The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Spring 2009

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Honoring the Men of the 300th

This is the second edition of the 300th Quarterly honoring the 65th anniversary of the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion in Europe. We continue to need your help. Please send us any material you wish for inclusion in future issues. That could be news of you, your family, travel, stories of WWII, news of others of the 300th friends, etc. You may send this by: e-mail, snail-mail, or a telephone call. Thank you for any way you can help in this new endeavor. Please forward to us the mailing address of anyone who might like to receive this newsletter.

Warren Chancellor, Jan Ross, Brad Peters

Reunions

The 300th Combat Engineer Battalion will have its 53rd consecutive reunion in Dallas at:

Radisson Hotel: 11350 LBJ Freeway at Jupiter Road, Dallas, Texas 75238
Hotel reservations: 800-346-0660
Dates: June 4-7, 2009
Special room rates: $65.00 (tax incl.)
Saturday lunch: $15.00 (tax incl.)

Please make the reservations by May 15th and ask for the 300th rate.

The Tyler reunion will held in Tyler, TX October 1-3. Details will follow in the next newsletter. Stand by.

The Normandy Invasion and the 300th - 65 years ago

After learning of the D-Day invasion on June 4, 1944, the 300th waited in England for their own opportunity to set foot on French soil. The First Echelon of the 300th left England on LST 87 on 15 June arriving at Utah Beach on 16 June, 1944.

300th Engineer Don Richter describes waiting in England for the invasion:

In mid-May, we were assembled with all of our trucks loaded with men and equipment. We waited and waited and finally were ordered to dismount as the assignment had gone to our sister outfit, the 299th. We were relieved but somewhat disappointed. Each night we witnessed aircraft taking off pulling large gliders and later returning. We assumed that this was training for an invasion on the continent. The number of aircraft towing gliders was much greater on the night of June 5th and the aircraft returned without their tows [of gliders]. This was a sign to us that the invasion had begun without us.

Later in the morning, radios in the company area carried the address of General Eisenhower telling his troops in England that D-Day was indeed at hand and that a huge armada of ships along with airborne troops had begun to invade France. He said that all of us would soon be joining in the battle to free Europe from the control of Nazi Germany. Most of us, I believe, had mixed feelings. While we were relieved at not having to participate in the initial landing on D-Day, we were also just a bit let down for not being called upon to participate in the greatest military assault in the history of mankind.

300th Engineer Warren Chancellor describes landing at Utah Beach:

It's hard to describe what an LST looks like. They were just a large open hull down below. We entered the ship about dark and went below and stayed there until we landed. Everyone was on a truck. The LST beached while the tide was in and we sat there and waited until the tide went out. The huge doors opened and the ramp went down. We drove off on the wet sand. It was extremely dark and we could see very little.

Each LST had one or two "barrage balloons" attached with cables, fore and aft. While we were waiting for the tide to go out, a German plane flew over and hit one of the balloons. It caught fire completely illuminating the beach. There were several LSTs there. The plane did not go down. We were just a little worried about more planes attacking since the beach was lit up like a Christmas tree for a few minutes and the Germans could see all the ships down there. No more came over.

There was quite a bit of mortar and artillery fire but none close to us. We were not close enough to the front at that time to be able to hear rifle fire. We then moved inland at a snail's pace and it was not long before we heard the rifle and machine guns. We then entered a small hedgerow encircled field and stayed there until probably mid-morning.

300th Engineer John Durant describes mustard gas in Normandy:

On Utah Beach, the alarm went off in the middle of the night up and down the beach. Charles Milton Farley, Kenneth Kaiser and myself were under a big camouflage tarpaulin. We set up our tent and the alarm went off-gas - gas in the area - gas in the area!

Charles Farley put his hand out and a big droplet of water hit him on the top part of his hand. We couldn't have a light so Charlie pulls his hand back and thought it was mustard gas. In the first aid kit there was ointment for mustard gas. Charlie put that ointment all over his hand. Sooner or later it blistered his hand. It wasn't mustard gas but droplets of water that dropped off the tarpaulin! All of us were scared to death. Mustard gas, it's just a funny story.

300th Engineer Leonard Burke describes landing in Normandy and laying a mine field:

We had been laying mines in a field in Carentan when a paratrooper from the 101st Airborne came running down the road. I asked, "Are you hurt?" He was okay but he said a German sniper was in a nearby tree. He said, "Point your rifles toward that tree near the top and let's fire." I think the 13 of us must have hit that guy. You could hear him coming down busting the branches and a big thud when he hit the ground. We got out of there in a damn hurry.

