Camp Adair was the training facility for four United States Army infantry divisions during World War II. Every Army division has a number, a nickname (sometimes more than one), and a shoulder patch to designate that specific division. These nicknames are based on a variety of factors such as where the division was formed, where it was trained, the background of the personnel, conflicts they participated in, a significant accomplishment or an event that defined the division.
The nickname of the 70th Division is The Trailblazers. The Division was activated on June 1, 1943, at Camp Adair, Oregon and did most of their training there. In June of 1944, they shipped out to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and then on to Europe in December 1944 and January 1945. The Trailblazers’ three infantry regiments, the 274th, 275th and 276th arrived in Marseilles, France, in mid-December. Within a few days the Germans launched an offensive that we know as the Battle of the Bulge. As troops were moved north from France to Belgium to deal with the German Bulge, a weak spot was created in the lines. To shore up the line, the 70th division’s 3 infantry regiments were rushed 600 miles north to the area of Alsace-Lorraine. Once the Germans realized that the Battle of the Bulge was not going to be successful, they launched another offensive known as Operation Nordwind (Northwind) into the area where the 70th infantry regiments had been positioned. After stopping the German advance, the rest of the division arrived and continued fighting slightly to the north liberating parts of northern France culminating in the capture of the German City of Saarbrucken. The Trailblazers spent 86 continuous days in combat and suffered 3,919 casualties.
The origin of the name is based on the location of their training site. Camp Adair is in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It was the settling place of many of the pioneers who blazed the Oregon Trail from Independence Missouri.
The shoulder patch is a bit more complex. It has four features that describe who The Trailblazers were and the area where they trained. The first is the Ax, which represents the tool used by pioneers to blaze the trail through the thick forests to reach Oregon and may also be a reference to the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest. The second, the snow-covered mountain, represents Mount Hood, which can be seen from the Portland area, The large fir tree on the right is the third feature, and it refers to the 91st Powder River Division. The shoulder patch of the 91st Division is a large fir tree and the 91st played a key role in the activation of the 70th because the initial set of officers and noncommissioned officers were drawn from it. Additionally, the 91st joined the 70th at Camp Adair from November 1943 until January 1944. The last feature on the patch, the smaller fir trees, represent the vast forests and wilderness of the pacific northwest.
The 70th Division also had the honor of being the first Division to be the namesake for a ship. The tanker S.S. Trailblazer was built in only 35 days in the Portland shipyard, and at the time of its completion was the largest tanker built on the west coast. The ship was launched on June 9, 1944, and about 2,500 Trailblazers were in attendance.
Perhaps the best-known use of the term Trailblazers today is the Portland NBA team is known as the Trailblazers. Like The Trailblazers of the 70th Division, its name is also a reference to Oregon’s early settlers who blazed the trail to the west.