The 85th Infantry Division, World War II
Dedicated to veterans of the "Forgotten Front", 1942-1945

"The war in Italy was tough. The land and the weather were both against us. It rained and it rained. Vehicles bogged down and bridges washed out. The country was shockingly beautiful, and just as shockingly hard to capture from the enemy."

- Ernie Pyle in "Brave Men", 1944



Combat Chronicle

337th Infantry

338th Infantry

339th Infantry

85th Infantry Division Monument

Polar Bear Association of WW2
The Polar Bear Association
of World War II

Polar Bear Association News

Sons and Daughters of the Polar Bears of World War II

Custer Links


339th Infantry near Formia, 1944
Custermen of the 339th Infantry near Formia, Italy, May 1944
(National Archives & Records Administration)

Welcome to our site commemorating the history of the 85th Infantry Division, Fifth Army, in World War II, with emphasis on the division's "Combat Team 9": the 339th Infantry, 910th Field Artillery Battalion, Co. C, 310th Engineers, and Co. C, 310th Medical Battalion, 1942 to 1945.

The 85th Infantry Division was the second all-draftee infantry division to see combat in World War II. The division was named after George Armstrong Custer, a native of Michigan where the division was activated in 1917 for service during World War I. Re-activated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in May 1942 the division trained at Camp Shelby, in nearby DeSoto National Forest, in the swamps of Louisiana, and at Camps Coxcomb and Pilot Knob at the Desert Training Area in California. In December 1943 and January 1944 the Custer Division was shipped overseas and landed in North Africa where the division went into further training in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and then at the Invasion Training Center on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In March 1944, the division's forward elements arrived in Italy and went into the line near Minturno. The division was officially in action as a complete unit on April 14, 1944. From that point on, the 85th Infantry Division was one of Fifth Army's premier fighting divisions and contributed directly to the capture of Rome, the destruction of the German "Gothic Line" in the North Apennines, and the closure of the Brenner Pass in the Italian Alps. At the close of hostilities, the Custer Division performed redeployment duties in Italy until ordered to return to the United States where it was deactivated on August 26, 1945.

Latest News:

February 2011: The first reunion of the Sons and Daughters of the Polar Bears of World War II was held at the Gettysburg Hotel in downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, September 9-12, 2010. Check our Sons and Daughters of the Polar Bears of World War II page for more information about our organization.


Crankshaft by Tom Batiuk & Chuck Ayers
Crankshaft 25 August 2005, King Features Syndicate
copyright 2005 King Features Syndicate, All Rights Reserved

Content of this site is the sole responsibility of the author and webmaster. Author: John Heiser. Copyright 2002-2011. All rights reserved. No material or photos maybe copied or reproduced without permission of the author. This site is not affiliated with the US Department of Defense or the United States Armed Forces. If you have questions or comments on this site, drop me a line at Custer Division Home.

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Updated: 26 January 2012

The Author's Corner

This webpage is meant to provide a database and history of the 85th Infantry Division in World War II. Future plans are for an expanded number of pages on the history of all three infantry regiments of the 85th Infantry Division, and brief histories of the division artillery, engineers, medical, and other support units. Additions will be added as time permits the author who is dealing with a heavy work load in the real world. Check back for future updates that will be posted as time allows.

Like hundreds of other grateful sons, I'm proud that my dad was a serviceman in the Army of the United States during World War II. Pfc. Wilford C. "Bill" Heiser served in A Company, 399th Infantry, 100th Infantry Division and overseas in F Company, 339th Infantry, 85th Infantry Division.

100th Infantry Division Rangers
Century Division

Pfc. W.C. Heiser

85th Infantry Division
Custer Division

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