American troops huddle behind the protective front of a landing craft near the Northern Coast of France during the D-Day attack on June 6, 1944. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, June 07, 2012 4:36 PM
Many of the men who invaded Normandy on D-Day trained in Louisiana, a Fort Polk historian said.
Four of the divisions that led the attack on June 6, 1944, were trained in the state, according to information provided by Frederick Adolphus, museum director of the Fort Polk Museum.
Three camps in Louisiana — Camp Polk, Camp Claiborne and Camp Beauregard — took part in training, he said.
Camp Polk provided training for large-scale maneuvers, as Fort Polk does today, Adolphus said.
Both the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division were activated as infantry units in 1942 at Camp Claiborne in Rapides Parish, Adolphus said. Later reorganized as airborne troops, the units parachuted behind German lines on D-Day to disrupt enemy operations, he said.
The 1st, 4th and 90th Infantry Divisions all took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers, a full-scale mock battle staged in the state in August and September 1941.
The 1st, 4th and part of the 90th landed at Normandy on D-Day, said Adolphus, pointing out that “their successful attack is legendary.”
Adolphus said that other divisions that entered the combat zone shortly after Allied troops had secured the beachhead included the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th Armored Divisions and the 2nd, 5th, 28th and 35th Infantry Divisions, and the remainder of the 90th.
All were involved in fighting on the Normandy peninsula and the Falaise Gap, Adolphus said. They were also involved in the drive through France and into the border areas of Germany that successfully concluded the campaign in France, he said.
“All of these units owed their success and confidence, in large part, to their training experience in the Louisiana Maneuvers,” Adolphus said.
“Many a hard lesson was learned in West Louisiana instead of France, and numerous American lives were saved due to the tactical and leadership skills gleaned from training at Camps Polk, Claiborne and Beauregard.”