Chapter 1: As the Twig is Bent

Updated: Jul 5

TRAINING (pp. 7-8)


The story of the 351st Infantry's success in battle goes back to the 15th of July 1942 when the 88th Division and the regiment were activated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. There Major General John E. Sloan, Commanding General of the 88th Infantry Division, made a byword of his statement, "We are training for our first battle." From that time on the men and officers of the 351st bent themselves to the task of molding a fighting team out of the civilian-soldiers who poured into the regiment from every State in the Union. Under the command and supervision of their beloved and respected Commanding Officer, Colonel Arthur S. Champeny, the men of the 351st Infantry found the key to successful combat-hard work, good soldiering, and magnificent esprit de corps. Some will remember the parade ground at Camp Gruber, the RCT and "D" series field problems, and the bus trips to Muskogee. They were days of adjustment and experimentation as men learned their jobs and acquired the polish of well-trained, well-equipped fighting soldiers. The President of The United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt bade Godspeed to the men of the 88th in a full division review on the completion of their basic training, and he expressed full confidence in the 351st Infantry Regiment and its fighting teammates in days to come.


It was on Third Army's Louisiana Maneuvers that the 351st Infantry distinguished itself and gave notice to all of its prowess as a bard-driving team. In July 1943 the regiment broke all records by marching sixty-two miles in hiss than forty-eight hours to win commendation from General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army. There were sore feet, dusty roads, and speculations about the future, but it was here in Louisiana that the 351st learned to maneuver, to live in the field, and to look upon itself with pride. The Sabine River, Leesville, Alexandria, Nachitoches, and Shreveport are names reminiscent of many good times and carefree summer days. Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, put the regiment back on garrison standards and gave the men and officers their last opportunity to enjoy city life, American style, before the 351st moved to war.


At Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, and on the Liberty ships at sea the 351st Infantry met for the first time the restriction, loneliness, impersonality of a war machine, and many who stood at the ship' s rails and watched America pass out of view beneath the horizon will never return. Some of the troopships landed at Casablanca and others at Oran, North Africa, and the regiment concentrated at Magenta in December 1943. The 351st was now in a combat zone and talk of air raids, scenes of the earlier North African fighting, and the squalor of the native villages and cities brought sharply to the attention of all how fortunate we Americans are. Mountain climbing and physical conditioning filled the brief interim in Algeria before embarking for Italy.

From: 351st Infantry Regimental Information and Education Office (1945). History of the 351st Regiment, World War II.