Alabama, Cuba, Fort Snelling, Havana, Minnesota, Mobile, Uncategorized, USS Maine

Remember the Maine! – February 15, 2018

02-15-Remember the Maine.jpg

On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was docked in Havana Bay, Cuba. It was to serve as an American presence during the Cuban War for Independence. Later that night, an explosion rocked the ship, killing 266 members of the crew. The explosion, still not solved to this day, launched the United States into the War with Spain. Many believed the Spanish were behind the explosion. It resulted in a declaration of war against Spain on April 25.

The War with Spain sent American troops to the Spanish territories of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Soldiers of the Old Guard departed Ft. Snelling, MN by train and arrived in Mobile, AL en route to Cuba by Army transport ships. In July 1898, the Regiment played a significant part in the Santiago Campaign, enduring tropical heat in woolen uniforms while storming a fortified blockhouse at El Caney that controlled a part of the city’s water supply, followed by three days of more or less continuous shelling in trenches before the city until a ceasefire was signed. The war lasted only ten weeks, with a signed peace agreement in August 1898.

Several years later, Congress made arrangements to raise the Maine and inter the remaining dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial, which also serves as the final resting place for 165 members of the crew, incorporated the recovered main mast of the Maine. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson was on hand to dedicate the U.S.S. Maine Mast and Memorial. Currently, the mast and memorial is undergoing restoration to its 1915 appearance.

1898, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Alabama, Cuba, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, Mobile, Santiago, Spanish American War, Tampa, War with Spain

Arrival in Cuba – June 22, 1898


On June 22, 1898, soldiers of the 3d Infantry Regiment arrived in Santiago Harbor, Cuba.

 The Regiment started their journey when they departed Fort Snelling, MN by train on April 19. They arrived in Mobile, AL two days later having traveled over 1,400 miles. The Regiment trained in Mobile for six weeks, until it was transferred to Tampa, FL on June 13. Upon reaching Tampa, it was assigned to General Shafter’s force en route to Cuba. Once ashore in Cuba, the Regiment is placed in Brigadier General Bates’ Independent Brigade, and placed in reserve at El Pozo, the Headquarters of the US Army Fifth Corps. By July 1, the Regiment is placed into action as part of the Siege of Santiago.

3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Conmy, Conmy Hall, Fort Snelling

Conmy born – March 12, 1919

Colonel Joseph B. Conmy, Jr. served as commander of the 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment from 1963-1968. Today marks what would have been Conmy’s 98th birthday.

Conmy was born at Fort Snelling, MN, the son of an Army officer. His father, Joseph Sr., was a company commander in the 3d Infantry Regiment. He grew up on Army posts in the U.S., the Philippines, and Hawaii. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1943. Conmy joined the 44th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis and deployed with them to Europe in August 1944. As a company commander in the 114th Infantry Regiment, he was wounded after a month of combat. Returning to his unit, he became S-3 of the 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Division. By the end of the war, he was awarded two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Between wars, Conmy moved to Hawaii for a three-year tour with the ROTC. The 1949–50 Advanced Course led to orders for the 7th Infantry Division, which he joined as they left for Korea. His actions in Korea earned him a Silver Star, three additional Bronze Stars for valor, the Air Medal, a second Purple Heart, and a second Combat Infantryman Badge. Following the Korean War, he graduated from the Command and General Staff School and Army War College. From 1956-59, he served at NATO Headquarters in Paris. In 1960, Conmy was stationed in Washington, DC as an intelligence officer.

In 1964, he took command of 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer. Conmy took command when The Old Guard was evolving as a ceremonial unit. Conmy felt the soldiers should be combat ready as well. During this time, he was a military aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, and he traveled extensively with the President. He commanded the battalion until 1968.

In 1968, Conmy took command of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. In May of that year, he led the brigade in the battle of Hamburger Hill in the Ashau Valley, one of the major battles of the war. After several days of desperate fighting, they took the hill. A week later, the brigade repulsed a night assault in which he was wounded. His final time in combat brought him his third Purple Heart, his third Combat Infantry Badge and three more medals for valor. He returned to the U.S. in 1969, where he handled assignment for colonels for three years and served a year as liaison to the Inaugural Committee.

He retired from the Army in 1973, with thirty years of service. In retirement, he served as an adviser for the films “Hamburger Hill,” and “Gardens of Stone.” In 1988, Conmy was selected as honorary Colonel of the 3d Infantry in 1988.

As soldiers previously under his command laid hundreds of veterans to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, his unit laid their former Commander to rest in 1994. At the time, Conmy was one of only 230 Army soldiers to have awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge in three wars. On May 31, 1995, the former Fort Myer North Post gymnasium was named for Joseph B. Conmy, Jr.

