It is with sorrow, I tell of the passing of Archie, on Saturday, July 26, 2008. My condolences to his dear wife Loretta and his entire family. May you find comfort in your memories.
How did I find Archie? Well, I began writing and talking to Cliff Duncan, a 540th Combat Engineer and one day when sending him a snail-mail I saw several other names on his stationery (he was Chairman of their reunions). I thought to myself, why hadn't I thought of writing to these others before? So I sent my letters off and one was addressed to a L. Armbruster. Within a few weeks I received an email from L. Armbruster and found out that she was the wife of Archie and had served as the secretary for all their reunions.
Loretta and I have since become friends and email each other several times a week. She informed me early on that Archie has a hard time hearing, so he really avoids speaking on the phone. Therefore Loretta acts as our go-between and I really appreciate her relaying tidbits of info. Also as with many vets, Archie does not care to talk about the war years and of course I respect his wishes. But as Loretta has informed me, Archie has been seen looking at his photos and his Overseas With The 540th book since she and I began corresponding. Little by little he has been letting pent up memories escape and come to light.
Below are several emails that pertain to Archie.
I am writing for my husband Archie as he doesn't use the computer. He
doesn't remember you father but says he the name sound familiar. What do
you want to know about the 540th engineers? He doesn't have too many
pictures, but has a book with some information about the 540th engineers.
Let me hear from you.
Marion, I just showed the last of the pictures that you sent to Archie, he enjoyed them. He didn't know the officers. i think that your Dad and he could have been in different places. I can't at this minute what outfit he was in before he was in the 540th. I will ask him again and tell you the next time I write. Will write some of the things that he has told me to tell you tomorrow.
Archie got out his book the 540th Overseas and was looking at the pictures this afternoon and I sorted thru some of the pictures he was in when he was overseas and home on leave.
He was in the 45th Division when he was in the states and was transferred into the 540th when he was sent overseas. He started out in Africa when they were fighting Rommel and then went to Anzio Beach Head and then Sicily and into Italy from there he went into Southern France on D Day, from there to the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine, he was in 7 major battles. One really wonders how anyone ever lived thru all that fighting.
He seems to think that some of the bridges they built when they were there are still standing. I am not sure that this is true I wouldn't know how one would find out.
Cliff is quite a fellow, I always enjoyed him when we were at the reunions. I miss going to them and seeing everyone. We really did get see some different areas of the country when we went to them.
I talked to Archie about North Africa, he told about all the ships that were
in the convoy, it was the largest convoy that had crossed the Atlantic, when
they got to Africa and got off the ships they still had their sea legs and
found it difficult to walk on land. There was a lot of sand and the wind
blew it around very bad. He talked about the camels and how the Arabs were
driving them around. The 540th was in charge of building the railroads, he
said "they were to check all the railroad cars and because of that they
really were able to eat very well". When they were connecting the cars he
was in charge of hooking the cars together, he had to stand between them and
they had a spring and when the cars were backed together he had to hook them
together with a hook and quick jump out of the way . He is not going to
tell me much of anything about the fighting. Said we didn't need to know
Archie, really doesn't like to talk about the war, guess he saw too much fighting...
Marion, what great news about your Dad. I have a piece of news for you we
were looking thru some pictures to send to you and found another book that
Archie had when he was in the service, in that book was a letter that he had
written to his Mother when he was at Anzio. I will get a copy of this
letter and send it to you, it has a lot of information about where he had
been from Africa to Sicily. He just came and told me about when he was in
the States he was in the 120th engineers he found a picture that was taken
then and it had all the names in it. I didn't see the picture, but will
look it up. I don't have a scanner so can't send it to you.
I picked out two pictures (see below) that I am going to send you as soon as I make a
copy of the letter that was written home...
Here is the news article she sent to me.
Marion, I have some other news to tell you Archie was looking at his book
again tonight and on the page that has the 540th group pictures in the one
that has the Platoons, Archie is the second from the right at the top of the
picture in the 1st Platoon of company C. He needs to look at some more of
the people and tell me who they are...Little by little he tells me some things, each
time that he looks at the book.
Marion's note: Archie had relayed a story about Anzio and I told her it would be great for the book. I told her I could see it now, and proceeded to write this based on the facts she had given me...
"Another day, another hour and the incessant shelling continues unabated on the beachhead. Everyday the men of the Company C go about conducting business as usual. It would appear to the men of the 540th that they enemy never sleeps and has inexhaustible supplies of shells. Today is no different, but today will bring death just a little too close for comfort for four unassuming E-men in just another canvas tent. Anzio Annie lets off yet another round and Archie and his tent mates not only hear her ever-familiar sounds overhead but this time her gun has her sites on them. Instantly Archie feels shrapnel tear through the tent and in his mind thinks, 'Oh my god, I've been hit.' He feels the slick ooze of blood running down his body and his hands test to see what is still there. At the same time those same thoughts are running through the minds of his three buddies. This is it! Finally after what seems like forever, the clock once again goes from slow-motion and kicks back into normal speed. Archie and his buddies are now looking at each other and trying to ascertain the extent of the damage. Once the confusion clears and the dust and sand settle down, they find themselves alive, breathing and unhurt. Miraculously they are only covered in a smear of black grease. It would appear that Annie has merely sliced through a tin can sitting in their tent and the oozing blood they find is only the thick oil that moments ago sat contained within its walls. Slowly relief covers their terrified faces and the four E-men regain their composure and thank God while sending curses at Annie. Their names were not on that shell, but only their initials. They would live to see another day."
Sounds like you are getting a lot of additional information. I guess the reason Archie didn't know to much about your Dad is because he was in a different company. When we were at the reunions it seemed like the different companies really had a tendency to hang together. We did meet some of the other people but they made friends with their own company. I knew who the Rousselle's were and I remember what they looked like...
Here is a photo of Archie and his brother Cecil during the war years
Here is a photo of Archie and his wife Loretta - 30 years together!