The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

VE Day Image
Aschaffenberg, Germany

History of the 300th Combat Engineers, 1943 to 1945

Moosburg Image

The End is Near

When: April 19 to June 6, 1945

Where: From the Rhur Pocket in northern Germany, south to near the Austrian border and back to Central Germany when the war in Europe ended.

Troop Movements:

  • April 19 to 21- Battalion travelled as a convoy, 24 hours a day from Bremke, Germany to hear Ansbach, Germany at the German Katterbach airfield
  • April 27- BNHQ, Co A, Co B, Co C to Weizenburg
  • April 28- BNHQ and Co A to Reicherdorf
  • April 30- Co C to Moosburg
  • May 1- BNHQ to Schroding, Co A to Meheneim, Co B to Jettenstetten, Co C to Busch
  • May 2- Co B to Aschan
  • May 3- Co A to Arndorf
  • May 4- Co B to Nievderstronbin
  • May 8- VE Day
  • May 13- BNHQ, Co A, Co B, Co C to Gunzenhausen
  • May 24- BNHQ and Co C to Aschaffenburg, Co A and Co B to Bischbornerhot

Water line being repaired
Water line being repaired between Ansbach and Winsbach, Germany, 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall
Repaired city waterlines to Ansbach
Repaired city waterlines to Ansbach, Germany. Photo: Willie Hein

During the time period encompassing the Ruhr Pocket in northern German, the 300th rotated through several divisions and assignments. On 12 February, 1945, the battalion was attached to the First Army, on 25 March to the Seventh Armored Division and on 31 March, to the 1111th Engineer Combat Group. On 15 April, the 300th was assigned to the Third Army under the command of General George S. Patton and that required the battalion move south to join Patton's Third Army in southern Germany.

300th Engineers discussing munitions in the field
300th Engineers discussing munitions in the field. Photo: Harold Palmer
In mid-April 1945, the 300th was bivouacked in Bremke in the Ruhr Pocket. On 18 April, they gathered as a battalion for transport south. All units were directed to draw three days of rations and all water containers were filled prior to movement. The Order of March was officially announced as Co. A, BN HQ, H & S, Co. B and Co. C. The Medical Detachment and Maintenance sections were to follow Co. C. (Reports from the men indicate that BN HQ led the convoy with Major Crandall in his command car.) Instructions also included: all identification on vehicles and men were to be concealed; radio silence observed; full headlights after dark and all companies were to put a dozer at the head of company columns and the rate of march was 20 miles per hour with 50 yards between vehicles.

The three-day trip started on 19 April, beginning at Bremke and travelling south through several small towns before reaching the Autobahn where they refueled at Seulberg. The battalion continued through Frankfurt, Aschaffenberg, Ober Schweinach and arrived at a German airfield in Katterbach near the town of Ansbach where Battalion Headquarters bivouacked on 21 April. The three day march was continuous, 24 hours a day except for the refueling. Some of the battalion travelled on across the Danube River, through Moosburg, across the Isar River and ending in Schroding, Germany on May 1, 1945.

Warren Chancellor described how he recalled the trip through Germany:

Warren ChancellorWe left the Ruhr Pocket and it was a continuous trip, day and night. We only had "C" and "K" rations for food. We only got to sleep when we could in the back of our trucks. As a medic, I was not a regular driver but I drove one of our 6 x 6 trucks most of one day only because I had gotten some sleep the night before. There wasn't any enemy action on the trip and we did not see many German civilians. Movement was slow and we had to make a lot of detours because of destroyed bridges. When we arrived, I immediately went to sleep on the ground until the next morning.

Don Richter recalls the convoy through Germany:

Donald RichterThe whole battalion formed into one convoy with Headquarters leading followed by Company A, Company B and Company C. The convoy stretched out for quite a distance, likely several miles, and was escorted by our motorcycle riders (each company had one) as we moved out down the highway. This was like a forced march with few stops usually only for refueling the vehicles and being fed, mostly K-rations. The German cities I recall were Frankfort, Wurzberg (the most completely destroyed city), Aschaffenburg, and finally Ansbach where we were billeted in an old German air base and were able to get some rest. After three days of traveling on a 6x6 truck on top of all of the Personnel Section office boxed up plus our personal gear, it became really uncomfortable with about eight personnel clerks perched on top of all of this stuff with the truck moving, sometimes herky-jerky, keeping its proper interval between the truck ahead. I recall having to urinate over the tailgate and hold the poop (hopefully) until the next rest stops which were very rare.

The movement of this convoys was, for some reason, quite strange and erratic with Major Crandall setting the pace in front in his command car at a proper speed while further back in the convoy vehicles had increasing difficulty keeping up the pace until the tail end vehicle really had to struggle to keep up. The German Autobahns were really great highways of four or more lanes and having no cross traffic. However, often we encountered overpasses that had been destroyed with explosives as the German Army tried to slow our progress by dropping overpasses onto the highway. The convoy ended at the airfield at Ansbach where headquarters, including the Personnel Section, may have remained there while the line companies went out on missions and some may have moved on quite far.

Kal Lutsky to the Third Army:

Kal LutskyAnd now Patton comes in and on Christmas Day the Americans were bombing the Germans and the Germans were on the run this time and we knew the war would be ending soon. That was late December. And all of a sudden in late December the 300th Combat Engineers got orders. "You are no longer in the First Army. You will now be attached to the Third Army under General Patton." So the 300th Combat Engineers got themselves together and we all loaded up on our trucks and our equipment and as fast as we moved across France and that is how fast we moved across southern Germany. We moved 50 miles a day. We went through this big town called Munich and we ended up in Czechoslovakia. We freed a couple of hundred Russians and within 48 hours which was around May 12, I think, the war ended in Europe and we had to leave Czechoslovakia. The reason: Great Britain, France, the United States and Russia -- they divided Europe into what they called Spheres of Influence. Well, in Czechoslovakia, Russia had control of that section and we had to double back and it took us about two weeks of travel back and we ended up in Germany and it was a town about 50 miles from Nuremberg. It was a place called Ansbach. I would say we arrived there in late May. There was nothing to do. And the whole Battalion got a physical by somebody and they said that our outfit had too much combat so we were going to stay in Europe. And we were all relieved because as combat engineers we figured they would need us in Japan. So we stayed in Europe and it was the end of May and into June. And we went out and we found a place to put these two tanks that we could fill up with water. And we found this place and we were out somewhere maybe ten miles from headquarters and we started to manufacture water again. But it was still a lot of people hanging around I would say maybe 100,000 people and it was in this place called Ansbach and I would say we were there about three or four weeks. And from there things started to change. And we were making water and lying around not doing much and we were playing softball with the rest of the Battalion. We had softball games three days a week. The war ended in September of '45 and our outfit was still together.

Hoyt Neill describes needs on the three day trip:

Hoyt NeillIn order to reach Schroding, we made a three-day motor trip, non-stop. It created a problem. A man is not supposed to urinate leaning on the strap across the back of a truck going 30 miles an hour. The brain tells the kidneys something is wrong. The kidneys tell the prostate the same thing and nothing happens but a slow drizzle for about half an hour.

James Kennedy describes German surrender:

James Kennedy We were on the Autobahn. I saw a bunch of Germans running across the road with no rifles. I waited a long time until they went by and I looked on the other side. I happened to see a squirrel. I dearly loved squirrel meat so I shot it and picked it up and put it on my belt. I looked up and there were two German officers with their hands behind their heads giving up to me. That was when the whole German Corps was giving up about that time. I went on the Autobahn with two German soldiers goose stepping in front of me. Some of our tanks and weapon carriers came up and I heard a big ruckus. I couldn't figure out what it was. Then I heard, "Daniel Boone, Daniel Boone!" It was because of the squirrel in my belt.

When I got back, I bet there were 300 prisoners sitting beside the road that other people had picked up. I got a dressing down because I had left without permission. Here come the Captain and said, "Let's go Kennedy." So we got in the car and went up on top of a big hill. We looked down and there was a bunch of Germans goose-stepping. We saw about 150 of them down that Autobahn and there was a half-track with a machine gun following them. We stayed and saw about six groups of them, about 150 each, with a half-track or tank in back of them. The whole Corps had given up to the Infantry.