1921, Fort Sheridan, Fort Snelling

Arrival at Fort Snelling – November 17, 1921

On November 17, 1921, the 3d Infantry Regiment arrived at Fort Snelling, MN. The Regiment had departed Camp Perry, OH in September and marched to Fort Sheridan, IL for a short break. The snows started early, and the 940-mile exercise was not without incident. The Regiment became acclimated in this way to its old home in Minnesota and its old mission. This mission to be taken up when the regimental commander found that cold weather equipment, including skis, snowshoes, and sled mounts for machine guns had been turned-in by units recently stationed in North Russia.
The Regiment settled into a twenty-year peacetime mission of training National Guard and Reserve troops from the surrounding states and in the local camp of the Civilian Military Training Corps. For a few weeks a year, these men began to get some military training and a basic introduction to military life. The program was particularly important during the Great Depression, as it provided a structured life, with some pay, for men not otherwise employed.
The Regiment called Fort Snelling home for twenty years, earning the nickname “Minnesota’s Own.” The history of Fort Snelling and The Old Guard crossed paths multiple times in the 19th century. The Regiment left Fort Snelling again in January 1941, deploying to Newfoundland to protect North Atlantic shipping lanes and trade long before the U.S. formally entered World War II.
1921, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Camp Perry, Fort Sheridan, Fort Snelling, Illinois, Indiana, National Rifle Matches, Ohio

Departing Camp Perry – September 26, 1921

On September 26, 1921, the 3d Infantry Regiment set out for its new assigned post, Fort Snelling, MN. Due to the post-World War I cuts in defense, there was no funding for transportation. The Regiment set out on a 938-mile road march to comply with its orders.

The Regiment had already been on the move that year. At the start of 1921, the Old Guard was stationed at Camp Sherman, OH, having left Camp Eagle Pass, TX the previous year. In August 1921, orders came down from the War Department. The Old Guard was to march from Camp Sherman to Camp Perry, OH (173 miles). At Camp Perry, the Regiment, along with the 2d Infantry Regiment, helped run the annual National Rifle Match. On August 24, the day after their arrival at Camp Perry, regimental command passed from Colonel Paul Giddings to Colonel Alfred Bjornstad.

Once the rifle matches were completed on September 25, the 2d and 3d Infantry Regiments started their march to Fort Sheridan. Once at Fort Sheridan, the Regiment stayed four days to rest and resupply. The Perry-Sheridan leg of the march would be 308 miles, taking the regiments 19 days to cover (including two rest days). From Fort Sheridan, the 3d was to march on to Fort Snelling, where they would spend the next twenty years and earn the nickname, Minnesota’s Own.

The Fort Sheridan-Fort Snelling leg of the march will be covered in a future post.
3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Buff Strap, Cockade, Distinctive Unit Insignia, Fort Snelling

Approval of "Cockade" – May 6, 1959

On May 6, 1959, the Army officially approved the “Cockade” as the distinctive unit insignia of the Old Guard. The Regiment has been wearing the device since the early 1920s, but it had never been approved by the Army or War Department.

Soldiers of The Old Guard use the word “cockade” to mean the Distinctive Unit Insignia worn by the Regiment. It has its origin with a commemoration of an earlier time. The Old Guard Cockade is not a cockade, but a representation of a cocked hat with a cockade on it.

Like many Army customs, the use of a traditional cockade (not The Old Guard’s metal insignia) dates to the earliest days of the service. Based on the French “cocarde”, the word and the cockade were first used about 1709 in a military context, meaning a rosette, worn as a badge. U.S. forces first created an insignia in 1778 when General Washington directed his army to add a white element to the black cockades worn on the hats of all ranks. This white-on-black “Alliance Cockade” honored our new French allies.

In the early 1920s, the 3rd Infantry took up residence at Fort Snelling, MN. At the same time, Army commanders looked for ways to use history, traditions and customs to enhance morale and esprit-de-corps. The Old Guard created a color guard that included two veteran soldiers as color bearers wearing representations of Continental Army uniforms. The color guard became popular at reviews and parades. The hats worn by these color bearers became the pattern for the 3rd Infantry Cockade.

Headquarters, 3rd Infantry, General Order 4, dated April 3, 1924, which superseded a 1922 general order announcing the adoption of the unit Distinctive Unit Trimming, the “Buff Strap,” contained this sentence: 

“In addition thereto, a bronze Cockade Hat is worn fastened thru [the] cloth of [the] coat and [Buff] strap, on top of [the] shoulder, so that the lower edge of [the] hat coincides with the seam by which [the] sleeve is joined to coat.”

Initially a single dark bronze Cockade was used to connect the ends of the Buff Strap and keep it in place. In 1929, the use of the Cockade, never officially approved by the War Department, was worn until then on the left shoulder of coats and on the campaign hat, was discontinued after an inquiry by the Army Quartermaster General. Starting in the late 1930s, however, the Cockade was again unofficially worn. This time worn on appropriate headgear.

At the end of World War II it began to be worn on uniform coats as well. In 1948, the 3rd Infantry reactivated in Washington, DC, the commander of the Military District of Washington, noted the insignia was unofficial, but ordered that “the regiment will continue to wear the…metal distinctive insignia.” Written authorization from the Department of the Army for the Cockade was finally received May 6, 1959, and an authorized Distinctive Unit Insignia has been worn proudly since that date, at least 35 years after its initial use in the Regiment. It is officially described: “On a wreath an infantry officer’s cocked hat of 1784, with plume, all brass.”