A History of the 526
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The Hays Family Tree
In so far as events and dates occurring before the 9th day of June 1944 are concerned, accuracy and detail must necessarily be sacrificed in order to produce this history. On the date mentioned, all records, both historical and administrative, at that time in possession of the company were lost in a disaster which occurred in the English Channel, the details of which will be covered later in this same document. From such records as may be available and from questioning of men who were present with the organization during the period prior to the channel disaster a fairly accurate presentation of the facts has been obtained as set forth herein. All dates represented are correct and in instances where it has been impossible to determine the exact date, the date is not given.
|The company was activated on the 25th July, 1942 at Camp Bowie, Texas with a cadre taken from the 115th Ord. MM. Co.; cadre consisting of one (1) officer, 2nt Lt. Huell E. Hutchinson, and thirty (30) enlisted men.|
|The remaining six months of the year were spent in accomplishing administrative duties incident to the keeping together of an organization of one officer and thirty enlisted men and in worrying about the maintenance of a motor pool of five vehicles. The organization grew very little during this period, the chief growth being the addition of a full compliment of officers. On Sept. 1, 1942, 2nd Lt. Huell E. Hutchinson, commanding officer was promoted to 1st Lt.. In Nov. 1, 1942, Capt.. F.F. Poppenburg was assigned to the company as commanding officer and remained with the company for a period of nearly two years.|
|During December of 1942 and January of 1943 the company was filled to T/O strength of enlisted men and commenced the business of training for the job to be done at some time in the future. The men attended service schools of the various types from clerical to mechanical located in all parts of the country, designed to mold the organization into what we of the organization feel was one of the finest Ordnance companies in the Army. Until late summer of 1943 men and officers continued to go to schools, to perform the inspections which we later came to regard as routine work but which at the time were regarded as assignment of opportunity and interest, which in fact they were. The men of the command had adequate opportunity to go on furlough several times and without exception, all men took advantage of one or more of these opportunities.|
|We homesteaded the place. From activation until departure for POE the company never left Camp Bowie. Primary mission during this period was the maintenance and service of the 6th Tank Group and its three (3) Tank Battalions.|
|Late in November the company departed Camp Bowie for duty overseas. Processing was done at Camp Shanks, N.Y. for the POE. Destination we later discovered was England.|
|Entering England by rail after disembarking at Firth of Clyde, Scotland, December 11, 1943, we proceeded at once to Letcombe Regis, Berkshire where the company entrenched itself firmly in a sprawling series of horse stables. Christmas dinner here, not bad either; we had turkey with trimmings. Here also we became accustomed to the dark English nights that settle so early, the fog, the fuel shortage, the pubs of warm beer, the blackout. Among the adult villagers we made friends, dispensed good will, among the children we made friends, dispensed gum.|
|December 28th was the last day at Letcombe Regis. The company moved to a place called Grimsditch Camp, 6 miles south of Salisbury in Wiltshire. Here we finished the business which we had begun a week or two earlier of drawing our equipment.|
|Among the first official papers we received after arrival in England was one assigning us to First United States Army which assignment remained in effect throughout the war in Europe. The company again was furloughed, to various places in the United Kingdom and the men were given frequent passes to Salisbury and to Bourmemouth on the southern coast of England.|
We commenced the regular and systematic contacting of organizations for which we were designated their source of maintenance. It was valuable experience and later, during the campaign, paid off in the form of close cooperation when we supplied service to those same units with which we had become acquainted in England. The most noteworthy accomplishment during this period was the equipping of the 103rd AAA Battalion with a special sight designed and perfected by Lt. Col. Pecca. Our service section worked night and day for an extended period during this operation manufacturing and assembling the sight to the satisfaction of all concerned. At this time the company was attached to the 6th Ordnance Battalion.
Chief personal concern of the men, it would seem, was the procuring of fresh eggs. We practically became egg worshipers after prolonged exposure to this powdered stuff the Army puts out. (Apologies to such kitchen personnel reading this as might pride themselves on their special recipe for treatment of the powdered variety.)
The impending invasion about this time became progressively a more and more important topic for a drop-of-the-hat discussion. In this company as everywhere, anxiety as to when and speculation as to where were in evidence.
About the middle of March we were joined by a detachment of ten (10) and a technical truck from the 175th Signal Repair Company which remained with us until after the war in Europe.
The first long move made by the organization was made on March 31, 1944 to a secret training area located Slapton Ley and Torcross, beach towns in Southern Devonshire. Coincident with this move and at about the same date was a transfer to the 177th Ordnance Battalion. We established ourselves in a large mansion on a country estate known as Widdecombe House, one mile from Torcross. The mansion was large enough to accommodate all but a small portion of the company and housed both and C.P. for the next month and a half until feverish preparation for the big show engaged in service and maintenance of secret equipment in the hands of troops in training.
