71st Infantry Regiment
World War Two
The history of the 71st regiment can be traced back to 1850 when they were
first formed as the American Rifles. The regiment was renamed the American
Guard, a name which it proudly keeps to this day. The regiment served in the
Civil War, Spanish American War, and parts of it fought in WWI as the 54th
pioneer regiment. By the time of World War II there were three battalions each
with varying amounts of companies. 1st battalion was made up of A, B, C, and
D companies. 2nd battalion made up of E, F, G, and H. 3rd battalion was the
smallest and was only made up of three companies I, K, and L.
The 71st regiment, stationed in New York City, was called up into federal
service on 16 September 1940. The regiment was first sent to Ft. Dix NJ on
23 Sept 1940, where it was made part of the 44th division. The regiment participated
in various maneuvers including ones at Cape May, NJ; A.P. Hill military reservation,
VA; and Indian Town Gap PN. On 26 Sept 1941 the regiment was sent to the Carolina
maneuvers and for two and a half months was engaged in the largest maneuver
ever held by the United States Army. On their way back to Ft. Dix the regiment
heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The regiment was then sent to
Camp Claiborne, LA on 6-7 January 1942. There the regiment resided until 26
February 1942, when they were shipped to Ft. Lewis, Washington. On 2 July 1942
the 1st battalion, was shipped to Fort Richardson, Alaska, in the Aleutian
Islands. The battalion, less C Company, (which was stationed in Annette Island)
was granted the right to the silver Aleutian battle streamer, making it the
only New York National Guard regiment to serve in both the Pacific and European
theaters. The 1st battalion returned to Ft. Lewis on 23 Sept 1942.
The regiment returned to Louisiana, this time to the Louisiana Maneuver area
on 27 January 1944. The regiment was sent to Camp Phillip Kansas on 8 April
1944, where it received it’s final combat training before being sent
overseas. The regiment moved to their staging point of Camp Myles Standish
in preparation of being shipped out of Boston. The regiment departed from Boston
on 5 September 1944 and landed in Cherbourg, France on the 15 of the same month.
The first companies of the regiment entered action on 23 October 1944, when
they relieved elements of the 70th Division in the vicinity of Embermenil,
France. In the last weeks of October and the first weeks of November they drove
the Germans from their strongholds in the Foret De Parroy, France. Heavy rain
and thick mud marked this period of time as the regiment completed their mopping
up exercises. The regiment was part of a new offensive that opened on 13 November
1944 in conjunction with the other regiments of the 44th division; the 114th
and 324th. The objective was to seize the city of Sarrebourg, France. This
offensive was initially bogged down due to heavy German fire and thick mud.
On 15 November 1944, the regiment finally broke through German lines and captured
several villages. By the afternoon of the regiment was on the outskirts of
Sarrebourg. The strong resistance that was expected in the city never materialized
and it was cleared of enemy troops by the next day.
With the Sarrebourg offensive over the regiment then moved to Groelingen,
France, where they established defensive positions. At this time the 130th
Panzer Lehr Division opened up a vicious counterattack near the town of Rawiller.
The third battalion of the regiment unluckily was conducting a staff meeting
of all their officers when the offensive opened up. The house they were meeting
in was soon surrounded by several tanks and numerous enemy troops. Fifteen
officers and one hundred forty seven enlisted men were either killed or captured.
Only the battalion CO was able to escape, he hid in the attic for two days
while the battle raged around him. Several days later the second and third
battalion retook the lost ground.
In the first weeks of December the regiment was moved into place to assault
the Simserhoff Fortress, part of the famous Maginot line. This fortress had
been taken over by the Germans and was now being used by the very people it
was supposed to protect against. The fortress consisted of at least twenty
large turrets and sixty smaller ones. The regiment finally took the fortress
on 20 December 1944.
It was while this was going on that one of the most courageous defenses ever
fought by the regiment occurred. Company I and the first platoon of company
M were tasked in taking the Freudenberg farm 14 December 1944. They took the
farm, under heavy small arms and artillery fire that evening. The next morning
several enemy motorized platoons attacked the farm. The soldiers of company
M held their fire until the enemy was seventy-five yards away and then opened
fire at point blank range. The resulting firefight left 30 Germans dead and
at least one of their vehicles destroyed. From then until the 19th the company
held the farm under ever increasing artillery fire, which reduced the farm
to rubble. For their heroic defense company I and first platoon of company
M were awarded the Presidential citation.
The regiment was relieved by the 398th regiment on 23 December 1944 and transferred
to a new sector. On the night of 21 December 1944 the Thirteenth SS Corps attacked
the regiment’s sector. This was part of the great German counter offensive
that was to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The enemy was able to infiltrate
and partially surround most of the companies of the regiment and there was
a great amount of confusion. Numerous command posts were attacked and there
were no established front lines, with units from both sides often blundering
into one another. There was very heavy fighting, with some companies and battalions
reduced to platoon and company levels. The regiment was able to hold their
lines however and by 3 January 1945 the front had stabilized. For their bravery
in action from 21 December to 3 January the second battalion was awarded the
Presidential Unit Citation. Sgt. MacGillivary, a sergeant in I company, was
awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for personally crawling toward and
eliminating several machine gun positions that were pinning down his company.
In the process of doing this he lost his arm to enemy fire, yet still continued
The regiment was placed in reserve until 12 February 1945. During this time
they improved the defenses in the Saar region, to prevent another breakthrough
from occurring. This break allowed the regiment to receive replacements and
rest their veterans. By 15 February 1945, the regiment was back on the line
and preparing for an offensive. These attacks were very successful and the
regiment accomplished their objectives of La Schlossberg, Moronville Ferme,
and Rimling. Continuous patrolling kept the Germans off step and unable to
launch a counterattack.
The regiment entered Germany on 25 March 1945. The regiment was tasked the
job of taking Mannheim, the eighth largest city in Germany. By the 28th of
March they began their attack to secure the city. The suburb of Freudenheim
was taken without a shot when a citizen there secured the surrender of the
town. With US forces attacking the northern half of Mannheim the civilian authorities
in the southern half negotiated the complete surrender of the city. The regiment
then boarded trucks and traveled on the Autobahn throughout Germany looking
for the enemy. They were mostly involved in securing roadways and bridges and
capturing any German stragglers that they happened upon. They continued their
dash across Germany until 28 April 1945 when they were ordered to move toward
the vaunted National Redoubt. They met only sporadic resistance as they moved
south through the Austrian Alps, the last die-hard supporters of the Hitler
regime, mostly SS and Hitler Youth. The first battalion, with the help of Austrian
soldiers, was able to climb Mt. Wanneck and surprise the command post of the
47th Volkstrum Grenadier Division and subsequently capture their commander.
On 5 May 1945 the regiment was informed that all hostilities were to cease.
In the first week of June the regiment boarded trains for the trip back to
France and then to the Pacific. On 20 July 1945 the regiment disembarked in
New York to a thunderous welcome. After thirty days leave the regiment was
moved to Camp Chaffee Arkansas. There the regiment learned about V-J Day, and
were inactivated on 13 November 1945.
Among the battle streamers won by the 71st Regiment as a whole are.
1: Northern France
4: Central Europe
5: Asiatic-Pacific Theater, Streamer without inscription
Presidential unit Citation
Gregory Soloviev, intern
71st Regiment Vertical File. New York State Military
Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle. New York:
Galahad Books, 1984.
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New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military
March 30, 2006