Regimental History & Lineage
The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment has an exceptional history and lineage reaching back to the founding of our country. Generations of Militia and National Guardsmen from the Regiment have served this country in all its wars with distinction for over 200 years. Every soldier of the Regiment should be aware of the sacrifice and dedications of those that went before us in the Regiment and try to measure up to what they achieved.
This history of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment was complied from the following sources:
The Tennessee Historical Commission
The Tennessee State Archives
Official Lineage of the 278th ACR (Third Tennessee)
Company B, 117th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division By Major General Warren C. Giles
Battle of Stones River No Better Place to Die By Peter Cozzens
Tennesseans in The Civil War In Two Parts Published by the Civil War Centennial Commission
History of the 30th Infantry Division 30th Infantry Division Association
278TH ARMORED CAVALRY REGIMENT
(The THIRD TENNESSEE)
STATE HISTORY (Unofficial)
The history of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment began before the American Revolution when local militia units formed throughout communities in East Tennessee. These units were organized to protect the early settlers in Tennessee from the Creek and Cherokee Indians who often raided settlements in East Tennessee. Once these militia units were formed, the Indian raids generally subsided and life on the Tennessee frontier settled down.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
During the American Revolution, these militia units joined along the Nolichucky River in east Tennessee under the command of Colonel John Sevier to form a mounted Militia Company of east Tennesseans. They formed with other "Over the Mountain Men" and defeated a superior British force under the command of General Patrick Ferguson in the Battle of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The battle, fought on October 7, 1780, destroyed the left wing of Cornwallis' army and effectively ended Loyalist ascendance in the Carolinas. The victory halted the British advance into North Carolina, forced Lord Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte into South Carolina, and gave General Nathaniel Greene the opportunity to reorganize the American Army.
In 1796, Tennessee became the sixteenth state to join the union. Colonel John Sevier became the State’s first governor. He organized the State’s Militia into three brigades with the Third Brigade of the Militia in East Tennessee.
THE WAR OF 1812 AND EASTERN INDIAN WARS
During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, Militia units from East Tennessee marched with General Andrew Jackson and fought engagements at Pensacola, Florida and defeated a superior English force on 8 January 1815 in New Orleans. East Tennessee Militia units also participated in the Indian Wars with General Andrew Jackson taking part in actions in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
THE WAR WITH MEXICO
In 1846, a call went out for 2800 Volunteers from the State of Tennessee to take part in the War with Mexico. 38,000 Tennesseans answered the call earning the Tennessee Militia the ever-lasting nickname of "Volunteers." From that heritage, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment’s motto "I Volunteer Sir" was derived. Because there were so many volunteers willing to fight, a special lottery was held to select those men who would be allowed to fight. Volunteer Militia units from East Tennessee took part in actions in Mexico.
THE CIVIL WAR
During the Civil War, East Tennessee Volunteer Militia Regiments from the Third Brigade served in the Army of Virginia under General Robert E. Lee, and General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. Numerous Militia Units from East Tennessee also served in Major General William Starke Rosecrans’ XIV Army Corps (Union Army of the Cumberland). East Tennessee soldiers in the Civil War literally fought brother against brother mainly in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. One unit, the 19th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment formed in Knoxville fought at Perryville, Kentucky, Stones River (Murfreesboro), Shiloh, Vicksburg, Corinth, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Dalton, Big Shanty, Atlanta, Nashville, and Savannah.
LINEAGE AND HONORS (Official)
The Third Brigade of the Tennessee Militia was absorbed into the National Guard of the United States on March 25, 1887 as the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment with Headquarters in Knoxville. 1st Battalion was located in Knoxville, 2d Battalion was located in Chattanooga. In the spring of 1898, the 1st and 2d Battalions were consolidated to form the 6th Infantry Regiment. On 18 – 20 May 1898, the 6th Infantry was re-designated as the Third Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR
The Third Tennessee was mustered into Federal service 18 - 20 May 1898 at Camp Dewy, Nashville for the War with Spain. The Third Tennessee was deployed to Tampa, Florida and later returned and mustered out of Federal service at Anniston, Alabama on 31 Janaury 1899. It was reorganized in Knoxville in the Tennessee National Guard as the 6th Infantry Regiment. Five years later, the 6th Infantry Regiment was re-designated once again as the Third Infantry Regiment in 1903.
THE MEXICAN BORDER
On July 3rd, 1916, the Third Infantry Regiment was mustered into Federal Service at Nashville and deployed to Eagle Pass, Texas to take part in the Army’s pursuit of the Mexican Bandit Francisco (Pancho) Villa along the Mexican and US Border. They returned home and were mustered out of Federal service on March 14, 1917.
WORLD WAR I
Four months after returning from Texas, on July 24, 1917, the Third Infantry Regiment was mustered into Federal Service and assigned as an element of the 30th Division. The 30th Division had been called into Federal service on July 25, 1917, seven days after designation as a division. On August 3, the War Department ordered concentration and organization at Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina. On August 5, 1917 the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment was "drafted" into Federal service. Concentration continued throughout August 1917.
