278th Engineer Combat Battalion

History of the 278th Engineer Combat Battalion

By Tec 4 John L. Clark
Map by Tec 4 Robert S. Alexander

At the end of October 1943, a cadre consisting of Major Edward T. Podufaly, Captain Ralph Hastings and James H. Adams Jr. and 1st Lts. Thomas B. Roper, Jack E. Brobeck, John H. Butler, Charles Greve, Chal H. Morrow, Robert R. Smart, Harold W. Lubchansky and Robert L. Pare and men from the 5th Engineer Regiment in Iceland arrived at Camp Jos. T. Robinson, Ark, to form the 278th Engr C Bn, which was officially activated at 0001 CWT, 25 October 1943. Some of the cadre had seen service in Hawaii and Panama and most of them were regular army men.

About the middle of November Selective Service trainees predominantly from Ohio, Alabama, W. Virginia and Georgia ranging in age from 18 to 38, began to arrive at Little Rock as did some brand new officers fresh from the Engineer Officer Candidate School. The strength of the battalion on 30 Nov was 650 men, 33 officers and 3 warrant officers, a slight overstrength to allow for cadres which would later be formed from the battalion.

Basic training was really basic and it was tough. The 278th had it rougher than some and might conceivably have had it easier than the Rangers but that was a questionable point in the minds of the civilians in uniform as they suffered such tortures as the hike which went down a long hill then right back up the same hill again, the 15 mile forced march, firingfor record in Valley Forge weather, standing rifle inspections (how can such a little thing get so dirty in so many different places so quickly?) extended order drill, the fine points of pack rolling, close order drill, bayonet drill, full field inspections, interior guard, TC87, and the thousand and one other things which go into making the beginnings of a soldier.

Finally the day came when Colonel Podufaly told us that we'd passes our ITP tests with flying colors (at least we didn't have to worry about taking basic again) and that we were now field soldiers. We weren't quite so sure about what that might get us into, but it made everybody feel good never-theless.

On 10 March 44 the Battalion took off for Nimrod Dam in the Sulphur Springs area of Arkansas for its first extended field problem. The Battalion practiced living in the mud and rain for days on end, throwing pontoon bridges, and infantry foot bridges across the river, how to conduct ferry and assault boat crossings, how to get things done under blackout conditions, building roads and culverts, classifying bridges and making long hikes and reconnaissance, eating "C" rations for the first time.

After returning to Camp Robinson for a short stay, during which a 60 man cadre left for Camp McCain to activate the 1281 Engr C Bn, the 278th started final preparations for its move to the Louisiana Maneuver Area and on 2 April the Bn, in the usual downpour which regularly occurs on every Bn. Moving day, moved out by motor convoy for the san and pine wastes of Western Louisiana. The Battalion had its mission repairing the road network which had been rendered practically impossible as a result of the maneuver, and during the month, April, the Battalion stayed there, it repaired more than 85 miles of roads, classified over 800 bridges, and laid over 150 ft of new culverts, threw live hand grenades, fought in Camp Polk's Combat Village and explored the attractions of that gem city of the Old South, Leesville. Under the inspiration of Major Adams Bn HQ practiced, by section, striking camp and loading all gear and equipment on the trucks. All through our stay there, camouflage discipline was emphasized.

At last word came that the outfit was to leave for Camp Bowie, Texas so on6 May 1944, the Battalion, along with her sister Battalion, the 279th, formed in convoy and moved out towards the Texas plains, stopped that night on the outskirts of Camp Hood, and arrived at our new station on 8 May to become once again garrison soldiers.

On the 5th of June Lt. Col Podufaly was transferred to the 8th Armored Division and Major Ralph Hastings who had been at Fort Belvior's officer's cadre course returned and took over the reins from that time on. On the 10th of June the Battalion went into a bivouac area in the vicinity of Camp Barkeley for a 7 day tactical exercise with the 12th Armd Div during which we were attached to the Div Engr and performed such tasks as mine laying and road maintenance. Later the Battalion was committed as infantry as part of the blue forces. We returned to Bowie on the 17th of June and resumed our garrison duties. On the 13th of June, just as our field exercise was closing, the Bn was given preliminary overseas alert and returned to Camp Bowie to plunge into the work of final preparation for "It".

