History of the 300th Combat Engineers, 1943 to 1945
My Story From England to France and on the Normandy Beachhead as I Remember it 70 Years Laterby Don Richter
Note: This vivid account was written (we should say typed on a computer) by 300th veteran Don Richter in the Fall of 2014 in anticipation of the upcoming reunion of the 300th and his visit with Robert Alvarado, the son of his good friend Joe Leyva.
Change in Command
I must begin back in England in middle of May 1943, when it was suddenly announced to men of the battalion that our Commander, Major Riel Crandall, had been replaced by Major John Tucker who had been an aid to Colonel Spengler at Engineer Group Headquarters. Major Tucker promptly had all of us men of the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion gather before him there in Tent City near Swindon, England, to tell us that he came from a "tough fighting family," his grandfather having been US Marshall in Waco, Texas and since my home is only fifteen minutes from Waco I was really impressed with him.
Major Tucker went on to tell us that we should prepare to move out of Tent City soon to go to the South English Coast for training in Beach Landing as we had been assigned the mission of being the first to land in the coming invasion of France and would be responsible for removing obstacles and barbed wire entanglements from the beach to make easier landing and access to the beachhead for the fighting men and their tanks and vehicles. "Many would be casualties," he said, "but those who survived would move on and return home as heroes."
We returned to our tents gathering up possessions and packing all into duffle bags and then went to our squad trucks checking all equipment and supplies to see that we had all that was needed and then waited and waited with no order to move out. There was an air base nearby and each night C-47s would take off passing overhead on training missions, some pulling huge gliders and would then--hours later—return gliders still in tow and would land until the next exercise.
Well, on the night of June 5th the airplanes took off towing gliders and returned hours after daylight with no gliders in tow, we knew that the invasion had begun and thought that we had been left behind. Later that morning General Eisenhower addressed all via radio telling us that the invasion had begun on the coast of Normandy with American, British, Canadian, and French troops plus hundreds of ships and thousands of aircraft participating and that the fight is going well though the enemy is well dug in and is resisting fiercely but with everyone doing his part and with God's help we shall prevail. Several days later the first wave of 300th Engineer Combat Battalion moved out to a staging area on the English coast and in a few days loaded onto an LST and crossed the English Channel landing on Utah Beach without any problem. Third Squad of Company B was due to go across on June 18th and we were gathered on our squad truck ready to move out. Here begins my story.
I saw Sgt. John Poteet, battalion Personnel Sergeant come out of Battalion Headquarters and head for Company B CP then coming toward our Third Squad truck with all of us on board ready to pull out of Tent City. Sgt. Parker, Third Platoon Sergeant, told Third Squad Leader, Johnny Sneed, to "Tell Richter to get all of his things off the truck because Don is not going with us. Call Marvin Livingston from his tent with everything he has and for him to get on this truck to replace Richter." I protested, "Sergeant Parker, I have been in Third Squad of Third Platoon of Company B ever since Camp White and I want to go with my good buddies and not go with H&S."
My best buddy Joe Leyva, who had taken care of me, told me to go on with John. "I will have a fox hole ready for you and me in France when you do get there." I replied, "I guess that I have no choice," shaking hands with all on the truck. I said, "Ok John, you have been trying to get me into Headquarters since basic training and now you have got me at least for crossing over The Channel and onto the beachhead." John said, "We have a bit of an emergency in Personnel as Kenneth Funk is pretty sick and may have to be hospitalized with a severe sinus infection so you will be subbing as B Company Clerk, like it or not. Welcome aboard." And we proceeded to Personnel Office and I was greeted by all the staff.
I did not sleep very well that night thinking that something could happen to my buddies during their crossing and me not there with them. Next morning Funk came to personnel feeling well enough to perform as Company Clerk tasks so I was told to go with Lt. Frank Levitsky and a small detachment of enlisted men and we were taken by Personnel truck to a house in a small village that had been Group Headquarters during their stay in England. We lived in Colonel Spengler's quarters manning the switchboard there, pretending that the Group was still there should the phone ring. It would have been such a boring assignment had I not been able to visit on a friendly basis with Lt. Frank Levitsky, a man I had come to admire back in Camp White during Basic. We spent time sharing memories, good and bad, about experiences back then.