About this time definite information was given us as to the part which we would play in the invasion in Europe, and accordingly we set about organizing the company into two parts, the first to be known as Detachment "A", and the second as Detachment "B".
Det. 'A' was to be composed of five officers and 100 enlisted men, plus the Signal Detachment was with us. The detachment was to land with V-Corps assault force taking with it all technical truck and supply parts and equipment including combat vehicle replacements sufficient to last until being joined by Det. 'B' several days later.
Organized on this basis, Det. 'A' left Widdecombe House the 16th of May for the marshaling area where final preparations were completed during the ensuing 15 days before loading aboard ship. Loading was accomplished June 1st from the southern tip of England and the vessel, a Landing Ship Tank, then proceeded to a quiet harbor where we awaited what was to come.
June 6th found us wallowing in the channel in company with a lot of other vessels of all descriptions stretching ahead and behind as far as you could see. News of the big event reached us and spread like fire but we had to wait for particulars regarding the progress of the beachhead. Arriving off of the shore of the Normandy coast the evening of the 6th we sweated and waited all that night, all day the seventh and about the midnight of the seventh commenced loading the equipment into landing barges. landing with the first barge load during the night. The need for other types of troops was evidently a little greater than for Ordnance at that stage so the remainder of the company waited all day June 8th before making the landing the night of the eight. Intense concentration of anti-aircraft rendered quite ineffective all attempts by the enemy to offer resistance. The shower of anti-aircraft tracers sent into the sky toward the enemy night raiding planes reminded the writer of salt and pepper. A remarkable spectacle, a most intense concentration--it was worth seeing and will be remembered a long time.
Those landing with the second barge soon located the first group to land and after completing de-waterproofing operations, the detachment proceeded to a location that had been selected as the site for our first shop. Omaha Beach was behind us.
Ordnance operations were commenced June 9th and we soon found that with the great quantity of wrecked and disabled equipment at our disposal, many repairs were effected by cannibalization, particularly on armored equipment since the beach was littered with it.
Ordnance service was dispensed freely to anyone and everyone looking for it. The service section was kept particularly busy producing parts which were not in the stock of emergency supplies which we had brought with us or which had since been used up.
The first Ordnance ashore equipped for repair of combat vehicles, we had more than enough work to match the best efforts of a superman. The men worked hard accomplishing an unbelievably great volume of work. It was common to have crews working far into the night or all night wherever blackout conditions would permit.
The morning of June 10th the area was visited by the Army Ordnance Officer who informed us that the entire Detachment 'B' had been lost at sea and that we should proceed accordingly and requisition replacements on that basis, both men and equipment.
It became evident the following morning that the information reaching us with regard to the channel disaster was in error. Detachment 'B' had been split further into two parts and loaded onto two vessels, only one of which had been torpedoed. Part of the detachment had landed the evening of the 10th and rejoined Detachment 'A' June 11th amid considerable rejoicing.
At this point I digress to record the activities of Detachment 'B' from the time of the departure of Detachment 'A' for the marshaling area. On June 6th, having spent the intervening 20 days in stocking a greater supply of parts and preparing the number of combat vehicle replacements for the landing by making mechanical repairs and accomplishing the necessary waterproofing, the detachment departed for the marshaling area and on the morning of the 8th loaded aboard two vessels (Landing Ship Tanks) for the crossing.
Disaster struck at 0300 hours 9 June when one of the vessels was struck by a torpedo believed to have been launched by a German 'E' Boat. Two officers and eleven enlisted men were rescued by a British destroyer and returned to England. Twenty-seven (27) enlisted men perished at sea. (Appendix # 1)
Two days after being joined by those of Detachment 'B' who made the landing, the company moved the shop to a location which was to be home until after the big breakthrough at St. Lo some weeks later. It was a rather muddy, musty place identified on the map by a patch of green and designated as "Foret de Cerrisy". In Cerrisy Forrest we received personnel replacements which restored us to T/O strength. We were still short the equipment lost in the channel sinking.
From the time of the landing until moving to Cerrisy Forrest only one man had been wounded as a result of enemy action.. T/5 John MacDonald was wounded in the neck by a sniper while returning from a contact party. He was hospitalized.
Life in the Forrest was quite routine and no great amount of repair work was required for a number of weeks while troops continued to pour ashore and the army was built up in preparation for the subsequent breakthrough at St. Lo late in July. Interest was supplied by such incidents as our salvage disposal export, bespectacled T/5 Aaron 'Moe' Landres, who happened to be without his specks at the time gravely seeking road directions from one of the many stone statues around the Normandy countryside.
The Normandy hedgerows were giving the Tankers as well as the doughfeet a lot of trouble and it was about this time that some ingenious man, driven by necessity devised a gadget which after having been demonstrated, was promptly dubbed a 'hedge row cutter' and ordered to be mass produced by every Ordnance company which had a welding outfit that could be spared for the job. During this period, our welders worked all night producing and installing the device on as many tanks as could be equipped with it before the St. Lo breakthrough. It was not a sensation but was reasonably successful and undoubtedly helped in solving the hedgerow problem.
