Furth, near Nurnberg, put up fanatical resistance, but was taken, 18-19 April, by the Division. On the 25th, the 42d captured Donauworth on the Danube, and on the 29th liberated some 30,000 inmates at Dachau, most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps. Passing through Munich, 30 April, it cut across the Austrian border north of Salzburg, 5 May, as the war in Europe ended.

By the end of the war, the 42nd Division had established an enviable record. It was first in its corps to enter Germany, first to penetrate the Seigfried line and first into Munich. Rainbow soldiers had seized over 6,000 square miles of Nazi held territory during their march across Europe. The Division ended the war serving as occupation forces in Austria and was inactivated in June 1946.

The 42nd returned in 1947 as a National Guard division and was recognized as a component of the New York Army National Guard. During the Cold War years, the Division was involved in numerous domestic emergencies while actively training for its wartime mission.

In December 1989, the 42nd Division headquarters was moved from New York City to Troy, New York, where it remains today. In 1991, hundreds of Rainbow soldiers volunteered and served in the Gulf War. In addition the division was called upon to provide an opposing force battalion at the National Training Center to help prepare units for deployment overseas. The troops preformed so well that they received the prestigious Hanby Trophy, the first National Guard unit ever to do so.

Soldiers from the Rainbow Division were among the first military responders at the World Trade Center site on September 11th, 2001. The division would later assume command and control of the entire New York National Guard joint task force for response and recovery in lower Manhattan. The National Guard response in New York City would reach more than 1,800 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines in the days and weeks following the attacks. Task Force Liberty, the New York Guard Component of the 42nd Joint Task Force Rainbow Hope activated for Operation World Trade Center. The Task Force consisted of approximately 3,000 soldiers, drawn from The Army National Guard, The New York Guard, The Naval Militia and The Air National Guard.

The 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters and base units mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the nation's Global War on Terror. The headquarters troops mobilized 27 May 2004 to train for their mission at Fort Drum, NY. The division expected to complete its training tasks later this year and deploy to Iraq at the end of 2004 and early 2005. Over the month of June 2004 the citizen-soldiers of the Army's famous "Rainbow Division" departed home station armories across the United States for movement and in-processing at their Fort Drum, NY, Fort Dix, NJ, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, TX and Camp Shelby, MS mobilization sites. More than 3,000 division Soldiers mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terror.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:28:29 ZULU