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307th Engineer Battalion

 
Members of Company B Parachute 307 Airborne Engineer Battalion who made the 4 combat jumps

 
Arellanes Augustine L Johnson William H
Bolmowski Harry Katona John
Borges Manual Klein Robert E
Cerwood Theodore Lajoie Leslie W
Chervenski John Lyda Hoyle H
Connally David G Makepa James K
Coover Robert McMurdy Joseph
Couture Florian E Miale Frank M
Davis Johnnie B Mumford Hugh D
Droogan Cornelius J Northern Harry H
Ellis Samuel F Odum James E
Eplin John B Parisi Joseph A
Finney David S Perkins Edward K
Fry Walker O Perkins Luther E
Goins Thomas C Rightly James A
Grove James M Rumbaugh Carroll B
Hall Jessie D Smith Hanford O
Howard Harry C Visneski Theodore B
Huges Thomas P Whalen Edward P

Click here to see a picture of B Company
(or here for a numbered trooper listing of the same photo.)

History

COMPANY “B” PARACHUTE
307th AIRBORNE ENGINEER BATTALION

By Sgt.Frank M. Miale - Author of "Stragedy"

 

REMINISCING

No longer is this an age primeval

When men who yearn for peace to war have gone,

They search the heavens, they trod the soil

For countless miles; though weary, sad disillusioned,

They smile; for though the blackest night is long,

It soon must fade to make way for the dawn.

15 February 1943       

Fort Bragg, remember? That was where this company was first activated. The men had just come in from the “frying pan” and had in their minds the old Paratrooper spirit of “Give way for no-one!” That first formation when everyone was told that they were picked men; some snickered, but we soon found out the meaning as the men were segregated from the boys and all buckled down because we had a job to do. There were big doings cooking for us in the melting pot of fate. The future seemed ominous and dark and with just cause, for we were alerted to go overseas.

29 April 1943   

We found ourselves aboard the Monterey, heading for Africa. As we passed the Statue of Liberty, we lined the rails to give one long silent salute; for many of us would not return. All the faces presented the same picture, sad bewildered eyes, with a smile of grim determination curling on their lips. The innermost voice was speaking, “Go forth to death or glory”!

10 May 1943   

Africa: We got off the ship at Casablanca; there we saw Arabs walking around in rags so filthy that it seemed they would leave their even filthier owners any minute in complete disgust. Then came the plane ride to Quijda; the training, “Cannonball Canyon”, the scorching sun, the GI’s and C rations till we couldn’t stand it any more. From there went to Kairouan and the jump that we didn’t know about till just before we got on the planes.

10 July 1943    

Sicily: Most of us landed in the vicinity of Santa Croce, south of Vittoria. It seemed as if we were scattered all over creation. Our company was not assembled for two days. Then north of Vittoria we hit the rear guard of the “Hermann Goering” panzer division. The battle ground on Biazzi ridge was given the name of “Hell’s Vineyard”. The Jerries had several Tiger tanks and they really laid it on us, but from the time between 0800 and late afternoon we held our ground. During the day the major part of the company had reformed. At dusk we went over the top with Regt. Headquarters Co 505 Inf. We walked into a blazing hell of mortar, (2) artillery and small arms fire. We could hardly see one another for the dust and smoke. In less than one hour’s time, silence reigned the battlefield with its age old ally, darkness. (1) We had triumphed, but there were no pats on the back; we had a long way to go yet and some of the men would accompany us no further. Then the chase: all along the southwestern coast of the island, past Agrigento with its ancient temples, through town after town and finally into the Port of Trapanni. The groups of Italians surrendering in singles or by the hundreds. Then back to Kairouan, Africa, more training and a so called rest that was nothing but misery in the hot sun. After a week we flew to Castelvetrano, Sicily and it was not long before we found out why.

