The End of the 354th
Then the prisoners -- voluntary prisoners -- started streaming in. Thousands of them were
collected by the Battalions and funneled in to the Regimental PW cage which was established
in an open field in Planitz. The 3rd Battalion was designated Divisional PW
Battalion. The prisoners came by foot, in all kinds of German military and civilian vehicles,
on bicycles, in horse drawn carts. Even the German sick and wounded were evacuated to
the Regimental PW enclosure. In a period of three days about 15,000 prisoners were
evacuated through the Regimental cage. They were put in charge of their own officers and
moved on to the Division PW cage as rapidly as possible.
On May 13 the Regiment was replaced by the 76th Division and moved back to Arnstadt
Which many of the Regiment's troops had passed through going east. There they patrolled
the Landkries of Arnstadt, checking displaced persons and former soldiers moving
along the roads, and controlling the lagers where Russians, Poles, Czechs and other
former slave laborers of the Germans were housed.
Near the end of May, the Regiment received orders to move to Le Havre. The men felt very
optimistic. They felt that this could mean only one thing: board a ship at Le Havre, back to
the States and a furlough and then on to the Pacific. On May 27 the Regiment was
replaced by the 102nd Division and moved out of Arnstadt. Most of the elements went by
train, the rest by vehicle. The vehicular group went back down the Frankfurt-Berlin
autobahn which they had used going east, through Mainz and stopped outside of
Kaiserslautern that night. The next day they proceeded through Saarbrucken, Metz and
Reims to Soissons. As they moved westward on the morning of the third day, a sudden
change in orders was received. The Regiment would not go to Le Havre. It would
proceed to Camp Lucky Strike where the troops had first gone when they reached France.
At Lucky Strike the Regiment prepared to take over the Post from the 15th Port Battalion.
The 15th Port had been processing RAMPS (Recovered Allied Military Personnel). The
Regiment's job was to process units being redeployed to the Pacific through the United
Brigadier General Robinson, assistant Division Commander, became Post Commander
of Lucky Strike. Each Battalion and the 341st Field Artillery took over control of one of the
four blocks of the camp. Extra clerks were pulled into headquarters units from
the line companies to handle the stream of paper work. The Regimental I & R
Platoon and Anti-tank Company became Military Police. Office lights burned until midnight every night.
Early in June, Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, Communications Zone Commander, visited
Lucky Strike. Company C acted as guard of honor. General Lee was so satisfied
with their appearance and conduct that he ordered that every man be awarded the Good
Conduct Medal although many of them did not meet the one year requirement.
On June 15, the Regiment received an ominous memorandum from General Finley:
a. I have just received information of vital interest on (the subject of inactivation)
from General Eisenhower and Maj. Gen. Anderson (Corps Commander of the
VI Corps to which the Regiment was then attached). I wish this information to be
conveyed to all officers and men of the division without delay. "Present Mission: a Our
division was selected, together with two others, by the Supreme Commander to assist
Com Z troops in the tremendous task of redeployment, that is, preparing and sending
divisions, smaller units and individuals to the United States for future service
against Japan or demobilization.
b. We have the particular job of handling all personnel passing through the port of Le
Havre. This involves operating the camps of Lucky Strike, Old Gold and Twenty
Grand and one or two smaller establishments. Thousands of men have already
passed through our hands and many thousands more will do so within the next
c. General Eisenhower's instructions included the following: 'In view of the outstanding
combat service of the three divisions selected for redeployment service, I particularly
desire " that they continue to serve under a Field Commander who will insure for
them the leadership, guidance and deep interest in their welfare that they have enjoyed
in the past and, at the same time, insure the most efficient operation in their new tasks
until the time comes for them in turn to be returned to the United States for inactivation...'
d. To this General Anderson added, '. . . The selection of your division for this duty is
in no way a reflection on its combat record or combat efficiency. The contrary is
true. . . The mission assigned your division is an extremely important one -- a mission
which, if sloppily and I inefficiently executed, will bring disrepute upon the Army
and will engender dissatisfaction among the troops being redeployed... The
job must be done in an eminently superior manner, with a minimum of friction.
Always bear in mind that it is another mission that must be carried out in the
same outstanding manner in which in the past your combat tasks have been
e. The above extracts are quoted to show you that although the present job will
not bring us any medals is nevertheless highly important and worthy of our best efforts.
I am quite sure that the confidence of our superiors in us has not been misplaced and
that each one of you will do his part to the limit of his ability.
Future Status: In accordance with the overall plan for demobilization issued by the
War Department, the 89th together with twenty-some other divisions has been
designated to become inactive after it returns to the United States. This means that
we shall not fight the as a division and that the combat days of your outfit in this war
are over. The reason for reducing the number of divisions is clear: Germany is licked,
Japan is on the way out; there isn't enough war left to go around. I shall not try to
explain why we are among those to be inactivated because I do not know.
Some of the best divisions over here are included. Although different men will feel
differently about it, I for one will always regret that a division which was at: its
peak when peace came in Germany could not be kept together to fight as a team to
the end. "As good soldiers we must accept wholeheartedly the decision
of higher authority. Also as good soldiers we will accept the fact that many of us
are short timers in combat and must expect to be transferred to other units to
replace high point men who have a better right than we to go home."
On June 25, Lt. Col. William Burton, Regimental Executive Officer, returned to the
Command of a Battalion when he took over the 1st Battalion, replacing Lt. Col.
Thomas G. Davidson, who returned to the States.
Combat streamers were awarded to the Regiment, to each Battalion and to each company on July 10.