When the Division was first organized in 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, two National Guard bands were assigned -- one a National Guard unit from Texas as the 271st Infantry Regimental Band under the direction of WO Charles Horner, and the other a unit from New Hampshire as the 272nd Regimental Band under the direction of CWO Joseph Gladys. 

The 271st was formerly a National Guard unit that was assigned to the Anti-Aircraft Training Center at Fort Logan, El Paso, Texas, before being transferred to the 69th Division at Camp Shelby. 

The 272nd was formerly a National Guard unit of the 172nd Field Artillery, and stationed in Manchester, New Hampshire before being transferred to the 69th Division at Camp Shelby. 

The duties of these two units were performing concerts, parades, and dances at various places on the post and in Hattiesburg, plus being trained as infantry soldiers. 

Early in 1944, there was a reorganization of the division headquarters, and these two units were combined to become the 69th Division Band, with CWO Joseph Gladys and WO Charles Horner in command. 

The duties were still continued as before, but in addition, the band members were trained as infantrymen to guard the division headquarters.  So most of the time, they were doing double duty: being a band, entertaining the troops, and being soldiers as necessary.  So the band was a part of the Three B's (Bolte’s Bivouacking Bastards) and walked the DeSoto National Forest like everyone else. 

When the word came to move out, the instruments were packed and crated for shipment, and the band boarded the troop train with everybody else.  They arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, on November 23rd and received their overseas processing before boarding the ship for England.  

From there on, the band continued with the 69th Infantry Division until it met the Russians at the Elbe River.  Their instruments were still in storage in France, and it was necessary to send some of the people back to France to retrieve them.  They did arrive back with the instruments in time for the band to play for the link-up ceremonies with the Russians. 

After this, the band was split up based on the point system used to send personnel back to the States.  Many were shipped to the port to return, and the rest were transferred to the 29th Division Band, stationed at Bremen, Germany, until it was time for them to be shipped back to the States. 

Excerpts From “What The Hell,” a book written by the band members, published in Germany on May 12. 1945: 

"We Are the Music Makers, We Are the World Shakers" 

The following pages contain the story of 58 men who were in the service of their country at the time our nation was faced with the gravest crisis history has yet to record. 

Musicians, yes, every one a musician whose life has been devoted to the producing of beautiful sounds and to adding joy and pleasure to the lives of others.  How ironic it is to transplant such natures into an environment of hate, bloodshed, killing, and revenge.  Yet this was done and these men proved their worth.  Their indomitable spirit would not and could not be quenched despite the rigors and hardships of war. 

These pages were written not as an attempt at literary achievement, but to serve as a reminder to those concerned just what these men did while serving their country overseas, and are dedicated to anyone who has the curiosity to read them… 

…Enemy resistance was still continuing up ahead, so instead of going to Weissenfels, we made our next stopping place Naumburg 11.  There was a marked contrast between this city and the other town of the same name we had lived in before.  We shared the same building with civilians.  All around us was a cultural atmosphere; our rooms were beautifully furnished.  One lady in the house spoke flawless English, therefore it was not necessary for us to stammer in our broken German to make our wants understood.  The city itself was very much the same as our better small American cities.  The people were prosperous-looking.  All in all, we could not determine whether or not we felt more at home or were made more homesick by the lovely surroundings. 

From all outward appearances, everything was peaceful, but we were informed that in this city existed a strong underground movement, and we must prepare for an uprising of the Volksturm.  It was here that we first employed what is called Cossack guard: three men on a post at a time.  One man stood watch while the other two slept nearby, so that they could be called upon within a moment’s notice should a serious occasion arise.  Roving patrols were used; machine guns and 57-mm guns were mounted in strategic positions throughout the city. 

We did not win the war by playing concerts and doing guard duty – but we like to feel that we have been an integral part of a great machine.  We did not spend the entire war without hearing a malicious shot fired.  And we have one battle star to our credit, at least.  So, we leave the Famous Band of the Fighting 69th in Naunhof, Germany.  If our travels carry us on to the Pacific Theater of Operation, volume two of this epic will be written there. In the event that we should be sent home – well, God speed. 

May 12, 1945

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