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Historical Era : WWII


On 26 October 1942 the regiment left Scotland by ship for the invasion of Africa. The assault was initiated at 0100 hours, 8 November 1942, and the 16th Infantry, in its first amphibious assault, landed at a beach near Arzew.  Within three days, the regiment had helped to capture Oran and secure a permanent presence for the US Army in North Africa.  During the remainder of the North African campaign the 16th Infantry fought at the Ousseltia Valley, Kasserine Pass, El Guettar, and Mateur.  For its actions at Kasserine the regiment was again decorated by the French Government and it received its first Presidential Unit Citation for actions near Mateur. Next came Sicily.

Shortly before 0100 hours 10 July 1943, the first wave of the 16th Infantry boarded landing craft for the assault on that island. After achieving a relatively bloodless hold on the beachhead the regiment pushed into the hills beyond.  There the regiment was soon hit hard with an armored counterattack. Despite numerous enemy tanks and reinforcements, the 16th held on then continued its advance after receiving assistance from the heavy guns of the U.S. Navy and the timely arrival of the regiment’s cannon company.  By 14 July 1943, the Regiment had moved through Pictroperzia, Enna, and Villarosa. Fighting against snipers and well-fortified positions, the 16th Infantry moved forward by flanking movements and by 29 July had taken the high ground west of the Cerami River. By early August, the regiment had reached Troina. At Troina the regiment experienced some of the most bitter fighting it would see in the war.  After a four-day brawl with the battle-hardened troops of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, the men of the 16th Infantry finally captured the town and soon after the Sicily campaign ended. Subsequently, the regiment sailed to Liverpool, England, and from there entrained on 16 October 1943 for Dorchester, to carry out seven months of the most grueling training the regiment had ever endured.         

On 1 June 1944, the men of the 16th Infantry departed their D-Camps embarked to their amphibious assault ships at Weymouth.  Units of the 16th Infantry boarded the USS Samuel Chase, the USS Henrico, and the HMS Empire Anvil, in preparation for their third—and most important—amphibious assault mission. Late on the afternoon of 5 June 1944, the troop-laden ships slipped out of Weymouth harbor and headed for the beaches of Normandy.  The 16th Infantry's mission was "To assault Omaha Beach and reduce the beach defenses in its zone of action, proceed with all possible speed to the D-Day Phase Line, and seize and secure it two hours before dark of D-Day." The long awaited assault on "Fortress Europa" began in the early hours of 6 June 1944 as the 16th Infantry Regiment moved toward Omaha Beach.  About 600 yards offshore, the regiment's landing craft began to encounter intense antitank and small arms fire. As the first elements, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, appraoched the beach, it became readily apparent that many of the enemy's strong points had not been eliminated by the pre-invasion bombardment. Many landing craft, and their occupants, were hit as they plowed through the heavy seas toward shore.  As landing craft dropped their ramps, men were killed and wounded as they attempted to get out of the boats.  Others were hit as they struggled through the surf or tried to run across the sand weighted down with water-logged equipment.  Thos fortunate enough to find cover behind shale outcropping found their weapons plugged with sand.  The survivors of the first wave slowly built up a firing line along the low pile of shale.  As more men arrived, they found the lead troops pinned down and congested. Here and there men attempted to move forward.  Many were shot down, but others made it in close to the base of the bluff where they found the area mined and criss-crossed with concertina wire.  In some places, small organized bodies of troops made efforts to get through the  enemy defenses.  An assault section of E Company under First Lieutenant John Spalding and Staff Sergeant Philip Streczyk managed to cross a minefield, breach the enemy wire, and struggle their way to the bluff. Colonel George Taylor, the regimental commander, jumped to his feet and yelled at his troops, "The only men who remain on this beach are the dead and those who are about to die! Let's get moving!" Soon other troops began making their way u p the bluffs and other gaps were blown through the wire and mines.  By vicious fighting, some hand-to-hand, other sections and companies made it to the topa and began pushing toward Colleville-Sur-Mer. By noon that bloody day, the 16th Infantry had seized broken through the beach defenses and established a foothold that allowed follow-on units to land. The evening of D-Day plus one found all of the units of the regiment ashore, many of them well inland by that time.

