|8th Infantry Division FAQ|
Why is it known as the Pathfinder Division?
The division was originally formed at Camp Freemont California in January 1918. The camp had been named after John Charles Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), an early explorer of the Pacific Northwest and a legendary hero in the area. For his exploits in exploration he had been given the nickname "the Pathfinder," and it seemed only fitting that the division formed at the camp adopt his nickname. The golden arrow on the division patch symbolizes a compass needle pointing north.
Not only was Fremont an explorer, but he had been a military officer in both the Mexican-American and Civil War. Later on he was the first Republican Party candidate for president of the United States. He was also the first presidential candidate to run on a platform of abolishing slavery.
Who are "The Friends of the 8th Division?"
The Friends of the 8th Division is a group of individuals that have an interested in the unit. Some are veterans, some related to veterans, others just interested parties. There is no membership requirement, nor is the group really organized. It is really just a name given to folks with an interest in preserving the history of the unit. They generally can be found on the yahoo group relating to the 8th Infantry Division in WW2.
Is there an official division association?
Yes, but the history needs some explaining. For various reasons an original Post WW2 association never really established itself. An association did hold small reunions up into the 1950's but it seems t have slowly dwindled to nothing. This may be due to not having a cadre of WW1 veterans to form around in the wartime years. In the 1980's Artilleryman Jim Wooley took it upon himself to start it up again. The group grew, but so many veterans had been lost, that it stayed as fairly small group and most reunions were regimental in nature. Jim eventually grew ill and had to give his work up. With no real driving force the group collapsed, until the internet began making communications easier. By that time the cold war vets had come into their own, and they new organization was started up mainly due to the work of Richard T. Sonneborn. The website for the organization is http://www.8thid.org .
What happened to the 34th Infantry Regiment in WW2?
When the 8th Division was organized in 1940 it was formed as a "square division" with four infantry regiments. One of them was the 34th. The organization of infantry divisions was later changed in 1941 to a "triangular division" with only three infantry regiments. The 34th was selected to be detached from the 8th Infantry Division in November 1941, and was designated to be sent to the Philippines. The unit was in San Francisco waiting to embark when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Due tot he strong Japanese forces in the Philippine waters the 34th was instead sent to Hawaii for defense duties. On 12 June 1943 the 34th was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division under which it served in the Pacific War.
What was the 8th Motorized Infantry Division?
In 1942 the Army experimented with "motorized" infantry Divisions. This provided all elements of the division with vehicles so it could move at a faster than marching speed. The experiment was deemed a failure as providing so many vehicles to a division tied up valuable resources which could often be used elsewhere. In the end the extra trucks were withdrawn from the Motorized Divisions, and used to form independent truck companies which could be assigned to any unit as needed. So for a brief period of time the 8th Infantry Division was known as the 8th Motorized Infantry Division.
Why is there an 8th Infantry Division patch with an airborne tab?
In the 50s-60s a section of the division was on jump status to allow for limited airborne operations. These units were authorized the airborne tab above the 8th ID patch. The division was never a full airborne division. For more info see the page on division reorganization.
Why was the Division inactivated in 1992?
The 8th was chosen for inactivation (it was actually re-flagged as the 1st Armored Division) as part of the drawdown of military forces in Europe after the end of the cold war. There was no longer a need for as many troops without the Russians as a superpower, and meant that some units had to go. The units chosen to be inactivated were done so according to a policy which retained the ones with a combination of the oldest history and service in combat. There was nothing the division did to bring about its end- it was just in the wrong place at the wrong time in the post cold war drawn down. A number of other units suffered the same fate. For a full description of re-flagging and the standards used see Reflagging in the Army.
What are the "Green Books" and the "Blue Books?"
These are nicknames given by historians to two separate sets of military books. "The Green Books" are the official U.S. Army History of WW2 which were originally printed in hardback green covers. Many of them are available on the Center For Military History Website as PDF files. The "Blue Books" are specific to the 8th Infantry Division. They are a series of five yearbook sized (blue covers) histories of various elements of the division printed just after WW2. The five books are the headquarters and division special troops, one for each of the three infantry regiments, and one for the artillery units. They include not only capsule histories of the units in WW2 (found on the website under the specific unit) but also yearbook sized photos of most of the men that returned to the USA with the division. This means that any man who had left the unit before arriving back in the States (killed, wounded, transferred, discharged) is not pictured in the book.