Soon we were taken back to Tent City where I helped out in Personnel working on some clerical details until Battalion Headquarters was loaded up and moved in a convoy to a staging area near the Port of Plymouth, and after a couple of days of waterproofing vehicles and other tasks we finally boarded an LST. We heard that second wave had been on LST 523 which was sunk by a German mine off Utah Beach with some loss of life but we had no idea how tragic it was for the 300th. We were very worried and did not sleep much on the uneventful crossing.
To Utah Beach
Our LST moved toward shore just before dark and in twilight the sky filled with tracer bullets and anti aircraft shells burst overhead. Our driver followed the MP direction up off the beach and down a road littered with war trash to a field where we were to bed down. I stepped off the truck hearing artillery fire going out and coming in and thought to myself, "Don, you really are in the war now trying to ignore the stench of rotting flesh, both livestock and human casualties." I finally found a small dugout where I unrolled my bedroll and after trying to eat a K ration I rolled up in my bedroll trying to sleep with the sounds of war all about. In the morning I awoke taking a look at the horrors of war.
I reported to Personnel Officer, Branford Brooks, and he told me that after eating something to come back to help Funk type Casualty Lists for men lost on LST 523 disaster. I did this reluctantly as I wanted to return to Third Squad and find what was left but I found out soon enough while typing their names as KIA, MIA, WIA, and when I typed T5 Joe Leyva, KIA, I had to walk away for a bit.
Return to B Company
In a couple of days, Jeep driver Cpl. Borego, took me out to find Company B and I was so glad to get back though many were missing. I did find Hester Hawkins escaped from sinking LST 523 without a scratch. Lester Aumann and Charles Olive had returned after being rescued and were found able to return to duty. I was so glad that Marvin Livingston had survived as he had replaced me. We had a number of replacements from the New England and they talked a bit different than Texas and Arkansas boys. We received a replacement who grew up in Chicago. They were dubbed the Chicago Gangsters and they were pretty tough guys. Johnny Sneed had been promoted and Sgt. Jessie Ruffin, regular army who served in Iceland and Alaska before coming to 300th just before we left Camp White was my new 3rd Squad Leader. I liked and respected Jessie. He wanted me to be Assistant Squad Leader but the Third Platoon Commander nixed it saying that I looked too young to be bossing older men around.
After a couple of failed tries, I teamed up with a nice young man from New Jersey and we became pretty good buddies sharing pup tents and fox holes. He could not replace Joe Leyva and I mourn Joe's loss every day of my life. George Sarik and I became really close friends sharing shelter halves and bedrolls and working side by side repairing roads, building and destroying bridges and lots more, until a casualty in middle of Battle of the Bulge created a vacancy in position of B Company Clerk. My MOS, Clerk Typist, forced me back to the Personnel section. But it did get me out of the bitter cold and deep snow so I did not object this time and remained with this until I was transferred out of the 300th after end of war in Germany.
October 3, 2014
Dear Brave Soldiers of the 300th Combat Engineers Battalion,
My name is Robert Alvarado and I am the son of Joe Leyva. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for all you have done. The sacrifices that you have made by going off to fight in WWII have been great. Many lives of fellow soldiers were lost, including that of my father Joe. For those of you that did survive, I know that the memories of that war will never completely leave your memory. Some may have physical scars as well that may have impaired your livelihood. All that was lost in this terrible thing called war, was not in vain. The world will never be a perfect place, but we have our freedom because of you. I have met some wonderful people over the course of the last 8 years when I have cone to share in your reunions. I appreciate you having me a part of this special event each year. For me, it is a bittersweet occasion, as I imagine my father being here as well. What would he look like today? How would he greet his old buddies and share in your stories? I know one thing for sure, and that is that my life would have been very different if he had not died. I am sure he would love to see all of you again… and I am sure, someday he will. In closing, I salute you all, in honor of the greatness of your service to our country. May God bless you and your family.
GIs Put Together a Rodeo in Germany to Celebrate the End of WWIIBy Bern Gregory
Note: This story appeared in the September 1995 issue of Western Horseman. Bern Gregory was an award winning rodeo photographer. Our own "Cowboy" Morris participated in the rodeo and remembers Rodeo Photographer Bern Gregory.
