All Military Unit Designations
ending in "st" (First) employ "st" in the official abbreviation, e.g.
1st Infantry Division.
All Military Unit Designations
ending in "th" (Fifth) employ "th" in the official abbreviation, e.g.
5th Infantry Division.
All Unit designations ending in
"nd" or "rd" ( Second, Third) drop the "n" or "r" in the official
abbrevation, e.g. 2d and 3d Infantry Divisions.
You have heard the saying, "There
is a right way, a wrong way, and the army way."
Well, this is the ARMY way."
There is not
now and there never has been a 103rd Infantry Division.
It is 103d,
... louder...... 103d
,....... one more time ..... 103d !
If you have had it wrong all these
years, you are in good company.
Our own organization called itself
The 103rd Infantry Division of WWII for many years.
We are running out of time. Please try to get it right from
Thanks to William F. Barclay for
collecting and organizing much of this material and to the many men of
the 103d Infantry Division Signal who's interesting observations are interspersed
herein. Their comments will be highlighted in color
throughout this report. If there are back
to back comments from different people, a second deeper blue will be used
to help the reader sort them out.
The Army Divisions are divided
into three groups.
From the vaunted 1st Infantry
Division to the 25th Infantry Division comprise the United States Army.
The 26th Infantry Division to the 76th Infantry Division comprise
the National Guard. Everything above this from the 77th Infantry Division
to the highest count that I ever heard of, (the unfortunate 106th Infantry
Division) comprise the National Army. These last divisions are usually
activated only in time of war.
From 1921 until activation
in 1942, the 103d was a reserve division in the Mountain West, with units
in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The division insignia consists
of a yellow disc with a green Saguaro cactus superimposed upon a patch
of blue, and was adopted in 1922 when this
reserve division had its headquarters
in Denver, Colorado. The yellow disc represents a golden sky, while the
green cactus growing out of the blue sage-covered earth characterizes the
The emblem of the division, the
Saguaro cactus, is symbolic of the saguaro of Arizona, the only state in
which it flourishes. The emblems of the individual units reflect
this history, such as the Arizona Copper Star of the 409th, the American
Indian Zia Sun Symbol of both the 410th and the 384th Artillery, the Snowy
Mountain Peaks of the 411th, and the proud motto of the 383rd Artillery:
"The West Never Fails."
Once the division went off
to war in 1942, it never returned to its original homeland. After
World War II, reserve units of the 103d were scattered around the upper
midwest, including Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, until deactivated
To introduce timely information
and to give significant background information, excerpts from the official
records of the 103d Infantry Division and the 103d Division Signal Company
will be included in this form.
103D INFANTRY DIVISION
TRAINING YEAR - 1943
Camp Claiborne During Activation
On August 8, 1942 parts
of the division were reorganized. The 103d Division Artillery Band and
the 411th Infantry Regiment Band were disbanded and in their place the
103d Infantry Division Band was activated.
Other organizations activated
were Headquarters Special Troops; 103d Infantry Division, Medical Detachment;
Cannon Company, 409th Infantry; Cannon Company, 410th Infantry and Cannon
Company, 411th Infantry.
First change in the original
general staff had occurred November 27, 1942, when Maj. Russell R. Lord
(0253043) was announced as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, to take the place
of Col. Garrison B. Coverdale (017148), who was transferred to an overseas
assignment. Major Lord, of Alton, Ill., an artillery officer, had
reported to the 103d Division November 24, and the next day was detailed
to the General Staff Corps with Troops and assigned to the division general
December, 1942 was a month
of organization for the newly-activated 103d Infantry Division. The
bulk of filler replacements reported from reception centers to bring the
division to full strength. Further schooling of the cadre, reception,
classification and assignment of more than 13,000 new men, and complete
occupation of the division's area at Camp Claiborne were accomplished.
The division began its
basic training of the fillers, raw recruits, 4 January 1943, under the
Mobilization Training Program. Basic training was conducted for thirteen
weeks until April 3, 1943.
Unit training was held
from 10 April to 26 June 1943. On 19 April construction of the Mock
Village (Combat in Villages Course), Infiltration Course, and Close Combat
Course was completed and the courses placed in operation to train troops
of the division. The Army Ground Forces (AGF) Physical Fitness Test
was given to the personnel of the division during the period 7-12 June
During 1943 the division
was visited by the Third Army and Army Ground Forces commanders.
On May 6, Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges, commanding general, Third Army,
inspected the division in training at Camp Claiborne. The late Lt.
Gen. Leslie J. McNair, commanding general, Army Ground Forces, (he was
declared "late" sometime after 1943 and before this report was made) arrived
at the Army Air Base at DeRidder, La., 18 October to visit the maneuver
area, and the 103d Division was among the units he inspected. Combined
training of units was conducted 27 June until 4 September 1943.
"Borrowed" from Cactus Caravan
During the phase of combined training,
the division moved by motor march on August 8 and 9 to an area west of
Camp Claiborne near Slagle, Simpson and Hineston, La., for "D" Series maneuvers.
The first three problems were controlled. In these the division moved
against one of its infantry battalions. The last three problems were
free maneuvers, in which two combat teams of the division moved against
the third combat team. The division returned to Camp Claiborne on
September 2-4 and prepared to participate in Third Army maneuvers.
Movement to the Third
Army maneuver area by motor march was begun on the morning of September
15, and the division closed in bivouac in the vicinity of Hawthorne, La.,
late in the afternoon of September 17, 1943.
In the first phase of the
Fourth Maneuver Period, from September 20 to 30, a series of four field
exercises, so-called flag exercises, was conducted under the control of
Third Army Director Headquarters to afford the division commander the opportunity
to train his division as a complete organization. Combined training
was furthered by attachment of special units such as additional field artillery,
antiaircraft automatic weapons battalions and tank destroyer battalions.
Following the flag exercises,
a series of six phases of two-sided maneuvers was held.
In Phase 2, the 103d Division
initially remained concealed while the 102d Division opposed the VIII Corps,
commanded by Maj. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan and composed of the 99th and 84th
Maj. Gen. John B. Anderson
then took command of the Provisional XXI Corps, and the 103d, moving to
the flank of the 102d, participated in a Corps attack.
In Phase 3, the 84th defended
against the VIII Corps, commanded by General Sultan and composed of the
other three divisions. The 103d and the 102d attacked abreast, the
103d on the left (south) blank. The 99th, marching by night, enveloped
from the north.
In Phase 4, the VIIICorps,
commanded by General Sultan and composed of the 102d and 103d Divisions,
attacked the Provisional XXI Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles C. Haffner,
Jr. The XXI Corps conducted a delaying action for two days, the 99th
Division opposing the 102d and 103d Divisions. It then counter-attacked
with two divisions, the 84th Division (which had been attached later) and
the 99th Division.
In Phase 5, the 103d defended
against the other three divisions, which comprised the VIII Corps under
the command of General Sultan.
In Phase 6, the 99th defended
the river line against the XIX Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Willis D.
Crittenger, which had replaced the VIII Corps Headquarters. In this
operation, the 99th and the 84th attacked the bridgehead with the 103d
enveloping on the right, making two night marches. This was followed
by a river crossing as a continuation of the attack on the bridgehead.
Phase 7 was a repetition
of Phase 5, with the 102d defending. The 103d was the interior division
of the attacking force, composed of the XIX Corps (84th, 99th and 103d
All during the training
and maneuver period following the initial basic training of the soldiers
that joined the division to fill out its full quota of qualified men, men
were chosen for special initial or supplementary technical training.
Some of this training took place at special training centers away from
Camp Claiborne, e.g. Fort Monmouth Signal Training Center, etc.
Upon the close of Army maneuvers
November 15, the division moved into non tactical bivouac near Merryville,
La., and three days later began, by rail and motor march, its permanent
change of station to Camp Howze, Texas.
The division closed in Camp
Claiborne at 0501 November 23, 1943. The units of the division arrived
at Camp Howze at different times because of various times of departure.
The Signal Company was a unit that arrived earlier than most.
The completion in November
1943 of maneuvers and the transfer of the 103d Division to Camp Howze initiated
the process of seriously preparing the Division and the Signal Company
for active service in the war being waged in Europe.
The planning for deployment
of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps forces to overseas assignments
for initial engagements, reinforcements, reserve status, etc. and the actual
utilization of our forces had been going on for some time. It is probable
that just a few of these high level moves, events, and strategies were
noticed or completely understood by the officers and men of the 103d Division
and the many other similar units in training.
One thing was apparent,
the focus of the U.S. forces was to bring to full combat readiness as many
infantry divisions as possible and to send them to England or elsewhere
for the invasion.
The realization that the
103d Infantry division was being prepared to actually be committed to combat
brought an urgency to all the units of the division, including those somewhat
isolated Special Troop companies.
Claiborne, we moved from Louisiana to Texas by motor carrier and it was
good to get away from Louisiana. But Camp Howze was a different story
altogether... more discipline and more training. But aren't you glad
you had it when we got into trouble? It served all people the same,
and we had a lot of work ahead of us in the next year or two.
Texas, where you could only find booze in an elevator in the hotel.
But Dallas or Ft. Worth was a different story altogether, right?
The Bounty Ballroom in Dallas was glorious, as well as helpful in many
ways. And then there was Pirate's Cave in Ft. Worth, such beauties
in there, and when you were A.W.O.L. in Ft. Worth you paid dearly for it.
I know...I had four days hard labor and 30 days restriction. Those
rocks on the sidewalks didn't grow there. Me and another guy put
them there and whitewashed them. Such fun. They all came from
around the water tower. Then we had latrine duty with all of it.
Beautiful. Ha Ha!
During the division reunion in
Dallas, a "home coming picnic" and parade had been organized by the people
of Gainesville, Texas for us. It included a bus tour of the site
of old Camp Howze. Most of the structures have long since disappeared,
only the areas of the water towers were most clearly defined - they gave
some of the sharper minds a bearing for finding significant land marks
including the Signal Company site which had one of the water towers in
a corner of the motor pool.
In the park at Gainseville
a dedication of a memorial to the men who had trained and served with the
divisions that had past through Camp Howze was held.
It should not be surprising
that men who had served at Howze had found roots there and had established
families in Gainesville. Some of them had important positions in
the thriving community.
About Camp Howze
The division closed in Camp
Howze at 0501 November 23, 1943. The units of the division arrived
at Camp Howze at different times because of various times of departure.
The Signal Company was a unit that arrived earlier than most.
During the 1995 division reunion
in Dallas, a "homecoming picnic" and parade had been organized by the people
of Gainesville, Texas for us. It included a bus tour of the site
of old Camp Howze. Most of the structures have long since disappeared,
only the areas of the water towers were most clearly defined - they gave
some of the sharper minds a bearing for finding significant land marks
including the Signal Company site.
It should not be surprising
that men who had served at Howze had found roots there and had established
families in Gainesville. Some of them had important positions in
the thriving community.
Camp Howze was one of many
temporary U.S. Army training camps that sprang up during the mobilization
period just before and after the United States entered the war after Pearl
Harbor Day, December 7,1941. Most locations were chosen to be away
from population centers in the states west of the Mississippi River; Texas,
Louisiana and California had several each.
Howze was located on the
plains and gently rolling hills south of the Red River that formed the
Texas-Oklahoma border. The nearest town was Gainesville, Texas.
The most attractive population center was Denton, Texas a few miles farther
Denton was the site of the
North Texas State Teachers College (NTSC) and Texas State College for Women
(TSCW). All of the student body at TSCW and most of the student body
at coeducational NTSC were young, attractive, charming, southern ladies.
It was a popular setting for the soldiers seeking various types of knowledge,
carnal and otherwise.
The first men to be trained
at Camp Howze were in the 84th Infantry Division, that had been reactivated
at the beginning of World War II after having been inactive since its service
in France during the first World War.
These men came into a camp that
was still in the processing of being made livable for normal human beings
- an ongoing effort that was never really accomplished until possibly some
time after the last of the 103d Division had left for a "European Interlude".
In August of 1942, the 84th
surely must have had all of the problems and discomfort and much more to
complain about than did the next division, the 86th that rushed in just
as the 84th was hurriedly sent off to try to improve the war effort.
The cadre of the 86th, the
Black Hawk Division arrived in November of 1942 to take advantage of whatever
carryover lessons they could get from the departing 84th officers and non-commissioned
officers. The men of the 86th started their training at Howze and then
had a stretch of field maneuvers in Louisiana before being shipped to Camp
Pendleton in California in preparation for duty in the Pacific Theater.
The overall Allied strategy
dictated that the war in Europe should be given priority, so the
86th was redirected to the east coast and sent to France to become part
of General Patton's 3rd Army fight force.
In November 1943 the 103d
Infantry Division, the last division to train there, arrived at Camp Howze
after a motor march from Camp Claiborne and the Louisiana Maneuver Area
where they had been in training.
The combination of the tar-paper
walls and the inefficient, smelly, dirty coal heating made the winter of
1943 at Camp Howze almost as pleasant as the winter of 1944 in the Vosge
mountains of France.
But, the nearness of Denton
with its ample supply of college girls seeking educational opportunities
and Dallas (BIG D.) which had everything did make the off duty hours more
bearable - some said "really enjoyable".
The many Service Clubs at
Howze had plenty of girls at the week-end socials, enough to even draw
out the bashful "wall flower" soldiers. There were lots of
young fellows in the army, most of them away from home and family for the
very first time. The aggressive training of the duty hours - eye gouging,
groin kicking, etc. just didn't seem to have been much help in social situations.
In the 9 months at Howze
many romances blossomed and many military weddings took place in the 11
Unit Chapels of the camp.
Almost every home in Gainesville
took in an army wife, with or without kitchen privileges. Many solders
"went home" every evening for whatever domestic life that was possible.
There was less "aid and
comfort" for the single soldiers in Gainesville with its small cafes and
a few meeting places, a stone-dry town. There were two USO (United
Service Organization) meeting and entertainment halls that did help but
it just didn't compare to the action and excitement of Oklahoma City to
the north or Dallas to the south.
"Borrowed" from Cactus Caravan
Preparation for the departure
of the 103d Division from Camp Howze and the trip from Camp Howze
to France is best told through the recollections of men of the 103d Signal
the 103d was alerted for overseas duty, Captain Beck - who was one sharp
Captain - had been looking over my form 20 and he talked me into taking
the Construction platoon back to Europe.
had been in the army for some time (and had some most unusual experiences
in the United States and overseas, including the first days of the war
in the Pacific and the early days of the war in Europe!).
did my 13 weeks of basic training at the Presidio of Monterey, California
overlooking Cannery Row. Basic was a vacation for me since the high school
military was so much stricter, and where I grew up, we "cut our teeth on
the sights of a gun".
was sent to Ft. Monmouth for Dial Telephone Installer and Repair training.
I was first in my class and had the option to choose my next training.
I chose Dial Central Office Installation and Maintenance.
the completion of that course, I was sent back to my unit in California
and assigned to the Bell Telephone school in nearby Richmond. I was
only G.I. in the school, all of the other students were "Ma. Bell" personnel.
As part of the training, we were assigned to go into the field for practical
one of these field experience days, we were learning about pole-line installations,
etc. when the field instructor fell out of a tree and broke his arm.
I took the guy to the hospital and then went back to my other assignment
of installing telephones, I was in full military uniform. The lady
customer was suspicious of my appearance and called the police. I was taken
off to jail, the cops wouldn't believe anything I said for some period
completing this civilian course, I joined a Composite Company selected
by M.O.S. (Military Operating Specialty) that was being sent to the Philippines
to install permanent telephone equipment for use by the Army.
assembled in Pearl Harbor to get our equipment, etc. On 6 December
1941, about 1400 hours we left Pearl Harbor on one of the commercial President
Lines passenger ships. All of the passengers were civilians except 228
personnel at the time were armed with Army .45 caliber automatics - the
only guns on board.