Aaron Glenn describes moving on the Autobahn

We were about sixty or seventy miles out of Berlin and they stopped us, we were advancing on the Autobahn with our trucks following our tanks. They stopped our convoy and let the Russians go ahead and first to take Berlin. I remember that real well. It was odd, those Germans were taking everything they could that would run and there were a lot of those Volkswagens. They would run them until they ran out of gas and run them off the road. And we came with those tanks and they would line up the track and we would squash the car like a beer can.

Raphael Cuellar at the water point they guarded in Germany
Raphael Cuellar at the water point they guarded in Germany. Photo: Louis Pellitteri
It was near Moosburg that part of the 300th participated in the liberation of a German POW camp - Stalag VII A on April 29, 1945. The prisoners were American, British and Canadian personnel as well as from Allied European countries taken earlier by the Germans. A large portion of the prisoners were Russians. They all were starving and living in filthy, deplorable conditions.

The German POW camp was made up of tightly spaced rows of rundown, one story barracks built to house 10,000 troops. By April 1945, it housed more than 100,000 prisoners of which 8,000 were American troops.

By the time the Allies drove three Sherman tanks through the fence at the front entrance,

Men who guarded the water point in Germany, 1945
Men who guarded the water point in Germany, 1945. Left to right rear: Raphael Cuellar, Louis Pellitteri, Clyde Whitmore, and Charles Duncan. Left to right front: Charles Stone, Ben White and Asa Bull. Photo: Louis Pellitteri
all of the German guards had abandoned the camp. When the American flag was raised to the top of a nearby church steeple, the American prisoners, as one unit, stood together at attention and saluted it. Many of the now freed American prisoners climbed onto the trucks with the 300th and moved southward with this part of the battalion.

The 300th moved to Schroding, Germany on May 1, 1945 setting up a water purification station. The men of the 300th celebrated news of VE-Day on May 8, 1945 in Schroding. After VE-Day, all units were returned to General Status to locate and collect all abandoned German guns and ammunition as well as other post-war duties.

Warren Chancellor remembers the POW camp.:

Two POW's boarded our truck and told us that the prisoners in the camp were American, British and Canadian Air Force personnel. They were very hungry. As the convoy moved down the road, we stopped for a few minutes in front of a German house. The former POW's saw some chickens in a pen in the yard. They jumped off and got a couple of chickens and had chicken for their meal that night. They stayed on the truck until we got to Schroding but I have no idea what happened to them after that.

Randy Hanes recalls the liberation of a German Stalag.

Randy HanesA small segment of the 300th ECB, supporting the 395th Regiment, 99th Infantry Division, liberated an Allied prisoner of war stalag on the outskirts of Moosburg. The stalag was filled with American and British Air Force personnel. The ex-prisoners were wild in jubilation of being freed. They grabbed the weapons of the liberating group and fired volleys of shots into the air, into the trees and into the ground. I believe they emptied every weapon available - rifles and machine guns. I would not relinquish my pistol for fear that I would not get it back.

One of the Air Force captains, Johnnie Payce, was a high school classmate of mine but we did not recognize each other at the time. Two other captains who were freed and whom I did not know at the time but became friends of mine a few years later. I met one of them, Bruce Kilmer, through boy's baseball in our town in 1958. We were both team managers and board members for thirteen years. Tom Young I met some years later. He was, as I, a commercial artist and later was boss over one of my nieces, Tom's daughter. Tom and my brother Ed were in the the same Sunday School class at their church. Tom and Mary Young were always included in the Hanes' Christmas dinner at my brother's home. This is where we first met.

By mid-April, 1945, prisoners in Stalag VIIA in Moosburg were encouraged that the war in Europe was winding down as German troops retreated from advancing U.S. troops. They learned the good news from Allied prisoners arriving there from other camps all over Germany. They watched as U.S. fighter aircraft passed overhead west of Moosburg on their way to bomb targets in Munich. On 26 and 27 April, they could hear distant artillery and even saw American tanks on a hill north of Moosburg. Throughout the night of 28 April, the prisoners heard the trucks of their German captors pulling out leaving only a few to "defend" the Stalag.

About 9:00 a.m. on 29 April, there was about an hour of continuing small arms firing and heavy automatic weapons firing from outside the Stalag. The prisoners ran for cover anywhere they could within the stalag. Suddenly the firing stopped completely. Without warning, three Sherman tanks came crashing through the fence near the front gate. With the shouting, screaming and cheering of the freed prisoners, the tanks drove down the main street and halted only to be swarmed all over by the prisoners. One of them later recalled that "The true end of our captivity came about 12:30 p.m. when the American flag, Old Glory, was seen being hoisted to the top of a church in the town of Moosburg only a short distance away. As if one, 8,000 Americans faced the church, came to attention and saluted - all with tears of pride in our country trickling down our cheeks."

The next day, 30 April, American troops distributed K-rations in the stalag to the Allied POWs of all nationalities. On May 1, one day after crossing bridge at Moosburg built by the 300th, General George S. Patton paid a visit to the stalag exchanging a few brief words with small groups of American prisoners. In the days that followed, the POWs were deloused, permitted to bathe and shower and issued new American army uniforms.

Note: The above information came from a report by Frank D. Murphy on February 7, 2002. He was a prisoner at Stalag VIIA.

Jim Keeffe shared the following about his father:

Jim Keeffe and Andy Anderson
Jim Keeffe and Andy Anderson by fence. Photo: Jim Keeffe

My dad, Lt. Jim Keeffe, Jr. was a B-24 pilot with the 566th Bomber Squadron 389th Bomber Group. He was shot down 8 March 1944 during a mission to Berlin. He spent five months evading capture in Holland with the Dutch underground, was eventually captured and spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III and Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany where he was liberated by American troops [including some of the 300th] just before VE Day.

The day after liberation, April 30, 1944, my dad walked through Moosburg and stopped to chat with some army fellows who said they were waiting for a bridge to be built over the Isar River because the Germans had blown the main one. [This bridge was being built by Co. C of the 300th]. One of the soldiers gave my dad a camera with which he took some photos back in the POW camp. The photo of my dad with the soldiers shows him, third from left, with the soldiers who gave him the camera. Another photo shows him and another POW, Andy Anderson, demonstrating their Keriegie stove next to their tent. They built a tent out of barracks doors and blankets because the barracks were so filthy. The third photo is of my dad, left, and Andy Anderson at the fence at Stalag VIIA.

Jim Keeffe and Andy Anderson setting up a stove next to a tent
Jim Keeffe and Andy Anderson setting up a stove next to a tent. Photo: Jim Keeffe
Jim Keeffe with fellow soldiers in front of M3 half-tracks
Jim Keeffe with fellow soldiers in front of M3 half-tracks. Photo: Jim Keeffe

Beginning on 30 April at 1330 hours, the 300th began construction on a Treadway bridge over the Isar River at Moosburg near the Austrian border. Army publicists boasted that General Patton was the first to cross the bridge at Moosburg telling the observing men of the 300th that it was "a damn good bridge." The men of the 300th themselves knew that many vehicles had driven across the bridge earlier.

Del Hussey, Camp White historian, writes about the Stalag in Moosburg:

On April 29, 1945, General Patton met with the Luftwaffe Commander of the Moosburg Prisoner of War camp in an attempt to have the facility surrendered to the Third Army. The Commandant, under the direction of an SS officer, refused to give up the compound or its prisoners. General Patton warned the Commandant that if any harm came to the prisoners, neither the Commandant nor any of his guards would live to tell about it. Moosburg contained the prisoners from Stalag Luft III. When the Russians began to move into eastern Germany, the POWs had been marched across Germany to the camp at Moosburg. The prisoners were Allied officers who had been shot down over Germany. Most felt fortunate they had survived first capture; during which many were hung by civilians, then the march to Moosburg that had been made during the German winter. Now, they were afraid that should the Germans refuse to surrender the camp, they might die during a bloody siege. By 8:15 a.m. on the 29th of April, the Germans found themselves engaged with Patton's Third Army. The fighting was concluded in a matter of minutes with the loss of one POWs life. Randy Hanes recalls the POWs crowding around his jeep and emptying his 30-calliber machine gun in jubilation.

