On December 3, 1774, Mordecai Gist, a young Baltimore merchant, organized a militia company, which became the nucleus of Maryland's Dandy Fifth Regiment. This Regiment has had a consecutive history from 1774 through the present day, and has fought as a unit or through its component companies in every major conflict of the nations history.
January 2, 1776, the Maryland Line under command of Colonel William Smallwood was organized with over one fourth of the officers and non- commissioned officers of the original company with Mordecai Gist, now a Major, as the second in command. This Regiment was composed of seven companies.
The Regiment departed Annapolis July 11, 1776, under orders from the Continental Congress, to join General Washington at New York.
The Maryland Line consisted of 400 soldiers on August 27, 1776 and they successfully covered the withdrawal of General Washington's defeated army at Brooklyn Heights. Five times they charged the British Forces until only 93 effectively were left after an hours engagement. This was the first time that the bayonet was used by American troops in battle. During the withdrawal, General Washington exclaimed, "My God, what brave men I must lose today." Afterward he stated, "They have brought in blood that hour more precious to American liberty than any other hour in its history".
Again and again, General Washington had to call on the men of the Maryland Line to hold or attack when other troops of his command failed. They fought with valor at White Pains, Harlem Heights, Trenton and Princeton. At this time the Maryland unit was brought up to a strength of over 3000 and Major Gist was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
After a bloody standoff battle at Brandywine, a victory which was turned into a defeat because of lack of fortitude by adjacent troops at Germantown, the troops went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.
In June of 1778, at the battle of Monmouth, Smallwood's command again distinguished itself in a defense against superior numbers.
In April of 1780, the Maryland Line was ordered to the South to participate in the campaign against Cornwallis, which was to eventually culminate in his surrender at Yorktown. Battles were fought at Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Court House, Hobrick's Hill, Fort Ninety-six and Eutaw Springs where another gallant bayonet charge by the Maryland Line saved the day. After the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, General Washington remarked that the Maryland troops consistently fought better and more aggressively than any other troops under his command throughout the war.
After the conclusion of hostilities, a militia regiment was formed calling itself the 5th Maryland, a designation that it kept until the outbreak of world conflict. They participated, at President Washington's order, in helping put down the "Whiskey Rebellion" in Pennsylvania in 1794.
When war broke out with the British in 1812, they were ready to again take up arms to defend their country. The British fleet, commanded by a very able General Ross, sailed up the Patuxent disembarking a force of 3,000 well-trained troops. The Maryland Militia under command of General Stricker and augmented by militia from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, a detachment of marines, and soldiers and Commodore Barney, took up positions near Bladensburg, Maryland to repel the expected attack on the nation's capital. After repelling several enemy charges and after a gallant, but ineffective charge by the 5th Maryland Regiment, the American forces were put to flight. Only Barney's command and the 5th Maryland even tried to make a fight of this debacle, which opened the road to Washington. The British promptly marched there and set fire to the Capitol and other government buildings. However, another day dawned to give the disappointed 5th a chance to redeem their proud heritage. The British fleet re-embarked the troops under General Ross and sailed up the Chesapeake. They landed near Sparrows Point and marched up the neck of land between Jones Creek and Back River.
General Sam Smith was appointed Commander-In-Chief of all American forces in Baltimore and set out immediately to give battle with, and delay the British forces, until the city's defenses could be completed and manned. On September 12, 1814, action took place with the 5th again in vanguard a body of 2,100 men marched down the neck to meet the enemy. An advance guard under Major Heath met the British advance guard and a skirmish began. Two sharpshooters, Daniel Wells and Henry McComas killed General Ross, the British Commander. The British, after a heavy engagement, decided that the strong earthworks of the city and the spirited defense put up by its citizens as shown at North Point, were too strong to crack. They then decided on a naval attack at Fort McHenry, which also withstood the attack. The defeated enemy then sailed back to sea.
In the Mexican War of 1847, men of the 5th again volunteered, and were formed into a battalion commanded by Colonel Watson, a former company commander. They accredited themselves very well and were one of the leading units in the storming of the city of Monterey during which Colonel Watson was killed at the head of the troops.
The men of the 5th participated in the capture of John Brown at Harper's Ferry in October of 1859. Although they fought as a unit on the side of the Union in this engagement, the War between the States, 1861 to 1865, found the Fifth fighting with the South as the 1st Maryland Infantry Regiment.
At Manassas, in the first action in which they were engaged, the Maryland Regiment outflanked the Union line and with another famous bayonet charge stormed the enemy line and turned a doubtful battle into the first great victory for the South. Jefferson Davis promoted Colonel Elzey, who commanded the regiment, to General on the spot. The 1st Maryland fought at Front Royal, where they engaged their sister regiment of the Union Army, the 1st Maryland, composed of many of their former brothers in arms of the old 5th. At Winchester, Port Republic, Cross Keys, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor and Malvern Hill they fought as a unit under Stonewall Jackson.