15 September 1943  

We jumped into Italy on the Salerno flats. Shortly after we had assembled we were shaken by the concussion of an exploding ammo ship at the beach. We were to reinforce the troops that had made the beachhead. We prepared the roads for cratering and bridges for demolition, but all this proved unnecessary. Some of our positions were on a mountainside overlooking Paestheum’s temples and Salerno beaches. This proved to be a ringside seat for Jerry bombing raids on the beach and our Navy really knocked the Jerries down; literally punched them from the sky. One afternoon we gathered our gear and boarded LST’s to make a beach landing at Maiori. We arrived there late at night and landed to the grand overture of distant guns and pelting rain. After we were soaked to the skin, we found a cave and tried to get some sleep in some of the blackest and stickiest dust in Italy. The grotto, or cave held the ancient ruins of a mission of the order of St. Francis. From there we drove along the beautiful scenic route of Amalfi. There the road wound its way leisurely up into the mountains, always in view of the blue Mediterranean. As we descended the opposite side of the mountain, we saw Mt. Vesuvius rising majestically in the distance. Castelamare was our next stop. From there it was on to Naples on October 1St. There was still firing in the streets; the Italian partisans were cleaning up the remaining elements of Fascists and German troops that had been isolated in the city. The company was then billeted in the Prince of Piedmont Artillery barracks. From there on it seemed like smooth sailing until: . . . . at 1000 hours on October 10th, our building was destroyed by an explosion of undetermined origin. (3) The irony of it all was that some of the men were out looking for demolitions under other buildings while ours was the one to suffer that fate that we wanted to prevent in others. The loss of the men there can never be replaced, nor can the memory of the men who died there ever be forgotten by we who knew and cherished their friendship. The men were buried on a hill overlooking the city of Naples and the bay; in the background stood Vesuvius, smoking impassively and entirely oblivious to the sad event that was taking place. It’s only fitting that we pay tribute to the real heroes of this war; those who died that we might win.

IN MEMORIAM

The skies were clear, a true Italian blue,
And from my stand I gazed across the bay;
My eyes then settled on Vesuvius
And all were happy, but me that day.
It meant that we were parted for all time;
The clouds closed in, I did not see the way.
Instead, I saw the many years before,
When your eager smile you flashed while you did play;
Then came the drums and the marching noisy feet
 And still you smiled, but grown and serious now.
You took your place among the men at arms
To build a dream and thusly you did vow:
“The time has come when I must rightly choose
To bear allegiance to all we cherish,
And if to death that I must need to go,
Then death it is, lest mine and all dreams perish!”
It came and you were unaware of this:
Our fight, yes, yours and mine is nearly through
And that fond dream is somehow not too far,
But all it lacks to be complete is you.

You’ve gone and I’ve come back to say, “so long”,
For now I see the day, it’s drear, pelting rain.
And sadly I may bow my head to pray
As there upon your grave they’ve flowers lain.
Farewell, for now as taps is softly played,
I gaze far out, away beyond the bay,
At not Pompei, its ancient ruins, but far
Across the sea, to home at close of day.
When that day comes with all that’s dear to me,
I’ll sit beside the window with a sigh,
My thoughts will stray to this, a saddened day,
When I, against my will, did say, “Goodbye”.

Miale

 

Pleasant days followed this tragedy: trips to the Isle of Capri, Pompei, the University of Naples, the museum and many other points of interest All this, but just try to forget   

18 November 1943

We left Italy aboard the “Joseph I. Dickman’, bound for Northern Ireland. While enroute, we stopped at Qran for a few days, which included Thanksgiving Day. For other than being alive, we had little to be thankful for.

8 December 1943       

Northern Ireland: We landed at Belfast and took a train to a small town called Garvaugh. Nowhere in this world can a person hear such a deafening silence as that which reigns the town of Garvaugh. We were allowed to go to Colerain on pass. Passes we remember, whiskey at four pounds per quart and dancing for those who desired, to the strains of Home on the Range, played in waltz time by an ensemble of accordion, piano, violin and drums. Ho Hum!

