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Thirty-fourth “Red Bull” Infantry Division

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Color image of a Red Bull Shoulder Patch.

A red steer skull on a black Mexican water jar (“olla"), created in 1917 while the new division trained at Camp Cody, NM, not far from the Mexican border. During World War II, German soldiers in Italy referred to the Americans who wore the patch as "Red Devils" or "Red Bulls." The latter name stuck, and the division adopted it officially, replacing its World War I nickname of "Sandstorm Division."

The Thirty-fourth “Red Bull” Infantry Division is a U.S. Army National Guard division based in Minnesota. It had more days in combat during World War II than any other American division. Since September 11, 2001, “Red Bulls” have deployed where needed in the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

In late summer 1917, not long after the United States entered World War I, the army combined existing National Guard units from Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Nebraska to form the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division. The men trained for many months at Camp Cody, near Deming, New Mexico, while waiting anxiously to ship for France. In May, to their disappointment, they were named as a “depot” division. Companies, batteries, and regiments were broken up and the men sent overseas to fill openings in other units. The division was refilled with new draftees and finally departed for France, but by the time it arrived in October, it was too late to see action. The war ended on November 11, 1918.

After World War I, the Thirty-fourth was reorganized with Guardsmen from Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. By summer 1940, fighting again raged in Europe. As a precaution, Congress and President Roosevelt authorized a draft and mobilized the National Guard for a year of training. The Thirty-fourth was activated on February 10, 1941, and sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. When the U.S. entered World War II that December, the Thirty-fourth became the first American division sent to Europe. The men trained in Northern Ireland.

Combat began for the division on November 8, 1942, when elements landed successfully at Algiers, on the North African coast, as part of Operation TORCH. They encountered stiff German opposition as Allied forces thrust eastward into Tunisia toward Bizerte and Tunis, essential ports for the German army. Hill 609, a key German position, stood in the way. In late April 1943, the Thirty-fourth took Hill 609 in an intense, week-long battle. The enemy surrendered two weeks later, ending the North African campaign.

Italy came next. After landing at Salerno in September 1943 as part of the Fifth Army, the division advanced slowly northward through mountainous terrain and terrible weather toward the Gustav Line, a formidable chain of German positions that spanned the Italian peninsula. The Allied advance stalled at Monte Cassino, which strategically anchored the Line. After months of bombardment and bitter fighting by the Thirty-fourth and other divisions, Cassino was finally taken. It opened a way to the Liri Valley beyond, but at high cost in casualties.

Meanwhile, Allied commanders bypassed Gustav and established a beachhead at Anzio. The division landed there in March 1944. The breakout came in May, followed by a drive on Rome. After Rome, the division continued pushing northward through heavily entrenched German positions. By spring 1945, it faced a stubborn but wavering enemy in the plains of northern Italy’s Po Valley. German surrender in Italy came on May 2, 1945.

By then, only a handful of its original soldiers were still with the division. Casualties, transfers, and rotations accounted for the rest. With "Attack, Attack, Attack" as its slogan, the “Red Bulls” completed 517 days of front-line combat in five major campaigns—more combat days than any other American division in the war—with some units at 611 days.

In 1946, the Thirty-fourth was reconstituted with Guardsmen from Iowa and Nebraska, but it was disbanded as a division in the 1960s due to Guard reorganization and budget cuts. Its reputation as one of the toughest combat outfits in World War II was not forgotten, however. On February 10, 1991, the Minnesota-based Forty-seventh “Viking” Infantry Division was redesignated as the Thirty-fourth “Red Bull” Infantry Division. The Thirty-fourth’s proud legacy was thereby taken up by a new generation of soldiers.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, National Guardsmen have been mobilized for federal active duty on a regular basis. Units of the Thirty-fourth have deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Egypt, Honduras, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq. In 2006–2007, its First Brigade Combat Team spent sixteen months in Iraq (twenty-two months overall) in one of the largest and longest single-unit deployments for the National Guard since the Korean War. Governors also call up units when needed for state missions requiring military-level support.

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Blumenson, Martin. “Salerno to Cassino.” In U.S. Army in World War II: The Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Edited by Maurice Matloff. Washington DC: Deptartment of the Army. Government Printing Office, 1969.
http://history.army.mil/html/books/006/6-3-1/CMH_Pub_6-3-1.pdf

Fisher, Ernest F. Jr. “Cassino to the Alps.” In U.S. Army in World War II: The Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, Government Printing Office, 1977.
http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/006/6-4-1/CMH_Pub_6-4-1.pdf

Holbrook, Franklin F. and Appel, Livia. Minnesota in the War with Germany. Vol. 1. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1928.

Hougen, John H. History of the Famous 34th Infantry Division. San Angelo, TX: Newsfoto Publishing Co., 1949. Reprinted by Nashville: Battery Press, 1986.

Howe, George F. “Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West.” In U.S. Army in World War II: Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Edited by Maurice Matloff. Washington DC: Department of the Army, Government Printing Office, 1957.
http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/006/6-1-1/CMH_Pub_6-1-1.pdf

Johnson, Jack K. “History of the 34th ‘Red Bull’ Infantry Division.” Minnesota Military Museum, November, 2015.
http://www.mnmilitarymuseum.org/files/2614/4683/6219/34th_ID_history_1917-2015.pdf

Kunz, Virginia Brainard. Muskets to Missiles: A Military History of Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Statehood Centennial Commission, 1958.

