Veterans Day-WWII MEMORIES and Vintage Photos

The Crew, England, WWII

My Dad served in the Army following Pearl Harbor. As a Colorado School of Mines Engineering student who already had an Associate’s degree from Kemper Military School, he served in the 373d Engineer G.S. Regiment, Company D. He was drafted when he was 21, in 1943 and discharged as a Sergeant, 68 points, on November 10, 1945. He served 35 months.  The photo’s are from his service years.  He never talked much about the war, but we have a lot of war memorabilia.

When asked about WWII, Dad said “Sheer luxury in the army was a cigarette, we each got 4 in our k rations, a cup of coffee, a book, and time to enjoy them.”

His mother, my grandmother, was a WWI Army Nurse, and my mother’s two brothers served in the Korean Conflict. Genealogical research shows that a distant ancestor on my Mother’s side was Robert E. Lee. In honor of Veteran’s Day, and all of those brave men and women who served with valor, I thought I would write about my Dad’s military service.

Dad received the following awards; Good Conduct medal, Europe-Africa-Middle East medal with 3 stars, Battle Star-Campaign Rhineland, Battle Star-Campaign Northern France, Battle Star-Campaign Central Europe, Army of Occupation Germany Medal, American Theatre Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Meritorious Service Unit Wreath, and 3 Overseas Stripes.

I wrote and self-published my dad’s autobiography before he passed away. An abbreviated version of his service in WWII is below.

ENGLAND

We worked on the construction of a 1250 man camp from November 26 to December 20th, 1943 to GateAcre Hall, North Wales. We worked on the construction of a 500-man disciplinary camp from December 20, 1943-January 15, 1944. At Hawkstone Park. From January 15-March 11, 1944 we worked on drainage and bridges and culverts with “D” company, 2nd Battalion on the Bristol Channel East of Barry, Glamorganshire, Wales.

On March 12, 1944 we went to Clytha Hall, Monmouthshire and received training in demolition, explosives, booby traps, bridge, railroad, and dock construction, camouflage, bailey bridge construction, weapons, field fortifications, heavy rigging and road construction until April 15, 1944.

We were in Plan Overlord in South Wales at the Barry Golf Course camp, April 15-June 7, 1944, marshalling for “D” day. We travelled to St. Donats Castle, near Barry. The castle owner was William Randolph Hearst.

June 6, 1944-D-Day: We had marshalled out the 2nd Division and parts of the 90th division and watched at night of the 5th all of the aircraft gathering above. The infantry was gone. We listened to radio reports of the invasion and prepared to move out.

We were in training from June 7th to July 13, 1944. We were in Bournemouth in Dorset in preparation for embarkation to France from July 13-July 21, 1944. On July 21, 1944 embarkation to France was cancelled.

We spent 35 days building floating concrete docks to float across the English Channel then sink for breakwaters at Tilbury Docks on the north bank of the Thames in Purfleet, Essex.  While we were there we received an overnight pass to London. The V-1’s (the German flying buzz bombs) were bombing London. We were inside the defensive perimeter of barrage balloons, anti-aircraft guns or pilot wing tipping, getting the bomb. It was going to hit the London area. They would flash the warning on the movie screen. We were in our British tent in a quarry when one came overhead and lit up the tent and we hit the slit trenches around the tent. When the motor cut off, it came down.

Army photo, WWII

August 24-26: We traveled to Chandlers Ford Camp 4 in South Hampton and boarded the Leopoldville for UTAH Beach, France. There was one line of ships going to France and one line of ships coming back to England.

FRANCE-August 28, 1944-April 28, 1945.

September 5, 1944-September 17, 1944: We were in Morlaix, which is 53 kilometers northeast of Brest, which is North of Ramzy. We worked on improving gas and petroleum supply, cleared the beach, and helped construct a POW camp while we waited for Brest to fall. We slept in pup tents. I turned 22.

September 17-19, 1944: We journeyed from Morlaix to Le Havre. We were the first American troops to enter Le Havre. It was well mined with sniping still going on and fires still burning.

September 19, 1944-April 28, 1945: We cleared the beach of mines, sunken barges, obstacles were removed, fortifications demolished. We cleared and rebuilt streets and constructed and repaired old bridges. We repaired gantry cranes, docks, quays, and the harbor. We built Phillip Morris cigarette camps. We basically restored Le Havre to an operating port. We provided lightning for the port area, water for ships. The city was 70% destroyed and the port was 100% destroyed. The port handled more tonnage at the end than it had handled before the war. We repaired transatlantic cable. We also worked on the White Ball Highway 500 to 900 miles under the supervision of the 373d.

I received a pass to Paris for one day. I went to bars and found an American café to eat in. I talked with a few other allied soldiers and watched the civilians. I went just to get out of Le Havre.

Germany, April 28, 1945-June 15, 1945

April 28: We traveled to Andernach on the west bank of the Rhine River between Bonn and Coblenz. Our mission was to contruct two 50,000 man Prisoner of War Tented Enclosure camps, one at Urmitz and the other at Andernach. We also constructed the Neuwied bridge across the Rhine.

Germany surrendered May 8, 1945.

I did get one pass to Coblenz. I walked around Coblenz. They had cleaned the rubble and bricks up enough so you could walk on the streets. Nothing was open, not may bars. I got out of Andernach.

June 15-July 1, 1945: We went to St. Valerie, near Le Havre by train on boxcars. It was “40 men or 8 horses” French train. We went to Camp Lucky Strick.

July 1, 1945: We traveled on the Sea Tiger, a C-3 cargo ship converted to a troop ship from St. Valerie to the USA. The passage took 10 days.

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Comments

  1. Melanie says:

    Fantastic to hear all about this and the amount of detail you have managed to put in. Amazing to think he achieved all this at only 22! They were the real heroes.

    1. margaretstaab says:

      Yes, they were the real heroes. Including his first cousin, your Uncle Willie, from England who gave his life in service to his country. Even though my Dad isn’t here on earth, he is always with me in my heart. Thanks for writing, Melanie.

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