12 February 1944       

We left Northern Ireland by boat and landed in Liverpool, England, from there we went by train to Burbage, near Hinckley. We were the first Yanks there and the people knew not which vain they should use in receiving us, but they soon found out that Yank ingenuity is the greatest in the world; When the place we’re in isn’t home, we try to make it so and usually succeed. Dancing, movies and pub crawling comprised the major interests of the company, however, a few of the boys made hay while the sun was shining with the result of wedding bells.

6 June 1944 

We needn’t be reminded of this date.
Normandy: Groups of us landed in the places scattered from Ste. Savour le Vicomte to Ste. Mere Eglise. (4) The ill-fated second platoon of which only a few returned after spending six to ten days behind the Jerry lines. Harrowing days they were, cutting wire of communication, making mental notes of Jerry guns and emplacements. The rest of the second platoon was found in pitiful graves along the road or in the fields. Wherever they fell in their glorious fight. Still others of the platoon were captured and imprisoned by the Germans. Battle after battle came our way; Ste. Mere Eglise, Ste. Etienville, Ste. Savour, Baupte (5) and many others terminating on our last drive towards Le Hay duPuits. We can’t forget the 505 Inf with whom we fought as a team. Thirty-three days of continuous going without rest or replacements, then it was back to the old haunts of Burbage and Hinckley, England and the furloughs anywhere we desire in the UK.

7 September 1944     

We were slated to jump in the vicinity of Tornai, Belgium, but after sweating it out at the airport for a few days, the show was called off because our drop-zone was already in Allied hands.

17 September 1944      

Holland: It was a pretty day, too pretty for the type of job we had to do. We flew over mile after mile of flooded lowland; flak burst in puffs here and there. When we approached the drop-zone, the flak was intense, then the word “GO” and away we went in a rush of wind and jolting chutes. After landing, many gazed up at the awe inspiring sight that was the mighty 82nd coming on in endless droves. Myriads of van-colored chutes filled the sky and gliders came to a dusty bumpy stop in newly plowed fields. Our patrols were sent into the city ofNijmegen and the Reichswald. Finally our own “Charlie” company pulled out a “royal Flush” and ferried the 504 over the Waal River while the 505 hit the south end of the Nijmegen bridge. (6) The famous Nijmegen bridge was taken intact by two swell infantry units, the 504 and the 505. Then came days of waiting in outposts along the Waal River and nightly trips into Germany with infantry patrols to leave a few calling cards for Jerry in the form of booby traps.

17 November 1944

We left Holland and went to France where we established a base camp at Sissonne. Passes were given into Rheims, the city of the famous Cathedral. Wine, cognac and champagne flowed freely; where it went to, only the indulging parties knew. We were having it easy until   

17 December 1944 

The company was alerted and we moved up into the Ardennes to cope with the German breakthrough. This was truly “El Molino del Diablo”. The German offensive had surrounded the 101st Abn Division and why the one word response of “Nuts” to a demand for their surrender made the Division world famous just shows what can result from the ironies and vagaries of war. Our positions at Trois Point, Malmedy (Scene of one of the infamous massacres of GI’s). St. Vith all become familiar scenes to us of deprivation, death and destruction. Then a much deserved rest in the small Belgian town of Deigne what joy- we were treated to hot meals from our field kitchens. Too soon the rest ended and it was back to the old grind. North of St. Vith was where we lost one of the best captains and friend we ever had. The wind was bitter cold and deep snow added to our misery and we pushed into Germany near Honingen and Bullengen, Eupen Malmedy and Aachen. Then the sudden shift to the Hurtgen forest area the scene of many bitter battles before us. We were spread out over three hilltop villages, Schmidt, Commerscheid and Haarscheid - Code named Feces Equinus, Feces Bovinus and Plain Feces (A Latin translator would be able to decipher the code names). We were preparing to make an assault across the Roer river, but fortunately it was called off.

