Gene signed the guestbook the third week of August 2004. He belonged to the 631St Engr. Light Equipment Co. First Army, 1110 Th Eng. Combat Group. He served in Normandy, France, Belgium, Germany and Luzon, Philippines, June 1943-December 1945. His unit was formed at Camp Breckenridge Ky and earned 5 battle stars and a Meritious Service Plaque.
Gene was recently interviewed by Florida State University for their WWII project. I will be uploading his interview in the near future.
March 17, 2010 - I was informed today of Gene's passing on December 3, 2009. I shall miss you dear friend. You were one of my very first engineer contact's and I enjoyed our correspondence over the years. Thank you for sharing your history with me, and introducing me to another dear friend, Bill Douglass. Rest in peace.
8-21-2004 (The email below was in response to me welcoming him to our site.)
Thanks for the welcome.
I found your message on the 150th Eng. Site. I have also found a former member and a daughter of a former member of my unit on that site. I have been fortunate to have found others who had relatives in my unit.
I am in contact with six former members as of today, only one has a PC, and the daughter of a deceased member has one. Some show interest and others do not. I attribute that attitude to age. I have located family members of deceased men and a few do keep in contact.
I was able to obtain the 631St Engineer's After Action Reports and plans of the Bailey Bridge that we helped to construct at Bad Godesberg Germany on the Rhine River, named after General Hodges.
Your site is very well done. One of the units that we supplied operators and heavy equipment to the 207Th Combat Engrs. has a new site on the net. Steve Tooker who's grand father was a member is the web master and whom I am in constant contact with. We exchange photos and information.
I am not sure that all engineers understand what the Light Equipment Companies role in the war was. We were a small unit of 119 men well trained in the use of heavy engineer equipment such as bulldozers, shovels and cranes, rock crushes and air compressors who supplied the combat engineers with operators and that equipment as needed and assigned to other combat units such as the 148Th, 207Th and the 300Th. They did the security and fighting while we worked our machines. Some of us never saw our fellow men until after the war in Europe and we met in Eisenach Germany preparing to ship to the Philippines.
I am attaching a photo of the approach to the Hodges Bridge with the names of some of the units that we had worked with.
I am pleased with your interest in the engineers. Our contribution helped to shorten the war.
You asked about the different engineer units, I can only give the information that I am familiar with. Maybe the following will help:
1053 - 1056 Engineer Port Construction and repair group.
181- 629 . Engineer Heavy Pontoon Battalion.
Engineer Aviation Battalion
1368 Engineer Dump Truck Co.
1019 Engineer Treadway Bridge Co.
329 Harbor Craft Co.
512 Engineer Light Ponton Co...
We provided the operators and equipment to the above listed units.
There may be more engineer units of different types but I am not familiar with them. I was a D7 Caterpillar tractor (bulldozer) operator very young and was not too familiar with the army table of organization at the time. I will be delighted to answer any of you questions at any time.
Attached is a photo of me operating a D7 in Normandy.
You may be aware that the Florida State University has a program where they take oral history from service men from WW2 and use the information for their history classes. Last week they called me for an interview by phone. It will be typed for my additions if any and then with my approval entered in the program.
I can send you the final draft after I receive it if you want it. The format is from general questions they ask such as when I was drafted or enlisted, what my family felt at the time to my early training and my shipping over seas, my job there and rank and so on.
I was also invited to be a gust speaker at the graduation of the Leadership Non Com Class at Fort Dix last February by the daughter of one of my buddies now deceased. She contacted me after seeing my message on the 150 Eng. web Site. She has been in the army for 15 years and had very little information about her father as to what he did and the unit that he served with. I filled in the blanks for her.
I have a copy of the talk that I gave to the graduation class. I will send a copy to you if you would like to have it.
The FSU wants to get as many stories while the men are alive to do so. Her address is,
Here is the web site of FSU
Attached is a photo of one of our rock crushers in France. We crushed rock and used it in our premix plants to pave roads.
Rock crusher in Normandy, France June 1944
Attached is a better photo showing the rock crusher and the pre mix plant in France July 1944.
I am not in the two photos that I sent showing the rock crusher and the premix operation. I did send you two of me operating a bulldozer and one with a road scraper called a carryall.