2000 hours on 8 December we were notified of the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. Our ship was turned around and headed back toward the west
coast, bypassing Pearl Harbor and sailing a zig zagging course as a defense
against submarines. We landed in San Diego five days later.
on firm ground, each of us was given a strip map, put on a passenger train
and told to report to the Presidio of San Francisco, in Golden Gate Park.
It took seven days to make that short trip, there were many interruptions
to accept the hospitality of civilians grateful for the war effort of us
"war veterans" returning from the combat zones.
were, after a short stay, assigned to the 54th Army Signal Operations Battalion
stationed in the Rose Bowl at Pasadena, California assigned to help provide
West Coast defense communications.
first job was to supervise a platoon of 48 men in building a pole-line
from Blythe, Calif. to near Parker, Arizona across one of the world's toughest
deserts. Nothing but sand, rattlesnakes, those big black birds just
waiting for you to drop, and an occasional bush. It was 140 degrees
in the shade, and no shade.
the end of that telephone line was an internment camp for American citizens
and others of Japanese descent who had been moved away from their homes
and property in Southern California.
this job was completed, some of us were assigned to a project in Iceland,
a place of the opposite temperature extremes. We left from Camp Shanks,
New York (which the 103d Division would pass through some time later).
In Iceland, there were two months of hot weather - about 45 degrees, with
little kids running around in short pants. And then, ten months of
cold and colder.
task was with an Installation and Maintenance platoon installing telephone,
teletype and line for remotely controlled radio equipment. All of
this was in lead covered cables buried in the lava rock. By this
time, I had over 200 enlisted men and a 2nd Lieutenant in the platoon.
Navy CBs (Construction Battalions) were building a large air base adjacent
to Patterson field. It had, at that time, the longest runways in
the world. Presently, it is the Islandic International Airport.
We installed a lot of lead covered cables around that field.
field was used by the military for stop-over and refueling during the ferrying
operation of the thousands of airplanes sent to Britain during the war.
months after arriving in Iceland, I came back to the States through the
hospital with a frostbitten kidney and no hair or teeth because the lava
rock had no mineral content at all.
April 1943 after being repaired and rehabilitated, I was assigned to the
103d Division at Camp Howze - even that looked good to me after my two
adventures across the Pacific and the Atlantic. Since I was
not trained for a division MOS, I was assigned to special duty at the Post
Signal Telephone Exchange. I then joined the Signal Company.
the 8th of March 1944, I stepped off a train at Camp Howze, Texas.
The assignment was Company L of the 409th regiment. I soon found
out what that meant. It was a different world. I wondered what
it would have been like had I stayed in the Air Force.
barracks were covered with tar paper and heated with a coal stove.
It was cold and treeless. There was a party every Friday night...
everybody attended and scrubbed the wood floor. There was a rifle
rack, and everybody had a rifle, a kind we had only heard about before...
were helmet liners with steel helmets to match. The back packs looked
suspiciously like something I had seen in World War I movies.
noncommissioned officers were mostly southerners, or so it seemed.
They didn't fraternize with the privates, and when I attained the rank
of Pfc. in late April, I found that they didn't fraternize with them either.
was a particularly worrisome reminder of the future at Camp Howze.
It was in the form of German POWs. I never got to see them up close...
they were usually lounging about their fenced quarters, or playing soccer.
me, they all looked like tall, blond, muscular giants... the enemy!
I, on the other hand, stood at 5 feet 6, weighed 125 pounds (soaking wet),
burdened by a 9-pound rifle, helmet, liner, ammo belt, bayonet, canteen,
pack, shelter half, a couple pounds of Texas mud on my boots, and another
pound in the form of dust on the rest of me... their enemy. It would
be a short war.
of road marches, infiltration courses, hand grenades, mortars, bazookas,
wet runs, dry runs (many in the mud), compounded by inspections at every
turn. In April I was granted an 11-day furlough. I made the
trip home (Milwaukee at the time) and had time for reflection. I
found that in spite of my distaste for life in the rifle company, I had
acquired a pride in it. My comrades were not scholars, but they were
good soldiers who had outlived Louisiana maneuvers and they were still
going strong. Besides, each Sunday morning something happened that
I will always remember... each man could order his eggs done the way he
was assigned as an assistant Browning automatic rifleman. The BAR
man I assisted was Pfc Patrick H. Robinson of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I learned later that Robinson and his assistant then, Pfc. Jacob A Tillema
of Kalamazoo MI, were the first casualties of the 3rd Battalion of the
409th Regiment. They were both killed by a German land mine in the
Vosges on 9 November 1944.
a period of time while I was assisting the Company clerk of L Company,
409 Regiment it became apparent that the division would very soon be sent
into action and I was asked if I would consider a transfer in rank (PFC)
to the Division Signal Company. I requested transfer on 28 June, 1944.
the first day of July I was ordered to report to the orderly room of the
Signal Company, where a Captain Beck said, "You're in the Signal Corp,
what can you do?".
all or most of the ASTP boys had arrived, the officers and NCOs had the
task of determining the assignments for each of them to a Section of the
company based on his experience and/or ability to perform or be trained
to perform the duties of the open positions in the several operating units
of the Signal Company.
some cases the placement was an obvious and fairly easy procedure by examining
the practical experience or talent of the man. Some other placements
were more difficult and the man was moved about among the sections to find
the proper assignment or he would be assigned to a more formal learning
environment such as radio code class.
few of the ASTP boys did not seem to have any real purpose in life, or
recognizable talent. These hapless individuals were temporally tried
in one technical assignment or another but were eventually assigned to
the Construction section. I was one of these marginal or "difficult
to place" boys. Some of us did learn to pull telephone wire off a
reel on the back of a truck and then to lay the wire on the ground.
My only special talent was to put the wire up in the trees or on poles
or buildings by using a long 'pike-pole' and my height advantage.
In a few cases most of this education was gained overseas under less than
few very lucky fellows (occupationally deprived persons) who could not
learn to do the most basic operations of the lineman MOS-641 were often
left on the road behind the moving truck with its well qualified team of
crew chief and his talented helpers. We would wander as "carefree, wayfaring
strangers", without being properly uniformed or armed for combat defense
or offense. Doing what we could to protect and install the wire,
and doing our very best to protect and amuse ourselves.
in spite of the fact that he could do all of the difficult things required
of a competent wire team member; drive a truck, climb a pole or tree, splice
a telephone line, get along with the crew chief, etc., more often than
not chose to accompany me into all kinds of misadventures and mischief.
It may have been he was aware that the wiremen had by far the most casualties
in the company.
were times he may have been motivated by wanting to protect, me, his careless
companion. Perhaps he thought that the less he, Anania, followed
the trade of the traditional wireman, the safer he would be.
more than any other reasoning, he did it because he was and is one of the
kindness, friendly fellows I have ever met. I was just one of the
many men in the company privileged to enjoy his wonderful personality and
was ordered to report to radio repair chief, T/Sgt. GRANT. Radio
repair included T/5 Hank KOLANDER (Ann Arbor), T/5 Eddie JALLOWAY (Chicago),
T/5 Earl STAR (Minneapolis), Pvt. Leo CHURILLA (Detroit), Pvt. Ben NOVOTNY
(Casper, Wyoming), Cpl. Orville CARVER (Nampa, Idaho) and now SCHMITZ (Lac
du Flambeau, Wisconsin). My life took on a new purpose ... it was
radio, radio, radio. There were lots of inspections, Army Ground
Forces physical examinations, equipment was water and fungus-proofed.
wasn't at Camp Claiborne, but rather joined the 103d Signal Co. (I was
in the Radio Section) from ASTP at North Texas State, Denton, Texas in
March 1944 at Howze. The assimilation of ASTP "School Boys" into
an infantry division was a bit tough, until the differences were worked
out. The ASTP'ers had been through 13 weeks of infantry (before college)
basic, so things got better when we began Signal Company training - going
on hikes, field problems, training sessions, doing KP and yard duties,
and generally becoming soldiers once more after a short stint in college
dorms trying to be "soldier-engineers".
the middle of August 1944, the 103d Infantry Division received the "official
word" that it was alerted for overseas movement at some date in the near
future. The time and the direction of the movement were a military
secret - that is, members of the German or Japanese Armed Forces and/or
any officer or enlisted man not a part of the commanding general's staff
would not be told.
in Gainesville proclaimed that the Division was to be sent to Camp Shanks
and the New York Port of Embarkation.
it turned out they were, as usual, well-informed. In early August
the division was alerted for overseas duty.
was an excitement and a flurry of activity throughout the Division as all
of the units and the officers and men started to follow the official instructions
and procedures for the troop movement and each individual began putting
his own personal affairs in order - sending home excess clothes, personal
gear, pictures, etc.
radio gear was packed, along with weapons (little light-weight carbines,
instead of those Garands that I had grown so used to). The small arms repair
truck (adapted for radio repair) became a storehouse for test sets, tools,
and replacement parts, along with some suntan uniforms and other contraband
of which I had no knowledge or desire to know.
Preparation For Overseas
Lots of shots, Rifle range and infiltration course, Glider training, Full
field inspection, Showdown inspection, Radio equipment checks, Getting
motor vehicles ready, Crating equipment covered with cosmoline, Barracks
inspections with usual gigs, Lots of poker games, MEYER and LAWRENCE spruced
up for big last trips to Dallas, Last ping-pong and pool games in
the day room, Dental and doctor visits, Last trips to service clubs
and dances, Issued all new uniforms and duffel bag, Lots of calisthenics,
Last guard duty by the motor pool water tower.
Company had a tremendous amount of operating equipment: radios, power generators,
teletype equipment, wire handling equipment, tents, kitchen appliances,
field stoves and tools of all kinds. All of this and more had to
be packed in over-seas shipping containers, after having been prepared
to operate properly in any environment - in the Arctic, tropical islands,
or the Sahara desert. (After all, we did not know where we were going!).
Some of the packing cases were as big as 6'x 6'x 12' or more and were moved
about and loaded, when the time came for movement, by heavy transfer equipment.
Some of the packages were very small, but essential to the operation -
these also required special handling.
has never been a movement of military units since the beginning of time
that did not include at least some items that were not on the official
lists for movement. As a matter of fact, there has always been some
packing and loading of items that are on the lists of things that 'WILL
NOT BE PACKED OR CARRIED!'
packing and moving session was no exception. As "SMITTY" has noted,
there was some storage in the Company Equipment packing cases of the special
personal items of the packers who would be the un-packers, when the cases
were delivered in that 'far off unknown'. Of course that was considered
a "right of passage" by the workers. What could it hurt?
individual soldier had a more challenging task to take "important stuff"
with him. He had only his own duffel bag in which to store his issued
equipment and not an item more. There will be inspections, names will be
taken, asses will be kicked!
is just the kind of a challenge that brought out the very best innovative
talents of a few men who were experts at using the military system for
their own personal purposes.
those who did not have the advantage of being assigned to the packing and
crating operations, and therefore were denied the greatest opportunity
for slipping in equipment for their personal use, there was none who was
able to get more contraband identified, packed, shipped and delivered than
Pvt. Jerome WALDREF.
had developed a system and organization for the mutual benefit of his "helpers"
and himself beginning the first day that he had reported to Camp Howze
and the Signal Company. His garrison duty had been a series of wonderful
experiences and special considerations.
for the overseas experience was just as thoughtful, innovative, and successful.
All that had gone before was just prelude to his extraordinary preparation
for a "guest tour" through the combat zones that he was planning to take,
while the rest of the company was preparing to join in the war effort.
the 20th of September, the dishes disappeared from the mess and mess kits
replaced them. Little thought was given to the possibility that those
dishes would not reappear until the 11th of September of the following
year (on the return to Boston in 1945). Considerable time was given
to erasing identifying unit and personal information. We said goodbye
to Texas on September 27th and boarded troop trains for the trip to New
remember going from our company area (after scrubbing down the barracks)
by truck to our troop train.
consisted of sleepers and kitchen cars. I was on KP the first day
as we traveled in summer heat through Oklahoma and Arkansas. We kept
doors open for a breeze. I had the upper or third bunk in the sleeper.
next day, woke up for reveille at 6 a.m. in Memphis, Tennessee and we moved
through Kentucky. Through Cincinnati, Ohio the third day. Meals
were fair and we stopped for calisthenics outside the train. Some
of the G.I.'s family members were on the platforms at stops - even though
it was supposed to be a Top Secret movement. The 4th day, we were
up for reveille at 4:30 a.m., policed up the train and got ready to leave.
We traveled through northern New York, down the Delaware Valley in heavy
fog and wearily disembarked at Orangeburg, New York on the Hudson River
at 12:30 p.m. There we immediately marched to the Camp Shanks
barracks, ate a big (and good) dinner at 2:30 in a large, neat mess hall.
remember that people on waiting platforms at stations waved to us with
cheers and flags on our long cross-country journey.
remember our shipping out by train which seemed to change direction every
hour stimulating a debate as to whether we were going to Europe or the
Pacific. Finally, we Easterners saw familiar territory and when the
train pulled in to Port Jervis NY we knew we were Europe bound. The
train stopped there for awhile and the Tech Sergeant in the wiremen section,
who was a RR employee there, got word out and all his relatives flocked
to the station to greet him. Then to Camp Shanks on the New Jersey
side of the Hudson just north of New York City. (So near and yet
announcement was made that everyone would receive overnight passes into
New York and then as we were getting ready to go, the passes were canceled.
we are getting ready to go over, so let's try to recall what we can of
that train ride from Texas to New York. Wonderful??? The 24-hour-pass
to New York. What a night. I got lost in a subway and if a
boy from the Company hadn't been down there, I would still be, I guess.
I have no idea what his name was, but I was sure grateful.
the first of October we arrived at Camp Shanks. In the few days there,
passes into New York City were given and I got to see some of the wonders
of the urban world... Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, 42nd
and Broadway, et al.
like the last had year slipped by awfully fast and suddenly we were playing
double-deck pinochle all the way from Texas to Camp Shanks - the first
order of the day on our arrival was the unceremonious pitching of the two
decks of cards into the old round oak stove. Seems like the pitcher
uttered some words to the effect that it was "gonna be the last time he
was gonna be beat by his own cards."
at Camp Shanks, the men of the Signal Company rearranged some of the company
equipment and records and re-packed them into a form better suited
to be transported overseas.
were created or reconstructed a number of 'portable' record and equipment
boxes or chests which were large and heavy. The installation of handles
on almost any sized box supposedly made it "portable" as far as the Army
who saw these threatening burdens hoped never to be called upon to help
with their lifting and transport, handles or not.
soldier's personal equipment was formed into a backpack that looked like
that of the French Foreign Legion troops. There was a horse shoe
shaped blanket roll strapped around the G.I. musette bag with its supporting
shoulder straps. This combination of unwieldy and unbalanced weight
was very difficult to manage on the trip from the barracks, on and off
the train and then across a long pier and up and into a very crowded ship.
to the backpack, the soldier carried (or dragged) his fully loaded duffel
bag, his rifle and a few miscellaneous pieces of field equipment.
HOWARD HOPPLE, Assistant Supply officer, and others from 103d Division
Headquarters had gone ahead of the main troop train to New York.
They were headquartered on Long Island and were told to get all of the
company records in trucks down into the hold of the Queen Mary, the Cunard
liner converted to speedy troop ship. Howard did as instructed.
But a day or so later further instructions to the party were to go back
down into the Queen Mary and retrieve those records - change of general
orders. So, we are left with the thought that we were headed toward
England originally and probably would have wound up in the 1st, 3rd or
9th Armies, instead of the 7th. Also, it would have been a speedy,
very crowded, less choppy trip across the Atlantic - and - much different
experiences than those we encountered.
was sent with the advance group to Europe. All of the units of the division
had men in the advance group. Our job was to account for administrative
duties and records pending arrival of the troops. We were expecting to
go to England. This was not firm. After about 7 days, our orders were re-written
to wait and join our units on their arrival from Texas.
