Hello again, Carolyn, and thanks for a fascinating question.
The men of L-Company of the 109th Regiment of the 28th Infantry
Division have the most ordinary of WWII stories. That is, they did
remarkable things, and made remarkable sacrifices, and some of them
lived through it all.
The survivors came home with incredible stories to tell; some of them
put those stories in writing.
The answer I've posted below contains only a few of my own words,
where I thought I could add some clarity, or make you aware of a
particularly important site or fact. Mostly, I've excerpted text from
those who study war and write about it, or from those who -- like
your uncle -- fought in WWII, and have committed some of their
memories to paper, and made them available on the internet.
I hope this information is meaningful to you, your uncle and your
families. If anything I have presented is unclear, or if you need
additional information, just let me know by posting a Request for
Clarification, and Ill be happy to assist you further.
Let's get right to the heart of things. The absolute best source of
information is this detailed account of L-Company at the link which
follows. The manuscript, which was scanned and posted online, is a
summary of all major engagements by L-Company, along with a good
write-up of their training, anecdotes about soldiers and places, and a
roster of the Company itself, along with a list of those killed in
action. The title is:
"World War II -- History of Co. L -- 109th Inf".
Pfc. Peter Calarie
and illustrated by
Pfc. Lawrence Caron
This is a terrific resource. Print it out, and give a copy to your
uncle. Each page of the manuscript is a separate file, so it's a bit
cumbersome to work with, but it's absolutely worth it:
The introduction to the document is here:
Through Their Eyes:
These images are an "unofficial history" of Company L, 109th Infantry,
during World War II. This was not written by an English professor, or
a High ranking Army official. This is not a testament to the actions
and contributions of Generals, Colonels, or Majors, but words for the
fighting men from the fighting men. Take a look at what Pfc. Peter
Calarie and Pfc. Lawrence W. Caron had to say of their actions. Look
at their history through their own words...
The actual document is at this link:
Use this link for reading the document, but the quality of the images
actually may be better at this link:
Here are some key excerpts from the parts of the manuscript that
describe L-Company's actions in Europe:
...As is, and shall always be the case, when an attempt is made to
accurately record the events of battle, many facts remain undisclosed
and unpublished. However, the gallantry and bravery of the enlisted
men and officers of L-company, living and dead, is reflected int that
untimate goal -- VICTORY®.
...during the time spent training...nick names were attached to
selected persons, for example; "Benny the Bum", "Wild Bill", "Peter
Rabbit", "Silent John", "Set Screw", "Little Moe", "Peg Leg",
...A few days after landing on Omaha Beach the 28th Division was
actively engaged in the Campaign of Northern France, which
extended...from July 24, 1944 to September 6, 1944. L-Company's first
experience in combat was a severe air bombardment...
...It was on August 7, 1944 that the outfit met the first organized
resistance by the enemy, which came in the form of a fierce counter
attack consisting of tanks, infantry and those well known 88's...The
attack of the enemy was successfully repulsed and a great deal of
credit was due to two of the boys who stood their ground and directed
artillery fire on the approaching tanks...The area in which the first
battle took place has been called the Battle of Gathemo.
...From the vicinity of Gathemo...[we] moved rapidly... through Percy
then on to the Falais Gap...
...The next objective...was the town of El Beuf...L-Company was
assigned the task of taking a designated cross-road some distance
beyond the bluffs overlooking the town...
...Following the El Beuf campaign, the 109th Infantry Regiment took
part in the historic parade in Paris commerating the liberation of the
...The campaign through France was climaxed by the battles of St.
Cecile and Compiegne...
...the Company proceeded rapidly across a part of Belgium and into
Luxembourg. The enemy was retreating so rapidly that difficulty was
experienced in making contact with the fleeing Jerries.
...The campaign for Germany, in so far as L-Company is concerned began
on September 12, 1944 -- an eventful day for the company, for on that
date members of the unit first set foot on German soil...perhaps the
first American soldiers to have crossed into Germany...by crossing the
Ouer River and then proceeding to high ground...all outfits holding
the hill site were under heavy mortar and artillery fire for the
entire month...the hill became known as "Purple Heart Hill".
The next assignment handed to L-Company...was a defensive one in
Belgium...in...the area known as "Rat Hill"...during the month of
...L-Company had been taking things comparatively easy...in
Luxemboutg...but it was only to be a matter of a few days that all
hell broke loose...
...It was on December 16, 19444 that the enemy struck in force at the
thinly manned lines of the 28th...[NOTE from pafalafa-ga: this is the
famous Battle of the Bulge]
...it was here, by reason of the numerous casualties inflicted on the
enely by the boys of L-Company, the popular expression, "Rack 'Em and
Stack 'Em" originated.