On July 5th, 2nd Lt. W.C. Youens, one of the officers who had survived the channel disaster, and 95 enlisted men assigned to the 526th Ord. Co. landed in Normandy and joined. Considerable confusion concerning the details of the sinking existed both on the continent and in England with result that replacement of personnel losses were duplicated from both ends. Lt. Youens brought another officer to replace the second officer rescued from the channel since it was impossible to locate him after landing in England. He also brought with him complete equipment as original included in that with which Detachment 'B' had embarked since it was believed in England that both ships had been torpedoed.
Then followed several days of transferring men and disposing of excess equipment to restore the organization to its T/O strength once more. The replacement who landed with Lt. Youens was retained on the rolls as an overage and placed on DS to another company of the same battalion.
On July 27th Capt. F.F. Poppenburg was transferred and 1st Lt. W.E. Anderson assumed command.
In an operation at the long and fast drive across France, service units such as ours become strangled with a gruesome collection of wrecks and road losses that never quite permit it to catch up with the war until the war slows down some what. From Normandy to Luxemburg it was a long trail of muddy fox holes with rain, long move, traffic jam, hornets (thousands of them, remember them?), long move, try and get some gas, move again. It was not uncommon to have mechanics 200 miles behind engaged in cleaning up work that the company had been forced to leave. We wrestled with tons and tons of track of all types and descriptions, trying to keep the combat outfits moving on rubber. We performed inspections on as many units as the manpower situation would permit, installing engines, transmissions, final drives, making smaller repairs, and always that track in ten-block strips, tons of it.
At Paris we caught up with the war briefly and settled down for a few days in a suburb called Billiers le Bacle, moving our shop into an area formerly occupied by a Luftwaffe repair outfit. The grounds were strewn with a miscellaneous collection of sabotaged airplanes and countless spare parts, some of them new. Here most of the men had a chance to go out through Paris on a brief sight seeing tour. Our stay was cut too short thought and we had to commence to move and pick up the wrecks again while the army pushed toward Belgium and the Siegfried Line.
About the time our combat forces struck the German border, we came to rest in a patch of pine trees in Luxemburg. It was September 20th. This place was the realization of all that an Ordnance man wants to forget. We had rain, cold, mold, and mud-we had mud that was classic. In order to move equipment through the area, it was necessary to use a grouser equipped tank as a prime mover. News Week magazine featured picture taken in our area while we had about two feet of mud. It was represented as "Tanks moving up toward the front along the Luxemburg border".
On October 5th we moved the company into a railroad station near Weywertz, Belgium in Kreis Malmedy, remaining there until December 15. Like everyone else at the time, we had time on our hands. We procured a projector and had regular movies, when the projector operated properly. The men sang-the company had a quartet that practiced regularly and performed before movies. Everyone griped about the chow at that time and quite understandably so for all we could procure at the ration dump was "C" ration stew or "C" ration hash, take your choice. Did you ever try this sort of thing for three weeks?
Early in the winter a campaign got under way which commenced with an assault on a key village known as Schmidt, located twenty miles SW of Aachen. Terrific losses were sustained by the supporting armor, both tanks and tank destroyers, and the better part of our efforts for several weeks were focused on this campaign. We were operating at great distance from the units which we were supporting and it was necessary to send out parties of repair to remain with the units for several days at a time.
On October 6th T/3 Charles Specklemire was awarded the Bronze Star Medal per par 3 GO # 62, Hq. FUSA dated 26 September 1944 for meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy from 9 June 1944 to 5 July 1944 in England and in France. T/3 Specklemire was one of the survivors of the English Channel disaster.
On November 29th while still at Weywertz, a German flying bomb struck in the center of the area demolishing a great part of the railroad station and causing a number of casualties. One man, T/5 Frank W. Polcyn was killed instantly. Two men, S/Sgt Elmer A. Wolfgram and T/4 Earl R. Brister died of wounds received. Fifteen men were hospitalized, seriously wounded and two slightly wounded. Twenty-seven were treated for slight wounds, not hospitalized. (Appendix # 2)
While at Weywertz several more men received Bronze Star Medals in connection with military operations against the enemy during the period immediately following the Normandy assault. These men were: Capt.. W.E. Anderson (1st Lt. during period covered by citation) and Capt. F.F. Poppenburg (former commanding officer) per par III GO # 69, Hq. FUSA, dated 16 October 1944; T/3 Harry J. Field, T/3 George Ponzar, T/# Casimer I. Zaremba. T/4 Harold Backs, per par III GO # 77, Hq. FUSA. A total of five enlisted men and two officers have received the Bronze Star Medal award for service performed while assigned to this company.