Mr. HOPPEL said while the advance group was in New York, the company records,
etc. were put aboard the Queen Mary and had to be retrieved, he was probably
right, he was on the Table of Organization of the Signal Company in a position
to know. He and I worked as a team on the Advance Group.
was on the 5th day of October that we boarded the train to leave Camp Shanks.
The march from the train to the gangplank of the ferry that was to take
us across the Hudson River, I cannot forget. For some reason I was
given a pickaxe to carry. The pickaxe wore against my pants leg as
I walked, unable to readjust its position. It wore right through
my uniform and started on the body beneath. I remember thinking that
this was not the way to go off to war, or to pass the next inspection.
gangplank of the liberty ship, the Henry T. Gibbons, awaited us on the
east side of the Hudson. I put my foot on it at 1448 hours.
down, we marched off to the train at noon. New York City train down
past little Hudson towns to the 42nd Street Ferry. Dripping sweat,
we crowded onto the ferry for the short ride across the Hudson to the troop
loading piers. Those duffel bags were heavy! Entered the North
River Port of Embarkation (P.O.E.) Terminal Building, Saturday, waited,
then up the gangplank of our ship, The Henry T. Gibbons, sounding off our
first name and middle initial when our last name was read. A hot,
crowded, pushing walk, down to the "E" deck, stumbling around to find a
bunk. Found a lower bunk and laid my aching back down to rest.
had to go in the bunk. We were two below main deck and three deep
in the bunks. Watched them load cargo on board from Pier 84.
Many other ships in dock and river alive with tugs and ferries. Long
wait for pretty good chow.
was a band playing when we boarded ship. No sailing until next day,
we were told.
The troop ship stacked our "bunks" four high and as tight as sardines.
The bunks were metal frames with canvas stretched across and they folded
up when not in use. When folded down, there was scarcely room for
a man to squeeze between the rows of bunks.
up the gang plank only a few blocks from Times Square, I was the last man
of the Signal Company to go aboard as I had to check all my men and officers
aboard first. I watched that endless procession lug their much too
heavy gear as they answered roll call one by one. There was a sort
of fog to lend to the atmosphere. Red Cross women were constantly
passing out hot coffee, doughnuts and Hershey chocolate bars. They
must have had an inexhaustible supply -not only of coffee but of energy.
slow roll call went on: "Smith" and he would reply "John A." Up he
heavily laden men, thousands of them, continued that steady walk up to
the ship. Typical G.I. kidding and American good humor prevailed.
roll call went on: "Jones" - "John J."
the Red Cross tirelessly followed each G.I. with some refreshments, and
a word of cheer. No bands. No crowds. No flags.
No identification whatsoever. Secrecy was the order of the day.
lights started to go on in the city. I could hear taxis honking their
horns. A street car in the distance. And always that slow gathering
rumble that is New York City. People were leaving their places of
business to go home for supper. Others were going out to dinner.
Many were probably getting prepared to go out for an evening of fun an
gaiety. Up on Times Square I could picture that horde of people crowding
each other to get into restaurants, theaters and clubs. Rush.
we finally sailed no one saw us - nobody was there except a lazy old watchman
who continued to puff on his corncob pipe as he leaned up against a pillar
on the water's edge. Why he didn't even move. All he did was
puff on his pipe and read the "NY Journal-American".
DONLAN, R0REM, SMITTY,GILL, and others have described the agony and the
physical strain of the trip from the camp leading to the systematic loading
of the ship placing them into very cramped bunks in the crowded lower decks
of the ship - it was a terrible experience.
order of ascending the gangplank of the ship had been prearranged and printed
onto a very long list - each soldier had a definite place and number in
the "Boarding Order". It was not alphabetical, perhaps it was arranged
by operating sections of the Signal Company.
men of the Construction section were the last of the Signal Company to
two unusual situations for them; one was the baggage that they carried
aboard and the other was their location during the voyage.
all of us assembled in "boarding order" as shown by large letters and numbers
marked on our helmets, some of us Construction men found ourselves
standing next to the dreadful "portable boxes" at the beginning of
the long trek down the 'Ferry Dock', some of us Construction men found
ourselves standing next to the dreadful "portable boxes". We exceptional
soldiers became responsible for carrying the company records and equipment
in addition to our personal baggage.
order to execute was simple: "You men, right here; drop your duffel bags
and grab the handles of them boxes; and you men, cringing over there, pick
up the extra duffel bags, and all of your own equipment, and all of you
make your way, as best you can, down this long dock, and up into that there
whole miserable process of getting down the dock, up the gang-plank, and
to the storage place for the boxes was terrible.
it got a little better when we finally did get on the ship, and learned
that the only available space for us, would be in cabins on one of the
top decks of the ship.
24-40 men of the Construction section were assigned to 3 or 4 cabins with
built-in bunks with mattresses and all the comforts of a cruise ship.
There were army cots placed on the open floor spaces and some rotation
of the men between the cots and the mattresses, but it was absolute heaven
compared to the condition of hundreds of men assigned to "the hole" below
guys with the extra duffel bags belonging to the box carriers did get them
as far as the upper deck of the ship and then started down the passage-ways
into the bowels of the ship before they abandoned the bags.
created chaos in finding the misplaced bags again.
the time I do get to go home I'll be so happy and excited I wouldn't know
what to do with myself. That Statue of Liberty will so different
than when I passed her going the other way. I remember that I had
on my "Mae West" and was peering out of a porthole. Initially, we
were all out on deck, but they made us stay under cover for security reasons.
First we'd look at the Statue and then dash across to the port side to
see Brooklyn. I saw Fort Hamilton. Then we passed Coney Island.
I played my field glasses on the shore-line. The big ferris-wheels
were silhouetted against the gray winter sky. And it was cold!
Coming up from Texas in khakis and then hitting the bitter icy cold of
the North Atlantic - it kind of made you feel lost.
Friday, October 6th, the day after the boarding, we had reveille at 6 a.m.,
chow at 8 a.m. and noticed we were still in dock. So we folded up
bunks with equipment on them. We were told on loudspeaker that all
military personnel must go below decks soon after 10:30 a.m. Tugs
began to pull us out into the Hudson. I watched through a door at
the top of a gangway and could see the New York dock area as we moved down
river. Many ships in docks - Cunard, U.S. in other steamship docks.
were off! On port side of ship saw tall buildings of lower Manhattan,
Wall Street and Brooklyn. Into the lower bay, past the Statue of
Liberty, Staten Island and the last thing we saw was Coney Island in the
fog. By now, I was seasick! We were guided through the mine
fields by the Coast Guard. Other ships appeared, and soon we were
forming a convoy with destroyers zigzagging between us. Two small
aircraft carriers joined us also, and cruisers. We could see nothing
but water. Navy blimps joined overhead. We were the second
ship from the rear of the convoy.
Henry T. Gibbons had a slightly perceptible rocking motion while still
at the dock. This was enough to make some G.I.s sea sick. For them, it
was going to be a long voyage.
the engines started to throb with a deeper more powerful sound and it was
obvious that we were under way.
hurried up to the crowded enlisted men's deck for one last look at the
USA . The last thing to drop out of sight over the horizon was the parachute
drop tower at Coney Island. Then there was nothing but water. Our convoy
had picked up several destroyer escorts("tin cans") and a converted carrier
that had once been a merchant ship.
sky was blue and the breeze freshened as we cleared New York Harbor and
made a definite turn to the south to avoid the submarine wolf packs that
prowled the North Atlantic. When we got down to the latitude of North
Africa, the convoy turned to the east and soon ran into a storm.
The sky darkened and the seas grew higher.
the Henry T. Gibbons came through one of the monstrous waves it projected
out of the wave and then crashed down into the trough. The deck dropped
out from under our feet. It was fun at first but the free fall drop got
bigger and bigger. After a few sprained ankles, we were all ordered
below decks for the duration of the storm.
this time the "tin cans" were plowing right through the heavy waves which
swept over and around the bridge. At times only their rotating radar
antenna was all that was visible. Those "swabbies" should have gotten
a wave would even roll down the flight deck of the converted carrier. This
was not your every-day variety of storm.
a Liberty (or Victory) ship, which was a converted troop ship. My
bunk was at the very stern of the ship, and I could hear the ship's propeller
(screw for you Navy types) churn against the water. I was assigned
to the Navy gun crew and that was the only duty I was called on to do,
which allowed me to catch up on my "sack time."
we left dock, a hurricane was lashing the southern Atlantic, and it caused
huge swells in our part of the ocean with the ship pitching and rolling.
Soon almost everybody on board was sick. There was a rumor that even
the ship's captain was sick. We were implored to eat as that was
supposed to alleviate seasickness. I remember the poor devils lined
up in the passageway to the mess-hall, sick as dogs, and vomit rolling
back and forth across the passageway with each roll of the ship.
If a man wasn't sick when he came to chow then the stench finished him
off while waiting for it! One poor chap had to have glucose pumped
into his veins to keep him alive.
the hurricane got closer to us, and the ship was turned into the swells,
and the weather got really nasty. I remember lying in my bunk and
waiting while the ship plunged bow first down into the sea causing the
stern to ride high into the air with the screws completely out of the water.
When that happened the screws, in turning, vibrated the entire ship so
violently that I thought it would break into. And sometimes when
the ship plunged down bow first I thought that it would keep right on going
to the bottom.
across the ocean confirmed my choice of no Navy enlistment for me!
was a lifeboat drill soon after we sailed, for the purpose of training
and drilling the ship's crew members in the method of launching the lifeboats.
While we watched, standing unobtrusively out of the way, along the starboard
side of the ship several lifeboats were prepared to be "lowered away".
Three crew members got into a boat that was extended out over the rail
of the ship and then the process of lowering was started.
did not go well. For some reason, the holding hook on one end of
the boat released and the boat was left suspended swinging in the air at
a rakish angle. The crew member in the center of the boat tumbled
head over heels into the member at the free swinging end - one of them
almost fell into the sea. Both of them were injured in some way.
The swinging end of the boat was secured by using a boat-hook and the boat
and the badly frightened crew members were recovered. Most of us
were hoping that if there ever was a real reason to use the lifeboats,
we would make a much better get-away.
On the second
day after leaving port, Capt. BECK decided that his First Three Grade Non-coms
should have the cabins we were occupying and that the men of the Construction
section would take their rightful place below decks. The "rotation movement"
had just started when a lieutenant of the Transportation Corps interrupted
it. He explained to Capt. Beck that as Officer-In-Charge of the Army
Transport, he would put those being transported where he liked, and he
just loved the existing arrangement. Capt. Beck was not happy to have his
scheme interfered with.
did volunteer all of us for special details of sweeping the decks and emptying
the garbage over-board each night, etc. As a result of this labor,
we had special meal tickets for 3 meals a day and permission to cut-in
at the head of the chow line so that we could go about our business in
a timely manner.
holds were stifling and confining and I volunteered for pantry duty on
the ship--one of the best decisions I made in the army. All the way
over I sat in the pantry--was it with Bill BALLANTINE??--handed out whatever
the cooks needed and ate fresh fruit and vegetables (officers' mess) and
drank whole milk. Occasionally opened tins of fish as desired.
It was loverly. (Before leaving this sanctuary we loaded our knapsacks
with tins of food which made the first few weeks in Europe somewhat endurable.)
we were on our way and out of sight of land we were allowed on deck.
Within an hour I was overcome with seasickness and this was the beginning
of 14 days of misery. The only rays of hope during the days of hurricane
weather were the oranges that Bill Schmidt brought me at night for three
days. I was not alone with the seasickness, especially during the
hurricane weather when we were not allowed on deck and were required to
stay in the cramped quarters below. Our steel helmets saved those
in the lower bunks from the results of the seasickness. The stand-up
eating facilities, with water sloshing back and forth, didn't help things
the next few days I convinced myself that it was right for me to have joined
the army and not the navy. In later years I was to tell my children
that, of the 21 days that I spent on the high seas, I was seasick for 26
of them! There were sick troops everywhere, at least four of them
in the bunks above my own.
the second day after leaving port, Capt. BECK decided that his First Three
Grade non-coms should have the cabins we were occupying and that the men
of the Construction section would take their rightful place below decks.
The "rotation movement" had just started when a lieutenant of the Transportation
Corps interrupted it. He explained to Capt. Beck that as Officer-In-Charge
of the Army Transport, he would put those being transported where he liked,
and he just loved the existing arrangement. Capt. Beck was not happy to
have his scheme interfered with.
did volunteer all of us for special details of sweeping the decks and emptying
the garbage over-board each night, etc. As a result of this labor,
we had special meal tickets for 3 meals a day and permission to cut-in
at the head of the chow line so that we could go about our business in
a timely manner.
long after this incident, the Construction men of the "deck detail" were
pressed into moving provisions from the ships storerooms into the lifeboats.
Jerome WALDREF was one of first to recognize the possibilities of this
project - he was a master at gaining the maximum benefit from such a golden
did a fairly creditable job, most of the boats were properly provided.
As a fringe benefit of the activity, it became possible to divert more
than a few gallon cans of peaches, pineapple, etc. as well as a few edible
"survivors rations". These precious items were briefly stored in
the crevices of the cabins until they could be enjoyed in after-hours dining.
was a good deal of sharing our ill-gotten gain with some of the men bunking
in the crowded holds of the ship . Many of these unfortunate guys could
not go back down into the hot, smelly bowels of the ship to eat the regular
meals. All of us spent as much time in the open, fresh air of the
deck as possible. However, the terrible storm that we passed through
made being on the deck impossible part of the time.
figured on the trip overseas the Signal Co. boys had some pretty good duty
- like the guy that was working in the ship store and had access to all
those goodies - 10" round cubes of cheese, canned goods of all kinds, etc.
Almost every evening when he returned to the compartment he brought some
of these goodies and repeatedly tossed out some of his clothing and stuffed
the goodies in their place. When reminded that it might just be cold
where we were going, he said one of his buddies told him he could find
lots of clothes on the other side but rations would be short. "They aren't
gonna starve this ole boy!!", he said. He was generous and some of
us close to his sack shared his goodies. I purposely kept my eye
on his duffle bag when it was dropped into the landing craft in Marseille
Harbor - Ka whump!! - thought it was going to go right through the deck.
Recall also watching the fellow that was unlucky enough to have to drag
it off the craft - first tug about set him on his can.
we had been at sea for some time, orders were taken for candy to be purchased
from the ship's store. It was a wonderful benefit. It would
have been even better if the 'Babe Ruth' bars etc. did not taste so very
much like the diesel oil they had been stored close to.
I think that "shipped" properly describes the way we went over seas.
I remember that trip well. I would estimate that 90% of those on
board were seasick and the stench down in the holds that held our bunks
was nearly unbearable. Fortunately someone, I think Emil Boitus,
gave me the assignment of copying news from WWR for a ship's newspaper.
This was done in the ship's radio room, where I stayed for the entire trip
and only returned to my bunk just before we disembarked in Le Harve.
Apart from my news copying, I also had access to the ship's storeroom and
accumulated a decent supply of canned goods such as corned beef, that I
stuffed into my duffel bag. You may recall that we each took a duffel
bag to carry to the place where we camped. You just grabbed one.
I cannot recall who got mine, but he was very unhappy about the extra weight
Friday, October 6th we were moving down the Virginia and Florida coasts
before heading out to sea. Calm seas, boat drills, fire drill by
crew. We were in a convoy of 13 ships. Played chess with Bob
Rushing on deck.
October 7th we were told we were headed for France - probably southern
part. We were issued French phrase books. Still a bit seasick,
had a detail mapping class and we had three meals a day. At night,
a songfest on deck. We all had some details. Phosphorescence
on water beautiful at night.
