I found Harold's name in a Guest Book on the 150th Combat Engineer's site. He left a brief post about his tour of duty as many people do, seeking info and others who may have information about various engineer units. I decided to write to him to see if he would like to share his history of the 157th, who were a part of the 7th Army. It's always interesting to see how much common ground another combat engineer unit had with my fathers.
Harold was kind enough to email me back immediately and included his personal memoirs from the ETO. It's a fascinating account and I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Stop back again in near future, as Harold has promised he will have some updates too.
Harold Whiting Jr on left. Harold Whiting Sr with medals on right.
WORLD WAR II
AS SEEN BY AN 18 YEAR OLD SOLDIER
I turned 18 years old in September 1943. On December 2, I was drafted in the army. At the time I was working in a mica mine in Gilsum, NH. I had the chance to get deferred, but I felt it was no worse for me to go than many others. At the time I had two brothers already in the service, one in the Cbees and another one in the army. I was sent to Fort Devens, MA. From there I went to Fort Belvori, VA. There I had 6 weeks infantry training. After this, we had 11 weeks of engineer training. Some of this was in the Blue Ridge Mountains in VA. This covered much training in explosives of all kinds, many long hikes and drills of all kinds. After training we had 2 weeks to go home and then report back to Fort Belvoir, VA. From there we were sent by train to Camp Renolds, PA as engineer replacement soldiers in an outfit in Europe. This was late June. There we were all given shots that were required for our trip overseas. We left Camp Renolds, PA the first week of July and were sent to the big city of New York where we boarded the luxury liner the Queen Mary. They told us we are double loaded so one night you had to sleep on the deck. The next night we were offered with 6 men, a 6'x8' room with 6 bunks. They told us there was 15,000 soldiers on that ship. I have since told this to some people. They say that there was no way this could happen. This ship could carry one division.
We left New York on July 18, 1944 and arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on the 23 of July. We were to leave the ship by going down the side of it using rope ladders. At that time these ships didn’t stay around in one place any longer than necessary. From the small landing craft, we went to, what I call, a cattle ramp. At this time the train was waiting. As soon as it was loaded, we started to roll south to where we were not told. I guess it didn’t make much difference at this point. We were able to see most of Scotland and a lot of England. We arrived 22 miles from Liverpool at a camp. There we stayed with more training and hikes until the 14 day of August. We left there for south Hampton, England.
There we loaded onto another ship and sat in the harbor for 2 days. We were given rations for 7 days that included candy bars and canned food. We were our own cooks and dish washers. We went in a large convoy. I don’t know how many ships there were as they appeared as far as you could see. Seven days later we saw land. This was Normandy Beach. There again, every thing was double time and we had to go down the rope ladder on this ship onto a LCI, that is a Landing Craft Infantry. These small ships went in toward the shore. As I remember, it was about 150 or 200 feet from shore. There were no docks of any kind, so down went the front of the boat. Then the fun started. With pack on your back, rifle in hand, we went through about 3 feet of water toward the 150 to 200 feet toward land. We were lucky that there was no shelling that day, like D Day. The same kind of boats were used, but they couldn’t get as close to shore as when I went in. On D Day many drowned or were shot.
After crossing the water, we had boots and pockets full of water. Then we had to hike to a staging area by a large American cemetery. This was the 23 of August 1944. Could have been the 24 th or 25 th. It was a long time ago. From this time I guess I must have blacked out. We moved steadily from place to place. I remember going through Metz, France. There was a city where the road used to be. This town was on a large hill. There were many guns set up on this hill in order for the Americans to take this place. It had to be destroyed. Right after the fall of Paris, I joined my outfit, the 157 combat engineers company, as a demolition man. From there I finally got my feet on ground.
