Monday, February 18, 2013

Military Monday: John Russell (Russ) Tapley, Part 4

(I have written before about my saga of finding my uncle's military separation papers in order to find out what unit he served in during World War II.  The first post from November 2010 is here.  I posted again about this in January 2011 here.  Then I posted the good news that I had finally located those papers in the Duval County, Florida courthouse just the next month.  That Part 3 post is here.)

Now, I am finally going to share the details I have discovered about his unit and where he was during the war.  

Uncle Russ was drafted into the U.S. Army on November 14, 1942.  He lived in Jacksonville, Florida so he went in at nearby Camp Blanding.  His enlistment record states that his highest level of education was grammar school; he was single, with dependents (that would be his mother and my grandmother, Nealie Drake Tapley); he was 71" (5' 11") tall; and 160 pounds. 

Uncle Russ was assigned to Company C of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The 3rd 'Marne' Infantry Division, also known as the Blue & White Devils due to the colors of its patch, earned the name "Marne" because of its firm stand against the German offensive at the Marne River in World War I.  It was there that the commanding officer, Major General Joseph Dickman, stated their slogan, "Nous Resterons La" (We Will Stay There).

The 3rd Division is the only American Division which fought the Nazis on all fronts.  The 3rd, along with its 7th Infantry Regiment, shipped out to North Africa on October 27, 1942, so obviously, Uncle Russ had not even enlisted by then and wasn't with them.  The Division landed on November 8, 1942 and captured half of French Morocco.  On July 10, 1943, the Division made an assault landing on Sicily, fought its way into Palermo, and raced on to capture Messina, thus ending the Sicilian campaign.  They went on to invade Italy, and on September 18, 1943, the 3rd landed at Salerno and in intensive action drove to and across the Volturno River and to Cassino.  The Division was then ordered to hit the beaches at Anzio on January 22, 1944, where for 4 months it maintained its toe-hold against furious German counterattacks.  In May, the Division broke out of the beachhead and drove on to Rome.  (This must be about the time that Uncle Russ joined the unit.)  The 3rd then went into training for an invasion of Southern France.  On August 15, 1944, the Division landed at St. Tropez, advanced up the Rhone Valley, through the Vosges Mountains, and reached the Rhine at Strasbourg, November 26-27.  (By this time, Uncle Russ had been shipped back to the States and discharged.)  Eventually the Division fought its way into Germany and was in the vicinity of Salzburg when the war in Europe ended.

The 7th Infantry Regiment's rich history spans 200 years and 12 wars.  The Regiment has served in more campaigns than any other Infantry unit in the United States Army.   It was initially organized in response to the quasi-war with France during the summer of 1798.  The first major conflict in which the Regiment was engaged was the Indian War of 1811, where it fought in Ohio and Indiana.  Its first encounter against foreign troops took place in the War of 1812, where the 7th Infantry saw action in  Canada, Florida, and Louisiana.

It was the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 that the 7th Infantry was dubbed the "COTTONBALERS."  During that battle, the 7th successfully held their position against the British forces from behind a breastwork of cotton bales.  The nickname "Cottonbalers" was proudly accepted by the 7th and a cotton bale was incorporated into the Regimental Coat of Arms and to the Distinctive Unit Insignia. 

The Cottonbalers fought in the Civil War.  In 1898, the Spanish-American War began, and the 7th Infantry was sent to fight in Cuba at El Caney and San Juan Hill.  In 1901, the Regiment was shipped to the Philippines to quell the insurrection there.  

During World War I, the 7th Infantry landed in France as part of the newly formed 3rd Infantry Division.

With its outstanding record of achievement stretching out over almost half a century, the Cottonbalers plunged into World War II by being among the first (as part of the 3rd Division) to land in North Africa in 1942 with their assault on Morocco.  This was the beginning of a series of victories during WWII.  The 7th Infantry pushed onward from North Africa through Italy and France to Germany, where the Cottonbalers capped their efforts by capturing Berchtesgaden, Adolph Hitler's mountain fortress. 

Uncle's Russ's DD 214 or his military separation papers that I finally acquired, indicate he left the United States on April 25, 1944 and arrived in the "AMET" or African-Middle East Theatre on May 4.  So he arrived at Anzio apparently just in time to participate in the breakout offensive that finally broke the German defenses and paved the way for the Allies to make it to Rome on June 5th.  In August, the 3rd Division was ordered to execute an amphibious landing in Southern France.  On August 15, the 3rd, with an Airborne task force and French Commandos and two additional Infantry Divisions, stormed ashore and quickly eliminated the German defenses.  The next day, the port cities of Toulon and Marseilles were captured.  The 3rd Division began their drive north into France.  However, Uncle Russ left the AMET on August 20th and arrived back in the United States on September 1, 1944.  He was honorably discharged October 31, 1944.

His discharge papers indicate he had blue eyes, red hair, a ruddy complexion, and stood 5 feet 11 1/4 inches in height.  His physical condition upon discharge was "Good," and his character was "Excellent."  He completed 1 year, 11 months, and 18 days of service.  His Army Specialty was Automatic Rifleman.  He was discharged under Section X, supposedly "at the convenience of the government", but under which some medical or psychiatric discharges may have been done.  Uncle Russ was found to be entitled to mustering out pay which amounted to $300. 

He received the following medals:  EAMET (European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre) Campaign Medal, a GCM (Good Conduct Medal), and a bronze star for his participation in the Italian campaign.  All of these medals have disappeared.  Before my father passed away, as Uncle Russ's next-of-kin, he was able to get two awards replaced:  his World War II Victory Medal and his Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.  Unfortunately, since there is no one left who qualifies under the National Personnel Records Center rules as next-of-kin, it appears we will be unable to have the rest of his medals replaced. 

I have no way of knowing why Uncle Russ was discharged, seemingly in the middle of a campaign.  My father said Uncle Russ suffered from PTSD when he got back and was in a Veteran's hospital in Miami upon his return.  I don't know how much of that is accurate, but I do know there is a gap between the time he returned to the states from the front (September 1, 1944) and when he was actually discharged (October 31).  So what was he doing during this time?  I wish I knew.  

At this point, with the information I have available, I feel I have completed my journey of discovery concerning Uncle Russ's military service during World War II.  I am proud of his sacrifice.  I am sure the things he saw and endured in Italy forever changed him.  

 Division and Regiment histories taken from "The 3rd Infantry Division in the World Wars" at, "WW2 History of the 3rd 'Marne' Division based on the booklet entitled:  Blue & White Devils" located at, 7th Infantry Regiment (United States). (2013, February 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:13, February 18, 2013, from, /w/index.php?title=7th_Infantry_Regiment_(United_States)&oldid=536558342 and "The Seventh Infantry Regiment "Cottonbalers'" at

Anzio front information taken from "Anzio 1944" located at and Unit History of the 3rd Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Regiment World War Two Living History/Reenactment club page at

Information regarding his medals (or more precisely, the deciphering of the code on his separation papers) was a gift from a couple of people who commented on my Part 3 blog post.  I can't thank RBrass189 and an Anonymous poster enough for taking the time to research and comment.  


  1. A great post, Liz! You may not be able to get the medals awarded through the military, but you can buy them online pretty reasonably. If you were looking to put together a display piece or something, it would be nice to have them all.

  2. Heather, what a great idea! I will start looking immediately! Thank you!

  3. Liz, I loved this post so I included it on my Friday Favorites for today. Thanks for the good read!