96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

    From late July until mid-August 1945, Landing Ship Tank (LST) convoys carried the 96th Infantry Division from Okinawa to Mindoro Island, Philippines.  The Division was positioned near the city of San Jose on Mindoro, where there was an abandoned Navy airfield and SeaBee camp.

   Mindoro had been seized on December 15, 1944 against meager Japanese resistance as a prelude to the January 9, 1945 landing on Luzon, the main island of the Philippines.  Due to success on Luzon, Mindoro was already a backwater of the Pacific War, thus providing a good rest and training area for the 96th Division.

   Immediately after Japan's offer to surrender on August 14, 1945, the Division expected to go to occupational duties with the XXIV Corps in Korea, with the 7th Infantry Division.  However, this quickly changed to preparing for occupational duty in Japan.  However, after our 381st Infantry Regiment prepared to board ships for Japan, our Japan assignment was canceled on October 6, 1945 "because of the acquiescent attitude displayed by the Japanese to the occupation".

   Because the rainy season had passed and the climate was not too hot, Mindoro turned out to be a pleasant location for the 96th Infantry Division.  However, the thoughts of most Deadeyes centered on when they would be sent to their homes in the United States.

   The Army had established a point system based on service time and accomplishments to determine when a soldier would be eligible for shipment home to be discharged. At first, in August 1945, a high point requirement was set at 70 for enlisted men and 85 for officers.  Little action followed until, on October 25, 1945, 2,300 high-point Deadeyes were sent to the 31st Infantry Division on Mindanoa Island for the early shipment home of this Division.

   Then came a lag in shipments home, and Division leaders tried to counter boredom with educational, athletic and entertainment programs,  One highlight was a USO troupe that presented the new musical comedy Oklahoma before many thousands of appreciative Deadeyes.  Other favorites were the enlisted man's club called "Fatigue Junction", run by the Red Cross, and a fresh water swimming pool, both in San Jose Mindoro.

 Fatigue Junction - The Division's most popular club during its sojourn outside the continental limits of the United States.  Miss Albertha Vander Kooi, one of the Red Cross girls attached to the Division on Mindoro, may be seen on the veranda.
  In another morale boosting attempt, a contest was started to name the Division "Occupation Girl - changed to "Sweetheart" when the occupation plans were canceled.  Then some irreverent GIs entered the name of mature actress Marjorie Main, seen as the sweetheart of Wallace Beery, in a movie viewed on Okinawa called Jackass Mail.  Marjorie, as a "rough tough girl for a rough tough outfit" swept to a resounding victory as Sweetheart of the 96th Infantry Division.  This unusual and eccentric selection caught the fancy of newspapers in the United States.

   Additional, but direct, shipment home of Deadeyes via Leyte Island, did restart until December 1945.  Over 6,600 Deadeyes, down through 55 points, were shipped home from the 96th Division in the first half of December.  This reduced the Division to a strength of about 5,000 men, the majority of whom were Okinawa replacements or new arrivals on Mindoro.

   On December 31, 1945 the 96th Division was relieved of its Mindoro Command.  Next commenced shipment of thousands of low point men, many Okinawa Battle replacements, to other commands, with most going to the 86th Infantry Division on Luzon.  Finally, virtually all of the two-battle veterans , 1,714 men with 48 to 54 points and 104 officers, boarded the transport ship General Langfitt at Mindoro on January 17, 1946.  The remnants of the 96th Infantry Division left the tranquil island of Mindoro for home at 2 PM that memorable day.