Robert Frederick, General of 45th Infantry Division.




“Robert T. Frederick was born on March 14, 1907 in San Francisco, California and died on November 29, 1970 in Stanford, California. He attended Staunton Military Academy from 1923 to 1924 and the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1924 to 1928. Upon graduation from West Point, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1939.

In 1942, as a staff officer serving in the War Department, then-Lieutenant Colonel Frederick was tacked with raising the joint U.S.-Canadian force which became the 1st Special Service Force. The unit, activated on July 9, 1942 at Fort William Harrison, Montana, was originally intended for commando operations in Norway, and trained extensively in winter and mountain warfare, as well as hand-to-hand combat and other infantry skills. In April 1943, the unit moved to Vermont for training, first at Camp Bradford and then at Fort Ethan Allen. The Norway mission was cancelled, however, and the 1st Special Service Force was sent instead to the Aleutian Islands in July 1943. It returned to the continental United States in September, and then left in October for the European theater.

Frederick’s men arrived in Casablanca in French Algeria in November 1943 and quickly moved to the Italian front. Landing at Naples on November 19, 1943, the 1st Special Service Force went into the line. In December 1943 and January 1944, the 1st Special Service Force conducted a series of operations at Monte la Difensa, Monte la Remetanea, Monte Sammucro (Hill 720) and Monte Vischiataro. Frederick was promoted to brigadier general in January 1944. On February 2, 1944, Frederick’s men landed at Anzio and went into action along the Mussolini Canal. They were the first Allied troops to enter Rome on June 4, 1944. For valor with the 1st Special Service Force in Italy, Brigadier General Frederick was twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army’s second highest valor award. The first award was for actions on January 10-13, 1944 and the second for actions on June 4, 1944. While at Anzio he was wounded a number of times, including two separate wounds on a single day.

On June 23, 1944, Brigadier General Frederick announced he was leaving the unit. He was to be promoted to major general and given command of an ad hoc division-sized airborne formation, the 1st Airborne Task Force, for the invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon). The task force, formed that July, consisted of the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade and the U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, 550th Glider Infantry Battalion, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion and 460th and 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalions, along with various support units.

Under the code name Rugby Force, the unit jumped on August 15, 1944 into the Argens Valley between Le Luc and Le Muy, behind the Massif des Maures, a key piece of terrain which overlooked the Allied landing beaches near St. Tropez and St. Raphaël. Having successfully blocked German forces from reaching the invasion beaches, the 1st Airborne Task Force linked up with the 36th Infantry Division on August 17, 1944. It then moved up the French Riviera coastline, taking Cannes unopposed on August 24, 1944 and linking up with Frederick’s old unit, the 1st Special Service Force. The 1st Special Service Force had initially been tasked to seize several small islands off the French Riviera and then moved onshore, where it was attached to the 1st Airborne Task Force on August 22 (replacing the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade). The task force then fought on to the French-Italian border, where it took up defensive positions. The task force was dissolved on November 23, 1944 (and the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on December 5).

Major General Frederick was given command of the 45th Infantry Division in December 1944, and led the division through the end of the war. The 45th saw heavy combat in French Alsace from December 1944 through February 1945, and was pulled from the line to rehabilitate on February 17. In mid-March, it was assigned to XV Corps for the drive into Germany. The division crossed the Rhine and advanced to the Main. Moving along the Main into Bavaria, the division participated in heavy fighting in Aschaffenburg from March 28 to April 3 and then drove to Nuremberg, taken in heavy fighting from April 16-20. Moving south, the division crossed the Danube on April 26, and opened up the path for the 20th Armored Division to drive on Munich. Reaching Munich on April 29, the division shifted from combat to occupation.

After a period of occupation duty, the 45th Infantry Division prepared to return to the United States and Major General Frederick relinquished command in September 1945. After a period of staff duty and recuperation (he had been wounded eight times), Major General Frederick was assigned to Allied occupation forces in Austria, commanding the U.S. Sector, of the Vienna Inter-Allied Command in 1948. From February 28, 1949 to October 10, 1950, Major General Frederick commanded the 4th Infantry Division, which had been reactivated as a training division at Fort Ord, California in 1947. In October 1950, the division was redesignated the 6th Infantry Division, and Major General Frederick continued as its commanding general until 1951.

Shortly after the war, General Frederick was approached by a civilian police officer, who demanded identification. The police officer did not believe that the youthful Frederick was really a Major General. Frederick produced his identification card, which the police officer read and then deliberately dropped on the ground. When he declined to pick it up, Frederick knocked him out with a single punch.

In 1951, Major General Frederick returned to Europe to take command of the Joint U.S. Military Aid Group, Greece (JUSMAG Greece). He retired on disability in March 1952.

Major General Frederick’s awards and decorations include:

Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster Silver Star Medal Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster Air Medal Purple Heart with seven oak leaf clusters Legion of Honor (Légion d’honneur) in the grade of Officer (France) Croix de guerre with Palm (France) Distinguished Service Order (United Kingdom) Order of St. Charles in the grade of Grand Officer (Monaco) King Haakon VII’s Freedom Medal (Haakon VIIs frihetsmedalje) (Norway).

In the 1965 film The Devil’s Brigade, which chronicled the formation, training and combat in Italy of the 1st Special Service Force, Robert T. Frederick was played by actor William Holden, also with Dr. Ben Casey on early sixties TV.”



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