However, in these bloody battles, although victorious, the strength of this volunteer regiment was so depleted that it was disbanded on August 17, 1862, at the order of Secretary of War Randolph. The survivors immediately reformed into the 2d Maryland Regiment and augmented by volunteers from Baltimore, became once more a unit of the Army of the Shenandoah Valley. The 2d Maryland helped recapture Winchester and then moved with General Lee to the bloody battle of Gettysburg. Here as part of General Ewell's Corps they stormed Culp's HII. In this valiantly executed engagement, the Maryland Line was cut to pieces, losing half of its strength in this vital turning point of the war.
In 1864, the 2d Maryland fought at the second battle of Cold Harbor, White Oak Swamp, Pegrams Farm, Hatchers Run, Petersburg, and Appomattox and were mustered out to the Confederate Army on April 10, 1865.
In 1867, the 5th Infantry was again reformed, commanded almost entirely by former officers who had served in the Confederate Army. A distinct southern tinge was evidenced by the selection of the gray uniform as its official dress. These are the same "Dress Grays" still worn by the regiment on formal occasions for many years afterwards.
In 1877, the 5th was called out for the bloody railroad riots, and again in 1894 for the coal miners strike in Frostburg, Maryland.
On April 19, 1898, when hostilities broke out with Spain, the 5th was called in Federal Service and after about a week spent in camp at Pimlico they moved to Tampa, Florida, where they encamped awaiting ships to carry them to Cuba. By a strange quirk of fate, the transport, which was to carry them to Cuba, was rammed and sunk and the 5th remained at Tampa, where they suffered more from typhoid fever and dysentery than they probably would have in combat in Cuba.
When trouble flared along the Mexican border in 1916, the 5th along with the 1st and 4th Maryland Regiments, was mustered into federal service and sent to Eagle Pass, Texas. There they patrolled 80 miles of the border from July 10 until February 20, 1917.
Almost immediately after returning to Baltimore after the duty in Texas, war broke out with Germany in April of 1917. The first great world crisis found the 5th ready and trained. After a period of guard duty along the Eastern seaboard, the 5th moved to Fort McClellan, Alabama, where, along with National Guard units from New Jersey, were formed, into the now famous 29th Infantry Division.
The 5th formed the nucleus for what was designated the II 5th Infantry Regiment. Colonel Washington Bowie, Jr. commander of the Fifth Regiment was reassigned to organize and command the newly forming 110th Field Artillery Regiment. Thus members of the Fifth, as in the past, continued to be an 'integral part of many other Maryland military organizations. After a period of training, the division shipped out and landed in Brest, France, in June of 1918. From August until October 1st the division was in a defensive sector in Haute Alsace where they suffered their first battle casualties since 1865. On October 1st the 29th Division, with the 115th Infantry spearheading, jumped off in the great Meuse Argonne drive. After 22 days of continuous fighting, during which over one-third of the regiment became casualties, a great victory was won. This broke the German lines and helped bring the day of victory closer. The Regiment was prepared to resume the offensive on November 10th when word came that hostilities were to cease on the 11th. The Regiment returned to the States where they were mustered out in June of 1919.
Immediately after this, plans were made to reactivate the 5th Regiment and the first unit was again under arms in State service in the fall of 1919.
Reorganization was carried out under the direction of Colonel Washington Bowie Jr. who again commanded the Regiment after the first two battalions were formed.
On 1 January 1941, per General Order Number Two, the Adjutant General's office of Maryland, the 5th Regiment was redesignated the 175th Infantry. At this point in time is where the history of the 175th Infantry begins.
Pursuant to the Presidential Order of 14 January 1941, the Regiment was inducted into active service at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore Maryland on 3 February 1941. After a short period in preparation of records, physical examinations, and checking the last minute details the Regiment moved to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
With a minimum of delay after the arrival at Fort Meade, the Regiment was engaged in a rigorous training program. September of 1941 found the 175th moving to the North Carolina Maneuver Area for participation in the 1941 Army Maneuvers. While enroute to Fort Meade, word was received that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese on 7 December 1941.
Entry of the United States into World War II changed plans for many members of the 175th Infantry, many of whom had planned to return to civilian life at the end of their year of training. Others had been planning to spend the Christmas holidays at home. These plans were set aside and everyone buckled down to his new task.
By January 1942, the Regiment had been dispatched to guard important public utilities and industrial plants throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This was a short tour of duty, and by February the 175th had effected a permanent change of station to the A. P. Hill Military Reservation in Virginia.