On December 15th, shortly before the start of the German winter offensive, the company moved to Eupen, about fifteen miles north of Weywertz. We had not yet finished moving our supplies from the old location at Weywertz when the German forces over ran that section of Belgium and it became impossible to finish the job of moving until some weeks later when we again had control of the area. The area in question lay for several weeks between American and German lines.
The rest of the winter was spent in Verviers, a fair sized Belgium city apparently out of reach of the battle but not out of reach of their artillery and flying bombs for we had hardly set down our duffel bags here when another flying bomb struck within 100 yards of the C.P., demolishing it and causing considerable damage in the shop area. As a result of this incident thirteen (13) men were treated for wounds, one of them hospitalized. Most casualties were caused by flying glass. (Appendix # 3)
On January 1st, T/4 Nowostawski and T/5 Routt shot down two German planes in the vicinity of St. Tround, Belgium, using caliber 50 anti-aircraft mounts.
About the time of arrival in Verviers, the city was subjected to fire from what was believed to be German V-2 bombs. None of them fell in the immediate area, however on the day after the move to Verviers, one bomb was dropped in the area which had been vacated in Eupen and which was still occupied by a number of parts and supply men and automotive mechanics who had been left behind to clean up unfinished work.
Late in the winter, February 12, 1945, we again moved to the area which we had previously occupied in Eupen. The stay here was short and concerned mostly with preparing the combat units for the drive across Germany which commenced the first part of March.
On the 7th of March we moved to Hofen, in Germany near Monchau, the pivot of Runstedt's winter offensive. We were approximately six miles from Weywertz to which town we had moved on October 5, 1944, five months earlier. From Hofen we jumped off on the long succession of moves that took us across Germany to the war's end. We again started the familiar business of picking up wrecks and leaving the repair crews down the length of the Ahr Riber to where it empties into the Rhine a short distance above Remagen, famed as the initial bridgehead across the Rhine. For a few days the shop was set up in Altenahr, on the Ahr Riber from which we completed a refitting operation commenced before leaving Belgium, and performed another as further preparation for the drive across Germany.
We now had with us a detachment of two officers and approximately thirty enlisted men of a Belgium Fusilier Battalion, detached as a security guard while in Germany. It was still necessary to post our own sentries at points such as the main entrance to the shop area but the main responsibility of security guard was handled by the Belgium security detachment.
March 27th the company crossed the Rhine River at the V-Corps bridge located a few miles above the Ramagen Bridge.
We made moves during the rest of the sweep across Germany of as great a distance as was consistent with vehicle operating range, the problem of keeping in contact with the supply depot, the necessity of leaving crews behind to finish work in each area and to move remaining supplies. We were still struggling with the truck loads of track mentioned preciously in the narrative as an item ranking with fuel in keeping armored equipment rolling over long distances.
We moved as rapidly as possible, performing as much maintenance as possible, a large part of which consisted of collecting the tanks lost by the moving armored units and by ourselves. The long road marches such as were being made provided more engine, power train, and suspension system maintenance than we could cope with and after four or five hundred miles the shop remained almost hopelessly full until the end of the war which found us in Weiden near the Czechoslovakian border, having swung south into the Third Army after the Russian-American linkup east of Leipzig.
Our transfer to the Third Army became effective May 6th, one day before the official end of the war in Europe. At Weiden the signal detachment which had been with us for more than a year left to return to their own organization. On May 12th the company moved into Holysov, Czechoslovakia, having postponed the move several days since the end of the war.
At Holysov the Belgium Fusiliers which had accompanied us through Germany departed for Belgium.
We took a vacation and worked a working man's hours for a change. To assume that there would be any appreciable decrease in the amount of repair work finding it's way into the shop after the war had ended was a mistake. It was several weeks before things slowed to where we could loaf a little, however night work was discontinued and the men had a rest that had been a year coming. We opened a movie theater. We organized a dance band and installed it in a club fostered by the company. We swam. We read. We laid in the sun and acquired a tan. We made acquaintances among the local residents and found them pleasant people to know.
Redeployment began to have its effect on the company and some strange new business about points began to fill conversation. Men counted their Purple Hearts in terms of five instead of one; they began to worry about battle stars and when it was all settled-found that the organization had earned five of them. As sidelight on the battle star question-those who had made the Normandy landing with Detachment "A" were entitled to wear the Bronze Arrowhead along with the battle stars on their theater service ribbon.
Redeployment took more men than it gave so it was considerably understrength that we made the move from Czechoslovakia to Nurnburg, Germany on July 21st, 1945.
Settled in Nurnburg, we found we had tanks again, thousands of them. With this move we broke up our association with the 177th Ordnance Battalion to which we had been attached since the first part of April 1944 and were now attached to the 317th Ordnance Battalion, the mission of which was the operation of the Third Army combat vehicle redeployment pool. Our chief concern now was storage and preservation of combat vehicles turned in by redeployment units.