On 1 July Major Adams, the Executive Officer, was transferred to an army hospital and on the 25th Capt. Brobeck was assigned the position of Executive Officer with Capt. Roper of "C" Co taking the job of S-3. Lt Finnegan, who had the 2nd platoon, took command of "C" Co.

During the month of August and early September the Battalion continued its combat training and at the same time increased its physical training program as well as taking inventory, waterproofing, and packing equipment. All officers and men were given leaves and furloughs during this period in order that all personnel should have had one during the 6 months previous to embarkation. Many Showdown inspections were held and everything was well under control by the time the Battalion entraining for Camp Shanks and the New York Port of Embarkation The Battalion was exactly at strength on the day it entrained except for Mr. Mund, Mr. Cordova and Pfc. Stein of "C"Co who had left for NYPE 6 weeks before as our advance detachment. The Battalion went on two trains, one which went via Canada. At the last minute the odograph jeep was practically carried into a boxcar on the first train and tied in place, but at last the train got off in the hot afternoon and started on its two-day journey to the east. Perhaps this was "It". From the 14th of September, our date of arrival in New York to the 25th we carried out the usual POE duties such as shots, "physicals", movies, pas mask drill, practice in going overboard, and lectures. "You are now about to go on board a transport. This will be your home from the time you leave here until the time you arrive at your destination." Fifty percent of the Battalion was allowed passes to New York City every night and we soon learned why our physical training program had been stepped up. We had to be tough.

During our stay the ever-recurring last minute checks on service records, on arms, on clothing, on our new gas mask equipment, or change-of-address forms- were repeated and repeated, and Lt. Coleman's platoon of "B" Co snapped the camp's sewage and drainage system into shape. And perhaps it should be noted that along with the training mentions above a rigorous in bunk fatigue was carried out by all Co's.

Just as every one was about getting their fill of 12 hour New York stands, the Battalion received a red alert on the 25th of September and left Shanks on the evening of the 28th to board a troop train to Jersey. Just as Battalion formed in the area to move to the boattrain, the rain came and kept coming, hard and wet, all the way down the hill, and soon the squoosh of 1268 water-filled shoes filled the street. A lot of people said this was "It". We left the train at Weehawken and set foot on American soil for the last time as we boarded the ferry - some said this was "It" as we were on the water or over it from then on - to take leave of that city, little knowing how beautiful it might look to us again some day. A couple of guys tried to settle an argument about which was the front end of a ferryboat, but nobody seemed to have their heart in talking about anything. The question uppermost in everyone's mind seemed to be, "Is this trip necessary?" We debarked at a Manhattan West side pier where we were greeted by the thunderous efforts of a well meaning band with its everlasting Beer Barrel Polka as well as some Red Cross Girls with cocoa and doughnuts. In a matter of a few minutes there was nothing left but the Red Cross girls and we were wending our alphabetical way up the gangplank. We were herded into our quarters and made the interesting discovery that we were to be guests of the British Merchant Marine aboard what we later learned was H.M.T.S. Highland Monarch.