William Lakey describes his work preparing for building the bridge at Moosburg:

William LakeyI was on the dozer building what they called the far shore approach. We had to scrape it out and get the trees out of the way. They would haul bricks in and I would level the bricks out in that soft mud. And, then on the other side, I drove to dozer there to, on the near shore approach, which was where the big levy was. I was cutting the approach out of the levy so the trucks could get in. On the far side we were cutting a road from there to the highway where the bridge had been blown out. That's why we were building this bridge so Patton could get his trucks through.

George Garrison at Mooseburg:

George GarrisonWe built that bridge over the Isar River just before the end of the war. They had all of the tanks lined up to go across after it was built. And the tanks all had sandbags on the front to protect against those German 88s. And about the time we got that bridge finished, Mr. Patton drove up. He stopped every one of the tanks. He said, "You want those Germans to think we are cowards. You take all those sandbags off." So he made them take off all the sandbags before they crossed the bridge. Then he drove away. I was standing as close to him as I am to you right now. The war was over the next morning.

300th Engineer Warren Chancellor describes building the bridge at Moosburg:

Near shore approach for Class 40 Treadway Bridge
Near shore approach for Class 40 Treadway Bridge over the Isar River at Moosburg, Germany. The bridge was started 1330 hours 30 April 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall

I had been temporarily assigned to Co. C as an aid man at the bridge site. The Isar River was a mountain stream with extremely rapid currents. There were quite a lot of large boulders in the river and this was a great aid in anchoring the ropes that held the pontons in place. Company C did a tremendous job in constructing this Treadway under the adverse conditions. They definitely should have received a unit citation for this job. As you know, Gen. Patton appeared (standing in his command car) shortly after the bridge was completed and exclaimed "damn good bridge." This was the only time I ever set eyes on the general.

The Military Importance of the Bridge Over the Isar River

Recently liberated from Stalag VIIA, Lt. Jim Keiffe, Jr. left the Stalag to see the town of Moosburg. What follows is his own account of meeting army men near the bridge at Moosburg taken with permission from the book Two Gold Coins and a Prayer by Lt. Keiffe's son James H. Keiffe III:

Even though the Army was told to keep us in the camp, they simply couldn't. There were too many of us. Some of the ex-POWs cut through the wires and we used those holes not just the main entrance to get out of camp.

I found Andy [Anderson] and we decided to get out of camp for a while. We needed some fresh air and just to get away from all the noise. Bob Keller joined us and the three of us took off through one of the holes cut in the outside fence. We started walking south following a little side road to the main road. There we turned left and walked into the town of Moosburg, just a little over a mile from camp.

The German civilians had white sheets and white slips hanging out of their windows. Virtually all of them were smart enough to stay indoors. The German military had already pulled out of the town to the south and east, and they'd blown the bridge after crossing the Isar River.

We left what seemed to be the downtown area and came to the outskirts on the other side. GIs were in fox holes along the side of the road, which looked rather humorous to us. They had their rifles and whatever else belonged with them in the holes. As we passed by, some of them asked, "What are you guys?"

"We happen to be American soldiers. What the hell are you doing in that hole?"

"Well, there's a war going on, and the engineers are down there trying to rebuild the bridge across the river. You'd better get down, or you're going to be killed," we were warned.

"We've lasted this long. We don't think we're going to be killed today," we replied.

As we walked along, our artillery was shooting across the town and the river into the German positions. I presume the Germans had light artillery on the far side of the river because shells were going across us all the time too, but in the opposite direction.

On the right side of the road was an orchard. It was 29 April, and the trees had started to bloom. Several halftracks and other armored vehicles were parked in amongst the trees with GIs scattered about resting and waiting. The three of us walked into the orchard and talked with a group of them who were lounging next to the armored troop carrier. They wanted to know who we were. We told them we were American officers just liberated from the POW camp.

The GIs introduced themselves and said they were part of the 68th Armored Infantry Battalion. They were waiting in the orchard while the engineers, half a mile down the road, established an improvised bridge over the Isar River next to the one the Germans had blown up. As soon as the engineers completed their work, the 14th Armored Division was to continue its drive deeper into Germany, pursuing and fighting the Germans. We shook hands all around, and they gave us some D-bars and asked if we wanted cigarettes.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I don't smoke," I said, "but do you have a camera by chance that you'd be willing to give me?"

"Sure, I've got two or three of them," one GIs said.

I didn't ask him where he had liberated them, but he gave me a box camera and two rolls of film. This was a fine gift because I was able to take some great pictures back in camp. But first, we had our pictures taken with the GIs next to the armored vehicle. The light was fading, so we decided it was time to head back we said our goodbyes to the soldiers and walked back through the town. When we got to the camp, we crawled through the hole in the fence and headed to our tent.

The jubilation of liberation had subsided somewhat but there was still a lot of activity. Music was playing over loudspeakers. Some of the men were doing their bartering and racketeering. The German guards had been rounded up and replaced by wonderful American soldiers who were trying to keep some semblance of order. It was quite late when I crawled into the sack that night, and I didn't fall asleep for a long time because my mind was filled with countless thoughts.

The next morning we were outside the camp eating breakfast with some of the GIs in the artillery group when soon after breakfast someone shouted, "Pack up, and move out!" Everyone kicked into gear and started to do what they needed to do to get the artillery ready to move out. We thanked the GIs, wish them well and headed back to the dreariness and misery of the stagag.

In the afternoon, the newly built Treadway Bridge over the Isar River was completed and elements of the 14th armored division that had been backed up all over the area began to stream across.

William Lakey meets General Patton at Moosburg:

The only time I saw the old man, you know Gen. Patton, was at the bridge we were building, this Treadway Bridge at Moosburg. Our Lieutenant, we called him Junior but his name was Mellencamp. He was the platoon commander. Those pins that you put those Treadway's together with they weigh about 50 pounds each and you drive them in with a sledgehammer. He was over there driving his pin in and he didn't have his helmet on. Gen. Patton walked up and he told him to stand up. He stood up and Patton could see the Lieutenant's bars. Patton told him, "Lt., I'm going to tell you right now you better put that blank, blank, hat on." I can't repeat the words. He said, 'Don't let me ever catch you again or any of your men without that hat on."

Aaron Glenn described General Patton's visit:

The next bridge we built was across the Isar River. We built the bridge there and we had tanks going over it for about 24 hours, one in the middle and one on each end. And, then here comes Patten down with his guns on it and it said in the Stars and Stripes the next day that Patten was the first man to cross that bridge. He wasn't no way near the first to cross it.

building a bridge at Moosburg
300th building a bridge at Moosburg, May 1945. At right: Lt. William Millenkamp, 300th and Mjr. General Van Fleet. Photo: Randy Hanes

300th Engineer Leonard Burke described General Patton at Moosburg:

bridge site
Near shore view of the bridge site over Isar River in Moosburg, Germany, late April 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall

Leonard BurkeC Company was building the bridge and we were on the enemy side. We had our machine guns set up. I said, "I'm going to the other side." I went across the bridge and there were all these tanks lined up in the mud. I walked up to this guy standing by the tanks and said, "How are you doing Joe?" He turned around and had a full eagle on his shirt! "Excuse me, sir!" I said as I saluted him. He said, "That's all right son. Don't worry about it." That was Patton's aide.

When they got it [the bridge] ready, they said, "Get ready! Get ready!" Old Patton came up from the water line and went to the first tank. He gave these instructions, "Get those sandbags off all these tanks." They had sandbags on the tanks. I couldn't hear what else he said but he was giving them hell. He got in the tank and they were gone.

He was all blood and guts. He loved war. He'd tell us, "All right men, let's get those S.O.B's."

Water line being repaired between Ansbach and Winsbach
Water line being repaired between Ansbach and Winsbach, Germany, 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall

Sgt. Randy Hanes of Company C wrote of constructing the bridge at Moosburg saying:

"This account of one of our jobs was written to illustrate, with some moderate praise, the type of activity and conditions that engineers have to meet and conquer."

The sign, in big, bold, red and black letters read: "Built by Company C. Spirit Company, 300th Engineer Combat Battalion. Equipment Furnished by 998th Treadway Bridge Company."

