History of the 63rd Infantry Division

 

The WWII Era

The 63D's illustrious history can be traced to a secret conference that took place in Casablanca, North Africa, in January 1943, attended by both President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill. The Axis powers had reached their high water mark and a plan was sought "to make the enemy bleed and burn in expiation of his crimes against humanity." ". From that statement, Brigadier General Louis E. Hibbs, soon to become the division's commander, designed the shoulder insignia and the slogan "Blood and Fire". 

On 15 June 1943, the Division was activated at Camp Blanding, Florida. The cadre manning the new division came from Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky's 98th Infantry Division. Following initial cadre training the division relocated some 650 miles to Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, arriving there during the latter part of August 1943.

During the month of September 1943, men from reception centers all over the country rapidly brought the division up to strength, and intensive basic training commenced. In November 1943 the men of the division had completed basic and small unit training and were anticipating advance and larger unit maneuvers. This, however was not to be.

In December 1943, all privates, privates first class, along with some noncommissioned and junior officers were reassigned to other divisions alerted for overseas movement. The process of receiving replacements and training them only to have them reassigned as fillers for other divisions alerted for overseas movement was repeated twice again before the division was at long last alerted as a unit for overseas assignment.

During March and April 1944 the division was brought to full strength with replacements coming from training centers as well as men from the Army Specialist Training Program and the Army Air Corps Cadet Training Program. The latter two programs had been cut-back and their participants released for assignment to the Infantry.

As the division reached full strength again, training started anew. By November 1944 the division was ready for movement to an overseas area. On 6 November 1944, the 63rd Infantry Division advance party left Camp van Dorn by train for Camp Shanks, New York and ultimate shipment to France. The advance party or forward element of the division was known as Task Force Harris and consisted of the three Infantry Regiments,; the 253rd, 254th and 255th plus a small supporting staff. The Task Force was commanded by Brigadier General Frederick M. Harris.

Task Force Harris arrived in Marseille, France on 8 December 1944 and after a few days in a staging area moved by road and rail to Camp d'Oberhoffen, France located about midway betwen Colmar and Sarreguemines. By the end of December 1944, Task Force Harris was disbanded and all three regiments were reassigned to various divisions of the 6th Army Group. The 253rd was attached to the 44th Infantry Division in the Sarreguemines-Riming area; the 254th was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division in the Colmar Area, and the 255th was attached to the 100th Infantry Division near Bitche.

Thus the three regiments, separated from 63rd Infantry Division control were destined to make their own history until reunited with the Division in Mid-February 1945.

From mid-February 1945 until the end of the war, the 63rd Infantry Division made a path of Blood and Fire from Sarreguemines through the Siegfried Line to Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Gunzburg and ending in Landsberg Germany at the end of April 1945 when the division was pulled from the line for a much needed rest.

By war's end Division units had participated in three (3) battle campaigns and its Infantry Regiments had been awarded seven (7) Distinguished Unit Awards (Now known as Presidential Unit Citations) and a French Croix de Guerre with palm.

During the period of December 1944 to May 1945 the division suffered over 1000 killed, more than 5000 wounded, over 1000 missing in action, 63 captured by the enemy and over 4000 non-battle casualties. Division forces captured over 21,000 enemy soldiers.

 

The USAR Era

The 63rd Infantry Division came back to life in February of 1952 when it was activated in the Los Angeles, CA area as a reserve Division. Reserve activity of some of the division's personnel dates back to Nov., 1947, with the activation of the 19th Armored Division, and successive designations, first as the 13th Armored Division and. finally as the 63d Infantry Division. Reservists in the 63d, the west's largest Army Reserve unit, had been going to summer training camp since 1948 when the 13th Armored Division trained at Camp Hood, Texas with National Guard and Army troops. In 1949 the 13th pulled off a national "first" in inter-service cooperation, under command of Brig. Gen. James T. Roberts. The entire division moved via tank, truck, and automobile to Camp Pendleton for 15 days of joint maneuvers with the Marines. The Korean conflict outbreak canceled a planned second joint Army Reserve-Marine training encampment a year later, and the division moved its tanks and equipment to Camp Cooke, reopening that huge military installation that had been closed since World 'war II. The Division returned to Cooke in 1951.