We were sent Manila because the war had ended in Europe and engineers were needed for the planned invasion of Japan. The points we had were Enoch to send us home 3 months after arriving in the Philippines.
We left on the SS Warwick Victory and landed in San Francisco and then to Ft McDowell California.
Attached is a copy of the original order to do so, showing name rank serial number race and total points. My name is 6 from the top. I took it from the bulletin board as a souvenir its a little brown from age but a treasure. Notice the typing and the army's use of the alphabet to save space and time such as em, enlisted men, asgmt, assignment, dy, duty, s/r service record and so on.
In France the older men 28 and up were given a choice to stay or ship out with us to Manila.
I am very pleased with the photos that you uploaded and posted. They are much brighter and sharper than when I look at my CD ROM. You must have a good program that enhances the photos.
I have the names of most of the men in the photos if you think that it would help in finding family members who might recognize the men. Do you want me to list them? Also in the original copy of the list of the men shipping to the states I should have told you that the job specialty number is also just after the serial number.
Attached is a photo taken by me of Joseph Capizzi at your left from Manhattan and Thomas Augustine from Paterson, NJ the day we were awarded the Meritorious Service Plaque in Eisenach Germany. Augustine's daughter, Trinity Baez, is stationed at Ft. Dix, NJ and has been in the army over 15 years. She is a Staff Sergeant and teaches a course in the NCO Leadership School at Ft Dix.
Joseph Capizzi and Thomas Augustine are both deceased.
Thanks. Enjoying the photos of engineers at work. Nothing like it on any other WW2 site.
Attached is a photo of our unit in convoy somewhere in France. This photo has never been published before.
Attached are two photos taken at Clark Field in November 1945 of a C47 on Pontoons. I learned that there were only 7 in the US air force. The photos are not sharp because I used film that I bought from a Filipino photographer who said it was outdated.
Photos of Gene, Joe Daly and Frank Timmer in Luzon and Gene and Frank 58 years later in Atlantic City.
I came across these two photos of the 631St E.L.E.Co. and the 207Th combat Engineers working rock quarries in Belgium. There were different types requiring different equipment. The D7 Caterpillar tractor and a shovel were the most used and a carryall made by Le Tourneau, also called a pan, or road scraper and of course dump trucks. We used our rock crusher or at times when we worked an existing quarry we would use their ramps and rock crushers.
Photos bring back memories of the hard work required to operate a quarry night and day and at times under shell fire.
I am not sure if I told you about Henri Rogister, who has a web site about the Battle of the Bulge. He is a Belgium historian, lives in Liege and is well versed in the details of the Bulge. He has been invited to the US by units that fought in the Bulge and talks to them and has helped locate missing men. I met him on my trip to Belgium, and he was very helpful taking us to the bivouac areas of the 631St. and locating people that I had met when I was billeted in their homes. Take a look at his site and if you want to e-mail him tell him that you know me. The site is C.R.I.B.A. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
After reading your letter to Henri Rogister I am sure that you are a born author and will have no problem in research and writing a book.
Thanks for keeping me informed.
Attached is an article that Henri had published in a Belgium newspaper before I went to Belgium when I asked him to help me find a family that I befriended in Huy Belgium. It is in French and basically says do you recognize this photo taken in 1944. The young girl's father answered the article a few days later, saying that he was surprised to see his mother as a child with an American soldier.
(Later that same day...)
The home I was billeted in during my stay in Belgium was Namur not Huy and the family consisted of the father, mother a daughter and a son. We used the upper level and the stayed in the bomb shelter which was the basement. The house had steel roll down shutters. They had very little food and many Belgians were starving during the war. You will notice that the girl was very thin and small, I think that she was 7 years old. Please make sure that you now know it was in Namur.
I was not able to meet her while in Belgium because she is now living in France. I may try to contact her even though her son said that she wanted to forget all about her past. I have to check my files to find the letter her father sent to Mr. Rogister.
(Later that same day...)