THE PLACE: Furth, Germany. The time: late summer 1945. World War II was over in Europe. Thousands of GIs were champing at the bit to head for home or engage in any other activity than war. With the help of the Red Cross and a handful of ex-rodeo contestants, it was decided to put on a rodeo. Making that decision was easy. But where would we get livestock – bucking horses, bulls, steers, calves, plus all the other things needed to put on a rodeo?
The location was fairly simple. A park in Furth had a nice level spot just about the right size for an arena. We still needed fencing, posts, lumber and hardware to build bucking chutes and pens. That, however, didn't present too great an obstacle. My outfit was bivouacked in a pine forest near Marzfeld. Many of the trees were just the right size for posts – 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Enough were requisitioned to fill our requirements. Fencing was not problem: Airstrip wire landing mat made perfect fencing. Lumber for the chutes and pens came from bombed-out buildings. Chute-gate hinges were made by Army engineers from strap iron and pipe with a long bolt for a hinge pin.
While the building was going on, another crew was out scouting for potential bucking stock. We knew it would be difficult if not impossible to find bucking horses and bulls. We did "find" 20 head of unbroken mules in the Russian sector. German work oxen were all we could come with to substitute for bulls. With cigarettes and chocolate bars, we rented them from the farmers. Somehow, a low-slung Army vehicle appeared to haul stock. A few nearby farmers rode their oxen sidesaddle to the arena. The German farmers had no idea what a rodeo was like. We explained that it was like a circus or livestock show. With a few more packs of cigarettes and chocolate bars, we assured them we would feed and water the animals and that they would not be harmed. Speaking of water, we used a wooden rowboat for a water trough.
Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the armed forces, did an excellent job of publicizing the rodeo. When September 9, 1945, came around, Furth was teeming with thousands of GIs as well as civilians anxious to see the big rodeo.
Sixty-eight contestants were entered. Some well-known names in rodeo were among them. A few were: Wayne Louks (killed after bucking off a bronc after he returned home), Del Nicholsen, Ken Morris ["Cowboy" Morris of 300th ECB], Johnny Newcomb, Jake Williams, Dee Burk (father of 16-time NFR qualifier Barry Burk), and Hubert Taylor. The Red Cross mimeographed programs listing contestant names and numbers. We had large black numbers sewn on bright yellow squares of cloth. The program covered everything from the grand entry through the mad scramble. We had musical barrels interspersed with the mule and bull riding. Wayne Louks was arena director, Dee Burk and Dean East were judges, and Tex Truaz was the time. Music was provided by the Rodeo Ramblers and by Bill and his Texas Drifters. Stars and Stripes had photographers there, and the September 11 edition carried photos and story about the big event. I had traded a candy bar for a small folding camera, and asked one of my buddies to take pictures of the rodeo. He wasn't too sure what I wanted, so all he took were pictures of guys sitting around the arena on their Army cots.
Some of the horses we had gathered wore a brand similar to the rising sun. In fact, Dee Burk used one of those horses to demonstrate calf roping. To be sure of his presentation, Dee brought his own calf to the rodeo. He had practiced tying the calf so many times that when roped, it almost laid down and crossed its legs. Our ordnance people made bull bells from artillery shell casings. Spurs were made from scrap metal, and bull ropes were braided from whatever rope we could find. Western saddles were found in a warehouse of WWI surplus. They were the type used by mule pack outfits and ridden by the leader of the pack train. They were new and still in very good condition.
The green mules were the feature of the day. All we had to ride them with was a loose rope. The old Army saddles wouldn't stay on them. After two go-rounds, the mules were still pitching riders over the front end. The mules were about 14 hands, and when the gate opened, they would swallow their heads, hump up, and it was "Adios, cowboy!" The big work oxen were gentle as dogs when they arrived, but after being spurred a bit and having a bell clanging under their bellies, they were a bit testy when their owners came for them. I clearly remember that one ox put his master in the water trough that evening. Nobody rode them sidesaddle.
Perhaps, after half a century, a few of the old boys are still around to remember that first rodeo in Europe. Other rodeos were scheduled, but I never got to any of them. My outfit shipped out for home, and you can bet the ranch I didn't want to miss the boat home for any GI rodeo.
