Turning west, the 29th Infantry Division took part in the assault on Brest, one of France’s largest harbors, an attack which ultimately became one of the division’s most costly operations with regards to casualties and time required to secure.
“From there we left Brest and went to gay Paree…”
After helping to liberate Paris, the 29th was transferred to southern Holland in late September.
“…and then went on to Germany, first city across the border: Aachen.”
The 29th entered Germany on October 1, 1944, but the Nazis gave little ground and inflicted damage every time the Americans attacked. On November 16, as cold, wet weather settled in, the 29th Division joined the Ninth Army in a drive to bust through German front lines and cross the Roer River. These efforts proved to provide the division some of their fiercest battles yet. With their troops exhausted, the offensive was called off in early December, and the 29th were ordered to hold their position on the Roer.
On February 23, 1945, the 29th Division launched their most successful assault of the war, finally crossing the flooded Roer and taking the key city of Jülich.
Mr. Jimmy Ewing said:
“We went across the Roer River and things went pretty good.
“(Except, I do remember that about this time), my sergeant and I, and another guy and his gunner, were playing pinochle when the captain said Jack Buskirk and Jimmy Coursey, from Grasonville, his father was (Sheriff) Earl Coursey, they’d sent them (Buskirk and Coursey) up there somewhere. They had a small vehicle. The back of it was full of artillery, shells, and they hit a land mine and they were killed.
“(About the same time) Capt. Koch told Sgt. Fitzgerald that there was this tank disabled and they were getting a lot of fire from German artillery. We got an order one of these tanks was disabled. They weren’t far from German artillery. So we got up there and got underneath one of these tanks. We had a radio to send messages back to COP, Central Post, and the captain sent word telling Fitz to come back and leave Ewing up there. When Fitz got back to headquarters, I was right behind him. The captain said, “Ewing, you were supposed to stay up there.” I said, I’m not staying up there by myself. I said, if you think you can do something worse to me than sending me back there, go ahead and do it!”
The 29th Division seized München-Gladbach, the largest German city captured by Gerhardt’s men in World War II on March 1, and for the first time since D-Day got their first real rest and recuperation. For a while the 29th set up headquarters in a castle called Schloss Rheydt that belonged to the infamous Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels.
The 29th crossed the Rhine River on March 31, 1945, and joined the Allied Force’s blitzkrieg across Germany before spending the next few weeks defeating pockets of resistance. The end was in sight.
München-Gladbach, courtesy: National Archives
“The war was over on May 7, 1945. We were in Bremerhaven when the Germans surrendered. There was a Gestapo headquarters (and Luftwaffe base) there – Goebbels, Goering, whoever else (had been) there.
“We went out on a point system. (For example,) you got 12 points for being wounded, 12 points for having a wife and child, how much time in service, how much time in combat, and I was the first one in our company to go back. We went back to Massachusetts, got on a train, came on back to Ft. Meade, and were discharged. Sent home.”
In eleven months of nearly continuous combat the 29th Infantry suffered 20,620 battle casualties, with almost 4,000 men being killed in action.
Major General Gerhardt’s troops experienced such a high casualty rate that it was said he actually commanded three divisions: one on the field of battle, one in the hospital and one in the cemetery. For their heroic actions in World War II, soldiers of the 29th were awarded one Distinguished Service Medal, five Medals of Honor, 17 Legions of Merit, 44 Distinguished Service Crosses, 854 Silver Stars, and 6,308 Bronze Stars.
“I came home on the Matapeake Ferry. Went to my mother and father’s house in Grasonville. It was a beautiful sight.”
Upon returning home, Mr. Jimmy served as postmaster of the Grasonville Post Office before opening the Circle Restaurant on Kent Island in 1952, the same year that construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was completed. He was also known to at least a couple generations of island kids as their school bus driver.
In 2014, at the age of 91, James “Jimmy” Ewing Sr., 91 spoke at a Memorial Day ceremony at Grasonville’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7464. Many members of Mr. Jimmy’s family, including his beloved wife Isabel and their four children, were present for the ceremony along with number of elected local and state officials.
A few weeks later, sitting in their longtime home with Miss Isabel, looking out across Crab Alley Bay, Mr. Jimmy told his visitors:
“I guess if I had to sum it up, if I’d have to say my experiences taught me one lesson, it was that I’ve never had an enemy, and if I do have an enemy I forgive them.
“I have no reason not to love everybody”, he said.
One of Mr. Jimmy Ewing’s passions in his later years was painting by numbers. I’m privileged to say Mr. Jimmy gifted to me one of his paintings in 2014. It is proudly hanging in our home.
Geert Van den Bogaert has combined his B. A. degree in Tourism and Travel Management with a knowledge of military history to forge a successful career guiding thousands of visitors through various D-Day sites.
In 2007, Geert was selected to become a US Government employee with the American Battle Monuments Commission – acting as the agency’s first interpretive guide at the Normandy American Cemetery. Geert has conducted a wide variety of Normandy tours to a large number of military groups, congressional delegations, business leaders, veteran organizations, universities, schools and the general public. To perfect his guide skills Geert trained with the National Park Service and certified to become a guide and trainer with the National Association for Interpretation.
In 2012 he created a non-profit organization, Moulin des Rondelles 1944, which raised funds to help 10 American families who lost an ancestor in Normandy during WWII, travel to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. For the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe he acted as Director of European Operations for the WWII Foundation, a not for profit organization which aims to capture important WWII oral histories.
Over the years Geert has been particularly honored to assist hundreds of next-of-kin who lost a family member buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. In 2014 he decided that he wanted to do more and help people who have a relative who served in Normandy by creating Normandy Heroes Personalized Research & Tours.
An avid hiker, he wrote and produced a 2016 WWII documentary entitled « Preserving A Legacy : In the Footsteps of Bud Owens » following the journey of a downed American airman from Normandy to Andorra hiking across the Pyrenees mountains.
Visit Geert Van den Bogaert’s website at: http://normandyheroes.com/
Military Warriors Support Foundation‘s mission is to provide support and programs that facilitate a smooth and successful transition for our Nation’s combat wounded heroes and Gold Star families. This is a very fragile time for these heroes, and their families, and it can be difficult for many. The foundation’s programs focus on housing and homeownership, employment, as well as recreational activities and transportation assistance.
Through Homes4WoundedHeroes, their homes donation program, they award 100% mortgage-free homes to combat wounded veterans and Gold Star spouses of heroes who have fallen in combat. In addition to the home, each family receives three years of family and financial mentoring so that they may learn the skills necessary to become happy and successful homeowners. This program not only changes our families, but it also changes the lives of the generations that follow.
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The mission of the non-profit World War II Foundation is to produce educational films and create initiatives recognizing the bravery and enormous contributions made by the veterans and survivors of World War II so that future generations appreciate the determination and sacrifices that enabled perpetuation of our basic freedoms.