The 30th Division (The Old Hickory Division named after President Andrew Jackson of Tennessee) was reorganized in accordance with the Tables of Organization of August 8, 1917. On September 12, 1917 Infantry Brigades were organized in the 30th Division. The 59th Infantry Brigade was composed of the Third Tennessee and the First South Carolina Regiments of Infantry, and detachments of the First North Carolina and Second South Carolina Regiments of Infantry, and the Tennessee Cavalry. The 60th Infantry Brigade included, the Second and Third North Carolina Regiments of Infantry, and detachments of the First North Carolina, and Second Tennessee Regiments of Infantry and of North Carolina Cavalry. On September 14, 1917 the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment was reorganized and re-designated as the 117th Infantry Regiment assigned to the 30th Division.
The 30th Division underwent a term of systematic training from September 17 until April 30, 1818. During October 1917, selective service men from Camps Gordon, Jackson and Pike completed the Regiment and filled out the rest of the Division.
The 117th Infantry Regiment as part of the 59th Brigade, 30th Infantry Division received its first taste of war on July 9, 1918. With the 27th (US) Division, it was assigned to the organization and defense of the East Poperinghe Line, a third defensive position in the Dickebusch Lake and Scherpenberg Sectors. The 30th Division on July 11, 1918 assumed full responsibility for the East Poperinghe trench system.
Affiliated with the British, 117th Infantry Regiment as part of the 30th Division reached the front lines for training on July 16, 1918 and remained until August 18. Actual training was carried until August 9. The 117th Infantry Regiment and the rest of the 59th Infantry Brigade remained with the British 3rd (GB) Division, while the Machine Gun and Infantry units served by battalions and other divisional troops by detachments remained with 30th Division.
After a brief return to the rear for further training, the 30th Division relieved the 3rd (GB) Division in the front line of the Canal Sector from the vicinity of Elzenwalle to the railroad southeast of Transport Fme on the nights of August 16 and 17, 1918. On August 18, 1918 the 30th Division (US) assumed command, with the 6th (GB) Division to its right. On the next day the Canal Sector occupation was merged into the Ypres-Lys Operation.
From August 19 until September 4 the 30th (US) Division, less Artillery and 105th Ammunition Trains took part in the Ypres- Lys Operation. August 26 - September 11 rumors of a German withdrawal of troops was investigated. August 31 combat patrols of the 30th (US) Division determined that the Germans were withdrawing. The next day, the 59th Infantry Brigade leading, the Division captured Moated Orange, Voormezeele, Lock No. 8, and Lankhof Fme, and occupied a line connecting these localities with the original front at Gunners' Lodge. The 27th (US) Division served to the right, the 14th (GB) Division to the left.
On the nights of September 3, 4, and 5, the 30th Division (US) was relieved by the 35th (GB) Division, and on September 4, the command passed. The 30th (US) Division concentrated near Proven on September 5 and 6, and moved into the St. Pol Area, in the zone of the British First Army on September 7 for Training.
Meanwhile, on September 12-15, the 37th Infantry Division, along with the two 30th Division units, occupied the Avocourt Sector on September 23-25, 1918.
THE SOMME OFFENSIVE
The 30th (US) Division, less Artillery, and the 105th Ammunition Train participated in the Somme Offensive Operation September 22-October 1. On the nights of September 21, 22, 23 and 24, 1918, the 30th (US) Division moved to the Tincourt-Boucly (British Fourth Army) Area, where the Second Corps was affiliated with the Australian 1st Division, east of Villeret and Hargicourt. The lines extended from 300 meters east of Buisson-Gaulaine Fme, through La Haute Bruyere, la Terrasse Trench, Bois des Tuyas, Boyeu du Chevreau, to Malakoff Fme. The 59th Infantry Brigade occupied the forward area. Command passed to the 30th (US) Division on September 24, 1918.
On September 26-27, the 30th (US) Division attacked from a line of departure between 300 and 400 meters east of the line between La Haute Bruyere and Malakoff Fme, with the 46th (GB) Division on the right, and the 27th (US) Division on the left. On the night of September 27 and 28, the 60th Infantry Brigade relieved the 59th Infantry Brigade and the 117th Infantry Regiment.
HINDENBURG LINE IS SMASHED
September 29, 1918, brought one of the most important victories of the World War I, for on that date the 30th (US) Division with the 59th and 60th Infantry Brigades in the lead, battered through the Hindenburg Line, one of the most formidable battle lines known to history. Immediately after the penetration, the 30th Division crossed the canal and captured Bellicourt, then entered Nauroy. It was at Bellicourt, France, that the 30th Division won undying fame, for mashing its way through the famed "Hindenburg Line", a victory that hastened the close of the war.
The 5th (Australian) Division moved up to pass through the 30th (US) Division, and both divisions advanced to establish a front from the intersection of Wattling Street road and canal, east and northeast to Bois du Cabaret, 800 meters northeast of the Boise de Malakoff. The next day the command passed to the Australian 5th Division, but units of the 30th (US) Division, which were in line, participated until noon.
During its advance of 20 miles, the 30th (US) Division captured 98 officers, 3,750 enlisted men, 72 pieces of artillery, 26 trench mortars and 426 machine guns. It suffered 8,415 casualties.