A Ballad of the Miracle 300th - The 300th Engineer Combat BattalionAn Epilogue authored by Cpl. Don Richter
Born in the late winter,
In the foothills of the mountains Cascade,
Command by a man of the Point,
Young men from farm and village came.
A seasoned cadre of noncoms awaited to train,
Village boys of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana,
To become fighting men of the Corps,
With skills to support armies and engineering needs.
Close order drill,
On to the rifle range to fire,
Rifle, machine gun, bazooka, grenades and more,
In preparation for combat.
Bridge building and destroying,
Laying and removing mines,
Demolition of any obstacle,
Building and repairing roads.
Trucks and dozers helped,
But more often than not,
Strong young backs and taunt sinew,
Did provide the power for tasks.
Basic training complete,
Was time to test the skills,
And military maneuvers,
Upon the high desert to the north.
Through forests and mountains,
Mindful of "over hill, over dale,"
To bivouac in Jack Pine forest,
Going out to train or serve.
Cutting trees, making poles,
Building of roads and road blocks,
Whatever the battle situations,
And finally participating in the battle sham.
Suddenly the order came,
Return to camp to prepare,
After a visit home,
To join the battle real.
Troop train, preparation to embark,
Upon a very large ship,
The Queen Mary no less,
Across the sea to war.
To a strange land and people,
Into a war that was real,
Further training and serving,
Awaiting the invasion to begin.
At last the order,
Fall in with all gear and load up,
We are off to train on the British beach,
To land in the first wave in France.
Harm will surely be with us,
Casualties may be very high,
But there will be opportunity for glory,
Survivors will soon return as heroes.
Now the Army norm,
Hurry up and wait,
Finally the order to dismount with gear,
And return to tents to wait some more.
This mission was no longer ours,
To our sister outfit, the 299th, it was given,
Relief, but also disappointment,
Our skills to perform needed work prevailed.
At last on 6 June 1944, our Supreme Commander,
Ike spoke to all over the airwaves,
The time had come,
The invasion had begun.
Again wait and prepare all the more,
For soon enough our time would come,
To cross the sea to another strange land,
Where combat for all we would find.
And cross we did in three waves,
With an uneventful first,
A calamitous second where a direct mine,
Awaited off the coast for LST 523 to find.
Many friends and buddies lost to the blast,
Men and equipment to the bottom sank,
Finally the third crossed safely,
To learn of the tremendous losses sustained.
Then put the unit back togather,
With replacements and equipment new,
But replacements cannot really do,
What the word implies.
Joe Leyva, Leo Drozd, Sgt. Parker, Lt. Lutz,
These and many more died in one cruel moment,
It fell to me to type the lists of KIA, MIA and WIA,
The sorrow deepened with each click of the keys.
Replacements arrived to fill the void,
Battlefield commission for First Sgt. Campbell,
And command of Third Platoon of Company B.,
Many promotions of noncoms refilled the TO.
But friends and buddies could not be,
So easily replaced in the hearts and minds,
Of those who had survived the tragedy,
And had to put the losses behind.
The sounds of battle were constant,
Artillery, ours and theirs,
Air cover and air attacks,
Small arms firing staccato strains.
The stench of war was hard to bear,
The distinctive smell of decaying flesh,
Of livestock caught in the battle,
Horses, cows, sheep, and fowl.
Sadly the most distinctive smell of all,
The rotting bodies of men - friend and foe,
That littered the countryside,
Of the small beachheads of Normandy coast.
Destruction and carnage was everywhere,
Ruined homes, farms, villages, and towns,
Destroyed bridges and roads to repair,
Obstacles and explosives to be removed.
All under the fire of the enemy,
The 88s and larger guns were well secured,
The hedgerows difficult to pierce,
Many missions to be performed by all.
The beachhead was not secure,
River crossing and Carentan required a bridge,
That would connect Omaha Beach to Utah,
A traffic bottleneck to overcome.
Mission was given to Miracle 300,
Construct a fixed timber bridge,
Beside a near complete fixed Bailey,
Providing for two-way traffic to move.