Before long the wet clothing had been removed and the silence was broken only by the occasional thud of the landlubber's body falling from his unaccustomed hammock perch. We were soon on the high seas and spent many an hour standing by the rail enjoying the scenery, watching the convoy, complete with flat top, form, and occupying ourselves in other ways at the rail. After several days of making our way across the Atlantic spending our idle moments speculating upon our destination, attending movies, band concerts, and boxing matches (hit 'em with the roll of the ship), we saw the low green and yellow fields and towns of bordering Bristol, Channel, and pulled into Avonmouth, England and (Was this, at last, "It"?) entrained for Swanage, a little resort town on the Southern coast to the west of the Isle of Wight. It was there that the expression, "We ain't never had it so good"' was probably born. The Battalion was housed in the Oldfield School and in several houses known by conservative English names with some noble exceptions such as The Dingle Hotel. Swanage had movies, Swanage had tea,cakes, and warm beer and ale, and Swanage had WAAF girls, and rain and mist and more rain - if you could see the Isle of Wight, the old saying went, in the morning it would rain that day and if you couldn't see it, it was already raining, was the Americanized addition. London was visited by many members of Coulee and who enjoyed the sights - House of Parliament, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Stage Door Canteen, Rainbow Corner, Picadilly Circus, the bombed out dock area, Picadilly Circus. But Swanage was not relaxation. The line companies had a number of Engineer jobs while there, such as road patching (the beginning of a long trail), blowing out and removing some of the shore blockades of concrete which had been set along Swanage's pre-war resort beach to fend off possible German landings in 1940, and even a few live mines were dug up by "A" Co.

We spent Thanksgiving in Swanage and began to nourish the hope we would stay until Christmas, but it proved to be a forlorn one for we were soon alerted for cross channel movement and on 28 November we left Swanage for the last time (naturally it was raining) and moved with full equipment to a staging area near Winchester, England. Everyone was sure it was our last time sleeping off the ground and a few more asked, is this "It"? After a brief stay H & S Company drove to Southampton and boarded LST 294. They arrived at Le Havre roadstead on the 2nd of December and after a short layover proceeded up the Seine River to Rouen where they debarked on the 5th of December and convoyed by motor to the Redhorse assembly area. After an overnight stay we moved on to another bivouac area in the vicinity of Fry, France for a 5 day stay.

The line companies left England on the 3rd of December and boarded ships for LeHavre, and upon arrival, marched 8 miles through rain (we were getting to expect it by then) and mud to a bivouac area near LeHavre. At that they were more fortunate then they knew. A few months later "A" Company began to feel somewhat like the fellow who missed the train which went off the end of the bridge when they discovered that the ship they were on was torpedoed off Cherbourg on its very next crossing with the second greatest loss of life of any troop ship disaster in the entire war. While we cooled our heels in the wet French country side so far behind the lines that all we saw was petroleum line maintenance troops, we wondered what was in store for us. After a week at Fry, the word came. It was the recently formed Ninth Army then engaged on a small front in Belgium. Then the complete Battalion moved to Vroenhoven, Belgium where they remained over night until December 10th ( Note: 14 men do not sleep very comfortably in the back of a 2 ton truck). On the same day we reached Hermalle, Belgium, otherwise known as Buzz Bomb Alley.

During the 15 day stay at Hermalle, The Battalion completed a 7day training course in stream crossing operations, including floating Bailey Bridges, Bailey Bridges, a 25 ton pontoon, infantry support raft ferries, and operation of storm assault boats, double assault boats, and 25 ton pontoons with motors. A class 40-690 foot floating Bailey Bridge was constructed by the Battalion on the Meuse River and then was later converted to a class 70 bridge. A 250 foot class 70 Floating Bailey Bridge was also constructed over the Albert Canal. Quite a bit of work was done, but our memories of Hermalle and nearby vise are more concerned with the increasing signs of German activity which were becoming more and more evident as the Ardennes break-through swung into action and the Nazis commenced their drive toward the nearby supply dumps at Liege. The Battalion was ordered to keep its Bailey Bridge across the Meuse and improve the approach roads leading to the bridge and the road net over the narrow spit of land between the Meuse and the Albert Canal. Was this at last to be "It"? The people back home were fretting over a 48 hour news blackout, but we were under a 72 hour news blackout, and felt more than a little concerned to hear that German patrols had been reported six miles from Liege at least three days before.

