The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

Diamond T hauler and dozer
Diamond T, hauler and dozer of the 300th Engineers

What They Did

Diamond T hauler and dozer
Engineers wth a Diamond T hauler and dozer. Photo: Harold Palmer

Transportation

Because engineers performed so many functions, a wide variety of vehicles, both for transporting and carrying out their duties, were assigned to them. Like any regular army unit, their headquarters, supply and service staff and medical detachments were self contained. Engineers operated many types of equipment and vehicles.

Headquarters and Supply Vehicles

Co. A truckh
Co. A truck with a few of the men of the 300th. Photo: Harold Palmer
For transporting personnel and equipment, the main workhorse was the 1½ ton, 6 x 6 cargo truck. Manufactured by the Fargo Motor Corporation, this 18 foot long, 7 foot high truck could haul 7,500 pounds with a winch. With its six-cylinder engine, the truck could travel at speeds up to 50 mph. For protection, a circular steel turret held a .50 caliber machine gun (known as a M50). The truck chassis and flatbed were contiguous unlike its 2½ ton counterpart.

Medical Detachment Vehicles

Medics Warren Chancellor, Hoyt Neill, Herbert Ash
Left to right: Medics Warren Chancellor, Hoyt Neill, and Herbert Ash. Photo: Warren Chancellor
During the European Campaign, Corporal Warren Chancellor was reassigned from his clerk duties to replace a fallen "aid man." To get from place to place and to transport wounded comrades, Cpl. Chancellor used a standard ambulance, a weapons carrier (disarmed) and a standard army jeep. The weapons carrier, according to Chancellor, was ideal for hauling medical supplies and extra personnel.

The ambulance was a ¾ ton, 4 x 4 used to transport wounded and sick personnel. This vehicle, with its wood and steel construction, was equipped to carry four littered patients or eight seated. Heated and insulated with a special shock absorber system, this ambulance supplied its own 6-volt electrical system with a 40-ampere generator. The ambulances were manufactured by the Fargo Motor Corporation. Chancellor's group named their ambulance "Agony Wagon."

Another 4 x 4 weapons carrier truck was used to carry medical equipment and additional medical staff. This model could be adapted to fit other requirements. With an antennae mount, it could be used by reconnaissance groups. It also was produced by the Fargo Motor Corporation.

Jeep

Transporting a jeep by water
Transporting a jeep by water. Photo: Frank Neuhauser
Ferry with jeep crossing a river by engineer power
Ferry with jeep crossing a river by engineer power. Photo: Harold Palmer
The standard "jeep" was one of the outstanding automotive developments of World War II. Developed by the Quartermaster Corps, it was produced, to identical specification, by the Willys-Overland Motors, Inc. and the Ford Motor Co. Like the 4 x 4s, the jeep could be adjusted to carry machine guns (.30 cal. and .50 cal.), radio equipment and could also be adapted for desert conditions.

Bridging Vehicles

In addition to the larger cargo trucks (2 ton 6 x 6's), there were specially designed units to transport pontons, both wooden and inflatable. The 5-6 ton (4 x 4) tractor truck and the 6-ton (6 x 6) chassis were used for carrying bridge parts (Bailey sections) and pontons. The 6-ton truck had a derrick attached so that bridge parts could be lifted directly from the truck's flatbed.

Water Transport

Although the 300th organized water points and water stations through the use of canvas tubs, they also transported water to points located in dry areas with large trucks and smaller trailers. The 2½ ton, 6 x 6 had a standard 700-gallon elliptical water tank mounted on its chassis. A 1-ton water tank trailer could be attached to other smaller vehicles to provide 250 gallons of water. Both truck and trailer could be camouflaged, by use of tarpaulins, to resemble a cargo vehicle and be less conspicuous to enemy air attack. The trailer was manufactured by the Ben Hur Mfg. Co., the Checker Cab Co., and the Springfield Auto Works.

Other Vehicles

The D-9 Caterpillar tractor, although recently developed by the Army, was well tested after in its initial application building the Trans-Alaska Highway. Diesel powered, the light, medium and heavy versions were all of sturdy construction and could be used for a variety of uses. Wreckers, like the 4-ton, 4 x 4 were used to lift and tow disabled vehicles. Equipped with two power driven booms, each of 5-ton capacity, again, tarpaulins could give the appearance of a cargo vehicle. Similar in weight but larger (6 x 6), the standard dump truck helped engineers of the 300th haul gravel, sand, earth and any material throughout the European Theater. Large jobs dictated the need for larger equipment. The M2 truck, with a mounted crane, could lift from 22,000 to 40,000 pounds. In addition, there were machine repair shop vehicles, motorcycles, staff cars, trailers and a host of specialized vehicles. But, according to veterans of the 300th, they mainly used the 6 x 6 trucks (adapted for different purposes), standard army jeeps, weapons carriers and tractors.

Light Equipment Company and used for loading gravel
Dragline furnished by the 613th Light Equipment Company and used for loading gravel. France, 16 July 1944.
William White and motorcycle
William White and a fully equipped motorcycle. Photo: Harold Palmer