109th INFANTRY REGIMENT :

"THE OLD GRAY MARE"



HISTORY :

 

The following is taken from New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.

 

Mustered in: August 27, 1862
Mustered out: June 4, 1865

 

July 22, 1862, Col. Benj. F. Tracy received authority to recruit this regiment in the counties of Broome, Tioga and Tompkins; it was organized at Binghamton, and there mustered in the service of the United States for three years August 27, 1862. The men not to be discharged with the regiment were, June 3, 1865, transferred to the 51st Infantry.

The companies were recruited principally: A at Newfield, Caroline and Danby; B at Candor, Richford, Newark, Berkshire, Owego and Caroline; C at Owego and Candor; D at Binghamton; E at Binghamton, Chenango and Sanford; F at Dryden and Groton; G at Trumansburg, Enfield, Lansing, Jacksonville and Ulysses; H at Owego and Binghamton; I at Smithsboro, Tioga Center, Waverly and Spencer; and K at Nichols, Candor and Owego.

The regiment left the State August 30, 1862; served at Annapolis Junction, Md., and in Middle Department, 8th Corps, from September, 1862; in the defenses of Washington and 22d Corps, from October, 1862, as Railroad Guard; in the 1st Brigade, 3d Division, 9th Corps, from March, 1864; in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps, Army of the Potomac, from August, 1864; and it was honorably discharged and mustered out, under Maj. Zelotus G. Gordon, June 4, 1865, at the Delaney House, D. C.

During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 4 officers, 109 enlisted men; of wounds received in action, 1 officer, 51 enlisted men; of disease and other causes, 164 enlisted men; total, 5 officers, 324 enlisted men; aggregate, 329; of whom 42 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.

 

WWI :


 

Couthiezy (France) 14/07/1918

 Among the 17 National Guard divisions assigned to the American Expeditionary Force during World War I was the 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard. The 28th received its baptism of fire on July 15, 1918, during the German Army's Champagne-Marne Offensive. Four companies from the 28th were attached to a French division on the front line, while the rest of the division took up second-line defense positions. Two of the companies, L and M, were from the 109th Infantry Regiment made of the old 1st and 13th Pennsylvania Regiments. In the early hours of July 15, the German 36th Division crossed the Marne River and attacked the Allied front. When the adjacent French units fell back, L and M Companies were surrounded. Wave after wave of Germans attacked the Pennsylvanians. Despite the overwhelming odds, the two companies stubbornly held their position and inflicted heavy casualties. At 0800 the remnants of L and M Companies withdrew and fought their way back to the front line of the 109th, five kilometers away. Of the 500 assigned officers and men only 150 remained. The brunt of the German offensive now fell on the 109 Infantry and the other units of the 28th Division. For three days, the 109th held its positions while under heavy attack. Fighting in ravines, woods and trenches, the doughboys fought like veterans. A German after-action report described the battle as "the most severe defeat of the war." For its staunch defense the 109th was nicknamed "Men of Iron" and the 28th was later dubbed the "Iron Division."
 

WWII :

 

Based on information from Harry Kemp’s book “The Regiment”

 

The 109th was federalized on February 17th, 1941 at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.  Before being shipped overseas, the 109th took part in the Louisiana, Virginia, and the Carolina maneuvers.  The 109th trained at Camp Livingston, Camp Carrabelle, Camp Picket, and Camp Gordon Johnston before heading to Wales in October of 1943.  In April of 1944, the Regiment was moved to Wiltshire, England.  In April, the 28th Division was transferred from Bradley’s First Army to Patton’s Third Army, thus giving Patton an amphibious trained division in case problems arose when the Third Army followed the First Army’s beach landing.  This is why the 28th Division did not participate in the D-Day landings.  The Regiment landed in France on July 20, 1944 to begin their fighting in the Hedgerows.  After the capture of Gathemo on August 10th, the Regiment took part in the closing of the Falaise Gap to entrap the fleeing Germans.  A highlight came on August 19th; the Regiment went through their first hot shower since arriving in Europe on July 20th.  After the capture of Le Neubourg, the Regiment took part in the parade celebrating the liberation of Paris with a parade down the Champs Elysee on August 29th.  


Parade Liberation of Paris 29th August 1944

From Paris, the Maremen made their way into Belgium, Luxembourg and onto the Siegfried Line at Sevenig by mid-September, all in eleven days.

After Sevenig, the men advanced onto Roscheid and took heavy casualties in their efforts to capture Hill 515 and Kopp Hill on September 18th and 19th.  The rest of the month was a period of reduced combat operations, which gave the Regiment time to replace worn equipment and absorb troop replacements, consisting of 40 officers and 981 enlisted men.  A highlight for the men came on September 30th when the Red Cross “Donutmobile” arrived in their area.  By October 3rd, the Regiment was relocated to Elsenborn in Belgium this began a brief rest period for the Regiment.  The men then advanced eastward to attack another section of the Siegfried Line and began a time of training, re-equipping, and defensive operations on the Line.



October and November saw the Regiment fighting in the famed Huertgen Forest. 


The Regiment was now at 150 officers and 2,987 enlisted men, all of whom would be needed as they would attack
Huertgen, Vossenack, and Schmidt.  During the Battle of the Huertgen, the Regiment lost 1,367; many were non-combat related victims of the
weather conditions. On November 18th, the Regiment was relieved of its position in the forest and moved to a quieter section
of the front line, the “Ardennes”.

