Delta remembers the Dixie Division
by Shaunna Watson
Nov 11, 2012 | 3180 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert Koestler, J. Garland McKee, and DSU Archivist Emily Jones discuss an infantry photograph.
Robert Koestler, J. Garland McKee, and DSU Archivist Emily Jones discuss an infantry photograph.
Veterans who served in the 31st Infantry Dixie Division under the direction of Major General Alexander Gallatin Paxton gathered Friday at the Delta State University Archives and Museum to remember their leader and bring light to the documents chronicling their service that were lost years ago.

"The program will involve recognizing the history of the Dixie Division and General Paxton and those who have contributed to preserving the General Paxton papers," said Delta State Archivist Emily Jones.

Author, minister and veteran J. Garland McKee shared memories of Paxton with whom he had served.

"I remember when World War II started," said McKee. "We were activated by President Truman in December of 1950… and this is where the story begins that only Garland can tell."

McKee told his one-of-a-kind story to fellow veterans evoking feelings of history, honor, personalization, humor and strength.

He told of how he met Paxton, weekends McKee and his newlywed wife spent with the General and Mrs. Paxton, and rushing the general to receive medical attention after suffering what may have been a heart attack.

McKee concluded his talk with a fervent, "Freedom! Freedom! May the stars and stripes wave forever!"

A digital copy of the Paxton papers was made available to those who attended the event and is available in the Archive Building.

On July 18, 1917, the war department combined the National Guard troops of several southern states to form the 31st Infantry Division with Camp Wheeler, Ga., selected as the training camp.

Mustered into federal service on Aug. 5, 1917, under the command of Major General Francis J. Kernan, the 31st Division consisted largely of men from the organized reserve corps and national army and had a total of 24,100 officers and enlisted soldiers.

Almost from the beginning, it was called the Dixie Division and maintained that name wherever it was sent.

By the time it arrived in France in 1918, its baggage and equipment bore the DD insignia, which was its shoulder patch throughout its existence.

The division's motto was "It Shall Be Done."

Written on the regimental crest was the unit's motto, "Stand Fast," which came from Col. Jeff Davis who ordered "Stand Fast, Mississippians" when troops began to fall back in the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War.