Following on the heels of a host of rumors came an order dated Sept. 9th ordering the company to the Assembly Area Command, Camp Baltimore, 25 miles SE of Rheims, France on the first leg of the long trip back to the United States where it will be disbanded.
The work that the 526th Ordnance Tank Maintenance Company was organized to do was done and at this writing it seems fitting to draw the history to a close. The redeployment shuffling of personnel has resulted in such a complete turnover that we now have only three officers and fifty three men left of those who entered the war with the company during the first weeks of Normandy.
APPENDIX NUMBER ONE (1)
The following names of men of this organization are the men who died at sea June 9, 1944.
Tec 4 BUCK, Tully C. Pvt HOWARD, Ivie H.
Tec 5 BURCH, Roland L. JR., Tec 3 JENSEN, Arnie L.
Tec 5 CAIN, Robert E. Pfc JONAS, Julius
Tec 5 CHRISTENSEN, C.R. Tec 4 KOZLOFF, Stanley K.
Tec 5 COOK, Robert W. Pvt MOSS, Alvin
Tec 4 CURRY, Paul L. Pvt MONTES, Rafael
Tec 5 DITTNER, Lewis C. Tec 5 NELSON, Albert B.
Pvt DURAN, Albert C. Tec 5 PERRY, Louis F.
Tec 5 ELLIS, Russell K. Pfc SCHACHNER, Joseph H.
Pfc EMERY, Carl R. Pfc THOMASON, June R.
Pvt FAGLEY, Ralph B. S Sgt TILLMAN, Paul E.
Pvt HATHAWAY, Herbert E. Tec 4 WASLEIN, Harlan A.
Tec 5 HOPPER, Irving Tec 4 WOOD, Marion J.
Pvt WESTMORELAND, Albert
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
APPENDIX NUMBER THREE (2)
The following names of men of this organization who were casualties from Flying Bomb which struck the area on the 29th November 1944.
KILLED IN ACTION
Tec 5 POLCYN, Frank W.
DIED OF WOUNDS
S Sgt WOLFGRAM, Elmer A. Tec 4 BRISTER, Earl R.
WOUNDED - HOSPITALIZED
|Tec 5 BOOTHBY, Charles W.||Tec 5 MYERS, Clarence M|
|Tec 4 CASSEL, Bernard||Tec 5 MYERS, Lawrence E.|
|Tec 5 COUUNCH, J.B.||Tec 5 NIGHTINGALE JR., Edward L.|
|Tec 5 DANSBY, William A.||Tec 4 PEISTRUP, Loren R.|
|Pvt ELBERSON, Albert E.||Tec 5 REYNOLDS, Clarence S.|
|Pvt HAINES, Oliver W.||Tec 5 ROUTT, Ernest E.|
|Tec 5 LeBlanc, Lowney L||Tec 4 WOLTER, Raymond D.|
WOUNDED - NOT HOSPITALIZED
Capt. ANDERSON, Willard E.
1st Lt. AUSTIN, Ben R.
1st Lt. CHASE, William W.
T/Sgt LAWLER, Merrill S. Tec 4 WILLIS, Junior W.
S/Sgt DONADIO, Russell V. Tec 5 CHILDS, Perry S.
S/Sgt WALSH, John T. Tec 5 DANIELS, Alfred A.
Tec 3 ARNOLD, Dan N. Tec 5 DIPPLE, James E.
Tec 3 SMITH, Edmund E. Tec 5 EBNER, John F.
Tec 3 SPECKLEMIRE, Charles H. Tec 5 FREDREICKSON, Clinton L.
Tec 3 SPINK, Harold G. Tec 5 SHOAP, John W.
Tec 3 ZAREMBA, Casimer I. Tec 5 MAC DONALD, John W.
Sgt PHILLIPS, Jim P. Tec 5 SISSON, Thomas W.
Tec 4 FISHER, Merland L. Pfc DAVIS JR., George D.
Tec 4 GERMER, John R. Pvt ARASIM, Frank A.
Tec 4 GLASS, Alexander Pvt DAVIS, Raymond J.
Tec 4 HEIPLE, Charles E. Pvt STOCK, Harry E.
Pvt VLASS, John J.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
APPENDIX NUMBER THREE (3)
The following names of men of this organization who were wounded from Flying Bomb which struck the area on the 5th January 1945.
WOUNDED - NOT HOSPITALIZED
T/Sgt FRYXELL, Einer Tec 5 KINNER, Donald M.
T/Sgt LAWLER, Merril S. Tec 5 LANCASTER, Glenn
Tec 4 MASLOWSKI, Michael Tec 5 MASON, William
Cpl REY, Ignaius Tec 5 PIERCY, Paul
Tec 5 DANIELS, Alfred A. Pfc O'HARA, Walter J.