Sunday, October 8th attended mass in the lounge. As we crossed the
first time zone in calm weather, advanced our clocks. Usually felt
seasick before breakfast - still didn't have those "sea legs". Found
the best "cure" for seasickness was to go up on the bow and lean over.
Read, played chess and watched flying fish scooting along and lots of seaweed!
I wrote a "V" Mail letter home. So many different shades of blue
in the water. A sailor told me we (convoy) were moving along at 14
knots (17 m.p.h.). I don't think we maintained this after we encountered
the rough weather.
up on October 10th (5th day out) to definitely rougher weather. Now,
others joined me in seasickness. Many of us only nibbled at our meals.
at night and rain. We were under strict blackout at night and the
convoy drew closer together. On our port side was a former luxury
liner, the S.S. Washington. Another was the S.S. LaFayette.
The aircraft carrier rolled along on our starboard side.
October 11 - We advanced clocks another hour. As the seas cranked
up another notch of "roughness", spray coming over the decks. We
tried to eat something, but it grew less appealing. Many sick on
deck and in the hold. Even the bow is rough-riding now. The
ship is rocking and rolling in the heavy seas.
October 12 - Now restless and sick at night, too, as we start our second
week at sea. Very few of us midwesterners have ever been at sea,
much less in a bad storm. No lightning or rain -just big waves.
We must be north of West Indies now. This night they turned on the
navigation lights in spite of the blackout. We had nearly rammed
another boat in the convoy. I believe we were in the heart of the
food trays allowed on open decks, but it was hard to keep any food down
below decks. Eating lost all interest for most. Now the waves
were monstrous and slow-moving. The ship would often dip lower than
the surface of the water (C deck). None of the other ships could
be seen. Had some chow in the sailor's galley, felt better and began
to get my "sea legs". Many guys deathly sick and just lay in their
bunks day and night. Oftentimes there would be a sharp crack below
decks as the main beam of the ship banged with a deep roll plunge.
Also, the screw would come out of the water and set up a horrendous vibration.
All of the above weren't very conductive to sleep.
Friday, October 13 (Lucky!), the storm wore down and the boats in our convoy
could be seen again, including the small ones. Felt better and ate
a big chicken dinner. Still not allowed on deck at night. Now
the sea was almost a dead calm and sanity returned to The Henry T. Gibbons
- 8 days out of NYC. Reading, chess and orientation classes on France
and landings occupied our days. Light rain at night.
and Sunday, October 14th and 15th passed without incident. Clocks
advanced regularly every 500 miles or so. We struggled to read and
say a few French phrases, but "Parles Vous Francais" didn't come easy.
Sunday, October 15th we were back eating good meals, but instead of being
seasick in calmer seas, we were sick of the sea.
October 16th - Advanced clocks again. Lots of anti-aircraft practice
fire in the convoy. Weather turned warm and sea calm and blue.
Must be getting closer to Mediterranean. Anxiety increased by the
hour. We had a good supply of Penguin paper-back novels, so sitting
on sunny deck and reading - not too bad duty. Clouded up and turned
cold by evening. Had daily masses.
much I can add to the tales already told about the 14 days at sea except
that, fortunately, I was spared the misery of seasickness - I had a pretty
good feel for what the unfortunate were suffering, however, as I had a
like experience aboard a fish tug on good old Lake Michigan. I erupted
in pretty good fashion when my buddy offered me some Mulligan stew for
lunch - yuk!
have a time during the 4-day blow when I wondered if I might again experience
a similar eruption. I slept in the middle pipe berth and was awakened
by some wet splatter in my face - opening my eyes revealed some joker standing
alongside, upchucking into his steel helmet, which he was holding just
above the level of my face - yuk again!!
we were several days from entering the Mediterranean ocean, a fire started
on one of the freighters and it and both aircraft transporters (I think)
left the convoy and headed in the direction of Casablanca in North Africa,
the nearest safe port, and perhaps the original destination of the aircraft
which could be put in service there much sooner than anywhere in the Mediterranean.
October 17, 1944 - French classes and good time watching boxing matches
on deck. The aircraft carrier on our starboard side departed our
convoy in early morning. So long - glad to have had you. Two
small boats accompanied it for protection (one of the ships appeared to
have fire aboard that was only partially controlled).
this carrier the Wasp or Hornet? (It was only a cargo ship with many "packed-for-transport
aircraft) Headed for Casablanca or Rabat, possibly.
excitement! About 4:30 p.m. on the distant horizons on the starboard
side, we first sighted the distant and hazy coastline of Africa.
By 6 p.m. we were passing a rocky piece of land jutting out into the ocean
from the High Atlas Mountains. What a welcome view! After 12
days on the briny. Land also in view on the port side - distant coast
of Spain as we nudged toward the Straits of Gibraltar.
moved on until we saw the coast of Spanish Morocco. Soon we came
to a large, white town near Tangier and Gibraltar. There were small
boats (fishing) in view, too. Now we're in the Straits of Gibraltar
- around 7 p.m. we saw a spectacular ball of fire sink into the ocean in
the west as the setting sun disappear. What a view - and on the port
side, the Rock of Gibraltar.
were signaling by light to our convoy from the rock base - asking for identification.
We passed the Rock about 8 p.m., but it was so dark, we could only see
the lights on its southeastern side. Directly on our right was a
large mountain peak, into the clouds. Beyond was the well-lighted
city of Ceuta, Morocco. We went below and had our last song program
of the voyage. Large schools of sharks and porpoises were seen as
we went through the Straits tonight. We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar
on the early evening of the 17th. It was good to see something that
stood still. The ship turned away from the African coast and toward
the north. All hopes that the passage on this smaller sea would be
calmer were dashed by three consecutive days of stormy weather.
October 18th - Very calm Mediterranean on all sides at dawn. Later
hugged the hazy African coast all day. Sheer rock cliffs rise out
of the ocean with occasionally a sandy beach. A showdown inspection
in morning in preparation for landing. We had radio programs on ship
P.A. system and basked in the Mediterranean, October sun. We had
a little action with destroyers firing at night. We were supposed
to be turning northeast around 9 p.m. Don't know if we did or not.
October 19th - Cloudy skies and sea on all sides. We are headed north
by northeast - probably for Marseilles. I'm not sure. We weren't
ever told firmly that this was our objective. We were issued cigarettes,
"K" rations and Red Cross kits in the morning. We also had a physical
in raincoats - br-r-r - cold! The sea got quite rough by late afternoon
and remained so through the night; but the stars came out. I went
to mass, we had a small chicken dinner and turned in early - sort of seasick
once more. Thought that was over! Found my lost gas mask.
This wasn't looked on too kindly.
I remember spending most of my spare time crawling over bags trying to
read the name stenciled on each one, hoping to find my own. I did
eventually find it, and was able to store 2 canvas bunks from the ship's
supplies that I later used to enclose a more durable sleeping-bag assembly.
was some kind of a bag! It eventually had the heavy canvas covers
held together by copper wire and stuffed with 2 or 3 G.I. wool blankets
and inside that heavy comfort pack was later placed a G.I. "mummy bag"
of wool. If the guys on Jones' team had not helped me get this monster
in and out of the truck when it was necessary for sleeping, and/or putting
the "tools of our trade" and lots of W110B wire in its place, I certainly
would have spent many more cold, sleepness nights than I did.
on the boat or ship, whichever was appropriate. We had ships' bunks
with white sheets. Great. But we had to get out on deck every
night to throw over garbage. Nice! Only on a stormy night we
had ropes tied to us. Storms. Storms. We go to North Africa
first, then on into the Mediterranean to land. Remember the Rock
of Gibraltar? Then there was the bill hill in France. We got
everything issued to us and all laid out to check when we got soused with
so much rain from such a little cloud that it washed everything downhill.
report from New York Times shows we were on the northern edge of a real
hurricane that had crashed across the Caribbean island area and Cuba.)
14, 1944 - Caribbean area ALERT/WARNING
18, 1944 - All crops on Cayman Islands destroyed,
Havana, Cuba; 5 deaths, 200 injured,
heavy wind and rain, harbor craft wrecked
20, 1944 - New York and New Jersey coast, heavy wind,
rain and hurricane damage.
Marseille - How
and Why We Were There
William F. Barclay, in his book
103D INFANTRY DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY REMEMBRANCES gleaned, from the following
sources, a fairly good analysis of the events that preceded and continued
beyond the debarkation of the 103d at Marseille. The asterisked(*) abbreviations
are used throughout Mr. Barclay's analysis to indicate the sources of his
Clarke, J.J. and R.R. Smith 1993.
Riviera to the Rhine.
[U.S. Army in WW II series.
The European Theater of Operations].
Center of Military History U.S.
Army. Washington D.C.*R-R
Cray, Ed: General ofthe Army -
George C. Marshall Soldier and Statesman
W.W. Norton & Company New
York 1990 *MARS
East, Sergeant William; Gleason,
Private William F.
The 409th Infantry in World
War II [Combat in Arms Series].
Battery Press. Nashville *409
Eisenhower, David: Eisenhower
at War 1943-1945
Randon House New York 1986 *IKE-WAR
Keegan, John: The Second World
Penguin Books 1989 *WW2
Mueller, Ralph; Turk, Jerry: Report
The Story of the 103d Infantry
Printing Office, Innsbruck/Austria
Morison, Samuel Eliot;Comminger,
Henry Steele; Leuchtenburg:
A Concise History of the American
People - Second Edition
New York Oxford University Press
Parker, Danny S.: Journal WWII
Leesburg Va. ISSN 0898 4204 (MAY
Pommois, Madame Lise: The Fighting
in the Val de Moder
1992 (?) *MODER
Retired Officer Magazine - Various
Roget, Gordon Boyd MD: Autobiography
- From Nothing
Young, Brigadier Peter: World
Almanace of World War II
An Imprint of Pharos Books, New
York, New York 1986 *ALMA
A brief review of the military
experience of the 103D Division and the military actions on the European
war fronts as we approached the landing in Marseille may be beneficial.
By 1 January 1944, The 103d
Infantry Division was well established at Camp Howze, the men assigned
to the ASTP program at the various universities were well into their programs
of study and not aware that the progress of the war in Europe would very
soon cause a major change of their future assignments. (It may be
interesting to note that all of the ASTP men would be assigned to combat
units destined for action in Europe, none were assigned to the Pacific
As outlined in the historical
chapters of other books; the Allied North African invasion and campaign
had been successful, General Eisenhower had completed his assignment in
that area and was on his way to Washington D.C. for consultation on his
new duties as Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces
on the Western Front.
The invasion of Sicily and
then Italy had taken place and by early February 1944, elements of the
US 7th Army were stalemated at Anzio beach on the southwest coast of Italy.
The tactical events in Italy, and the disagreements between the political
and military leaders in Washington D.C. and London were beginning to determine
the time and place of the landing of the 103d, and a number of other divisions,
In mid-March 1944, the ASTP
BOYS had been assigned to the 103d Division and began becoming a part of
the preparation for combat service, most likely on a European front.
On 6 June 1944, the Normandy
Invasion, OVERLORD, had taken place. On 15 August 1944, the ANVIL
invasion of Southern France by the US 7th Army had taken place and the
drive north through the Rhone valley toward final link-up of the OVERLORD
and the ANVIL forces on 1 September 1944.
Even as late as the time
the 103d Division advance group went to New York to arrange for our boarding,
the final decision to ship us to Normandy or Southern France may not have
468 Quebec Conference in
September 1944. The Armies in northern France were now more than two million
men strong and had broken out of the Normandy hedgerows (earth berm in
the farm country) to seize Paris on August 25,1944.*MARS
470 The armored columns had raced
east and south to join the forces of the American 7th Army driving up the
Rhone valley. France was virtually free of Germans for the first time since
Roosevelt had selected Harry
Truman as his vice president and had been reelected for an unprecedented
After the Marseille landings
and the port had been restored to limited service, Eisenhower had gained
the port capacity to supply his gasoline and supply short armies.
472 There were only 6 American
divisions left in Italy, General Marshall promised the British that they
would remain there until the war in Italy was concluded.*MARS
483 Montgomery's troops
had captured the Antwerp, Holland port facilities intact on September 4th
had bypassed the German units still controlling the Scheldt estuary leading
to the port so that it was not possible for any of the much needed supplies
Only after the failure of
the MARKET-GARDEN airborne assault did Montgomery belatedly move to open
the Channel. The first Allied convoy would not dock until November 28;
by then winter was hard on the land and Eisenhower's offensive had frozen
from the Netherlands to Switzerland.*MARS
483 At Eisenhower's request,
On the 6th of October,
General Marshall and a civilian "Manpower Mobilization Director" James
Byrnes arrived from the United States to discuss the rather serious problems
of manpower assignment and utilization on the western front. The winter
offensive had to be considered, and many of the combat units had suffered
casualties, sufficient replacements had not been found in spite of the
efforts of Eisenhower and his staff.*MARS
Although the policy of putting
the emphasis on winning the war in Europe first and then moving all available
force to the Pacific War was understood and well established, General MacArthur
and Admiral King and their forces certainly needed supplies and reinforcements
in the Pacific war and Marshall and Byrnes were anxious that every available
combat soldier assigned to Eisenhower's support and rear echelon units
was being used.*EAW
The two generals and Byrnes
reviewed the problems of having enough fighting men to sustain the drive
toward Germany. Eisenhower expressed interest in having replacements or
new divisions sent from the United States. Marshall explained that there
were only two divisions in training, no more would be available. When the
two divisions had been assigned, possibly into the Pacific, further training
in the States would be only for replacements of casualties in all theaters
Marshall suggested that
Eisenhower and his staff needed to make a greater effort to comb the rear
area supply and service units for men who could be assigned to the badly
depleted infantry divisions and other front-line elements.*MARS
Marshall and the Director
were very anxious not to exceed the mobilization limit of 90 divisions
that had been set in June 1944. They wanted to examine and review the manpower
situation and requirements in the ETO. There were more than 2.7 million
Americans in Europe, 437,000 were airforce personnel and 470,000 were attached
to ComZ (the supply and transportation units of the European forces). Slightly
more that 50% of the remaining 1.23 million were combat soldiers.*EAW
It was imperative that the
combat soldiers needed to be reinforced and encouraged. The proposal was
made to give able bodied soldiers, who had been court martialed and confined,
pardons if they would volunteer for front-line service. They considered
offering blacks serving in segregated service battalions an opportunity
to volunteer for combat at the front. Generals Lee and Smith were opposed
to such radical departures from existing doctrines, Eisenhower concurred.*EAW
Marshall and Eisenhower
privately discussed the problems of working with the British, particularly
Field Marshall Montgomery.
Marshall flew to visit with Montgomery
at his headquarters in Brussels on October 8th. Monty did a lot of complaining
about Eisenhower's ability to properly command the tactical operations
of SHAEF, Monty wanted to have more freedom to follow his own exquisite
plans without interference and to have Eisenhower provide him with the
Marshall was furious, "I
almost blew off my stack at him". Marshall reconsidered, this was Eisenhower's
problem and it would be much better if Ike dealt with it, though it was
very hard for me to restrain myself because I didn't think there was any
logic in what he said but overwhelming egotism.*MARS
Marshall had met with Montgomery
and listened to his views and proposals for the conduct of the war. He
agreed with Eisenhower that Montgomery must be forced to clear Antwerp,
made to become an effective leader in the coordinated drive to victory,
and should quit his self serving complaining.*EAW
General Marshal and his
group made a survey of northern fronts and he was more convinced than ever
that the German salient around Antwerp in Montgomery's sector and the Vosges
in the 7th Army area must be eliminated to supply reserves to cover gaps
in the front lines between Hodges and Patton.*EAW
484 Later on October 8th, Marshall
flew down to visit with Lt. Gen. Devers commander of the 6th Army Group
in eastern France. He discovered yet another rift in the coalition he had
so painstakingly built. French General Jean de Lattre do Tassigny complained
to Marshall about American corps commander Lucian Truscott getting the
lion's share of the supplies, especially gasoline. Marshall told him, "You
don't have a leg to stand on. You celebrated all the way up the road. You
were late on every damn thing and...you are critical of Truscott who is
a fighter and not a talker."*MARS
485 Marshall and Eisenhower
had an opportunity to discuss the tactical and supply situation after the
chief of staff's visit to many of the commanders and their units on the
Marshall and the war planning
board had outlined in 1942 a plan for the tactics to be used in the inevitable
conflict in Europe. Eisenhower who had been a vital part of the formation
of that plan was now commanding the execution of that plan.*MARS
The two generals and their
staffs reviewed the progess of that plan since the landings at Normandy.