Our job was to maintain roads and bridges. Also we were trained to fight as Infantry. 157 engineers were part of the seventh army. This is what they call the forgotten army. They were activated at midnight and in battle at daylight they came up from Africa and Italy. We built many different kinds of bridges. The main one was the Bailey. This bridge went together with pins and bull strength - hard labor that is. Not only did we build bridges, we also had to use mine detectors. We didn’t remove the mines. We marked them, taped off the area so other soldiers coming through would know where they were. One town, as we were leaving on the steps of an old store, the Infantry, I believe it was some of the 100 th division, we waved to the soldiers that were taking a break. The infantry hiked most of the time. Later after the war around 1946, I worked in a woolen mill in Sunapee, NH. I got to talk to a gentleman about places we had been and somehow Bitchie, France came up. I guess he must have told me what outfit he was in. When I told him about waving to the soldiers, he said that he was one of them - small world. We went on to build a bridge of wood under a steel bailey, so it was needed in another place from here. We continued to move forward each day. Something new would always happen as the Germans retreated. Many towns had every house and barns burnt. That is a part of their Scorched Earth Program.
I guess next we spent the winter at least most of it in a small town in France. I think it was Phalsbourg. This was on a very narrow road leading to the German front lines. We didn’t move much all winter after the Battle of the Bulge. They expected a break through in the seventh army section. That is where all bridges were loaded with explosives. We had 24 hour guard duty. Remember the snow last winter. We had over three feet of snow and much of the winter 3 of us had 24 hour guard duty - 4 hours off and 8 hours on, day and night - and let me tell you it was dark and cold. We slept with our clothes on, on the ground in a very small tent about 6' x 8'. Our lunch was brought to us for the day and we had a salamanda oil stove. Five gallons of fuel a day was delivered and not by a fuel truck. This came with your lunch. To the left there was a eight inch gun and to the right there was another 8 inch gun. When one fired, you knew there would be another surprise. They could shoot twenty miles and most always hit what they wanted. The roofs on the houses were some kind of red clay type. Each time these big guns fired, we used to help the farmers put their roofs back together. The firing would lift up those clay tiles which sat on small strips of wood.
In the spring the Germans didn’t get through so many supplies were coming in. We moved into Sarbrucken. There we had a supply depot and all kinds of supplies. Summer was coming along and the fighting front was moving. Many small towns, I can’t remember, I guess the next place was the crossing of the Rhine. We stayed in trenches in a field for several days. Between the American and the German artillery, we had one fellow who made jokes - no matter where. When the German shell went over he would say “hear that shell - it says you ain’t going home”. Then when the American shell went over, he would say “that one says the hell I ain’t!!!” Well, we arrived at the Rhine river at about 5 AM. Our job was to build a landing for ducks (these were water propelled cargo trucks). There was a tank already burning from the early morning that tried to cross it but didn’t make it to the water. I guess that was my lucky day as I was to leave for R-R I left that day for Nancy, France for 15 days. Those days sure went fast.
Sometimes we built wooden bridges. One town was in Bamburg, Germany. This bridge was about 500 feet long. It crossed a canal. The only other bridge was in the center of the town. It was a metal bridge and very narrow. We had to drive what they call piles. This is large logs pushed in the bottom on the canal. This is done with what they call a steam shovel. Yes, I said steam shovel. The only one I ever saw . My job was to fit the caps on the top of the piles. Then they would be driven into the bed of the canal until they hit solid ground or bed rock. Then the timbers and planks would be installed. When one section was built, the steam shovel would walk out onto this part that was built. Then we would build another section until we reached the other side. Soon as this bridge was complete we would move onto another project which might be fixing a road or another bridge. There was always something to do. As you watch pictures of war scenes on TV, they are mild.
Many German artillery pieces were hauled with horses. When the shells and bombs from the US hit, they left most everything in their path where it was - thousands of trucks, tanks - you name it. They were there, beside the road. Not a pretty sight. The only good thing was it meant the war was coming to an end.
