99th Infantry Division (United States)
|99th Readiness Division|
|Branch||United States Army|
|Nickname(s)||Battle Babies, Checkerboard Division|
|Engagements||World War II|
|Major General Walter E. Lauer|
|Distinctive unit insignia|
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 Readiness Division, also styled as 99th Division (Readiness), which the 99th Regional Support Command transitioned to in early 2018 which is the successor unit of the 99th Infantry Division, is a Major General command under the US Army Reserve Command (USARC). The command provides base operations support to all Army Reserve Soldiers, units, facilities and equipment for the entire Northeast Region of the Army Reserve, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Base operations includes personnel administration, finance, facilities management, logistics management, maintenance, public affairs and legal support. The 99th Readiness Division is headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.
Although the 99th Readiness Division is allowed to wear the shoulder sleeve insignia and use the number of the inactivated 99th Infantry Division, it does not perpetuate its lineage, nor is it entitled to the division's battle honors, as it is against Department of the Army policy for Table of Distribution and Allowance (TDA) organizations, such as Regional Support Commands, to be entitled to the lineage and honors of Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) organizations such as divisions.
World War I
The 99th Division was constituted in Camp Wheeler, Georgia, on 23 July 1918. Plans called for the division to include the 393rd, 394th, 395th and 396th Infantry Regiments. Organization and training began in October, but were not complete by the time the war ended in November 1918, so the division was demobilized in early 1919. No division commander was appointed during the organization's brief existence.
The division was reconstituted in the Organized Reserve on 24 June 1921 and assigned to the western half of the state of Pennsylvania. The division headquarters was organized in November 1921.
World War II
- Ordered into active military service: 15 November 1942 Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi.(After activation and initial training, many leaders participated in ASTP (Army Service Training Program, or "all safe 'till peace"), enrolled in various colleges/universities until ordered to deploy to Europe.)
- Overseas: 30 September 1944 (nicknamed "Battle Babies" during the Battle of the Bulge, as they were new to the European Theater)
- Campaigns: Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe
- Days of combat: 151
- Returned to U.S.: 17 September 1945
- Inactivated: 15 October 1945, Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia
Order of battle
- Headquarters, 99th Infantry Division
- 393rd Infantry Regiment
- 394th Infantry Regiment
- 395th Infantry Regiment
- Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 99th Infantry Division Artillery
- 370th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 371st Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 372nd Field Artillery Battalion (155 mm)
- 924th Field Artillery Battalion (105 mm)
- 324th Engineer Combat Battalion
- 324th Medical Battalion
- 99th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
- Headquarters, Special Troops, 99th Infantry Division
- Headquarters Company, 99th Infantry Division
- 799th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company
- 99th Quartermaster Company
- 99th Signal Company
- Military Police Platoon
- 99th Counterintelligence Corps Detachment
- Arrival in Europe
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
The division first saw action on 9 November, taking over the defense of the sector north of the Roer River between Schmidt and Monschau, a distance of nearly 19 miles. 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.
The US 99th Infantry Division, outnumbered five to one, inflicted casualties in the ratio of 18 to one. The division lost about 20% of its effective strength, including 465 killed and 2,524 evacuated due to wounds, injuries, fatigue, or trench foot. German losses were much higher. In the northern sector opposite the 99th, this included more than 4,000 deaths and the destruction of 60 tanks and big guns. Historian John S.D. Eisenhower wrote, "... the action of the 2nd and 99th Divisions on the northern shoulder could be considered the most decisive of the Ardennes campaign."
The stiff American defense prevented the Germans from reaching the vast array of supplies near the Belgian cities of Liège and Spa and the road network west of the Elsenborn Ridge leading to the Meuse River. After more than 10 days of intense battle, they pushed the Americans out of the villages, but were unable to dislodge them from the ridge, where elements of the V Corps of the First U.S. Army prevented the German forces from reaching the road network to their west.
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
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 to more than 100 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.
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.
- Advance into Germany
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 Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen on the 11th. The 99th Infantry Division was the first complete division to cross the Rhine. They continued to Linz am Rhein and to the Wied River. 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. On 3 May and 4 May, the division liberated two labor camps and Mühldorf concentration camp, a sub camp of Dachau. The attack continued without opposition to the Inn River and Giesenhausen when VE-day came.
