Was the 30th Infantry Division the best American division of WW2?

RandyT0001

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"The 30th Infantry Division was ranked the best division in the European Theater by a team of 35 historical officers headed by the U.S. Army's official historian, S.L.A. Marshall."
In the Presence of Soldiers by Woody McMillin, p.385

If it wasn't the best American division of WW2, then what division was better and why?
 

witchbottles

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Purely selfish answer:

1MarDiv. No other American unit saw so much action in the PTO.
4th Armored Division - No other American armored div saw as much action in the ETO, or achieved a better combat efficiency, than Patton's Best.
82nd Airborne Division - no other American unit saw as successful results behind enemy lines (although the 101st came close).


My personal "top three" The Big Red One is probably in the top 5.

KRL, jon H
 

von Marwitz

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I have to precede that I know far less about US formations than about German ones.

That said, I cannot remember anything in particular about 30th US Infantry Division, while this is different about the 82nd & 101st Airborne and some others.

Would it be unusual that the 'best' American division in WW2 does not strike a bell?
Or has the 'marketing' of others simply been better?

von Marwitz
 

witchbottles

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I have to precede that I know far less about US formations than about German ones.

That said, I cannot remember anything in particular about 30th US Infantry Division, while this is different about the 82nd & 101st Airborne and some others.

Would it be unusual that the 'best' American division in WW2 does not strike a bell?
Or has the 'marketing' of others simply been better?

von Marwitz
Could be they were commanded during the time by "Marshall boys" - Gen, later Sec State Marshall was nothing if not an officer who played favorites.

The 30th served a fair amount, and took their lickings, but no more or less than about every other line infantry division in the American forces in the ETO - some, like the 82 and 101 took a LOT more.
 

aiabx

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Perhaps they were the best at filling out their TPS reports and won all the parades.
"Best" is a pretty arbitrary thing.
 

Yuri0352

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In my opinion,
The best U.S. division in WWII was the 1st Marine Division.

The 30th ID certainly doesn't seem to receive enough recognition for its success in ruining the objectives of Kampfgruppe Peiper.
 

witchbottles

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I wouldn't personally rank the 30th in the "top Five" category myself. Top 10, sure no problems there.

General factors for "best" include

Loss ratios to enemy casualties inflicted.
Number of days in combat conditions
Areas in combat - enemy forces engaged.
Opinions of battlefield superiors( Corps and Army commanders - who did they turn to as their "go to" guys?)


Given those - I still hold my top 5 at:

1. 1st Marine Div - "The Old Breed"
2. 4th Armored - "Breakthrough".
3. 82nd Airborne - "All- American"
4. 101st Airborne - "Screaming Eagles"
5- 1st Infantry Div - "The Big Red One".
 

KhandidGamera

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I'm surprised that 2nd Armored isn't on the list, elements of it fought in ETO from NA, Sicily and then early in Normandy to end of war. 3rd Armored also pretty accomplished. 2nd and 3rd Armored did the heavy lifting and pocketing in Cobra. Certainly have to give 4th Armored Arracourt. I'd agree with 1st Marine Division - Marine air-ground coordination was maybe better than anybody's at Guadalcanal in 1942, then they fight at the toughest battles later on with Peleliu and Okinawa. I'd agree that 30th should be recognized: Mortain, stopping SS in Bulge.
 

bendizoid

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Perhaps they were the best at filling out their TPS reports and won all the parades.
"Best" is a pretty arbitrary thing.
The 4th Armored lost the cover sheets for their TPS reports when the mulberry went down.
 

Eagle4ty

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Ask most any WW-II vet (or any vet for that matter) and he'll tell you his unit was the best.

As to Witchbottles claim the 1st Marine Div saw the most combat in the Pacific, it just isn't so. That dubious honor goes to the 32nd "Red Arrow" Infantry Division which had more days in combat than any other U.S. Division in any theater with 654 actual combat days logged and 11 MOH recipients. In the ETO I believe that distinction goes to the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division with 633 days logged (IIRC). Not to disparage the "Guadalcanal" boys as they had some of the roughest fights of the Pacific and a goodly amount of "logged" combat days themselves, but they were continually pulled out and refurbished between actions which reduced their actual combat time (but not reduced days in a Combat Theater). The actions of the 2nd Marine Division and the 7th "Hourglass" ID certainly cannot be overlooked in the Pacific as well 99th ID (Brief Combat record, but stellar), 2nd ID, and as previously mentioned the 2nd AD in Europe.
The most decorated unit (though not a Division sized unit) was obviously the 100th Bn & 442 RCT (of which the 100th Bn was part of), this unit fought as an independent unit, part of the 36th & 34th ID's & I believe attached to the 10th Mnt at one time or another. Other units that were pulled in and out of Divisions and had a great record were the 504th PIR (North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Market Garden, Cheneux and along the Rhine & many of its men being augmented -though not actually assigned -to the 17th ABD for Varsity IIRC); the 2nd Ranger Bn (part of the "Ranger Division" at Anzio) certainly deserves recognition along with the mixed Canadian-U.S. 1st Special Service Force (Devil's Brigade). In the PTO the 5307th Composite (Provisional) can certainly be counted in their number as well though their time as a unit was relatively short and again was not a divisional sized unit. JMHO.
 

