Danish Living History Association
29th Infantry Division
Creation of the 29th Infantry Division
The 29th U.S. infantry division was created on February 3rd, 1941 and brings together men belonging to the U.S. National Guard. Composed of four battalions based at Fort Meade (Maryland), it receives a large number of vehicles and equipment from brand new weapons factories.
During the first part of 1942 until September, soldiers from the 29th Division are trained in the United States, primarily in Maryland. Then, in relation with the preparations for Operation Overlord in Europe, the 29th infantry division leaves the United States towards England by boat on September 26, 1942.
Landed in Scotland, young soldiers of the 29th infantry then join their training grounds at Tidworth Barracks in southern England. In May 1943, after 7 months of intensive training, the soldiers of the 29th Division leave to settle at Tidworth Barracks in Devon. The number of landing exercises is increasing on the beaches of Slapton Sands. In July 1943, the division gets a new leader, Major General Charles Gerhardt.
The landing beaches in Slapton Sands used for training have been carefully selected with the data reported on the beaches of Normandy. Thus, in Devon, some coasts bear many identical characteristics with the Normandy beaches.
The 116th infantry regiment belonging to the 29th division was chosen to form the first assault wave. This unit is comprised mostly of soldiers from the National Guard, an Army Corps rarely used during a first frontal assault. But the 116th infantry will be supported by "classic" units (the 16th Infantry Regiment and elements of 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions).
The landing beach is called Omaha Beach (near the village of Vierville-sur-Mer) and the 29th Infantry Division is going to lead the attack to the west of the beach. It is accompanied on its right flank by the 1st Infantry Division. The assault is scheduled for June 6, 1944 at dawn, after a violent bombardment of the German positions. At 06:30 a.m., on D-Day, the first elements of the 116th Infantry Regiment land on Omaha, they are greated by a very deadly fire and very quickly, the situation becomes terrible for the U.S. soldiers.
Throughout the morning, hundreds of soldiers are killed and it is not until early afternoon that the Germans, tested and lacking ammunition, gradually abandon their fortifications. U.S. troops loose more than 3.000 men on Omaha Beach, killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. This peice of frensh beach was quickly nicknamed "Bloody Omaha."
Battle of Normandy
The 116th Infantry Regiment is to reach the site of the Pointe du Hoc, located about 6 kilometers west of Vierville-sur-Mer, where survivors of the 2nd Ranger Battalion defend their positions, constantly attacked by German troops. For nearly three days, soldiers of the 29th infantry division move slowly, and with heavy losses, finally reaches the Pointe du Hoc and release the 90 survivors of the Rangers led by Colonel Rudder (about 225 Rangers have landed), who were completely surrounded. Along the way, the T/Sgt Frank Peregory capture an enemy machine gun alone and also a dozen German soldiers in a courageous action at the entrance to the town of Grandcamp-Maisy.
After the release of the Rangers at the Pointe du Hoc, the 175th regiment of the 29th infantry division is heading towards the town of Isigny-sur-Mer that is liberated on June 9, 1944. The division is then heading south-west, and it has as principal objective the city of Saint-Lô, an important gateway to the south of Normandy. After five weeks of heavy fighting in the Norman bocage and the vicinity of the town, the city finaly is liberated by units of the 29th Infantry Division.
On September 18, 1944, the 29th infantry is removed from the front to allow his men to rest after more than three months of tough fightings. But six days later, on September 24, the division is moved to the eastern France along the German border.
In March 1945, the 29th Infantry Division is ordered to attack in the industrial Ruhr region, fiercely defended by the Germans, despite the fact that they are surrounded.
On April 24, 1944, it becomes the first American division to cross the Elbe river. A few days later, Soviet troops complete their junction with the 29th Infantry Division in that sector.
After the German capitulation on May 8, 1945, the 29th Infantry Division occupies the Bremen sector, in the nortwestern part of Germany. On January 17, 1946, the 29th Infantry Division is disabled and returns to the United States.
28.776 soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division were killed, wounded, captured or are missing in action during World War 2
Copyright (C) Hans Martin Nielsen - 2015