Due to the lack of interest from the ROF workers in staying at Island Farm,
the camp remained empty until October 1943, when the Americans came to Bridgend
in preparation for the D-Day landings. In spite of the immense secrecy,
the people of Bridgend got to learn that General Dwight D. Eisenhower had made
a visit to the camp and it was from on top of a truck, in totally broken rank
formation that he urged his men with their help he could thrash the Germans.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander
Note the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces) patch on his shoulder.
Eisenhower was officially designated the Supreme Commander on 12 February 1944 and SHAEF was activated the next day.
In the initial years (2000) of this web site research I desperately tried to identify who the Americans were that were stationed at Island Farm and spoke to quite a few American Veterans. However, the answer remained a mystery until 2003 when I received the following email:
"General Eisenhower reviewed the American troops who were stationed in Porthcawl on 1 April 1944. The 107th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 28th Infantry Division, was accommodated in Porthcawl from 17 October 1943 until 13 April 1944, when it moved out to Tidworth, Hampshire, and then joined their landing craft in Weymouth en route for Omaha beach. Eisenhower's inspection was carried out at Newton Burrows, grass covered sandhills five minutes south of where I live and where there was a firing range used by the troops. The targets are still there in the pits, as are the firing trenches. Eisenhower is also recorded to have addressed members of the 28th Division who were billeted at Margam Castle, which is six or seven miles to the west of Porthcawl. "
The above email told me that it was the 28th Infantry Division that had been stationed in the Bridgend area and following enquiries on this lead, I was then fortunate to receive the following email:
28th Infantry division history says that on 1 April 1944, General Eisenhower
inspected units of the division. There is photo which shows Eisenhower addressing
soldiers at Margam Castle, Port Talbot. These would have been soldiers of the
109th Infantry Regiment. The period the 28th spent in Wales was the longest
period they were in any place during the war. Following the war there were a
number of marriages as a result. Our crude estimate is roughly 350 such unions.
Island Farm was the location of the 2nd battalion of the 109th Infantry Regiment.
(Margam Castle was the location of the 109th Infantry Regimental Headquarters,
the 1st Battalion 109th and Service Company). Sincerely, William O. Hickok"
The distinctive insignia of the 109th Infantry Regiment.
The regimental motto
“Cives Arma Ferant”
“Let the Citizens Bear Arms.”
THE 28TH INFANTRY DIVISION
With the information contained in the email above it was now possible to visualise the battalion which was at Island Farm and to explain this I have written the following:
The 28th Infantry Division was made up of 3 Infantry Regiments:
Each regiments was made up of 3 Battalions (3 Regiments each with 3 battalions = 9 Battalions)
Each battalion was made up of 3 companies and a soldier would refer to his company by the appropriate word from the phonetic alphabet for example: G = George, i.e., “George” Company.
The lettering of the companies started over agan in each regiment, i.e., each regiment had A-I companies
Note: The WWII era U.S. phonetic alphabet was replaced in the late 1950s by new words which are still used today. For example:
B=Baker, C=Charlie, D=Dog, E=Easy, F=Fox, G=George, etc
Today: A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charlie, D=Delta, E=Echo, F=Foxtrot, G=Golf, etc.
Just to add to the confusion:
28th Infantry Division In Summary:
The 28th Infantry Division was made up as follows:
As of 26 February 1944,
a standard U.S. infantry regiment had an authorized strength of 152 officers,
5 warrant officers and 3,100 enlisted men.
As of 26 February 1944, a standard U.S. infantry battalion had an authorized strength of 35 officers and 836 enlisted men.
The table of organisation and equipment for a typical U.S. light artillery battalion as of 15 September 1943 (such as the 107th Field Artillery Battalion) called for:
As can be seen, even a single U.S. artillery battalion used an extensive amount of personnel and equipment! The primary field piece in the U.S. Army in WWII was the outstanding 105mm M2 and M3 howitzers.
As a U.S. infantry division was a very big organisation (over 15,000 men all told), it would be billeted and dispersed over a large area while in the UK. This explains why Margam Castle was the location of the 109th Infantry Regimental Headquarters, the 1st Battalion of the 109th Infantry Regiment and the regimental Service Company. The other two battalions of the regiment as well as the rest of the division were billeted elsewhere.
