Gerhardt, Charles Hunter, born 06-06-1895 in Richmond, Virginia, commanded the U.S. 29th
from 1943 until the end of World War II and during part of the occupation of Germany. The division’s most famous combat operations were the Omaha Beach landings of June 6, 1944,
and the taking of the French crossroads town of Saint-Lô in July 1944. American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 5.000 out of 50.000 men, most in the first few hours, while the Germans suffered 1.200 killed, wounded or missing. Franz Gockel a German Soldier of 352nd Division , claimed to have shot hundreds of American soldiers of the 116th Infantry Regiment on Omaha Beach, stationed at his Widerstandnest 62, with his Chech water-cooled MG, machinegun, from WW I, a booty from the Czechian invasion in 1939.
Gerhardt grew up in the Army as the son of a career officer who retired as a Brigadier General. The younger Gerhardt attended the Military Academy at West Point. As a Second Lieutenant of Cavalry he served during World War I with the 89th Division. His senior command prior to leading the 29th Infantry Division was as the commanding General of the 91st Infantry Division “nickname “Wild West Division” . The history of the 91st seems to be bragging a lot about being “first” to reach certain objectives. Some of these “firsts” occurred because they were the ones assigned this objective and not because their performance was better than other units. Also, the 91st Division arrived later than many of the other divisions, which meant it was a fresh unit and it was only in combat for 4 months when the book ends. Gerhardt was a hard taskmaster, strict disciplinarian and considered by many of his men to be a martinet, who often became upset at small things such as a soldier not having the chinstrap of his helmet buckled. One famous story has him admonishing a soldier on the day after D-Day for dropping peels from the orange he was eating on the ground. He was intolerant of any dirt or mud being on the trucks, and would make soldiers stop and clean a truck under almost any circumstance. Gerhardt was, however, a superb and driven trainer of soldiers and expected the same from his subordinates. He coined the battle cry, a moniker that lives to this day: “29, Let’s Go.” Gerhardt’s motto was appropriate. Beginning on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the division fought 242 days over the next 10 plus months, stopping only when it reached the Elbe River in Germany to wait for the Russian Army approaching from the east. It suffered 20.111 casualties, more than any other Army division other than the 1st Division, which also fought in North Africa and Italy. The running joke in France was that Gerhardt had three divisions: one in the field, one in the hospital and one in the cemetery. He was also considered somewhat loose morally, as evidenced by a house of prostitution he established for his men near Rennes, France, which General Omar “Brad” Bradley
did not approve of and ordered closed. Gerhardt usually walked the line between approval and disapproval with his superior officers. After the war, he was demoted to Colonel for reasons thought to be a combination the 29th Division’s, nicknamed “Blue and Gray” high casualty rate and his moral lapses. During World War II, the 29th Infantry Division suffered 3.720 killed in action, 15.403 wounded in action, 462 missing in action, 526 prisoners of warr, and 8.665 non-combat casualties, for a total of 28.776 casualties during 242 days of combat. This amounted to over 200 percent of the division’s normal strength. The division, in turn, took 38.912 German prisoners of war. Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division were awarded five Medals of Honor, 44 Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medall, 854 Silver star Medals, 17 Legions of Merit Medals, 24 Soldier’s Medals, 6.308 Bronze Star Medals, and 176 Air Medals during the conflict. The division itself was awarded four distinguished unit citations and four campaign streamers for the conflict. Following World War II Gerhardt served as the United States Defence Attaché to Brazil and in a post at Fort Meade, Maryland. He retained the rank of Brigadier General and was able to retire at his highest held rank of Major General.
Death and burial ground of Gerhardt, Charles Hunter.
Gerhardt died at the old age of 81 of heart failure, on 09-10-1976 and is buried with his wife Nina M, who died age 85 on 29-08-1986, on Arlington National, Section 2. Close by in Section 2, the graves of the General, Commander 92nd “ Negro Division” , Edward “Ned” Almond
, Major General, Commander 8th Bomber Command Europe, Frederick Anderson
, Rear Admiral, Commander Destroyer Greyson, Frederic Bell
, Navy Admiral, “Operation Crossroads”, William Blandy
, General, Commander 32nd Infantry Division , Clovis Byers
, Navy Admiral. Battle of the Leyte Gulf, Robert Carney
, Air Force General Lieutenant
, Claire Chennault
, Lieutenant General, Commander 4th Corps, Italy Campaign, Willis Crittenberger
, Major General and commander of the 5th
, Joseph Michael Cummins
, Brigadier General, First African-American General, Benjamin Davis
, Quartermaster Lieutenant General, John Lesesne De Witt, Major General and Head OSS, William “Wild Bill” Donovan
, Brigadier General, Speck Easley
,Marine Corps Major General, Commander 1st Raider Battalion, Merrit “Red Mike” Edson, Lieutenant General, VIII Army, Robert Eichelberger
, Navy Admiral, Commander Nord Pacific Fleet, Frank Fletscher
and Navy Admiral, Commander VII Forces, William Fechteler
, General Lieutenant and commander of the 80th Infantry Division , Horrace Logan “Mac” McBride.