Attached is the letter from the father of the girl in the article. Henri was able to locate information from the little photograph that my daughter in law sent to him just before we went to Belgium. He was also able to locate two other families that I was billeted in their homes. Since we were a small unit many times the army found civilian homes to house us in the winter. The only record was my memory and photographs. The strangest one was a girl in front of a bridge in Liege that had been blown up by a German Goliath Tank. She is standing in the foreground of the destroyed bridge. Henri Rogister was able to locate her because the bridge was in his home town and with a few inquires located the family. Her father was a photographer who lived at the foot of the bridge and took many pictures of the bridge. Sorry to say we did not meet her because she now lives in Southern France but we did have dinner with her sister and brother in law.
I am attaching the photo of the bridge and of a Goliath Tank.
It was a small tank wire remote only four by six feet loaded with explosives that was sent by remote control wire to the center of the bridge and detonated.
He was also able to locate a chateaux in Seny Belgium where we were billeted for 3 weeks and used the grounds for our equipment, the family stayed in a small building or gate house. This was from a photograph of me holding our mascot SNAFU sitting at the entrance to the courtyard and no name of the village. We met the people for the first time in 1996 and they invited us to dinner. When we arrived at the chateau, the caretaker asked if I was German, I told him that I was billeted there in 1944. He asked me the question because a German officer had visited them the month before who have lived there for 4 years during the occupation.
At Seny we would be sent to bridge sites and or repair roads and return to the chateaux until the next job.
Attached is the photo of the destroyed bridge at liege. One of the Goliath Tank and me in front of Seny Chateaux with SNAFU our dog.
(Later that same day...)
Here is some more information about Henri Rogister. He is an expert on the Malmedy Massacre. He has interviewed those who have survived it. He took us to the monument that commemorates the event. He was on Oliver North's television program, "War Stories" last year where he described the action at the massacre.
He escorted us to the Hurtgen Forest and showed us the fox holes that are still there today. He explained that the Malmedy Massacre was actually in Baugnez, but the army used the name of Malmedy which was close to it. It was interesting that on one of our visits to a museum, which a friend of his operates, there is a Royal Tiger Tank at the entrance of the museum at La Glaze Belgium. It is in perfect condition, has a small dent in the rear when hit by an American bazooka which just bounced off, and if I remember correctly the gun barrel has been replaced. Just after the Battle of the Bulge the tank was in the town square and an American Tank Retriever was removing it and about to leave when a woman asked the soldier in charge to leave it there for a monument he said that he had orders to take it away. She ran into her house and brought out some bottles of wine and offered them to the soldier, he said OK and backed the tank off the retriever. She got her tank.
I had one small photo that was given to me by the Kerrons family of themselves from Goe, Belgium. Henri was able to locate them for me. There was an address on the back of the photo. They were living in the same house that I stayed in 1944 and 1945 for only one day and they remembered me very well after 52 years. The mother, father and son have passed away and only the 4 sisters were there when I met them in 1996. The family had lived there since the 1700s.
For 3 days Henri met us in the morning and then we would drive to any place that I could remember where we had rock quarries and bivouac areas.
I was so pleased with his help during our visit that I scoured every book store in New Jersey to buy as many books on the Battle of the Bulge so that he could have them for his library. Many were out of print. I was able to get 15 books and sent them to him. He is learning to speak English better each year so that he can lecture on his visits to the States. We were fortunate that my daughter in law speaks French fluently, and my French is fractured, so all worked out well.
(Later that same day...)
When Henri located the girls in Goe, Belgium and we drove to their home, as we pulled up to the house, Henri said is this the place you asked me to find? I think that he was testing me. I said yes but something is different about it. I told him that there was a large metal gate at the entrance to the yard and it is missing. When we talked about it to the girls they said it had fallen off it's hinges and they put it in the barn. I also said that the out house was gone, and it is now a rose garden. The new law in Belgium is that a toilet and a wash stand must be built inside a home and that the toilet be separated from each other almost in a separate room so that it may be in use by two people at once if necessary.
One of the girls Mimi which was the oldest, my age, asked me to come up to the attic so she could show me some things. They had saved about 30 Stars and Stripes newspapers and many magazines from the war such as Yank magazine, Look, Life, Esquire, and Time. Also an Air Force booklet and German magazines with rare photos of the war. She also showed us the linen sheets given to the family in exchange for the white sheets that the Americans used to cover themselves in the snow. The linen sheets were used by the Army to bury the dead soldiers. They invited us for a grand dinner and showed us match book covers from the USA with war slogans and a mess kit with cutlery stamped US A. I was surprised and pleased when they gave me the magazines to take home. I carried them in a box on the plane as my personal luggage I would not take a chance on shipping them home.
