Corporal Archie J. Sweeney
– Company H, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division –
Archie J. Sweeney was born on January 27th, 1918 in Moira, New York. Growing up he shared a house with 8 brothers and sisters. At an early age his mother passed away from cancer, and his dad had a broken neck while digging trenches alongside a road. This resulted in Archie and two of his younger sisters went to live with one relative, while his other siblings grew up with another relative. Archie was working two jobs and attending high school. At the age of 21 he graduated from Saranac Lake High School, Saranac Lake, New York. He also loved spending his days on his father’s farm in Lawrenceville as well, a tiny village in upstate New York.
When the peacetime draft was instituted in the fall of 1940, Archie was the first young man whose number was called in the draft lottery held in nearby Lake Placid. However, Archie had already enlisted the previous day, determined to serve his country. On New Years Day 1941 he told his older brother that this was a good way to start the year. It was time to move on and to see what life had in store for him. Two days later he walked to Lake Placid a few miles away and reported for his physical. He then had his first ever train ride in January 1941, going to Fort Bragg in North Carolina on the 14th of that month. Here, his politeness was put to the test while training with the 39th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division. By the middle of March 1942, he had been assigned to Company H.
Early that summer, Archie returned home and stayed at the family farm. One of his sisters took a snapshot of him standing proudly in front of their barn. That evening, as she was preparing for bed, she saw Archie, standing as comfortably as if he had been sitting, watching as the sun set. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “I’m just looking. I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again.”
On the 25th of September 1942 the 39th Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Fighting Falcons”, boarded five ships and sailed out of New York harbor. On the 6th of October 1942 and about 4000 miles later, the convoy dropped anchor in Belfast Harbor. From here, the 39th Infantry Regiment moved to Scotland and awaited the departure of the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments from the USA. The Division’s first D-Day was nearing.
The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion when its elements landed at Algeria in Ain-Taya 15 miles east of the city of Algeria on November 8, 1942. Moving swiftly the 39th Infantry Regiment defeated the Vichy-French troops and had the city surrounded. The next three months were spent guarding communications lines along their front.
The war was not going well. The Germans were retreating but the Allies couldn’t face Rommel’s tanks with their big guns. The units that tried that at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia suffered a devastating defeat. The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, to occupy the hills on opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass which would enable the armored troops to pass through the valley without being fired on from its flanks. This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing 5 tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However, an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of 9 tanks and 2 tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.
On April 1st 1943, Archie was writing a letter home. “It’s very quite here this evening. I think the war may be coming to an end.” he wrote. His older brother, Harold, received a telegram on May 8th, 1943 informing him that Archie was “Missing in Action”. Two days later an Army chaplain arrived at his door to tell them that Archie had been killed the same evening he wrote his letter.
He was only 25 years old and was the first Saranac Lake Village soldier to die in action.
Corporal Archie J. Sweeney found his last resting place at the Carthage Cemetery in Tunis, Tunisia, North-Africa.
This great story of Corporal Archie J. Sweeney was picked up for the 2009 Documentary series “WWII in HD“.
Another 9th Infantry Division veteran, Captain Charles Scheffel, was also part of this great 10 part documentary series.
Larry Miller, who did most of the research and character development for the series, wrote the biography used on this Tribute Page.
Images come from www.findagrave.com.