On October 1 and 2, 1918 the 117th Infantry Regiment as part of the 59th Infantry Brigade, 30th (US) Division moved to the Heroecourt and Mesnil-Bruntel Areas, and on the 5th, the II Corps prepared to relieve the Australian troops in the front line. Returning to the front the 117th Infantry as part of the 59th Infantry Brigade and other units moved to the Tincourt-Boucly Area.
On the night of October 5 and 6, 1818 the 59th Infantry Brigade took position in support near Hargicourt and Bellicourt. The next day the 59th Infantry Brigade attacked to realign the front.
The 30th (US) Division on October 8, assisted by tanks had the 59th Infantry Brigade and one battalion from the 60th Infantry Brigade, leading, attacked northeast, and captured Brancourt-le-Grand and Premont, and reached a line from the Fme de la Piete to the eastern outskirts of Premont. The 6th (GB) Division served on the right, while the 25th (GB) Division was on the left. The 60th Infantry Brigade passed through the 59th on October 9, and captured Busigny and Becquigny. The next day the division front extended along the western outskirts of Vaux-Andigny, through La Haie-Menneresse, and St. Souplet, to St. Benin.
It was during this advance on October 7, 1918 that Sergeant Edward R. Talley, from Russellville, Tennessee, Company L, 117th Infantry Regiment near Ponchaux, France, was undeterred by seeing several comrades killed in attempting to put a hostile machinegun nest out of action. He attacked the position single-handed, armed only with his Springfield 03 rifle. Sergeant Talley rushed the machinegun nest in the face of intense enemy fire, killed or wounded at least 6 of the crew, and silenced the gun. When the enemy attempted to bring forward another gun and ammunition Sergeant Talley drove them back by effective fire from his rifle. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The next day, Sergeant James E. (Buck) Karnes from Knoxville, and Private John Calvin Ward from Morristown, Company D, 117th Infantry Regiment near Estrees, France, on 8 October 1918 were taking part in a general advance. Their company was held up by a machinegun, which was enfilading the line of troops. These two soldiers "had all they could take" so they fixed their bayonets and charged the machine gun position and succeeded in destroying the machine gun nest by killing 3 and capturing 7 of the enemy and their guns. Sergeant Karnes and Private Ward were both awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.
APPROACHING THE END
On October 11, the 30th (US) Division occupied Vaux-Andigny, La Haie-Menneresse, and reached the northwestern outskirts of St. Martin-Riviere, its front extending north along the West Bank of the La Selle River to St. Benin. It was relieved during the night of October 11 and 12, 1918 by the 27th (US) Division, and rested near Premont, Brancourt-le-Grand, and Monibrehain. Command passed on October 12, 1918.
The 30th (US) Division returned to the line on the night of October 15 and 16, 1918. The 59th Infantry Brigade relieved the 54th Infantry Brigade (27th Division), in the right sector of the II Corps from Vaux-Andigny to one-half kilometer west of St. Martin-Riviere. The 6th (GB) Division on the right, 27th Division (US) on the left. On October 17 the 30th (US) Division attacked northeast, crossing the La Selle River, captured Molain and established a line from three-quarters kilometer north of La Demi-Lieue to l'Arbre-de-Guise. The next day Ribeauville was occupied. The front extended from Rejet-de-Beaulieu to three-quarters kilometer southeast of la Jonquiere Fme, on October 19, 1918.
The 30th (US) Division was relieved by the 1st (GB) Division on the night of October 19 and 20, and moved, October 20-23 to the vicinity of Tincourt-Boucly and Roisel. The division moved to Querrieu Area on October 23, 1918 for rehabilitation and training.
The 117th Infantry moved back to the United States after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 and was demobilized during the period of 13 - 17 April 1919 at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia near Chattanooga.
BETWEEN THE WARS
In 1921 and 1923 the 117th Infantry and the 4th Infantry Regiment were consolidated and reorganized in the Tennessee National Guard as the 117th Infantry and assigned to the 30th Division on 24 April 1923.
WORLD WAR II
On September 16, 1940 the 117th Infantry Regiment from Tennessee was inducted into federal service at home stations for a period of one year. The Regiment was moved by train and arrived in Ft Jackson S.C. on 24 September 1940 as part of the 30th Division once again. The Regiment was housed in pyramid tents at Fort Jackson. Colonel Grant A. Schlieker assumed command of the Regiment on August 12, 1940. In October 1940, the unit was filled by Selective Service with men primarily from the Knoxville area.
The 117th Infantry moved by motor convoy to Dixie, Tennessee on 27 May 1941 for the VII Corps Tennessee Maneuvers. The Regiment returned to Ft Jackson S.C. on July 5, 1941. The Regiment along with the rest of the National Guard soldiers inducted in 1940 was extended for the duration of World War II. The Regiment then moved to Chester S.C. on September 27, 1941 for both the October and November 1941 Carolina Maneuvers. The 117th Infantry Regiment as part of the 30th Division returned to Ft Jackson S.C. on November 29, 1941 where the 30th (Old Hickory) Division was redesigned as the 30th Infantry Division.
