29th Infantry Division (Light)
"Blue and Grey"
The 29th Infantry Division (Light) is an Army National Guard unit with elements in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. The "Blue and Gray" Division is the only light infantry division in the entire reserve component.
At M-day/H-hour, 29th ID(L) mobilizes, deploys by air and surface to an intermediate staging base, assembles, moves to a US Corps area of operations and conducts light combined arms operations. When directed by State authority, provide units organized, equipped, and trained to function efficiently in the protection of life and property, and the preservation of peace, order and public safety in military support to civil authority for disaster response, humanitarian relief, civil disturbance, counter-drug operations and combating terrorism.
On 26 July 1917 Virginia's troops joined guardsmen from New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia in the 29th Division which activated on 25 August 1917. The 29th Division adopted the nickname "Blue and Gray," which reflected the coming together of Civil War adversaries in a single organization. The Blue and Gray finally started overseas in 1918. Its advance detachment reached Brest, France, on 8 June. In late September the 29th received orders to join the First Army's Meuse-Argonne offensive as part of the French XVII Corps. During its 21 days in combat, the 29th Division advanced seven kilometers, captured 2,148 prisoners, and knocked out over 250 machine guns or artillery pieces. It paid a high price for this success. One-third of its members became casualties-170 officers and 5,691 men.
After being inducted on 3 February 1941 at their home armories, the largest contingent of Virginians, members of the 29th Division, moved to Fort Meade. In February 1942 the War Department instructed the division to convert from its square configuration to a triangular arrangement best suited for fighting a modern opponent. The old formation was designed to generate frontal attacks against prepared positions akin to the trenches of World War 1. The 29th Infantry Division trained in Scotland and England for the crosschannel invasion, October 1942-June 1944. In May 1943 the division moved to the Devon-Cornwall peninsula and started conducting simulated attacks against fortified positions. Five stretches of French coastline in Normandy were selected as the sites for the landings that the allies intended as the primary effort to defeat Hitler on the western front. One of these, codenamed "Omaha," became the responsibility of the Regular Army's 1st Infantry Division and the 29th on the morning of 6 June 1944.
The 29th Infantry Division was the vanguard of the Allied attack on the hostile shores of Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 29th Division was sorely disappointed every time the D-Day invasion was postponed and felt almost a sense of relief when they finally loaded the landing craft, even though the conditions were adverse. The attack to begin the liberation of France will long be remembered as the beginning of the Allies' "Great Crusade" to rekindle the lamp of freedom and liberty on the continent of Europe. Teamed with the 1st Division, a regiment of the 29th (116th Infantry) was in the first assault wave to hit the beaches at Normandy on D-day, 6 June 1944. Landing on Omaha Beach on the same day in the face of intense enemy fire, the Division soon secured the bluff tops and occupied Isigny, 9 June. The Division cut across the Elle River and advanced slowly toward St. Lo, fighting bitterly in the Normandy hedge rows.
After taking St. Lo, 18 July 1944, the Division joined in the battle for Vire, capturing that strongly held city, 7 August. Turning west, the 29th took part in the assault on Brest, 25 August-18 September 1944. After a short rest, the Division moved to defensive positions along the Teveren-Geilenkirchen line in Germany and maintained those positions through October. (In mid-October the 116th Infantry took part in the fighting at the Aachen Gap.) On 16 November the Division began its drive to the Roer, blasting its way through Siersdorf, Setterich, Durboslar, and Bettendorf, and reaching the Roer by the end of the month. Heavy fighting reduced Julich Sportplatz and the Hasenfeld Gut, 8 December. From 8 December 1944 to 23 February 1945, the Division held defensive positions along the Roer and prepared for the offensive. The attack jumped off across the Roer, 23 February, and carried the Division through Julich, Broich, Immerath, and Titz, to Munchen-Gladbach, 1 March 1945. The Division was out of combat in March. In early April the 116th Infantry helped mop up in the Ruhr area. On 19 April 1945 the Division pushed to the Elbe and held defensive positions until 4 May. Meanwhile, the 175th Infantry cleared the Klotze Forest.
With Germany's surrender the men of the Blue and Gray moved west again to assume occupation duties in the region around the ancient city of Bremen and its port, Bremerhaven, where they remained until it was time to ship home. All of the units were landed in New York harbor and moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, for demobilization in January 1946.
After the War Virginia's major command remained its portion of the 29th Infantry Division. The first units received Federal recognition during the last months of 1946 but full manning was not completed for several years.
The 29th Division underwent its reorganization on 22 March 1963, with Virginia contributing three of the four artillery battalions, and two battalions of infantry. The 183d Armor changed to the 183d Cavalry and furnished one squadron for reconnaissance (less Maryland's air troop). A new regiment, the 116th Armor, was organized in the northern Shenandoah Valley to provide the divisional battalion of medium tanks.
