U.S. 69th Infantry Division
Table of contents
World War II
- Activated: 15 May 1943.
- Overseas: December 1944.
- Campaigns: Rhineland, Central Europe.
- Days of combat: 86.
- Awards: DSC-1; DSM-1; SS-105; LM-3; SM-12; BSM-2,253; AM-33.
- Commanders: Maj. Gen. Charles L. Bolte (May 1943-September 1944), Maj. Gen. Emil F. Reinhardt (September 1944-August 1945), Brig. Gen. Robert V. Maraist (August 1945 to inactivation).
- Returned to U.S.: 13 September 1945.
- Inactivated: 16 September 1945.
The 69th Infantry Division became a member of The European Theater of Operations United States Army (ETOUSA), November 25, 1944, while enroute to England. It continued its training when they arrived in England on [[12 December 1944]. It landed in Le Havre, France, 24 January 1945, and moved to Belgium to relieve the 99th Division, 12 February, and hold defensive positions in the Siegfried Line. The Division went over to the attack, 27 February, capturing the high ridge east of Prether to facilitate use of the Hellenthal-Hollerath highway. In a rapid advance to the east, the 69th took Schmidtheim and Dahlem, 7 March.
The period from 9 to 21 March was spent in mopping up activities and training. The Division resumed its forward movement to the west bank of the Rhine, crossing the river and capturing the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, 27 March. It relieved the 80th Division in Kassel, 5 April, seized Munden on the 8th and Weissenfels on the 14th against sharp opposition, and captured Leipzig, 19 April, following a fierce struggle within the city. Eilenburg fell, 23 April, and the east bank of the Mulde River was secured. Two days later, Division patrols in the area between the Elbe and the Mulde Rivers contacted Russian troops in the vicinity of Riesa and again at Torgau. Germany. Until VE-day the 69th patrolled and policed its area. Occupation duties were given to the Division until it left for home and inactivation 7 September.
Assignments in the ETO
- 18 January 1945: 12th Army Group.
- 7 February 1945: Fifteenth Army, 12th Army Group.
- 7 February 1945: V Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group.
- 28 April 1945: VII Corps.
- Nickname: Fighting Sixty-ninth.
- Shoulder patch: A white bordered square consisting of two interlocking parts, a red "6" and a blue "9", separated by a white border.
Its first assignment was to the 12th Army Group, Jan 18, 1945. On February 7, 1945, it was assigned to the Fifteenth Army, then to the First Army as a member of the V Corps on the same date. On April 28, 1945, it became a member of the VII Corps in the First Army.
The Division' first Command Post was established December 13, 1944, in Winchester, England (Hampshire). Its last reported fighting Command Post was in Naunhof, Germany (Saxony), April 18, 1945. The Army's structure of an Infantry Division was 14,253 men commanded by a Major General. Under the Division were three (3) Infantry Regiments of 3,254 men each, commanded by a Colonel. The remaining troops were support units including, 69th Division Artillery Headquarters and Headquarters Company(114), Division Artillery Medical Detachment(57), Service Battery(77), 3 Light Field Artillery Battalions (497) each, The 879th FA Bn, The 880th FA Bn and The 881st FA Bn, the 724th Medium F A Bn (518), the 369th Medical Battalion(465 detached to units in the Division)), the 269th Combat Engineer Battalion (666), Engineer Medical Section(20), 69th Division Headquarters(149), Division Headquarters Company(110), 569th Signal Company ((226), 769th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company(149), 69th Quartermaster Company(193), 69th Military Police Platoon(73), 69th Reconnaissance Troop Mechanized(155), 69th Division Band (58) and the Division Medical Detachment(57).