Hubert Reinke recalls the Normandy landing and laying mines:

Right after we got off the boat, around the 101st Airborne paratrooper outfit, the Germans were pushing pretty hard. They called us up to lay mines. Each squad had maybe 300 yards to cover. We strung out about 3 miles of anti-tank mines. When we got through we went out in an open field and the Germans started firing at us with artillery. We started running and I ran as far as I could. I got behind a blown out tank and said, 'If the tank blows up, I blow up too." I got my breath and ran back to our trucks. Just as we were leaving a shell hit right where we were just standing.

Remembering Roy L. Sweet By Warren Chancellor

In December of 2004, Suzy and I, along with about 150 other veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, went on a tour of Belgium and Luxembourg to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. The tour was sponsored by the governments of Belgium and Luxembourg. One of the stops on the tour was Ettelbruck, Luxembourg to visit an American WWII museum. I was wearing a military style cap with 300th Engr., Combat Bn. embroidered on it. While walking around the museum, the curator noticed my cap and asked me if I was a member of the 300th . I replied I was. He told me that the museum had an article on display that had belonged to a member of the 300th and his name was Sweet.

My reply was, 'Roy L. Sweet, a radio operator and was killed by machine gun fire from a tank somewhere near the Belgium/Luxembourg border." He took me to a glass-covered display of smaller articles of American equipment and there was a canteen cover imprinted Roy L. Sweet, 300th Engrs. I wanted to take a picture of it but I had left my camera on the motor coach and it was parked away from the museum. What a surprise! Here I was in Luxembourg and the curator happened to notice that I was a member of the 300th and he remembered that one particular item being there. Small world!

Roy L. Sweet was killed on December 23, 1944 and is buried at the Henri-Chapelle Cemetery near Liege, Belgium.

News of the Men

In May of last year, just before the Dallas Reunion, Sgt. Jack Burk was diagnosed with lung cancer. His daughter Debbie recently reported that Jack's treatment was successful. He is better and doing very well but refusing to use a walker because 'he isn't that old." Our prayers continue with him and his family. Hope to see you, Jack, in Dallas.

We received a letter from Lois Shenkle, sister of 300th Engineer James W. Thomas, Jr. She said in part as follows, 'It is such a wonderful newsletter and I am certain Jim would have been very proud to read it. Jim passed away 12/28/07 after a battle from Parkinson's and short-term memory loss. I must say I cried when I read the newsletter. Jim often told me about the Queen Mary's trip overseas. He was so proud of the 300th and I want to thank you each and everyone of you for your bravery and keeping us safe. My best to the 300th Combat Engineers."

Leonard Burke Recognized

Sgt. Leonard Burke, veteran of the 300th was featured in November 2008 in two major newspaper stories in the Albany (Georgia) Herald.

The article by Ethan Fowler said in part: 'Well off the paved road and down a muddy driveway, the 90 year-old relaxes on a blue recliner. Life is good for Burke, who is known for his kindness and generosity. Earlier this fall he won the Aging's Older Worker of the Year for Southwest, Georgia. Burke still works 40-hour weeks. He scoffs at people who ask when he plans to retire or live in a retirement home. 'I'm looking at 100 as long as I feel good.' This article also describes in detail his tour as a member of the 300th in Europe.

The second story by Cathy Higgins said in part: 'What earned Burke that honor is the fact that he is 89 years old, he actively serves as a quality control inspector at Maule Air, Inc. which manufactures aircraft. 'Mr. Burke is one of our top employees,' the nomination presented by Burke's company states. 'His maturity, dedication and knowledge has made him stand out from other employees, making him the obvious choice for the demanding position of quality control inspector. So, what's Burke's secret? 'I'm on the go all the time, no rocking chair for me.'

Web Site News

If you have not checked out the 300th web site recently you may be surprised. There have been more changes, additions and corrections.

Look for the following changes:

  • More photographs have been added to the History and What They Did
  • Adrienne Manzone, daughter of Col. Riel Crandall, visiting her mother found the bound album presented to Col. Crandall in June 1945. Jan and Brad travelled to visit Adrienne and her husband Paul scanning nearly 200 pages of excellent quality photographs pages of information. This material is now up on the site in the IMAGE GALLERY.
  • Additional audio interviews with the men have been added to the History. Click on a gray box to hear the audio.
  • These newsletters are now on the site. See the link at the top of each page

We invite your comments and contributions.