This history of the 351st Infantry Regiment was uncovered at the National Archives. It provides an interesting pre-war perspective of the unit that would later enter the Italian Campaign of WWII.
351st Infantry, 88th Division, U.S. Army
After World War I came to an end and complete demobilization had taken place, considerable time elapsed before the War Department’s plan to reorganize the war time divisions into reserve units became operative.
The Defense Plan called for a division of the United States into nine Corps Areas. The VIII Corps Area comprised the states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Wyoming. The Corps Area was divided into divisional areas, and the 88th Divisional Area of the VII Corps Area comprised the states of Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Under a revised plan of administration which became effective 1 November 1937, the Area formerly known as the 88th Divisional Area was redesignated as the First Military Area, with headquarters at Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota was further sub-divided into “Reserve Districts” designated as Northern Minnesota Reserve District, Southwest Minnesota Reserve District, and Southeast Minnesota Reserve District. This geographical arrangement remained in force until early in World War II.
The 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments were organized in the state of Iowa, the 351st Infantry in Minnesota, and the 352nd Infantry in North Dakota. Organization of all units was based on Tables of Organization in force at the time. However, lack of appropriations rendered the plan for enlisted personnel abortive with the result the organizations consisted of officers only.
Work on organizing the 351st started in 1921, and at first proceeded rather slowly. Many veteran officers were reluctant to accept commissions in the Organized Reserve Corps, and a greater number refused to have any more connection with the military service until later events changed their mind. But as time passed, the aches and pains of war gradually died away and former officers returned to the fold. The Regiment slowly, but surely, assumed the character of a military organization as far as officer personnel was concerned. As junior officers from the R.O.T.C. became available they were assigned, or attached, to the Regiment and filled a long felt need. As Infantry Officers in the area became surplus they were attached to the Regiment so that from 1930 on, the complement of officers was complete an many times there were more attached than assigned officers.
The Regiment adopted as its slogan “Marching and Musketry”, musketry covering the
proper use of all organic weapons. Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” March was designated as the Regimental March.
The basic design of the Coat of Arms for the Regiment, drafted by Colonel Henry J. Church, Infantry-Reserve, was taken from the Minnesota State Flag. There is no large star on the State Flag, but the motto “L’Etoile du Nord” (Star of the North) indicates Minnesota to be the North Star State. The shield of blue is the Infantry color, the large star represents the North Star State (Minnesota) and the two smaller stars were taken from a large star design containing nineteen stars, indicating that Minnesota was the nineteenth state admitted into the Union after the original thirteen. The Fleur-de-Lis represents service in France. The design was submitted to the War Department for approval in 1926, but reaction was delayed until Major General H. B. Crosby, war time commander of the Regiment, then on duty in Washington as Chief of Cavalry, took an interest in the matter and expedited approval.
Peace time training provisions were somewhat of a problem in the beginning, but in a short time many opportunities for training and study were available to those who cared to take advantage of them. Active Duty Camps held every summer provided training for a limited number of officers, the number being dependent on the money available. These camps were excellent, and provided a schedule of progressive training. A few selected officers were ordered to Fort Benning for a three months course in Small Arms. Extension courses were open to all who would take them, and covered everything from the School of the Soldier to Command and General Staff courses.
Citizens Military Training Camps were resumed in 1921 for the purpose of giving young men instruction in good citizenship and the fundamentals of military training. The Government required no military obligation from the young men attending these camps, but they were under fairly strict discipline, imposed by the regulations governing the camps. Trainees were uniformed and equipped by the Army fed superior rations and received the best medical attention. The trainees were organized into companies and battalions, and when the number was large enough, into a regiment. A Band organized from the trainees was a component part of the camp. With 2000 boys in camp, as was the case at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, it was possible to organize units of approximately war strength.