Paratroop warnings were almost routine enclosures in the poop from Group and caused the Battalion to double the guard and set up machine guns in convenient spots. We heard enemy planes make bombing runs on Liege, had one bomber try to knock out our floating Bailey. He missed and blew several windows out of the officer's quarters instead. The V-1's started to come over in earnest at the average rate of about one every 20 minutes. Sometimes you could see two or three in the air at once. They were after the dumps at Liege, but gave us quite a few bad moments because of the buzz bomb's inaccuracy. We were worried about the ones that didn't go to Liege because they were likely to go just about anyplace. If the buzz bombs passed over Hermalle and continued straight on, they were headed for Antwerp. But as they approached it was always a grim question whether it was for Antwerp or whether it was intended for Liege and had just strayed off its course to the North a bit. When their motors died and that ton of TNT started down we knew. Taped windows were the order of the day. One night Group telephoned Headquarters and asked to check up and see if we still had "B" Company because it looked as though the last buzz bomb had landed on their billets. One landed in Vise near "C" Company and knocked the guard in front of the building flat. One landed out in back of "A" Company and blew the windows out of the back of the house. One guy said he was praying so fast he couldn't understand what he was saying.

We moved away from Hermalle the day after Christmas, saw no more buzz bombs although we heard an occasional one pass by in the mist overhead, and Headquarters Co and "C" Company settled in Aubel, a peaceful little village where the M.P.'s'would take your word for a fact that you were a G.I. without asking you to identify Babe Ruth and to name the capital of North Dakota to prove that you weren't a paratrooper from der Fooer.

The Battalion had many jobs during the month of January between guarding bridges, giving first priority on sanding roads due to rain, snow, and freezing weather, and making reconnaissance of German pillboxes to determine which needed demolitions. There was very heavy snowfall the night of the 7th which made these jobs even more unpleasant for the ones who had to spend many hours out there keeping things rolling. The Battalion made Reconnaissance of sawmills in the area and finally took over the operation of the mills. A gallows by S-3 Section was built for the Ninth Army Headquarters.

Around this time there was some more administrative changes and Lt. Ciebiera became a "B" Company platoon commander, Captain Morrow became S-2, and Lt.' White took over "B" Company where he subsequently won a promotion.

On January 12th at about 3:25 in the morning a V-1 landed about 30 feet from the billet of the 3rd squad, second platoon of Co "C", located at the Lanaye Locks, Holland. One man was killed and another hospitalized for shock, being subsequently returned to duty. This was the first death in our Battalion due to enemy action.

Lt. Carroll of "A" Company was dropped from the Battalion on the 6th of January as a result of an injury sustained in an accident due to icy roads. On the 16th of January the officer list was boosted by the addition of Lt. Peter R. Noling who was assigned to "A" Company as the Administrative Officer. Capt. Conlyn was placed on D.S. at the Group S-4 and LT. Landvogt took over H & S Co Commanding Officer.

On the 27th of January almost all members of S-2 and S-3 started a thorough search for Engineer equipment in a designated section of Aachen, Germany. Their search through potentially booby trap territory wasn't without it's lighter side. One day a comely fraulein was watching six of them attempting to work a ton truck out of a snowdrift. All sorts of remarks were being passed about their feminine sidewalk superintendent.

As they loaded into the truck and prepared to resume their journey they were startled and more than alittle embarrassed to hear her remark in perfect English, "I'd think that a big bunch of husky men like you should have been able to lift that truck out of the ditch." However, they did accomplish quite a bit, so much in fact that they were rewarded with an oral commendation from Group.

At the end of January Lt. Fehrenbach was dropped for illness and was promoted to 1st Lt. as was Lt. Diekus, Lt. Finnegan, the C.O. of the same company was promoted to Captain.

Company "B" constructed a timber bridge at Eschweiler, Germany during January and found themselves a little closer to the war.

After spending one month and seventeen days at Aubel, Belgium the Battalion moved to Valkenburg, Holland which was a rest center town for XIX Corps. Co "C" moved to a point just inside the German border about 3 miles from Aachen. "A" Company moved to Bocholtz, Holland on the 11th of February. The mission of all the companies was still to maintain NR-1 the main highway between Maastrict and Aachen, which carried heavy traffic in preparation for the long awaited Roer crossing. German PW's were used on road maintenance under the surveillance of "C" Co guards.

