The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

Sawmill operated by Co. C in vicinity of Pont De Bonner, Belgium.

What They Did

Sawmill
Sawmill operated by Co. C in vicinity of Flemalle, Belgium. They started operations 15 November 1944 with an average daily output of 3,505 board feet per day. Photo: Riel Crandall

Other Engineer Tasks in Combat

The 300th Combat Engineers were trained in the United States and England in a number of duties before the D-Day invasion. They learned to build various types of bridges, re-built and maintained roads, set up water points, mine sweeping and laying mines, repair and maintenance of equipment and more. When the 300th engineers landed on Sugar Beach, they became the men who could do anything they were asked to do to support the Allied forces as they drove the Germans back across Europe. On some occasions they would become infantry and "combat" engineers, but mostly they were the answer to "what do we need to do to move forward." The engineers always had that answer.

As the 300th moved into France, much of their unique role was clearing the way on roads destroyed by pre-invasion Allied bombing. In France, the 300th built bridges, cleared and laid mine fields, set up water points and repaired roads and bridges, but mostly they were constantly on the move. When the 300th reached recently liberated Modave, Belgium on September 14, 1944 they finally settled into a single location until year end.

It was in Belgium that the 300th engineers first found themselves in unique roles. Possibly the most important role was that of ambassadors for the United States. While the infantry and airborne was still constantly on the move, the engineers became part of the communities. Many lived with civilian families, ate local food, drank and socialized in local pubs, and played with local children while braving a bitter winter and working long hours.

It was here that the 300th became fixers. They rebuilt the local infrastructure by restoring buildings, water supply and roads. Many of the 300th engineers managed and worked in several local sawmills. Company C began operating a saw mill in Flemalle, Belgium in November 1945 which had an average daily output of 3,505 feet of lumber. They also operated a saw mill at Pont De Bonner, Belgium in November 1945 with output of 1,406 board feet daily.

The 300th took over a large building badly damaged by Allied bombing in Aachen, Germany in November, 1944. They repaired it in a few weeks and opened it as a hospital on December 1, 1944 for Allied forces fighting in the area. Another function of the 300th at this time was clearing roads of destroyed German tanks and equipment left behind in the bitter winter in Belgium of 1944-1945. As the Battle of the Bulge wound down and German forces retreated into the Ruhr Pocket, the 300th moved into Germany in February of 1945. A major task for the 300th in early 1945 was operating rock quarries and graved pits. Company A operated a quarry at Walheim, Germany; Company B a quarry at Bergstein, Germany; and Company C a gravel pit at Villip, Germany. Also in February 1945, Company C cut logs and built a corduroy road at Raevan, Germany. As Germans surrendered in the Ruhr Pocket, the 300th found themselves building make-shift prisoner-of-war camps. With some threat of German resistance in Germany, the 300th found themselves functioning as guards for buildings, roads, bridges and water supply.

By April 1945, the 300th engineers saw their role change again as the war in Europe wound down. For three days, 24 hours a day, the 300th traveled in convoy from the Ruhr Pocket to Southern Germany near the Austrian border. Near there they helped liberate a prison-of-war camp of Allied troops, Stalag VIIA near Mooseburg, Germany. As V-E Day came in May, the 300th became ambassadors for the United States as they began to help rebuild Germany. They did not integrate into the community to the degree that they had in Belgium as the war would continue for a time in other parts of the world. It was time for the men of the 300th to plan to go home since they had accomplished their mission in WWII and Europe.

Bridge opened for traffic
Working on corduroy road in vicinity of Raeran, Belgium, 12 February 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall
Battalion repairing a building
Battalion repairing a building for hospital occupancy in Aachen, Germany, 23 November 1944. Construction began 11 November 1944. Photo: Riel Crandall
Battalion completed building
Battalion completed building for hospital occupancy in Aachen, Germany, 25 November 1944. Job order completed 1 December 1944. Photo: Riel Crandall
Road repair work
Road repair work likely in Belgium, winter 1944-45. Photo: Riel Crandall
Road repair work
Road repair work likely in Belgium, winter 1944-45. Photo: Riel Crandall