The trek from South Carolina to Indiana

Seventy-one days on roads and maneuvers afield.  On this trek the Army wrote a new meaning to the Philadelphia catechism. Their catechism might have been:

Six days shall thou soldier and do all thou art able to do.

On the seventh, police the bivouac and stay able.

January 1944

The 422nd Infantry CO Col. Walter C. Phillips led the 106th Division's trek, in a truck convoy, from Fort Jackson, South Carolina to Fort Atterbury, Indiana on 20 January 1944. The 423rd Infantry CO Col. Charles C. Cavender led the second convoy on 21 January 1944. And, the 424th Infantry CO Col. J. L. Gibney led the third convoy on 22 January 1944.

The likely assigned route for the motor truck convoy from South Carolina to Tennessee, based on 1997 American Automobile Association maps of South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee was:

US78/US378 from Fort Jackson rear Columbia, South Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina;

US78 from Columbia, South Carolina to Athens, Georgia or US378 from Columbia, South Carolina to US78 near Washington, Georgia and US78 to Athens Georgia;

US78 from Athens, Georgia to Atlanta, Georgia;

US41 from Atlanta, Georgia to a secondary road near Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia;

A secondary road from US41 to US27 then US27 to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia;

US27 from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia to US41 in Chattanooga, Tennessee;

US41 from Chattanooga, Tennessee to the destination near Murfreesboro, Tennessee

The first movement of each Infantry Regiment was to an overnight bivouac just outside Athens, Georgia. While at the Athens bivouac the men discussed the girls at the next bivouac a WAC training center at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

When each Regiment reached the second overnight bivouac, at Fort Oglethorpe, they found themselves restricted to their bivouac area.

They were not allowed to meet the girls.

Each Regiment reached the Division assembly area in Rutherford County, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee by nightfall of the third day. The three‑day trek had covered 442 miles, give or take. The total elapsed time was five days.

The men found warm sunny weather in Tennessee. It felt like springtime, although it was still wintertime, January. More than 20,000 men, gathered in Tennessee for Second Army sponsored maneuvers, reveled in the sun, for about a week, and participated in map exercises held in one of the maneuver area theatres and watched a field demonstration illustrating execution of staff plans.

The first field problem began on 31 January with the XII Corps Blue Forces, including the 78th Infantry Division, the 106th Infantry Division, one tank battalion and two tank destroyer battalions with Tactical Air Division support, assembled south of Murfreesboro. The Corps mission was to advance north through Murfreesboro, in Rutherford County and seize the general line Greenwood-Bairds Mill-Gladeville, in Wilson County, defended by the Red Force consisting of the 26th Infantry Division [reinforced], supported by Red Tactical Air Division. As the exercise began the winter weather returned with cold rain, sleet, and snow.

The 106th Division advanced in three columns and reached the XII Corps objective by the afternoon on 1 February and continued turning the Red Force flank until the maneuver ended on 2 February.

February 1944

The Red Forces moved north to defend positions along the Cumberland River in Wilson County. The Blue Force mission was to advance north rapidly with the 106th Division, destroy the Red Forces encountered, and seize the Cumberland River between Lebanon-Beloat Road-Old Lick Branch in Wilson County.

The 106th Division began the second exercise on 7 February accompanied by the falling cold rain. The men continued the advance to the river and successfully completed the exercise on 9 February as the cold rain continued to fall.

The rain surrendered to cold days before the third problem began on 14 February. On 13 February the temperature went down to 13 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.

By 14 February the line up had been changed. The 106th Infantry Division [less CT 424], the 78th Infantry Division, the 17th Airborne Division and an armored group of three tank battalions made up the XII Corps Blue Forces that were concentrated west of Lebanon in Wilson County. The Blue Forces had a mission to advance east, seize rail facilities at Carthage Junction and destroy the Red forces west of Caney Fork in Smith County.

The Red opposing force consisted of the 26th Infantry Division, CT 424 and a Tank Destroyer group of three battalions, concentrated west of Rome-Alexandria in Smith and Dekalb Counties.

The Blue force moved out in the cold on 14 February to perform the initial part of the problem, securing the Liberty-Hames Gap-Rome as a line of departure for the coordinated attack.

The Blue force had accomplished the first part of the exercise by noon on 14 February as the temperature rose. Late in that afternoon, 15 February, an attack on the Red force was launched. The 106th Infantry regiments abreast. When the operation ended on 16 February the Blue force was approaching New Middleton in Smith County.

For the fourth exercise, 21 to 24 February, the XII Corps [Blue] force had the 106th Infantry Division, the 26th Infantry Division and 15th Armored Group of three tank battalions concentrated north of Lebanon, in Wilson County-Gordonsville, in Smith County. The mission was to break through the Red force {78th Infantry Division, 17th Airborne Division and Tank Destroyers between Vine and Cottage Home, capture the high ground near Milton, in Rutherford County, then advance south to capture Wartrace, in Bedford County, to prevent a Red force concentration.