After a period of training at A. P. Hill, the Regiment returned to the familiar Carolina Maneuver Area. These second Carolina maneuvers in the early summer of 1942 were called off after a few preliminary tactical exercises, due to many units being withdrawn in preparation for the North African invasion. Shortly after, the 175th was ordered to Camp Blanding Florida; but only for a short period. Six weeks later the Regiment was stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, preparing for shipment overseas.
Advance details sailed from New York on the famous British liner, Queen Mary, on 26 September 1942. 5 October 1942 found the balance of the unit on the sister ship Queen Elizabeth, which docked at Gourock, Scotland, on 11 October 1942.
From Gourock, Scotland, the next stop was Tidworth Barracks in England. Eight months of rugged training followed, and ten more months of training in Comwall, Devon and invasion rehearsals at Slapton Sands. The 175th was well trained, conditioned and sharp, ready for D-Day.
6 June 1944 found the 175th held off the Normandy coast in corps reserve, awaiting any assignment necessary. Early morning of 7 June 1944, the Regiment was ordered to land on Omaha Beach and was assigned the mission of capturing the town of Isigny, a key German position. Two days later this mission was successfully accomplished. This was the first of a series of successful missions. Practically continuous combat followed thereafter: St. Lo, Vire, Brest, Fallaise Gap, Belgium, Holland, Aachend, Aldenhoven, Gorheim, Roer River, and finally on 3 May 1945 a junction with the 6th Cavalry Division of the U.S.S.R was made on the Elbe River near Garton, Germany. Military occupation at Bremen, Germany was followed by return to the U.S.A, and deactivation on 17 January 1946.
On 12 November 1946, as the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, the Regiment was reorganized. Faced with the trials and tribulations of rebuilding an effective combat unit, the officers and men responded magnificently. By the end of 1948, all 20 companies of the Regiment were activated and federally recognized by the Department of the Army. Summer encampments had begun in 1947 at Camp Ritchie, Maryland for those units that were first organized. In July of 1948, the Regiment returned to Camp Ritchie for its first period of field training as a separate unit. Beginning in August of 1949, the Regiment began its long series of post-war summer encampments at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania with other units of the Division. By the summer of 1950, the Regiment was a well organized unit, and none to soon, as the Korean War had begun just one week prior to the annual field training at Camp Pickett, Virginia. With the possibility of being ordered into active Federal Service at any time, the 175th rapidly reached a high state of readiness in training and administration. Returning to Camp Pickett in 1952 and into bivouac camp for the next two summers at Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia, the Regiment had now become an effective fighting force.
During the years 1954-1958, the Regiment returned to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania for each of its summer encampments. However, summer was not the only time the Regiment took to the field for its training. Many weekends, throughout the year, were spent in tactical training, and range firing of individual and crew served weapons.
With the advent of nuclear weapons, the structure of military units had to be altered to effectively deal with this new dimension in warfare. In 1957, the Regiment began to prepare for its eventual conversion to a Pentomic Unit, by beginning its training and thinking in this medium. On 1 March 1959, the 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) became the 1st Battle Group, 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) and once again, the problems of reorganization were felt. As a result of the fine corps of officer and enlisted personnel, which had been built up over the years since World War II, this conversion was accomplished with a minimum of difficulty. This involved a major structural change in organization, as well as changes in equipment, methods systems, tactics, and mission. The Regiment was now scaled down from a twenty-company, three-battalion unit to a seven company unit composed of a headquarters company, a combat support company (containing unit support weapons) and five line rifle companies. Summer camps were held at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania in 1959, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina 1960, and at Camp A. P. Hill in 1961 and 1962.
With structural changes necessary, the increase in firepower, and with the knowledge that American military ground forces must be more flexible in keeping with the variety of missions they will be called upon to perform, the Department of the Army caused the ground forces to develop along this line. To this end was developed the ROAD concept. On 1 March 1963, the Staff of the 1st Battle Group 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) became Headquarters, 1st Brigade, 29th Infantry Division. The companies became the 1st and 2nd.Battalions, 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) each composed of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company and three line companies (A, B and C). Again, a major structural change affecting mission, tactics, equipment, personnel and control took place. Brigade headquarters had now been introduced to control the combat battalions.
After reorganization, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were anticipating practical field operations at Annual Field training for 1963. However, this was not to be the case for the 1st Battalion. The battalion-training period was spent in the role of state militia under the Governor of Maryland controlling civil disturbances in Cambridge, Maryland. As a consequence of this duty, the battalion was highly commended by both the Cambridge authorities and by the Adjutant General, Lt Gen. Milton A. Reckord. The 2d Battalion went on to perform its annual training mission.
