Magazine article draws comment
I read with some interest the article by Mr. Colley in the November issue of World War II magazine. I was in the 99th from March 1944, until the end of the war. I take exception to Colley's assumption that the men of K/393 were "most hailing from the Jim Crow South." This simply is not true. Most of the people in the 99th were from the north.
The 99th was activated at Camp Van Dorn in south Mississippi in 1942. Almost the entire division was composed of people from Ohio and Pennsylvania with perhaps a sprinkling of Southerners, never more than five percent. Later, in early 1944, there was a mass shipment of 99ers overseas as individual replacements. Shortly afterward, in early March 1944, the ASTP was canceled. I along with about 3,000 ASTPers were sent to the 99th, then stationed at Camp Maxey TX. Most of the ex-ASTPers were from all over the country. Very few were from the southern states. I was one of the few from a southern state, Mississippi. At no time was there ever a substantial number of southerners in the 99th.
I recall the time shortly after the Bulge was contained that the colored platoons were integrated into the 99th. I recall that a platoon was assigned to each battalion. As I recall, they performed in a very satisfactory manner. There were no problems that I recall.
After the war, the 99th Infantry Division Association made substantial effort to invite the former members to our reunions. A few finally started attending and were warmly received. In fact, one of the former members was appointed president and hosted our reunion at Philadelphia.
Another historian, Charles MacDonald, made an incorrect assumption about the 99th Infantry Division in his acclaimed book, "A Time For Trumpets." On page 83 of the well-written book he stated, "Like almost all American divisions arriving in Europe in the fall of 1944, the 99th had been raided for replacements and shortly before shipping overseas, filled up its ranks with men transferred from ground units of the Army Air Forces, and anti-aircraft units, and from the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP); the last an ill starred experiment to provide technical training in colleges and universities for men with high IQs. (The program was sharply cut back as battlefield losses mounted.)"
MacDonald was well-qualified to write about the Battle of the Bulge as he was a company commander in the 2nd Division during the Bulge. He was however dead wrong about the term (shortly before shipping overseas).
I wrote MacDonald at the time that the ASTP arrived at the 99th Division in early March 1944, some six months prior to shipping overseas. He acknowledged my letter but expressed doubt that it was six months before we shipped out in September 1944. I believe that he finally accepted this correction but like many historians (and some politicians) they don't like to admit errors in print.
Colley's assertion that "The white GIs of Company K, most hailing from the Jim Crow South, experienced a transformation that day" is an absolute falsehood.
George Lehr F/393
3705 Wren Ave.
Fort Worth TX 76133