47th Infantry Regiment, US 9th Division My father's outfit
Posted 03 February 2003 - 03:22 PM
My father joined the 47th Infantry Regiment as a replacement officer in July, 1944 in Normandy, just before the COBRA breakout. Dad sought out the 9th Division because it was a veteran outfit, having previously fought in North Africa and Sicily. The 47th’s WWII history thus starts long before DOD joined up with them.
The 9th Division contained three regiments: the 39th, 47th, and 60th. At times, the 9th fought as a unit with all of the regiments together; at other times, the regiments were assembled into “Regimental Combat Teams” (“R.C.T.”) with attached support such as armor, and could be used independently. This account will focus on the 47th, and is taken in part from the unit history written by Captain Joseph Mittelman, “Eight Stars to Victory.” The title comes from the Eight Battle Stars earned by the 9th Division: Algeria-French Morocco; Tunisia; Sicily; Normandy; Northern France; Ardennes; Rhineland; and Central Europe.
The 39th and the 47th regiments had a lineage that included service in the 4th Division during WWI, when they fought in the Aisne-Marne offensive of 1918, at one point relieving the 42nd “Rainbow” Division. The regimental patch of the 47th reflects that lineage, tracking closely the 4th Division’s patch.
In the Torch invasion of North Africa in November, 1942,, the 9th’s regiments were used independently, with the 60th RCT landing near Algiers, the 39th at Port-Lyautney, north of Casablanca, and the 47th on the extreme right of the invasion, at Safi. In a bit of derring-do, two Free French destroyers bluffed their way past the coastal defenses and deposited K and L companies of the 47th’s third battalion (my Dad would later join Co. K) on the Safi docks. A daylong battle with the Vichy French Foreign Legion ensued, resulting in the cessation of French resistance at Safi.
The 9th was among the first US units on the offensive in Africa, along with the Big Red One and the 3rd Infantry, and the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions. All of those units started learning lessons that would make them comparative “veteran” outfits later in the war. (Yes, I know the Commonwealth had been in it for years by then. I said “comparative.”)
The Allied armies attacked East in an attempt to cut off the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, under pressure from Montgomery in Libya. When Rommel mounted a surprise counteroffensive at the Kasserine Pass, capturing two battalions of the 34th Division, the 9th artillery was called ahead of the rest of the Division to provide fires that helped halt the German attack. The rest of the division followed, and participated with the 1st Division in the attack on El Guettar. According to Col. Peter Mansoor, the 9th learned basic lessons in its first attacks by doing things wrong. “The GI Offensive in Europe” at 92-94. It absorbed lessons from its failures, learned to take the high ground, and to manuever for advantage. And applied those lessons in a successful drive to take Bizerte. On May 7, 1943, GIs from the 9th entered Bizerte, and then withdrew to permit the French to take it, which they did on the May 8th, concluding the Tunisian campaign. Mansoor at 96.
That’s two battle stars. More later.
Posted 03 February 2003 - 05:03 PM
Just in case you were wondering, some heavy snow fall kept us from a trip to the Heurtgen Forest last week. We much regret we did not have a chance to actually see some sites where DOD has been over there. We will try again though, perhaps in September this year.
Posted 03 February 2003 - 08:08 PM
Posted 03 February 2003 - 10:30 PM
The 9th started off the Sicily campaign in a reserve role. The 39th was again split off and attached to the 82nd Airborne for a run at Marsala, on the extreme West of the island. Then the 9th was reassembled and relieved the 1st Division for a week and a half of fighting through the mountains at the center of Sicily, to the Northwest of Mt. Etna. As Colonel Mansoor describes it: “The 1st and 45th Infantry Divisions began the attack toward Messina; the 3d and 9th Infantry Divisions would finish it. Truscott’s men [the 3rd] conducted a series of amphibious envelopments along Sicily’s northern coast while the 9th Infantry Division fought through the mountains. . . . Based on two excellent tactical terrain studies and intelligence reports, General Eddy decided to repeat the tactics used successfully in [Tunisia]. The 47th Infantry Regiment would pin the Germans from the front, while the 60th maneuvered through the mountains along the German Northern flank. Once again, the substitution of sweat for blood saved men and gained ground. In a nine-day operation, the 9th advance to Floresta and Randazzo, the last German positions before Messina. There the 3rd Infantry Division and the British 78th Division pinched the 9th Infantry Division out of the line.” Mansoor at 106.