The 2nd platoon of "C" Co started the task of dismantling a class 40 double Bailey Bridge across the Albert Canal, located just southwest of Maastricht. The bridge, which was designed by the 1143rd Group and built by the 3053rd Engineers, had an over-all length of 420 feet, took 23,000 man hours to complete. It was called Skyline Bridge as it rose 50 feet above the canal. The dismantling started on the 16th of February and was completed by the 27th.

Lt. McCracken, the S-4 officer was promoted to Captain, and the companies continued to turn out roadwork and oddjobs such as digging of radar positions, hauling, and so forth.

As a result of the Ninth Army push across the Roer River on the 23rd of February we were assigned a new area of responsibility including part of Aachen and the territory west and northwest of the city.

With the coming of March, Captain Roper and Captain Brobeck attained their majority and the Battalion left Valkenburg, Holland for a trek northward to DeHieblohm, Hollard, approximately 6 miles northwest of Roermond. They moved to Weert shortly after and set up Bn Hq in a former Dutch barracks. "A" Co C.P. remained at DeHieblohm, "B" Co C.P. moved to Caulille, and "C" Co moved to Maeseyck. It was during this move that one of the "B" Co men stepped on what was presumed to be an S-mine during convoy halt which resulted in the death of 5 enlisted men and the injury of six other men. It was one more tragic occurrence which brought home the fact that vestiges of the war remain behind long after the enemy has been driven back.

The stay at Weert, Holland lasted until March 9th when we departed for Juchen, Germany, about 6 miles below Munchen-Gladbach. That area had been cleared less than a week before and wrecked jerry wagons still hitched to the carcasses of the horses which had drawn them, knocked out tanks, and signs of general destruction were to be seen everywhere although none of the towns were in quite as bad shape as Julich or Duren which had been leveled to the ground by artillery. It was the first time Battalion Headquarters had ever been on German territory and marked the first time that we took over houses complete in which to quarter troops. It was at this time that the First Army made the dramatic crossing of the Rhine at Remagen, and we were flattered to find our Battalion listed on the Remagen Roll of Honor, but swear that we never heard of the place until we started to read about it in the papers when everybody else did. Capt. Rounds came to the outfit March 9th and was assigned as C.O. of H & S Co. The line companies also moved to points south of Munchen-Gladbach.

During the 11 day stay at Juchen the Battalion performed various duties on order from the 1142nd Group such as removing mines from designated areas, checking houses for booby traps, sending men to sea-mule school, and other jobs. When we left Weert, we had been told we were moving up to assist in the coming crossing of the Rhine, but it was not until Juchen that we found out our specific mission - it was to erect log booms and /or nets across the Rhine and upstream of bridge to catch floating mines, torpedoes, or swimmers with demolition charges. It was then that "A" Co conducted experiments with the Grommet and Admiralty nets to be used for our Rhine mission.

On March 20th , the Battalion moved to the vicinity of Kempen and "C" Co moved to Sevelen. While at Sevelen "C" Co made and prepared log booms and Admiralty and Grommet nets. The Headquarters personnel left Kempen on March 23rd and the rear echelon was set up in the vicinity of Sevelen. That night the forward echelon moved to the vicinity of Rheinberg on the banks of the Rhine. On the same date "B" Co became attached to the 172nd Engineers for the purpose of constructing the floating Bailey Class 40 bridge across the Rhine near Rheinberg which was to be protected by the nets and booms. At long last the majority of the Battalion was convinced that this was indeed "It". Early in the morning on the 24th the heaviest artillery barrage of the war was laid down to soften up the resistance and first waves of infantry were soon being ferried across by the 149th Engineers for the initial crossing of the river. One man from "B" Co was killed in action and an "A" Co operator lost an arm. "A" and "C" Co started assembling and launching their nets and boom on that day. There were to be three barriers - the one furthest upstream was a log boom to be emplaced by "C" Co, the next one towards the bridge was a Admiralty net followed by a Grommet net, both to be emplaced by "A" Co. All the equipment for these operations had been assembled and stock piled back in the equipment yard in Sevelen and H & S Co was charged with loading and bringing it forward as called for by "A" and "C" Co's. The following day the assistant S-2 while on patrol duty on the river was wounded in the leg by shrapnel from what was thought to be an 88 shell. He was immediately evacuated to a field hospital, but his injuries likewise necessitated an amputation of the injured limb.

