Home : News
NEWS | Aug. 9, 2019

N.C. Guard commemorates 75th anniversary of WWII battle

By Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo North Carolina National Guard

RALEIGH, N.C. – On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper presented to the North Carolina National Guard a proclamation commemorating the World War II Battle of Mortain which occurred Aug. 7-13 1944.

On Aug. 7, four Nazi Panzer Divisions attacked the 30th Infantry Division at Mortain in northwestern France. The "Heroes of Old Hickory" fought them back and the Normandy Campaign was saved.

Many believe that the Mortain victory was one of the most outstanding military achievements during the war in Europe and think it is long overdue for the 30th to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

As each day passes, more members of “Old Hickory” pass away; Citizen-Soldiers who served proudly and with distinction during World War II.

Like all WWII era units, the 30th Infantry Division's ranks are growing smaller and smaller.

Many think it would be a fitting and overdue honor if the surviving members of one of America’s greatest WWII divisions get the recognition they deserve before there are no more “Old Hickory” veterans left.

Today, the 30th Infantry Division Association, the North Carolina National Guard Association, former 30th veterans from WWII and others are urging President Donald Trump to award the 30th Infantry Division the Presidential Unit Citation for its exemplary performance and extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action during the Battle of Mortain.

Army Lt. Gen. Lawton J. Collins commanded VII Corps and led the breakout from the Normandy beachhead. In 1947 he wrote a recommendation for the 30th Infantry Division to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions at Mortain.

A portion of his recommendation reads, “With full knowledge that no reserves were immediately available, the troops fought tenaciously, determined to contain the enemy at all costs. Artilleryman fought as infantry while firing direct fire with their artillery pieces at enemy personnel and armor less than 200 yards from their positions. Engineers, clerks, messengers, drivers, cooks, and every available man became a fighting soldier."

After the war, the Army Awards Board said that if the 30th Infantry Division had failed in its defense of Mortain, it would have caused a revision of Allied plans second only to a failure at Normandy on D-Day. Captured German Gen. Kurt Dittmar called the Mortain victory the decisive battle of the west in World War II.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s European Theater Historian, S.L.A Marshall, determined that the 30th Infantry Division was the best infantry division in the European Theater during World War II but still, the citation was never awarded.

The 30th landed at Omaha Beach on June 10, 1944, and entered combat five days later. The division took part in every major campaign in the European Theater of Operations: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes – Alsace and Central Europe.

The 30th Infantry Division spent 282 days in almost constant combat. The division suffered 3,435 killed in action and 12,960 wounded. Six Medals of Honor were awarded to Old Hickory soldiers, 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,718 Silver Stars, 6,319 Bronze Stars and 20,000 Purple Hearts.

To learn more about the Presidential Unit Citation for “Old Hickory” WWII heroes and to support the White House petition for a PUC, visit the 30th Infantry Division Association webpage at www.30thinfantry.wordpress.com.