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29th Infantry Division Memorial

Text on the memorial:

175th Infantry Regiment (5th Maryland), 29th Infantry Division
Hill 108 (Purple Heart Hill)
June 18, 1944

The 175th Infantry Regiment is one of the oldest military organizations in the United States. Founded in December 1774 as the Baltimore independent cadets, it fought heroically throughout the American Revolution. Designated the 5th Maryland Regiment in 1794, the unit defended Washington and Baltimore in the War of 1812. During the American Civil War many members of the 5th Maryland fought with distinction in the Confederate Army. The regiment was federalized in April 1917 for service in the Great War and served in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918. In February 1941, the 5th Maryland was again federalized with a new designation, the 175th Infantry, and sailed for England in October 1942 as a component of the 29th Infantry Division.

The 175th landed on Omaha Beach on d+1, June 7, 1944, and immediately pushed westward, liberating Isigny on June 9. The 29th Division progressed steadily toward St. Lô the following week, its right flank anchored by the 175th on the Vire river. At 8 am June 16, the 29th Division launched and offensive toward St. Lô spearheaded by the 175th Infantry. Led by its 1st Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Rogers Whiteford, the 175th resumed its attack at 7:30 am June 17 against stiffening enemy resistance. By nightfall Whiteford’s 1st Battalion had secured a vital intermediate objective, Hill 108, and pressed further south to a position one kilometer west of Villiers-Fossard.

At 8:20 am June 18 the enemy initiated a severe artillery bombardment followed by a strong counterattack against the 1st Battalion. Heavily outnumbered, Whiteford’s men stalwartly held their ground. Nearly surrounded, running low on ammunition, and out of communication with its supporting artillery unit, the 224th Field Artillery Battalion, the battalion hung on for more than twelve hours of combat at pointblank range. At the peak of the battle, the enemy called upon the americans to surrender, but the wounded Whiteford bluntly rejected that offer. By dusk, the 1st Battalion had suffered more than 200 casualties, but had yielded not a foot of ground. In honor of its valorous stand on Hill 108, the US Army would grant the 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, the illustrious Presidential Unit Citation, only five of which were awarded to 29th Division units during World War II. That citation noted: "by steadfastly refusing to yield ‘Purple Heart Hill,’ so named by those gallant men who defended it, the 1st Battalion, the 175th Infantry, firmly established the Allied spearhead toward St. Lô and assisted materially in the advance on that city. The cool courage, combat skill, and indomitable fortitude displayed by the 1st Battalion were and inspiration to all troops in the vicinity and reflect the highest credit on the armed forces of the United States." The French government would also recognize the 1st Battalion’s heroism by awarding it the prestigious Croix de Guerre with silver-gilt star.

Early on June 19, the depleted 1st Battalion was relieved on Hill 108 by the 3rd Battalion, as the 175th Infantry continued to fiercely engage the enemy west of Villiers-Fossard. Shortly thereafter the 2nd Battalion was rotated into the line. From June 16 to 19, the 175th Infantry suffered more than 600 casualties, including 164 killed.

The people of Normandy would soon be free.

This monument is placed in lasting tribute to the members of the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, and their contribution to freedom in World War II
Twenty-nine, let’s go!

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