3 April 1945     

We were sent to hold a section of the Ruhr pocket along the Rhine near Cologne. At Wessling, our CP was the furthest forward in the Division. Some of the men crossed the Rhine on patrols and probed Jerries old wounds time and time again. We had casualties on these patrols too, but “C’est La Guerre”! We went to Widdersdorf for a rest and from there we went by truck and train to the vicinity of Hanover. Then came the crossing of the Elbe with the 505th near Blekede; (7) again we did our usual stint at sweeping for and removing mines along with general engineering. From here on in, we were riding the winning horse. Shortly we witnessed the payoff of years of hard fighting and misery: The Germans, surrendering en-mass in our area. Never did we see such a sorry lot. Slowly they made their way to the PWE’s in our rear area. Then came V-E Day, but we didn’t celebrate, not to the extreme anyway; there were a few smug grins here and there and all seemed to get that longing for home look in their eyes.

5 June 1945

Some of the men have already started on the first lap of the trip home; other transferred to the 139th Engineer Battalion of the 17th Airborne Division. This to be their vehicle home on the Mariposa; coincidently, sister ship of the Monterey. The rest of the Company was returned to full strength, and as well the balance of the 82nd; they were selected to represent the USA as the “Honor Guard” in Berlin.

The clouds burst filling the earth with misery;

Then suddenly, Victory smiled; the sun broke through

 

Footnote

It would be remiss not to include the fact that when “B” Co and the balance of the 82nd returned home they were led down 5th Avenue in New York City by General Gavin in one of the biggest parades ever - ticker tape, flags, the whole lot. Many of the division’s old vets were there to greet them in person and others watched the parade on TV and needless to say many wept shamelessly - this by God was also our homecoming - and we will not and shall never forget it.

Airborne!!

 

Footnotes 1 thru 7 from Unit History

 

(1) Sicily: Two Italian Forts with pill boxes, barbed wire, mines and machine guns with a commanding view of the beaches where the US 45th Division landed were captured on July 10th prior to the 45ths landing. One was taken and occupied by ten to twelve members of 505th Hqs Co, the other fort was taken by a Sgt from Baker Co. 307th Engineers along with two medics and a rifleman from the 505th. Conjecture: If the Herman Goering Panzer Division was driving towards these forts and they had been still under axis control, what might have happened to the 45th Inf Div and might the victory at Biazzi Ridge been reversed?

(2)  A recon patrol from Baker Co. 307th Engineers on July 12 (early AM) determined that a mortar platoon of the 45th (they had taken up position on our left flank) had engaged in firing their mortars at what they believed to be Germans streaming over the hill (Biazzi Ridge) at dusk of July 11th 1943.

(3) Italy: A detail from the 36th Amphibious Engineers was billeted in our building (1st floor). They had removed enemy demolitions from a public building in Naples. The demolitions, they had removed, were then stored in the basement of our building. On Friday (Oct. 8) the entire 307th Engineer Battalion stood in formation while various members of the 36th Amphibs were decorated - before the formalities were over and the battalion was dismissed it started to pour rain. Conjecture: The enemy demolitions were evidently not thoroughly searched and a time device, secreted in the explosives, went undiscovered.

(4) Normandy: A group from “B’ 307th Engineers landed in a marsh near Le Haye du Puits, France and along with some members of the 505th proceeded to wreak havoc in that area inflicting casualties and equipment losses on the Germans and denying them easy passage to the coast in that vital area.

(5)  At Baupte, France a 307th Engineer patrol from B Company penetrated German lines and neutralized demolitions placed on one of the area bridges, thus preserving it for our use.

(6) Holland: Excerpted from secret report H.C. Hobbs, Captain, Glider Pilot- Operation Market dated ZG Sep 44: “A unit of Engineers (B Co) sneaked up on the Nijmegen Bridge and cut demolition wires.” With the exception of one charge that did explode, the rest were effectively neutralized.

(7) Germany: At Blekede, some of B Co. men were ferried across the Elbe in British Buffaloes. One of B company’s patrols crossed the river and returned with a battalion of German prisoners which had surrendered to them without firing a shot. Their reasoning was a choice of either the Russians or the Americans.

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