The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

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The 300th at war.

Newsletters: Summer 2013

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Summer brings us several opportunities to recognize and honor the men and women who have served our country over these many years. In that regard please note some of the following stories.

Reunion Coming Soon

The Reunion of the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion will be held in Tyler, Texas, Friday through Sunday, October 3 ,4, 5. See the included flyer for details. All are welcome including children of all ages. At one reunion we had four generations of a single family and several times three generations of the same family. Make your reservations directly with the hotel no later than September 1.

Purple Heart Saved

We were contacted recently by Vietam veteran, Matthew Carlson, who found a Purple Heart at a flea market in the original box and accompanied by the transmittal letter. His son had found us through the 300th web site. We talked with Mr. Carlson and he said that it was not appropriate to him that the Purple Heart was for sale at a flea market. Since the recipient was a member of the 300th he thought we might be able to find the family of the soldier and return the medal. We received the Purple Heart a few days later in the mail and it was accompanied by a letter the young man had sent to his family a few weeks before he was killed in action.

In his note to us, Mr. Carlson said, “Sometimes we tend to forget the past brothers in arms, I cannot. We must remember their service with all the dignity and respect we can muster. Pfc. Merriott gave his all for our country. Can we do less?”

He was Clarence M. Merriott and our records show he was a PFC in H & S killed on 19 June 1944 in the sinking of LST 523 off Utah Beach in Normandy. His home was in Stilwell, Oklahoma and the letter of transmittal was addressed to James F. Merriott. If anyone has information that would lead to his family, please contact us so we can make proper arrangements to get the Purple Heart to the family of Charles Merriott.

New Contact and Photographs

I was surprised to see a web site dedicated to the 300th. As of a few years ago I had done a search, and nothing showed up. I will gather my father’s World War II pictures and have them scanned, and send to you for your website. I'm sure my father would have been honored to be a part of it. I did see one of my father's friends name on the site, and it was Mr. Chapman. He was a dear friend of my father. My father passed away in 1993 from cancer. I heard lots of stories about the war. They will always remain with me. I think you have done a great job on the website to honor the 300th soldiers.

-Kelly Ireland (daughter of Charles Ireland)

A few months passed and we received a box from Kelly which contained many scanned photographs and others for us to scan. The photographs will go on the web site as the Charles Ireland Collection. Several of the men of the 300th are identified and several locations are noted. We thank Kelly for her willingness to share the photographs and it is an honor to include them on the web site.

Uncle Killed in the Sinking of LST 523

We received a note on the web site from Elaine Linn of Cordova, Tennessee. Her uncle Pvt Austin Darrow Vardaman was killed in the sinking of LST 523 on 19 June 1944. She is working on some remembrances and may attend the reunion in Tyler to meet some of the men of the 300th and their families.

Kal Lewis and the 300th

Paul Lewis contacted us about his father Kal Lewis, a member of the 300th. Much to our surprise, Paul told us that Kal not only remembered Jan’s dad, Sgt. Donald H. Ross, but Kal reported directly to him in one of the two water purification units of the 300th for 14 months. This is the first veteran who knew Jan’s dad personally. It was so important for us to find a man of the 300th who could share stories about Jan’s dad. That was the original hope by establishing this web site.

We contacted Kal and he was willing for us to record his recollections about his experiences in WWII. His stories will be transcribed and added to the web site in the near future. His memories of the war are very clear even today.

The following 2005 news article by Cox News Service gave an account of the Lewis family in WWII:

When Kal Lewis was a boy growing up in Passaic, New Jersey, the town’s Memorial Day parade always ended, appropriately, at Memorial School No 11. Memorial School still stands in Passaic, but the World War I vets are gone along with a lot of memories Memorial Days are supposed to preserve. Now the World War II vets are going too. Look at Kal Lewis for example. His last name was Lutsky, Kalman Lutsky. He served in World War II and so did his brother Herman. And so did their brother Irving. And their brother Morton. And their brother Abe. Between 1940 and 1945, the Lutsky brothers of Passaic, N.J. all served in World War II.

Kal was drafted in 1943 and landed on Utah beach after D-Day. “I was lucky,” Lewis says. “I landed on Utah Beach and not Omaha. Omaha had 90 percent casualties. When we landed it was high tide and we owned a 3-mile stretch of the beach by then, but there were mines all over, and the Germans were firing artillery from their bunkers.” After training, Herman Lutsky found himself in the Ardennes forest of Belgium. “I was 20 and I was frightened all the time.”

The brothers’ only contact came when Kal, a combat engineer, was packing a portable bridge in preparation for the battle of St. Lo. Suddenly he heard a voice call, “Hey, Tito!” his boyhood nickname. “Abe saw a truck marked 300th Combat Engineers. He knew it was my unit, so he followed it,” Kal Lewis says. “We saw each other for five minutes.” The five brothers were finally reunited in 1946. All had gone to war and all had come home alive.

Another Web Site Contact

The following is the most recent contact to the web site:

I have just read this web site and found it amazingly well done. The way I found the site was from a photo I took at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial on June 5, 2011. I had taken a photo of those missing in action. One name caught my eye because he was from Texas where I am from: Leo M. Drozd. So I searched for Mr. Drozd and came upon your great tribute to the 300th Combat Engineers. Thank you very much for having this available for me to read. I now feel like I knew several of the men who served in the 300th Combat Engineers. God bless you and all of the men and their families left behind.

-Emily George, Houston, TX

Claud R. Chastain

Claud “Ray” Chastain of Company A of the 300th passed on April 1, 2013 in Saratoga, California. He was 88 years old and is survived by his wife of 65 years and two.