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by Lisa M. Budreau, Ph.D.
Early on the morning of June 11, 1944, Tennesseans with the famed 30th “Old Hickory” Infantry Division came ashore at Omaha Beach, following the initial landing a few days before on what is commonly referred to as D-Day. They arrived in Normandy after extensive training, including several months at Camp Forrest, near Tullahoma, Tennessee, one of the largest World War II training facilities in America. Once ashore in France, units of the 30th advanced across Europe, were instrumental in spearheading the breakthrough at the Battle of Saint-Lô, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. They then became the first of the allied troops to enter Belgium and Holland. Their distinguished service includes the liberation of a sub-camp of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The Division endured 282 days in combat overseas.
Not all Tennesseans were on the ground during the D-Day operation. Seaman First Class Lloyd Gene Kail, of Humboldt, witnessed the carnage from his destroyer, the USS Davis. (Tennessee State Museum collection, 2009.33.1)
Aerial photograph of Omaha Beach in Normandy, taken by Nashville-native Major Joe Thompson, about three weeks after the D-Day invasion landings. He was flying his P51 Mustang conducting aerial reconnaissance. (Tennessee State Museum collection, 2002.37.2.1)
The “Old Hickory” 30th Infantry Division shoulder patch was worn on its side during World War I, and vertically with a prominent “H” during World War 2. (Tennessee State Museum collection, 0.790.7)
Front Page of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, morning edition, Tuesday, June 6, 1944 (Tennessee State Museum collection, 2008.396.5)
This military jacket, known as an “Ike Jacket," was worn by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander on D-Day. It is currently on display in the Museum. (Tennessee State Museum collection, 1.280A)
Footage of the 30th Infantry in action:
Lisa M. Budreau, Ph.D., is the Senior Curator of Military History at Tennessee State Museum and author of Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919-1933 (NYU Press, 2010) and Answering the Call: The U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1919 (GPO, Washington DC, 2010).