On February 16, 1942 the 30th Infantry Division arrived at Camp Blanding, Florida for extensive Infantry Training. On September 12, 1942, the 117th Infantry Regiment was ordered to the Infantry School, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, to furnish troops for demonstration purposes and to assist instructors in the training of officer classes and the Officer Candidate School (OCS). The 117th Infantry Regiment moved back to Camp Blanding, Florida by motor convoy on February 28, 1943 to conduct training designed to physically harden the troops.
They moved on May 30, 1943 to Murfreesboro Tennessee. Starting on September 4, 1943, the Regiment participated in the Second Army’s No.3 Tennessee Maneuvers. On September 7, 1943 the 117th Infantry Regiment returned to Camp Forrest (Arnold AFB today), near Tullahoma, Tennessee.
The 117th Infantry Regiment arrived at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on November 14,1943 to complete their final phase of training. The 117th Infantry Regiment departed Camp Atterbury and arrived at the staging area in Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on January 29, 1944. The Regiment departed from the Port of Boston, which was the Port of Embarkation, on the USS John Ericsson on February 12, 1944. The 117th Infantry Regiment disembarked in Liverpool, England on February 24, 1944.
In England, from February 25, to April 5,1944 the Regiment was quartered in Niessen Huts near Petworth, England and undertook extensive Infantry training. From April 6 to June 9, 1944, the Regiment was billeted in the town of Berkbamstead, England and completed their final training before entering combat in Normandy.
On "D-Day" June 6th, 1944 the Regiment was alerted for movement to France. The Regiment moved to the staging area in Southern England where a briefing was given on the general situation, then moved to Southhampton dock for loading.
The 117th Infantry Regiment crossed the English Channel and landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D+4, June 10, 1944. The Regiment initially moved into a Staging Area near Lison, France. The Regiment remained here until July 2, 1944. The first casualties of World War II were suffered here as a result of German 88mm fire on the Staging Area. The Regiment’s initial mission was to replace some of the units of the 29th Division, which had been almost immediately lost on D-Day. The balance of the 30th Infantry Division went into Normandy and was almost immediately committed to action against the German Army.
THE NORMANDY BREAKOUT
The 117th Infantry Regiment attacked across the Vire River along with the 120th Infantry at 04:30 AM the morning of 7 July 1944 as part of the initial breakout from the Normandy Beachhead. They assaulted across the Vire-Taute Canal on July 7, 1944, establishing a bridgehead toward Les Landes, east of St Jean-de-Day, which the 3rd Armored Division passed though the Regiment to conduct exploitation operations.
The Regiment repulsed a major German Counterattack conducted by the German Panzer Lehr Division the night of July 7, 1944 and again during the morning of July 9, 1944. The Germans suffered heavy losses as the result of the Tennessee guardsmen’s tenacious fighting and accurate fire.
As the 117th Infantry advanced on St Lo, as part of the 30th (US) Infantry Division, it checked a German counterattack along the main Hauts-Vents Highway July 11, 1944 and Pont Hebert fell after protracted fighting July 14, 1944. Patrols reached the Periers-St Lo Road by July 18, 1944.
VII (US) Corps made the main effort along the St. Lo-Periers highway just west of St. Lo. The Corps Commander’s intent was to drive through the German crust-like defense before the Germans could reform, then exploit the break thought by passing mechanized forces into the German’s rear. The plan called for saturation bombing by fighter-bombers, medium and heavy bombers from the front line back to the enemy’s artillery positions to disorient and dislodge the Germans. Following the bombers, 4th(US) Infantry Division, 9th (US) Infantry Division, and the 30th (US) Infantry Division were to attack southward along a narrow front, clearing the way for the 2d (US) and 3d (US) Armored Divisions and the 1st (US) Infantry Division to pass through. The Armored forces were to sweep south then southwest into the rear of German forces opposing the VIII Corps along the western portions of the Contentin Peninsula.
The 30th (US) Infantry Division attacked with the 120th Infantry Regiment on the right and 119th Infantry Division on the left. Two battalions from the 117th Infantry Regiment were attached (one battalion each) to the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments. The remainder of the 117th Infantry was in Division reserve prepared to pass through on the left and clear out the curve in the Vier River.
The air plan called for 350 fighter-bombers hitting the German front lines followed by 1,500 bombers assigned to targets 2,500 yards deep and 6,000 yards wide. As the friendly troops moved forward, another 396 medium bombers would bomb the rear areas for another 45 minutes. Friendly troops were moved back 1,200 yards from their line of departures for safety.
After two postponements due to bad weather, the attack got underway on the morning of July 24, 1944. At 11:30 AM, 350 P-47 fighter-bombers arrived on schedule and started dive-bombing, followed by the steady drone 1,500 heavy bombers. Some of the P-47 fighter-bombers bombed friendly troop positions and one Squadron of Heavy Bombers dropped its bombs squarely on friendly troops. Twenty minutes after the attack started it was called off. "Operation COBRA" the breakout from St. Lo, the 30th Infantry Division endured the heaviest bombing by "friendly aircraft" of the entire war. Approximately 88 men were killed and over 500 seriously wounded over the two-day period. Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair, Commanding General Army Ground Forces, was visiting and observing this attack in the area of the Second Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division when bombs instantly killed him dropped by friendly B-17s flying in support of Operation COBRA.