witchbottles

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I'll give you the nod that the 32nd ID may have indeed served more continuous days of combat action as a division unit in the PTO than 1 Mar Div. :)

1 Mar Div: Guadalcanal : Aug 7, 1942 - December 9th, 1942 continuous.
New Britain: Dec 26, 1943- March 11th, 1944 continuous
Peleliu - Ngesebus: 15 September 1944 - 30 October, 1944, continuous
Okinawa: April 1, 1945 - 22 June, 1945, continuous

Total number of days engaged in combat action: Guadalcanal: 124 days ; New Britain: 75 days ; Peleliu- Ngesebus: 45 days; Okinawa: 83 days : total of 327 days of continuous combat action as a division unit.


no Marine would ever consider individual decorations for valor as a measure of the "better" in a comparison of combat units.

The OP and question posed specifically dis-enfranchised any formation below division size, IMO - so although MANY of them exist that deserve a place in the top 10 for combat units during the war ( I do agree with you on that) , I would not add them to my own list of Top 5 divisions to serve in the war.

As I noted before (in post #9):

General factors for "best" include (IMO)

Loss ratios to enemy casualties inflicted.
Number of days in combat conditions
Areas in combat - enemy forces engaged.
Opinions of battlefield superiors (Corps and Army commanders - who did they turn to as their "go to" guys?)

These four areas denote which units were not only the most effective in engaging enemy units, but which units were recognized at the time by their own contemporary commanders as being among the most effective at achieving the mission and disabling the enemy through combat engagements.

As with anything - YMMV
:)
 

witchbottles

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interesting aside, Wikipedia claims both the 32nd and the 34th as having the most days in combat in WW2:

"...The division is credited with amassing 517 days of front-line combat,[25] more than any other division in the U.S. Army...." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/34th_Infantry_Division_(United_States)#World_War_II).

"...The 32nd logged a total of 654 days of combat during World War II, more than any other United States Army division.[2][4] ..." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32nd_Infantry_Division_(United_States)).

Such is a good example why I do not prefer to use Wiki-anything as a reference :) Note the reference for each is their respective National Guard websites.

IIRC, there was a White Paper that was written by a doctoral team at Univ of MI on the 32nd ID, to a large extent, in comparison to 3 Mar Div (chosen as 3 Mar Div was never under the command of MacArthur) - done perhaps early 2004-ish(?) as a comparative to illustrate fallacies that MacArthur was more caring and/ or less demanding, on troops under his command than Nimitz' subordinates - most notably RK Turner and HM Smith. I do recall reading that with some interest - it *might* be up on Hyperwar already, about 2 years ago, someone was working on that project, I do know.

KRL, Jon H
 

Eagle4ty

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Yes claims like that are always suspect and as for the divisions one never really knows what they used as a basis for their computations. All that I know is I recently got my dad's old uniform & he had 6 Combat Service Stripes (3 years) on it and as a member of the 32nd Div. (was an FO) from Milne Bay and Buna to the Capture of Yamashita in the Philippines along with a couple of Presidential Unit Citations (One for Leyte & another for Luzon) and one from the Philippine President along with his personal awards. He sure wasn't a great fan of old Doug as neither was my uncle (Captured on Bataan in 1942). I for one would certainly have an argument against saying MacArthur was less demanding upon his troops. One need only look at how the 32nd and 7th Australian were deployed and provided with (in)accurate intelligence at Buna/Gona, or his employment of the 1st Cav (his seemingly favorite division), throughout his tenure under his command. As to standing up for the Generals beneath him, you only to look at the relief of commanders with impunity or the directives given to his subordinates, "Take Buna or don't come back alive" to Eichelberger & Gill, or to the contentious relationship he had with the proven and highly capable Blamey. As to his relationship outside his CoC when Gen. HM Smith (USMC) relieved Gen Smith 27th Div. (USArmy) on Saipan, when asked for statements to support USA Smith for a Board of Inquiry, MacArthur readily threw him under the bus though having known Smith as the Commandant of the Infantry School at Ft Benning. (albeit this was certainly not in anyway purview of his CoC at the time).

Thanks for the info regarding the paper on the comparison, it should be interesting reading.
 

witchbottles

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I agree with you on that respect. as did the authors of that paper IIRC. Their thesis was that the entire view being put forth at the time in a more public image ( ie WW2 History, BBC History, etc magazine articles + a few public release books) was pure hogwash. After reading the entire study they conducted, the reality was that if anything, MacArthur was tougher on his troops and demanded more than Howlin. Mad Smith ever did of any Marine - but that for the "Bataan Gang" of senior officers who first set up SWPOA command in Australia in May-July of 1942 - MacArthur was more lenient and forgiving than Nimitz ever was of Halsey, Fletcher, Turner, HM Smith, Spruance, or Ghormley. ( The men who held senior commands at the outset of Nimitz' reign as CinPac.)

KRL, Jon H
 
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