Severne Pass was another site that was a small town. The only way to get to the next town was through this pass over the mountain - one very narrow road and a very steep hill. This was in cold weather. There was a tank trap at the edge of the town. That is a deep v shaped ditch that a tank would get stuck in. In the road were log barricades. On the other hill they had a large gun set in cement that was pointed in the direction of the large field and road. The only trouble for the Germans was that somebody told the Americans how to get around the site so they took a different road way down next to the Swiss border which allowed the army to come in from behind them without them firing a shot. Most of our moves were at night with no lights at a very slow pace. If a plane was spotted in air, all trucks stopped and everybody got away from the trucks. Under the seat of our truck we had 360 lbs. of TNT primer cord and caps and all tools to do most any job that came up. This was our home away from home. We slept under this truck. We ate under it - you name it - all was done under the truck.
The Danube was another challenge. We built a heavy pontoon ferry to take tanks across. The first thing we did was to cross in a motor boat. Then we dug a hole with shovels 6 to 7 feet deep. In this hole we put a large log with a cable anchored around it. Then we had another hole. These logs were hooked together. That is what you call a dead man. Then the cable was hooked to many trucks and trailers on the other side. The first machine across was a D4 bulldozer with a wench. Then the bulldozer was hooked to the deadman. Then we started moving tanks for the rest of the day. The Danube and the Rhine are something like the CT river in Claremont. Well, after the Danube we moved fast. We changed from the seventh to the third army. We were close to Austria. At the end of the war, I spent the summer in Salzburg, Austria My company went to Lintz to guard the ships that Bert Teague took command of in 1945. While in Salzburg in 1945, I had a chance to go to the big glacier Mount Glockinhelmer. To get there we had to go up the side of a mountain. There were twenty set backs. This road had sharp turns, that a 6 x 6 had to stop and back up to make the turn. That day we went through the French check point and also the English, also under a mountain.
Well, it came time for me to come home but the Army said we need men in the Pacific so I signed up in France for three more years. Then came the big bomb - they didn’t need so many men so I got discharged in France and boarded a ship in Laharve, France around December 6, 1945. Fifteen days on the Atlantic Ocean - hit bad weather all the way. Most everybody on the ship was sick. I arrived at New York harbor at around 8 PM. I went to Fort Dix, NJ by ferry boat. I left in a few days for Fort Devens, MA. This was June 6, 1946.
Well, it was good to get back home to Lempster after being gone for 30 months - 18 days overseas. Well I never thought much about medals. I was just glad to get home. Then when Billy Harold got his medals in Goshen, I wrote to Judd Gregg and sent him my discharges. After 60 years, I finally got my medals.
Would I go again, sure as God made little green apples! I just can’t understand why I didn’t get a good conduct medal - can you?
Written to the best of my memory,
Harold Whiting, Sr.
While in France in WW2 at the Saverne Pass, there was a very steep hill going down to the town of Saverne. At top of hill some G I Made a sign like the old Burma Shave signs (hope you can remember those). Anyway NH had them along the highway when I was a little guy going to school. This has stayed with me for 60 plus years. Then I got a mail of some of the old Burma Shave slogans from the wife of a 157(C) Bn Eng. from Virginia . Sent back a mail. Her Husband doesn't remember anything about the war except the booze. Anything I ask he he doesn't remember. Too bad we didn't get together years ago.
This is the sign at the top of the hill at the pass:
THE HILL AHEAD - IS SLIPPERY AS GLASS - PLEASE DRIVE SLOW - OR YOU WILL BUST YOUR A - - , DRINK LEMONADE
(Lemonade was in C Rations)
HWHITING 157(C) ENG BN
This is from the lady in Virginia. Her husband was in the 157th and has been in hospital for quite some time. Got out a year had some cancer. Today got the message he is okay it is gone that is great.
Trains don't wander All over the map 'Cause nobody sits In the engineer's lap Burma Shave
She kissed the hairbrush By mistake She thought it was Her husband Jake Use Burma Shave
Remember these? For those who never saw the Burma Shave signs, here is a quick lesson in our history of the 1930s and '40's. Before the Interstate, when everyone drove the old 2 lane roads, Burma Shave signs would be posted all over the countryside in farmers' fields. They were small red signs with white letters. Five signs, about 100 feet apart, each containing 1 line of a 4 line couplet......and the obligatory 5th sign advertising Burma Shave, a popular shaving cream.
