|111th Field Artillery
THE 29TH DIVISION IN WORLD WAR I (coming soon)
THE 29TH DIVISION IN WORLD WAR II
110th Field Artillery
224th Field Artillery
111th Field Artillery
121st Engineer Battalion
227th Field Artillery
229th Supply and Transport
29TH DIVISION UNIT HISTORIES
WORLD WAR II
In 1942, upon the reorganization of the 29th Division into a “triangular” division, the 111th Field Artillery Regiment was reorganized as the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery and the 2nd Battalion, 111th Field Artillery was equipped with 155mm howitzers and designated as the 227th Field Artillery of the 29th Division.
As soon as the men of the Blue and Gray arrive in Scotland they load on trains and move south to Tidworth Barracks, about 80 miles west of London. At first not all of the troops of the 29th can be quartered together. However, by the end of the year the whole division is assembled and busy training to play an as yet unknown role against the Germans.
All of the troops of the division start a rigorous seven-day-a-week training schedule which is only relieved by 48 hour passes one weekend a month. This regimen consist primarily of cross-country forced marches from 25 to 40-miles.
To test how well these exercises have toughen up the men General Gerow designs a test in which each man is to be tracked at different points along a series of fast marches. Those who fall out are transferred to other commands. Only the most capable will serve in the 29th. In fact, the best units prove not to be from the infantry but the 'red legs' of the 110th and 111th FA battalions. Both commands have 100% of their men complete the test, the only units to achieve this feat.
Members of the Blue and Gray spend their first Christmas overseas a bit homesick but not alone. They share gifts sent from home with the local children. In a early bit of public relations promotion these celebrations are covered by press photographers and newsreel films are made so that the event can be shown to the 'folks back home'.
Marksmanship is added to the 29th's training schedule with an emphasis on well-aimed fire, in part to conserve what in the field will always be a limited ammunition supply. The artillery too begins intensive fire missions using 75mm guns at first while awaiting the arrival of their heavier pieces from the US.
During this period the division is instructed to organize a battalion of troops to undergo the specialized training of the British "Commandos". This unit, composed entirely of volunteers, is designated the "29th Ranger Battalion (Provisional)". It's story can be found elsewhere in this publication.
In May 1943, after seven months at Tidworth, the division is ordered to relocate to new quarters in the Devon-Cornwall peninsula. The infantry moves by a combination of foot and motor marches while the artillery and all other elements travel totally by truck. The 116th RCT is billeted in Plymouth while the 227th FA is based in Okehampton.
Upon its arrival the division has a change in commanders. General Gerow is assigned to command the newly organized V Corps and is replaced by Maj. Gen. Charles Gerhardt, a regular Army officer. His impact on. the .29th will be felt by every man in the division, from the lowest private up to regimental commanders. The Blue and Gray has a reputation for firm discipline, but nothing like that imposed by the new general.
An example of this increase in discipline under Gerhardt is the wearing of the helmet chinstrap. American soldiers routinely fail to hook the strap during non-dangerous training exercises. The general issues an order that any time the helmet is worn, no matter where or for what purpose, the strap will be fastened. Neglect results in a fine. After the division is committed to combat this type of discipline continues with no lessening of degree. To this day, veterans recall the effect Gerhardt had on the 29th but they all agree he prepared them as well for the trials which lay ahead.
By early July the units begin a year-long course of training to prepare them for a leading role in the invasion .of France. The major portion of their time is now devoted to amphibious assault practice. At first there's a lack of real landing craft and improvised wooden mock ups are used to give the soldiers confidence and to reinforce in them the importance of teamwork. Men are taught to swim and they're loaded with complete field gear, weighing up 100 pounds, and then walked into the surf so they can 'wade' ashore under a full load.
Besides these water-based sessions, the infantry are taught how to destroy pillboxes and entrenchments. The 'weapons' companies of the 116th (D, H & M) gain proficiency with equipment like flamethrowers, 81mm mortars and 30 cal. machine guns. All companies train with the new "bazooka" designed to knock out enemy tanks and fortifications. They also practice for the first time advancing under the cover of 'rolling' artillery fire. Forced marches continue through the damp moors and marshs of Cornwall.
All infantrymen are given instruction in the dismantling of 'booby traps' in a school created for the purpose. The men excelling in these tasks are put into expert teams to clear overrun buildings.
In September members of the 116th become "guinea pigs" as the first unit to conduct a three-week training period at the newly opened Assault Training Center (ATC) at Woolacombe, Devonshire. The companies are organized into 30-man boat teams which will fight as a platoon upon landing. They're placed into "Landing Craft Infantry" (LCI) which sail out about a mile from the shore and then 'run' into the beach, dropping their ramps to disgorge the team.
The artillery later joins them in training at the ATC. It's planned that they will load their howitzers in amphibious trucks called "DUKW's" (pronounced "Duck's") but none are available so the 111th practices its landings from larger vessels known as "Landing Craft Tank" (LCT). They never have an opportunity to train on the DUWK's before the invasion, which will contribute to the disaster that awaits them.
The men of the Blue and Gray spend 19-months in England before being committed to combat. Though most of their time is devoted to training for the invasion of France, they do get leave time in London and Plymouth. Sports are also an important outlets for the men's energies. The division sets up teams among the different units for football, basketball, boxing and baseball. The USO and Red Cross set up dances and other forms of entertainment for the troops. As the men of the 29th prepare to celebrate a second Christmas in England, their suspicions about playing a key role in the invasion of France are confirmed. The division's infantry is moved to Slapton Sands near Dartmouth. This coastal area is used to complete their assault training, including landings with 'live' naval gun fire in support.
The 29th Recon Troop experiments with rubber assault boats which prove unsatisfactory in the rough waters of the English Channel. While working with these boats the unit is visited by the General Dwight Eisenhower. During his visit he fires a machine gun 'from the hip', much to the delight of the surrounding troopers.
After 19-months of almost constant training the 29th is keen to get into action against the Germans. In mid-May the division moves to its embarkation ports of Plymouth, Weymouth and Dartmouth. Once the units are "locked in" for security reasons the men of the 116th RCT are finally told they'll be the lead assault waves in the Allied invasion on the Normandy coast of France.
perpetuate the friendships we cherish; to keep alive the spirit that
never knew defeat;
to glorify our dead, and to further keep before our country, the record of the 29th Division in all the wars;
we associate ourselves in an organization known as the 29th Division Association.