The bridge was built for Gen. Patton's 3rd Army across the Isar River. The current was swift and vicious. Faster than the Roer, the Elbe or the Danube and whatever was caught in its clutches drifted rapidly downstream either to beach or sink. The Isar River was an important link to the rapidly advancing front. The press, official photographers, and newsreel cameramen were there to capture the event while three generals (one-star Brig. Gen. Smith, Armored Div. Commander; two-star Maj. Gen. Van Fleet, Corps Commander; three-star Lt. Gen. Patton, 3rd Army Commander) looked on as we assembled the 280 foot floating span. Dozers had started breaking the earthen levee clearing the way for the launching ramp.

Everywhere there was activity. Crews assembled the rubber floats inflating them with huge compressors and a crane was lifting the steel treadways upon them as each section was floated into position. (1st and 2nd platoons assembled the sections and 3rd platoon connected the sections and secured guy lines.) Guy lines were being secured to the blown wreckage that remained of the original bridge upstream. Infantrymen of the 395th Regiment, 99th Division, perilously walked its twisted trestles. Several tanks, with their guns pointed beyond the far shore, stood by in an emergency position. Overhead, 155mm shells whizzed toward the forward enemy lines with a loud 'crack' as the noise rolled over the hills.

The 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, had already connected the first two floats without mishap putting the two, sixty-five pound pins through the linking Treadway while the little power boat slowly made its way against the river pulling another section laboriously into position. As we neared the center of the river, the current won its first battle. A float was swept broadside into the current, ropes snapped from the men's hands and down the angry Isar it went. The power boat wheeled sharply about rapidly closing the gap to catch the float and move it safely to shore.

Victory number two for the river came one hour later as we neared the far shore. As the power boat could no longer haul its load against the tireless current, a crane was run onto the bridge in hopes of pulling the sections to the head of the bridge where it could be connected. Suddenly, a float capsized from the pulling action of the crane. The heavy Treadway hung vertically on its side and two men fell sprawling into the river. Frantically, they swam ashore while the third man still clung to the upper side of the float - all were saved. At last the far shore was reached and the last section was pulled into place. Waiting columns of vehicles began to warm their engines. Gesturing to our company commander, Capt. Swartz, General Patton said to General Smith, "You can thank his men for getting your ass across this river."

Following completion of the bridge, General Patton wrote a letter to our Battalion Commander [Maj. Riel Crandall] complimenting us on our achievement with special recognition of the fine spirit and high morale that showed during the construction of the bridge.

James Kennedy recalls the General Patton at the bridge in Moosburg:

When we were building that bridge on the river, General Patton came up and walked over the bridge, looked over it and I made a picture of him leaking on the river.

Jacob Reinhardt toward the end of the war in Europe:

At this point, we were transferred from the First Army to the Third Army. Our whole core was transferred. We rested for about a week and took off after the Fourteenth Armored Division. C Co. of our Battalion had a bridge job and this is when we built the approaches to it. It was near the town of Moosburg. Gen. Patton came out on the job and gave us a word of gratification for a good job.

During our chase of the Fourteenth, we passed two very large airports with plenty of Jerrie planes which were not destroyed because the Jerries didn't have time. On this spearhead, we saw prisoners by the hundreds and best of all we saw our boys who had been prisoners. There were colonels, majors and all kinds of guys who cried on our shoulders and didn't want to leave us so we could go on. They were so glad to see us. They had some sickening stories to tell and they were starved to death.

The weather got bad and we had tanks pull us through the mud but we went on because the Jerries couldn't stop us. We were relieved from the armored and were awaiting for orders and at this point, all the fighting had stopped everywhere except one pocket in Checz. Our squad was put out on a water point guard and during this time, VE-Day was announced. As we sat and listened to the radio and heard London, Paris, Brussels and New York celebrate and raise hell, we were sitting around wondering what was going to happen to us. Other than that pocket in Checz that gave a little trouble but the Russian Army took care of that. We moved to Gunzenhausen and started fixing a pipe line to pass the time while we waited to see what the score was.

The shooting is over and once again we conquered the German people. Let's hope it sticks. As far as we know, our company had two men killed and nine wounded besides what was lot on the second wave during the attempted landing on Utah Beach. One man received the Presidential Citation for D-Day. He was in the 237th Engineers then.

Riel Crandall
Major Riel S. Crandall. Photo: Riel Crandall
Assembly site downstream
Assembly site downstream on near shore for Moosburg bridge, Germany, in late April 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall
completed bridge
Near shore view of the completed bridge at Moosburg, Germany, late April 1945. Photo: Riel Crandall

APO 403, U. S. ARMY

2 May 1945
SUBJECT: Letter of Commendation.

TO: Commanding Officer,
Company C,
300th Engineer Combat Battalion

  1. General George S. Patton, the Commanding General of the Third United States Army, has expressed his satisfaction and pleasure at the results obtained by you and your men in the construction of 288 feet of treadway bridge at MOOSBURG, Germany, on 30th April, 1945. I regret that, due to operational necessities, I am unable to personally convey my gratification to the men of C Company at this time, but I wish them to know that I take great pride in their achievement.
  2. The spirit displayed by the men during the job was particularly noteworthy for it indicated teamwork and a high morale. I hope this spirit and proficiency will continue to be as well marked in your future tasks.

/s/ Riel S. Crandall
Major, CE,
Reproduced by Co C, 300th Engr. C. Bn.
5 May 1945

Bridge in Moosburg
Bridge in Moosburg, Gemany. Photo: Harold Palmer
The completed bridge at Moosburg
The completed bridge at Moosburg, Germany. Photo: Riel Crandall

Don Richter describes his experience at Schroding, Germany:

VE Day, Schroding
VE Day, Schroding. Front: Sgt. Thomas Gibbs, Pfc. Douglas Hinch. Standing: Cpl. Haynie Tyrus, Pfc. Ralph Wilkins, Cpl. Don Richter, Cpl. Louis Clausen, Sgt. John Poteet, Sgt. John Morrison. Photo: Don Richter

Headquarters moved all the way to Schroeding and set up in a school there. We found an Austrian girl with a group of a dozen or more children that she was caring for at the school. The Alps and Austria were not far from Schroding with the snow covered mountains in plain view in the distance. August Namken, Personnel File Clerk, spoke German very fluently and became the interpreter for Headquarters. The people there had come into pretty dire straits not receiving any supplies of food for some time. The Burgemeester (Mayor) came into camp asking what they should do for all not to starve. Namken asked if anyone possessed any cattle (which they did) and told the man to go on and slaughter one passing the meat to the people of the village. The German people were resigned to having lost the war and wanted to get along with the US Army as best that they could.

I do recall that back up the highway when the convoy stopped because of some enemy resistance not cleared out. It seems that during a battle at a small village a German soldier was wounded and was being attended by an American medic when a German sniper fired from within the village killing the medic. The commander of the American unit involved ordered the residents of the village to produce the villain who had done the firing. When he was not produced within the specified time, the commander ordered his tanks to fire on the village rendering it to rubble in a short time. That's the reason that I have come to hate war.

On May 8, 1945, I was walking guard duty around the grounds of the school building in Schroding when word came that the war in Europe had ended (V-E Day). I recall a big bonfire being lit with a lot of celebrating, drinking and shouting. Some of the Hispanic guys got out their guitars strumming and wailing their Spanish songs. I was content to just stand my watch being thankful that the awful conflict had ended at least in Europe and hoping that we would not be sent from here to the Pacific.

Typical tent living quarters for men of the 300th
Typical tent living quarters for men of the 300th in Germany, 1945. Photo: Louis Pellitteri

Leonard Burke recalls a brief look at a German concentration camp:

Some of us pulled up in our trucks at the concentration camp at Dachau. There had been another unit there before us. Just a few of us went in when we saw the ovens to make sure there wasn't anyone in there alive. All you saw was bones. We got out of there and other units put guards on the place. I had to get out of there.

300th Engineer Jerry Barton describes how he spent the night before VE-Day:

Jerry BartonH & S Company B was progressing east to the Inn River, about 20 miles from the border of Austria. We had encountered no opposition for some time. After many days with no place to rest except in the command car and with a May snowstorm in process, the three of us sat down on bales of hay and slept the night away warmed from the body heat of the cows in that barn. It was so comforting compared to what we had been riding in for days without being able to bed down. The next day, May 8, it was announced that Germany had surrendered.

