The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Summer 2010

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Dallas Reunion

The 300th Combat Engineers gathered again in Dallas the first weekend in June for their 54th consecutive reunion. The reunion was the best attended in several years with more than 50 people enjoying each others company. Fourteen veterans attended including two for the first time — Herbert Ash and Domingo Muniz.

More than ever before, this was a reunion of the families of the men of the 300th. In addition to spouses of the veterans, there were children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. The Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris families were there with 15 members representing four generations. Domingo Muniz came with his son and grandson. During an audio interview with Domingo, his his son and teenage grandson listened with interest and commented that they had never heard him tell some of these stories of WWII.

The group recognized the son of 300th veteran Juke Burnham, a retired Army Lt. Col. who was in attendance. Chuck Hodge was there with his video recorder. He has spent several years recording oral histories of veterans of WWII. He spent several hours interviewing Norman Webb, Don Richter, Juke Burnham, Warren Chancellor and Cowboy Morris. This is a volunteer effort on his part and he shares the interviews with historical organizations and museums as well as the 300th web site.

The reunion was hosted by Warren Chancellor and Cowboy Morris and coordinated by Cliff Martin (son of 300th engineer Cliff "Jo-Jo" Martin) and his wife Pat. The reunion ran with military precision including the full-house at the traditional formal lunch meeting on Saturday chaired by Warren Chancellor. Brad Peters and Jan Ross provided a brief review of additions to the web site over the past year. They showed a recently released video of the remains and resting place of LST 523 off Utah Beach. The respectful video of excellent quality was produced by a French dive team in coordination with the Normandy Invasion Museum in Caen, France.

Although not in the best of health, Randy Hanes was able to attend the Saturday lunch meeting which he had chaired for many years. He also planned and coordinated the Dallas reunion for many years through last year. Warren and Cowboy presented Randy with a handsome plaque recognizing his many years of hosting the reunion in Dallas. Randy was moved by the recognition and expressed it by saying, "This may be the only time you have ever found me unable to find the right words in this case to thank the great men of the 300th and their families."

Sad news was announced by Warren by reading the list of 300th men lost over the past year: Don Honeycutt, George Gallant, Tomme Elliott, Jerry Barton, Elbert Harris, Servando Varela and William Chapman as well as Jeanne Kaiser (wife of Ken Keiser who had attended many reunions through last year). We also recently learned of the passing of Clement Raynal.

The next reunion of the 300th will be held in Tyler, Texas with a tentative date of the weekend of October 1,2,3. Save the date and all are invited to attend.

Did You Know - "Cowboy?"

How did Kenneth Morris get his "Cowboy" nickname? He tells the story himself. "I got to France and there were a few cows out there. So I told the boys that I was going to ride some cows. I chased them old cows and was riding them. The French were madder than the devil that I was riding them. So the men called me 'Cowboy' and it stayed with me." Cowboy took his French cow riding a bit further at home. Soon after the war, he became a professional bull rider and travelled the rodeo circuit confirming his "Cowboy" moniker. He later became a rancher, livestock trader and businessman and remaining "Cowboy" to this day.

Did You Know - Lt. Lutz?

Don Richter describes his admiration for Lt. Orville Lutz for his leadership in the 300th and his musical talent. He was killed on LST 523. "He was a fine man who really cared for his men. Lt. Lutz had been a drummer in the Phil Harris Orchestra in Hollywood and was a regular on the Bing Crosby weekly radio show. He would show off his drumming skills using anything at hand to beat out a rhythm. I remember well being on KP on Christmas Day in Devizes, England when Lt. Lutz spent most of the day in the kitchen entertaining us with the pots and pans and keeping our spirits up. I really admired that man and grieved his death."

Did You Know - Water?

Providing potable water for troops in combat fell to the combat engineers. For most of the European campaign, the newly developed ERDLator system was used. The system was named after the Engineering and Development Labratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Jan Ross's father trained in water supply at Fort Belvoir and led the 300th H&S men establishing water points in the European Campaign. Potable water use in combat was estimated by the military on a per day basis in gallons as follows: drinking - 5; hygiene - 2.7; showers - 1.3; food preparation - 3; vehicles - 3; heat treatment (ice) - 1; hospitals - 2; construction - 1.5. Total use - 20 gallons of potable water per man per day.

LST 523 New Information

The web site has received new, important information of what happened on LST 523 off Utah Beach on 19 June 1944. Mary Benz contacted the web site requesting any additional information about LST 523. Her uncle was M/Sgt. Edward J. Sullivan, a member of the 207th Engineer Combat Battalion. He was killed in the sinking of LST 523 and his remains never recovered. Mary sent copies of five U.S. Army reports of the sinking of LST 523. The reports will be transcribed and added to the web site in the near future. The reports are as follows:

  • Report of the American Graves Registration Command, European Area
  • Affidavit of T/5 Andy Grinnik, Co. C, 300th Engr. Co Bn, 30 November 1944
  • Extracted from AG File 569.14 "Sinkings," 25 December 1944
  • Extracted from AG File 569.14 "Sinkings," 21 November 1944
  • American Graves Registration Command, European Zone, 21 November 1944