The Blue force advanced slowly on 21 February, but by evening on 22 February the 106th Infantry Division reinforced by the 15th Armored Group, had broken through a created gap in the Red positions at Milton. Early on 23 February a strong Blue attack was launched which by nightfall had secured the first objective, the high ground south of Milton, and enjoyed a warm 72 degree-day. The 106th Infantry Division continued the attack successfully during the night to end the exercise early on 24 February.

March 1944

The fifth exercise, last of February-beginning of March, found the men in the 106th Infantry Division on the Blue force, with the XII Corps, The 26th Infantry Division, and an armored group of three tank destroyer battalions. The Blue force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul, was concentrated east of Murfreesboro, in Rutherford County.

The mission was to drive any Red forces encountered north of the Cumberland River, establish a bridgehead north of the Cumberland River, and advance to the north of Hartsville, in Trousdale county.

The Red force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Edwin P. Parker Jr., included the 78th Infantry Division, the 17th Airborne Division, and a tank destroyer group of two battalions, was concentrated north of Lebanon‑Gordonsville, in Wilson and Smith Counties.

During the first day the motorized 106th Infantry Division moved into an assembly area at Bairds Mills, south of Lebanon in Wilson County.

Early the next morning the 106th infantry Division moved out in an attack to seize the south bank of the Cumberland River. The attack moved slowly. The Blue force was delayed by blown bridges and mines along Spring Creek, as well as by the Red enemy resistance. The 106th Infantry Division in the Blue force crossed Spring Creek and reached the Cumberland River at Hunters Point and northwest of Providence by the close of the exercise. The 26th Infantry Division in the Blue force reached the Cumberland River in the vicinity of Cedar Bluff by the close of the exercise.

Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones commanded the Red Force during the sixth exercise, 7 to 9 March 1944. The CT 328 of the 26th Infantry Division, the 106th Infantry Division and a tank destroyer group of three battalions was with the Red Force during the sixth exercise. The Red Force was supported by TAD and Army Service Units.

The Red Force concentrated east of Bellwood-Watertown, in Wilson County, Tennessee had the mission to occupy, organize, and defend a position within the assigned sector along the general line Rome (inclusive)-Holmes Gap (inclusive) to protect the north flank of the Red Force.

The Blue Force included the XII Corps (the 26th Infantry Division less CT 328, 17th Airborne Division and an armored group of two tank battalions, commanded by Maj. Gen. Gilbert R. Cook, was concentrated west of Leesville. The Blue Force mission was to capture the high ground south of Carthage, in Smith County, and there prepare to operate to the southeast.

During the first day the Red covering force withdrew under pressure, but the outpost line remained intact. Throughout the day and evening, barriers including mined and mustardized demolitions were executed by Red Force engineers, and units on the battle position continued organization of the ground.

By 1400 of the second day the 422nd Infantry Regiment had withdrawn from outpost and was assembled as a force reserve near New Middleton.

The 422nd Infantry Regiment had suffered a thirty-two percent loss to casualties.

At about the same time on the second day a Blue Force attack against the Median Line of Resistance [MLR] two miles north of Commerce was repulsed by the 424th Infantry Regiment, but pressure in that vicinity continued. The Blue Force launched a coordinated attack on the Red Force at 0900 on the third day aimed at penetrating the Blue Force line near Grant to seize the XII Corps objective.

At about noon, The Blue Force infantry, supported by tanks, attacked in the sector of the 423rd Infantry Regiment. The Red Force Tank Destroyer units and Infantry Anti-Tank weapons destroyed most of the tanks. The 422nd Infantry Regiment, the Blue Force reserves, counterattacked at 1315 and at the termination of the exercise Grant was still held by the Red Force. In its sector, the 424th Infantry Regiment committed its reserve battalion and halted the Blue Force advance.

The rain continued on into March when it rained seventeen more days.  Mud was everywhere in the bivouac area, on the roads, on clothing, and on bedding. Men slogged from place to place and kicked the grass, weeds and clay off of their wet boots!

The seventh exercise [13 to 17 March] began in a snowstorm that changed to rain and sleet. Frost filmed the soft mud. The storm ended with thunder, lightning and a continued downpour of rain.

Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones commanded the Red Force in the exercise. The Red Force included the 106th Infantry Division, an attached tank destroyer group of three battalions, and tactical air support.

Concentrated north of the Cumberland River, east of Gallatin in Sumner County, the Red Force had the mission to defend the river line from Lock 4 to Lock 7.  Note: Lock 4 and Lock 7 were inundated when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built the Kentucky Dam. Thus sites of the exercise may not be shown on maps made in the last half of the 20th Century.

Against the Red Forces were committed the XII Corps' Blue Forces, 17th Airborne, the 26th Infantry Division, the 78th Infantry Division, and an armored group of two tank battalions. The Blue Force concentrated mainly north of Murfreesboro, in Rutherford County, Tennessee had been assigned as a mission to advance north, force crossings of the Cumberland River between Locks 4 and 7, and capture Westmoreland in Sumner County, Tennessee.

