From the Midwest to Malmedy

Just three Midwestern guys smoking and joking while backpacking through Europe, 76 years ago today.

Official caption: En route to front lines, beyond Malmedy, Belgium, American Infantrymen pause to rest. Left to right, Sgt. Lyle Greene, Rochester Minnesota, S/Sgt. Joseph DeMott, Greenwood, Ind., and Pfc. Fred Mozzoni, Chicago, Illinois. 29 December 1944.

Note the extra bandoliers and enthusiasm for grenades. Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-198409 via National Archives

Due to the geographical makeup of the above group, I would wager they are dismounts from the 106th Cavalry Regiment, an Illinois Army National Guard whose armory was in the Windy City, which would explain the tanker boots on DeMott and Mozzoni.

The 106th, formerly the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cav back when they rode horses, was federalized 25 November 1940 and spent most of the war in Texas and Lousiana. Landing in Normandy in late June 1944, they pushed from Northern France, through the Ardennes-Alsace, into the Rhineland, and finished WWII in Austria, being the first unit American troops to enter Salzburg before going on to free King Leopold of Belgium who had been a German prisoner for five years.

They fought dismounted at the Battle of the Bulge, which is when the above image hails from, and patrolled north of Sarrebourg to scout for German forces.

Suffering 700 casualties in their 10-month trek across Europe from the coast of France to the Alps, they returned to the States in October 1945 and today make up part of the 33rd Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard.

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