The 70th was activated on Infantry Day,
June 15th, 1943 at Camp Adair, Oregon. This was the first time the
entire Division would "pass in review" before top 70th commanders
and many distinguished Oregonians. The state had taken the 70th as
its own and hospitality, individual and corporate, was warm and
abundant. Countless organizations, from civic clubs to sororities,
contributed to furnishing company day rooms, for instance. But for
Trailblazers, a far more important event was that of September 11,
1943, Organization Day. On this day the 70th was officially "born"
to impressive Organization Day ceremonies.
Already named to honor the centennial
of the Oregon Trail, these men, like the original Trailblazers, came
from many areas. Everyone one of the 48 states were represented; so
were Alaska and Hawaii, (yet to become states), Puerto Rico and the
District of Columbia. Forty foreign countries, including each of the
axis nations, were represented. And like the original Trailblazers,
their song was "Oh, Susanna."
Quite appropriately, Missouri-start of
the Oregon Trail, sent the largest contingent, 1,165. Four other
states, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas and Minnesota sent more than a
thousand men. It was a young outfit, made of young men.
Training had not waited on the formal
organization of the Division. By that time the green recruits were
already mastering the rudiments of a soldier's skills. The remainder
of 1943 saw continued formation and filling out of the Division.
Training took place at a hectic pace. Countless days were spent on
the firing ranges as infantry riflemen became proficient with the
M-1 rifle. Weapons other than the M-1 were also mastered: the BAR
(Browning Automatic Rifle), mortars, light and heavy machine guns,
carbines and pistols. Only recently had Cannon Companies become part
of an infantry regiment and they were mastering their 105mm
howitzers. Division artillery (Divarty) men were learning the
capabilities of their heavier guns.
Finally, in late December basic
training was over. The 13 week training period had ended with many
tests given to the 70th by Fourth Army with the Division
successfully passing 95% of the tests. This was no occasion to
relax, though. As Maj. Gen. Dahlquist, Division Commander, observed
in the official critiquing sessions: "Basic training in this
division will never end until the war is over and we are
Training continued into 1944 with the
Division undergoing final testing, engaging in mock battles with the
96th and 104th Divisions. Late in July 1944, the Division was
ordered to move from Oregon to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (see
map). It took
20 trains to carry the whole 70th in average loads of just under 800
men. Western hospitality was demonstrated all along the way; when
the train stopped at a station, female volunteers offered cookies,
sandwiches and pink lemonade.
The great Missouri encampment was just
a stop over for the men who had activated the Division in Oregon.
But for thousands of new men who filled the ranks at Leonard Wood,
it was their Army "homeplace". There they undertook the basic
training the "old" Blazers had experienced in Oregon. Here, the
Division received a new commander. Maj. Gen. Allison J. Barnett took
over, having just returned from the Pacific Theater.
In November 1944, Blazer units, already
packed for overseas, were alerted for a short notice move to some
POE (port of embarkation). Out of Boston, Massachusetts, the Blazers
began their move to France.