There were about one and a quarter million American servicemen stationed throughout the West Country divided into divisions and it was part of the 29th Division that was stationed in Ivybridge, with a further gas or fuel supply depot at Wrangaton.
In May, 1943, the GIs of the 116th Infantry Regiment came to Ivybridge as part of Operation Bolero, a long-range plan for transferring and then accommodating almost 2 million American servicemen in Britain in the run-up to an invasion of Europe, which commanders had now set for the summer of 1944.
The 116th was made up of men from many places in the US but each Company still retained a significant number of soldiers from the National Guard unit in Virginia. The four companies of the 29th Division of the 1st Battalion were originally from: Co A – Bedford (the Bedford Boys), Co B – Lynchburg, Co C – Harrisonburg and Co D – Roanoke.
The 29th Division was ordered to vacate Tidworth in Wiltshire and move to a new barracks in Ivybridge. The 29th Division, the second US Division to arrive in England, marched from Tidworth to Devon and Cornwall as part of Exercise Hanover.
The 1st Battalion of the 116th Regiment was the only infantry unit stationed at Ivybridge, under the command of Regiment Commander Colonel Charles Draper Canham. The 1st Battalion remained in Ivybridge for approximately a year while it trained and prepared for the assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe.
The troops were soon marching across the moors and camping out in the most deplorable weather. “From day one with the 116th in Ivybridge training on the moors it would consume every waking hour from 5am to 5pm, except on Sundays. Every third day we would dig in, set up camp and bed down on this inhospitable swampy moor, anticipating live artillery and mortar fire.”