They faced down German Panzers during World War II. Now they’re receiving a Presidential Unit Citation

Julia LeDoux
March 18, 2020 - 3:25 pm
WWII veterans pay respect to the U.S. flag at the 30th ID Old Hickory memorial ceremony on June 2 at Mortain, France.

Sgt. Dommnique Washington

The 30th Infantry Division faced down Adolph Hitler's Panzer Division during World War II and won.

Now, the United States Army has been directed by President Donald J. Trump to award it the Presidential Unit Citation.

"More than 75 years ago, soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division slept in their foxholes after hastily taking defensive positions around the small town of Mortain, France," Trump said in a statement. "They woke to find themselves under attack by an entire German Panzer Corps."

Through the assault, which began Aug. 6, 1944, Hitler tried to keep American forces from breaking out of the Normandy beachhead and into the open countryside.

The Nazi plan called for the Panzer forces to cut through the 30th Infantry Division en route to the sea. 

Nicknamed the “Old Hickory Division” because its soldiers came from National Guard units from North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, states closely associated with President Andrew Jackson,  the Division proved as tough as it's unit’s namesake, the statement continues. 

"The situation they faced on Aug. 6, 1944, was dire.  They found themselves confronted by overwhelming enemy armor, and the German Panzers broke through their lines," it continued. 

Cooks, clerks, and drivers were pressed into service as riflemen. 

WWII Veterans are greeted by a crowd at the 30th Infantry Division Old Hickory memorial ceremony at Mortain, France.
Sgt. Dommnique Washington

"The Division’s artillery protected its encircled and isolated elements with a constant barrage of fire," the statement reads. "At daybreak, American and British close air support arrived to help."

 By the following afternoon, the German attack stalled and the Division counterattacked. Over the next five days, more than 2,000 Old Hickory Soldiers were killed or wounded. 

Eight units within the Division were recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation following the war. 

"Today, I am proud to direct the Army to honor the remainder of the Division and attached units with the Presidential Unit Citation for their heroic stand at Mortain," Trump said.

He added the "action rightfully recognizes our Veterans who triumphed against incredible odds, as well as those who died during a critical battle that helped ensure the Allied victory in Europe."

Reach Julia Le Doux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

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