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77th Infantry Division (RTU)

The 77th Infantry Division (Reinforcement Training Unit) is composed of personnel who due to business or personal reasons cannot devote the time required to belong to an active reserve unit in the RSC, or personnel because of the downsizing of the Reserves do not have a position in a TPU through either unit deactivation, or promotion. These personnel in many instances are close to their twentieth year of service, and are in need of time in order to obtain their 20 year letter. The Reinforcement Training Unit is an unusual group of Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) soldiers who drill weekly for retirement points only, and complete an annual two week active duty tour in various Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) counterpart tours at military posts throughout the country. Drawn together from different military branches, the uniqueness of the unit personnel is their ability to accomplish complex tasks requiring a blend of diverse talent.

The mission of the 77th Infantry Division RTU is to administer the assigned and attached reinforcement training units and IMA detachments within its geographic area of responsibility, and supervise training, maintaining the professional expertise of the Individual Ready Reserve personnel attached to it.

The unit has no specified mobilization mission as a unit. Individuals in this unit have various IMA positions and in such positions, are assigned to various senior Army and Joint commands, who are preassigned to fill active component positions. These positions must be filled on or shortly after mobilization. Unit members have diverse and interesting positions. Among these are Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army. Other members hold positions in the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Finance and Management, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development and Acquisition, the Army Concepts and Analysis Agency, Headquarters Military Traffic Management Command, Special Operations Command-Korea, to name a few. Having an IMA position however is not a prerequisite for membership in the unit. The member is responsible for the earning of the sufficient amount of points for a "good year" which is achieved by attendance at meetings, correspondence course completion, etc.

The units training goals are simple, they are to train and maintain the expertise of the individual members, so that they may accomplish their assignments as individual mobilization assets, as well as to recruit qualified individuals, and ensure the retention of current members. Its main priorities are to conduct training on current Army and Department of Defense policy and doctrine, and to conduct briefings, utilizing the special knowledge of attached personnel to instruct unit members regarding the intricacies of each individuals area of specialization, as well as trends within these highly specialized areas.

Drilling for retirement points only, the members show a highly developed sense of duty and commitment to their military careers. The RTU is always seeking qualified members from E-5 and up who will make a commitment to the unit, and will enhance the unit's expertise with their own specialized skills.

The RTU provides a direct link with the 77th Regional Support Command for administrative support, thus preventing members from becoming part of a faceless IRR pool. In turn, the 77th RSC can access the cadre of talent from the RTU whenever necessary. For example, during the 75/25 Anniversary Celebration, the unit's nurse, who is also an accomplished musician, worked with members of the 5th Battalion, 5th Field Artillery to orchestrate the cannon fire heard during Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." For weeks prior to the event, the unit's adjutant, CW3 Morton I. Sussman, worked behind the scenes at Fort Totten as part of the plans and operations team to insure that every detail of the celebration would be successful.

Military branches represented in the RTU include cavalry, engineer, judge advocate general, veterinary medicine, special forces,transportation corps, armor, ordnance, infantry and adjutant general.

Beginning in the 1960's, as a small unit at Kelly Reserve Center, the RTU continues to grow in size and scope. In fact, it supports a subordinate unit located in Albany, New York.

The 77th Division, National Army, was organized at Camp Upton, Yaphank, N.Y. on August 25, 1917. It called itself the "Metropolitan Division" because its personnel came almost entirely from New York City. A unit of twenty three thousand men it included Manhattan taxi drivers, Bronx tailors, Brooklyn factory hands, Wall Street executives and first generation emigrants wearing the icon of freedom. On April 30, 1918 the 77th went ashore in France -- they were first Army division to reach France.