Eisenhower had mounted a
broad campaign to drive to the Rhine river, the last water barrier in Germany.
He was setting up a 'grand double envelopment' or pincers movement on the
Ruhr valley the site of vital German heavy industries.
In the south Dever's French
and American armies had punctured German defenses and had reached the Rhine
and had captured Strassborg in spite of the worst rains in 50 years.
Patton's army had taken
Metz and then clawed its way to the foot of the Siegfried line.
North of Metz the advances
were meager in alternating rain and snow storms. The American Ist and 9th
Armies managed to dig in on the frozen west bank of the Ruhr river.
British armies efforts to
reach the Rhine in the Netherlands were costly and slow going with Montgomery
complaining that he required a larger share of the available materials.*MARS
Marshall, Eisenhower and
the American chiefs of staff thought that the tactical considerations of
defeating Germany decisively and destroying their ability to rearm were
519 These decisions were being
made at a time when President Roosevelt was weary and preoccupied with
postwar political questions, especially the organization of the United
Nations; increasingly the president had referred matters pertaining to
the conduct of the war to Marshall, regardless of their political quotient.
"The entire responsibility was placed upon General Marshall, as chief of
staff, and General Eisenhower, as theater commander," complained American
diplomat Robert Murphy. "Both of these army officers accepted this responsibility
without complaint, then or afterward, but it was inevitable that they would
regard Berlin from the military point of view."
In the eyes of the British
too, this was a damnable error.*MARS
In October,1944 several
Infantry divisions had been "combat loaded" in the United States. They
were ready and able to disembark with their arms and support units as reinforcements
at the port facilities of Marseille that had been secured in the August
attacks. The 103d Infantry Division and its "combat ready" 103d Signal
Company were part of these eager warriors. OUR MEN, the first or second
to land since the original August action, still felt a great deal of excitement
and importance to the war effort, I think.
The men of the 103d Infantry
Division arriving in southern France were to become part of a very extensive
military and political drama that had started years and months before.
Our role in that ongoing
scenario would be determined in a major way by the sometimes controversial
interactions of the military and political leaders which had already taken
place and the events that would now occur as a result of past decisions
and successful or unsuccessful campaigns of the war in Europe and the Pacific.
The Seventh Army and its
units, including the 103d Infantry Division were affected at times by the
resulting events caused by lack of mutual understanding and cooperation
of the political and military leaders.
Lt. General Devers commander
of the 6th Army Groups, in direct control of the U.S. XV Corps and VI Corps
containing the 7th Army and the Ist French Army, had never commanded a
unit on the battlefield, however he had been picked and trained by General
Marshall for his present position and he understood the organization and
present purpose of the SHAEF command.
Devers was well informed
of, and agreed with Eisenhower's plan for the direction of the Allied forces
in northeastern France. American forces would occupy the center of a strong
coordinated front pushing toward the German border and beyond to the Rhine
The British forces, under
the control of General Montgomery would be on the north side of that front,
the French forces, a part of the US 7th Army, would be on the south.*R-R
The U.S. Seventh Army was
commanded by Lt. General Alexander Patch, a soldier with an impressive
military career that stretched back to the American frontier wars.
Born at Fort Huachuca, Arizona Territory, in 1889, the son of an officer
in the 4th Cavalry, he graduated from West Point in 1913, a classmate of
Patton: served in Brig. Gen. John J Pershing's expedition into Mexico;
and then commanded an infantry battalion during World War I.
Early in 1942, General Marshall
had selected Patch to command a hastily assembled Army task force headed
for the South Pacific.
Quickly transforming that
force into the Americal Division, Patch took it to the island of Guadalcanal
in December 1942 and as commander of the U.S. Army XIV Corps, led a force
of one Marine Corps and two Army divisions that finally rooted out the
island's stubborn Japanese defenders.
At Marshall's request Patch
returned to the United States to train a Corps of American troops in desert
warfare. By the time Patch was able to bring his Corps to the Mediterranean
in early 1944, the desert campaign had long since ended.
Marshall selected Patch
in March, 1944 as the commander of the Seventh Army that was being
prepared for the invasion of southern France. It was not typical
for Marshall to directly select commanders at this level. This bypassing
of Eisenhower may have caused some conflict later among the commanders
in SHAEF, the US 6th Army Group and the US 7th Army.
Assigned to the 6th Army
Group under the command of Lt. General Jacob Devers, who believed in letting
his staff and subordinates make decisions, Lt. General Patch had an unusual
amount of autonomy to direct his forces.
Patch fully intended to
implement the deployment concept he had promulgated late in August--concentrating
de Lattre's French force on the 7th Army's right and Truscotts VI Corps
on the left. The VI Corps, to which the 103d Division would later be attached,
was then to advance northeast across the Vosges Mountain to Strasbourg
on the Rhine River, while the French divisions would push through Belfort
Gap to the Alsatian Plains.
This plan had the approval
of SHAEF as of 4/6/ September, 1944 The arrangements provided the 7th Army
with but a single Corps, the VI. It consisted of but the three original
US divisions; 3d, 36th and 45th, although three new divisions were expected
to land at Marseille in October and November, to augment the VI Corps.
The first push into the
Vosges began on 20 September. The three divisions, along about a 30-mile
front began to move northeast (roughly from Jure on the south to Remiremont
on the north). However, the advance appeared to have been stalled by the
end of October. Bruyeres was taken by the 18th and Brouvelieures by the
21st, as well as an area west of the valley of the Meurthe. *R-R
Getting fuel and supplies
to the fighting fronts became a problem and slowed down the Allied advance
in both northern and southern France. The French units commanded by de
Lattre in Marseille did an excellent job in supplying the 7th Army units
fighting in the mountains, but the flow of even these supplies began to
slow as the distance between the port and the front increased. *R-R
The 7th Army progress was
also slowed by very poor weather, lack of air support, and fatigue of the
troops. By the middle of September, the aggressive fighting spirit of the
officers and the men of the three American divisions and their supporting
units was definitely impaired. Companies, platoons, squads and individual
soldiers; the strong elements most needed for advancing in this type of
close-combat, where the terrain so heavily favored the German defenders,
This slowing of the Allied
advance was not only occurring in the VI Army Group, with its single army
(the 7th) and its single corps (the VI). Those British and American forces
that had made the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 and the reinforcements
units that had followed them were having many of the same difficulties.
Eisenhower was convinced
that (because of the lack of aggressive fighting men, supplies and weather)
an all-out offensive to defeat Germany by the end of 1944 was impossible.
However, it was necessary to push forward on a broad front in a coordinated
The November offensive for
the 6th Army Group was planned. "A successful offensive would depend greatly
on the capabilities of the fresh but untried 100th and 103d Infantry Divisions
and the equally inexperienced 14th Armored Division, all of which were
scheduled to enter the front line as soon as possible" In the final plan
the VI Corps was to launch its part of the November offensive on 15 November.
The 103d units would be flanked by the 3d Division on the north and the
36th Division on the south. *R-R
On November 2, the first
of the three new promised divisions joined the 7th Army..the 100th Division.
It provided relief for the 45th.
Between the 9th and 11th
of November, the second of the new divisions joined the 7th Army...the
103d Division. It would provide relief for the 3rd Division after unloading
at Marseille the 20th of October. It was noted that these divisions were
originally destined for northern France (Atlantic coast) and were redirected
to the 7th Army by Eisenhower. *R-R
At this point, the recollections
of members of the 103d Signal Company will once again tell the story.
Men of the other units of the
103d Division had very similar experiences and will undoubtedly feel a
"oneness" with the men of the Signal Company.
Friday, 20 October 1944, The sea was choppy and air cold in early morning.
We sighted the coast of France in the hazy distance at 8:30 a.m. on the
starboard side. We prepared equipment all morning for disembarking.
As the coast came closer into view, it could be seen to be rocky and hilly.
We sighted Marseilles about 11:30 a.m. - on the inland side of some large
rocks in the sea. One of them had a large castle on it.
is partly on flat land - and up into the surrounding hills. We anchored
for awhile after noon in the large, natural harbor around which the city
is built. The Mediterranean was blue and calm in the bright sun.
the left side and stretching along the sea was a wonderful railroad built
into the barren hills. There were only a few trees. Every bit
of it was either tunnel or bridge in Roman aqueduct style. We gazed
in wonder at this "new" foreign land from the decks of The Henry T. Gibbons.
There were also factories built in tiers up into the hills. They
were all deserted. Atop a hill was a beautiful cathedral with a golden
statue on top and winding stairs leading up to it. We saw a large
convoy headed out from Marseilles to sea.
now entered the inner harbor - slowly - behind the breakwater construction.
A German direction sign still remained on one of them. British ships
were in the inner harbor unloading troops. There were about five
scuttled French ships in the harbor and many collected and disarmed mines.
It was announced that we would disembark in LCT's. We ate our last
chow aboard about 1:30 p.m. with this new strange land in view. All
I could think of was - what a difference from the flatland of Minnesota
were several Frenchmen on the docks, looking for cigarettes. We were
still waiting to disembark around 8:30 when the air-raid alert sounded.
I was below decks and just sat still. I later learned that part of
the city had been raided (?) and gun anti-aircraft flashes were seen on
deck. When I got up on deck, there was a smoke screen over the inner
harbor. I went to sleep in my bunk and at 11:30 we were alerted that
our unit (one of last) was to prepare for disembarking. Once more,
I put on all my equipment and we marched with packs and duffel bags up
to D deck square, threw our duffel bags down into the L.C.T. and climbed
down the rope ladder.
sure we had practiced that? - perhaps. The pack was extremely heavy
and we had to stand a long time for the L.C.T. to be completely loaded.
After what seemed like ages, we moved off and across the harbor to the
sandy beaches of France. It was midnight when we piled up our stenciled
duffel bags on shore to be picked up later by trucks. We then lined
up in company formation. Those packs weighed heavily on our backs
after one long day. It was well after midnight. Terra Firma
felt funny and good; we were tired, but have many miles yet to go tonight.
first land we saw was near the Strait of Gibraltar, and after entering
the Mediterranean Sea we could see the coast of Africa and the Cities of
Tangier and Oran. We arrived in Marseilles, France on the evening
of October 20, 1944.
the two world wars Marseille was the chief sea gateway of France.
In the whole Mediterranean area no other port was so big and so busy.
The port area was now a shambles of destroyed docks and facilities.
Germany had requisitioned, dismantled, and shipped away much of the harbor
equipment. At the same time the Nazis constructed submarine pens,
and behind the jetties they organized convoys to the Italian front.
To cripple their enterprises, the United States Army Air Forces and the
RAF bombed Marseille from North Africa, southern Italy, and Britain.
Marseille we saw as we entered the harbor, and then marched quickly through
on our way to our first camp on French soil was in poor shape as a result
of the tragic recent history of German occupation, Allied bombing, and
the recent invasion by the 7th Army troops we were on our way to reinforce.
in a foreign land with night darkness increasing, being a little scared,
in weakened condition from the voyage, the landing, the confusing geographical
setting, rightfully doubtful of our leaders ability to make any more sense
of the situation then we had - all of this created psychological burdens
for some of us, in addition to the physical loads we were carrying.
arrival at Marseille we were welcomed by a German aircraft. As it flew
high over the harbor area even the novices from the 103d Division could
tell that it was German. The Kraut had never learned to synchronize the
engines on twin and multi-engine aircraft and the distinct throbbing sound
caused by the out-of-sync engines could not be missed. Air raid warnings
sounded and lights started blinking off all over the harbor area as Marseille
blacked out. The large "D"Deck Square hatches were wide open on the Henry
T. Gibbons and the lights from D-Deck shown like a beacon across the harbor.
We imagined that since this was the only visible target, the Henry T. Gibbons
would soon be under attack. The aircraft apparently was only on a reconnaissance
mission and, after looking around, left the area. It was a good thing because
when we searched high and low for a switch to turn of the lights we found
nothing and were about to shoot out the lights when the all clear sounded.
the 20th of October we approached a rather battered port of Marseille.
There was an air raid alarm at 2000 hours and an all-clear at 2030.
we climbed down huge nets into landing craft standing alongside the Henry
T. Gibbons. At 2200 the landing craft grated against the French shore.
didn't unload on piers. Instead we disembarked on LCI's. They,
in turn took us to the beach. It was midnight by the time my company
was ready to go "over the side".
was after 1 AM now and everything was as dark as could be. We had
heavy packs on, plus horseshoe rolls consisting of blankets an shelter
halves. Although we do not normally wear packs, we did this time.
myself in the lead, we started our long walk, with instructions, that at
every turn that we had to turn on, an MP would be there to direct us.
The packs weighed about 70 lbs. as we carried practically all of our field
stuff in them.
packs got heavier at the end of each mile. Some of the men got tired
and dropped out. The moon completely disappeared and a slow drizzle
3 AM we stopped and I ordered packs off and for everyone to eat their breakfast
unit of K ration.
trudged on and on. I thought that my pack would tear my back off.
Each step became more laborious than the previous one. More men fell
out. At about 0530 I ordered the company into a field and bedded
down for a few hours. My first night in France was spent in a cold,
rain drenched field, fast asleep, too tired and weary to mark the momentous
0730 we were on our way again and eventually arrived at the designated
then the beach in France...dark night...sirens...searchlights...over the
side down rope nets...into boats and onto the beach where MPs were shouting
for us to move off the beach and move on, but where to? We kept walking
up hill in pitch black night. Not knowing where we were going or
where we were, each of us in turn turned into the fields and went to sleep.
The next morning you could see soldiers in disarray, lying down in helter-skelter
fashion...very unmilitary. Then a jeep appeared with an officer standing
and shouting for us to get back on the road and keep walking until we find
our staging area. Eventually we did...a slightly inclined plateau.
We were told to set up our pup tents...looking at the terrain I (we) chose
the highest spot I (we) could find. I think my partner was BALLANTINE...
we had to march from the docks to the staging area about 20 miles north
and all uphill. We carried everything we owned on our backs, full
field pack, cartridge belt, canteen, M-1 rifle, bayonet, gas mask and steel
helmet. The march was at night in the rain. Guys were falling
out and lying on the ground too exhausted to get up or to give a damm about
the rain. I finally made it to the staging a and pulled a shelter
half over me and went to sleep. It was another good decision.
night it rained heavily and in the morning half the camp's pup tents were
floating, but we were safe and secure.
Saturday, 21 October 1944 in a column of twos we marched off as a company
across a shore road and up dark and narrow streets. Houses behind
walls were dark and deserted. The streets were steep and winding.
Rumors were of a 10-mile march, but we expected a much shorter one.
Some of the hills were very steep. A train passed over a viaduct
under which we marched into the night. We had a break after a half-hour
march, but it was twice as hard getting up again. The long marches
at Howze didn't have these hills! The packs began to cut into our
shoulders. After another hour, fellows began to drop out quite frequently
- probably to be picked up by trucks. Now we're getting away from
the walled homes and out into the countryside. As we took one more
break, trucks and ducks began to pass us up. One truck smashed into
a column, injuring several men and killing one. It's getting colder
now, though we still sweat while marching.
found fires along the way to warm by - and were often told, "only two more
miles to go". At one point a group bedded down, while another group
of us plodded on. We were also told to follow the high tension lines.