Tec 5 GIACOPPO, Frank F. Pvt LAASKO, Gunnar
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
LANDED PLACE DATE
D Camp Bowie. Texas 11-21-1943
D Camp Shanks, New York 12-03-1943
A Firth of Clyde, Scotland 12-09-1943
A Letcombie Regis, Berkshire, England 12-10-1943
A Grimms Ditch Camp, Wiltshire, England 12-30-1943
D Grimms Ditch Camp, England 03-27-1944
A Widdecombe House, Torcross, England 03-27-1944
D Widdecombe House - Det. "A" 05-16-1944
B Lst No. 532 - Southern tip of England 06-01-1944
D Widdecombe House - Det. "B" 06-06-1944
L Normandy Beach, France - Det. "A" 06-08-1944
A Formingny, France 06-09-1944
L Normandy Beach - Det. "B" 06-10-1944
A Cerissy Forrest, France 06-13-1944
A Toringny, France 08-02-1944
A North of Vire, France 08-10-1944
A Mortree, France 08-20-1944
A South of Paris, France 08-27-1944
A North of Paris, France 09-31-1944
A Soisson, France 09-03-1944
A Lonny, France 09-07-1944
A Bastonge, Belgium 09-12-1944
A Forrest in Luxenburg, Belgium 09-20-1944
A Weywertz, Belgium 10-05-1944
Buzz Bomb Hit Area 11-29-1944
A Eupen, Belgium 12-15-1944
Germans overran old area of Weywertz 12-17-1944
A Verviers, Belgium 12-26-1944
A Eupen, Belgium 02-12-1945
A Hofen, Germany 03-08-1945
A Altenahr, Germany 03-14-1945
A Niederbieber, Germany 03-24-1945
South of Neustadt, Germany 03-31-1945
A Maunausen, Germany 04-03-1945
A Germany 04-15-1945
A Weiden, Germany 05-02-1945
Great News - War Ended 05-0801945
A Holysoy, Czechoslovakia 05-12-1945
526th Ordnance Company broken up 06-20-1945
The above is the Complete Travels of the Great 526th Ord Hm Co Tk
D-DAY INVASION SITESThis is much the greatest thing we have ever attempted.
--Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt
The invasion to liberate northwest Europe began on June 6, 1944. The Normandy beaches were chosen by planners because they lay within range of our air cover and were less heavily defended than the obvious objective of the Pas de Calais, the shortest distance between Great Britain and the Continent. Airborne drops at both ends of the beachheads were to protect the flanks, as well as open up roadways to the interior. Six divisions were to land on the first day; threeU.S., two British and one Canadian. Two more British and one U.S. division were to follow up after the assault division had cleared the way through the beach defenses.
Logistical and organizational difficulties were enormous; problems getting troops loaded onto ships and then getting them from the ships onto the beaches, the transition from zero combat power to full combat power, subsequent restructuring of units to get them out of the beachhead to operate as standard land combat forces, as well as the vital task of regulating traffic flow from the beach exits inland-- all these were major obstacles to be overcome by the allied staffs. Lack of a suitable port was provided for in the form of "mulberries," large artificial harbors constructed in England and floated to Normandy. Until the nearest major port (Cherbourg) was captured, all follow-on supplies and divisions would have to enter through the mulberries.
Disorganization, confusion, incomplete or faulty implementation of plans characterized the initial phases of the landings. This was especially true of the airborne landings which were badly scattered, as well as the first wave units landing on the assault beaches. Most of the troops were able to adapt to the disorganization, but at some point they would have to stop and reorganize to continue effective operations.
The physical geography of the beaches was important and a large part determined the type of troops that would be assigned to each objective. An example would be the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. The 2d and 5th (U.S.) Ranger Battalions trained for months to take this objective and were able to achieve their goals in spite of the almost total collapse of their operations plan.
UTAH BEACH was added to the initial invasion plan almost as an afterthought. The allies needed a major port as soon as possible, and UTAH BEACH would put VII (U.S.) Corps within 60 kilometers of Cherbourg at the outset. The major obstacles in this sector were not so much the beach defenses, but the flooded and rough terrain that blocked the way north.
OMAHA BEACH linked the U.S. and British beaches. It was a critical link between the Contentin Peninsula and the flat plain in front of Caen Omaha was also the most restricted and heavily defended beach and for this reason at least one veteran U.S. Division (1st) was tasked to land there. The terrain was difficult. Omaha beach was unlike any of the other assault beaches in Normandy. Its crescent curve and unusual assortment of bluffs, cliffs and draws were immediately recognizable from the sea. It was the most defensible beach chosen for D-Day; in fact, many planners did not believe it a likely place for a major landing. The high ground commanded all approaches to the beach from the sea and tidal flats. Moreover, any advance made by U.S. troops from the beach would be limited to narrow passages between the bluffs. Advances directly up the steep bluffs were difficult in the extreme. German strongpoints were arranged to command all the approaches and pillboxes were set in the draws to fire east and west, thereby protecting troops while remaining concealed from bombarding warships. These pillboxes had to be taken out by direct assault. Compounding this problem was the allied intelligence failure to identify a nearly full-strength infantry division, the 352d, directly behind the beach. It was believed to be no further forward than St. Lo and Caumont, 20 miles inland.
