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 A Summary History of the 29th Infantry Division | Blue and Gray

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"Blue and Gray"

29th Infantry Division - United States Army(Updated 8-7-13)

Today the 29th Infantry Division (Light), based at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is the only light infantry division within the reserve components. The division is made up of elements from the Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut National Guard. Upon federalization, the 29th ID mobilizes and moves to an area of operations to conduct light combined arms operations under the command of a US Corps. Within their states, the soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division are trained in their National Guard mission of protecting life and property, preservation of law and order, disaster response, humanitarian relief, civil disturbance, counter-drug operations, and combating terrorism.

The 29th Division was constituted during the First World War on July 18, 1917. The Division's infantry units were the 113th and 114th Infantry Regiments from New Jersey, the 115th Infantry Regiment from Maryland, and the 116th Infantry Regiment from Virginia. The artillery units were the 110th Artillery from Maryland, the 111th Artillery Regiment from Virginia, and the 112th Artillery Regiment from New Jersey. Since these were National Guard units that had fought against each other during the Civil War, the 29th Division took the nickname of the "Blue and Gray" division. The division was formed at Camp McClellan, Alabama on August 25, 1917.Click to preview or purchase "The Boldest Plan is the Best" from Amazon.com

After a period of training and waiting for transportation, the 29th Division was finally ordered to join the American Expeditionary Force fighting in France in June 1918. The division's advance detachment arrived in Brest on June 8. As with other divisions that deployed to France during World War I, the 29th had a period of further training and organization upon arrival. It was not until late in September that the Blue and Gray received their orders to join the US First Army in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, assigned to the French XVII Corps. The Armistice was signed shortly after this campaign. During WWI the 29th Division spent 21 days in combat. The soldiers of the Blue and Gray advanced seven kilometers, captured 2,148 German prisoners, and took out over 250 machine guns and artillery pieces. However, the division lost one-third of its strength during this campaign, suffering casualties of 170 officers and 5,691 enlisted men killed or wounded. The 29th Division returned to the United States in May 1919 and was demobilized at Camp Dix, New Jersey.

Between the World Wars, the Blue and Gray Division stayed an active National Guard unit. With the buildup for World War II, the 29th Infantry Division was federalized for active service once again on February 3, 1941. This activation was originally planned for one year and the division was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for training. Due to an army wide restructuring at the time, brigades were no longer needed and infantry divisions were built around three infantry regiments. The Blue and Gray was comprised of the 115th Infantry Regiment, the 116th Infantry Regiment, and the 175th Infantry Regiment. Also assigned to the division were the 110th Field Artillery Battalion, the 111th Field Artillery Battalion, the 224th Field Artillery Battalion, the 227th Field Artillery Battalion, the 29th Signal Company, the 729th Ordnance Company, the 29th Quartermaster Company, the 29th Reconnaissance Troop, the 121st Engineer Battalion, the 104th Medical Battalion, and the 29th Counter Intelligence Detachment. By March 1942 the reorganization was complete and the 29th Infantry Division prepared for deployment to the European Theater.

The 29th Infantry Division sailed to England aboard the RMS Queen Mary in early October 1942. From October 1942 to June 1944 the Division trained in England and Scotland for a cross-channel invasion of France. In May 1943 the Blue and Gray moved to the Devon-Cornwall peninsula and trained at making simulated attacks against fortified positions onshore. Five stretches of beach in Normandy were chosen as landing sites for the invasion. One of these, codenamed "Omaha," was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division (the "Big Red One") and the 29th Infantry Division. D-Day was June 6, 1944.

During the Normandy invasion (codenamed Operation Overlord), the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were part of the U.S. V Corps, under the First Army. Omaha beach was thought to be the most difficult of the five landing beaches. At 0630, the 116th Infantry Regiment and C Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion were the first units of the Blue and Gray to hit the beach. Most of the regiment missed their intended landing spots due to rough seas and the confusion of combat. Many of the regiment's tanks were launched too far from shore and as a result foundered and sank in the channel. By 0830 further landings had to be halted as there was no more room on the beach. Casualties in both the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were massive. However, the troops of the Blue and Gray were able to organize themselves, break through German fortifications guarding the beach exits, and advance inland. By noon the landing of follow-on troops recommenced. The Division headquarters and about 60 percent of the division strength had landed by nightfall. On D-Day there were approximately 2,400 casualties on Omaha Beach alone.

The entire 29th Infantry Division was landed in Normandy by the end of June 7. Two days later Omaha Beach was declared secure and the Blue and Gray had moved inland and occupied the town of Isigny. During June and July the 29th ID cut across the Elle River and advanced on St. Lo. The division fought the bitter fighting of the Normandy hedge rows. On July 14 the division was transferred to the XIX Corps, First United States Army, Twelfth Army Group for the Normandy breakout.

