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Veterans of 47th Infantry return to Benning, dedicate regimental room

More than 30 years after the Vietnam War, memorabilia from the 47th Infantry Regiment’s service has found a home at Fort Benning.

Hundreds of Vietnam and World War II veterans of the regiment gathered on post Thursday and Friday for the annual reunion and to celebrate the dedication of the 47th Infantry Regimental Room.

This is the fifth reunion at Fort Benning, which is home to the second and third battalions of the regiment.

“I have tears in my eyes — that’s how it feels,” said Frank Begovich, commander of 2nd Battalion in Vietnam.

The attendees got their first look Friday at the regimental room, which is still under construction. The room, located in the commander’s conference room at Hanson Barracks, has tables filled with donated memorabilia and mannequins wearing authentic World War II and Vietnam-era uniforms.

Along the walls, artistic renderings show how the room will look once it’s complete this summer.

The room contains the regiment’s history from World War I to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said CPT Joseph Kosturko, operations officer for 2nd Bn., 47th Inf. Regt.

It is dedicated in honor of the late SGT George Lang, a member of the regiment’s 4th Battalion who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.

Bob ‘Doc’ Pries, the regiment’s unofficial historian, said he’s received numerous items over the years from veterans and is glad there is a place for them.

“People send me things — pictures, newspaper clippings, this, that and the other thing — and each one of them is significant to some of my brothers,” said Pries, who served two tours in Vietnam as a medic with 2nd Battalion. “We’ve always thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have some place to put this memorabilia where it will outlive us?’”

Included in the items on display was an M3 trench knife donated by Pries, which he’d bought prior to Vietnam and carried in his aid bag “in case I ever needed it,” he said.

Bob DeSandy, one of four World War II veterans at the reunion, said seeing the memorabilia — such as the swastika flag — stirred up memories of his time in combat. DeSandy, a combat medic with 2nd Battalion in 1945, arrived in France shortly after the invasion of Normandy and served through the end of the war.

Though some of his memories of the war are painful, DeSandy said the regimental room is an important way to honor those who served and continue to serve today.

History of the 47th

The 47th Infantry Regiment was formed in September of 1917 and assigned to the 7th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. The regiment served in four campaigns in Europe during World War I. Among its members, 40 received the Distinguished Service Cross.

In World War II, the regiment served in eight campaigns with the 9th Infantry Division and was one of the most decorated units in the Army. The regiment garnered two foreign citations and seven presidential unit citations. Among its members, one received the Medal of Honor and 43 received the Distinguished Service Cross. More than 1,200 were killed in action.

In Vietnam, the regiment again served in eight campaigns with the 9th Inf. Div. The unit was awarded six foreign citations, one presidential unit citation, three valorous unit awards and one meritorious unit award. Among its members, 17 received the Distinguished Service Cross and two received the Medal of Honor, including SGT George Lang.

Today, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the regiment are located on Sand Hill and are dedicated to developing new Soldiers for the Army.

Source: Bob ‘Doc’ Pries

About SGT George Lang

Lang, an Infantryman with A Company, 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Feb. 22, 1969 when his squad was ambushed during a reconnaissance mission in Kien Hoa province, southeast of Saigon.

His squad came under fire from an enemy bunker complex and Lang twice spotted the source and used grenades and rifle fire to destroy both emplacements. He then found an enemy ammunition cache and came under fire from a third enemy bunker. He destroyed the bunker with the last of his grenades. Returning to the arms cache, Lang and his squad came under rocket and automatic weapons fire from three sides. Lang suffered a severe spinal injury that left him a paraplegic. Although immobilized and in great pain, he continued to direct his men until his evacuation was ordered over his protests.

After a period of rehabilitation, Lang went on to do bookkeeping work and eventually compiled a two-volume history, “Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1994.”

Lang died in 2005.