99th Infantry Division (United States)

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U.S. 99th Infantry Division
US 99th Infantry Division.svg
99th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1942 – 45
Branch United States Army Reserve
Type Infantry
Nickname Battle Babies, Checkerboard Division
Engagements

World War II

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Walter E. Lauer
US infantry divisions (1939–present)
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98th Infantry Division 100th Infantry Division

The 99th Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army in World War II. It played a strategic role in the Battle of the Bulge when its inexperienced troops held fast on the northern shoulder of the German advance, refusing them access to the vital northern road network that led into Belgium.

The 99th Regional Support Command, which is the successor unit of the 99th Infantry Division is a major general command under the US Army Reserve Command and is responsible for the base operations and administrative support of 51,000 USAR soldiers, 160,000 family members in 429 units at 356 locations in 13 states from Virginia north through Maine in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern region of the United States. The 99th Regional Support Command headquarters are located at Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ. The current commander is Major General William D. Razz Waff who assumed command on 1 October 2010.

World War II[edit]

  • Activated: 15 November 1942
  • Overseas: 30 September 1944
  • Campaigns: Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe
  • Days of combat: 151
  • Returned to U.S.: 17 September 1945
  • Inactivated: 15 October 1945

Combat chronicle[edit]

In the 1930s the 99th Reconnaissance Troop was organized by consolidating infantry brigade headquarters and headquarters companies of the 99th Infantry Division.[1]

Arrival in Europe[edit]

Danube river near Eining, Germany

The 99th Infantry Division, comprising the 393rd, 394th, and the 395th Infantry Regiments, arrived in England on 10 October 1944. Put under operational control of V Corps, First Army, it moved to Le Havre, France on 3 November and proceeded to Aubel, Belgium, to prepare to enter the front lines.

Battle of the Bulge[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Elsenborn Ridge.

The division first saw action on the 9 November, taking over the defense of the sector north of the Roer River between Schmidt and Monschau, a distance of nearly 19 miles.[2] After defensive patrolling, the 99th probed the Siegfried Line against heavy resistance on 13 December. Formerly known as the Checkerboard Division, which referred to its shoulder patch, in late 1944 having not yet seen battle, it was nicknamed the Battle Babies.

Map depicting the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge, or Ardennes Offensive, in which the German Sixth Panzer Army attacked the United States' 99th Infantry Division, but could not dislodge them. The 99th Division's effective defense of the sector prevented the Germans from accessing the valuable road network and considerably slowed their timetable, allowing the Allies to bring up additional reinforcements.

The inexperienced troops of the division were lodged on the northern shoulder of the Ardennes Offensive on 16 December. Although cut up and surrounded in part, the 99th was one of the only divisions that did not yield to the German attack, and held their positions until reinforcements arrived. The lines were then moved back to form defensive positions east of Elsenborn Ridge on the 19th. Here it held firmly against violent enemy attacks. From 21 December 1944 to 30 January 1945, the unit was engaged in aggressive patrolling and reequipping. It attacked toward the Monschau Forest, 1 February, mopping up and patrolling until it was relieved for training and rehabilitation, 13 February.

Stand at Lanzerath[edit]

Further information: Lyle Bouck and Battle of Lanzerath Ridge

The Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division was the most decorated platoon for a single action of World War II. During the first morning of the Battle of the Bulge, they defended a key road in the vicinity of the Losheim Gap. Led by 20-year old Lieutenant Lyle Bouck Jr., they delayed the advance of the 1st SS Panzer Division, spearhead of the entire German 6th Panzer Army, for nearly 20 hours. In a long fight with about 500 men of the 1st Battalion, 9th Fallschirmjaeger Regiment, 3rd Fallschirmjaeger Division, the 18 men of the platoon along with four artillery observers inflicted between 60[3][4] to more than 100[5] casualties on the Germans. The platoon seriously disrupted the entire German Sixth Panzer Army's schedule of attack along the northern edge of the offensive. At dusk on 16 December, after virtually no sleep during the preceding night and a full day of almost non-stop combat, with only a few rounds of ammunition remaining, about 50 German paratroopers finally flanked and captured the remaining 19 soldiers. Two who had been sent on foot to regimental headquarters to seek reinforcements were later captured. Fourteen of the 18 platoon members were wounded, while only one soldier, a member of the artillery observation team, was killed.[6]

Because the unit's radios had been destroyed, the soldiers captured, and the rapid subsequent German advance, U.S. Army commanders did not know about the unit's success at slowing the German advance, or even if they had been captured or killed. The platoon members were not recognized for their courageous deeds for thirty-seven years. On 25 October 1981, the entire platoon was recognized with a Presidential Unit Citation, and every member of the platoon was decorated, including four Distinguished Service Crosses, five Silver Stars, and ten Bronze Stars with V for Valor.[7]

Advance into Germany[edit]

On 2 March 1945, the division took the offensive, moving toward Cologne and crossing the Erft Canal near Glesch. After clearing towns west of the Rhine, it crossed the river at Remagen on the 11th and continued to Linz and to the Wied. Crossing on the 23d, it pushed east on the Koln-Frankfurt highway to Giessen. Against light resistance it crossed the Dill River and pushed on to Krofdorf-Gleiberg, taking Giessen 29 March. The 99th then moved to Schwarzenau, 3 April, and attacked the southeast sector of the Ruhr Pocket on the 5th. Although the enemy resisted fiercely, the Ruhr pocket collapsed with the fall of Iserlohn, 16 April.