The 300th, now focusing on reconstruction and rebuilding without the threat of enemy fire, had plenty to do. They operated saw mills that provided the raw materials for reconstruction, opened the Main River for boat traffic, reopened railroad lines, guarded steel and tar plants and continued general engineering work in the area.

The 300th worked their way back to Aschaffenburg, Germany which became their base of operations for working in and around the area. A detail of the 300th built a park for children on the banks of the Main River complete with swings, sandbox, a slide and refreshment building. In addition to the much needed road work, they also set up several water purification stations for the civilians and troops alike.

Warren Chancellor and Hoyt Neill save a local girl:

In Aschaffenburg after the war was over, there was an incident with a little German girl. There were in-ground water tanks with the tops level to the ground that were used to fight fires when necessary.

Hoyt Neill and I heard a commotion across the street. There was a man carrying a child upside down by her ankles over his back and yelling in German. The girl had fallen into one of the fire water holes and drowned.

Hoyt and I had to pry the little girl from her father and we started working on her. Hoty worked on her first for a few minutes and then I took over. Much to our relief, the little girl finally started to come around coughing and getting the water out of her lungs.

We were relieved that this all worked out so well.

Warren Chancellor doesn't remember much about VE Day:

Somebody came in and told us the war had ended. Some of the guys went out in a 6 x 6 and found a winery and loaded that thing with cases of wine and brought them back. We had a really drunk party that night. Not many sober ones around the next day.

300th Engineer Randy Hanes describes recreation after VE-Day:

We had commandeered this local boat after VE-Day on the Main River in Germany.

Sergeants boating on the Main River in Aschaffenburg after VE-Day
Sergeants boating on the Main River in Aschaffenburg, Germany after VE-Day. Photo: Randy Hanes
The war was over and we had plenty of gasoline because the Americans had plenty of everything. This was a captured boat and it was ours now. It was a civilian boat that accommodated about six people. It was a really nice boat and we had a lot of fun. We would swim and then take a boat ride. John Durant was in the boat with us and Charles Farley, who later would be my best man at my wedding. Sgt. Don Geiser was also in the boat. Just some sergeants having fun in a captured boat. The war was over, no one was there to fight and yes, we had a damn good time. Not too many times you got to go riding in somebody else's boat. The best part was the war was over.

Warren Chancellor tells about a young German POW:

In Aschaffenburg, Germany
Aschaffenburg, Germany. Bottom-left is Charles Palmer, bottom-right is Carl Ford. Photo: Harold Palmer

Shortly after the war in Europe ended, our unit was housed at a Wermacht army camp near Aschaffenberg, Germany. The buildings were one story, standard barracks. The medics had one for ourselves and we set up operations there. There were a number of German soldiers there that were prisoners of war and one of them was sent over to us for whatever we needed him for. This kid was only about 15 or 16 years old and had been drafted into the Hitler youth movement. He was very mild mannered and cooperative and was always trying to find something to do for us. He swept floors and kept things neat.

It was very surprising, but he liked us so much he decided he wanted to become part of the American Army. We had given him a "fatigue" jacket to wear over his German uniform because it was rather cold and he did not have enough clothes to keep warm. He painted a single stripe on the sleeve of the jacket and informed us he was now "PFC" Herbert Hergot.

I have often wondered how Herbert ever got back to his family. He told us he had no idea where they were. A few years ago I decided to try and locate him through internet records but discovered that Herbert Hergot was a very common name in Germany. I found literally hundreds of them and finally gave up the search.

Louis Pellitteri and Ben White in Germany with the spoils of war
Louis Pellitteri (left) and Ben White in Germany with the spoils of war. Photo: Louis Pellitteri

300th Engineer Don Richter describes Aschaffenburg after VE-Day:

I recall moving from Schroding to Aschaffenburg and being billeted in half of a German Army Camp there with the other half occupied by displaced persons, mostly young people from Poland. They didn't know what to do with little guidance know and with only the desire to return to their own land. We stayed in this city that was more than half destroyed. We started clearing away rubble and any salvage that was possible. I recall observing an Easter Sunday Worship Service in church that only had walls standing with the congregation singing hymns that were so familiar to me as my forefathers had brought the same music with them to my home church in Texas. The words were sung in German but I knew them in English "Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come," and I know that these people would be okay recovering from this awful time that Hitler had led them to.

Somehow I got involved in helping a USO outfit set up in an old theatre building where they put on a performance for us. On the parade field in the center of the camp, a softball field was established and softball teams were formed in each company to participate in sort of a tournament to determine the champion of the battalion. I think that an All-Star Team was chosen to compete with other teams from the Engineer Group. Former Company B Commander, Captain Gene P. Falvey (now Major Falvey and Battalion S1) had a brother-in-law who flew a Piper Cub spotting for an artillery outfit. He flew his craft in and landed it on the parade grounds with barely room to stop before whirling it around at the end of the field. After his visit and as he was to take off, a group of us held onto the tail of his craft allowing him to rev up the engine in order for him to safely clear the other end of the field as he gained altitude.

Soon we moved to another camp located in a heavily wooded area. I recall a bar there with a big former German storm trooper prisoner of war as the bartender. After being there for, I think, a couple of weeks, an order came down that some of the men were to be transferred back to a replacement depot in France for reassignment. One member of the Personnel Section was to be in this group. When the question came up of how to determine who that one might be, I volunteered to go as I was the last one to come into that office. This was agreed to and my name was typed out on the list, "Donald Richter, Company B, 300th Engineer Combat Battalion, APO 403, U./ S. Army To Chateau Thiery in France, Temp. 6/22/45."

Frederick A. Wild, Jr at the end of the war:

Frederick A. Wild, JrWe moved up during the Battle of the Bulge to a town named Balve, where I saw a snow covered field littered with the contorted bodies of German soldiers, wrecked horse-drawn equipment and the distended bodies of horses and cattle at the edge of a splintered forest. These unfortunates were apparently caught in a barrage. We then moved on into Germany toward Czechoslovakia. We were quartered at one time in what must have been a training school in Aschaffenberg. The mess hall was decorated with a mural by some talented German soldier, depicting German army life. I sent home a large galvanometer which arrived broken and a box of weights.

The war ended and soldiers began to be sent home "on points," a system based on length of overseas service. Captain Burke and I were quartered with a priest (Pfarrer) in the little town of Schroding. He asked me one morning if I had heard the pounding on the front door during the night. It was German women, terrified of the recently released POW Russians, who were seeking sanctuary.

Randy Hanes fondly remembers Aschaffenburg:

In Aschaffenburg that August, we built a recreation area for the local children with slides, swings, sandbox for the wee ones, a concession stand and other items. We commandeered a power boat and had much fun cruising the Main River. Our camp was a former German Engineering Unit; three-story, red brick barracks with a parade and soccer field in the center. We played a lot of baseball. Having been on the Track Team in high school, I ran the track circling the field every day. We put together a Minstrel Show and had a lot of fun with it! My name was 'Rastus' Hanes and I sang a popular song at the time - "Accentuate the Positive." Charles Farley was 'Asbestos' Farley. Warren Chancellor played the drums in our Minstrel Show. Capt. Frederick Wilds, our battalion "Medicine Man " was the director of the show.

Don Richter recalls German hymns:

As we moved from the Rhineland south to join Patton's Third Army we traveled through towns and cities that were almost totally destroyed. What was left standing after air raids were pretty much leveled by artillery and tank fire as our army moved quickly through the German countryside. The people in Germany were unusually friendly to us. I was impressed with the way that they started immediately rebuilding when the fighting ceased. I do remember very well the city of Aschaffenburg. I went down into the city on Palm Sunday and saw members of a congregation of an almost totally destroyed church standing inside what was left of the building and singing in German hymns that were familiar to me as hearing singing in my home church when a child. I felt that the German people had a great faith in God to have the will to restore their land after the war. And spring came with beauty in Germany. It was amazing how new growth could so quickly begin to cover the scars of battle.

