The Odyssey of A Texas Citizen Soldier
EDITED BY ROBERT L. WAGNER*
W HEN THE THIRTY-SIXTH INFANTRY DIVISION HIT THE BEACHES OF
Salerno, Italy, on the 9th of September, 1943, its men were the
first American troops to assault successfully Hitler's "Fortress Europe."
Behind them lay nearly three years of training in the United States
and in North Africa.
The 36th Division, Texas National Guard, entered federal service
in November, 1940, and served in that capacity for more than five
years.' Although the division was to be replenished many times by
men from other states, it retained until the very end of World War II
a hard nucleus of officers, non-coms, and men from Texas. It also
retained its distinctive flavor as the "Texas Division."
Oran C. Stovall played a significant part throughout the Italian
Campaign, from the initial landing at Salerno, through the abrasive
mountain combat of November and December, 1943, to the heartbreak
at the Rapido River crossing, and on to the glory of the Velletri break-
out in front of Rome. He was present at the invasion of southern
France in August, 1944, and remained as division engineer through-
out that campaign and the advance into Germany across the Rhine
When relieved as senior division engineering officer and commander
of the 11 lth Engineer Battalion on January 1, 1945, Stovall was the
oldest division engineer in point of service in the 7th Army.
Stovall enlisted in the Texas National Guard in his hometown of
Bowie in 1930. He rose through the ranks and was commissioned
second lieutenant in 1936. He was a captain by 1941 and a major
when he took over operational command of the 36th Division Engi-
neers during the invasion of Italy in September, 1943.
Stovall was by profession a construction engineer. He could, there-
fore, have sat out the war as a civilian, making money. He chose in-
stead to command troops in battle. After the war he remained in
*Mr. Wagner has published articles in the Texas Parade, Texas Libraries, and The
Historian of the University of Texas and is presently working on a history of the 36th
Division during World War II.
'Richard A. Huff (ed.) , A Pictorial History of the 36th "Texas" Infantry Division
(Austin, n.d.), unp.
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 April 26, 2015.