The two Battalions of the 117th attacked with the units to which they were attached on July 25, 1944 to drive beyond St Lo during Operation COBRA. On July 26, 1944 the 117th Infantry Regiment took the high ground overlooking St. Lo. The Armor and Infantry Forces passed through the hole in the German defenses and advanced south. The 30th Infantry Division had made a spectacular attack, and opened the way for Patton's newly arrived Third Army to drive into Brittany and onward to Brest.
The division took well-defended Troisgots on July 31, 1944 and relieved the 1st Infantry Division near Mortain, France on August 6, 1944. The 30th Infantry Division and the 117th Infantry Regiment was subjected to a strong German counterattack, which ruptured its lines in the area on the following day during the battle for Avranches.
In the morning of August 6, 1944, the Regiment moved southwest to the vicinity of Bracy, France near Mortain to relieve the 26th Infantry and to take up defensive positions. At dusk, it was apparent the Germans were in the 1st Battalion’s area in strength. About 01:30 AM, on August 7, 1944 the 117th Infantry Regiment was attacked by crack troops of the 1st SS Adolph Hitler Division. Between midnight and 04:00 the Regiment was blanketed by intense and devastating mortar and artillery fire. Enemy aircraft strafed supporting Artillery units as they tried to register their fire on Germany tanks and infantry. The situation became critical at dawn when the main body of the Germans attacked in a thick fog and overran two company roadblocks. C Company of the 117th Infantry held their position, which caused the Germans to pause in their attack. Colonel Walter M. Johnson, the Regimental Commander issued orders to hold at all costs because there was nothing behind the 117th Infantry Regiment to stop the Germans from reaching the sea. A new defensive line was established on a sunken road bi-sected by the highway from Juvigny to Saint Barthelemy and situated on a hill overlooking Saint Barthelemy. Cooks, clerks, messengers, and administrative personnel from the battalions and the Regimential Headquarters became riflemen. The Tennessee Infantrymen held their positions against intense attacks by German Infantry and Armor.
Late in the afternoon of August 8, 1944, the Germans launched a fresh large-scale attack employing numerous tanks and fresh Infantry. Despite the terrible odds, the 117th Infantry Regiment stopped the German assault. Determined and stubborn Tennessee riflemen and machine gunners held their positions and stopped the German Infantrymen cold. Company B from Athens Tennessee bore the brunt of the attack. Private Timothy L. Birt of Company B was a platoon runner and ended up as the runner for all the platoons. Through heavy enemy fire he carried orders, ammunition, rations and mail from the Company Command Post to all of the platoons. On six different occasions he repaired telephone lines between the CP and the platoons. He helped evacuate seriously wounded soldiers from an open field under intense enemy fire. Twice he went with litter bearers to help evacuate the wounded. Once during the battle he served as observer and adjusted the Company’s 60mm mortar fire. Private Birt is an example of the bravery the men of the 117th Infantry Regiment during this battle. Private Timothy L. Birt, from rural Meigs County Tennessee was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery.
During combat at Mortain and Saint-Barthelemy, the 117th Infantry Regiment and the 30th Infantry Division became known as the Workhorse of the Western Front. It was also known as "Roosevelt's SS Troops," so named by German high command because of the consistent vigor and pressure the Division brought to bear on the elite 1st SS Adolph Hitler Division. According to three of Germany’s top generals interviewed after World War II, (Jodl, Keitel and von Kesslring) the battle for Mortain and Saint-Barthelemy was one of the two critical operations leading to the defeat of Germany in the west. Mainly the 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry at Saint-Barthelemy, absorbed the main drive of the Germany Army in Normandy, thus allowing Lieutenant General George Patton's armored forces to race forward through France, thereby shortening the war by many months.
The 117th Infantry Regiment went over to the offensive again August 11, 1944 and forced back German gains to Mortain. The 117th Infantry Regiment along with the rest of the 30th (US) Infantry Division then pushed east behind the 2nd Armored Division, taking Nonancourt on August 21,1944.
The 117th Infantry Regiment was moved by truck on August 14 to the vicinity of Rouelle near Domfront France. German artillery fired on the battalions of the Regiment forcing them to dismount and move on foot to l’Onlay-l’Abbaye, France. Tennessee’s 117th Infantry Regiment crossed the Seine River near Mantes-Grassicourt 25 miles west of Paris to relieve the 79th (US) Infantry Division, which had established a bridgehead across the Seine River. After two days of fighting the Regiment was moving in open country as fast as their legs would carry them towards Belgium.
BELGIUM AND HOLLAND
The 30th (US) Infantry Division (with the 117th Infantry Regiment) was the first American Infantry Division to enter Belgium 2 September 1944, and advanced over the Meuse River at Vise and Liege September 11, 1944. The 117th Infantry Regiment was the first Allied unit to enter Holland on 13 September 1944.
On September 14, 1944 the 117th and 119th Infantry advanced into Maastricht east of the Mause River where the 2d Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment cleared the area west of the river.
The 117th Infantry Regiment attacked from Maastricht towards the German Border in the vicinity of Scherpenseel Germany starting on the morning of September 17, 1944. Here German resistance intensified as the Germans employed 155mm artillery against the Regiment as they approached the border.
