Notes and Documents
The 36th Was A Great Fighting Division
FRED L. WALKER*
BEFORE THE LANDING AT SALERNO BAY, THE THIRTY-SIXTH DIVISION HAD
been through a long training period that had brought it to a high
state of efficiency. It was as proficient in all phases of battle as it was
possible to be without actual battle experience.
When we were loading the ships for the invasion, I had already been
with the Division for nearly two years and knew the Division well,
its personnel and its capabilities. I knew that the units of the Division
could and would work well together during the invasion. It was my
job to provide the proper professional leadership.
During the days before our departure, I made myself familiar with
the terrain over which we might have to fight. I fought and refought
the battle of Salerno on photo maps that had been taken only a few
days before. I checked and rechecked my plan of battle to be sure that
all probable actions by the Germans would be provided for. Some
chances had to be taken and the unexpected might happen, but these
were met by providing a strong division reserve. Infantrymen and
their supporting weapons had to hit the beaches at dawn in boat waves
in proper sequence and in good order. Artillery and tanks had to be
ashore early, prepared to beat off German tanks.
I was responsible to my superiors for carrying out their orders. I
was also responsible to my men and to their families to plan the
landing and subsequent operations in a manner that would give them
every possible advantage in the battle.
The Division did especially well at Salerno. Many persons who write
books have gone to some length to spread the impression that the
Division was in serious trouble and poorly managed during the Salerno
invasion. These writers, and some other people as well, never give any
reasons why they say that the Division was in trouble.' I would like to
*General Walker commanded the 36th Infantry Division from September, 1941, until
July, 1944. He retired in the grade of major general on April 30, 1946.
'For examples, see Omar Nelson Bradley, A Soldier's Story (New York, 1951), 167;
and Hugh Pond, Salerno (Boston, 1962), 175-176.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed July 7, 2015.