The Infantry Regiments (3,254) of The 69th Infantry Division were numbered 271st Infantry Regiment, 272nd Infantry Regiment and 273rd Infantry Regiment. These Regiments were divided into Battalions and support units. The support units were Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Company (108), Service Company (115), Cannon Company (118), Anti Tank Company (165), Medical Detachment (135) which furnished a Medical section (34) to each Battalion, Regimental Chaplains and IPW Team were attached. In each Regiment, there were three Battalions commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. The Battalions in each Regiment were numbered, 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion . These Battalions had 871 men in units called a Company. The Company was commanded by a Captain.
Except for The Battalion Headquarters which each Battalion, had using the number as name, such as Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Battalion (126), there were four other Companies in the Battalion. These Companies were A, B, C, (Rifle Companies of 193 men each) and D (Heavy Weapons Company of 166 men) in the 1st Battalion; E, F, G, (Rifle Companies ) and H (Heavy Weapons Company) in the 2nd Battalion; I, K, L, (Rifle Companies) and M (Heavy Weapons Company) in the 3rd Battalion. There was no J Company.
Each Rifle Company had a Company Headquarters Section, 3 Rifle Platoons and a Weapons Platoon. The Platoons were divided into Squads. A Squad was 12 men or thereabouts. This Battalion, Company, Platoon and Squad structure prevailed generally in all of The Division's units except The Artillery. In the Artillery, the Company sized unit was called a Battery.
The 69th Infantry Division was one of eight Infantry Divisions assigned African-American soldiers to be amongst its combat soldiers. These men were in so-called "Fifth Platoons". Usually, there were three "Fifth Platoons" assigned to a Division. One in each Infantry Regiment. In the case of the 69th Division, four "Fifth Platoons" were assigned to the 271st, 272nd and 273rd Infantry Regiments as follows: Co K 271st Inf; Co F and K 272nd Inf; Co G 273rd Inf. It is estimated approximately 148 African-American soldiers served in these four "Fifth Platoons".
At various times the following Units were attached to and under the Command of The 69th Infantry Division:
- 661st T.D. (Tank Destroyer) Bn
- 461st AAA AW Bn (Mbl)
- Co A, 777th Tk Bn
- 777th Tnk Bn
- Co A, 86 Cml Mort Bn
- 955th FA Bn (155mm How)
- 953rd FA Bn (155mm How)
- Btry A, 978th FA Bn (155mm Gun)
- Btry B, 997th FA Bn (8"How)
- 186th FA Bn (155mm How)
- Btry B, 997th FA Bn (8"How)
During the fierce battle for Leipzig, the 69th Infantry Division uncovered Leipzig-Thekla, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, on April 19, 1945. The camp had been established in September 1943 to supply labor for the German war effort. At its height, Leipzig-Thekla held approximately 1,400 prisoners. On April 18, 1945, the SS guards had set fire to the barracks housing some 300 inmates and shot those who attempted to escape the flames. Upon arriving at the camp, the 69th immediately began providing for the 90 to 100 survivors. Days later, U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers arrived at the site to document this atrocity. On April 28, 1945, a U.S. Army Protestant chaplain reported that 325 male prisoners, who were too ill or weak to continue working for the German war effort, had been forced into oil-soaked barracks, which were then set aflame. Prisoners who attempted to escape the conflagration were shot by the guards or electrocuted on the electrified fences. According to the report, the swift advance of the 69th prevented the SS guards from committing a similar atrocity at a nearby camp housing some 250 women. On April 24, the newly installed Allied military government in Leipzig ordered the local German mayor to provide 75 caskets for the dead prisoners, floral wreaths for each coffin, crews of workers to bury the inmates at the entrance of the town cemetery, and 100 prominent citizens from Leipzig, representing the City Government, Clergy, Civic organizations, Chamber of Commerce, and Educational Institutions including the University of Leipzig to attend the funeral services on April 27, 1945. That day, the U.S. Army supervised the funeral, supplying Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant chaplains to perform the service. A guard of honor composed of survivors of the camp; 100 displaced persons bearing flags of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; Allied officers; and 1,000 German civilians attended the ceremony.
- The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950 reproduced at http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/lineage/cc/cc.htm.