On the afternoon of September 19th, 1944 the 1st Battalion crossed into Germany and entered the town of Scherpenseel.The next morning, the Regiment planned the attack on the Siegfried Line, which the German claimed to be invincible fortress.
The 119th and 120th Infantry attacked toward the West Wall north of Aachen and the former reached positions commanding the Wurm River on September 18, 1944. The 30th Infantry Division attacked across the Rhine River between Aachen and Geilenkirchen October 2,1944 against strong German opposition. On the following day the 117th Infantry Regiment seized Uebach after house-to-house fighting as the 119th Infantry finally captured Rimburg Castle.
THE SIEGFRIED LINE
At 11:00 hrs, October 2, 1944, the 117th Infantry, along with the rest of the 30th Infantry Division, launched an attack on the Siegfried Line near Palenburg Germany. It was here that Private Harold G. Kiner from Enid, Oklahoma of Company F, 117th Infantry Regiment won the Medal of Honor. With 4 other men, Private Kiner was leading a frontal assault on a Siegfried Line pillbox near Palenberg, Germany. Machinegun fire from the strongly defended enemy position 25 yards away pinned down the attackers. The Germans threw hand grenades, one of which dropped between Private Kiner and 2 other men. With no hesitation, Private Kiner hurled himself upon the grenade, smothering the explosion. By his gallant action and voluntary sacrifice of his own life, he saved his 2 comrades from serious injury or death. The Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Private Kiner. Private Kiner was the 4th soldier from the Regiment to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The 117th Infantry Regiment was assisted by elements of the 2nd Armored Division as it continued with slow progress against the West Wall. The 1st Battalion of the 117th Infantry Regiment was the only lead battalion to crack the West Wall for the entire XIX Corps. The Regiment’s advance was checked by a strong German counterattack on October 9, 1944 which isolated the 119th Infantry at North Wuerselen. The encirclement of Aachen was completed on October 16, 1944 when the 117th Infantry made contact with the 1st Infantry Division.
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
On December 17, 1944 the 117th Infantry Regiment was ordered to an Assembly Area in the vicinity of Haustet, Belgium in the Belgium Ardennes. Enroute, the Regiment was stopped by an Assistant Division Commander and diverted to Malmedy and Stavelot to block a powerful German counterattack. As the Regiment approached Stavelot it was noted that a German Panzer unit already occupied the town. Elements of the 117th Infantry were ordered to retake Stavelot, a key crossroads on the Ambleve River. As they moved to their objectives, Axis Sally was on the radio that morning boasting of a huge counterattack though the Ardennes Mountain, which she said, could not possibly be stopped. She said "The fanatical 30th Division, Roosevelt’s SS Troops, are enroute to the rescue, but this time they will be completely annihilated!" As the Regiment approached the town of Stavalot, huge Tiger Royal (Mark IV) tanks, and assault riflemen were observed in the center of town. The 1st Battalion of the Regiment attacked and established a defensive position in the Town Square. The 1st Battalion was reinforced with tank destroyers, machineguns, and mortars. Late in the day, two American jeeps, and two half-ton trucks roared into Stavelot loaded with Germans dressed in American uniforms with guns blazing. The Tennesseans from the 117th quickly annihilated all the Germans captured and kept the jeeps and trucks.
It was determined that the Germans had occupied Stavelot with the 1st SS Adolph Hitler Division. This was the second time the 1st SS Adolph Hitler Division faced the 117th Infantry Regiment and the 30th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge, during the Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944-45. The First SS Adolph Hitler Division, the main effort of the 1st SS Corps and the spearhead of the Sixth Panzer Army, gave up on their attempt to recapture Stavelot after the 117th Infantry Regiment repulsed six fanatical German assaults on December 20, 1944. Stavelot, like Mortain, was the key to the Sixth SS Pazer Army’s attack in the Ardennes. It was estimated that at least 1000 German dead lined the bank of the Ambleve River which was mute testimony to the heroic actions of the 1st battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment. Again the 117th Infantry Regiment had defeated the 1st SS Adolph Hitler Division, an elite enemy unit, which was never again to do battle.
The 117th Infantry Regiment moved into Germany and arrived in Varlautenheide, Germany at 2:00 AM, February 3, 1945. On February 19, 1945 Major General Leland Hobbs, CG 30th Infantry Division, for the Saint-Barthelemy (Mortain) Performance awarded the Presidential Unit Citation the Regiment for actions in France at Saint-Barthelemy. They were also awarded the Belgian Fourragere for its performance in the Ardennes and for the Regiment’s part in the liberation of Belgium 4-10 September 1944.
On February 23, 1945 the 117th Infantry Regiment crossed the Roer River and continued to move into the heart of Germany. On February 27, 1945 elements of the 83d Infantry Division and the 2d Armor Division passed thought the Regiment to exploit the Roar River breakthrough. The Regiment spearheaded the Ninth Army’s crossing of the Rhine River at 02:00 hrs on 24 March 1945. They drove west into Stockum, Germany, then crossed the Autobahn and went on to Hunxe, Germany. They captured a German Airfield here on March 27, 1945. On March 31, 1945, the 117th Infantry Regiment captured the Lippe Canal, then motored 55 miles to Brensteinfurt, Germany. Here they encountered a mass German surrender with German soldiers, hands up and running towards POW cages in the rear. Here they met the first of the streams of allied prisoners, thin as skeletons, liberated from German prison camps along with laborers from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and France.