A few weeks later, at an awards ceremony on 2 July 1944, General Eisenhower told the members of the 16th Infantry, "I'm not going to make a long speech, but this simple little ceremony gives me an opportunity to come over here, and through you, say thanks. You are the finest regiment in our army. I know your record from the day you landed in North Africa, and through Sicily. I am beginning to think that your Regiment is a sort of Praetorian Guard, which goes along with me and gives me luck." After D-Day, the 16th Infantry became the division reserve, and after a brief rest, continued moving inland.

            In late July, the regiment was still in division reserve when it was ordered to be prepared to assist in a breakout through the German line near St. Lo.  After the saturation bombing of the Panzer Lehr Division on 25 July, the Big Red One closely followed the 9th Division in the breakout attempt.  Two days later the 16th Infantry was launched on an attack through a break in the lines near Marigny and drove on the city of Coutance where it established battle positions on 29 July.  By this time, the Germans were in head long retreat and attempting to establish a new line well to the east.  Their efforts would fail and the German Seventh Army would be largely destroyed attempted to escape via the Falaise Gap.  Meanwhile, in an effort to keep up with the retreating Germans, the men of the 16th Infantry piled on trucks, tanks, and anything else they could find to move eastward as quickly as possible.  After motoring south past Paris the regiment caught up with the enemy again near Mons, Belgium where it helped the 1st Infantry Division destroyed six German divisions, in August and early September.

            From Mons, the regiment pushed on with the Big Red One toward Aachen, Germany, just across the German frontier.  For the next three months, the men of the 16th Infantry would experience some of the most grueling fighting of the war near Aachen, Stolberg, and Hamich, Germany, in the infamous Hürtgen Forest.  After sustaining very heavy casualties from enemy artillery fire and the cold dreary weather, the entire division was sent to a rest camp on 12 December 1944.  The stay was short, because Hitler launched Operation Wacht am Rhein four days later and the Battle of the Bulge was on.  The division was sent to bolster the northern shoulder of the bulge near camp Elsenborn—the regiment was ordered to positions near Waywertz.   For the next month, the men of the 16th Infantry held defensive positions there, conducted heavy patrolling toward the German positions near Faymonville, and engaged in a number of firefights with troops of the 1st SS Panzer and 3d Fallshirmjaeger Divisions.  All of this was conducted in heavy snows during one of the coldest European winters on record. 

            On 15 January 1945, the Big Red One launched its part of the Allied counteroffensive to reduce the bulge.  Over the next seven weeks, the regiment conducted numerous operations in western Germany culminating in the capture of Bonn on 8 March 1945.  Form there the Big Red One moved north to the Harz Mountains to eliminate a German force cut off there by the rapid advance of the First and Ninth US Armies. For a week the regiment conducted several attacks against die-hard enemy troops.  On 22 April, the Big Red One finished clearing the Harz Mountains and soon received orders to one again head south.  This time, the division was reassigned to the Third Army for its drive into Czechoslovakia. 

            On 28 April, the regiment arrived near Selb, Czechoslovakia, and began advancing east.  For the next ten days the 16th infantry pushed into that country arriving near Falkenau by 7 May.  At 0800, a net call went out to the entire regiment to cease all forward movement.  The war was over.  In 443 days of combat, the 16th Infantry had sustained 1,250 officers and men killed in combat.  An additional 6,278 were wounded or missing in action.  Its men had earned four Medals of Honor, 87 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,926 Silver Stars.  Additionally, the regiment, or its subordinate units, was awarded five presidential unit citations, two distinguished unit citations, two Croix de Guerre, and the Medalle Militaire from France, and the Belgian Fourragerre and two citations from Belgium.  Once again the regiment had fought with valor and courage to win its nation’s war.  It would now spend the next ten years trying to win the peace in the country of its vanquished foe.

 


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