- Total battle casualties: 6,553
- Killed in action: 993
- Wounded in action: 4,177
- Missing in action: 247
- Prisoner of war: 1,136
- 4 November 1944: V Corps, First United States Army, 12th Army Group
- 18 December 1944: Attached to 2nd Infantry Division of the V Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group
- 20 December 1944: Attached, with the entire First Army, to the British 21st Army Group
- 7 January 1945: Relieved from attachment to the 2nd Infantry Division and assigned to V Corps, First Army (attached to the British 21st Army Group), 12th Army Group
- 18 January 1945: V Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group
- 20 February 1945: VII Corps
- 9 March 1945: III Corps
- 19 April 1945: III Corps, Third Army, 12th Army Group
Commendations and honors
- Distinguished Unit Citations: 2
- Distinguished Service Cross (United States)- 16
- Distinguished Service Medal (U.S. Army)-1
- Silver Star- 252
- Legion of Merit- 6
- DFC- 7
- Soldier's Medal-8
- Bronze Star – 2,127
- Air Medal- 48
- Medal of Honor-1
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...
- Maj. Gen. Thompson Lawrence (November 1942 – July 1943)
- Maj. Gen. Walter E. Lauer (July 1943 – 18 August 1945)
- Brig. Gen. Frederick H. Black (August 1945 to inactivation)
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.
One 22 December 1967 the 99th Army Reserve Command (ARCOM) was activated. While the 99th ARCOM was allowed to wear the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 99th Infantry Division and use its number, Department of the Army policy does not allow for the lineage of MTOE units, such as infantry divisions, to be perpetuated by TDA units, such as ARCOMs. In 1975, the 99th ARCOM moved its headquarters to Oakdale, Pennsylvania.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, 22 99th units deployed to Saudi Arabia, Europe and other locations. After the Gulf War, the 99th ARCOM became the 99th Regional Support Command (RSC). The 99th RSC's mission was to provide command and control and full service support for assigned units and facility management.
On 23 Dec. 1996, the 99th RSC mobilized the first of six units for deployment to Operation Joint Endeavor in support of peacekeeping missions in Bosnia. The 99th RSC continued to support operations in the Balkan Republics while providing refuge to those fleeing Kosovo as they sought temporary recovery in the United States.
Following the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks, the 99th mobilized large numbers of Army Reserve Soldiers. While the 99th was fully involved in this large mobilization, the headquarters moved to Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. In January 2003, the 99th RSC started mobilizing units for projected operations in Iraq.
On 16 July 2003, the command was redesignated as the 99th Regional Readiness Command, placing additional emphasis on training, readiness and mobilization. The 99th RRC continued to provide command and control for assigned units and support for the ongoing deployments.
In 2005, the Army Reserve began its latest transformation under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) directive and lessons learned from eight years of deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The 10 geographically-based RRCs, including the 99th, were inactivated and replaced with four regional base operations commands. The 99th was selected as one of these new regional support commands.
In September 2007, in preparation for the transition to Fort Dix and establishment of the new 99th RSC, the 99th RRC assumed administrative responsibility for the former regions of the 77th and 94th RRCs, which had inactivated. On 17 September 2008, the 99th Regional Support Command was activated at Fort Dix, N.J. The 99th RSC's mission was to provide base operations functions for the assigned 13-state Northeast Region.
The U.S. Army Center of Military History states that the 99th RSC does not perpetuate the lineage and honors of the 99th Infantry Division. Army policy does not allow for the lineage and honors of a TO&E organization, such as an infantry division, to be perpetuated by a TDA organization, such as an RSC. While an RSC is allowed to wear the insignia and use the same number of a previous infantry division, it is not entitled to its lineage and honors.
The 99th RSC was awarded The Army Superior Unit Award on 9 May 2016 by the US Army Human Resources Command for its role in the relief support after Hurricane Sandy, from 29 October 2012 thru 31 March 2013. Soldiers who were in direct support of the relief efforts were also awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal as a personal award.
This article contains content in the public domain from U.S. military sources.
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