The ASTP Factor:

After the initial months of training at Camp Adair, Oregon, followed by another eight months of severe field training from August of l943 to March l944, the authorized strength of the 104th Division had been seriously depleted. However, in the Spring of 1944, thousands of young men who had been assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) were called away from the colleges and universities they were attending to bring the Division up to combat strength.

As originally envisioned, these young men, who had been qualified through competitive tests and a rigorous infantry basic training, would be sent to colleges and universities throughout the country to pursue studies in medicine, languages or engineering. Regrettably, the urgent call for combat troops spelled an end to the ASTP program and the beneficiaries were the shorthanded divisions in direful need of manpower. Of the total 150,000 in the ASTP program, 73,000 were transferred to infantry units.

The 104th was fortunate to have acquired a large number of these men, many of whom distinguished themselves in combat having earned battlefield commissions, promotions to leadership in the non-commissioned ranks, and other examples of outstanding service. The balance achieved by the addition of ASTP replacements to the well-trained, field-hardened infantryman of the 104th was to assure the combat effectiveness of the division.

In fact, the influx of these ASTP soldiers is regarded as one of the two prime factors which resulted in the exceptional success of the l04th in combat. The first factor had to do with the leadership of Major General Terry Allen, who had experienced combat in both World Wars I and II, and the intensive and unique "night fighter" training under his direction.

The second factor was the competence and capabilities of the young soldiers from ASTP who had taken their places and distinguished themselves in the ranks of the Division. This point was emphasized by Charles B. MacDonald in his official U.S. Army history, The Siegfried Line Campaign, when he stated, "New divisions, in general, entered the line during the fall of 1944 under more favorable circumstances than existed during the summer. That obviously had something to do with improved early performance. Training based on actual battle experience and reduced cannibalization of units to serve as individual replacements also may have contributed. Another factor was the caliber of the personnel. Almost all the new divisions going into action during the Siegfried Line Campaign possessed a high percentage of men transferred from the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which had contained men of proved intelligence studying under army sponsorship in the nation's colleges and universities".

For roster information, please contact Dan Barnes: dannybarnes@comcast.com


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