The 34th Infantry Division was an Army National Guard unit that participated in both World War I and II. The troops were from North and South Dakota, as well as Minnesota and Iowa. Known as the Red Bull Division, the unit continues to serve today.
The first peacetime draft was enacted in September, 1940. The 34th Division was activated on February 10th, 1941. The unit trained in Louisiana before going to Europe in 1942. They continued training in Ireland until the invasion of North Africa. They first saw action in French Algeria in November, 1942.
By April 22nd of the following year, the Second Corps was rapidly closing in on the last German position in Tunisia. Hill 609 was a key position in the German defensive line. German General Von Arnim used the hill as an artillery position as well as an observation post. It was critical for the Americans to take the hill.
The 34th Division was placed in reserve as other troops moved into battle position. Hill 609 was considered a very difficult target. It was protected by steep slopes and German crossfire. The Americans were determined to take the hill. The Germans were equally determined to hold it. The Red Bull Division took part in securing much of the land around the hill. The only known way to the top was a steep goat trail, and sidestepping the hill was out of the question. American artillery continued a furious barrage. On this date in 1943, the Division moved into position for the final assault that began on May 1st. The German soldiers were trapped, but refused to give up without a fight. The combat continued all day, and troops engaged in hand to hand fighting with bayonets.
By the end of the day, the American troops forced their way up the goat trail and captured the hill. American artillery replaced the German artillery to shell the retreating German troops from the hilltop.
The Red Bull Division, including the North Dakota troops, distinguished itself. Hill 609 is considered one of the most outstanding achievements of the Tunisian campaign. General Omar Bradley saluted the troops, noting the many instances of exceptional heroism.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
34th Infantry Division. "http://www.34infdiv.org/history/34div/1.6.html%20Accessed%203/17/15" http://www.34infdiv.org/history/34div/1.6.html Accessed 3/17/15 .