On the night of the 27th while the companies were battling the swift and treacherous river currents several unfortunate incidents took place. On the night of the 27th "A" Co was engaged in securing buoys to the Admiralty net stretched across the river. One search-light was focused on the spot where two boats, one of them containing the Executive Officer, Major Brobeck, were backing down towards the cable with motors going just appreciably slower than the river's swift current. As the boats were just reaching their position a German plane swept low over the beach and began to strafe - the searchlight was cut out - men hit the earth and on the river total darkness enveloped the boats. The towed boat, an M-2 assault boat, containing Lt. Dietz and Tec 4 Gilmore was swept sideways into the net and overturned, throwing both men into the net,, where they fortunately caught hold. Almost immediately, the power launch containing Major Brobeck, also drifted into the net, however it did not upset, and Lt. Dietz and Sgt. Gilmore were able to pull themselves into the power boat. An LCVP was sent to try to extricate the power boat from the net, but in attempting this, the launch was overturned. Lt. Dietz caught hold of the net and was rescued; Sgt. Gilmore disappeared completely, and Major Brobeck was last seen drifting down river. The searchlight followed him for awhile, but another aircraft strafing attack on the light made it necessary to extinguish it. Major Brobeck was never again seen nor heard of and Tec 4 Gilmore's body was recovered later entangled in the half sunken, overturned boat.

All was peaceful and quiet in the daytime except for an occasional 88 burst, but once the bridgehead had been expanded we were outside the 8 miles range of these pieces. The Germanshad a street corner in Rheinberg zeroed and each night, about5 PM they threw a few into town just to keep us on our toes. As soon as dusk fell the remnants of the once glorious Luftwaffe (Bedcheck Charlie) came over on reconaissance and nuisance raids. The pattern of tracers which went up from dozens of guns was so concentrated that one wondered how anyone could fly through such a curtain of lead. Our net PW haul was one Luftwaffe major who came floating down the river with a complete and accurate map of the area and installations as well as a severe case of the chills. The only plane that really gave us a bad time was one which slipped in with his motor cut and started to shoot up the beach before anyone knew he was there."C" Co had set up search lights to illuminate their site so they could work through the night, and even with this help he turned out to be a bum shot and did no harm aside from disorganizing the work while everybody hurriedly decided that it was about time for a break in the nearest hole.

Most of the nights following the first couple were too foggy for flying. Some of the men went back to the billets overnight to get cleaned up and the rest luxuriated in the safety of their foxholes on or near the beach. Those who stayed at the sites or at the Forward C.P. were nightly serenaded by the medium artillery and after a few days, a battery of long Toms moved into the fields behind the Forward C.P. to keep the switchboard operator awake. During this time the Sevelen Equipment Park had two strafing raids and a large ammunition dump in the vic went up in smoke when a wrecked plane caught fire. The forward echelon moved back to Rheinberg on the 30th of March and went back to road repair with 25 brand new PW's to do the dirty work.

On April 1st we received a new Executive Officer, Major High, from the 172nd Engr C Bn. On the same day the C.O. was promoted to Lt. Colonel. The companies continued their work on the Rhine river, with varying success because of extreme swiftness of the river. "B" Co completed their task on the Bailey Bridge and received a written commendation from the C.O. of the 172nd for the excellent work they had done, and then started maintenance of the approach roads to the bridge. We finished up on the Rhine on April 8th and the Battalion packed up and moved across the Rhine to the area in and around Dorsten. Our primary mission was the usual road maintenance and general Engineer work. We weren't too concerned about the 300,000 enemy troops trapped in the Ruhr Pocket because we felt sure that time and the U.S.Army would herd them into the PWE's before long.