...ON Christmas Eve, December 24, 1944, we find L-Company in the
attack over the sonw covered hills of Luxembourg...
...In the month of January 1945, the Regiment commenced a long trip
which ended in the deep snows of the Vosges Mountains, in southern
France.. Here, L-company ...[was] more or less limited to patrols.
...From the mountains, all outfits departed for the Alsace, where the
attack on Colmar began...
...The 28th was soon on the road again, heading north, unloading at
...The gong of victory sounded while the Company was stationed in
[The roster for L-Company as of VE Day is listed beginning on page 17
-- there is no indication as to whether this list is 100% complete,
but your uncle's name may well be on there:]
A detailed description of what a grunt from L-Company was wearing
during different points of the war can be seen at this 28th Division
military re-enactment site:
The uniform of the 28th Division Soldier changed throughout the war.
The uniform was improved in some cases, made more practical in others.
The uniform of the Soldier varied as often as one case to the next, as
soldiers "acquired" equipment from various locations and situations.
This description of some of the uniforms of the Company L. Soldier
throughout WWII is by no means "all inclusive", but instead attempts
to give a conceptual understanding of what the majority of the
soldiers in the 28th Division were wearing at 3 specific points
throughout their involvement in the Campaigns in Europe....
Similar descriptions of weapons and equipment are here:
The weapons carried by the Infantryman of Company L., 109th Infantry
Regiment, throughout World War II were often based on what job he had
to do. At the onset of the United State's involvement in the war, many
soldiers were being trained on the improved model of the WWI M1903
Springfield, the M1903A3. After mid 1942, every man was trained on the
use of the M1 Rifle, commonly called the "Garand" today, after it's
inventor John Garand. Later, the soldier would received individual
training on other weapons...
The equipment carried by soldiers of Company L was similar not only to
other Infantry units throughout the Army of the Second World War, but
also to the Army of the First World War. Images of National Guard
units throughout the United States during the 1920's and 1930's showed
their men wearing equipment from the First World War. In many ways,
the Equipment of the average soldier would be difficult to describe,
as it could vary extremely from one case to the next. We have tried to
organize this equipment in as logical a system as we could. Please
keep in mind, that there are many "exceptions to the rule". This
description pertains to the "average" rifleman, not taking into
account the possibility of special duty or issue. This could be
described as what the "majority" was issued...
The 28th was known as the "Bloody Bucket". Some history on the
Division as a whole, and on the 109th Regiment (to which L-Company
belonged) is available at a number of sites, such as this State of
Pennsylvania site giving the history of the Division:
[NOTE: the site seems to be down today...hopefully it will be back up shortly]
The 28th Division, the National Guard of Pennsylvania, provided an
excellent example of how a Division Emblem was born. The Keystone is
the symbol peculiar to the State of Pennsylvania, which has held that
nickname since the Revolutionary War, when Pennsylvania was referred
to as the "Keystone of the Union Arch". Ever since, Pennsylvania has
used this emblem, and it appears in printed matter on public
buildings, on license tags,and on state vehicles. The military use of
the keystone dates back to at least the Civil War era. It was born as
a "Corps Badge" by the Pennsylvania National Guard, and was part of
the emblem of branch insignia. It was used on the military signs,
lamps, and almost anywhere else thought suitable...
It is interesting to note that today the 28th Infantry Division patch
remains exactly as originally approved, with no change in size, shape,
or color. Originally, patches were cut out of red felt, but since
about 1940 they have been embroidered. Variations can be found from
the World War II era. These are approximately the same size, color and
shape and sometimes include a blue "28" within the border of the
emblem. Possibly these were made by French seamstresses, or American
tailors who may not have known the exact specifications.
From the above antecedents comes our current 28th Division shoulder
patch, which was known to the Germans in World War II as the "Bloody
Bucket",and which is recognizable today to many victims of Hurricane
Agnes in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania who received aid from
Guardsmen with the "RedKeystone" on their shoulders.
L-Company was part of the 109th Regiment, a history of which can be
seen here...it includes mention of their participation in the very
famous parade down the Champs Elysee to celebrate the liberation of
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 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. From Paris, the Maremen made their way into
Belgium, Luxembourg and onto the Siegfried Line at Sevenig by
mid-September, all in eleven days....
The Bloody Bucket website:
has an interesting history at the Divisional level (without mentioning
L-Company specifically) and also has several very worthwhile links:
Insignia used by the 28th Division, including your uncle's regiment, the 109th
A ton information here about the battle of Huertgen Forest, one of the
28th's major actions. Again, not much specific to L-Company that I
saw here, but have a look at the "Maps" section -- the map labeled
"28th Inf. Div. Positions at Nightfall, 3 Nov 44" appears to show the
positions of individual companies, including L-Company.