During the month of April 1945, the Regiment continued its dash to towards the east. At 06:00 on April 7th, 1945 the 117th Infantry Regiment attacked and took the town of Hamlin, Germany. Hamlin, Germany is famous for the Brothers Grimm story of the "Pied Piper of Hamlin" a children's fairy tale. Here the Regiment captured hundreds of German soldiers as prisoners of war.
On April 17, 1945 the Regiment seized the city of Magdeburg on the Elbe River. The Regiment moved east on the morning of April 18th, 1945 and by noon had closed on the Elbe River where they were ordered to set up a defense and wait for the Russian Army. The Regiment waited for three weeks on the Russians and the end of the war. On May 27th, 1945 British troops occupied Magdeburg and the 117th Infantry moved 150 miles south to Oelenln and Bad Elsren, Germany near the Czechoslovakian border for occupation. Plans were to transfer the Regiment and the 30th Infantry Division to the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese.
On August 13, 1945 the Regiment boarded the Liberty Ship Marine Wolfe and sailed to Southampton, England. Before departing Southampton, news of the Japanese Surrender canceled to the plans to move the Regiment to the Pacific. On August 17, 1945 the Regiment sailed onboard the Queen Mary from the Ocean Pier at Southampton, England. They arrived at Pier 90 in New York City, the port of debarkation on August 21, 1945. The 117th Infantry Regiment moved to Ft Jackson S.C. on August 21, 1945. The 117th Infantry Regiment was inactivated November 17 - 24, 1945 at Fort Jackson, S.C.
In a letter to the 30th Division Commander in May 1946, the Supreme Allied Headquarters Army Historian Colonel S.L.A. Marshall called the 30th Infantry Division the "Finest Infantry Division in the European Theater of Operations". S. L. A. Marshall wrote, "It is the combined judgments of the approximately 35 historical officers who had worked on the records and in the field that the 30th merited this distinction. It was our finding that the 30th had been outstanding in three operations and we could consistently recommend it for citation on any of these occasions. It was further found that it had in no single instance performed discreditably or weakly . . . and in no single operation had it carried less than its share of the burden or looked bad when compared to the forces on its flanks. We were especially impressed with the fact that it consistently achieved results without undue wastage of its men."
S.L.A. Marshall, COL, GSC 16 March 1946
POST WORLD WAR II
The 1st Battalion of the 117th Infantry Regiment, (Cleveland, Tennessee) was withdrawn, expanded, and re-designated on July 31, 1946 as the 278th Armored Infantry Battalion. A new 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry was constituted in West Tennessee. The 2d Battalion (Kingsport, Tennessee) was withdrawn, converted, and re-designated as the 168th MP Battalion. A new 2d Battalion, 117th was constituted in West Tennessee. The 278th Armored Infantry Battalion was federally recognized on September 1, 1947 in eastern Tennessee with Headquarters at Cleveland with the lineage of the 117th Infantry Regiment.
On 18 March 1947 the 278th Armored Infantry Battalion was expanded to become the 278th Regimental Combat Team with Headquarters in Athens, Tennessee.
278th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was ordered into active Federal service on September 1, 1950 at home stations and moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Individual soldiers from the 278th RCT were sent to 7th US Army in Korea as replacements. The 1st Battalion remained in Fort Devens as a training battalion, 2d Battalion was sent to Iceland for garrison duty.
Released from Federal service on September 8th, 1954 and reverted to state control.
On 27 October 1954, Federal recognition concurrently was withdrawn from the 287th Infantry RCT and was broken up as follows to become elements of the 30th Armored Division:
HQ and 1st Battalion as the 278th Armored Infantry Battalion (Athens)
2d Battalion as the 330th Antiaircraft Battalion (Kingsport)
3d Battalion as the 190th Armored Infantry Battalion
117th Infantry Regiment broken up as follows:
HQ and 1st Battalion as the 170th Armored Infantry Battalion (Henderson)
2d Battalion as the 174th Tank Battalion (Murfreesboro)
3d Battalion as the 117th Armored Infantry Battalion (Dyersburg)
On March 1, 1959, the 117th and 170th Armored Infantry Battalions
consolidated with the 278th Armored Infantry Battalion, 330th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion and 176th Tank Battalion and organized and re-designated as the 117th Infantry Regiment. The 117th Infantry Regiment was formed under the Combat Arms Regimental System to consist of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Battalions, elements of the 30th Armored Division.
Reorganized on November 1, 1973 to consist of the 2d and 3d Battalions, 117th Infantry elements of the 278th Infantry Brigade, 4th Battalion an element of the 30th Armored Brigade.
On 1 November 1973, the 278th Infantry Brigade was made a Separate Infantry Brigade.
