The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Fall 2010

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Tyler Reunion

The first weekend of October in Tyler, Texas saw another gathering of the men of the 300th, their families and friends. Like the reunion in Dallas this past June, this reunion saw several new faces and resulted in unexpected attendance. Before the weekend was over, nearly 60 veterans, family and friends gathered to bring one another up to date on health, family and activities over the past years while the veterans continued to share their experiences of 1943 – 45.

As an added bonus for the reunion, WWII reenactors from the Tyler area brought several restored WWII army vehicles for display and lots of discussion. They were all in running order and in excellent restored condition with great attention to detail and accuracy. The vehicles included a deuce and a half, a half track, two jeeps and a 1942 WLA Army Harley motorcycle fully outfitted. The reenactors enjoyed meeting and talking with the veterans and families who also enjoyed the display. See insert for photographs of the vehicles.

James Kennedy

Last year at Tyler, James Kennedy and his wife attended a 300th reunion for the first time. As a survivor of the LST 523 tragedy, Jan recorded him telling of his experiences which were later included in the LST 523 story on the 300th web site in his own voice. He also allowed his collection of photographs to be scanned and they are now up on the site. Sadly, he was registered to attend the Dallas reunion June. His wife passed away shortly before the reunion and he passed away shortly after the reunion. It was the pleasure of many of us last year to get to know James and his wife and our condolences go out to the family.

Chief

A year ago, James Kennedy described his friend Chief and how he saved his life. "In England, I agreed to spar with Chief [Johnnie Watashe]. He was the heavyweight Golden Gloves champion of Oklahoma so he had some privileges. Chief took good care of me. He was my buddy. We both were in Headquarters and Services Company.

"Every morning we would box until reveille. I weighed only 150 pounds and he weighed about 220 pounds. I would run for about 30 minutes every day so I could just keep out of his way. I was much faster than he was and I could sting him every now and then. He would get to me when my arms were down and he would start hitting me. If I hit back he ignored me and kept hiting me. He didn't hurt me during all that time. I could hit him as hard as I wanted to at any time. That was the relationship we had.

"In June when we loaded on the LST to go to France, Chief and I got on together along with other men of the 300th. The Channel crossing was crowded and rough due to a severe squall. As we approached land, we hit a mine. I was wounded with a six inch head wound and my knee was injured so I was unable to stand. The head wound put so much blood in my eyes that I could not see to climb the ladder to the deck. Chief said, 'Kennedy's hit, let's get him out!' He pushed me up the ladder, placed me into a seat and someone lowered me into a small boat. While I was in the small boat, I heard someone shout, 'Don't jump, don't jump!' I must have passed out because I didn't hear or see anything else until I was on a cot stretcher stacked above a jeep and remember nothing of the boat ride to the hospital in England." Johnnie Watashe was lost in the explosion and sinking of LST 523.

New Veteran Face – Willie Hein

For the first time in many years, Willie Hein, his wife and family attended a 300th reunion. In addition to reuniting with his buddies, he brought his photo album of photographs he took during the war. About 150 great quality photos were scanned and will be added to the web site. Most of the photographs are identified as to location and names of people so they will be invaluable for the web site research. Thank you Willie for loaning your photographs to us for a few hours in Tyler and hope to see you in Dallas in June.

Thomas Renfro's Son

Barry Renfro, son of Thomas Renfro of Co. C, contacted the web site and learned about the Tyler reunion only about two weeks before the reunion. He immediately made reservations and arrived on Friday evening after driving for several hours. Barry brought with him two large albums of photographs his father had taken at Camp White, England and the European Campaign. The larger book contained about 500 photos and the smaller about 200 which he shared at the reunion. Jan and Brad scanned more than 700 of the Renfro photographs while visiting in Texas after the reunion. Barry also had engineer instruction books which will also be scanned. Many of the Renfro photos from the albums will be added to the web site in the near future.

Dale Williams' Son

Keenan Williams, son of Dale Williams of H&S Co., attended the reunion with his son for the first time. Again, he contacted the web site and learned of the reunion just a few weeks before the reunion. Keenan brought a large box of his father's 300th collection. The box included many documents, photographs and instruction manuals including some handwritten by his father. He spent time sharing the materials with the men and families. He indicated that the box was only a fraction of the material his father had stored. He intends to review the materials and scan items that would be valuable for research and to add to the site in the future. One treasure that he brought was a sword and sheath that possibly dates to medieval times that he recovered from the Modave area where the 300th was billeted in the winter of '44-'45.

Rafael Garza's Daughter

Mary Cavazos, the daughter of Rafael Garza, Co. B, attended the Tyler reunion. Rafael Garza was MIA in June 1944 and presumed lost on LST 523 on June 19. Mary found the web site and learned of the reunion shortly before the reunion. She came with family and friends to meet some of the men who served with her father. She spent several hours with Don Richter, Co. B, who knew her father. She never knew her father and it was a poignant time for those who were involved in this moment.

Fuqua Boyd

Fuqua Boyd recently passed away in Wichita Falls on October 23. In lieu of flowers, a donation was made in his memory supporting this issue of the 300th Quarterly by the 300th ECB fund. Condolences go out to his family.

Note from Jan and Brad

We wish to thank many of the 300th and their families who contributed financially at each of the recent past reunions that has helped to support the continued expansion, design and maintenance of the 300th web site by 300th webmaster Paul Lindale. You all are most generous and we thank you.