A link to an L-Company re-enactment group can be found here:
Your or your uncle may wish to make contact with some of the people
involved with this organization.
There is a museum in Pennsylvania devoted to the activities of the
28th Division and to those who fell in battle:
I-Company of the 28th also has a presence on the web, and their site at:
though not directly connected to L-Company, has some terrific pictures
of the 28th that your uncle may be interested in having a look at.
About a third of the way down the page, here:
there have for sale "U.S. 28th Division sleeve patch.(Red keystone) $2.25ea"
A detailed set of statistics and chronology for the 28th Division can
be found here:
which mentions the fact that the Division, overall, received 258
Silver Stars....your uncle may have accounted for one or more of
Another very elaborate site with similar sorts of information can be found here:
Much of the information is not meaningful to me, but may be of
interest to those who are more familiar with military lingo.
Reproductions of an interesting painting involving the 28th are
available for sale at this site:
A Time for Healing
by Robert M. Nisley
The acrylic painting "A Time for Healing," by Hummelstown artist
Robert M. Nisley, was commissioned by the Governor's Committee for
World War II Commemoration as their final project after five years of
honoring the veterans of World War II at functions throughout the
The committee's decision was to depict a scene from World War II
involving a Pennsylvania unit which would show some humanity in the
midst of total war.
The resulting choice was what is called by military historians "the
incident on the Kall Trail." There, in November 1944 during the Battle
of the Huertgen Forest, while Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division
was fighting the German 89th Division for the towns of
Schmidt-Kommerscheidt, a series of truces were arranged between the
Germans and the 28th Division's 112th Infantry Regiment.
It is this humanitarian effort that is depicted in the painting....
Some basic information about the terms of military units -- companies,
divisions, etc. can be found here:
Company/Troop/Battery: 60 to 200 soldiers.
The Company is a cohesive tactical sized unit that can perform a
battlefield function on its own. It is capable of receiving and
controlling additional combat, combat support or combat service
support elements to enhance its mission capability. The Company has a
small headquarters element to assist the Commander. Typically, three
to five platoons form a Company, with between 15-25 vehicles. For
example, an Armor Tank Company is composed of five officers, 57
enlisted soldiers, 14 M1A2/A3 Main Battle Tanks and several wheeled
vehicles. The Company is normally commanded by a Captain (0-3). A
First Sergeant (E-8) is the commander°¶s principal non-commissioned
assistant. Depending on the type of unit, a Company may be called a
Troop or Battery. Ground or Air Cavalry units (armor and aviation
units specially trained for reconnaissance missions) refer to these
elements as Troops. Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery units
refer to these elements as Batteries.
Brigade/Group/Regiment: 1,500 to 3,200 soldiers.
A brigade is a significantly large unit that can be employed on
independent or semi-independent operations. The Brigade is normally
commanded by a Colonel (0-6) although in some cases a Brigadier
General (0-7) may assume command. The Command Sergeant Major (E-9) is
the principal non-commissioned officer assistant. During combat
operations, Infantry, Armor and Cavalry Brigades normally have a field
artillery battalion, engineer battalion and combat service support
battalion in direct support. Brigades also exist in combat service
and combat service support branches (e.g., Engineer Brigade, Signal
Brigade). Armored Cavalry units of this size are referred to as
Regiments (e.g., 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment). Ranger and Special
Forces units this size are referred to as Groups.
Division: 10,000 to 16,000 soldiers.
The Division performs major tactical operations and can conduct
sustained battles and engagements. Divisions are numbered (e.g., 1st
Armored Division, 82nd Airborne Division) and are categorized by one
of five types: Light Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, Armor, Airborne
or Air Assault. The Division is commanded by a Major General (0-8)
who is assisted by two principal Brigadier Generals (0-7) who perform
duties as Assistant Division Commanders »ő one for Maneuver and one
for Support. The Command Sergeant Major (E-9) is the principal
non-commissioned officer assistant. Divisions are comprised of three
tactical maneuver (Infantry and/or Armor) Brigades and a Division base
of combat support and combat service support elements. There are
currently ten divisions in the Active Army and eight Divisions in the
Reserves/National Guard. In October 1999, The Army established two
Integrated Divisions (the 7th Infantry Division and 24th Infantry
Division) consisting of an Active Component headquarters commanded by
an Active Component Major General (O-8), and three Army National Guard
Enhanced Seperate Brigades.
Lastly, I've included excerpts from a much more detailed history of
the 28th Infantry Division that is available here:
28th Infantry "Keystone" Division
The 28th Infantry Division is a highly-responsive National Guard
Division, trained to conduct a variety of missions provided by the
federal government as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania...