V(U.S.) Corps was assigned to this sector. The objective was to obtain a lodgement area between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River and ultimately push forward to St. Lo and Caumont in order to cut German communications (St. Lo was a major road junction). Allocated to the task were 1st and 29th (U.S.) Divisions, supported by the 5th Ranger Battalion and 5th Engineer Special Brigade.
GOLD BEACH was the objective of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division of the British 2d Army. Its primary task was to seize Arrolnanches (future site of a Mulberry) and drive inland to seize the road junction at Bayeux, as well as contact U.S. forces on their right and Canadians on their left. The initial opposition was fierce, but the British invasion forces broke through with relatively light casualties and were able to reach their objectives in this sector. A major factor in their success was the British assault forces were lavishly equipped with armor and l!Funniesll of the 79th Armored Division. The "~unniesVY were the specialist vehicles, armed with 290mm mortars, designed for tasks such as clearing obstacles or minefields and destruction of large fixed fortifications. Perhaps the most famous is he 1'Flail11 tank, which was a Sherman equipped with a large roller to which was attached lengths of chain. These tanks were designed to clear terrain to their front, and detonate mine fields and other booby traps without danger to the tanks or infantry following. The U.S. reluctance to use any of these vehicles at their landing sites (they relied solely on combat engineers) was in large part responsible for the massive disaster that ensued on OMAHA BEACH.
JUNO BEACH was the landing area for 3d Canadian Division. The Canadians were very concerned about their role in the invasion (as were most of the planning staff) as the memory of 2d Canadian Division1 5 destruction at Dieppe was still fresh. But many lessons had been learned, and the 3d Canadian Division, in spite of heavy opposition at Courselles-sur-Mer, broke through and advanced nearly to their objective, the airfield at Carpiquet, west of Caen. The Canadians made the deepest penetration of any land forces on June 6th, again with moderate casualties.
SWORD BEACH was the objective of 3d (British) Infantry Division. They were to advance inland as far as Caen, and line up with British Airborne forces east of the Orne River/Caen Canal. The Orne River bridges had been seized in late at night on the 5th of June by a glider-borne reinforced company commanded by Major John Howard. As at the other beaches, British forces penetrated quite a ways inland after breaking the opposition at water's edge. Unfortunately, the objective of Caen was probably asking too much of a single infantry division, especially given the traffic jams and resistance encountered further inland. 1st Special Service (Commando) brigade commanded by Lord Lovat, linked up in the morning with Howard's force at Pegasus bridge on the British left. Fierce opposition from the 21st Panzer and later the 12th SS Panzer division prevented the British from reaching Caen on the 6th. Indeed, Caen was not taken until late June.
UTAH BEACH: The defense here consisted of a single outnumbered strong point called W5 which had been pulverized by the pre-landing bombardment. Lieutenant Arthur Jalinke, commander of Strongpoint W5, surrendered when their only effective gun (dug-in 88mm) malfunctioned as a result of shrapnel' damage.
OMAHA BEACH: One of the biggest problems was not only the restricted terrain and the dug in pillboxes, but the fact that allied intelligence had overlooked the 352d Infantry Division, right behind the beaches. This unit, like the others in Normandy, was spread out but was an experienced unit that had served in Russia. It more than doubled the effectiveness of the coastal defenses, thus resulting in excessive U.S. losses. This unit was attached to the 84th German Corps, which had responsibility for the entire Normandy region. In addition, elements of the 3d Sturm-Flak Korps were spread out from Carentan to Bayeux. They contributed a large number of 20, 37 and 88mm guns to the defense, but the unit was badly disrupted by the pre-invasion airattack.
GOLD BEACH: Most of the opposition here consisted of "Ost" troops, Russian and Polish conscripts/prisoners fighting in the German Army, and men from the 746th Infantry Division, a second rate static unit with a large frontage (Caen Bayeux)
JUNO BEACH: The Canadians faced the same troops as were positioned behind GOLD, plus the 440th Ost Battalion dug-in at Courselles-sur-Mer. Later in the day they faced elements of 21st Panzer and 12th 55 Panzer Division, both deployed too far in the rear to hinder the actual landings.
SWORD BEACH: The 3d (British) Infantry Division faced, as the other beaches, well dug-in but overextended elements of 16th Infantry Division. The British also faced counter-attacks from 12th SS and 21st Panzer later in the day and into the night.