The mission was very dangerous,
German 88 artillery regularly shelled,
But work must be done under fire,
Traffic must move to secure the beachhead.
Digging foundations for piers,
Constructing bents to support structure.
When German shelling returned,
Difficult to keep mind and body on work.
But Major Tucker overseeing the job,
Ordered "Let no one run like cowards,
Keep working and get this done,"
When shrapnel tore his body with death.
Later when mission was accomplished,
Traffic was moving more freely,
The bridge constructed in Carentan,
Was named, "Major John E. Tucker Bridge."
Also added to sign, "Built by Miracle 300."
And that name continues to this day,
While the stories of those frightful days,
Continue to be shared by men who lived them.
The enemy held on with much determination,
In the area of St. Lo they were well dug in,
For surely, they felt, relief was on the way,
And soon they could drive us back into the sea.
But on 4 July as if in celebration,
A mighty air raid blackened the sky,
With all types of aircraft, B-17's, 24's
British Lancaster's and more attacked St. Lo.
Softened up by this attack and constant shelling,
The enemy became vulnerable to an attack by armor,
Which had been brought ashore for such occasion,
And the armor did prevail.
The St. Lo defenses were breached,
And also armor outflanked the strong point to the south,
The armor took a swing to the north,
Entrapping much of the enemy in the Gap Falise.
Now on toward Paris and the rest of France,
After the cathedral town of Chartres,
On to Paris itself for a victorious parade,
Through the heart of the grateful city.
What cheering crowds,
And beautiful women throwing flowers,
And passing through, food and wine,
To the happy men of Miracle 300th.
The great city past,
Onto a lovely rural setting,
For a brief time of rest and relaxation,
Before joining the chase of the fleeing enemy.
Now we became the keeper of the Bailey Bridge,
To haul it forward with the help of Red Ball,
Unload at La Chapelle, then reload and move on,
Until we came to a halt in Belgium at Modave.
There some were dealt to those needing to bridge,
Some stream or gorge which stopped troop movement,
And we sharpened our skills in constructing it,
On River Meuse preparing for a greater mission.
Surely soon we would be on to bridge the Rhine,
And other German rivers ahead,
But with the rains of fall and stiffening enemy,
We looked for billets in which to winter.
Beautiful Château Modave for Headquarters,
Château Le Bois for Company B,
Other classy housing for others,
And Mud Hill for the Bailey Bridge.
The inventor of the Bailey Bridge,
Must have been a mean and cussed man,
For it was designed to be hauled and built,
By the strength and muscle of man.
Three, two-man teams with a yolk between them,
Must haul transom and panel of some 800 pounds,
And hold them in place while being fastened,
With pounding on pins by rawhide hammers.
Smaller steel fixtures, wooden balk and floor,
Finished the bridge of fixed construction,
But boats of plywood floating on the river,
Supported the bridge in the floating mode.
Now Miracle 300th had become expert in building,
The Floating Bailey Bridge,
The line companies A, B, C, would construct,
A Bailey Bridge on the three boat sections.
Battalion headquarters, with help of powerboat,
Would move the sections into place,
To be fastened together by other line troops,
The finished bridge would soon be ready for use.
So after the front ceased to move,
We settled down for a winter of comfort,
Operating the bridge dump on Mud Hill,
And sawmills throughout the Ardennes.
Until the orders came out,
Return to your billets on the double,
To hear the orders to fall out,
With full combat gear ready to fight.
The silly Germans had opened an offensive,
Headed right for us and our billets,
It fell to us and other similar units,
To fill the gap until other troops arrived.
In the courtyard of Château Le Bois,
I still remember Lt. Campbell's words,
"The mission we have is to hold the bridge
But we are men of the Miracle 300th, we can do it."
"You have all been under combat before,
I expect you to perform very well,
This mission may be very difficult at best,
But we are men of Miracle 300th, we can do it!"
We were called off of this mission,
Another miracle of the 300th, I feel,
But we did get other Ardennes assignments,
Mine roads, blow bridges, man barricades.
23 December, Companies A & B,
Became lost in the battle near Bastogne,
With no contact with friendly troops,
The last order to blow bridges was obeyed.