MacDonald, Charles B. “Ch. 22 - World War II: The War Against Germany and Italy.” In Army Historical Series: American Military History, 473–483. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1989.
http://www.history.army.mil/books/amh/AMH-22.htm

Minnesota National Guard. 34th Red Bull Infantry Division.
http://www.minnesotanationalguard.org/units/unit_template.php?unit=PUNRR

Minnesota National Guard. History of the 34th Infantry Division. 2015.
http://www.minnesotanationalguard.org/units/34id/history.php

U.S. Army Center of Military History. Lineage and Honors – Headquarters 34th Infantry Division (Red Bull). http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/div/034id.htm

Related Images

Color image of a Red Bull Shoulder Patch.
Color image of a Red Bull Shoulder Patch.
Black and white photograph of Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico, 1917.
Black and white photograph of Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico, 1917.
Black and white photograph of Thirty-fourth soldiers at Camp Cody, New Mexico, form an “animated” image of their shoulder insignia, just prior to their departure from camp, August 18, 1918.
Black and white photograph of Thirty-fourth soldiers at Camp Cody, New Mexico, form an “animated” image of their shoulder insignia, just prior to their departure from camp, August 18, 1918.
Black and white photograph of the H.M.T. Strathaird, c.1942.
Black and white photograph of the H.M.T. Strathaird, c.1942.
Black and white photograph of the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division arriving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1942.
Black and white photograph of the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division arriving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1942.
Black and white photograph of Hill 609 in Tunisia, c.1943.
Black and white photograph of Hill 609 in Tunisia, c.1943.
Black and white photograph of U.S. Soldiers of the Thirty-fourth Division marching through Tunis, 1943.
Black and white photograph of U.S. Soldiers of the Thirty-fourth Division marching through Tunis, 1943.
“The Red Bull in the Winter Line,” painted by by Donna Neary, c.1988.
“The Red Bull in the Winter Line,” painted by by Donna Neary, c.1988.
Black and white photograph of a Thirty-fourth Infantry Division officer scanning German movements on the approach to Casino, 1944.
Black and white photograph of a Thirty-fourth Infantry Division officer scanning German movements on the approach to Casino, 1944.
Black and white photograph of Monte Cassino and the Benedictine Monastery, 1943.
Black and white photograph of Monte Cassino and the Benedictine Monastery, 1943.
Black and white photograph of U.S. Army wounded returning from the Rapido Valley, 1944.
Black and white photograph of U.S. Army wounded returning from the Rapido Valley, 1944.
Black and white photograph of Thirty-fourth Division Infantrymen pausing to celebrate the taking of Bologna, April 1945.
Black and white photograph of Thirty-fourth Division Infantrymen pausing to celebrate the taking of Bologna, April 1945.
Color scan of an invitation to the ceremony on February 10, 1991, that reactivated the Thirty-fourth Division.
Color scan of an invitation to the ceremony on February 10, 1991, that reactivated the Thirty-fourth Division.
Color image of our thousand members of the division’s First Brigade Combat Team creating a new “animated” Red Bull emblem at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, just prior to departure for Iraq, March 2006.
Color image of our thousand members of the division’s First Brigade Combat Team creating a new “animated” Red Bull emblem at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, just prior to departure for Iraq, March 2006.
Color image of a Red Bull firing squad, 2006.
Color image of a Red Bull firing squad, 2006.
Color image of a“Red Bull” in Al Naumyah, Al Anbar province, Iraq, 2006.
Color image of a“Red Bull” in Al Naumyah, Al Anbar province, Iraq, 2006.
Color image of soldiers from Thirty-fourth Infantry Division in Afghanistan, 2011.
Color image of soldiers from Thirty-fourth Infantry Division in Afghanistan, 2011.
Color image of a soldier of Second Battalion, 135th Infantry, Thirty-fourth Division, returning home after a deployment, 2008.
Color image of a soldier of Second Battalion, 135th Infantry, Thirty-fourth Division, returning home after a deployment, 2008.
Color image of a combat training exercise at Camp Ripley, June 2015.
Color image of a combat training exercise at Camp Ripley, June 2015.

Turning Point

On February 10, 1941, the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division is activated for what eventually becomes World War II.

Chronology

1917

The Thirty-fourth Division is organized for service in World War I. The men train together at Camp Cody, New Mexico, but are eventually sent overseas as replacements.

1923

The division is reactivated and reorganized. Most of the manpower comes from Iowa and Minnesota.

1941

The Thirty-fourth Division is called up for a year of active duty. When World War II is declared, enlistments are extended “for the duration.” The division fights in North Africa and Italy.

1945

World War II ends. The battle-hardened division is deactivated, but credited with more days in combat than any other division in the U.S. Army.

1946

The division is deactivated and reorganized, the division now consists of National Guardsmen from Iowa and Nebraska.

1963

The Thirty-fourth Division is disbanded, except for headquarters, due to National Guard reorganization and budget cuts.

1968

The division is deactivated.

1991

The Thirty-fourth is reactivated. The Minnesota-based Forty-seventh Infantry Division is redesignated as the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division.

2006

The division’s First Brigade Combat Team is deployed for sixteen months to Iraq (twenty-two months overall), one of the largest and longest deployments of any National Guard unit since the Korean War.