71st Infantry Division (United States)

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71st Infantry Division
71st Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1943–46
Country  United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) "The Red Circle"
Engagements World War II
William Westmoreland
Willard G. Wyman

The 71st Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army in World War II.

World War II

  • Activated: 15 July 1943.
  • Overseas: 26 January 1945.
  • Campaigns: Rhineland, Central-Europe
  • Days of combat: 62.
  • Awards: DSC-1 ; DSM-1 ; SS-180; LM-1 ; SM-8 ; BSM-695 ; AM-10.
  • Commanders: Brig. Gen. Robert L. Spragins (July 1943 – October 1944), Maj. Gen. Eugene M. Landrum (October–November 1944), Maj. Gen. Willard G. Wyman (November 1944-16 August 1945), Brig. Gen. Onslow S. Rolfe (17 August 1945 – 10 October 1945), Maj. Gen. Arthur A. White (October 1945 – February 1946). While his time served is not noted here, William Westmoreland is named in other Army records as having been divisional Chief of Staff and then Commanding General in 1946.[1]
  • Returned to U.S.: 10 March 1946.
  • Inactivated: 12 March 1946.
  • Subordinate units:
    • 5th Infantry Regiment
    • 14th Infantry Regiment
    • 66th Infantry Regiment
    • 564th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm Howitzer)
    • 607th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
    • 608th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
    • 609th Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer)
    • 571st Signal Company
    • 771st Ordnance Company
    • 251st Quartermaster Company
    • 71st Reconnaissance Troop
    • 271st Engineer Battalion
    • 371st Medical Battalion
    • 71st Counter Intelligence Detachment

Early history

The division was first organized as the 71st Light Division (Pack, Jungle), intended for use in the mountainous jungle areas of the Pacific theater. Smaller than the standard infantry division, at about 9,000 personnel, its primary means of transport was hundreds of mules controlled by several quartermaster pack companies of African-American muleteers, and for artillery several battalions of 75mm pack howitzers, which could be broken down and carried by mule train. The 14th Infantry Regiment, a Regular Army unit which had been stationed in the Panama Canal Zone for years prior to the war and had received extensive training in jungle operations during that time was assigned to the division to provide the nucleus of jungle expertise. After training at Camp Carson, Colorado, the division was sent to Hunter Ligget Military Reservation in the mountains inland from Big Sur, California, where it maneuvered against the 89th Light Division as a test of the light division concept. As a result of the test it was decided that the light divisions had insufficient manpower and firepower to be effective and the concept was abandoned. The 71st Division was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, where it was reorganized and retrained as a standard infantry division, although it remained unusual in having Regular Army infantry regiments assigned to an AUS division.

Combat chronicle

The 71st Infantry Division arrived at Le Havre, France, 6 February 1945, and trained at Camp Old Gold with headquarters at Limesy. The division moved east, relieved the 100th Infantry Division at Ratswiller and saw its first action on 11 March 1945. Their ouster of the Germans from France began 15 March. The division moved through outer belts of the Siegfried Line, captured Pirmasens, 21 March, and crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim, 30 March. The 71st continued the advance, taking Coburg without resistance, cutting the Munich-Berlin autobahn, 13 April, and capturing Bayreuth after fierce opposition on 16 April. Moving south, the Division destroyed Schönfeld, 18 April, took Rosenberg, crossed the Naab River at Kallmünz on 24 April and crossed the Danube on 26 April. Regensburg fell on the next day and Straubing on 28 April. As resistance crumbled, the division crossed the Isar on 29 April and entered Austria, 2 May.

Participated in the liberation of concentration camps including one in Austria called Gunskirchen Lager on 4 May. A pamphlet was produced by the US Army after they liberated the camp, called "The Seventy-First came to Gunskirchen Lager." The book recounts in detail, and with graphic photos, the tragedy they found in the camp. The complete booklet is available for free on-line.

The 71st organized and occupied defensive positions along the Enns River and contacted Russian forces east of Linz, 8 May, the day before hostilities ceased, having gone further east than any other U.S. Army unit. The division was assigned occupational duties until it left for home and inactivation 1 March 1946.

During the last several weeks of the war, the 761st Tank Battalion, an African-American unit that earned a high reputation for its effectiveness in combat, was attached to the 71st Division and fought with it. The 71st Division is also the formation in which Lt. John D. Eisenhower, General Dwight Eisenhower's son, served.

Assignments in ETO


In 1954 the 71st Infantry Division was reactivated in the northwest United States and Alaska as the division headquarters for several geographically separated units, to include the 53d Infantry Regiment headquartered at Fort Richardson, Alaska, with additional units stationed at Fort Greely, and the 4th[1] and 5th[2] Infantry regiments at Fort Lewis, Washington. In this status it was known as a "static division" not capable of or intended for deployment. (A second "static" unit, the 23d Infantry Division, was activated in the Caribbean region.) The division lasted in this status for less than two years, being inactivated at Fort Lewis on 15 September 1956. (Source: "71st Infantry Division and ALASKA Tab" by Craig A. Rotthammer, Trading Post magazine, October–December 2010.)


  • Nickname: The Red Circle.
  • Shoulder patch: A red circle with a white center bearing the Arabic numerals "71" in blue and placed diagonally.


  1. http://www.history.army.mil/books/cg&csa/Westmoreland-WC.htm and David Halberstam, 'The Best and the Brightest,' Ballantine Books, New York, 1992/3, p.556