The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Summer 2009

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Honoring the Men of the 300th

This is the third 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. Please forward to us the mailing address of anyone who might like to receive this newsletter.


The 300th Engineer Combat Battalion held its 53rd consecutive reunion in Dallas on June 4, 5, and 6. Many thanks to Randy Hanes for coordination another successful reunion. Ten 300th veterans and another 32 family members attended with lots of updates on the past year and plenty of storytelling. Several very large group photographs taken of the companies in Europe were available for the group to identify as many men as they could. Dozens of men were identified in the photos and that brought back more memories. These identifications will be added to the web site later this year. Additional audio recordings were made and new photographs were scanned for the site.

Just in from Chuck Bice: "Old buzzards and lovely ladies, get ready for a great reunion. October 1, 2, 3 at the Comfort Inn, 2843 W. N. W. Loop 232, Tyler, Texas 75702 903-597-1301. Please make your reservation by Sept. 1 at $69 per night. Tell them you are with the 300th Engineers Reunion."

We learned that Navy survivors of LST 523 hold a reunion each year in Tennessee. Only a small number attend. For information about the reunion please contact the editors.

Through Paris 65 Years ago

Leonard Burke describes going through Paris in late August after the liberation of the city:

We went into Paris and were pulled off the road. We [the Allies] had already taken Paris. It was our turn to go in. We were in a wooded area when word came down to get off the road and wait. Finally he came by in the lead military vehicle. De Gaulle was standing up waving and his troops came by with their trucks and jeeps all polished up and their pants all pressed. They just landed from England. Once they came through and all got by, we started back on the road to Paris. By the time we got there, de Gaulle was in his headquarters and had returned to power. We went down through Paris - the Arc de Triumph and the city parks. De Gaulle's army had tents everywhere and everyone had a girl on each side with a bottle of wine. We just went on through. On the way we hit a winery and we all got drunk that night.

Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris describes going through Paris:

When we went through Paris, the Germans had surrendered but there was still some sniper fire. The streets were just lined with civilians for miles. They were pitching cognac and bottles of wine into the truck and I said, "Now boys it wouldn't be right not to take it." Colonel Crandall later said at a reunion, "When we went through Paris, I said to myself, boy I had a battalion that was young, bright, intelligent engineers. But when we got out of Paris I just had a bunch of drunks." That was a sight you'll never forget. Those people acted like they were so glad to be liberated. It felt like you were doing something worthwhile. It was really something.

Notes From Warren Chancellor:

This may sound like something I invented, but it actually happened.

All of the 300th vehicles had Prestone antifreeze added to the radiators and in fairly large white letters stenciled on the radiator just above the grille was P R E S T O N E. (Indicating antifreeze had been added.) One of our fellow medics was S/Sgt. Preston Gatlin.

When our convoy was slowly going through Paris, and all the Parisians were throwing flowers, kisses and offering Cognac & wine, many of the crowd, noticing the white letters on the radiator began to shout "Viva la PRESTONE, Viva la PRESTONE," over and over. So we asked Gatlin how all those Parisians knew his name. This led all the medics to call Gatlin "PRESTONE" for the remainder of the war.

Note: Warren was contacted by a representative of the World War II Museum in New Orleans and agreed to an interview about the 300th in Europe in 1944-1945. The interview took place at Warren's home in May.

I just finished the video-taped interview of nearly two hours with Thomas Naquin. He was extremely nice. Things went well and I gave the 300th plenty of coverage. They are supposed to complete the new addition and have a grand opening sometime around the first of November and he wanted Suzy and me to attend if possible. He said how impressed he was with our web site and said he spent over an hour looking through it. He was very impressed with all the personal stories. I don't know how this will be used but we know from an earlier visit with the museum they are interested in stories about the Combat Engineers in WWII.

Web Site News

The Dallas reunion in June provided a single major contribution to the web site in the near future. Nettie Palmer, wife of Harold Palmer, has been attending 300th reunions in Dallas for several years with her son Adrian Lopez from California. This year, she brought with her a small metal box filled with photographs of the 300th taken during the campaign in Europe. The small photographs, about 2 x 2 inches, are in excellent condition. Many are of the men of the 300th, their equipment, destroyed towns, disabled German tanks and planes and very rare photos of American gliders that landed in France during the Normandy Invasion.

Thanks to Don Richter who brought his printer/scanner to the reunion, Brad and Jan scanned more than 200 photographs of the 300th. Over the years, Nettie and Adrian have identified many of the men in the photographs. This contribution to the web site is the single largest collection of photographs taken by the men of the 300th themselves. It is a tribute to the men and we all have Nettie Palmer to thank for her generosity in sharing them. By the way, she and Adrian drove all the way from California to attend the reunion!

This newsletter provided another contribution of photographs. Ouida Pelletteri, wife of Louis Pelletteri, received this newsletter and sent Brad and Jan photocopies of a few pictures she had of the men of the 300th with a lengthy letter. Ouida later sent the originals which were scanned by Brad and Jan. The originals were returned to her by insured mail and her photographs are now up on the site. These photos are all of the men of the 300th, most in small groups, with many of the men identified. Again significant new images will be added to the site due to the trust and generosity of the spouse of a 300th veteran. Thank you Ouida.

Another addition to the site will be additional material about LST 523. Contact with Navy survivors and with the sister of a man of the 300th who lost his life have added new information. Brad and Jan made contact by phone with Bessie Maberry Coonts in July and talked with her at length about her brother Simon Maberry. This new information will be added to the site in the near future.

Several individuals have contacted the site by e-mail with comments (all favorable), requests for information, some corrections and additional information about the 300th. Interestingly, many of these contacts have come from Europe, some in other than English requiring translation. All of these have received a prompt response.

We invite your comments and contributions.