Drawing units whose combat history reached back into the roots of American Revolutionary and Civil War annals, the 44th Infantry Division was born in March, 1923 of National Guard units in the states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Entering Federal Service with other National Guard units in September 1940, its initial station was Fort Dix, New Jersey, and initial Commander was Major General Clifford J. Powell. Training as a "square division" for one year, the 44th took part in those "dreadful" Carolina Maneuvers of 1941 that the old-timers mentioned later when recalling the "old company."
In October of that year, Brigadier General James I. Muir assumed command, the first general officer of the Regular Army to be given command of a National Guard division. Returning to Dix from Carolina, many elements of the Division were encamped on the Gettysburg battlegrounds on that Sunday of December 7th, 1941. A month later the 44th motor-convoyed to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, for re-organization into a triangular division. Streamlined, it left later that month for Fort Lewis, Washington, and duty in the Northwest Defense Sector of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. In three months, the doughboys had traveled entirely across the United States with stops at three stations. The 44th Division covered hundreds of miles of vital coastline during those anxious months after Pearl Harbor and played an important part in America's security. There were scares, rumors and even an isolated instance of an actual Japanese attack during those months. A Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens, Oregon. The fort guarded the mouth of the Columbia River, at Astoria Oregon. But the Japanese defeat at Midway made actual landings next to impossible.
In January, 1943, reorganization came again to the 44th. One complete combat team left, as well as another divisional troops, making room for 10,000 selected replacements. Again came the normal cycle of division training. After maneuvering in Louisiana in February and March of 1944, the 44th went to Camp Phillips, Kansas, for final overseas duty training. August of that year saw the super-trained, modern troops leave Kansas for the port of embarkation, Boston. The 44th made quite a reputation in the final stateside days. An epidemic of fights, drunkenness, and brawls coincided with the arrival of the 44th in Boston. The level of rowdiness was so bad, the Mayor of Boston Maurice Tobin one evening closed all bars and had the soldiers from the 44th rounded up and removed from the city. The next day, the soldiers learned from General Spragins that henceforth the 44th soldiers were indeed "Banned in Boston." The "Fighting 44th" was off to an early start.
Local hostesses for the "Aberdeen Hostess House" pose for the camera in 1942. Soldiers from the 44th were stationed all along the Oregon and Washington Pacific coast line to protect against a potential Japanese invasion. In Aberdeen Washington, the "Aberdeen Hostess House" provided lonely soldiers a place to hang out, play ping-pong, rest and spend time with very attractive young gals local to the community. Picture courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum, Aberdeen, Washington