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Liberator of St. Lo

Major General Charles Hunter Gerhardt, Vixen Tor and D-Day

Major General Charles Hunter Gerhardt, Vixen Tor and D-Day

This is such a cool photo for so many reasons. The soldier is General Charles Gerhardt, commander of the famous 29th Infantry Division. He is sitting on the bumper of his US Army Willis Overland Jeep, one of my favorite vehicles. On the hood rests his dog, a Brittany Spaniel mix named D-Day. On his hip is his personal sidearm, the US Army M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol.

General Gerhardt's division landed at Normandy's Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He found the abandoned spaniel on the beach, named it D-Day and adopted it. He kept the dog with him throughout the rest of the war and brought it home to Florida where he buried him in his backyard in the early 1950s.

Gerhardt's personal jeep was named the Vixen Tor (you can see part of the name on the windshield armor). That was the name of a mountain in England where the 29th trained for the invasion. The jeep itself became quite famous as it participated in, and was inscribed with so many battles as the 29th fought it's way across Europe into Germany.

This picture was taken shortly after the Battle of Saint Lo. This town was a major German stronghold just inland of the Normandy beachhead, It took many weeks and thousands of lives on both sides to liberate the town from the Germans. The town itself was almost completely destroyed.

Gerhardt was a controversial figure. A West Point graduate, he fought in both WWI and WWII. He was not loved by his men. He was obsessed with the neatness of his troops and equipment (note the spotlessness of the jeep and his uniform), and not as careful with the lives of his men as other commanders. He was actually demoted after the war for reasons suspected to be the 29th Division's high casualty rate, as well as "moral lapses."