After remaining at Dorsten for 14 days we moved on to Rechlinghausen where we continued our general Engineer work. Recklinghausen was memorable in many ways. It was there that we heard the news of Germany's final and unconditional surrender on May 8th. It was there the Coulee Clubhouse was established. It was there that we built a war criminal camp using war criminals to do the work and were surprised to find that these people would snap to attention and remove their headgear whenever a non commissioned officer officer or officer even walked past their vicinity without looking at them. It used to slow the work up no end as they would "snap to" for anyone from Tec 5 on up. They ranged all the way from mild, inoffensive looking people to an SS man, a burly blonde parachutist who looked hard as nails as she sullenly sunned herself and a ten year old brat who was accused of blowing up a jeep with a lieutenant in it. It was there that we had a swimming pool for ourselves and it was also there where the fraternization ban began to cause much dissent as the Frauleins started to parade up and down with coy glances and in abbreviated attire. Some of the fellows who saw the mass grave up on the hill where the townspeople were taken to view the results of Nazism first-hand needed no lecture on fraternization.

We completed our work at the camp and moved to Lipperode, a small town near Lippstadt on May 21st. After a 10 day stay we were relieved from NUSA and assigned to Adsec and started down the Autobahn toward Frankfurt and found ourselves at Darmstadt in the U.S.zone of occupation. We slept at a former Lufftewaffe barracks for two nights and moved down to billets at Eberstadt, a suburb of Darmstadt. Since we had no definite jobs and were attached to no Group, we set up an intensive sports program and enjoyed daily baseball games and swims in the pools at Frankfurt and later at a town nearer to Darmstadt. We then became attached to a Port Construction Group and moved down to Germersheim where we were to clear the Rhine River of wrecked bridges and debris at Germersheim and Speyer. Germersheim is approximately halfway between Mannheim and Karlsruhe and is about 25 miles from the French border. On the 28th of June the Battalion moved to Winkel, Germany, leaving "A" Co behind to complete the work at Germersheim and Speyer. Winkel is located on the Rhine River about 16 miles north of Mainz and about the same distance from Wiesbaden where we were able to take advantage of the Red Cross Club, shows, and athletic facilities under the 12th Army Group of which we were a part.

The 12th Army Group was disbanded on the 1st of August and our Port Construction Group was alerted for direct shipment to the Pacific. The 5th Engineers took over our work on the Rhine and we became attached to the Seventh Army directly under Army Engineers. On the 8th of August, Battalion Headquarters moved from Winkel to billets just outside Heidelberg where Seventh Army Hq was located and the line companies which had moved up to the vicinity of Winkel once the work at Germersheim, Speyer, and around Mainz and been completed gradually followed us down, "B" Co being left behind to finish up some work at Rudesheim. The Rudesheim job was interesting from an engineering point of view and was an Engineer demolition man's dream. The British had devised a plan for using depth charges to clear the channel of wrecked bridges and wanted us to try it. We were using as much as 40 tons of explosive on one span and found that it worked out very well except for the fact that pieces of the bridge which fell back into the river would have to be blasted out by additional charges. What got everybody though was the way they'd blow up one projecting section of the bridge only to have another piece pop up into sight somewhere else. The Rudesheim bridge finally quit popping, though, and the job was considered well done.

We expected to be Seventh Army engineers working at our same old routine for a few more months until we were redeployed and fondly hoped that it would be via the states. Seventh Army immediately put us to work constructing airport, runways and improving the circulation plan at Army Headquarters.

On the 14th of August the greatest war in history was over as the Japanese surrendered, and redeployment became and is and will remain the question of the day until, at last, we are home again Already most of our high point officers and men have gone. The question now is "when".