The last drive began on 23 April. The 99th crossed the Ludwig Canal against stiff resistance and established a bridgehead over the Altmuhl River, 25 April. The Danube was crossed near Eining on the 27th and the Isar at Landshut, 1 May, after a stubborn fight. The attack continued without opposition to the Inn River and Giesenhausen when VE-day came.

Assignments in European Theatre of Operations[edit]

Commendations and honors[edit]

The Medal of Honor was awarded T/Sgt Vernon McGarity, Company L, 393rd Infantry, 99th Infantry Division, for actions taken near Krinkelt, Belgium, on 16 December 1944 during the opening phases of the Ardennes Offensive.

When the Ardennes Offensive ended, Gen. Lauer received verbal commendations from Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, 21st Army Group Commander, and Gen. Courtney Hodges, First Army Commander, on the vigorous and effective defense contributed by the 99th.

A written commendation was received from Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, V Corps Commander:

I wish to express to you and the members of your command my appreciation and commendation for the fine job you did in preventing the enemy from carrying out his plans to break through the V Corps sector and push on to the Meuse River. Not only did your command assist in effectively frustrating that particular part of the plan, but it also inflicted such heavy losses on the enemy that he was unable to carry out other contemplated missions in other sectors of the Allied front.

Gen. von Manteuffel, commander of the 5th Panzer Army, stated in the address to his troops prior to the attack that "our ground mission must be continuous; otherwise we will not achieve our goal". Due in part to the 99th Infantry Division, this ground mission has not been continuous, and he will not achieve his goal...[8]

Order of battle (1944–45)[edit]

  • Headquarters & Headquarters Company 99th Infantry Division
  • Headquarters & Headquarters Battery Division Artillery
  • Headquarters, Special troops
  • Military Police Platoon
  • 99th Quartermaster Company
  • 99th Signal Corps Company
  • 99th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment
  • 99th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
  • 324th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • 324th Medical Company
  • 370th Field Artillery Battalion (105 MM)
  • 371st Field Artillery Battalion (105 MM)
  • 372nd Field Artillery Battalion (155 MM)
  • 393rd Infantry Regiment
  • 394th Infantry Regiment
  • 395th Infantry Regiment
  • 799th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
  • 924th Field Artillery Battalion (105 MM)
  • 535th AAA A-Weapons Battalion: 11 December 1944 – 9 May 1945
  • 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion: 22 February 1945 – 9 May 1945
  • 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion: 28 January 1945 – 8 February 1945
  • 750th Tank Battalion: 28 January 1945 – 5 February 1945
  • 786th Tank Battalion: 23 February 1945 – 9 May 1945
  • 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion: 9 November 1944 – 3 February 1945
  • 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion: 8 February 1945 – 13 February 1945
  • 817th Tank Destroyer Battalion: 13 February 1945 – 22 February 1945
  • 776th Field Artillery Battalion 155 MM Dec.13 1944 Dec.19. !944

Commanding officers[edit]

Unit insignia[edit]

The unit's distinctive shoulder patch consisted of a five-sided shield of black on which is superimposed a horizontal band of white and blue squares. The black represents the iron from the mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where many of the troops were from. The blue and white are taken from the coat of arms for William Pitt for whom Pittsburgh was named. There are nine white squares and nine blue ones, signifying the number 99.

Heritage[edit]

The division's heritage today is continued by the 99th Regional Support Command of the United States Army Reserve, headquartered at Fort Dix, New Jersey. With the move and redesignation of the 99th Regional Readiness Command from Pittsburgh to Ft Dix as the 99th Regional Support Command as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), the 99th RSC maintains the lineage and honors of 99th Infantry Division.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maneuver and Firepower: The History of Divisions and Separate Brigades, Chapter 11
  2. ^ Ralph E. Hersko, Jr. (November 1998). "Battle of the Bulge: U.S. Troops Fight at Elsenburn Ridge". HistoryNet.com. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "The Battle for Lanzerath Hill—The True Story—16 December 1944". Retrieved 15 June 2010. 
  4. ^ Vaessen, Marcel (12 May 2005). "U.S.Memorial à Lanzerath". Portal Oberes-Ourtal. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Todd, Brian (17 December 2004). "A hero remembers the Battle of the Bulge". CNN. 
  6. ^ Della-Giustina, Captain John (January–March 1996). "The Heroic Stand of an Intelligence Platoon:". Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin. Retrieved 17 March 2009. 
  7. ^ "General Orders No. 26 (Unit Commendations)". Headquarters, Department of the Army. 29 October 1981. Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  8. ^ "Battle Babies: The Story of the 99th Infantry Division". U.S. Army Orientation Branch, Information and Education Division, ETOUSA. Retrieved 7 March 2009. 

Additional reading[edit]

External links[edit]