One of the greatest things about being the 104th Training Division Commanding General is that I get to recognize our Soldiers for excellent performance. My favorite way to recognize our Soldiers is by personally presenting them with our command coin. This provides me with the opportunity to shake their hand, look them in the eyes, and to say thank you for their excellent performance. It also provides me with an opportunity to share the 104th Division’s history that is represented in the command coin.
The 104th Division’s command coin is a larger replica of the division’s unit insignia. The design is based on the historical actions of the division while training for and campaigning in World War II. Its most striking feature is our mascot, the Timberwolf. The establishment of the Timberwolf as the 104th Division’s mascot can be traced to the division’s activation for World War II.
With the outbreak of World War II, the 104th Infantry Division was activated at Camp Adair, Oregon, on September, 15 1942. Over the next two years, the unit would train throughout the Pacific Northwest to get ready for combat. Many of their training areas were inhabited by timberwolves. The timberwolves would frequent the division base camps in hopes of getting some food. It got to the point where whenever the division was out in the field, there was sure to be timberwolves in the area. Before long, the division adopted the timberwolf nickname. The Timberwolf on the coin can be seen howling up in the air, no doubt communicating with some other members of its pack that the 104th Infantry Division was in the area.
After a year of training, the 104th Infantry Division received a new commander, Maj. Gen. Terry Allen. Allen was an experienced warfighter, who had commanded the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily during the early years of World War II. During his time with the 1st Infantry Division, Allen determined that a unit could gain an advantage over the enemy if they became skilled at fighting at night. Under the direction of their commander, the 104th Infantry Division became the first U.S. Army division to be trained to fight in nighttime conditions.
Allen stressed that night fighting required well-disciplined fit troops with map-reading proficiency, orientation to night movement and skilled in patrolling. He also stressed that the battle plans must be simple, with key terrain features as objectives. This ability would greatly benefit the division during its combat deployment to Europe as they used them to great effect with minimal casualties. This ability led to the second unit nickname, Nightfighters. NIGHTFIGHTERS is inscribed in silver across the bottom of the command coin.
The 104th Infantry Division arrived in France on September 7, 1944. From there, they would go to the Belgian-Dutch border where they participated in an allied offensive to liberate the Netherlands from the German army. After that offensive operation, the Division reverted to defensive positions and was assigned a sector to defend against Hitler’s last major offensive on the Western Front, which came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
From December 15, 1944 to February 22, 1945, the Timberwolves held strong against the German army attack. After its unsuccessful attempt to split the Allied Force’s defensive line, the German army would retreat, and the Allied Forces, including the 104th Infantry Division, would pursue. It was during this pursuit that the significance of two somewhat hidden features on the command coin came into play.
A bayonet is across the top of the coin, and a hand grenade is centered at the bottom. During one night attack, the 104th Infantry Division Soldiers would rely on these weapons. They were issued hand grenades and bayonets (with no ammunition for their rifles) and told to close with and destroy the enemy. The Timberwolves were instructed that anyone firing a weapon was an enemy and should be attacked.
Using these methods honed in the Pacific Northwest during their training for war, the 104th Infantry Division successfully completed over 195 days of continuous combat without giving up ground to the enemy once. Much like their timberwolf mascot, the 104th Infantry Division utilized their nocturnal skills and hunted their prey (the German army) at night to conserve ammunition.
Much like our 104th Infantry Division forefathers, the current Timberwolves continue to pursue excellence as they train the next generation of leaders. From Timberwolves supporting Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, who make due with limited resources to provide top-notch training during field training exercises and Cadet Summer Training, to Timberwolves who provide new cadets with an introduction to the Army during Cadet Basic Training, the 104th Training Division Soldiers continue a great legacy of excellence. Timberwolves, be proud of your division history and legacy that you continue to build.