The Battle of Aschaffenburg, from March 29 to April 6, 1944, was a fight for the Main River and the city itself in the final weeks of the war in Europe. The Germans were well dug in when the American troops arrived. The terrain favored the Germans with the town located across the river and even though the Germans knew the end was near, they still had a passion to win even though their cause was hopeless. The Allies had far superior numbers and finally prevailed after several days of house to house fighting.

Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris remembers the glass eater:

Kenneth Morris We was on this parade ground there in Nuremburg where Hitler had reviewed all his troops. It had been raining and the chow truck came out there with some kind of chow. And all the worms come crawling along the ground and ole Carl Puck just reached forward for that worm and just picked it up. This guy shakes it out just like that and sucked it down just like he was eating macaroni. Sucked that thing right down and washed it down, I'll tell you. He had worked for a carnival supposedly and he told somebody he was a glass eater. He was over on KP and one of the boys didn't believe him so he took a light bulb and broke it and crumbled the glass up and ate it. Some of the guys said they saw him do it.

Bridge in Moosburg, Gemany
Men of Co.A pose with a cafe owner. Left to right rear: Melvin Lenz, Charles Stone, villager, Louis Pellitteri, Charles Tobelman, Edwin Dobbs. Left to right front: Ben White and Raphael Cuellar. Photo: Louis Pellitteri
Bridge in Moosburg, Gemany
German family that cooked for the 300th. Left to right front: Edwin Dobbs, Melvin Lenz, Louis Pellitteri, and Charles Tobelman. Photo: Louis Pellitteri

As the 300th moved around northern Germany after the Battle of the Bulge in March and April of 1945, they found German civilians quite hospitable. Allied Forces controlled all of Germany except for a few pockets of resistance and the engineers did their work with little danger. In late April they moved from northern Germany south to near the Austrian border and settled in to a role of clearing, rebuilding and even a somewhat recreational mode through the summer. With the war in Europe at an end, the men of the 300th established relationships with German families and especially the children.

This German lady who cooked for the 300th
This German lady who cooked for the 300th. Photo: Louis Pellitteri
Engineers with group of children, most likely in Germany
Engineers with group of children, most likely in Germany. Photo: Harold Palmer

Engineers with a local girl
Engineers with a local girl. Photo: Harold Palmer
G.I.s in the home of a local family
G.I.s in the home of a local family, most likely three generations. Photo: Harold Palmer
In Germany after the action, Herbert Moon Mullins and Erika
In Germany after the action, Herbert Moon Mullins and Erika. Photo: Charles Olive
In Germany, Thomas Renfro with Flagothier family
In Germany, Thomas Renfro with Flagothier family. He kept in touch with the family for many years. Photo: Thomas Renfro

Ben White of the 300th described his relationship with German civilians:

G.I. with two local ladies
G.I. with two local ladies, most likely twins. Photo: Harold Palmer

Ben WhiteYou know the Germans didn't hate us, the civilians especially. Even most of the German prisoners didn't hate us like Hitler had told them to hate us. Now the Russians, they were the ones who hated us. I remember when we liberated some Russian prisoners in Germany and they didn't want to have anything to do with us.

We had real good times with the German children and played games with them. We even tried to teach them how to play baseball. We taught them that when the batters hit the ball they would run to the base and the fielder would try to throw the ball to the base to beat the batter. Seems they didn't quite get that part. When the hitter ran toward the base, the fielder would throw at the runner instead of throwing to the first baseman. They thought they were supposed to hit the runner. Well, they finally got it and they really had fun playing baseball and we did too.

In Germnay playing with local children
In Germnay playing with local children. Left to Right: Charles Duncan, Charles Stone, Louis Pellitteri, and Ben White. Photo: Louis Pellitteri

Warren Chancellor and POW/"PFC" Herbert Hergot:

Shortly after the war in Europe ended, our unit was housed at a Wermacht army camp near Aschaffenberg, Germany. The buildings were one story, standard barracks. The medics had one for ourselves and we set up operations there. There were a number of German soldiers there that were prisoners of war and one of them was sent over to us to do whatever we needed him for. This kid was only about 15 or 16 years old and had been drafted into the Hitler youth movement. He was very mild-mannered and cooperative and was always trying to find something to do for us. He swept floors and kept things neat.

It was very surprising, but he liked us so much he decided he wanted to become part of the American Army. We had given him a fatigue jacket to wear over his German uniform because it was rather cold and he did not have enough clothes to keep warm. He painted a single stripe on the sleeve of the jacket and informed us he was now "PFC" Herbert Hergot.

I have often wondered if Herbert ever got back to his family. He told us he had no idea where they were. A few years ago I decided to try and locate him through internet records but discovered that Herbert Hergot was a very common name in Germany. I found literally hundreds of them and finally gave up the search.

Harold Meyer helped in liberating two concentration camps in Germany:

Harold MeyerI went into two concentration camps in Germany toward the end of the war. I can still see the prisoners. You would not believe a human could treat another human like that. What they did to them. They would have been better off just shooting them because they were nothing but skeletons. There were 250 to 300 in the camp with people just all in stacks. The building might hold 100 and the Germans would stack 300 in there. They were men, women and children. We helped them out, those that we could, and took them to a place where they could get help and treatment.

Ben L. White tells how to get a truck unloaded:

We were up there somewhere in Germany and we were building a Bailey bridge across the river. And they came with some trucks with the bridges loaded on the trucks and there were two men with each of the trucks. Our platoon was up there on the hill where they were going to be unloaded but they had been working all day and they had just about give out. So I told the drivers of those trucks that they would have to unload the bridges from the trucks. Of course they were all black drivers. And they said no they didn't have to unload them. We unloaded a few of them anyway and I told my men that I was going to go up on the hill a ways and I'm going to let off a few shells rounds of ammunition down here. And then you men holler, "Snipers, snipers!" So I went up there I guess about 50 yards so I shot a couple rounds down around the trucks and my men hollered, "Snipers, snipers!" Those boys got right up on that truck and they started unloading them and it didn't take them long to get them unloaded and they got out of there.

Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris recalls "Pop" [Tech 5 Raymond J. Caprin]:

When the war was over in Germany before it was in Japan, HQ and everybody got drunk. Pop had come over to us from B Company and was helping haul dirt to the railroad to rebuild the station. He volunteered. He was a lot older than we were. We were in our 20's and he was in his 30's when he came to us. Pop got pretty drunk and I talked to him. I said, "Pop, you go over to B Company with me and you drive my truck tomorrow and I'll take your truck down to HQ and have some work done on it." He said, "My truck don't need work. You think I'm drunk." He started in, "Hell, I can drink you under the table" and he kept on this for about a minute. So I said, "I'll just leave ya." He started off in the direction of B Company and in a little town he hit a woman on a bicycle. Of course they had him charged. Pop had a mustache and red hair. So a few days later they were going to have his trial. In the meantime, the companies started transferring people in and out. They transferred our company commander out and we got a young man for a company commander who was born and raised in Germany. He spoke perfect German. He got the company together and said, "I want you boys to find me 10 men that look as much like Pop as you can." So they did. I didn't find anyone but they did. They lined them up and the people in town that saw this happen said all of them looked like Pop. They asked the townspeople to ID the man that ran over the girl and of course they couldn't. So they dismissed the trial. He came back to the company and we were getting ready to go home.

I believe it was in Reims, France, and was waiting over there on a boat. A boy come by and says, "Let's go get a show Pop." Pop says, "No, I've been in enough trouble. I just want to go home." The boy says, "We're not going to do any drinking tonight. Just gonna have a show and say good night." So Pop says, "I'll go with you." So they went to the show and it was dark when they came back. They met a soldier on the side of the road and Pop says, "Hello GI Joe" and this guy got out his gun and killed him for no reason. They got the guy that killed him, they found him. They took him back and had his trial. We left and I don't know what happened with the trial. He killed Pop for no reason. Pop had five kids at home.(Records show that Tech 5 Raymond J. Caprin was killed in action on September 24, 1945.)

Norman Webb learns a little German:

Norman WebbI don't recall a lot of fraternizing with the Germans until the war was over. After the treaty, after the surrender, the Germans were quite friendly. We got pretty well acquainted with the Germans. I got to speak a little German just by picking it up. I could go into a German home and have a meal and could converse with them somewhat. German is quite similar to English. It wasn't simple but not too difficult. A number of words are quite similar. I was making a date with a girl to meet her at the river, a beach type area on the river. She said when the sun is shining.