About 4:30 and I didn't think I could go any further! The C.O. then
decided to bivouac there a few hours. I unrolled my roll and slept
with another fellow for a few hours - till 7:30 a.m.
was a dark, cold night. The streets we marched along were narrow
and bordered by walls and shuttered windows. It was rumored that
we had a couple miles to go, uphill. I remember the darkness, the man ahead
of me, and the rather foul smell of the streets through which we passed.
we reached what seemed to be open country. I remember but one event
along the way. One HAROLD MURPHY (Dallas, Texas) on the occasion
of a rest stop, sat on a bridge rail, only to disappear backwards over
the rail to fall some unknown distance into the darkness. As it turned
out, he fell 10 feet, landed on his pack and came up smiling and apparently
none the worse for it. It was fortunate that he wasn't carrying my
don't know how many guys fell over backwards into darkness as MURPHY had.
Perhaps it was only a coincidence that I was sitting very close to him
(or perhaps some other "most lucky fellow") when my companion, name unremembered,
sat down on the top of a stone barricade and also disappeared, apparently
as his pack pulled him over backwards. As I recall, at first, his
absence seemed like some magical illusion - we couldn't image where and
how he had gone.
the darkness, using the light from a shielded flashlight, it was determined
that we had been sitting on a parapet along the side of the road that had
a drop behind it of about 8 feet into the yard of a farm house.
man was lying on his back down there. He was helped by someone up
an embankment at the end of the parapet, shaken and bruised but able to
resume the evening walk.
prior to this incident, our closest hiking buddies had another thrill...the
roads were narrow, the passing convoy trucks etc. seemed to be moving through
the darkness with reckless abandon. When there was an opportunity
to stop for a brief rest, it was difficult to get back and safely away
from the passing traffic.
amphibious truck, DUKW, roared by very close to the troops who sat on,
or tried to lean back on something, along the road. One of our buddies
had not pulled his M1 rifle back out of the way far enough, his rifle stock
was broken off from the barrel assembly.
men who knew that their rifles were sacred objects, this was a traumatic
experience - what to think, who to tell, what kind of punishment would
be waiting when daylight revealed his embarrassment?
of these were problems. The more immediate problem was, how do you
carry a rifle "at slung arms" when the rifle sling is connecting two unsightly
continued to get up after each short rest period, but as the night began
to grow longer, colder, and damper our strength and our resolve began to
there was murmuring, even "bitching" and an occasional "discouraging word"
as the proposed destination became a more and more distant and unobtainable
end to our misery.
just "fall out" and refuse to go on, was desertion! In spite of this imperative,
men began to drop out and move out of the line of march singly, in pairs,
or small groups,saying, "not another step".
and I, and perhaps others with us, just finally gave-up and walked off
the road, through a dewy field to the shelter of something, covered up
someway, and waited for the dawn and strength to return. We were apprehensive.
At daybreak we started out. Along the road for the last 2 or 3 miles,
other men were rejoining the hike in front of us and behind us as far as
we could see over the rolling hills.
we arrived at a disorganized camp on a dismal, rocky, barren site only
about a quarter of the company was there. Some officers and non-coms
leading men, or pretending to, arrived later that morning or in the afternoon.
midnight the march was halted, more or less officially. The night
was cold and still wet. We woke up to see a grey, treeless French
wasteland... our destination.
two miles beyond, rows of shelter halves were erected and the company settled
in to several days of K rations. NOVOTNY and myself shared a tent...
eventually to sport a floor, a shelf, and a candle holder. After
the slit trenches were dug, the vehicles began to arrive, along with the
first mail call. I noted at the time that the first mail brought
NOVOTNY his notice of membership in the VFW. The nearest bar was
two miles, the nearest village five, the city of Aix was twelve.
A real rainstorm floated many of the tents away and the stream running
down the company street carried bread, wine bottles and an occasional shoe,
passing in review.
We expected to spend the night in some building but, instead, spent the
night walking through the city and out to a barren area about 15 miles
away. We finally stopped at dawn and tried to sleep on the ground
in the rain. ROBERT FORCHHEINER and I spent the next two weeks in
a shelter half-tent in an area assigned to the Signal Company. We
managed to salvage most of our personal equipment from a flooding rain
which turned the Signal Co. area into a lake. It was not easy to
avoid the now-hidden fox holes and more than one person became wet to the
waist after stumbling into one.
Jerome WALDREF and I finally did arrive at the camp area, and learned about
the situation of the company, our prospects for living the good-life there
appeared to be slim or none.
cold, wet, rocky hilltop was a terrible place for men to even think about
stopping for a short break, much less in which to set up a temporary camp.
we had to do was to figure a way to just survive the next few days. It
became the challenge; find a convenient, dry place for our tent, get warm,
get food, and then "get lost" into the chaos of the company area.
both would need to be "present or accounted for" in the official order
and records, but not be too obvious most of the time. Jerry was a
master at just this type of "survival skills".
all of the training films we had seen on surviving, Jerry may have been
learning the lesson - the most serious threat to his comfort and safety
could be those closest to him. That surely must include any officer or
non-commissioned officer that had him in his field of view at any particular
time. Our primary purpose now was to avoid pain and suffering in the treacherous,
hostile environment of this military organization to which we had
set up our tent as close as possible to one of the outer limits of our
assigned company area. We were next to an ordnance company that had lots
of work tents and repair vans, and lots of activity to mask our proposed
inactivity. I could see the advantage of being able to just step
over the line and almost disappear into anonymity... Lots of soldiers moving
about, some of them gainfully employed. We would be hidden like two elephants
who had joined a herd of elephants, almost undetectable.
could always see or develop the maximum advantage in any situation. Our
nearness to the ordnance company was no exception. He would have
business to conduct there later.
22 October 1944 I awoke, cooked C Rations and went to 9 a.m. mass in the
field. We improved our tents and finished slit trenches in the rockiest
soil in the world, Texas included! Looking around, we now see mountains
- some with peaks above the clouds. Town off in a valley (part of
rode up to our area on a bike with a little boy. Some G.I.s spoke a little
French with him - just to get started. The bartering began - one
pack of cigarettes for two quarts of wine. Had a nip and it was really
warming! Had a detail of unloading boxes from trucks coming in from
the harbor. Everyone's busy - wooden kitchens are being built.
We put a wooden floor in our tent and fixed up a fireplace outside. Received
first letters from home and wrote one, also. Found out we marched
12-14 miles last night. No wonder we're exhausted. Cut my finger
bad on a C Ration can.
cold night in the tent - even with blankets. This particular part
of France is dotted with German dud mines and former French glider obstacles.
Not far from our area is the former Radio Marseilles - with an extensive
antennae system. It is now operated by the U.S. Army - a signal battalion
with several 399's. Mountains and a tree-lined valley in the distance.
next few days were busy for all of us as we were reconstituting ourselves
into an elite unit of the U.S. Army. We began to lose that appearance of
a bunch of guys who had just gathered together in desperation after a hard
night of wandering in a foreign land.
soon as the company equipment started to be unpacked and put in order for
military purposes; the careful planning, bartering and packing Jerome had
done back in Texas began to improve our personal living conditions. A helpful
man from the supply section delivered Jerome his personal radio. It had
made the long, rough trip perhaps nestled in the middle of a bundle of
soft underwear. It was the very best available - a Zenith Transoceanic-All
Wave Receiver. It most conveniently used Signal Corps batteries the Signal
Company had in large numbers. Jerry was concerned about the inner condition
of the radio for a reason, I did not understand. His examination, while
I looked on in amazement, showed that the "Pinch-bottle" of Haig
& Haig whiskey, packed carefully into the battery compartment of the
radio, had safely arrived.
had no interest then (or now) in alcoholic beverages and I am pretty sure
that Jerry intended this valuable commodity to be used for barter or sale.
"National Match" Colt 45 automatic pistol was delivered about the same
time. I think he was the only enlisted man in the company with a 45 automatic
pistol. None were issued. Some officers did have such weapons issued or
paid for. There were very few, if any, other pistols of this quality in
use by officers or men in Europe at that time, and fewer still that had
been fired by their owners at the Camp Perry National Pistol and Rifle
"business"' with the ordnance company, provided him with a mass-produced
G.I. barrel for his pistol that he could use if it ever became necessary
to shoot "something" and then discard the barrel. He never used that
"disposal feature". I think.
the rain-swept Marseille staging area, we slept on solid rock in pup tents
that constantly fell down because the wooden tent pegs could not be driven
into the rock.
was inspection after inspection to make certain that we had everything
we were supposed to have and had nothing that we were not supposed to have.
For these inspections, everything we owned had to be displayed on a shelter
half (the one-half of a pup tent that was issued to each soldier). We did
this in the unrelenting rain so everything we owned was soaked.
23 October 1944 now things settled into a sort of routine. Reveille
at 6:15 with the band playing marches! Sun came out, but it's still
chilly. We put up a large tent, ate C Rations and pulled guard in
were all glad to see the kitchen come into operation and even STEW looked
good! We turned in all American money and were issued French francs
(50 francs to the U.S. dollar). Days in the staging area moved along with
alternate rain and sun. We kept fires going and pulled our share
of guard and K.P. We heard special lectures from a 7th Army captain
on the M-209 converter, radio procedure and signal security in the theater.
looks like combat soon, probably to relieve troops fighting up north of
us in the 7th Army. It gets dark around 5:30 and we usually have
a bull session around the fire after chow. One of the very "challenging"
details we had was rock-piling.
parts of any service organization are the toilet facilities. In garrison
living, they are not that remarkable, except in derision and jokes.
In a field situation, such as we had, the arrangements for the relief and
comfort of the men and officers at times become more noteworthy.
of the large number of men assembled in the division area, and the rocky
terrain, most of companies had latrines dug and constructed for them (perhaps
by the engineers).
The Signal Company facilities included several '10 hole' box seating arrangements
in addition to a urinal-pit.
was usual, these latrine areas were moved as far as convenient from the
living area of the company. In our case, they were lined up along an unimproved
road at the rear of the company area. The road continued to be used
by the civilian population, male, female, and others. Most of the
civilian traffic was on foot.
spite of the occasional freezing rain, cold wind, etc., there were no protective
canvas walls or ceilings around the toilets. Privacy was not even
considered. The civilians could be seen approaching some distance away
by those seeking relief. In most cases, the women and girls could be identified,
and would cause various reactions and responses by the men.
"cut-short" their business and retreat quickly, others would react in a
number of predictable and unexpected ways. In the group who remained "behind
to be exposed", there were those who chose to ignore the passersby, others
would smile or speak, the really savoir-faire' gentlemen would tip their
hats and/or offer the ladies a seat.
was plenty of real work to be done in the relatively short period of time
that remained before we would be moved closer to the fighting front lines
in preparation for actually being committed to combat.
Division and all of its individual units concentrated on the specific tasks
most important for their preparation. For the fighting men of the
division, that meant putting the "tools of their trade", rifles, machine
guns, mortars, etc. in first class condition, and then practice-firing
them one last time before the "real thing", to make sure those vital elements
of the few basic items they would carry in the first critical days of combat
would not fail them.
the service companies, Signal Company, etc., the biggest part of the preparation
was preparing new or almost-new vehicles for specific tasks of each operating
section. The Construction section had 3/4 ton, and 1 1/2 ton trucks that
needed to be loaded with various arrangements of wire-laying equipment.
of the sections of the company had special types of equipment that needed
to be mounted in vehicles or trailers.
Radio Operating section now had 3/4 ton trucks 'Weapon Carriers' in which
to arrange and mount all of their radios and auxiliary equipment.
it was time to get ready for "move out" time. Assigned to Hennum's
crew with "Andy" Evans and Mike Schindler. We used the time to install
the radio equipment and, to protect us from a French winter, we raided
a local lumber yard and built a shack on the back of the radio truck complete
with bunks which became our home for most of our stay in the ETO--very,
very worthwhile as the winter came on.
addition to all of that special outfitting and loading of the vehicles
in preparation of "moving out", there was the additional requirement that
all of the personal equipment of the men and the supplies of the company,
etc. must be loaded into every available space for transport several hundred
miles to the front. After all of that was done, the men had to find space
in the vehicles to which they were assigned to squeeze in for the trip.
All of it was very challenging.
in the little wooden kitchen at the head of our company tent area.
Although it was raining out, it was warm in the kitchen and a bonus of
good food. At noon, about half the company took a hot shower - the
first since the boat. The days pass swiftly now. On Tuesday, 31 October
1944, two of us again went to Marseilles - getting to be our town.
got a good view of the French countryside. A peasant was moving with
his horse and cart, a farmer was sowing seed as in the Bible. We
passed, on the bouncing truck, a chateau with walls and towers, an inn
and hotel. We passed a number of Army convoys moving north.
We passed the town of Cabries, built of stone with the houses row-on-row
rising above each other on the hill. Into Marseilles on the Rue de
Lyon past casinos and down to the dock area. The Germans did their
best demolition work on buildings, docks and a concrete structure along
the docks. We also saw a line of German prisoners marching along.
Thursday, 2 November 1944, I made one more trip to Marseilles before we
head north. I went alone and did a lot of walking. Found fishing
boats down by the quay. Walked up stone streets for a great view
of the harbor. One rocky island had a castle on it. I climbed
much more to get up to the Church of Notre Dame du Garde. It sits
atop a rocky point above the harbor. Climbed stone steps to the church
and all of Marseilles stretched below me. What a view! Inner
and outer stone jetties protected the harbor and lots of equipment-unloading
going on. Above me towered a glistening, golden statue of Christ
and Mary. There is also an observation tower and grotto. I
bought some souvenirs and said, "Bon Jour" to a Franciscan priest.
a truck-ride back on the Rue D'Aix - out the Boulevard de Paris along the
docks and out the long Rue de Lyon. Passed an Arch de Triomphe with
inscription, "A La Republique Marseilles Reconissaure". I even saw
an old Roman-type aqueduct and French Renault cars gassing up at Texaco
stations. Went through Calas, with its stone castle and battlements
and towers. Saw big LST's of the Navy in docks. We went aboard
one and were able to purchase a few precious candy bars. Barrage
balloons still over the harbor and anti-aircraft guns. We saw the
former luxurious Hotel Mediteraneo and went to mass in the domed Basilica
Church by the harbor. When we returned to camp, we had to give the
sign and countersign for security. The 100th Division moved out today
for the Front.
movement of the 103d Division Signal Company from the staging area near
Marseilles to an area closer to the combat zone was actually a series of
movements by groups and sections of the company with their men and equipment.
We were all destined for
the same general area of the Vosges mountains in eastern France, but the
preparation time for various elements of the company meant that some of
the earlier leaving elements arrived at the general assembly area before
other elements who were putting their equipment in order at the staging
area near Marseilles.
Moving 15,000 men and their
equipment was not a simple process and required lots of time and many different
methods of transportation. The departure schedules were spaced out; small
advance groups of survey, command and control officers and men from the
division, and escorts supplied from experienced units at our destinations
were the first to leave.
These were probably followed
in order by Division Staff officers, MP traffic control men, Quartermaster
mobile-mess units, and then the very large number of vehicles of the division
service companies. The men of the Signal Company were in this latter
element of the "motor-march".
The most important men of
the division, the infantry soldiers, were being transported to the front
in the same way that soldiers of WW1 had been. They were loaded into almost
the same type of railroad cars, French "40 and 8" box cars originally named
for their ability to carry 40 men or 8 horses. Some of those men
were already familiar with this type of transportation, having "ridden
the rails" as hoboes, during the depression, in American box cars that
were larger but just as cold and uncomfortable.