December 16th, 1944 found the Regiment at the junction of the Our and Sure Rivers near Diekirch, Luxembourg.  After absorbing replacements in early December, the regiment was at about 86% strength with 150 officers and 2,817 enlisted men.  They would all be needed to defend an eight-mile front that was assigned to the 109th.  The Regiment was pushed back, like many units, and became the southern shoulder of the “Bulge”.  The 16th and 17th were desperate times for the Regiment and yet they held their ground at all costs.  Company E in Fouhren was totally surrounded and continued to fight a member of Company E, Joseph Zrowka, informed his daughter that eight men survived. The eight men held the town and later received a Luxembourg medal from the mayor of the town, and a plaque with their names on it was erected in the town square. On the 17th, the Regiment suffered casualties of five officers and 58 enlisted men.  The situation was getting so bad for the 3rd battalion, that on the 18th the commander ordered all of the cooks, clerks, drivers, and wiremen of the battalion to their left flank for protection.  The Regiment was regrouped to a new defensive position on the southern shoulder of the Bulge.  In the first three days of the battle, the Regiment expended 280,000 rounds of rifle and machine gun ammunition.  The Regiment lost over 500 officers and men as casualties within those first three days.  December 23rd brought a brief rest for the Regiment as it was relieved from its front line duties.  The next day it would be on the move to push the Germans back and regain the lost ground.  The battle was over for the Regiment late on December 26th, as they were pulled out of the line with the rest of the 28th Division.  During the entire month of December, the Regiment suffered 1,174 casualties.


 

Ettelbrück Winter 1944

January found the Regiment on the Meuse River in France, at this time the Regiment received 921 replacements.  The Regiment was transferred from their quiet area to the Voges Mountains to help push the Germans out of the Colmar Pocket and back across the Rhine River.  The men would have to contend with the bitter cold and heavy snowfall of the mountains, and also the enemy.  During the month of January, most of the 185 non-battle casualties were caused by frostbite.  The end of the month found the Regiment in a line just north of Colmar ready for the advance. 


Colmar 1945

Colmar was liberated on February 2nd at a cost of 125 casualties, by the 9th the Regiment was at the banks on the Rhine River and the Colmar Pocket was closed.  The next week was spent absorbing replacements and new equipment.  The Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for their actions in the Colmar Pocket.




On February 19th the Regiment was moving north to Schleiden, Germany,
they were in position by the 24th and ready to take the town.  By March 7th, Schleiden was in the hands of the 109th and the shooting part of the war was over for the Maremen.  From March 8th to April 21st, the Regiment was moved around to different rear areas since other forward moving divisions squeezed them out.  This time period brought extra training for the Maremen to keep them in shape for their next possible assignment, Japan.   The end of March found the Regiment scattered in Stolberg, Dirmerzheim, Sinzig, and Monschau, providing security and occupation details.  At this time, the Regimental Red Cross director was able to establish USO shows in the area for the Regiment.  Many others were getting passes for Paris, Brussels, and the French Riviera.  Another sign of the coming peace came on April 2nd, when camouflage nets were ordered removed from the helmets. On April 10th, the Regiment was reunited in Bardenberg, Germany and began to administer camps for the Displaced Persons (DP) until the 20th.  From the end of April until July 4th, the Regiment was at Kircheimbolandem, Germany providing security and other occupation details; morale was very high at this time.  On April 30th, orders came down that all officers had to wear neckties and that Hitler had committed suicide.



 

May 8th, VE Day, was a clear and warm day as the Regiment continued with its occupation duties.  The policy of sending men to units not scheduled for the Pacific Theater based on their Adjusted Service Rating points began. These men were replaced with those who had not earned enough points to be discharged.  On June 26th, the Regiment received orders to be prepared to move; the 28th Division was slated to go to the Pacific.  On July 8th, the Regiment arrived at Camp Pittsburgh, near Reims, France to prepare for the departure from Europe, and on the 25th training took place on the identification of the Japanese Army uniforms and fighting methods.  The Regiment began to sail from France on the 28th and by August 7th all parts of the Regiment had arrived in New York.  Within a couple of days, everyone in the Regiment was given a 30-day pass for some R&R at home with orders to report to Camp San Luis Obispo, California at the end of the 30 days.  With the surrender of Japan on September 2nd, orders were changed for the men to report to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for inactivation. By mid-September everyone was in Camp Shelby and began a period of training for life after the Army.  The Regiment’s Federal service ended on October 22, 1945.

Crest:



Description:

A Gold color metal and enamel device 1 1/8 inches (2.86 cm) in height overall consisting of a shield blazoned: Azure in fess, a sheathed Roman sword, point to base, and a giant cactus Or; on a chief of the last six fleurs-de-lis of the field. Attached below the shield a Gold scroll inscribed “CIVES ARMA FERANT” in Blue letters.

Symbolism:


The shield is blue for Infantry. The sheathed Roman sword, taken from the Spanish War Service Medal, indicates the service during the Spanish-American War, the cactus denotes the service on the Mexican Border and the chief with the six fleurs-de-lis symbolizes the six battle honors during World War I.
"CIVES ARMA FERANT" means "LET THE CITIZENS BEAR ARMS".
The distinctive unit insignia was approved on 11 June 1929. It was amended to correct the description on 6 July 1929.


Monument 109th Infantry Regiment at Boalsburg, PA, USA





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