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North Carolinians in World War I

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30th Division: "Old Hickory"

Signal Headquarters, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, near Premont, France. October 7, 1918.
Above: Signal Headquarters, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, near Premont, France, October 7, 1918. Click on image for a larger view.

The 30th Division initially comprised National Guard units from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Its name, "Old Hickory Division," honored President Andrew Jackson, who had connections with all three states. The division garnered several distinctions in the war: it was the first to break the German Hindenburg Line on the Cambrai-St. Quentin front, and its soldiers were awarded more Congressional Medals of Honor than those in any other American division.

Most of the 30th Division soldiers had just returned from the U.S.-Mexican border when the division was called into federal service on July 25, 1917. It was ordered to Camp Sevier, near Greenville, South Carolina, to prepare for war. In October a contingent of draftees arrived to increase the division to full wartime strength of about 27,000 men.

In May 1918 the division traveled to New York and soon left for Europe. After a two-week voyage, the division landed in England, and then departed for France. The 30th Division was assigned to the American 2nd Corps, and attached to the British Army. In June 1918 the division underwent extensive combat training under British supervision, and exchanged American for British equipment and firearms.

"Over There"

3rd Infantry Regiment on state capitol grounds May 9, 1918.
Above: 3rd Infantry Regiment(120th Inf. Reg. 30th Div.) on State Capitol grounds, May 9, 1918. Click on image for a larger view.

On July 2, 1918, the 30th Division was sent to the British 2nd Army in Belgium. On August 16, "Old Hickory" replaced British troops on the front in the trenches near Ypres. While there the division attacked and captured German positions with a loss of 37 dead and 128 wounded.

On September 3, the division withdrew from the front and transferred to the British 4th Army. By September 25, the 30th Division held its position opposite the German Hindenberg Line near Bellicourt, France. On the night of September 27, the 119th and 120th infantry regiments (formerly the 2nd and 3rd North Carolina, respectively), moved into the front lines.

"Old Hickory" Breaks through the Hindenburg Line

Military Collection. World War I. Private Collections. Box 66. Joseph H. Pratt Papers. Operations of the Thirtieth Division, Old Hickory, booklet, n.d.
Above: "The Tale of the Comet" sketch. Click on image for a larger view.

At 5:50 A.M. on September 29, the 119th and 120th infantry regiments went "over the top" supported by British tanks against the enemy lines. Despite high casualties, the 30th Division broke through the Hindenburg Line. By that afternoon, Australian troops passed through the 30th Division and carried on the attack. The attack made by the 30th Division was a tremendous success. The division was credited as the first to break the Hindenburg Line. In addition to a large cache of enemy arms and equipment captured, about 47 German officers and 1,432 soldiers were taken prisoner. For these spoils and the 3,000-yard advance made against enemy lines, the division suffered about 3,000 casualties. This was the greatest loss for North Carolina since the Civil War.

The next day the division was pulled out of the battle, but "Old Hickory" returned to the front on October 5. The 30th Division engaged in severe fighting off and on until October 19, when it received orders to withdraw from combat for the last time. From July through October, the division suffered 1,641 killed, 6,774 wounded, 198 missing, and 27 taken prisoner, for a total of 8,415 losses.

For the remainder of October and until the cease-fire ended the fighting on November 11, 1918, the 30th Division was being reorganized. After the war it remained in France and was not part of the Army of Occupation. In April 1919 the 30th Division soldiers were sent home and discharged.

Note: The 30th Division overview was written by R. Jackson Marshall III, North Carolina Museum of History historian. Read more about the soldiers of the "Old Hickory" division in Marshall's book, Memories of World War I: North Carolina Doughboys on the Western Front (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1998).

The 30th Division’s insignia consists of a blue ‘O’ for Old and a blue ‘H’ for Hickory on a red background. The Roman numeral XXX is in the ‘H’ to represent the 30th Division. In World War II the insignia was turned to better display the H.


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