This Memorial Day I'd like to tell you about a great group of Americans.
Later this summer, I will be hosting a commemorative ceremony to honor the 30th Infantry Division, a forerunner to the North Carolina’s National Guard 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. Currently, more than 4,000 members of the 30th HBCT are deployed in their second tour of duty during the war in Iraq.
The 30th Infantry Division was a National Guard unit formed in Oct. 1917 and made up of troops from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. The division got their nickname, Old Hickory, from President Andrew Jackson, who’d led troops from Tennessee and the Carolinas during the War of 1812.
Formed at Camp Seviers, N.C., the division was able to capture more than 3,500 prisoners during World War I, but suffered almost 9,000 casualties.
Reactivated in September of 1940 in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the 30th Infantry Division would train for more than four years before entering World War II.
The 30th landed on Omaha Beach on June 10, 1944. They helped drive the Germans out of Northwestern France before holding off an advancing German army in Mortain in August. They stayed at the forefront of the offensive through Belgium and Holland. In October, the 30th broke through Hitler’s fortification lines along Germany’s western border.
During the next several months, the division participated in the Battle of Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge and the Roer offensive. The 30th was so effective against the enemy, the Germans referred to them as “Roosevelt’s SS Troops.”
In March, the 30th made an assault crossing the Rhine and continued to pursue German forces across the country. After a short occupation, the unit began returning home in August 1945.
During its campaign, the 30th captured 65,000 German prisoners and was designated as the No. 1 Infantry Division in the European Theater by S.L.A. Marshall, the chief historian of General Eisenhower. Accolades for the division include six Medals of Honor, 20,000 Purple Hearts and more than 8,000 awards for heroism.
The division was deactivated on Nov. 25, 1945. No comprehensive list of 30th Infantry Division personnel exists today. Most of the records were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis, Mo. in 1973. The Web Site, www.30thinfantry.org, is working on compiling a list of personnel for the 30th Infantry. If you have family who served in WWII with the 30th Infantry Division, please contact them.
Today, the 30th HBCT carries on the valiant traditions of the 30th Infantry Division. In 1999, units from the 30th HBCT were selected to conduct peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Feb. 2004, the 30th HBCT deployed for a year-long stint as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first National Guard brigade to deploy to a war since the Korean War, more than 50 years before.
My father was a member of the 30th Infantry Division during World War II. As his son, it was my distinct honor to participate in the 30th HBCT deployment ceremony. I was humbled to show my respect as the brigade prepared for its second tour of duty.
On this Memorial Day, I hope you will join me in praying for the safe return of the 30th HBCT as they continue the great traditions of the 30th Infantry Division. May all our brave troops and their loved ones here at home enjoy a blessed and safe holiday.