The company trucks, trailers,
jeeps, etc. were loaded and overloaded with the "tools of our trades",
company supplies and records, 250+ duffel bags, personal weapons, contraband,
In addition to all of the special
outfitting and loading of the vehicles in preparation of "moving out",
there was the additional requirement that all of the personal equipment
of the men and the supplies of the company, etc. must be loaded into every
available space for transport several hundred miles to the front. After
all of that was done, the men had to find space in the vehicles to which
they were assigned to squeeze in for the trip. All of it was very challenging.
Jones' team members were in a 2-1/2 ton truck that had an assortment of
all of the above, but the duffel bags we carried seemed to be the dominant
cargo. The bags were piled almost to the canvas cover from the bed
of the truck, leaving very little room for the 4 or 5 men that shared the
condition was typical of most of our men being transported in the rear
area of the trucks. The driver and 1 or 2 front seat passengers had
it only slightly better.
the windshields had been lowered as a precaution against possible air attacks,
the side curtains were removed. The wind and freezing rain made front
seat passengers possibly more miserable than those crowded into the rear.
the end of the first day of discontent and grumbling, we stopped just before
dark at a large park in Dijon where a field kitchen was setup in an unsuccessful
attempt to provide a hot meal during a cold drissle of sleet/rain.
instructions for the night were to find as much comfort as possible on
the wet, muddy grass areas of the park - but stay out and away from the
vehicles! There were some timid souls who did just that. There
were many more who under the cover of dark crowded back into the cramped
cargo spaces of the trucks and trailers.
Sunday, November 5, 1944
at 5:30, chow, tore down tents and got ready to go. We pulled out
about 7:30 a.m. with 25 vehicles in our convoy, headed obviously north.
We crossed the I.P. (Initial Point) at Aix at 8:45. A large town
with typical town square and statue in the circle. The day was sunny
and the fields green. We stopped the convoy every two hours and chow
break at noon. We had three days of "K" Rations with us. Next
towns were Orgon and Orange with its feudal castle on a high hill.
Next was the large walled town of Avignon and we are now following the
Rhone River north. There are mountains along the picturesque valley.
We rotated drivers every several hours. We made good time and reached
Valence toward dark. Just outside Valence we bivouacked for the night.
We made about 120 miles the first day.
next day we left before (or at) dawn along roads with white birch and autumn
leaf canopies. Land flat at Rhone River level with terraced hills
beyond. Through Tain and Annonay the convoy moved. More railroads
with larger engines pass by -- with funny 4 wheel cars. Hillside
towns with church steeples. People waved and seemed happy to see
us. A large steel bridge between Vienne and town across the Rhone
was partially destroyed. The small towns and mountains gave way to
the large industrial town of Lyons. There were modern electric busses
and a huge bombed-out railroad yard. We parted from the Rhone River
and picked up the Saone River, and up through Macon. Sarvage and
Chalon passed by with many boats in the river and a two car diesel train.
we got to the large town of Dijon, we bivouacked in the park, cold and
very tired. About 160 miles the second day. Our bivouac area
was very muddy.
November 7, 1944 was a long day driving through rain. Out of Dijon
on a wide boulevard through residential areas now. Evergreen trees
mingle with autumn-leaved trees. At St. Michel chimes on an old church
rang out the hour. Nearly everyone in this part of France wears wooden
shoes. Moving due north through Langres (walled with an entrance
gate). It sits above fertile valleys on a hill. Martagny Les
Baines is an old town and Darney a new one. Noticed beautiful French
cemeteries with stone arch crosses. Around 2 p.m. we got a flat tire
and I had to change it in the rain. Towards dark we crossed the Moselle
River and came to the town of Docelles where we pulled into a very muddy
area near some wrecked houses.
are said to be only 16 miles from the 7th Army Front. Combat soon.
Our trip from Marseilles to Docelles on Moselle was 475 miles.
cold and dined on "delicious" K Rations. Place surrounded by a sea
of mud and still raining -- Rain gear a must. I drew 210 rounds of
ammunition for my "grease gun" weapon.
radio President Roosevelt was reelected President.
a bad night cheered up with 10 in 1 Rations. Rain turned to sleet,
and snow. Tuned up the jeep and gassed it up.
by Capt. BECK got on the wrong route and jeeps went up and down convoy
at 60 m.p.h. trying to straighten it out. One of our 2½-ton
trucks hit a jeep and killed the driver. We finally got the route
straightened out and moved on -- minus our 399 radio truck. Now we
began to see the destruction -- towns of Lepanger, Laval, Bruyers and others
in bad shape. After about 15 miles, we reached our CP at dusk.
It was hill, muddy and curving roads -- also very wooded. Drove blackout
leading a 2½-ton truck on narrow, curving roads. Now enter
combat area with artillery firing all around us. To add to our troubles,
it started to snow. After several hours, we returned to the small
town of Docelles, just west of Colmar -- and Division C.P. A cheerful
fire was blazing and went to sleep freezing under the stars.
The Normandy armies driving
from the east and the 6th Army Group armies approaching up through the
Rhone valley joined forces on 1 September 1944. The problem of supplying
the massive amounts of war material to sustain the combined drive toward
the German boarder by the now combined forces even with the improved ports
on the Channel coast and the rapidly clearing facilities at Marseille contributed
to a slow down of the advance. Another major problem was that those
front line troops that had advanced from Normandy were suffering fatigue
and some loss of spirit. The same thing was happening to the forces
of the 7th Army even though they had been engaged for a much shorter time.
Eisenhower and his staff
reluctantly accepted a short period of rest and resupply, but it was obvious
that the Germans would also be able to use that respite to strengthen their
forces. The worsening weather and any unnecessary delay would favor
the German defenders. This situation applied for all sections of
the Allied front but it was of special concern in the 7th Army section
on the extreme right (southern edge) of the Allied front in the 7th Army
To the east of the 7th Army,
toward the Rhine river and the German border, were the lower Vosges Mountains,
the higher Vosges mountains and then a wide plain leading to the Rhine
river. It was expected that the Germans would use each of these physical
barriers to slow and/or stop the Allied advance until the winter
snows would close off the mountains, and the later spring runoffs would
make the rivers of the plains uncrossable.
The 103d Infantry Division
had been committed to action on 11 November 1944. The Alsace region
of eastern France in which the 103d division would now be operating was
no stranger to territorial conflict. Rule of the region had been
under dispute for centuries. Originally, the territory was neither
French nor German its ownership went back and forth....Germany annexed
much of the region by force, the French language was forbidden by law and
the men were conscripted into the German Army. But this episode,
too, ended in 1918 when France regained its lost province in the "Great
War." The German conquest of France in 1940 had turned the tables
again, as the region became part of Hitler's Reich. Finally, ownership
would be turned over once more in the fall of 1944 with the Allied liberation.
Alsace would again be French. *WWII
As might be expected, the
region was a paradoxical mixture of two cultures - although German was
the native tongue, with liberation that language was forbidden by law.
There was an unmistakable German feel to the region. Although they
were nominally French, there was an unmistakable Teutonic air about the
people. Even so, the largest city in the region was Strasbourg, and
although it was just across the Rhine River from Germany, it was a long-standing
symbol of French patriotism. *WWII
When the 103d division was
committed to action, the 7th Army and its divisions, 3rd, 36th, 45th, 100th,
103d and 14th armored were pushing forward as rapidly as possible.
The 36th had as one of its primary goals St. Die. When the 103d arrived
at Docelles, it was assigned the task of assisting the 36th in a drive
of St. Die. It was to seize the high ground southwest of St. Die, and then
drive into that large city.
Before the 103d Division
could become a strong force in the coordinated attack by the 6th Corps
in mid-November (the time at which the 103d division was committed to action),
it had to clear a two-mile wide, triangular-shaped wooded hill mass between
St. Die and the Taintrux valley. The 409th and 411th Infantry regiments
accomplished this mission during the period 16-18 November, while the 410th
guarded the division's left flank.*R-R
Early in November, Devers
had wanted to swing his 6th Army Group forces to the north towards Moselle
and Eisenhower had given a decision in favor of that drive with the provision
that Devers must not leave any Germans west of the Rhine and south of Strasbourg.
A secure base defense in this area was fundamental for containing any German
counter offensive - Eisenhower thought such an attack was possible. *IKEWAR
The 6th Army Group and 7TH
Army leaders, Lt.Generals Devers and Patch after the successes of the advance
since leaving the slow fighting of the Vosges, had been contemplating a
Rhine crossing by the 24th of November. Their plan was to put pressure
on the Germans by pressing them hard thus making it possible for the US
3rd Army just to the north to also rapidly advance into German territory.
Devers, Patch and Haislip,
XV Corps commanders were certain that the XV Corps--in position on the
northern edge of the 7th Army front, adjacent to Patton's 3rd Army, could
seize a bridgehead in the Ratatt area with relative ease and that the VI
Corps would be ready to exploit northward through that bridgehead, thereby
out-flanking the German fortifications west of the Rhine. Devers
was also confident-- mistakenly as it turned out--that the First French
Army, with the aid of one or two 7th Army divisions, would make short work
of the battered German Army in the Colmar Pocket. At the time neither
he nor his staff appears to have been aware of Hitler's determination to
hold on to lower Alsace. *R-R
7th Army Amphibious truck
companies were already moving eastward to aid in the river crossing.
This perhaps overly ambitious
plan was about to be changed. Eisenhower and his SHAEF staff knew
that it was not going to be possible to advance on a broad front into Germany,
which was his basic plan, at any time before the end of the year 1944.
The problems of getting supplies to the advancing troops had become one
limiting factor. The other was the unavailability of trained fighting men
to replace the casualties that had occurred in the fierce fighting since
the Landings at Normandy and Southern France.
Eisenhower and Bradley
began a tour of the southern front to assess the condition of the leadership,
the morale and fitness of the troops, and the tactical situations as understood
by the local commanders. They visited Patton's 3rd Army HQ at Nancy and
they judged that Patton was in trouble. In spite of the fact that
Patton's troops could "beg, borrow or steal" supplies to keep their bold
forces moving, there just was not enough to sustain an aggressive drive
and the weather was becoming less favorable. There were stops at
Luneville to meet with Devers and Patch, and then Sarrebourg (the XVth
Corps command and Brooks' VI Corps at St. Die and finally the French Army
still further south.
was that plans to cross the Rhine any time soon were to be abandoned. Generals
Devers and Patch strongly argued for their plans. They were convinced
that the successes in the 7th Army area should be exploited with a strong
drive into Germany by the combined 3rd and 7th Armies.
Eisenhower insisted the
French eliminate the German 19th Army elements in a strong defensive pocket
at Colmar before the 7th Army pushed to the north. Devers, for some reason,
believed the German 19th Army had ceased to exist and was not a threat
to his forces. He let the French Army form into two columns for a
competitive attack to liberate Strasbourg instead of using the French against
the serious German threat at Colmar. The German forces in the Colmar
Pocket were not eliminated. They were later strengthened and exerted an
adverse impact on the Allied operations until eliminated at Eisenhower's
strong insistence 3 months later. *IKEWAR
Eisenhower held to his policy
that called for destroying all German forces west of the Rhine, from the
Netherlands south to the Swiss border, before initiating any major operations
east of the Rhine River. His operational concept also dictated that
the main Allied effort pushing toward and into Germany would take place
in the north. *R-R
- Friday, November 24, 1944 - St. Die
our weapons carrier radio equipment to move. We left La Pecherie
late afternoon and up steep roads deeper into the Vosges. Went past
completely leveled and burned St. Die. Around the ruins were green
hills, beautifully wooded.
are many signs of a hasty German retreat. Near dusk we finally got
to Provencheres in Alsace-Lorraine. The town was just captured this
morning and is fairly intact. We set up in a textile factory, so
I got some cotton to make a mattress and slept on the floor.
before leaving La Pechere today, General Eisenhower drove by with Lt. General
Patch in a long convoy. I saluted "Ike".
was clearly upset over the results of the meeting with Ike and Bradley.
Devers thought Eisenhower should reinforce success--that is, the 7th Army's
breakthrough to the Rhine, and that Eisenhower was more concerned
with territorial objectives than with destroying the enemy.
November 26th SHAEF decision was still in dispute 30-50 years later. *R-R
commander of the VIth Corps expected the 103d to clear the west bank of
the Meurthe River opposite Saulacy and St Leonard, before the 20th.
By 26th November, the leading elements of the 103d were in Ville, just
5 miles short of the Alsatian plains. *R-R
Donovan P. Yeuell, the 411th Regimental Commander, usually set up the regimental
advance CP at the advance CP of one of his battalions. This in turn
was usually with the CP of one of the infantry companies. Yeuell
liked to be close to the action so he could assess the situation and make
prompt first-hand decisions so the place to look for him was the 411th
Regimental Advance CP or some place forward of that.
ten days time, the 411th Infantry Regiment attacked through Combrimont,
passed quickly through the 409th's sector at Frapelle and Provencheres
and, in a rapid advance, attacked Steige and Maisonsgoutte.
November 25th, the 411th Infantry Regiment had captured Maisonsgoutte.
Col. Donovan P.Yeuell was credited with the capture of two prisoners as
he accompanied the lead infantry platoon into the town.
fast moving situations like this, our radio was almost Col. Yeuell's only
contact with Division Headquarters. Wherever he went, we went and
it was becoming clear that he would spend a lot of time in dangerous places
-- so much for the nice, comfortable, safe sound of assignment to 411th
411th advance Command Post (CP) moved into a building facing the German
positions. The building entrance was at street level, but the building
was dug into the mountainside and extended out to the rear so the ground
floor in front was the second story in the rear. the rear exit was a story
lower. There was an outhouse behind the building.
CP was at street level, and our radio crew was sleeping in the rear of
the same floor.
dawn, 411th infantrymen who had slept in most of the other buildings in
town had fallen out into the street and were preparing to move out against
the Krauts. Then all hell broke loose. The CP came under heavy
enemy artillery fire that threatened to destroy it. The very first
few rounds landed outside the CP building directly under the heavily shuttered
downstairs windows in the rear of the building.
second and third round came in very close to the point of impact of the
first and then rounds came in all up and down the street. The infantrymen
were caught by surprise and there were more than fifty casualties within
a few yards of the CP.
emergency Battalion Aid Station was quickly set up in one room of the CP
at street level.
risked a look out through the shutters and shouted, " Hey, there are wounded
down there." I ran down the stairs to the lower level at the rear
of the building and saw an unconscious G.I. lying on the ground.
I crawled out and dragged him back inside. There was no visible sign
of a wound. As soon as I got him inside the building I got my shoulder
under him and carried him up to street level where the aid station was
being set up.
I went out for him I thought that I heard someone else crying for help
so I went back down to the rear exit. There was another infantryman
there at the door. He said that he was looking for his buddy who
had brought a German prisoner down to the outhouse and had not returned
I told them
that his buddy was wounded but that I had gotten him up to the battalion
first artillery shell that had wounded his buddy had hit directly behind
the outhouse and had blown the German prisoner out of it. He was
sitting on the ground crying,"Mama, Mama," We ran out to get him.
The other G.I. grabbed his shoulder and I grabbed his feet. He was seriously
wounded and one of his legs pulled right out of his pants. We managed
to get him into the building and up to the aid station but he didn't make
it. He was too severely injured. The American soldier that
I brought in did survive. His wounds were serious, too, but they
got to them quickly enough to save his life.
infantryman, a private named Edward Holt, acted on his own initiative to
locate the enemy artillery battery. He got so close that he had to
call in fire from our artillery right on his own position in order to knock
out the German artillery. For his heroic actions he received the
Distinguished Service Cross.
Sunday, November 26, 1944
mass at the village church, with large statue of Joan of Arc -- by a Division
artillery chaplain. Took a shift on radio net and very ill with flu
November 27, 1944 - Reeling with flu, but time to move on today, after
drawing new rations. We moved out at noon. Climbing higher
and higher into the mountains, passing through Colmay Le Grande and Lubine.