278th ARMORED CAVALRY REGIMENT
On 29 April 1977, the 278th (Separate) Infantry Brigade was reorganized and re-designated the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Separate Corps Maneuver Unit. Colonel Russell A. Newman was appointed as the 1st Colonel of the Regiment.(Regimental Troops Station History See ANNEX A)
1 May, 1977 Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 117th Infantry (Mech), Athens, Tennessee is reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. (Athens Station History See ANNEX B)
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 330th Transportation
Battalion, Kingsport, was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. (Kingsport Station History See ANNEX C)
AVIATION IS ADDED TO THE REGIMENT
On 30 September 1978, the 777th Maintenance Company (GS) a
separate unit stationed in Knoxville was reorganized and redesignated as the Air Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The unit was later moved from the Knoxville Armory to Alcoa, Tennessee. A year later, the 450th Assault Helicopter Company, stationed in Smyrna, Tennessee, was reorganized and redesignated as the Attack Helicopter Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The State Area Command (STARC) attached Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 130th Aviation Battalion with the 1155th Transportation Company (AVIM) to the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment to act as command and control for the Regiment’s separate Air Troop and Attack Helicopter Troop. (Regimental Troop’s Station History See ANNEX A)
On 1 February 1980, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 117th Infantry (Mech) Cookeville is reorganized and redesignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. (Cookeville Station History See ANNEX D)
1174th Medium Truck Company (Separate) was reorganized and redesignated as the 190th Engineer Company, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment on 1 October 1980 in Pulaski with Detachment 1 in Waynesboro, Tennessee.
October 17,1986, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 130th
Aviation Battalion, Air Troop, and the Attack Helicopter Troop are consolidated to form the 4th Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry
Regiment. 4th Squadron is an Aviation Maneuver Squadron of the Regiment.
CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT
WORLD WAR I
WORLD WAR II
Ryukyus (with arrowhead)
Headquarters Troop (Cookeville), 3d Squadron; Troops N, R, and S
(Smyrna); and Air Defense Battery (Clarksville) each additionally entitled to:
World War II – AP
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered ST. BARTHELMY
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered UBACH
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered SCHERPENSEEL
French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, World War II, Steamer
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Steamer embroidered
Belgian Fourragere 1940
Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for actions in Belgium
Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for actions in ARDENNES
Headquarters Troop (Athens), 1st Squadron, Troop A (Cleveland) and Troop F (Bristol) each additionally entitled to:
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Steamer embroidered MORTAIN
Howitzer Battery (Maryville), 1st Squadron, additionally entitled to:
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Steamer embroidered MOSELLE RIVER
Headquarters Troop (Cookeville), 3d Squadron; Troops N, R, and S
(Smyrna): and Air Defense Artillery Battery (Clarksville) each additionally entitled to:
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered 17 OCTOBER 1944 TO 4 JULY 1945
MEDAL OF HONOR WINNERS WORLD WAR I & II
KARNES, JAMES E.(Buck)
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company D, 117th Infantry, 30th Division.
Place and date: Near Estrees, France, 8 October 1918. Entered service at Knoxville, Tenn. Born: 1889, Arlington, Tenn. G.O. No.: 50, W.D., 1919.
During an advance, his company was held up by a machinegun, which was enfilading the line. Accompanied by another soldier, he advanced against this position and succeeded in reducing the nest by killing 3 and capturing 7 of the enemy and their guns.
TALLEY, EDWARD R.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company L, 117th Infantry, 30th Division.
Place and date: Near Ponchaux, France, 7 October 1918. Entered service at: Russellville, Tenn. Born: 8 September 1890, Russellville, Tenn. G.O. No.: 50, W.D., 1919.
Undeterred by seeing several comrades killed in attempting to put a
hostile machinegun nest out of action, Sgt. Talley attacked the position single-handed. Armed only with a rifle, he rushed the nest in the face of intense enemy fire, killed or wounded at least 6 of the crew, and silenced the gun. When the enemy attempted to bring forward another gun and ammunition he drove them back by effective fire from his rifle.
WARD, CALVIN JOHN
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company D, 117th Infantry, 30th Division.
Place and date: Near Estrees, France, 8 October 1918. Entered service at: Morristown, Tenn. Born: October 1898, Green County, Tenn. G.O. No.: 16, W.D., 1919.
During an advance, Pvt. Ward's company was held up by a machinegun, which was enfilading the line. Accompanied by a noncommissioned officer, he advanced against this post and succeeded in reducing the nest by killing 3 and capturing
7 of the enemy and their guns.
MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER WORLD WAR II
KINER, HAROLD G
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company F, 117th Infantry,
30th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Palenberg, Germany, 2 October 1944. Entered service at: Enid, Okla. Birth: Aline, Okla. G.O. No.: 48.
With 4 other men, he was leading in a frontal assault 2 October 1944, on a Siegfried Line pillbox near Palenberg, Germany. Machinegun fire from the strongly defended enemy position 25 yards away pinned down the attackers. The Germans threw hand grenades, one of which dropped between Pvt. Kiner and 2 other men. With no hesitation, Private Kiner hurled himself upon the grenade, smothering the explosion. By his gallant action and voluntary sacrifice of his
own life, he saved his 2 comrades from serious injury or death.