From the trenches of World War I to the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp at the end of World War II to the War Against Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Rainbow Division has always been front and center.
To celebrate the division’s legacy and honor its veterans, the Rainbow Division Veterans Memorial Foundation held its 92nd annual reunion Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Capital Region.
The 42nd Infantry Division, the Rainbow Division, serves as part of the New York Army National Guard with headquarters in the Glenmore Armory in Troy. The division is composed of soldiers from New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Major Gen. Patrick Murphy, the current commander of the 42nd Division, said the 27th Brigade of the 42nd is now serving in a difficult sector of Afghanistan, performing vehicle route security. He said 2,500 combat soldiers from New York are part of this unit.
“The 42nd Division today has an awesome reputation,” Murphy said to about 50 World War II veterans of the 42nd Division at the New York State Military Museum on Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs.
On Thursday evening, World War II veterans of the 42nd came to Military Museum to participate in opening ceremonies for the three-day reunion, which also included events and banquets in Albany and Troy.
Richard Marowitz of Albany said he was 19 years old in late April, 1945, when his intelligence and reconnaissance unit was moving toward Munich and helping to spot remaining Nazi forces at the end of the war.
Marowitz, now 86, who is also known for finding a top hat worn by Hitler in a Munich house where Hitler once lived, said there was a race among Army divisions to get to Munich first.
He said his commanding officers never told his unit that it might come across a concentration camp.
“They never told us what it was,” Marowitz said during Thursday’s reunion dinner.
“As we were getting close to Dachau, we started smelling a bad smell, like dead animals,” Marowitz said..
“We had no idea. The closer we got, the worse the smell,” he said.
As they got closer to the camp they found a railroad siding with box cars filled with human bodies. At the same time, his 28-man unit had to keep an eye out for snipers.
“According to official reports, each dated May 2, 1945, prior to finding the camp they discovered a railroad track with 30-50 boxcars all stacked with emaciated dead bodies,” says a history of the 42nd Division.
General Linden of the 42nd Division officially accepted the surrender of the camp in the name of the Rainbow Division for the United States Army. At the time, there were over 30,000 prisoners at the camp.
deployed in iraq
Col. Philip Pugliese, current chief of staff for the 42nd Division and a Clifton Park resident, was among the members of the Rainbow Division who were deployed to Iraq in 2005. He was a logistics officer at that time.
“The reunion brings together the veterans of the past and the veterans of tomorrow,” Pugliese said.
He said the legacy of the World War I and World War II soldiers is passed down to the next group to become veterans of the decorated division.
Major Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, a Schenectady native who commanded the 42nd Division in Iraq in 2005-06, has retired from active duty but is chairman of the Veterans Memorial Foundation. After returning from Iraq, Taluto was adjutant general of the New York National Guard.
Taluto said he joined the Army in Schenectady in 1965. Over the years, he moved up through the ranks.
The uniform he wore in Iraq and some personal effects are on display in the Iraq area of the military museum.
The display includes a small ring that Alfonso Reyna purchased in Europe while serving with the 42nd Division in World War I. Reyna gave the ring to a student of his when the student was preparing to go overseas with the 42nd Division during World War II. That student, now a man in his late 80s, gave the ring to Taluto before he deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was commander of 22,000 troops of the 42nd Division.
The reunion included an event Friday evening in the Crowne Plaza (now called Hotel Albany) and a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the 42nd Division’s headquarters in Troy. About 200 veterans and family members attended each event.
The reunion ceremony is always held on July 14 because that was the day in 1918 that the Rainbow Division fought its first battle in World War I and helped contain the final German offensive of the Battle of Champagne.