On the 13th of March the 106th Infantry Division covering force, consisting of two reinforced rifle companies, assisted by mock demolitions executed by the engineers, inflicted a considerable Red Force delay south of the river. But the covering force was cut off by the late afternoon as the Blue force overwhelmed and surrounded them.

By nightfall the Blue forces were on the southern bank of the Cumberland River all along the line.

The next two days, the 14th and 15th of March, were spent in Blue Force preparations to cross the river while the 106th Infantry Division Artillery and Red Tactical Air Division impeded their movements by heavy concentrations of artillery shelling, bombing, strafing and gassing. Red Force patrols crossed the river and obtained a lot of vital information about the Blue Force activities.

Early on the 16th of March the Blue Force made a river crossing in assault boats, gained a toehold, built up its strength and advanced northward. A succession of counter attacks by the Red Force 106th Infantry Division held the main Blue force south of the Gallatin‑Hartsville highway. The exercise closed on the 17th of March with the 106th Division clinging to a line generally north of the Gallatin‑Hartsville highway. But the Blue force had penetrated the line to the vicinity of Rogana on the west flank.

The Red force had carried out a delaying action to the best of its ability against overwhelming Blue forces. The Red forces had had a dress rehearsal for battle. But, the rehearsal had been in the open where they had the liberty of mobility in action, and no defensive trench-line cordon to induce false confidence.

During the eighth and final exercise (20 to 23 March), the 106th Infantry Division was in the Blue Force with the XII Corps (the 26th Infantry Division, the 78th Infantry Division less CT 311 and an armored group of two tank battalions). The Blue force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Terrell, was concentrated around Westmoreland in Sumner County. The Blues had as their mission to advance south, force crossings of the Cumberland River between Lock 4 and Wilburn Creek, and capture the high ground north of the general line Gladeville‑Watertown in Wilson County.

The Red Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. William M. Miley, ranks included the 17th Airborne Division, CT 311 of the 78th Infantry Division, and a tank Destroyer group of three battalions concentrated around Lebanon in Wilson County. The Red Force mission was to defend the Cumberland River

On the 20th of March the Blue Force advanced with three Infantry Divisions abreast. The Blue Force met no resistance and very few demolition and gas delays. The Blue Force secured the north bank of the Cumberland River at most points along the front by 1020 hours.

Strong combat patrols crossed the river by boat and ferry during the evening of the 21st and early morning on the 22nd. The strong river current made the boat and ferry cross8ing extremely difficult, and several boats were lost.

All foot elements of the 422nd Infantry Regiment and 424th Infantry Regiment had crossed the river by 1845 of the 22nd. The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 424th Infantry Regiment met strong resistance four miles south of Hunters Point where they ran out of ammunition and were captured. The 2nd Battalion withdrew. The 422nd Infantry Regiment advanced against light resistance. At midnight the 422nd Infantry Regiment was ordered to withdraw to the area Dixon-Centerville to protect Averitts Ferry. Red units passed in the rear of the 422nd 23rd of March, the rest of the Blue Force was withdrawn to positions to protect bridge sites.

With eight exercises behind them the 106th Infantry Division concluded the 1944 Tennessee Maneuvers. They had participated in the exercises under particularly trying weather conditions. Now the Division was a trained combat team in theory. During the maneuver exercises personnel had been transferred to/from the division in about the numbers that could be expected during combat conditions.

On 1 February there were 912 officers and 12,556 enlisted men in the division. During February 232 enlisted men arrived and 94 enlisted men were transferred out. There was a turnover of officers too.

On 1 March there were 707 officers and 12,950 enlisted men in the division. And, during the month 1,157 men were transferred from the Army Specialized Training Program into the Division. Of the 871 men that were transferred out of the Division, almost 700 were sent to the replacement pool at Fort Meade, Maryland. The others went to service command units and officer candidate schools.

Now it was time to complete the trek to Indiana, the maneuver exercises were over.

On 27 March the first of three truck convoys left the Tennessee area to take the 106th Infantry Division to Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

The single route north can be followed approximately, on 1997 American Automobile Association maps, through Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

The route can not be traced with certainty because records of the route have not been found and signs are hard to read from the backside so the men on the trek did not note details about the route.

Because the men had been up and down highway US 231 many times it can be guessed that took US 231 north to US 31E near Bransford, Tennessee.

Then each of the three convoys turned right on US 31E to US 31W at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Each convoy rolled north on US 31W to Fort Knox, Kentucky and an overnight bivouac 129.5 miles from the starting point.

Each convoy left Fort Knox, Kentucky after an overnight stay at the famous fort. They took US 31W north to the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. In Louisville US 31W joins US 31E, so the convoy rolled over a US 31 bridge across the Ohio River. They completed a 110.2 beeline along US 31 to cantonments at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on 31 March 1944.

During the 71 days almost 700 miles had been covered during five days in the convoy journeys. One can guess that they traveled another five hundred miles to/from the maneuver exercises. And slogged about five hundred miles over the Tennessee hills. Maybe they kicked five hundred pounds of mud, grass and weeds off of soaked boots.

Page last revised 09/15/2016
James D. West