May 3, 2011
29th ID WWII vet celebrates 90th birthday
By Maj. Wes Parmer
29th Infantry Division Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mat Thorp, a 29th Infantry Division World War II veteran, celebrated his 90th birthday with friends and family at a restaurant in Georgetown April 16. The gathering marked a significant milestone in Thorp’s life and served as a poignant reminder of the remarkable history of the 29th Infantry Division.
Mat Thorp, a 29th Infantry Division World War II veteran, celebrated his 90th birthday with friends and family at a restaurant in Georgetown April 16. The gathering marked a significant milestone in Thorp’s life and served as a poignant reminder of the remarkable history of the 29th Infantry Division. (Photo by Maj. Wes Parmer, 2th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
During the celebration, a representative from the 29th Infantry Division presented Thorp with a unit patch, a division commander’s coin and command sergeant major’s coin, as well as a signed letter of recognition from Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr., 29th Infantry Division commander.
Thorp, a native of Sewickley, Pa., volunteered for service after two years of study at Georgetown University and within weeks of his 21st birthday in April 1942, joined the 29th Division in Normandy two weeks after they landed on Omaha Beach and on the same day the division captured the town of Saint-Lo.
Hailing from a long line of family military service, Thorp also had a brother who served in Normandy after jumping into theater with the 101st Airborne Division. His father also served in the National Guard and his great-great-grandfather enlisted in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War.
In speaking of his time in Normandy and of his brother’s service there, Thorp said he refused to visit the American cemetery in France for fear of seeing his brother’s name on a headstone. Both men survived the war, but not without difficulty.
Thorp was evacuated to England in November 1944 after being wounded in action. A victim of misidentification while passing through an Allied control point, he was shot in the chest and both shoulders. He recuperated for six months in southern England and went on to serve in the 11th Airborne Division in Japan.
Thorp left the service in October 1948 after commanding a parachute unit with the 82nd Airborne Division. He settled into civilian life in the Washington, D.C. area and had a successful career in real estate. Now retired, Thorp stays active in the community and still serves as the only citizen representative on the district’s Aircraft Noise and Emission Reduction Commission.
The 29th Infantry Division, based in Fort Belvoir, Va., was formed in 1917 by combining units from states that were previously split among Union and Confederate boundaries. The division first saw service in 1918 as part of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. During World War II, after securing the town of Saint-Lo, the division fought through France and into Germany. Since then the 29th Infantry Division has served in many operations and conflicts to include the countries of Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.