Soldiers don't die

"A man dies only when he is forgotten"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Complete Timeline for the 8th Division in World War II (with map)

(Click image to enlarge)

 1 Sep 1941 – The 8th Division took part in the Carolina Maneuvers.

1942 – The 8th Division was ordered to patrol the Atlantic coast. For six weeks during the winter of  1942, units of the division ranged along the eastern shores of the country from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. The 8th became a Motorized Division.

March 1942 – The 8th Division returned to Fort Jackson late in March to resume training.

Sep 1942 – There was a motor march to the location of the Tennessee Maneuvers.  Two more months of war games further hardened the troops of the 8th.  Then, after a brief stay in tents at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, the Division set out for its new station, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

December 1942 - March 1943 – There was a period of comparative calm.

March 1943 – The 8th moved to Camp Laguna, Arizona, for six months of desert training (in preparation for a planned invasion of North Africa).

August  1943 – The Division returned to Camp Forrest.  Preparations were begun immediately for an overseas movement.

27 November 1943 – The 8th arrived at the staging area of Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

5 December 1943 – The 8th Infantry Division sailed from New York Harbor.

15 December 1943 – The Division arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland for training.  Every two weeks the Division sent seventy-five enlisted men and fifteen officers to the British 55th Division and received an equal number of United Kingdom troops for a two-week period.  By living and training amongst their allies, the 8th learned to coordinate their efforts with the British.

1 Jul 1944 – A convoy of four troop ships and twelve motor transports carrying the 8th Division steamed out of Belfast Harbor.

4 July 1944 – The Division began debarking at Omaha Beach on the Cherbourg peninsula.

6 July 1944 – The Divisiona ssembled in the vicinity of Monteburg.

7 July 1944 – The 8th Infantry Division entered combat.

8 July 1944 – The 8th Division jumped off on its first attack in the Battle of France.

26 July 1944 – The Division crossed the Ay River.

28 July 1944 – Resuming the advance the 8th Division proceeded rapidly against light resistance until it had taken all objectives.

1 August 1944 – The Division continued to move southward, clearing out small pockets of resistance and securing road nets and vital installations along the route of march.

3 August 1944 – The 8th Division reached St. James.

4 August 1944 – The Division moved to an assembly area near Betten, northeast of Rennes. 8 August 1944 the Division pushed through Rennes.

9 August 1944 – The 3rd Battalion was cut off from the regiment. For three days it withstood almost incessant artillery bombardment and repeated attempts by the enemy to annihilate it, suffering many casualties.

13 August 1944 – The 8th Division continued its mission of holding and defending Rennes.  During this period, it maintained road blocks, cleared rubble and obstacles from the streets,a nd engaged in extensive patrolling.  Although some prisoners were taken, no contract was made with organized enemy forces.

14 August 1944 – One of the regiments occupied Dinard.  A task force, composed mainly of the 3rd Battalion, 28 Infantry, moved to the Cap Frehel peninsula, farther east in Brittany, to take over positions held by French Forces of the Interior.

15 August 1944 – The Division, meanwhile, had moved to an assembly area near Dinan.

17 August 1944 – The remaining elements of the Division began movement to an assembly area near Brest.  There, for three days, operations were confined to patrolling.

21 August 1944 – The Division closed into its sector and awaited orders to attack Brest.

29 August 1944 – The enemy in the sector of the 3rd Battalion, 28th Infantry, called a truce to evacuate wounded.  Previously, two companies of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry, had advanced beyond their adjacent units, been cut off and captured by the Germans.  After Brest had capitulated, these two companies were freed by men of their own unit from a German prisoner of war enclosure on the Crozon peninsula, south of the harbor of Brest, and returned to their unit.

31 August 1944 – The 8th prepared for a coordinated Corps attack which was to include also the 2nd Division.  A road in the vicinity of the town of Kergroas was the objective.

