3 Comments

M3 Halftrack Memorial to 45th Infantry Division in Illinois

We took a drive yesterday into Illinois and came across a M3 Halftrack with a twin AA mount. It was a memorial to the 45th Infantry Division and was parked on a VFW Post located on the Wisconsin\Illinois border.

The 45th Infantry Division was a Oklahoma National Guard unit mobilized early for the war.

But, why a memorial to the 45th in Northern Illinois?

I’ve read the casualty and sickness rate for infantry divisions was quite high and while a unit might have come from a particular regional area the replacements were drawn from all over the USA and the unit lost its original flavor.

There is a museum for the 45th in their home state of Oklahoma.

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This M3 variant features an AA mount. This one has two .50 Cal. MGs rather than the more usual quad mount. I am not sure if the other two MGs are simply missing from the mount.

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GI’s were fond of naming their vehicles. This one has the rather German sounding name of Ursula.

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45th Infantry Division nicknamed the Thunderbirds!

The Thunderbird was chosen because of the high number of American Indians in Oklahoma and hence in the National Guard. Ironically, the division’s symbol in the 1930’s was a swastika, a symbol special to the American Indians that had nothing to do with Nazism.

The Division's symbol prior to the Thunderbird

The Division’s symbol prior to the Thunderbird

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WW2 history of the 45th Infantry Division

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Remarkable list of campaigns including Anzio and Cassino!

As noted in the campaign history above the 45th liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. A unit of the 45th executed between 30-50 German soldiers (some were camp guards but others were simply POWs) upon finding the horrors in the camp. Apparently, some of the executioners were to be court-martialed but General Patton intervened and none were punished. (Read more here on the Dachau Massacre)

The history also records the 45th captured Anzio Annie a huge German railway gun. The picture below shows the event.

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Close up of one of the 50 Cal. MGs. On occasion M3 AA Halftracks were used in a ground support role. The quad model was nicknamed the “meat chopper” for obvious reasons.

The M3 with a Quad 50 mount was numbered M16.

The M3 with a Quad 50 mount was numbered M16.

There are quite a number of roadside memorials in my area but this is the first one I’ve found with a M3 Halftrack.

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3 comments on “M3 Halftrack Memorial to 45th Infantry Division in Illinois

  1. I’d never seen the swastika as the emblem of an American unit. But there were so very many of them, especially when you get down to the lower echelons, that it’s a fascinating area of study.

    • Surprised me too. Finns used one too during WW2 and it had nothing to do with Nazism. Thanks for stopping by. A group of folks from my church traveled to Minneapolis for the C.S. Lewis Conference held at Bethlehem Baptist. Thought of you 🙂 (I would have liked to have gone.)

  2. The swastika in history has been used many times, but only remembered for Nazis. This is a wonderful tribute to the men.

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