The drops took place on both flanks of the invasion area in the late hours of June 5th and early on the morning of the 6th. British 6th Airborne dropped on the eastern flank to secure the bridges over the Orne and Dives rivers. The drops took place in clear weather, but were scattered over a large expanse of countryside. In spite of this, the British met most of their D-Day objectives, including the daring glider assault on the Orne River/Caen Canal bridges. The drop also confused the German defenders, thus buying time for the invasion troops.The U.S. drops were completely scattered, with the exception of one regiment. This was a result of thick cloud cover and in some cases the inexperience of the pilots. As a result, the drop serials of 101st and 82d were scattered over a wide area of the Cotentin Peninsula, some troops ending up 40 kms from their planned drop zones. The Germans had also flooded large areas of the Cotentin, including several drop zones. Scores of paratroopers drowned upon landing. Despite heavy localized resistance, some of which was encountered on the way to the ground, all U.S. units were able to gain their objectives to some extent with the forces available. Additionally, the scattered nature of the drop served to confuse and paralyze defending German units. The German commander of the 91st Luftiande Division, one of the best formations in the Cotentin, was ambushed and killed by troops of the 101st. As with the British drop, these events served to buy time for by the sea--borne invaders.
It had been a grim fight. Six weeks of battle had left the Germans disheartened and susceptible to any further blow the Allies might deliver. "It was casualty reports, casualty reports, casualty reports wherever you went," Rommel told his son Manfred from his sickbed. " I have never fought with such losses.. .And the worst of it is that it was all without sense or purpose." Indeed, Rommel continued, on some days the equivalent of a regiment of his men had fallen in Normandy more than in a whole summer of fighting in Africa during 1942.
The days had been filled with mud, heartache, and pain for the Allies as well. From the very beginning, little had seemed to go right. The airborne assault on the night before the landing had sown confusion among the enemy and had provided an important diversion, but too many of the men had landed too far from their targets. As a result, the effort had only a marginal effect on the developing battle. Over the days that followed, rather than withdrawing beyond the Seine as Allied planners had expected, the Germans had hung on tenaciously, taking brutal losses but inflicting them upon the Allies as well. Meanwhile, Montgomery's careful plan for the attack had begun to unravel on D-Day itself. His forces failed to take Caen, the key to further operationsin the open country to the south. Attacking time and again as the campaign developed, they had nonetheless held the cream of the German force in place, absorbing pressure that would almost inevitably have fallen upon Bradley's forces in the Bocage.
As for the Americans, the landing on OMAHA Beach had been a near-disaster averted only by the courage of unsung sailors and soldiers. When air attacks and naval gunfire had failed to silence German guns and the momentum of the assault had begun to lag, those heroes had pushed their frail landing craft to shore despite the traps "Soldiers Resting on OMAHA Beach" by Manuel Bromberg.(Army Art Collection) and obstacles blocking their way. Rallying to the directions of their commanders, they had then climbed the bluffs overlooking the beach and advanced inland, often at the cost of their own lives. In the same way, although Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins' VII Corps captured the port of Cherbourg on 29 June, the American advance bogged down in the hedgerows. Bradley's First Army absorbed forty thousand casualties while slowly advancing twenty miles to St. Lo.
Even so, enough went well for the campaign to succeed. Roosevelt, Marshall, Eisenhower, Churchill, and Montgomery were master communicators who bonded an unwieldy coalition into an extraordinary fighting machine. The plan they and their staffs devised failed to foresee every circumstance that would occur on the battlefield, particularly the difficulties Bradley's forces would encounter in the Bocage, but it was still a masterpiece of innovation that provided ample means for Allied commanders to prevail. Cunning deceptions kept the Germans transfixed on the Pas de Calais until long after the real invasion had occurred; Allied airmen swept the skies clean of the enemy fighters and bombers that might have imposed a heavy toll upon the landing force; and the effort to build up the stocks of supplies and munitions necessary for an effective attack succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectation. In the end, notwithstanding, it was the heroism of infantrymen such as Major Howie, who rose day and night to the challenge despite almost overwhelming fear and fatigue, that afforded the critical margin for success.
A barely failed assassination attempt upon Hitler's life, implicating Rommel himself, brought about a purge of officers in Germany that would, for a time, strengthen Hitler1s control over his armed forces. Although the Germans would fight on with resilience and determination for another ten months, their line in France would soon break, Patton's army would swing clear, Paris would fall, and Allied forces would approach the Rhine. The loss of France would deprive Germany not only of a major source of food, raw resources, and labor but also of seaports that had long sheltered its U-boats and of radar sites that had afforded early warning of Allied bomber attacks. More important, it would provide the Allies with the secure base they needed to launch their final offensive against the German heartland. As Rommel told his son, the future was clear and inevitable. The end of Hitler's Reich was at hand: "There is no longer anything we can do."