8 September 1944 – With an improvement in the supply of artillery ammunition, the 121st Infantry attacked and seized the eastern end of the strongly defended Lambzellec ridge.  The 121st then advanced toward the town of Lambzellec, and by noon was fighting in the streets.  The 13th Infantry advanced abreast to positions from which it supported the attack of the 121st.

10 Sep 1944 – Having passed through Lambzellec, the 121st was confronted with Fort Bouguen.  This was a formidable work of thick walls, twenty to thirty feet in height, surrounded by a dry moat, twenty feet deep.  Such an obstacle could not be assaulted by infantry without artillery fire.

11 Sep 1944 – Heavy artilelry fire was directed at the wall. This fire failed to make an appreciable breacha nd the VIII Corps Commander decided to suspend further operations against that portion of the inner defenses, and to contain the enemy within Fort Bouguen, while efforts were renewed farther east.  He therefore directed that elements of the 2nd Infantry Division relieve the 8th Division in front of the fort. The next day the 13th and 121st Infantry Regiments withdrew to a temporary assembly area near Plouvien.

14 Sep 1944 – The Division moved into its attack positions.

15 Sep 1944 – After a strong barrage by heavy and light artillery and chemical mortars, the attack began.  In the zone of the 28th Infantry, the 3rd Battalion led the attack.  By 0930 it was approaching the hamlet of St. Eflez.  The 3rd Battalion and the 1st following it were under heavy flanking fire from the south ridge.  All officers of Company L became casualties. Tech Sergeant Charles E. Balance reorganized the companya nd took command. He was killed by a sniper the next day. In the vicinity of St. Eflez, resistance grew so fierce that itw as apparent that the main line of enemy defenses had been reached.

16 Sep 1944 – German counterattacks on both ridges were repulsed. AT 0700 hrs the attack was renewed under cover of a dense fog, which was to furnish an effectiev mask for each morning of the Crozon action. By 19 Sep 1944, the Crozon Peninsula was cleared.

26 Sep 1944 – The 8th Division began the long move from the Crozon peninsula to the grand Duchy of Luxembourg.  Foot troops and trucked vehicles made the journey by rail. By 30 Sep 1944, Motorized elements arrived in convoys near Ettelbruck, Luxembourg.

9 Oct 1944 – Trainign began with 1, 538 officers and enlisted men available.  They were armed for the most part with rifles, automatic weapons and several anti-tank guns.  Eight companies of approximately 200 men each comprised the battalion. Fiev of these were rifle companies.  Training of this unit was continued, for two hours daily, until October 20th.

7 Oct 1944 – A vehicle bearing Lt. Colonels Frederick J. Bailey Jr. and john P. Usher of the 28th Infantry, was traveling well in rear of the front lines when it was flagged down by what appeared to be a US Army Captain and Sergeant, standing beside a halted American First Army Jeep. Pulling alongside, and hearing the “captain” talking wildly in German although he wore an American combat jacket and helmet, the 28th Infantry officers opened fire and killed the two men.

19 Oct 1944 – A plan was worked out to rotate the troops.  One platoon at a time was relieved.

3 Nov 1944 – Both Vossenack and Schmidt had been taken, and a line of departure for the attack upon Hurtgen secured.  So difficult was the terrain, however, that only foot troops could get through to Schmidt. There was no road between the two captured towns over which armor and Anti-tank guns could move.

7 Nov 1944 – Unable to get armored units through to the foot troops, the 28th Division was forced to withdraw from Schmidt.  At one time the Germans also recaptured half of Vossenack, but here their counterattack was again driven back.

16 Nov 1944 – The 13th Inf. And the 8th Reconnaissance Troop began the motor march of the 8th Division to the V Corps front, and by nightfall they had arrived.

