The role of our 29th Division 116th Infantry on D-Day

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, June 5, 2019

As Virginia prepares for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it is a good time to look back to the facts that are sometimes lost in the re-telling of history. The National Guard units that were based in many of the towns of this region were brought together to create the 29th Division in 1941 with training based from Fort Meade. The 116th Infantry Regiment encompassed those units from our area. After training in this country, they were shipped to Scotland and England to complete their training. That training included intensive beach assault training at sites similar to Normandy.

Finally, the time came for the invasion of Europe. Normandy was selected because the belief was that because of the terrain it would be the least expected. Sherman tanks were modified to use them in the assault, and paratroopers were to be dropped behind enemy lines. Both were expected to aid in the beach landing. As with all military planning, things did not proceed as expected. In the dark of night, the paratroopers were dropped farther away than they should have been to be effective. The tanks proved to be worthless in the choppy water.

The 116th was the unit that was chosen to lead the assault on Omaha Beach. This turned out to be where the most deadly fighting occurred. When the day was done, there were more than 3,000 casualties, of those over 1,000 died.

This Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of that invasion. The Commission on World War I and II has planned several events for those able to make it to Bedford at the National D-Day Monument both the day before and the day after. The center piece will be mid-day Thursday in which Vice President Pence will address the crowd. 20,000 are expected to attend.


For the last year, we have received announcement after announcement of record-breaking employment numbers in Virginia. Currently, they are in the range of 3 percent statewide. Our area is lagging the state, but we are doing far better than a decade ago. Despite that, many employers are saying they currently need employees or that they could expand if they could find qualified employees that want to work.

This is an issue that I have focused on in recent years. I have worked with the community colleges to look at workforce differently than in the past. If one needs a job to support a family, they cannot survive the old model of taking courses for two years to get an associate degree that does not necessarily meet the needs or standards of today’s jobs. What employers need is employees faster and with certifications that are recognized by industry standards.

My answer to this is what is now known as “Fast Forward.” No longer is the average community college student an 18-year-old living at home, training for a few hours a week. Today, students are often older with responsibilities. These students want to get into the workforce as quickly as possible in order to provide for their families. They are willing to train hard every day so they can go to work.

However, no matter how much we focus on training, there are a number of people that we must work with to get them interested in working, willing to be trained, and, finally, taking a job in which they are willing to stick with and hopefully improve upon. Currently, I am working with the Governor’s Workforce leader to establish a better plan to accomplish this. Our solution will include working with the state Director of Social Services and the Director of the Virginia Employment Commission. Without a change in their policy, the Employment Commission allows folks to receive unemployment benefits for months before they become concerned. My belief is that we should be concerned from day one.

Wish us luck in this endeavor. This has been an Employment Commission policy that has not been addressed for far too long.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@