By JACK EISEN Sun. 10/7/45 Nearly 30 years ago a senior at the University of Pennsylvania named Frank Partridge, was tiring of college life.
The year was 1917, and the "big adventure" was on in Europe. The young Pennsylvanian itched to get in on it, and offered his services to the War Dept.
Upon being accepted, he was sent to an OCS at Madison Barracks, N.Y. Before receiving his commission, however, he took a week-long examination on academic subjects--"an exhausting week," he says--and soon afterwards was notified he had been accepted as a provisional second lieutenant of infantry.
Today, that man wears a brigadier general's star, and is second in command of the 97th. The general is a very cordial man, easier to talk to than a buck sergeant during basic training. He has sandy graying hair and a friendly smile.
When then-Lt. Partridge pinned the gold bars on his shirt, he was ordered to join the Second Division, then preparing for overseas movement.
Instead of departing for France, he got "caught in a cadre" and joined the 48th Infantry training at Syracuse, N.Y. When the 48th's orders came, it was to Newport News, Va., POE for guard duty.
A transfer took his regiment to the 20th Division at Fort Jackson, S.C., where the 97th Division Artillery was training for War I. ("Of course, the 97th didn't mean anything to me, then.")
In the meantime, he had the opportunity of taking an exam to get on the regular list. It was to be a week's test again, on professional qualifications.
"Whether to stay in the army was a big problem then," Gen. Partridge declares, "but the thought
of the regular monthly pay seemed good to me. I think, however, the question of whether I could pass that examination was the greatest driving force.
He passed the examination, and after a tour of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and advancing to the rank of Captain, he went to the Philippines. The trip from San Francisco was via Honolulu and Guam.
"I was as anxious to get ashore at Honolulu as the men were on this trip," the general declares. Guam, he says, looked very different from now.
Arriving in Manila, he was assigned as company commander in the 31st Infantry--the unit which several years later, in the darkest days of 1942, made a heroic record for itself on Bataan.
The brigade commander was Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. "He used to call all the new officers in for a talk, and I was no exception. "The general was visibly a brilliant man, and was popular among his command, although he was rarely seen," the General recalls.
Returning to the States, he went through normal tours of duty in Georgia and Texas. Back in the Second Division--which fought on the 97th's right flank in the advance on Pilsen--he was S-3 of the 3d Brigade.
From 1931 to 1933 Captain Partridge attended
school at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. A classmate was M. B. Halsey, now 97th commander.
When the Army took over the CCC, Capt. Partridge was assigned to those duties and following service with the War Dept. in Washington, he spent two more years with the Philippine Division.
Before returning to the States on a round-the-world cruise, he became a major.
Arriving in New York, his next duty was in charge of Ninth Corps Area CCC affairs at Presidio of San Francisco, the general's favorite camp during Army service.
(Gen'l Partridge - cont'd)
In the spring of 1940, it was the War Dept. again and in April 1942 he was sent as permanent lieutenant colonel to the 89th Division, training at Camp Carson, Colo. As a temporary colonel, he assumed command of the 355th Regiment of the 89th--which was operating Camp Old Gold, France, when the 97th returned on Stateside redeployment.
In December 1942, Col. Partridge reported to Gen. Louis A. Craig in Washington and plans were formulated for the reactivation of the 97th Division at Camp Swift, Texas. Soon afterward, he was promoted to brigadier general as assistant commander of the 97th.
He believes the 97th Division to be "one of the best trained and with personnel second to none in the Army."
The General agrees with Tridentmen that the most pleasant camp the 97th has been at was Camp San Luis Obispo. "The best all-around training area was Fort Leonard Wood," he says.
An insight to this genial officer's character is given by his advice to the young men of the 97th: "There are plenty of opportunities today. When you become civilians again, THINK for yourselves on what you are going to do. Seek advice--yes, but do your own thinking.
"That way, you'll never be sorry."