U.S. 29th Infantry Division
The 29th Infantry Division
The 29th Infantry Division was a National Guard division that had been activated before the war and later sent to England to prepare for the cross-channel invasion. The 29th was composed of its original units from Virginia and Maryland plus replacements sent to England from all over the United States. These units spent months taking part in intensive training exercises as they prepared for their part in the great invasion of Normandy.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Division’s 116th Regimental Combat Team (attached to the 1st Division for the initial assault) came ashore on the western sectors of Omaha Beach. The 16th Regimental Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division landed on the eastern sectors of the beach. Together, the two RCT’s made the initial thrusts on Omaha. The GI’s experienced intense and deadly fire from well-positioned German troops on the bluffs and the first-wave assault companies of the 116th experienced heavy losses. Many groups were landed in wrong areas of the beach, which added to the chaos and confusion of the battle. Several companies lost their officers and NCO’s, leaving many enlisted men leaderless on the beach. Eventually, groups of men began to move off the beach and up the bluffs, taking deadly fire every step of the way. At mid-morning, the 115th RCT landed and bolstered the assault. On June 7th, the remaining units of the division came ashore and the 29th became operational under the control of its commanding officer, Maj. General Charles Gerhardt. After fearful casualties and savage fighting, the 29’ers had helped secure a hold for freedom on the European continent.
As the 29’ers became involved in the violent fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy, they took large numbers of causalities but proved to be a spirited and extremely effective fighting force. The division helped capture the important city of St. Lo in July, after a fierce and devastating battle. Later, the 29th helped take Brest in the Brittany Peninsula, and then fought its way across Western Europe into Germany by the end of the war. During their campaign in Normandy, the 29’ers won the respect and admiration of the French people and this good will is the basis and the motivation for Normandy Allies.
The special certificate issued to 29th Division members who fought in the first six weeks of the Normandy campaign. Justin LeHew, son of Arthur LeHew, sent us this memorable photo. We are honored to display this special bit of 29th Division history. Twenty-nine, Let’s Go!