The 77th attained its greatest fame in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. During this campaign soldiers of the "Lost Battalion", which consisted of elements of the 306th 307th and 308th Infantry Battalions made their historic stand. For three days, the unit repulsed repeated German attacks. The Germans sent a note urging surrender. Major Charles S. Whittlesey, commander of the unit, replied "Come and get us." An act for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Carrier pigeons were used by the Allies to communicate positions of units and to relay messages to headquarters. The Lost Battalion was down to one pigeon, "Cher Ami". The unit attached a note with its location to Cher Ami's leg and the pigeon flew into the smoke of the battle. Despite losing a wing and a leg, Cher Ami made it to headquarters resulting in allied troops rescuing the battalion. Of the 679 men in the battalion, only 252 survived. They are honored today by the Lost Battalion Building in Rego Park, Queens NY. The pigeon was credited with saving the unit. Cher Ami is now on display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

During its 68 days in combat, the division fought in four campaigns -- Baccarat, Oise Aisne, Aisne-Marne, and Meuse-Argonne. Official records show no other American Division advanced closer to the German frontier than the front line of the 77th. At the end of the campaign, the division counted 2,375 men killed or reported missing and 7, 302 wounded.

The 77th was deactivated in May 1919 and reactivated for WW II in the spring of 1942. "The old bastards" as they were nicknamed were part of the Organized Reserves Corps and began training at Fort Jackson S.C. in March of 1942. Assembled in less than 40 days the 77th trained for more than a year before being deployed to liberate the islands of the South Pacific. They were the oldest Infantry unit in the Army.

The 77th Infantry Division landed in Hawaii, 31 March 1944, and continued training in amphibious and jungle warfare. Elements began to leave Hawaii, 1 July 1944, for the amphibious assault on Guam. Attached to III Amphibious Force, the 77th made an assault landing on Guam, 21 July 1944. After taking over defense of the beachhead, the Division drove north to seize Mount Tenjo and effected junction with the 3d Marine Division, linking the northern and southern bridgeheads, 23-29 July. It continued to drive north, and dislodged the enemy from positions at Barrigada town and mountain, 4 August, resistance ending on the 8th. With Guam recaptured, the 77th sailed for New Caledonia, but plans were changed en route and it was directed to proceed to Leyte. The Division landed on the east coast of Leyte, 23 November 1944, and was attached to XXIV Corps, Sixth Army. After a short period of training and combat patrolling in the Corps' rear, 23 November-6 December, it landed at Ipil and fought up the east coast of Ormoc Bay to seize Ormoc, 10 December. Attacking north, astride Highway No. 2, the Division secured Valencia and the Libungao-Palompon road junction. Mopping up operations continued through January 1945 to 5 February 1945. The next combat assignment was Okinawa. In late March (26-29), the Division made 15 landings, securing Kerama Retto and Keise Shima for the assault on Okinawa. Riding at sea, 1-15 April 1945, it suffered casualties from enemy suicide attacks, - and prepared for the assault landing on Ie Shima.

On the island of Ie Shima, three miles west of Okinawa, the 77th saw some of its worst fighting. The capture of Ie Shima was crucial to the Pacific war effort. On 16 April 1945, the 77th landed on le Shima, captured the airfield, and engaged in a bitter fight for "Government House Hill" and "Bloody Ridge." Among the 239 soldiers who died was one civilian, famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Soldiers of the Liberty Division erected a crude wooden monument to the beloved Pulitzer Prize winner who was slain by a Japanese sniper. On 25 April, it left le Shims for Okinawa, relieving the 96th Division, 28 April 1945. Fighting its way slowly against extremely heavy Japanese resistance, the Division, drove to Shuri in conjunction with the 1st Marine Division, `occupying it 29-31 May. In June the Division covered the right flank of XXIV Corps and "sealed" Japanese cave positions. In July 1945 the Division moved to Cebu, Philippine Islands, and prepared for. the invasion (later occupation) of Japan.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the division was assigned to the occupation of Hakodate, Hokkaido. The Division landed in Japan in October 1945 for occupation duty. On March 15, 1946, the Liberty Division was deactivated in Japan. During its five operations in three campaigns, the 77th spent 200 days in actual combat and lost more than 2,000 soldiers. The 77th never fought in a losing campaign.

During the postwar period, from 1947 to 1965, the 77th Infantry Division was one of the six combat divisions in the Army Reserve.The 77th Army Reserve Command (ARCOM) was formed in December 1967 as a part of the reorganization of the command structure of the Army Reserve.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:31:52 ZULU