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.
The red "keystone", official emblem of the State of Pennsylvania, is the official shoulder sleeve insignia of the 28th Division which was originally a Pennsylvania National Guard organization.
The Germans called it the "Bloody Bucket" because of the blood-red keystone insignia and their vicious fighting tactics during the Normandy Campaign.
In the pre-war years, the U.S. “square” infantry division was organised with two infantry brigades each controlling two infantry regiments. This organisational scheme, adopted in WWI, was deemed outdated for modern conditions, i.e., not mobile or flexible enough. From 1939-1942, the U.S. Army began converting its “square” divisions into “triangular” divisions with three infantry regiments and no intermediate brigade headquarters.
As such, the
111th Infantry Regiment was relieved from assignment to the 28th Infantry Division
on 27 February 1942. It spent the war as a separate formation without divisional
assignment and deployed to the Pacific in November 1943. Elements of the regiment
assaulted Kwajalein in January 1944 and Ujelan Atoll in April 1944. It spent
the rest of the war on garrison duties at Kwajalein and later Peleliu. The regiment
returned to the United States in November 1945 and was inactivated.
A very sad hand written letter from an American deserter - Pvt Edward Donald Slovik 18th February 1920 – 31st January 1945
I Pvt Eddie D Slovik
Signed Pvt Eddie D Slovik
Edward Donald Slovik was the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War. Although over 21,000 American soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, including forty-nine death sentences, Slovik's death sentence was the only one that was carried out
The execution by firing
squad was carried out at 10:04 a.m. on January 31, 1945, near the village of
Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The unrepentant Slovik said to the soldiers whose duty
it was to prepare him for the firing squad before they led him to the place
of execution: “They're not shooting me for deserting the United States Army,
thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody
and I'm it because I'm an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and
that's what they are shooting me for. They're shooting me for the bread and
chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.”
As required by military custom, Slovik's uniform was stripped of all military identifying insignia, buttons or any other accoutrements and wrapped with a GI blanket over his shoulders to protect him against the cold, he was led into the courtyard of a house chosen for the execution because of its high masonry wall to deflect errant bullets and to discourage the local French civilians from witnessing the solemn proceedings. Soldiers stood him against a six inch by six inch post. He was then strapped to the post with web belts, with one wrapped around and under his arms and hung on a spike on the back side of the post to prevent his body from slumping following the volley, and the others securing his knees and ankles. Just before a soldier placed a black hood over his head, the attending chaplain, Father Carl Patrick Cummings, said to Slovik, "Eddie, when you get up there, say a little prayer for me." Slovik replied with his last words: "Okay, Father. I'll pray that you don't follow me too soon."
Twelve hand-picked soldiers were detailed for the firing squad from the 109th Regiment. The weapons used were standard issue M1 Garand rifles with just one round loaded in eleven rifles and one rifle loaded with a blank round. On the command of "Fire", Slovik was hit by eleven bullets, at least four of them being fatal. The wounds ranged from high in the neck region out to the left shoulder, over the left chest, and under the heart. One bullet was in the left upper arm. An Army physician quickly determined Slovik had not been immediately killed. As the firing squad's rifles were being reloaded to fire another volley, Slovik expired. He was 24 years old. The entire execution took 15 minutes.
Slovik was buried in Plot E of Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Fère-en-Tardenois, alongside 95 American soldiers executed for rape or murder. Their grave markers are hidden from view by shrubbery and bear sequential numbers instead of names, making it impossible to identify them individually without knowing the key. Antoinette Slovik petitioned the Army for her husband's remains and his pension until her death in 1979. Slovik's case was taken up in 1981 by former Macomb County Commissioner Bernard V. Calka, a Polish-American World War II veteran, who continued to petition the Army to return Slovik's remains to the United States. In 1987, he persuaded President Ronald Reagan to order their return.
In 1987, Calka raised $5,000
to pay for the exhumation of Slovik's remains from Row 3, Grave 65 of Plot E
and their transfer to Detroit's Woodmere Cemetery, where Slovik was reburied
next to his wife.
Antoinette Slovik and others had petitioned seven US presidents (Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter) for a pardon, but none were granted.
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