In 1952, operating at summer training for the first time as infantry, following re-activation as the 63d, the reserve soldiers went to Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation. This sprawling maneuver and artillery firing area near King City, Calif. also had been virtually shut down since World War II. Starting 1954, the 63d has made its annual summer maneuver headquarters at Camp Roberts, the famed 'West Coast infantry training center during World War II and the Korean conflict. The division artillery units bivouacked and conducted firing exercises with their bigger guns at Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation. Division tank and armored cavalry units from El Monte and San Diego trained at Fort Irwin, on the desert, near Barstow. And rocket artillerymen received specialized firing practice at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 63d came under the ROAD ID concept in 1959, and a second reorganization to a ROAD in 1963. Major General William J. Hixson assumed command of Southern California's 63d Infantry Division on Nov. 1, 1961, succeeding Major General Henry K. Kellogg, who, during his service did much to build the 63d to its present size and status as the largest Army Reserve unit in the west. General Hixson had served as Assistant division commander during the entire period of growth.

 

The Post Division Era

The division was deactivated again in December 1965, only to return to life again as the 63rd US Army Reserve Command in January 1968. During the period after deactivation in 1965 and reactivation in 1968, elements of the 63rd Replacement Training Unit (RTU) became involved in the staffing of the National Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio in the Spring of 1966. The 63rd RTU along with personnel from five other USAR divisions was tasked to staff the National Rifle Matches in lieu of their two weeks of Annual Active Duty Training. All reserve members of the support element were designated as the 63rd Div RTU Reserve Support Battalion and were placed under the command of a 63rd RTU officer who displayed the 63rd Infantry Division colors in the Battalion's Headquarters. In 1967, the 63rd RTU was again tasked with the mission of providing support to the National Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio and again was assigned responsibility of command for all reserve component elements in the support unit. As in 1966, the support element was commanded by a 63rd RTU officer and the colors were again displayed in the support element headquarters. In 1968 with the formation of the 63rd US Army Reserve Command, the RTU was inactivated and the 63rd Infantry Division colors were turned over to the 63rd US Army Reserve Command.

On January 1, 1968, the division was redesignated as the 63D U.S. Army Reserve Command, encompassing Southern California and the states of Arizona and Nevada. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, while the 63D U.S. Army Reserve Command was under the command MG Theodore Paulson, more than 2500 officers and soldiers responded to the presidential call-up of reservists. Twenty-two units were called to active duty. with fourteen of them deployed to the Persian Gulf. In April 1995, the United States Army Reserve Command, in response to a downsized force and redefined mission, announced its largest realignment in decades. As a result, the 63D was once again redesignated, this time as the US Army 63D Regional Support Command (RSC). It's geographic boundaries were realigned to conform with the standard federal district, observed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other government agencies. This new realignment helped the 63D support natural disasters, and other regional crises, much more quickly. In late 2003 all Regional Support Commands were re-designated to Regional Readiness Commands (RRC).

 

2005 BRAC Recommendations

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to disestablish the 63rd Regional Readiness Command (RRC) Headquarters, Robinson Hall, USARC and activate a Southwest Regional Readiness Command headquarters at Moffett Field, CA in a new AFRC. This recommendation would support the Army Reserve's Command and Control restructuring initiative to reduce Regional Readiness Commands from ten to four. Both the 63d Regional Readiness Command and the 90th Regional Readiness Command in Little Rock, AR would be disestablished and replaced by creating a new consolidated headquarters at Moffett Field, CA. A Commanding General was appointed and 63d US Army Reserve Regional Readiness Sustainment Command (RRSC) is in prossess of being formed. It should be fully operational by 2009.


The end of the Southern California Era

“The 63rd Regional Readiness Command, touting history including combat in World War II, call ups for Desert Storm and ongoing deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan will fold its flag Sunday, 6 December 2009 after six decades of national service.”
  This was the first words of the press release issued announcing the inactivation ceremony for the 63rd RRC. 
A moving ceremony which was held on 6 December at 1400 in front of Robinson Hall (Building 4)   the command’s current headquarters on the Joint Forces Training base in Los Alamitos CA. The ceremony included honoring the command’s 11 Warriors who have lost their lives during the war on terrorism and recognizing Gold Star families present.
The 63rd RRC will inactivate as part of an ongoing restructuring of the Army Reserve. The 63rd has had one of the largest Army Reserve footprints in the Western United States.  Thousands of troops passed through the ranks of the 63rd during its tenure and its units have become an integral part of many Southern California local communities.
The command’s rich lineage will be passed on to the 63rd Regional Support Command at Moffett Field, Calif. under Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce A. Casella.
The Official Party included, MG Bruce A. Casella, MG Theodore W. Paulson, MG Robert B. Ostenberg and CSM Robert N. Roberson Jr.  MG Paulson talked about his tenure as Commander of the 63d ARCOM from June 1987 to June 1991. MG Ostenberg reviewed his experience as Deputy Commander and then Commandeer of the Regional Support Command from October 2001 to October 2005.  MG Casella presented the mission and plans for the new 63rd RSC at Moffett Field.