The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919

The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919

The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919

The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919


The Rainbow Division (42nd Infantry Division) was the premier National Guard division to fight on the Western Front in the Great War. Made up of units from 26 states and the District of Columbia, the Rainbow was a unique attempt to combine units from every section of the nation and to get them to France as quickly as possible. The Rainbow arrived in France in December 1917, and served in every major battle the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) participated in. After the end of the war in November 1918, the Rainbow was selected to serve in the Army of Occupation, remaining in Germany until the spring of 1919. The division counted in its leadership Douglas MacArthur, William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan (later known for his service as the head of the OSS in World War II and for founding the CIA), soldier-poet Joyce Kilmer, Father Francis P. Duffy, plus future secretaries of the Army and the Air Force and two who would become Army Chiefs of Staff. George S. Patton's tanks supported The Rainbow Division during the St. Mihiel operations, the first time the legendary Patton planned for the use of tanks on the battlefield.


April 6, 1917, promised to be a warm day in Primgihar, Iowa, and for Everett Scott it was a day to turn his attention to his two main interests--farming and Louise, the girl he hoped to marry someday if he could only convince her father, a stern man. He watched his high-spirited brother Leslie leave for school, then turned his attention to chores.

In Bessemer, Alabama, Joe Romano was enjoying being back home from a year's duty with the Alabama National Guard on the Mexican border. the old Fourth Alabama--the "Bloody 4th" of Civil War Confederate fame--had answered the president's call-up of the guard to protect American territory and citizens from the Mexican banditos. Now the great adventure of his life was finished, and Romano contemplated whether or not to sign up for another hitch with the Alabama Guard.

Dodge City, Kansas, was similar to Primgihar, Iowa, and Bessemer, Alabama, in that the day started out quiet enough, as befits small-town America. For Calvin Lambert, a recent graduate of Kansas State University, the prospects for a solid future were definitely there, because he had a job with the local newspaper and had attracted the attention of the renowned editor, William Allen White. Lambert realized the import of President Woodrow Wilson's April 2nd message to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany. Certainly, Lambert thought, America's contribution would be heavy--her farm produce and her industry might be enough to sustain the allied troops in the field.

In Washington, D.C., Major Douglas MacArthur, serving on the American General Staff, recognized that Europe wanted more than just produce and machinery. Europe would need men to fill its dangerously depleted ranks, and if America was forthcoming, U.S. soldiers would then go to France. MacArthur wanted to be among those soldiers sent to do battle in this great world war. Major MacArthur lived in the shadow of his father, General Arthur MacArthur. On 25 November 1863, Captain Arthur MacArthur seized the flag of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry and led the regiment up Missionary Ridge, winning . . .

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