Mansoor further observes: “The only combat experienced American divisions in Normandy in 1944 gained that experience in North Africa and Sicily. Four of the six American divisions that fought in Sicily also fought in Normandy: the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, the 2nd Armored Division, and the 82nd Airborne. . . . The difference in combat effectiveness between these battle-tested units and the remainder of the Army of the United States in the ETO would become readily apparent after the invasion of Normandy on 6 June, 1944.” Mansoor at 110. (I’m sure he’s overlooking the 101st).
A bit of color attached to the 39th RCT in Sicily. The 39th got a new CO, Colonel Paddy Flint, a West Point classmate of Patton and a former cavalryman with the appropriate touch of dash. Col. Flint came up with a new motto for the 39th: “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, Bar Nothing,” abbreviated “AAA-0" and worn on the side of the helmet as part of the 39th’s official uniform. Mittelman at 131.
One more battle star. More later.
Posted 10 June 2005 - 09:05 AM
Posted 12 October 2006 - 03:49 PM
Ive been reading some forums on the site recently and decided to join. My grandfather served in WW2, in the 9th I.D. 47th I.R. 1st Batt. A Company. However, he passed away before I was old enough to ask him any questions about the things he did/ places he saw action. I found some of his paperwork, and it listed that he served in Normandy, Northern France and the Rhineland. From questions my aunt asked him ( he rarely talked about it) she found that he remembered Cherbourg. (I'm assuming that he may have possibly taken part in the assault and capture of Cherbourg.) Could you possibly tell me some of the things he may have done or taken part in or lend me some advice as to where I could find more information. I have done extensive research through books and internet but have not found much information. Anything you can tel me would be greatly appreciated.
Posted 12 October 2006 - 04:05 PM
For starters, I will confirm that the 47th, and the rest of the 9th Division, were central to the capture of Cherbourg. The fact that he served as long as the Rhineland means that he survived for at least several months, which beat the odds for rifle company soldiers.
Check out the thread and the link and if you still have questions, I'll try to answer them. My father was in Co. K, 47th Inf., and fought from July in Normandy (and therefore after Cherbourg) until he was wounded east of Remagen in March, 1945.
Posted 12 October 2006 - 04:23 PM
He did survive the war, however, I am not sure if he served until the end of the war, or was medically discharged ( i think my mom told me he had extreme frostbite). I also believe he was a B.A.R. gunner, but again I am not positive. Is there any way that I could find that information out? I will read that link ASAP.
Posted 12 October 2006 - 08:41 PM
Doug, the destroyers at Safi were the USS Cole and the USS Bernadou, two modified WWI destroyers. They got Presidential Unit Citations for landing those companies at the docks, and their captains both got navy crosses (next to MOH). I don't recall any similar awards for I and K companies -- but I guess Infantry is supposed to get shot at!
He isn't. Of all the US divisions committed to the ETO, only those four (and the 3rd, 36th and 45th Divisions which landed in Southern France after being withdrawn from the fighting in Italy) saw combat prior to being commited to action in that theater. The 101st had NEVER (it didn't exist in WW!) seen combat prior to the D-day landings (which doesn't mean it wasn't a first class unit.)
Nor was prior combat experience always a plus. I understand Mintgomery had some problems with the combat experienced divisions in the British 2nd Army -- and both Bradley and Patton concurred in relieving the extremely popular, highly successful and tactically brilliant Terry De La Mesa Allen and Theodore Roosevelt (respectively CG and Deputy CG) from command of the 1st Division before it left Sicily because of their refusal to enforce discipline on the unit. [Allen, on being returned to the states, was given command of the 104th Infantry Division, which achieved an admirable record in fighting from Holland (under command of the 1st Canadian Army) to the Mulde River. Roosevelt was attached to 4th Infantry Division for the D-day landing and made the decision to continue the landings at that location after the navy put them ashore in the wrong place. Bradley was going to give him command of a division, but he died of a heart attack before that could be done.]
Andy, the 47th Infantry sent its 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions to Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division. 3-47 amd 4-47 constituted the Mobile Riverine Force based at Dong Tam in the Mekong River. 2-47 was a mechanized infantry battalion which spent most of its time farther north (where the ground was a bit more solid). The 1-47 was a mechanized infantry battalion assigned to the 171st Infantry Brigade in Fort Richardson, Alaska during the war.