Until 1930 the camps at Fort Snelling were conducted by officers detailed from the Regular Service assisted by as many Reserve Officers as were needed. For a long time Colonel David L Stone, 3rd Infantry, (later Major General) Commanding Officer, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, had studied and given much thought to the problem of Reserve Training and had arrived at the conclusion that the CMTC offered an excellent opportunity to give Reserve Regiments a type of training and experience that was of inestimable value. This plan matured. Accordingly in 1930 the 351st was selected as the regiment best fitted to inaugurate the experiment. It took over as CMTC Training Regiment at Fort Snelling, and carried through with flying colors. This method of training was so successful it was continued through the life of the CMTC. The last CMTC camp at Fort Snelling was held in the summer of 1940.
Due to the fact that the CMTC camps were of 30 days duration and active duty periods for Reserve Officers for 14 days only , the set-up required a division of time so that the 349th and 350th Infantry Regiments could also have this type of training at Fort Snelling and other camps. At the end of 10 days the succeeding regiment took over, but it was always ordered to duty two days before assuming command in order to give the officers an opportunity to orient themselves and become acquainted with the trainees in their units. The impressive ceremony of transferring the camp to the succeeding regiment was devised by the 351st at the first camp in 1930, and became SOP for all regiments. This turn-over ceremony continued in force during the life of the CMTC at Fort Snelling.
In 1932 Brigadier General John H. Hughes was so well satisfied with the work of the regiment he wrote the following letter of commendation:
HEADQUARTERS FORT SNELLING
Office of the Commanding General
Colonel Henry I. Church,
304 Vine St.,
My dear Colonel Church:
I have been somewhat remiss in not writing to you before this to express to you and to the officers of the 351st Infantry who attended the Fort Snelling C.M.T. Camp, my grateful appreciation of the fine work done by the regiment in starting the candidates off in such a fine way as to have made the camp a most successful one.
Will you kindly convey to the officers my thanks for their good work?
With kind regards,
Very cordially yours,
John H. Hughes
Brigadier General, U.S.A.
The first phase of camp was considered the most difficult and it is to the credit of the 351st Infantry Regiment that the authorities at Fort Snelling, with the exception of two years, selected it to open the CMT camps.
At CMTC in 1936 the 351st Infantry adopted a novel change in the Regimental Color Guard by using full-blood Sioux Indians. The bearers were dressed in full Sioux regalia and the guard was called the All-American Color Guard. This became standard for all three regiments. This was the first year, too, that artillery took part in the CMTC training program.
An issue of colors was requested, but the requisition was not honored until 1938, due to lack of available funds. The Commanding General and several Staff Officers from VII Corps Area Headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska, had visited the regiment in camp on several occasions, and were impressed with the good work being done. It is believed this had a bearing on the issue of Colors, as this was the only regiment to which they were issued at that time. To commemorate the occasion, an impressive ceremony was enacted at Fort Snelling on 16 July 1938. The 3rd Infantry, oldest regiment in the U.S. Army, and the CMTC were paraded on the Post Parade. The Colonial Color Guard of the 3rd Infantry presented the new colors to the All-American Color Guard representing the 351st Infantry. Thus it came to pass that the oldest regiment in the U. S. Army presented to one of the youngest regiments the colors they were to carry and protect.
In 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps was organized for the purpose of giving employment to young men who would otherwise have become problem cases. While not a military training organization, it was organized along military lines, and the units were under charge of Reserve Officers to a great extent. This Regiment furnished more than its quota to meet the demands of the CCC. This duty provided an excellent opportunity for the development and display of administrative ability and leadership.
After Pearl Harbor, the demand for Reserve Officers became very great, and practically all officers of this Regiment fit for duty were ordered to active duty and assigned to other units. Consequently when the 88th Division was ordered to mobilize for World War II, there were very few officers left to respond.
Commanding officers of the regiment were:
From date of organization to 26 January 1926
Lt. Colonel William McWade, Inf-Res.
From 27 January 1926 to 28 November 1939
Colonel Henry I. Church, Inf-Res.
From 29 November 1939 to 14 March 1940
Colonel Thomas E. Parkhill, Inf-Res.
From 15 March 1940 to 2 June 1940
Colonel William E. PerLee, Inf-Res
From 3 June 1940 to 14 March 1942
Colonel Lawrence L. Conrad, Inf-Res.