Training periods for 1964 and 1965 were conducted at Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia. Both periods were very successful.
The Maryland Army National Guard was reorganized November 1965, in that the Infantry Battalions were placed on Selected Reserve Force status. This meant 72 training assemblies per year versus the normal 48, for a period of two years. All units that were placed in SRF status were brought to full strength in personnel, equipment, and weapons. Levy and transfer of personnel from non-SRF units of the Maryland National Guard accomplished this. Additional equipment, weapons, special winter clothing, etc. were provided from U.S. Army stockage. This was a very difficult time for the units. Training was stringent, the demands were many, and the requirements were for excellence. All this was accomplished but there was a considerable loss of personnel at all levels due to the increase in training time.
Training periods for 1966 were conducted at Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia. A centralized recruit training program for all divisional units characterized this encampment. Maximum utilization of instructors was used for standardization of training, as all organizations had a heavy input of recruits during the latter part of 1965 and early 1966. 1967 saw a return to both Camp A. P. Hill and Camp Pickett, Virginia. This was the summer of ATT operations, battalion combat operation testing.
In January 1968, the 29th Infantry Division was deactivated and the 175th was assigned to the 28th Infantry Division headquartered in Pennsylvania. Both the 28th Infantry Division and the 29th Infantry Division were first organized in 1917. Each Division has had parallel experiences in peace and war, and has always performed outstandingly, whether the service was for state or nation. Members of the 175th though having to change shoulder patches, were still able to carry on the historical traditions and customs that have been their hallmark since 1774.
In April 1968, the 175th Infantry was federalized for civil disturbance duty in Baltimore, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This was a very serious situation, and not confined to Maryland. Similar civil disturbances occurred nationwide and were cause for the full attention of all Federal, State and Municipal levels. Not only were National Guard units Federalized for these operations, active army personnel were moved into a great number of areas to help control these lawless activities. Once again, these duties were performed in an excellent manner. Not a shot was fired and not a life was lost in Maryland, either civilian or military.
The training period of 1968 saw the 175th Infantry return to their old stomping grounds at Camp Pickett, Virginia. The training period for 1969 was conducted at Camp A. P. Hill Virginia.
In May 1970 and May of 1971, the members of the Battalions were activated in State Militia status to control student disturbances on the University of Maryland Campus at College Park, Maryland. Both of these were for short periods, but were also hard, testing times for the 175th Infantry.
Annual Training for 1970 was again conducted at Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia, while in 1971 the battalion trained at Camp Pickett, Virginia.
December 1971 saw the formation of a separate Combat Support Company with 107mm mortar, 106 mm anti tank recoilless rifle, ground surveillance radar, Redeye anti aircraft missile, and scout reconnaissance sections to be utilized in support of Battalion and Company level operations. This again was a structural change, with the addition of very sophisticated equipment being placed at the disposal of the battalion commander. The battalion now had a Headquarters and Headquarters company, three line rifle companies, and the new combat support company. Once again, we see organization come almost full circle. Now we have a unit, which is quite similar to the original infantry rifle companies, which had a headquarters company, three rifle companies, and a heavy weapons company. The introduction of newer weapons being the principle difference.
Annual training for 1972 was conducted at Camp Drum, New York, with a return to Camp A. P. Hill, Virginia in 1973, and to Camp Pickett, Virginia in 1974
The battalions were reorganized into subordinate elements of the 58th Infantry Brigade (Separate) on 1 July 1976.
On 5 October 1985, the 1st and 2nd Battalion, 175th Infantry were reorganized from the 58th Infantry Brigade (Separate), to the reactivated 29th Infantry Division (Light). With the new concept of Light Infantry, the Division was able to defend key mountain passes, anti-tank defense in restricted terrain, conduct raids and helibome operations, rear area protection and to clear and defend urban area or restricted terrain. Reactivation ceremonies were conducted at the Divisions Headquarters, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The 29th Infantry Division (Light) is the only Light Infantry Division, of the four in existence, that is comprised of solely reserve component forces.
Upon the reactivation, the First Battalion, 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) was composed of an HHC, located at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore, Maryland, A Company located in Catonsville (formerly part of the 1st Bn, 115th Infantry), B Company located in Pikesville and Co C located at the Fifth Regiment Armory.
The Second Battalion, 175th Infantry (Fifth Maryland) was structured the same, with HHC and Company C located at Dundalk, Company A at Parkville and Company B (formerly CSC, 1st Bn, 175th Infantry) located at General Harry C. Ruhl Armory in Towson, Maryland.
The reorganization into a Light Infantry structure caused all soldiers assigned to have to complete a Rites of Passge training, Light Fighters and Light Leaders Course. These courses were conducted at fort Benning, Georgia and later at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia