The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Fall 2011

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Tyler Reunion

The annual reunion of the 300th in Tyler, Texas was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 30, October 1 and 2, 2011. Ten veterans of the 300th attended the reunion this year along with another 25 family members.

The Tyler Reunion was a great success in many ways. More than 35 veterans and their families attended. Chuck Bice and William Lakey coordinated the reunion again this year.

Warren Chancellor introduced those who attended  the Tyler reunion for the first time. Mike and Sharon Koch attended the reunion for the first time. Sharon is the daughter of 300th veteran Charles Olive. They brought with them the complete collection of Charles’ wartime experiences including photographs, papers, relics from the battlefield and a display of his medals. Charles passed away four years ago. Brad Guffy, son of “Cowboy” and Gerri Morris, and his wife Cathy have attended many reunions in the past and this year they brought their son Clayton who was introduced. John Durant has attended other 300th reunions for many years and this time attended the Tyler reunion for the first time. Barry and Shellie Salay attended for the first time. She is the daughter of 300th veteran Kenneth Kaiser and his wife Jeanne.

Brad Peters and Jan Ross reported that the most significant change in the web site is the addition of photographs. New collections added include the hundreds of photographs and papers in the Dale Williams collection provided by his son Keenan, the collection of Thomas Renfro provided by his son Barry and the William Clyde Tanner collection provided by his son Ronnie. These collections nearly doubled the number of photographs in the web site Photo Gallery. Brad read a letter from Adrienne Manzone, daughter or Colonel Riel Crandall, CO of the 300th. She and her husband attended the reunion in Dallas, the first reunion she had attended. She expressed how wonderful everyone was to them at the reunion was and how much she appreciated the stories the men told about her father. She thanked the men of the 300th for their service.

Jimmie Y. Lee Passed on July 1, 2011

We recently learned of the passing of 300th veteran Jimmie Y. Lee. His wife, Nancy, wrote us a letter a part of which is below:

I am writing to let you know how much I appreciate your time and effort in sending my husband, Jimmie Y. Lee all these years the 300th Quarterly Newsletter. He passed away July 1, 2011 of a massive heart attack. He would read the articles word for word. He constantly talked of his experiences in the war to his friends and family. He saw a lot of action and in one case his commanding officer being shot and killed. Jim and I went to the reunion at Dallas, Texas in 1985. We met Buck and Nita Ellis and his other buddies. We heard from Buck and Nita for many years. Jim and I enjoyed the reunion very much. Your newsletter gave my husband a lot of good memories.

Sincerely Yours,
Nancy Lee

Ben L. White

Recently (August 2011), Ben L. White of the 300th called Brad Peters to relate some additional recollections. He described his contribution to the surrender of German troops in the Ruhr Pocket of Germany in the late winter of 1945.

“I came upon a German colonel and he said, ‘We want to surrender.’ It was in the Pocket in Germany maybe in March of ’45. I was assigned to the 99th Infantry at the time. So when he told me he wanted to surrender, I turned him over to the 99th. A little while later I saw the German colonel surrendering to the general of the 99th. I don’t remember his name.

The Germans came across the small bridge that had not yet been blown. It was his whole division. They had their guns but were surrendering them when they crossed the bridge. They knew they were surrounded and running out of food and supplies. They knew the end was near. So the general of the 99th took the surrender of the Germans and I guess he took credit for the surrender. The 300th didn’t get any credit for this because I was attached to the 99th at the time. When they crossed the bridge to surrender, I guess there must have been a thousand prisoners. Sometimes you do your job and somebody else gets the credit.”

The following is an account of the activity of the 125th Engineer Combat Battalion from 27 April to the work of the 300th on the bridge over the Isar River in Moosburg.

On the 27th of April Major Chester Watkins returned from pass and assumed command of the 125th Engineer Combat Battalion. The following day HQ crossed the Danube at Ingolstadt. This once-fine relic of a medieval city was now in shambles. They stayed at a captured airfield near Manching that night. Next day they were in Reichersdorf where they stayed until May 1st. On the move again, liberated Moosburg was passed through. Here thousands of former prisoners, happy but confused, greeted them. Strangely enough there was little sign of rioting, and things were comparatively quiet. All extra rations flowed from the trucks to these men who had been starved in German hands, some for months, some for years.

Our progress was halted here by a blown bridge over the Isar River. On April 30th the Division Engineer, Major George Watkins, was advised by the Commanding General of the 14th Armored Division that a bridge would  be constructed over the Isar at Moosburg. The Division was, in the meantime, moved to an assembly area preparing to move over the proposed bridge.

Reconnaissance was performed by Major Watkins along with Capt. Wallace of  “C” Company and the S-3, Capt. Knight with Major Crandall of the 300th, to find the most suitable bridging site. Finally after a conference with the Corps Commander, Corps Engineer, and the Commanding General of the 14th Armored Division, it was decided to construct the bridge to the north of the destroyed bridge.

The 998th Treadway Bridge Company, which at one time had been Company “E” of our battalion, furnished the equipment. In reorganization, Company “E” had been eliminated from the Armored Engineer Battalion some months previously in the States. This chance meeting in Germany was the first opportunity for many old friends to see each other again.

Major Watkins set up a forward CP [command post] at the bridge site in order that telephone communications could be established with Headquarters of the 14th Armored Division. The 399th Engineer (C) BN, a supporting battalion of engineers constructed the bridge, and by the end of the day it was completed; however continuous maintenance was needed on the approaches. During the dark hours of the next morning the Division crossed the treadway and moved on.