Aug. 5, 2011

JRTC facilitates connection to the past

By Maj. Nevin Blankenship    
116th BCT Public Affairs

FORT POLK, La. The Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team trained June 19-30 at the Joint Readiness Training Center with a link to the unit’s historic past.

 

The father of Dr. Dave Bingham, Fort Polk historian, served with the 116th BCT during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. (Courtesy Photo)

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve with the 29th and to train the 116th before they go to Afghanistan,” said Dr. Dave Bingham, Fort Polk historian.

Bingham was a non-governmental organization role player for the unit during their training. During an initial meeting with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, it was discovered that Bingham was a member of the 115th Infantry Battalion and the 121st Engineer Battalion. He also served in Vietnam.

“National Guard guys are always more friendly and easier to work with than active units,” said Bingham.

His dad, Col. Sidney Bingham, Jr., was the 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Commander on D-Day in Normandy.

“I was happy to be with the 29th. How many guys get to be in the same unit their father was in?” he asked.

The 2nd Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company landed on Dog Red at 7 a.m. The elder Bingham was among the first to reach the shingle embankment on the beach, where he worked with the leaderless sections of Fox Company. For nearly an hour he had no working radio to contact the widely scattered elements of his battalion. During this period, the only part of the battalion to arrive at the embankment in good condition was four section of Golf Company. Once they arrived they set out to reach their planned assault sector on Dog White.

They had to do a lateral movement of several hundred yards behind the now crowded shingle bank and under small-arms fire. Starting out together and working slowly west, the four sections gradually lost all cohesion. One after another, individuals or small groups stopped to take cover, and sections became mixed or separated. Only remnants were to reach Dog White, about 8:30 a.m., after the main action on that sector was over.

Bingham's attempts to organize an assault at Les Moulins were unsuccessful. He managed to get about 50 men of Fox Company across the shingle near the prominent three-story house at the mouth of the draw. A good system of trenches had been dug near the house and gave cover for the group. Their rifles, clogged with sand, failed to function well enough to build up any volume of fire. Bingham led a group of ten men nearly to the top of the bluff just east of D-3 draw, they were unable to knock out an enemy machinegun nest and had to return to the house.

Bingham was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on Normandy beach. The citation reads: “When his battalion was pinned down on the beach by the heavy and intense enemy fire, Major Bingham gathered together five of his men and personally led them across the beach and up a cliff in an attempt to seek out an enemy machine gun that had been inflicting heavy casualties on his unit. Though unable to reach the machine gun, he was, nevertheless, able to discover its location. He returned to the fire-swept beach and organized a flank and rear attack which succeeded in taking the enemy position, thereby permitting his unit to advance.”

“I am sure that Omaha Beach was a bad experience for those guys and my dad would never talk about his service,” his son said.

Col. Sidney Bingham, Jr., retired in 1970 and died in 1993. He also was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, class of 1940.

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