When I first met the girls, the oldest was 18, 16, 14 and 12, then I met the rest of the family. I was saddened to learn that last year Mimi passed away. Now only 3 are let to live there. Mimi has a daughter and while we walked to the family plot, she asked me to talk to Henri about trying to locate her father who was an American soldier and left after the war and would not acknowledge his daughter. Mimi destroyed all letters, photos and any reminders of their daughter's father.
10-29-2004 (Gene shared this letter with me from Henri Rogister.)
Happy to receive of your new. All is ok here in Belgium.
I have been very busy with the return of the 3rd Armored Division in Belgium on September last.
I was with the group of 24 peoples during six days. It was great.
Concerning the Website of the 6th Corps Combat Engineers, I have added a link to my website with your story.
The website is very interesting and very nice.
Tell hello at all your family.
22 Rue du Progres
Attached is a photo of me in a blue denim fatigue jacket which was issued to me because they could not find a green size to fit me. This one must have been left over from the peace time army. I weighed 128 lbs. then. We were issued British Enfield rifles and then Springfield rifles and finally the Garand M1 as shown in this photo.
(Later that day...)
...Attached is a photo I came across a rare one showing a jeep prepared with waterproofing and vent pipe. I Have spoken many times about waterproofing and dewaterproofing areas before and after the Normandy landings. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS OF THE WAR. VERY LITTLE HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE SUBJECT.
Motion sickness pills donated to Normandy Museum Bayeau, France 1994. Saved 5 out of 6. was too scared and forgot to take balance on LCT trip across the Channel.
One of the most interesting and exciting times that I remember was in the marshalling area in England prior to the Normandy Invasion.
The preparation consisted of many dry runs packing and unpacking and driving the back roads in England. The talks given to us by our officers who had no idea of what to expect and had not experienced preparing for an invasion. They did know about prophylactic kits but little else. They did tell us that all allied planes would have white stripes painted on them so that they would not be shot at by our own troops.
We had no idea as to what to expect from the loading of equipment on to LCT and the crossing of the channel and the actual landing on the beach in France. We were told that a bridge would be in allied hands and to proceed to that point. The bridge had not been taken and we were not told of that possibility.
We lived in pyramid tents with a soft coal (coke) burning stove in the center which had a small chimney that vented at the top of the tent flap. We were issued impregnated clothing and an armband to detect gas. We were required to put on the smelly and uncomfortable clothing and wear the arm band.
The nights were foggy and cold in South Hampton and the vent pipe on our stove was not efficient due to the tent being almost air tight when all the flaps were closed. Each morning we awoke it seem that we were dizzy and woozy and felt like we walking on air. I noticed that my arm band had turned red as it should in the presence of gas and realized that we were being gassed by our coke burning stove. The next night we slept with the tent flaps open at the entrance which ventilated our tent properly.
At the marshalling area we were served the best food we ever had, including steak, fresh milk and fruits, fresh eggs almost anything that we wanted. New movies and lectures while waiting for our turn to load onto an LCT (landing craft tank) which had a barrage balloon attached to it by a long cable to protect it from low flying aircraft. We were instructed on how to water proof our equipment and told that after landing to go to a de-water proofing area and remove the water proofing material. Every vent on the engine had to be covered with a special compound and all air intakes had to be vented by a flexible pipe and attached so that it was above the vehicle so that we could drive through water and not flood the engine, We were issued a life belt that we wore around the waist under our combat pack. It was poorly designed, some men in the water were unable to stand upright because the belt was too low on the body and all the weight he carried was above the belt.
I was issued sea sick tablets and instructed to take one on boarding the LCT and another 4 hours later. I was so frightened that I took the first tablet and forgot to take any more, but I did not get sea sick.
The pills were in a aluminum packet coated black in a small brown paper box of six pills. I kept the 5 that remained until I donated them to the Battallie De Normandie Museum in Bayeux .
The pills are on display in a case but no credit is given all donors by the museum.