HISTORY OF THE 69TH INFANTRY DIVISION BAND
When the Division was first organized in 1943 at Camp
Shelby, Mississippi, two National Guard bands were assigned -- one a National
Guard unit from Texas as the 271st Infantry Regimental Band under the direction
of WO Charles Horner, and the other a unit from New Hampshire as the 272nd Regimental
Band under the direction of CWO Joseph Gladys.
The 271st was formerly a National Guard unit that was
assigned to the Anti-Aircraft Training Center at Fort Logan, El Paso, Texas,
before being transferred to the 69th Division at Camp Shelby.
The 272nd was formerly a National Guard unit of the 172nd
Field Artillery, and stationed in Manchester, New Hampshire before being
transferred to the 69th Division at Camp Shelby.
The duties of these two units were performing concerts,
parades, and dances at various places on the post and in Hattiesburg, plus being
trained as infantry soldiers.
Early in 1944, there was a reorganization of the division
headquarters, and these two units were combined to become the 69th Division
Band, with CWO Joseph Gladys and WO Charles Horner in command.
The duties were still continued as before, but in addition,
the band members were trained as infantrymen to guard the division headquarters.
So most of the time, they were doing double duty: being a band,
entertaining the troops, and being soldiers as necessary.
So the band was a part of the Three B's (Bolte’s Bivouacking Bastards)
and walked the DeSoto National Forest like everyone else.
When the word came to move out, the instruments were packed
and crated for shipment, and the band boarded the troop train with everybody
else. They arrived at Camp Kilmer,
New Jersey, on November 23rd and received their overseas processing before
boarding the ship for England.
From there on, the band continued with the 69th Infantry
Division until it met the Russians at the Elbe River. Their instruments were still in storage in France, and it was
necessary to send some of the people back to France to retrieve them.
They did arrive back with the instruments in time for the band to play
for the link-up ceremonies with the Russians.
After this, the band was split up based on the point system
used to send personnel back to the States.
Many were shipped to the port to return, and the rest were transferred to
the 29th Division Band, stationed at Bremen, Germany, until it was time for them
to be shipped back to the States.
Excerpts From “What The Hell,” a book written by the
band members, published in Germany on May 12. 1945:
"We Are the Music Makers, We Are the World
The following pages contain the story of 58 men who were in
the service of their country at the time our nation was faced with the gravest
crisis history has yet to record.
Musicians, yes, every one a musician whose life has been
devoted to the producing of beautiful sounds and to adding joy and pleasure to
the lives of others. How ironic it
is to transplant such natures into an environment of hate, bloodshed, killing,
and revenge. Yet this was done and
these men proved their worth. Their
indomitable spirit would not and could not be quenched despite the rigors and
hardships of war.
These pages were written not as an attempt at literary
achievement, but to serve as a reminder to those concerned just what these men
did while serving their country overseas, and are dedicated to anyone who has
the curiosity to read them…
…Enemy resistance was still continuing up ahead, so
instead of going to Weissenfels, we made our next stopping place Naumburg 11.
There was a marked contrast between this city and the other town of the
same name we had lived in before. We
shared the same building with civilians. All
around us was a cultural atmosphere; our rooms were beautifully furnished.
One lady in the house spoke flawless English, therefore it was not
necessary for us to stammer in our broken German to make our wants understood.
The city itself was very much the same as our better small American
cities. The people were
prosperous-looking. All in all, we
could not determine whether or not we felt more at home or were made more
homesick by the lovely surroundings.
From all outward appearances, everything was peaceful, but
we were informed that in this city existed a strong underground movement, and we
must prepare for an uprising of the Volksturm.
It was here that we first employed what is called Cossack guard: three
men on a post at a time. One man stood watch while the other two slept nearby, so that
they could be called upon within a moment’s notice should a serious occasion
arise. Roving patrols were used;
machine guns and 57-mm guns were mounted in strategic positions throughout the
We did not win the war by playing concerts and doing guard
duty – but we like to feel that we have been an integral part of a great
machine. We did not spend the
entire war without hearing a malicious shot fired.
And we have one battle star to our credit, at least.
So, we leave the Famous Band of the Fighting 69th in Naunhof, Germany.
If our travels carry us on to the Pacific Theater of Operation, volume
two of this epic will be written there. In the event that we should be sent home
– well, God speed.
May 12, 1945
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