The 28th Infantry Division is the oldest division in the armed forces
of the United States. The Office of the Chief of Military History
certified that General Order No. 1, dated March 12, 1879, officially
established the Division...
Division Commanders During WWII
Maj. Gen. Edward Martin 1939 - 1942
Maj. Gen. J. Gasesch Ord 1942 - 1942
Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley 1942 - 1943
Maj. Gen. Lloyd B. Brown 1943 - 1944
Brig Gen. James E. Wharton Aug 13, 1944
Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota 1944 - 1945
Maj. Gen. Edward J. Stackpole 1946 - 1947
The 28th Infantry Division in World War II
On Feb. 17, 1941 , the 28th Division was ordered into federal service
for one year of active duty. TheJapanese attack on Pearl Harbor on
Dec. 7, 1941 led soldiers of the 28th to remain on active for the
duration of the war. Having conducted specialized combat training
ineverything from offensive maneuvers in mountainous terrain to
amphibious warfare, the Division's intensive training agenda
culminated in its deployment to England on Oct. 8,1943.
After another 10 months of training in England and Wales, the first
elements of the Division entered combat on July 22, 1944, landing on
the beaches of Normandy. From Normandy, the 28th advanced across
western France, finding itself in the thick of hedgerow fighting
through towns such as Percy, Montbray, Montguoray, Gathemo and St.
Sever de Calvados by the end of July 1944. The fury of assaults
launched by the 28th Infantry Division led the German Army to bestow
the Keystone soldiers with the title "Bloody Bucket" Division.
In a movement north toward the Seine in late August, the Division
succeeded in trapping the remnant of the German 7th Army through
Vorneuil, Breteuil, Damville, Conches, Le Neubourg and Elbeuf before
entering Paris to join in its liberation. The famous photograph of
American troops before the Arc de Triomphe, marching in battle parade
down the Champs Elysees, shows the men of 1st Battalion, 110th
Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. With no time to rest, the
Division moved on to fight some of the most bloody battles of the War
the day following the parade.
The advance continued through the Forest of Compeigne, La Fere, St.
Quentin, Laon, Rethel, Sedan, Mezieres, Bouillon and eventually across
the Meuse River into Belgium. The Keystone soldiers averaged 17 miles
a day against the resistance of German "battle groups." The city of
Arlon, Belgium, fell to a task force as the Division fanned out into
Luxembourg in early September.On September 11, 1944, the 28th claimed
the distinction of being the first American unit to enter Germany.
After hammering away in assaults which destroyed or captured 153
pillboxes and bunkers, the Division moved north toward the Siegfried
Line, clearing the Monschau Forest of German forces. After a brief
respite, the Keystone soldiers made another move northward to the
Huertgen Forest in late September. Attacks in the forest began
November 2, 1944. The 28th Infantry Division stormed into Vossenack,
Kommerscheidt and Schmidt amid savage fighting and heavy losses.
By November 10, the 28th began to move south, where it held a 25-mile
sector of the front line along the Our River. It was against this
thinly fortified division line that the Germans unleashed the full
force of their winter Ardennes "blitzkreig" offensive. Five Axis
divisions stormed across the Our River the first day, followed by four
more in the next few day. Overwhelmed by the weight of enemy armor and
personnel, the Division maintained its defense of this sector long
enough to throw Von Runstedt's assault off schedule. With allied
forces able to a move in to counterattack, the "Battle of the Bulge"
ensued, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy forces.
Having sustained a devastating 15,000 casualties, the 28th withdrew to
refortify. But within three weeks, the Division was back in action. By
January 1945, Division soldiers had moved south where they served with
the French First Army in the reduction of the "Colmar Pocket." The
109th Infantry Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for its
action which helped lead to the liberation of Colmar, the last major
French city in German hands. By February 23, 1945, the Division
returned north to the American First Army. The 28th was in position
along the Olef River when an attack was launched on March 6, 1945,
carrying the Division to the Ahr River. Schleiden, Germund, Kall,
Sotenich, Sistig and Blankenheim all fell in a raid advance. By early
April, the Division moved west of the Rhine and took up occupation
duties in the area north of Aachen along the Holland-German border.
Permanent occupation came two weeks later at the Saurland and Rhonish
areas. In early July 1945, the 28th began its redeployment to the U.S.
The Division was deactivated on December 13, 1945. Five campaign
streamers - Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, and
Central Europe - were earned during World War II, in addition to the
Croix de Guerre.
I hope this information meets -- and hopefully surpasses -- your
expectations of what sort of information was available on your uncle's
company and division.
But as I mentioned earlier, if you find you need additional
information, just let me know by posting a Request for Clarification.
I'll be more than happy to assist you as best I can.
search strategy: Google searches on:
(?28th division? OR ?28th infantry? OR ?28th ID?) (?L company? OR ?company L)