If it was bad weather she would not be there and I could understand that in German.

Now that the war in Europe had ended, decisions needed to be made as to which troops would go home and which would be retrained for the upcoming invasion of Japan. The Army point system was based on a man's age and martial status. Those who were younger and not married were marked to be retrained and reassigned while others would be sent home.

Warren Chancellor remembers the truck accident:

This was after the war was over and we were in Aschaffenburg and we had formed this musical group of the 300th guys. We had borrowed the instruments from someone I don't remember who. I played the drums in the band. We were returning them in a trailer behind and jeep with the instruments in it, horns and so forth. We were driving down this asphalt highway and it was pretty steep and there was a little mist of rain falling. The driver and Captain Wild were sitting in the front and I was sitting in the back of the jeep. We started around the curve and the driver hit the brakes and the jeep kind of jackknifed with the trailer and we sideswiped a tree and went down this embankment and hit trees two or three times. And it was fortunate that it landed on the side and the Jeep didn't land on top of us because it might have killed us. The driver was injured pretty bad and the captain was also. Fortunately a truck came by and we hailed it and they took them to the hospital. I didn't have a scratch on me.

Ben L. White recommends a Purple Heart:

After the war in Europe ended the 300th went back to this town and that's where the battalion was broken up. There was an old boy in my squad and his name is Buster Kirk. They removed him from the 300th and he went over in the invasion on D-Day. Later he came back to the 300th after we got over there. He got a Silver Star or some kind of a medal back at the Normandy invasion. Now when you were getting discharged you have to have so many points it seems like it was something like 40 some points for a discharge. You got points if you was married or if you had been wounded and you got so many points for every battle you were in.

Kirk never got wounded and I never got wounded and so we both lacked two points from getting discharged. So he got out there with that medal and he wore it around his neck and he thought it was going to get you discharged. I told him, "That they doesn't mean nothing that it's just a piece of metal. They don't care anything about that thing as far as getting discharged is concerned." And so he said, "If it doesn't get him discharged he was just going to hang it up in a tree and shoot it." So a few days later he learned that the medal did not give him anything that would get him discharged. So we had a few drinks of course and so he went out and he hung the medal up on a tree. And then he pulled his pistol out and he laid it across his hand and he shot his fingernail off. I laughed about it and said, "You're finally going to get your Purple Heart because you got your fingernail shot off."

Portrait of the war in Europe
Portrait of the war in Europe. Photo: Harold Palmer

Many troops of the 300th were in the process of being reassigned to the 51st Combat Engineer Battalion when history again intervened. The purpose of the reassignment was to bring the 51st back up to full strength in preparation for training for the invasion of Japan in January, 1946. In early August, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagaski. VJ-Day (Victory in Japan) and the end of World War II were declared on August 7, 1945.

It was here in Aschaffenburg in August of 1945, that Major Archie Menard created the map of the 300th that is on this web site. The political cartoons were of his fertile imagination and war experience. The captions when the cartoon is enlarged are our interpretation of what the artwork might be saying. This map, some 62 years later, became the inspiration for this web site.

The 300th Engineer Combat Battalion was officially deactivated November 2, 1945 at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. The ships that carried these brave men back to the United States were as varied as their Points of Separation.

Destroyed German port of Wurtzburg
Destroyed German port of Wurtzburg, Germany. Photo: Frank Neuhauser

Going Home

Time to say goodbye; from a presentation by Colonel Riel Crandall at a 300th Reunion in 1996:

Riel Crandall I did something I regretted all my life [After VE-Day and being transferred out of the 300th]. I decided if I was going directly to Japan I didn't want to carry all kinds of records so I left all records and all the things I would like to have kept back with the 300th in Aschaffenburg. I might add I wasn't very happy that day because it was goodbye to all you guys because you were going home. I didn't go to Japan because the war ended and I was assigned immediately to the States so I got home before most of you guys did.

Ben L. White tells the story about "Love 'em and leave 'em:"

I asked Pellitteri (Louis) at a reunion and he didn't tell me much but I remember he said, "Love 'em and leave 'em." I don't really remember how it happened but somewhere down in France this old gal took up with Pellitteri. She was younger but not too much younger than we were and I guess we were about 19 at that time. I can't remember for sure where it was in France but I think it happened after we went through Paris. So this gal got with Pellitteri and she followed him all the way through the war. She had some hard times keeping up with the Battalion but even in the Bulge she was up there with him. She was with him in that town where we thought the tanks that were coming in were German tanks but it turned out that they were all American tanks. And of course they hauled us out in trucks so I don't know what happened to her during the Bulge. But after the Bulge was over with and we were up in Germany she showed up again. And we moved up on into Germany and every time we would be up there she would show up. And we took care of her she had plenty to eat. And I know when the war was over and when the 300th was broken up she was still there. So we don't know what happened to her and I remember Pellitteri at the reunion not saying much about it but just saying, "Love 'em and leave 'em."

Don Richter after V-E Day in France:

Looking out over the destroyed city of Le Havre
Cpl. Don Richter looking out over the destroyed city of Le Havre, France after V-E Day, fall 1945. Photo: Don Richter

I had three more months in Europe after leaving the 300th in August most of the time in Le Havre, France. I was with the 52nd Medium Port which was responsible for operation of the port there and involved with sending GI's back to the U. S. We were billeted in a fine large old home with a sort of balcony with a great view up on top of a bluff overlooking Le Havre. My duty there was being in charge of the quarters every other night alternating with a nice fellow I had met at Camp Chateau Terry, a replacement camp. We could work out our schedule as we pleased sometimes letting one or the other having several days off to make trips around the area, even on occasion to Paris. It was really great duty helping send men back home.

When my numbers came up, I was trucked all the way up to Antwerp, Belgium, where I soon boarded the Akin Victory. After surviving an Atlantic winter storm, we arrived back at the Port of New York exactly two years from the day we boarded the Queen Mary bound for Scotland. Then it was on back to Camp Shanks again for processing and the trip back to Texas where I was mustered out and discharged at Camp Fanning at Tyler, Texas.

Low Pointers heading home after VE Day
Low Pointers heading home after VE Day. Photo: Albert Stein

After the war ended, the men of the 300th spent varying amounts of time in Europe on R & R before returning home. When it came time to go home, they left from France or England to various ports on the Eastern seaboard. The three types of ships were: Victory Ships, Liberty Ships and Hospital Ships. The conditions on these ships were considered better than these men encountered on the Queen Mary voyage from the U.S. to England. They arrived in the U.S. at various ports and then traveled by train to their home towns. Although most of the men were discharged soon thereafter, a few went on to military careers.

George Garrison after the war:

They sent me up to Le Havre, France and I got separated from my buddies and there was this replacement depot and everyone was waiting for a boat. I got on the Oneida Victory which was a converted banana boat that hauled fruit from South America to the United States and it was converted into a troop ship. It took us 28 days to come across. We had a storm for the seventh eighth and ninth days and it blew us backwards. When I got to Camp Shanks I never saw another guy from my outfit.

Warren Chancellor goes home:

I came home after the war on the 14,000 ton Marine Victory. We thought we would be going to the Pacific but instead we went home. It was rough. After the Mediterranean Sea we ran into some real rough seas. We went right by the Rock of Gibraltar. We left out of the port of Marseille France. I stayed at camp in Marseille for 48 days waiting to come home. We didn't do much at the camp but we did get to go to USO shows. Not much else. We went into Marseille on a one day pass and the biggest part of the city was off limits. They gave you points for service time and it took 85 points to get home. I didn't have quite enough points at first and that's why I was there 48 days. When we got home to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey we then rode a troop train to home. I think everybody got off the ship and kissed the ground. The first thing that I did was walk into the PX and buy a bottle of milk and drink it.

I am very proud I served in the military and I learned a lot. We took a green kid and made a man of him. I changed one hundred percent. I am very pleased with what I learned in the Army. If I had to do it over again I would do the same thing.

Tec. 5, Charles Olive, 300th Co, B, left Marseille, France on the USAT Groucher Victory at the end of October 1945 bound for Hampton Roads, Virginia. The 10-day voyage covered a total of 4052 miles and Charles chartered the miles for each day ranging from 373 miles on the first day to 423 miles on the eighth day.