The Blue and Gray Division took the city of St. Lo on July 18, 1944, and then moved to join in the battle for Vire. That town was captured on August 7. The division then took part in the attack on Brest from August 25 to September 18. After rest and replacements, the 29th Infantry Division took up defensive positions along the Teveren-Geilenkirchen line in Germany and stayed in those positions through the month of October. During October, the 116th Infantry took part in operations at the Aachen Gap. The 29th Infantry Division began a drive to the Roer River, blasting their way into Germany on November 16, 1944. They reached the Roer at the end of November. The Division held defensive positions during heavy winter fighting until February 23, 1945, when the Blue and Gray attacked across the Roer. The 29th Infantry fought into the Ruhr region of Germany until relieved on March 1. On April 19, 1945 the Division pushed to the Elbe River and held defensive positions there until May 4.

After the German surrender on May 7, 1945, the 29th Infantry Division moved into the Bremen and Bremerhaven area for occupation duty. The Blue and Gray stayed in these port cities until they rotated home. The division was demobilized at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey in January 1946. The division was reorganized once again in October of that same year, now comprised of National Guard units from Virginia and Maryland. The 29th Infantry Division was not mobilized for Korea or Vietnam. Due to Army restructuring during the Vietnam era, several National Guard divisions were deemed as surplus. The Blue and Gray Division was inactivated in February 1968.

Once again, a restructuring of the "total force" brought the 29th Infantry Division back to life. At a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger announced the reactivation of the Blue and Gray. The Division returned to service with the reorganization and re-designation as the 29th Infantry Division (Light) on September 30, 1985. The 29th Infantry Division (light) was once again made up of National Guard units from the states of Virginia and Maryland. The Division headquarters was located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Blue and Gray went through reorganization again in October 1996 that brought National Guard units from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey onto the team.

The Blue and Gray began their rotations to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia sending hundreds of soldiers to nine days of training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which was completed on June 16, 2001. The 29th Infantry Division was the second division headquarters to be deployed as a part of Stabilization Force. As part of the multinational force, the 29th Infantry Division commanded 2,085 National Guard soldiers from 16 states, serving in the US sector. Their six month rotation began in October 2001.

June 6, 2005 was the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Approximately 350 veterans, politicians, and soldiers representing the 29th Infantry Division traveled to Normandy and Paris for events related to this significant day. The Army National Guard organized a major ceremony to honor the veterans who participated in the invasion. Many of the veterans of the Normandy landings were in their 80s at the time, and this event was seen as the last major D-Day anniversary in which a large number of veterans could take part.

The 29th Infantry Division (Light) underwent major reorganization again in 2006. A Special Troops Battalion was added to the division command structure. The Division was organized around three brigades, designated the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team (of the North Carolina National Guard), the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (of the Virginia National Guard), and the Combat Aviation Brigade, 29th Infantry Division (of the Maryland National Guard).

The 29th Infantry Division (Light) deployed to Kosovo in December 2006, taking command of the Eastern region peacekeeping force. The soldiers of the Blue and Gray were deployed to secure the region for almost a year, returning in November 2007. Later in 2007, elements of the division that included the 175th Infantry deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although the division's headquarters was not needed, sending 1,300 Blue and Gray soldiers to Iraq was the largest deployment of the 29th Infantry Division since WWII.

The 1/116th Infantry Regiment was activated in January 2010 to round out the 256th Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard for another deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Over 400 soldiers and officers from the 1st Battalion deployed to Iraq in March 2010 after an eight week train up at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The soldiers were part of Task Force Overlord and served at COB Adder in southern Iraq. Their deployment lasted until the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom on September 1, 2010. The members of the 116th Infantry were part of the historic draw-down in Iraq dubbed Operation New Dawn.

The 29th Infantry Division Headquarters deployed to Afghanistan in November 2010 in the first rotation of a two year Security Partnering mission. The unit mobilized and deployed from Camp Atterbury, Indiana. The division headquarters forward was established at the Kabul International Airport under the International Joint Command (IJC) for the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). During this deployment to the war zone, the headquarters helped to establish Afghan Ground Forces Command, the future command authority for all Afghan ground forces operations in the country.

The second rotation began on September 11, 2011, mobilizing at Camp Shelby Mississippi. During this rotation the 29th I.D. headquarters forward transitioned the mission set from Security Partnering to Afghan National Security Force Development. The primary mission goal was to establish a means by which to measure the progress of Afghan Security Forces in assuming the lead in operations and police affairs. The Blue and Gray soldiers were to also serve as mentors for the Afghan National Police and Army leadership.

From WWI, through WWII, and up to the present day deployments in the Global War on Terror, the 29th Infantry Division has been a mainstay of the United States Army. Citizen soldiers answer their nations call with the Division's motto of "29, Let's Go!"

 

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