Medical Support of the Fifth Division in World War II (Part 1)
By Harold L. Potter (1998); Presented to the Sojourners group, near Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Edited and audio recording by Jim Potter
My military experience started on August 25, 1938, when I joined the Medical Detachment of the 130th Field Artillery Regiment of the 35th Division of the Kansas National Guard. In those days, we normally had one weekender per month in the sand hills north of Hutchinson, plus our usual weekly Monday night at the armory in Hutchinson. Our Division entered federal service on December 23, 1940, and went to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, for our one year’s training.
Many of you will remember the hit song, “Goodbye Dear, I’ll be Back in a Year.” In my case, that became five years before I was released to the Reserves where I was fairly active until I was retired in 1964 with 25 years of service.
In 1942, the organization of the infantry divisions was changed from “square” divisions to “triangular” divisions. At the end of that year, I was recommended for Officer Candidate School (OCS). At the time, I was young and full of “piss and vinegar,” as they used to say, and had experience as a Drill Instructor (DI). After graduation, I found myself a Second “Looey” and assigned to “Tent City” in Camp Grant near Rockford, Illinois, in April of 1943.
It was called Tent City because several training battalions were formed every spring in the Medical Replacement Training Center. It was torn down in the fall because the winters were too cold for tent living and the training of “rooks.”
We managed to get in two 13-week training sessions that summer. For the first session, our training battalion was a trainload of fresh new rookies from the hills of North Carolina, then for the second session we had a similar sized group of brash rookies from Brooklyn by way of Camp Upton on Long Island. Another lieutenant and I had gone to Long Island and brought them back to Camp Grant by train. When our company officers divided up the subjects and prepared the training schedules, I was fortunate in receiving most of the tactical subjects which I particularly enjoyed. That would include field subjects, map reading, etc.
Our training was quite intense. We had what we called the “gestapo” officers from the 37th Battalion Headquarters popping in on us unannounced, but after training periods we were ready for combat and getting anxious to get overseas.
The training schedule was prepared each week. If a class was set up for one hour, we had to be sure that the class lasted exactly 50 minutes, then took a 10-minute break, remembering that the gestapo was checking on us. But this concentrated training paid off because we turned out some good soldiers. They weren’t quite as anxious to get into combat as we were, but they were ready.
The Fifth (Red Diamond) Division had a very distinguished combat record during World War I. The Red Diamond Division of WWI was remembered by many civilians of Luxembourg. General Pershing once said that the crossing of the Meuse River in France by the Fifth Division in WWI was one of the most brilliant military feats in the history of the American army.
– TO BE CONTINUED –
Harold L. Potter was born near Rolla, Kansas, in 1920, the son of Clarence and Cleo Crandall Potter. He lived in the center of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and moved to Hutchinson with his family in 1934. Potter graduated from Hutchinson Junior College prior to his military service, and earned a BSBA degree from Washington University, St. Louis, in 1947. He was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II. He entered active duty as a private in December 1940 and transferred to the reserves after the end of World War II. He was discharged as a major in 1964.
While stationed in Illinois at Mayo General Hospital in 1943, “Hal” met Nell Armstrong of Galesburg. She was a civilian employee in medical supply. Hal and Nell married in July 1945 after Victory in Europe (VE Day), prior to Lt. Potter being trained for the Pacific theater, including the invasion of Japan.
Happy writing and reading,