Very swift-flowing mountain streams. Got to Fouche past several cleared
town was heavily shelled last night and this morning by German artillery
and mortars. Bargained with a Frenchman for half of his house and
laid the 28 line to the switchboard -- and several long overheads.
Newly-captured Nazis (many quite young) marched up the road. Saw
B-17 formation overhead headed for Germany with vapor trails behind in
a clear sky (impressive!). Slept in basement, after K Rations with
German jelly. Owner is very hospitable.
November 28, 1944 - Fouche - The radio team with the Task Force returned
with lots to tell. Hills sprinkled with autumn trees and evergreens.
Green meadows slope to rushing streams. Fouche is draped with French
flags. But some signs in German in this disputed land. Long
hike at night and a warm meal.
the next day or so we rejoined the Division CP at La Pecherie for a fine
Thanksgiving dinner and our first 88 show. Much later, I was to find
that also on that very day my brother was in Le Souche (about 8 miles south
of La Pecherie) getting shot up in pretty good fashion. By the time
I found out he had been in the 36th Division (Christmas time), he was well
on his way home.
were not long with the Division CP nor did we act as NCS (Net Control Station)
very long. When pulling out of the bivouac area, headed for rear
echelon (Epinal) to have our set checked over, Boitos met us at the exit
road, gave us a little sketched map and redirected us to La Bourgance to
join up with the Division Advance CP. Interesting happening here
- late on that dark, rainy, quiet evening I received a call requesting
a signal strength check, presumably from the NCS who had taken our place
at the Division CP. My response to this was a 5 x 5 rating of readability
and signal strength, (his signal was perfect). His response to this
transmission indicated my signal strength as very poor and zero readability,
and a request for more V's. After about the second or third request
for V's I began to become uneasy and justifiably so, I thought, as a new
sound pierced the atmosphere. Whoosh - thud, whoosh - thud.
'Tho I had never heard them in actuality before, it certainly did sound
like incoming mortars as depicted in some of those war movies I'd seen.
hyper-imagination told me that if the Krauts had jammed our frequency,
they could be crafty enough to use a direction-finder on us. A quick
call to rear echelon for a signal and readability check received a 5 x
5 response (perfect), so when NCS called for another series of V's (though
I really wanted to send QQQ)
conjured up the proper Q signals to tell him that rear echelon would act
as relay. By this time, incidentally, I was lying on the bed of the truck,
trying to slither down through the cracks.
platoon and squad was leading the attack through the woods and they
were being held up by a machine gun emplacement. One of the First
Scouts of the platoon knocked it out with a grenade and rifle fire. He
was recommended for a bronze star but he was killed a short time later.
our squad moved into the action, there was a machine gun nest that was
holding us up and creating a lot of confusion and scaring some of the men
into inaction. I had learned, early on, that the faster you moved
around and didn't stay in one place, the better off you were. So,
I was moving from place to place and was able to shoot the machine gunner.
He rolled down the hill and almost into me - I noticed that he was about
15 years old. His young age didn't bother me, at the moment, but
over the years it has disturbed me.
saw a German behind a tree who was shooting at men to my left and getting
some pretty good hits. I took a shot at him and missed. He shot at
me, the bullet hit the edge of the tree and ricochet off instead of going
through. Eventually, I was able to shoot him and I moved on forward.
He was an officer, I took a pistol and a leather-bound notebook from his
body, before moving on.
was another German off to the side, behind some stacked wood, shooting
very effectively at the first platoon of C company, I shot him from my
the firing ceased, since I was out in front, I stayed in place until the
rest of the company came up. As the result of that action, I received
the bronze star metal, the first one in the 411th Regiment, presented by
First Scout, who wiped out that first machine gun nest, as we came up that
goat trail, got his bronze star posthumously. In this action, he
was in the platoon to our left and was killed by rifle fire, possibly by
the soldier in the wood pile.
Wednesday, November 29, 1944 - St. Martin
out with one of the radio teams. Into town of St. Martin where some
of radio was set up in a rich mansion. Most were in town, so we set
up in a tavern (much better!). But confusion reigned. We were
"kicked out" of there, so back to the mansion - 3rd floor. Helped
lay 28 line to message center in town. Slept in the hay loft after
a chicken dinner.
November 30, 1944 - Four letters from home raised the morale. A bath
in the mansion felt great. Cleaned out our radio truck and ran the
jeep with equipment between the 399 and Radio Repair. The hills are
terraced and cultivated around here.
409th Regiment had fought out of the Vosges mountains and into Ville on
November 25 and another regiment had pushed through the heavily defended
VIth Corps turned some of it components to the north, but the 103d's next
objectives were to be LeHohwald and Barr. The 411th reached LeHohwald
on the 27th. On the 29th the 411th cleared Barr. The rest of
the 103d moved to Dambach-la-ville (5 miles north of Selestat) by the 30th.*R-R
411th slugged its way slowly through a succession of small villages. St.Martin,
Le Hohwald, Andlau, and Eichoffen. The advance CP was set up in a
building near Le Hohwald.
Every radio truck carried a reel of "Spiral-4" cable. We had no idea what
it was intended for but we quickly found a good use for it. We rigged
up a way to run this cable out to a safe place like the cellar of a building
and used the several insulated conductors in the cable to hear our receiver,
turn the transmitter on and off, and send messages over the transmitter,
all by remote control.
had a heavy duty battery on the truck to handle the radio gear as well
as the electrical equipment of the truck, lights, ignition, etc., but we
had to be careful not to run the battery down. This meant that in
situations where remote control was definitely called for, we still had
to go out to the truck periodically and run the engine for a while to recharge
the battery. The other side of the coin was that we could not just
let our engine run indefinitely without risking running out of gas at an
ran into no more opposition on this drive toward Barr, until we came down
out of the hills into Maisonsgoutte. We surprised some Germans in the town.
Some of them surprised a few of us - there were a few casualties. At the
far edge of town, we set up a road block by occupying buildings on both
sides of the road.
Hansen, now recovering from diarrhea, found a wash area in one of the buildings,
and was finally able to wash his long johns. His skin was very irritated
- he had no medication.
the morning, when our units started to move out of the town, we came under
an artillery attack by German 88mm guns. We had a number of casualties,
until Sergeant Pahulski of our platoon led a patrol to silence the 88's
on the mountain above the town. He received a Bronze Star for his effort
our combat during this time, captured villages and incidents seem to run
together. we were always tired, cold and hungry. Often during the long
nights, I would go to sleep leaning on my rifle, too tired to get up and
down each time we stopped.
"used up" GI said, "We were loaded and had to drag it all up the slippery
slopes, through the brush and down the ravines. We carried our rifle, a
belt of ammo and three bandoliers, a grenade launcher, maybe three AT grenades,
and three or more hand grenades.
we packed our raincoat, our sleeping-bag if we still carried it, our shovel
and our rations. The grenades were dangled from our bandolier or rifle
straps, stashed in a jacket pocket or else hung from our pocket by jamming
the grenade handle through a buttonhole. The four jacket pockets were the
infantryman's warehouse. There was always room for one more thing. We were
always going to clean them out when we got time but we never got time.
There was still stuff in them from Marseilles. With jacket crisscrossed
by our rifle belt and the bandolier straps we bulged like Mae West on top
and flared out like her at the hips. As we ate our way through our rations,
we would save out the cigarettes and the matches, the candy, the sugar,
the chewing gum and the toilet paper.
toilet paper we would cram into the shock band of our helmet liner, but
everything else would go into the jacket pockets. At first we experimented
with a filing system - cigarettes and matches in the right breast pocket,
gum and sugar in the left. But when we would find a strap pinning the pocket
shut, we used another pocket. So we would end up with a conglomeration
worse than the contents of a woman's handbag in each pocket."
PULSIFER - 411th INFANTRY (INTERVIEW AT A 103D REUNION)
was very early in our first action. We were down out of the Vosges
mountains and onto the more open terrain of fields, pastures, small rivers,
and little villages. Our company had crossed a small river and were
advancing down a country road when we came under an intensive mortar attack.
One of the first bursts was in the trees very close to me. Right next to
us was a cemetery. When I got hit, they wouldn't have far to take me."
was your very first thought, if this was really a bad event?)
it did come to my mind in the very first moments - a response to the shock
was hit in several places by the shrapnel; inside my mouth, outside my
nose, in my back, in my leg, had a hole through my ankle and a busted arm."
that was some kind of being hit, wasn't it?)
but some of the other guys were also in bad shape and worse - I think at
least one boy died."
they have a good procedure for evacuating you fellows, or even recognizing
that you had been hit. This was very early in the experience for all of
you, even the medics?)
situation was not good. I couldn't get up and move. Some of the others
were in the same condition. Evidently most of the men had pulled out, and
a couple of our guys had been killed immediately."
was probably better to get hit early in the war before you went through
all of the blood, sweat, and tears of the plodding campaign?)
don't know, it was no picnic getting hit - if I had to get it, I am glad
I got it early. We laid there until dark, some medics and other men came
up and stayed with us."
worked all night putting a rope-bridge crossed the river, and in the morning,
they started to move us back. All that had gone before was bad enough,
but when they were working back across the trembling bridge, they dropped
me in the water!"
down under the water and then came back up to the surface and grabbed the
bridge with the arm that wasn't busted. They couldn't get me back
up and onto the stretcher, so they drug me across and out of the river
and through the muddy bank on my stomach, and then put my soaking body
on the stretcher."
needed more first aid after you crossed the river than you did before you
was happy to just get-the-hell out of there!" I think the aid station
was fairly close to the river. They did some hasty repairs and then
began to move me back with a lot of the other guys from that action and
others that had taken place during the night."
ended up in Paris and, after a period of treatment and operations, crossed
the English Channel for a stay in a recuperation hospital.
sailed home on the 'Queen Elizabeth' that had been turned into a hospital
ship. That was in February of 1945, several months after I had been hit."
had happened to your buddies after you were taken out of action?)
didn't know what had happened to the guys in the units until the reunion
in Springfield, Illinois a few years ago. I found the Medic who came
up and took care of us and the guy who came up and stayed with us through
you seen any of the guys from your squad or platoon?)
saw some of them. A lot of them were killed in the war or had died in the
have you been getting along since the war?
am O.K., doing good, I still have a black marks on that leg from the shrapnel
- a couple of pieces they don't even know about. It has been 48 years."
Signal Company personnel had been
spread out over a wide area providing communications service. The
division along with the other elements of the 6th Corp had moved further
out into the broad plain where the enemy as well as our forces had been
able to fight a more mobile war and where villages and small cities had
been defended as prepared strong points. The Germans were not particularly
concerned that the structures and the areas they chose to defend and some
of the villages and other populated areas had been heavily damaged when
defensive strongholds were set up in a populated complex.
The local Alsace folks
seemed to move out of the way of the conflict as it passed them by, and
then returned to their farms and homes to assess the damage. They
also were making judgements about the "staying power" of these new, semi-skilled
warriors. The limited, but very kind, treatment we received seemed
to indicate that we and they had found friends and supporters.
On 1 December the 103d Division
was driving east northeast, pushing the Germans back.
However, resistance was
tougher - the German supply lines had been shortened. They had made good
use of the inevitable delays in the Allied advance to construct strong
points of resistance. They had a civilian population that was more-or-less
The Allied forces, including
the 103d division, while not overwhelming, were certainly formidable. The
French had captured Strausbourg on 25 November. Selestat, on the plains
southwest of Strausbourg, was heavily defended by the Germans. The
103d division was driving eastward toward Selestat, the 36th division was
pushing north east toward that same strong point.
The Germans were putting
up a determined defense and 409th regiment B company and elements of the
36th Infantry division had fought into Selestat and were cut off and almost
completely wiped out. Brigadier General Pierce was in charge of the
task force and therefore the rescue effort while most of the division had
made a motor-march toward Gougenheim in the northeast of Alsace.
On 4 December, Selestat
had been taken after a series of hard fought actions, the 103d was relieved
by the 36th and the detached forces moved northward to Gougenheim.
In the French First Army
area, on 5 December the large city of Colmar and the surrounding area west
of the Rhine river was occupied by the Germans. These strong German forces,
on the right flank of the 7th Army and the 6th Army Group were a direct
threat to the Allied forces moving past them to the north toward the Rhine
river and the German border. SHAEF and General Eisenhower found this situation
intolerable. Despite assurances from Generals Devers and Patch that the
French would drive the Germans out, they never did until the final days
of the war.
The US 7th Army was instructed
to move northward to assist the US 3rd Army in an assault across the Rhine
rive at Manheim. This closed off the possibilities of a drive through Strasbourg
and into the heart of Germany.
I was a master sergeant, NCO in charge of the Construction Section, assisted
by Tech. Sgt. Frazier. I spent most of my time at the front with
two or three wireteams, I moved about in a jeep and on foot. The
lieutenant in charge of the section spent most of his time at the division
one time, we took over a German basement of a three story building as our
living space since it only had two doors and small windows at the street
level. It should have provided adequate protection from German fire.
only commode in the building was down there with us. Here comes MARVIN
ELLIS down the hall by the stored potatoes and salted down fresh eggs,
and going 'full spead ahead' with his pants around his ankles. The Krauts
had put a 88 through the window and shattered the commode he was sitting
on. The shell did not explode, the commode did, and Ellis thought he might!
shooting finally stopped. I had 580 rotation points, so I came back to
France to fly home and be discharged. I finally came back by ship two months
after most of the other men of the division had been discharged.
THE 103D "CACTUS"
DIVISION IN EUROPE
COMMAND AND STAFF
20 Oct 44
Maj. Gen. Charles C. Haffner, Jr.
11 Jan 45
Maj. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe
20 Oct 44
Brig. Gen. John T. Pierce
20 Oct 44
Brig. Gen. Roger M. Wicks
20 Oct 44
Col. Guy S. Meloy, Jr.
Chief of Staff G-1
20 Oct 44
Maj. Walter E. Winter
20 Nov 44
Lt. Col. Charles A. Robinson
Chief of Staff G-2
20 Oct 44
Maj. Bland West
Chief of Staff G-3
20 Oct 44
Lt. Col. Russel R. Lord
13 Dec 44
Maj. Richard C. Thomas
16 Feb 45
Lt. Co. Richard C. Thomas
Chief of Staff G-4
20 Oct 44
Maj. Robert E. Myers
16 Dec 44
Lt. Col. Robert E. Myers
Chief of Staff G-5
10 Nov 44
Maj. Shelden D. Elliott
20 Oct 44
Lt. Co. Alfred W. Croll
Officer, 409th Infantry
20 Oct 44
Col. Claudius L. Lloyd
19 Apr 45
Lt. Co. Hubert E. Strange
Officer, 410th Infantry
20 Oct 44
Col. Henry J. P. Harding
Officer, 411th Infantry
20 Oct 44
Col. Donovan P. Yeuell
Activated 15 November 1942
Arrived ETO 20 October 1944
Arrived Continent 20 October 1944
…First Elements 9 November 1944
…Entire Division 11 November 1944
D-Day for Southern
France - 15 August 1944
Battle Casualties 4,543
Non-Battle Casualties 4,826
Total Casualties 9,369
Percent of T/O Strength 66.5
Distinguished Service Cross 6
Legion of Merit 7
Silver Star 291
Soldiers Medal 12
Bronze Star 2,087
Air Medal 92
Prisoners of War Taken 57,517
103d Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized)
328th Engineer Combat Battalion
328th Medical Battalion
103d Division Artillery
382d Field Artillery Battalion
383d Field Artillery Battalion
928th Field Artillery Battalion
384th Field Artillery Battalion
803d Ordnance Light Maintenance
103d Quartermaster Company
103d Signal Company
Military Police Platoon
AND ATTACHMENT TO HIGHER UNITS
(-) Indicates relieved from
site is still under construction.
us out from time to time.