FORT CARSON, Colo. — The secret is finally out. After keeping the Ivy Week kick-off event under the radar for the last few weeks, senior leaders of 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson finally revealed the mysterious physical training event on May 23, 2022, near the Wilderness Range Complex at Fort Carson.
Over 6,000 Soldiers and leaders from across the installation participated in a grueling, multi-terrain obstacle course spanning over 2 miles, simulating what past Ivy Soldiers endured during the long trek from Utah Beach to Cherbourg, France, in World War II.
“We’re here to honor the heritage, history and the service and sacrifice of the Ivy Division,” said Maj. Gen. David M. Hodne, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson. “4th Inf. Div. led the assault on Utah Beach. The artillery that defended the beach was two miles inland, and this course is just behind that. It’s the final yards to seize the objective and clear beyond that.”
On June 6, 1944, Soldiers of the 4th Inf. Div. landed on the westernmost beach of the five landing points during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. Although the division landed roughly 2,000 yards from its intended landing, it was beneficial overall as this part of the beach had fewer defenses.
In the famous words of Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., former assistant commander of the 4th Inf. Div., “We’ll start the war from here.”
The Utah landing area consisted of sandy dunes and low-lying beaches where German forces could control access points and roads due to the amount of flooding. In total, the landing area was only about 3 miles wide.
The first two obstacles in the Utah Beach Ivy Week event symbolize the division landing and storming the beach. The terrain is low, uneven and wide open.
The Soldiers crossed the open field and trusted themselves, their teammates and their leaders to scale mounds of dirt and climb out of the anti-tank ditches on the other side, as they would have in 1944.
“Every Soldier that crossed Utah Beach believed in three things,” said Hodne. “They believed in themselves. They believed they would make it. They believed in their teammates. They knew when they crossed the beach there was going to be teammates on their left and right. And lastly, those units believed in their leaders. The leaders had the wisdom to make the call.”
The division secured the three main access points behind the beach within approximately three hours, then pushed Northwest to combine efforts with airborne divisions, who landed inland about five hours prior. The division pushed inland about 4 miles by the end of the day.
Most of the German defenses the division encountered during the inland invasion were automatic weapon systems, field artillery batteries and smoke from airborne assaults.
Once the Soldiers reached obstacles in the physical training event, they encountered non-live weapon fire and smoke as they crossed through a tanglefoot wire obstacle that constricted their movement and then scaled a container wall.
“We tried to replicate the battlefield conditions as much as we could,” said Lt. Col. Jason Miere, division engineer with 4th Inf. Div. “Ultimately, it’s Memorial Day weekend; we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our Soldiers years ago by doing something today. This is a tremendous esprit de corps event, but it also accomplishes what the division did 78 years ago.”
At this point in the Invasion of Normandy, the 4th Inf. Div. continued to push north towards Cherbourg but discovered most of the land was a swampy, marshland area where the Germans had control of the locks, releasing water at high tide to flood the lowlands at low tide.
In the physical fitness event, the Soldiers pushed through the last few obstacles where the fields and trenches were drenched in water, replicating the swampy areas later in the invasion.
“This is about fitness, but it’s also about leadership,” said Hodne. “Each of the formations had to wrestle with a number of obstacles, and it required a team to get through it.”
After 21 days, the 4th Inf. Div. and its Allied forces were able to take Cherbourg and, eventually, win the war.
The 4th Inf. Div. recognizes, honors and commemorates those who lost their lives during the Battle of Normandy in World War II. In the end, 5,452 Ivy Soldiers were killed, wounded, missing or captured from June 6 to July 1, 1944.
At the end of Utah Beach physical fitness event, each battalion crossed the finish line with all their equipment and Soldiers, first to 10th place, earning points toward the Commander’s Cup. 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., won first place, earning them the most points and a consecutive victory for the Ivy Division’s physical fitness events and retained possession of the Commander’s Belt trophy for the second year in a row.
“We came mentally and physically prepared,” said Sgt. Otto Lopez, an infantryman with 1st Bn., 41st Inf. Reg., 2nd SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “We worked as a team and made it happen, again. It gave me great pride to be a part of such a memorable, team-building event in honor of our past brothers and sisters. Dynasty.”