The proud Blue and Gray Division became surplus in the eyes of the Pentagon during the height of the Vietnam War. Changing priorities for the use of limited resources led to a decision to eliminate several Guard and Army Reserve divisions. On 1 February 1968 Virginia dropped its traditional affiliation and joined Maryland and Pennsylvania in manning the 28th (Keystone) Infantry Division, a hitherto all-Pennsylvania division. Virginia provided one brigade, numbered the 116th, with three battalions from the 116th Infantry. It also furnished the 1st Battalion, 111th Artillery and direct support elements including cavalry, medics, engineers, military police, aviators, logisticians and administrators. The reorganization shifted other units to non-divisional roles and resulted in the termination of the 116th Armor, 183d Cavalry and 129th Signal Battalion, plus battalions of the 111th and 246th Artillery.
On 6 June 1984, at a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinburger announced the reactivation of the 29th Blue and Gray Division.
The largest National Guard training exercise ever held in Virginia took place in July 1998, bringing together units from the 29th Infantry Division in a top-to-bottom test of infantry operations. The Division Maneuver Exercise, dubbed Operation Chindit, brought together units from Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and the District of Columbia, testing their skills from the staff level down to individual soldier combat tactics. The exercise began with the insertion of troops from the 29th Infantry Division's 1st and 3rd Brigades by Blackhawk helicopters into strategic landing zones. For the insertion of 3rd Battalion units, the 229th Chemical Company from Roanoke, Va., was tasked with the mission of laying down smoke to screen platoon movement into the woodlines. Providing essential air support to the 116th Infantry in this scenario were soldiers from 3 Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery in Portsmouth, VA. NATO-member forces trained with the 29th Infantry Division throughout the exercise.
Hundreds of Army National Guard soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division completed nine days of training 16 June 2001 at Fort Polk, La., to prepare for their peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. In all, 2,085 citizen-soldiers from Massachusetts to California -- 16 states in all -- commanded and served with the multinational force that has kept the peace in the U.S. sector for nearly six years. Their rotation began in October 2001 and lasted six months.
Stabilization Force 10 hit the ground in the fall of 2001 to take on the crucial mission of keeping the peace in Bosnia. Composed mainly of the 29th Infantry Division (Light), the mobilization is the largest Reserve Component call-up since Desert Storm. It included soldiers from more than 20 states, half a dozen Regional Support Commands and active-duty units, tons of equipment and hundreds of vehicles. Fort Dix had the mission of pushing them out and reeling them back in when their six-month tour is finished. Fort Dix is one of the Premiere Power Projection Platforms in the United States. Soldiers and civilians from the 29th, Fort Dix, the 1079th Garrison Support Unit, the 78th Division and others were part of the mobilization process. The 78th Division assumed the burden of Lanes training for soldiers from deploying units over the summer of 2001. The 1079th GSU, a longtime partner of Fort Dix, augmented a variety of staff sections, both during the training and the deployment. Medical personnel from West Point head ed up that portion of the process. The 29th Division is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., but its units cover a couple dozen states and a wide variety of occupational skills. First Army, headquartered at Fort Gillem, Ga., had oversight of the mobilization process.
To kick off one of the most historic reserve component Army deployments in recent years, the Headquarters, 29th Infantry Division (Light), conducted a press conference and mobilization ceremony on Saturday, September 1, 2001 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, Senator George Allen, The Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Claude A. Williams and the 29th Infantry Division (Light) Commander, Maj. Gen. H Steve Blum presided. Task Force Eagle is the U.S. contribution to the NATO mission, while the Multi-National Division (North) is comprised not only of the American forces, but also forces from eleven other nations that combine to patrol the U.S. led sector. Approximately 450 Virginia Army National Guard soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division deployed, joined by another 300 from Maryland. Soldiers from the other three states that make up the division also participated. In all, the U.S. task force totalled 3,200 troops, with active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers from 21 states participating.
The 29th Infantry Division (Light) completed a two-week Warfighter Exercise at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in late July 2003. Nearly 1200 soldiers of the 29th ID participated in the training, which was overseen by First U.S. Army. Also engaged in the simulation war were about 150 soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division serving as a corps staff. For the training scenario, the forces of the fictitious Pacific country of the Contemporary Peoples New Republic CPNR cross the nation of Blueland's border. The goal of the exercise is to restore the border -- with support of a United Nations Security Resolution, and coalition partners giving the U.S. military the authority to move in. After negotiations fail, the 29th and attached units such as Civil Affairs launch offensive operations. Casualties occur immediately, and the headquarters personnel or G1 section has to begin the process of providing replacement soldiers to carry out the battles. As a result, logistics or the G4 section must provide transportation to get the soldiers into the fight and make sure they arrive in the right duty positions. Another scenario involved killing of civilians by division artillery fire, despite the fact that all precautionary procedures had been followed before the units responded to an attack in the region by CPNR forces. All battlefield operating systems are levied during the training, ranging from airlift of equipment to night aerial assaults by Apache helicopters of the 1st/158th Cavalry Squadron.