19 Nov 1944 – All elements of the Division had closed into their positions in the area southeast of Aachen.

20 Nov 1944 – The Division drove across France to Luxembourg and moved to the Hurtgen Forest.

21 Nov 1944 – The 121st Infantry opened the drive on Hurtgen. Attacking with three battalions abreast, the Regiment immediately ran into strong resistance.  Enemy mortar and artillery tree bursts shattered the forested area and hailed shrapnel down upon infantry units whenever they attempted to advance, antipersonnel minefield further increased the peril of movement through the dense woods. On the 24th November the attack of the 121st Infantry resumed.

25 Nov 1944 – At a conference of V and VII Corps Commanders it was decided to begin the armored attack on the morning of November 25th.  At least three rifle companies were to advance astride the road during the night so the road could be cleared.

26 Nov 1944 – Enemy pockets in the woods inf ront of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 121st Infantry were taken without opposition.  Company F, 121st Infantry, had advanced to a point approximately 300 yards southwest of Hurtgen.  Here it was met by dense machine gun fire. Company F held its advanced position during the night, and resumed the attack with the entire regiment the next morning.

 27 Nov 1944 – The 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry, joined the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 121st Infantry in the attack at 0700. Division Artillery, less the 43rd Field Artillery Battalion, again fired prearranged concentrations in support of the infantry units.  Company C of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion was also in close support.  The next day the Division cleared Hurtgen.

29 Nov 1944 – The attack on Kleinhau began. The enemy defended stubbornly, holding out in cellars and wooded areas even after armored forces had driven through the town.  During the night, the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry, took over the captured town and the high ground. The enxt day men of the 13th cleared out remaining enemy pockets.

31 Nov 1944 – Elements of the 121st and 28th continued to push southeast.  Patrols were sent out by both regiments to determine enemy strength around Brandenburg. Resistance was encountered almost immediately, and orders were issued to hold present positions until plans for a full scale attack were completed.

3 December 1944 – The Division cleared Brandenburg.

23 February 1945 – The Division crossed the Roer River.

25 February 1945 – Duren taken.

28 February 1945 – Erft Canal crossed.

7 March 1945 – The 8th reached the Rhone near Rodenkirchen and maintained positions along the river near Koln.

6 April 1945 – The Division attacked northwest to aid in the destruction of enemy forces in the Ruhr Pocket.

17 April 1945 – The Division completed its mission.

1 May 1945 – After security duty, the 8th Division, under operational control of the British Second Armya nd Task Force Canham, drove across the Elbe River (advancing in Jeeps, canvas trucks and tanks) capturing 250,000 mostly German prisoners and penetrated to the town of Schwerin to rendezvous with the Russians.

The 121st Infantry was the first to visit a concentration camp near Wobbelin, Germany discovered days earlier by a field surgeon.  They witnessed thousands of dead and dying prisoners.  The 13th and 28th Infantry regiments were also taken through the camp to observe what the Germans did to their own people.  It was here that Staff Sergeant Melville J. Batt took his color photographs of the camp with Kodachrome film.  Possibly the only color photos known of a concentration camp.

Between May 1 1945 and May 7, 1945 the 8th Division was readied to be moved to the Pacific Theater of Operations to assist the Navy and Marine Corps.  But the war was over before they could be sent.

7 May 1945  - The war in Europe ended and the Germans officially surrendered.  Staff Sgt. Batt was honorably discharged with a Bronze Star medal and Army Commendation.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

B.A.R. - Browning Automatic Rifle History

Used from the end of World War One until the outbreak of the Vietnam War, this 19-pound monster ruled the field of automatics for over fifty years.  This is also the weapon that Grandpa carried in service. These were issued to Staff Sergeants in WWII. I bet that anyone who didn't get this piece, wanted one. This rifle and the M-1 Thompson (the "Tommygun") also featured prominently in gangster movies of the 1930's and '40s. They were very popular guns.

(I picked one of these up before and it feels like it's made of solid lead! I still cannot believe my grandfather carried this when he was 25 or 26 years old being such a scrawny guy)

Watch a video of the history of this powerful mobile machinegun here: