Almost immediately following America’s decision to join the Second World War in December 1941, American and British leaders began planning the tremendous operation of transporting 1.6 million men and their equipment to England, providing them with shelter and training facilities in preparation for “Operation Overlord” (D-Day).
In Devon and Cornwall, it was undoubtedly men of the US 29th Infantry Division whom arrived in their greatest numbers. Travelling to Great Britain in late 1942 to prepare for the invasion of occupied France, the 29th Infantry GI’s spent their first few months in Tidworth, East Wiltshire. From there, they moved down into Devon and Cornwall, with the majority of GI’s arriving in the South-West sometime between early–mid 1943.
In total, Bodmin hosted around two thousand troops from the US 29th Infantry Division. Whilst it is not possible to determine exactly which other members of the US Military were based in Bodmin, it is known that the US 35th Infantry Division were also based in the town during the Second World War, arriving the following year, in 1944.
The range of preparations undertaken for D-Day in Bodmin was immense. This relatively small Cornish town accommodated troops from medical battalions, ordnance company units, field artillery battalions and several infantry regiments. Some of Bodmin’s most notable buildings were taken over to provide accommodation for troops and the surrounding countryside was used for training and exercise.