On Christmas Eve, the mission accomplished,
The small column of trucks and jeeps began,
To move in the direction, hopefully,
Where American or English troops would be.
Truthfully, we saw that the strafing and bombing,
Stayed away from our little column as,
It wound its way along narrow hill country roads,
Until in the distance could be seen tanks dug in.
Would they fire on us? Enemy or friend?
Young Lt. Webendorfer in his jeep was Recon,
For the column and very likely saved our day,
Without him most likely enemy rather than friend.
Passing safely the dug in armor,
The column proceeded to Givet, a town in France,
There we spent a safe and sound Christmas Eve,
Giving thanks for our safety and a bed of hay.
On Christmas morning, the order was given,
Load up, we're going to try to go home,
On through the sunny, snow-covered countryside,
Finally returning to a beautiful Château.
There we dined sumptuously on bread and marmalade,
This simple Christmas dinner was, I'm sure,
The most appreciated Christmas dinner we ever had,
And for Col. Crandall our return his best gift.
But just a brief respite from the battle,
Soon the orders were given to prepare for missions,
Supporting armored divisions in pursuit of,
The fleeing enemy attempting to escape.
Keep snowy roads clear through day and night,
Replace bridges blown to slow enemy attack,
Clear roads of debris and mines,
All the time keeping up with the armor.
Soon the war became a rout,
The enemy fled back to the Homeland with haste,
Belgium and Luxembourg left behind,
We entered our goal, Germany, at last.
Through forest, town, and village,
Bearing names more familiar to me,
For I had been born of German stock,
Though American as baseball to be free.
We were fast approaching the Rhine,
Would we finally perform the task,
Of bridging that great stream,
The last great obstacle to overcome?
Training on the floating Bailey Bridge,
Had always been on locked and dammed rivers,
The Thames in England, the Meuse or Maas,
On the continent, all slow or still rivers.
Just what, I wonder, would have happened,
Had we, indeed, had to bridge the Rhine,
With the swift current, its eddies, its depth,
Could we have managed to maneuver it into place.
Capture of the railroad bridge in Remagen again,
Along with the use of most of the materials,
In rebuilding the bridges in the Ardennes,
Following the Battle of the Bulge.
Thus we were robbed of our great mission,
To bridge the mighty Rhine,
To perform under fire bridging the mighty stream,
Frankly I still don't miss it at all.
But no, it was not in the cards for us,
Lt. Shoop and his Recon team did one day,
Returned from the daily mission,
With an unbelievable report to share.
"Would you believe it if I told you,"
Shoop queried us, "that today we crossed,
Upon a captured railroad bridge,
At a town called Remagen, the mighty Rhine?"
"No!" We all answered, "It is not possible,
Even the Germans would not be so foolish,
As to leave a bridge standing as they fled,
Across the mighty River Rhine."
"Well, it's true. Their explosive charges,
Though carefully placed, did fail to explode,
When the order was given destroy the span,
Quick action by our troops saved the bridge."
Shoop continued, "We drove the jeep across,
Turned around and returned. Guess we lost our job,
To bridge the River Rhine. Thank God," he said,
"It's a mean looking river to bridge under fire."
So crossed the Rhine we did upon a Treadway bridge,
On 24 March 1945, go on enjoying the rout,
Supporting armored divisions against the remnants,
Although once much feared German Wermacht.
A swing to the North accomplished the surrounding,
Of much of the enemy against the Rhine,
In what was called the Pocket, from which,
On my birthday, 14 April, we were ordered to move.
Far to the south to Bavaria, to join Patton's Third,
Our advance was very fast to keep pace,
With "blood and guts" and his armor,
A fearsome thing for the defeated army.
Through Frankfurt, Am Main, past Aschaffenburg,
Ansbach, and Ingolstadt to cross the Danube,
Building a bridge for Gen. Patton who,
As he crossed, stopped to pee in the river.
The General declared the bridge damn good,
Flung the helmet with ragged net into the drink,
Saying it "looks like hell,"
Which it did compared to his shiny shell.
On to Moosburg on the Isar,
Within sight of the snow-covered Alps,
Just short of the Inn halted at a village,
Schroding by name on 1 May.
Ordered to remain in place,
The war in Europe almost over,
To allow the Russian army to occupy,
Prague and all of Czechoslovakia.