Charles brought home the main meal menu distributed to the men for 1 November 1945 with the message from the Captain:

Roast Chicken with Dressing and Gilbert Sauce
Kernel Korn a la Vincent Peas au Belvin
Snowflake Potatoes
California Cup Cakes with Chocolate
Indiana Ice Cream
Bread, Butter, Frozen Milk, Fresh Fruits

The Master, Captain Aage Hedegard, and crew of the S.S. Groucher Victory wishes the doughboys a Bon Voyage and a happy reunion with their families and friends.

Coming home greeted by Salvation Army vessel
Coming home greeted by Salvation Army vessel. Photo: Herbert Renkie.
Herbert Renkie on his way home
Coming Home, Herbert Renkie (right) on his way home. Photo: Herbert Renkie.
Men of the 300th passing Rock of Gibralter
Men of the 300th coming Home, passing Rock of Gibralter. Photo: Dale Williams
Coming home with Statue of Liberty just in sight
Coming home with Statue of Liberty just in sight. Photo: Herbert Renkie.

Ben L. White goes broke in Paris:

After the war was over we went into Paris. We ran out of money and we had to get back to the outfit. And so we was supposed to be back but we didn't have any money to get back or even to buy food. So we got back late. We went to the captain and I said to him he could fix it by just giving us a permanent pass. The captain laughed and said, "You know I can't give you a permanent pass so you'll just have to take care of it." We went back into Paris again anyway and we fooled around and got broke again and we went back to the outfit. We got a ride in a truck and some old boy hollered at us and said that they were loading up and moving out so we caught a truck in the town that we were in and they put all our stuff on the truck and we got there. If we had been 10 minutes later we would have had no place to go.

So we went down to the depot by the harbor and we stayed there for a few days and then they loaded us in the ship and we was headed for Japan. As we were going up the gang plank there was this old boy standing by the rail and I seen him at about the same time he seen me and he hollered at me. And I went over to him he was an old boy that I was raised up with and so we talked for a little bit. So getting back to money, I was totally broke so I asked if he could loan me some money cause I wanted to go uptown one more time before we leave. So he had a $20 bill and we have been together all those years so he didn't charge me anything for the $20. So when I got back to the outfit he was gone. So I owed him $20. I never saw him after we got out of the Army and back into the States.

We had the reunions I guess it was in the 1960s. He didn't come to the reunions but somehow he got hold of my address and so he wrote me a letter. And he told me I owed him $20 and he could use it. Back then $20 was a lot of money. We worked for $65 a week or so. And so I sent him $20 and I wrote that I really thank you for the $20 but there's one thing about it. I'm not going to pay any interest on it for all the years that I've owed you. And I got a letter back from him later and it was thanking me for paying him the $20 I owed him.

300th Engineer Jerry Barton describes arriving home:

In November, 1945, I departed the Paris, France area and headed for LeHarve where, with thousands of other returning servicemen, I boarded the USS Constitution for home. We steamed into Boston Harbor on December 3, 1945 - exactly two years to the day after we left New York as the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion. Immediately upon arrival, I placed a call to the school at Blanket and asked to talk to my sister, Chlorene. I told her I was back in the United States. Mama still did not have telephone service out on the farm.

Train service, paid for by the military, carried me from Boston, Massachusetts to Tyler, Texas where I was discharged on December 10, 1945 and left the Army camp about 5:00 p.m. I caught a commercial bus from Tyler to Brownwood. From Brownwood, I took a taxicab to home on the farm where Mama and my siblings had been expecting me. I arrived there about 4:00 a.m. and they were all asleep. I remember that immediately after daylight that Mama and I drove around for me to greet the neighbors and relatives that lived nearby.

Kal Lutsky meets his brother, twice:

I was in Normandy and all of our vehicles had our name on the truck – – it was 300th Combat Engineers 1A and that was for the First Army. My brother was in the Field Artillery in Normandy. He saw this truck with the 300th Combat Engineers on it. So he followed the truck. We were packing up to go to the Battle of St. Lo and it was in a big field. I was bending over and somebody comes around and says "Hey Tito." I don't know who it could be calling me by that name because it was my nickname when I was a kid because I had buck teeth. I turned around and it was my brother. I saw him for maybe 10 minutes and that was it. Now, it is on to October of '45 and it was at a water point in Germany. Somebody was coming over the hill drunk as could be and it was my brother again. I said, "Where are you going?" And he said, "I'm going home." Now he joined before Pearl Harbor and he got a lotta points and also five battle stars and he had four years of service so he got out in October of '45. He got out earlier than me.

The end of the war for Billy Byers:

Bill ByersAfter landing at Normandy, we stayed in France for a few days. I was on guard duty one night and the artillery going over and coming back sounded like it was automatic. I thought to myself, "There is no way to get out of this place alive."

When Germany surrendered and the war was over in Europe, they were still fighting in the Pacific. The military had a point system that determined who would return home first. For example, a soldier would get a point for being married and a point for each child they had. Since I was single, I had very few points, so I was being sent to fight in the Pacific.

Before going to the Pacific, I was sent home for a short leave. While we were on the ship, halfway back to the States, they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Before we landed they dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki. Many of us knew this would be the end of the war. You can't imagine how happy we were.

We landed in New York City and on my first night I went dancing. I was dancing with a young lady and I just burst out laughing. She asked, "What are you laughing about?" I said, "I made it back!"

Kal Lutsky and points to go home:

So now they split everyone of the 300th up and we said our goodbyes and that's the last I saw of Sgt. Ross. We broke up in early September and everybody went different ways and we started to get assignments when you will be going home.

You went home by how many points you had. By this time the 300th was all split up. And all the different services were together. So they would line you up, maybe 100 men from all over. When they called your name you would give them your name, age and how many points you had. Well, we in the 300th had points for each of five campaigns we were in. It was Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Central Europe and Rhineland. That was 25 points right there. So they called out my name and I said "Lutsky, 20 years old and 58 points." And the men in the Air Corps were in the line and had been in the war for four or five years. When they heard how many points I had they wanted to know how this kid that young got 58 points. Well, they had one star for being in England so they had no battle time. They were really jealous that this kid got so many points and got to go home earlier.

Juke Burnham after the war:

So I left Germany when the war in Europe was over and we expected to be sent to the Pacific but the war ended. So I went to France and we waited to be shipped home but there were not enough boats. I left Germany in July but didn't go home until November. We were not that far from Paris and it wasn't difficult to get a pass or even go without a pass because you didn't have to have a pass. You got out on the highway and the first Army vehicle that was going to Paris would pick you up. Paris was not off limits. The French people were kind of divided. There were some real patriots and they survived in the French Underground during the war. And they did a lot of railroad demolition and created havoc for the Germans. They were assisted by United States support. They really didn't care who ran the country as long as it wasn't the Germans.

Norman Webb reflects on his service:

Not only had we aged in three years and a very important element in your life span but we had gone through some very interesting and educational experiences which were significant and changed me. The Army discipline and the experiences we went through were maturing. I think I was more prepared to suffer in life if I had to and to sacrifice if I had to. I felt more of a sense of responsibility and that may not be as commonplace with 21 or 22-year olds now. Generations become different. Only history will tell us if they really advance but at any rate they change. I think that the war and my maturity at that time helped me to be what you might say more of a man and accept responsibility and do my share.

The 300th Engineer Combat Battalion was a well-trained, capable and dedicated combat unit. They were awarded five Bronze Battle Stars for participation in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland and Central Europe. They were awarded the American Campaign Medal, ETO Medal, Victory Medal and Occupation Medal. There were more than 140 Purple Heart recipients as well as Silver Star and Bronze Star recipients. Six members were awarded the French Cross of War with a Bronze Star.

300th Engineer Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris describes why they were there:

We knew why we were there and you looked around and saw the destruction and what those people had to live through in the occupation. Then you realize if you could keep those guys [Hitler] from coming over here. You didn't hear anyone griping why we were there. Everyone realized what we were there for.

You put out every ounce of energy to do what you're supposed to do. That's just the way it was. You felt like you had a job to do and you had to do it.

Donald Ross discharge papers