"Hurray." The war ended on 8 May, 1945,
The defeat of Germany was complete,
Terrible destruction was everywhere,
The surrender was unconditional.
Prison and internment camps were opened,
The terrible truth of the Holocaust known,
Displaced people everywhere,
Anxious to go anywhere that might lead home.
The battles over,
The victory secure,
Peace in Europe assured,
Proud units no longer needed.
Once proud Engineer Combat Battalion,
Now stripped of men called Low Pointers,
Sent to replacement camps in France,
To be placed in units bound for Pacific.
And that they would soon board ships,
Taking them back across the Atlantic,
To ports of New York, Boston and others,
For processing and return home.
High Pointers stayed with the Battalion,
They would not be bound for more war,
But would continue in doing peaceful task,
Until the remnant of Miracle 300th moved west.
Headed for a staging camp in France,
And with the end of war in the Pacific,
Many men were given time off,
To enjoy the land and people of peaceful Europe.
Battalion arriving at Staging Camp in France,
Departing Marseille on board Groucher Victory,
Arriving back on U. S. soil 2 November,
Seeing on 7 November, deactivation at Camp Patrick Henry.
So what began at Camp White, Oregon, on 1 March 1943,
After a lot of training and traveling and battle,
Ended on the East Coast in Virginia,
A story of brave young man who lived, fought, and died.
But the story did not end at Fort Patrick Henry,
Men who survived return home to become known,
As the "greatest generation" and aged together,
Gathering each year in reunion the story to retell.
Now each year we gather in Texas,
First Austin then Dallas and Tyler, memories to relive,
Camp White, England, The Continent,
Where five campaigns we fought.
I love you all, from Col. Crandall down,
To the lowest gold-bricking private,
You are my buddies all for most of three years,
Of active service, that is, and many more sense.
So let us continue to gather,
As long as we may live,
To share our love for each other,
And our memories of Miracle 300th.
For Don (Richter) by Charles Tipton Gardner, son of Charles and Margie, April 25, 1995
I heard your song of the miracle today,
The fine 300th; Brothers of my father -
For the life of me, This is the only way
I can thank you for the bother...
I have watched your men rejoin
For many years, with Dad and Mom,
And no greater love nor worth
Has ever touched me as you and yours have, Don.
No matter what I may attain,
Whatever height I may see,
I hear myself again and again;
"You stand on their shoulders; that's why you're free."
I am the son of all veterans,
A gifted American under his flag -
I have entered this arena because my ticket is paid for -
And there, on the mast is that old flag
Waving at all the world.
The Price of Freedomby Linda Birdwell Bice
Linda Birdwell Bice read this poem she wrote at the Tyler reunion in October 2009. It was dedicated to her father, Cpl. William Ward Birdwell, WWII U.S. Army, 481st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion and her father-in-law, Sgt. Chuck Bice, Sr., Co. C, 300th ECB:
It was on a blood-soaked field in Europe that day,
On the frozen, foreign ground bodies of young men lay.
Young men with families back in the States,
Young men who heroically enter heaven's gates.
Only hours ago bullets filled the air,
The night sky was lit up by the cannon's red glare.
Morning's come now, a soft breeze blows the trees.
Snow covers the place where they fell to their knees.
They gave their best when they heard the call.
They gave their lives - they gave it all.
No shame they felt as they fell to the ground.
It's quiet now - there's not even a sound.
There's a peace here now that only death brings.
Snow falls on hands that wore wedding rings.
Snow falls on legs that took family hikes,
Snow falls on feet that taught kids to ride bikes.
War calls for a sacrifice we all must bear.
Each family is called and is expected to share.
So many give their lives so Old Glory can fly.
The price of our Freedom is indeed very high.
Kalman Lutsky, one of Five Brothers
Well I am going to tell you some news. I am the youngest of 14 children. Seven boys and seven girls. We were five brothers in World War II. There were only five families out of millions that had five boys in World War II. And we were one of them. Three of us were in Battle of the Bulge and in Normandy and another brother was in Guadalcanal. And my other brother was in the Coast Guard. We all came home. There are only two of us living now, my brother is 90 and I am 88.