Here are more of the actual signs:
DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD TO GAIN A MINUTE YOU NEED YOUR HEAD YOUR BRAINS ARE IN IT Burma Shave
DROVE TOO LONG DRIVER SNOOZING WHAT HAPPENED NEXT IS NOT AMUSING Burma Shave
BROTHER SPEEDER LET'S REHEARSE ALL TOGETHER GOOD MORNING NURSE Burma Shave
CAUTIOUS RIDER TO HER RECKLESS DEAR LET'S HAVE LESS BULL AND MORE STEER Burma Shave
SPEED WAS HIGH WEATHER WAS NOT TIRES WERE THIN X MARKS THE SPOT Burma Shave
THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF PAUL FOR BEER LED TO A WARMER HEMISPHERE Burma Shave
AROUND THE CURVE LICKETY-SPLIT ITS A BEAUTIFUL CAR WASN'T IT? Burma Shave
A GUY WHO DRIVES A CAR WIDE OPEN IS NOT THINKIN' HE'S JUST HOPIN' Burma Shave
AT INTERSECTIONS LOOK EACH WAY A HARP SOUNDS NICE BUT ITS HARD TO PLAY Burma Shave
BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL EYES ON THE ROAD THAT'S THE SKILLFUL DRIVER'S CODE Burma Shave
THE ONE WHO DRIVES WHEN HE'S BEEN DRINKING DEPENDS ON YOU TO DO HIS THINKING Burma Shave
CAR IN DITCH DRIVER IN TREE THE MOON WAS FULL AND SO WAS HE. Burma Shave
And my all time favorite:
PASSING SCHOOL ZONE TAKE IT SLOW LET OUR LITTLE SHAVERS GROW Burma Shave
157 th ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION
BRIEF ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY
The battalion was constituted in the Army of the United States in February 1943 and activated on April 12, 1943 at Camp Maxey, Texas where it trained until September 1943. The battalion participated in maneuvers at the Louisiana Maneuver Area in October and November 1943 before returning to Camp Maxey, Texas. In mid-February 1944 the unit moved to Camp Shanks, New York for staging overseas. The battalion departed from New York Port of Embarkation, aboard the USS Lyons to join a large convoy and arrive in England on March 9, 1944 and spent two months in intensive training in Chipping Norton, Eng. The 157 th Engineers left Southampton, England and landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 25, 1944. It served in France until March 1945 and subsequently served in Germany and Austria. The unit is credited with participation in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe campaigns. The unit served with the First Army, Third Army, Seventh Army and they were also attached to the 1109 th Engr. Combat Group. They provided aid to DeGaulle’s Free French. Members of the outfit built the first bridge across the Seine River and built a bridge for General Patton’s Third Army at Mantes. When Patton moved into Paris, those affiliated with the 157 th Engrs were among the first soldiers to enter the city. Thereafter they went to Germany and Austria and became the personal Engineer Battalion for General Mark Clark. Army records show 157 th Engrs. Experienced one of the longest continuous combat records, a total of 324 consecutive days. The 157 th Engrs left the port of Marseilles, France, on December 10, 1945, returning to the Boston Port of Embarkation on December 21, 1945. The following day the battalion was inactivated at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts. The 157 th Engineer Combat Battalion was later consolidated with the 370 th Engineer Combat Battalion, the consolidated unit being designated as 370 th Engineer Amphibious Support Regiment. It served in the Army Reserve from 1946 to 1954.
HISTORY SKETCH 157 th ENGINEER (C) BN.
The 157 th Engineer (c) Bn. was activated at Camp Maxey, Texas in April 1943. At the time of activation, the unit was commanded by Captain Fellheimer; with Captain K. C. Stainbrook as Executive Officer; Captain Garrett as S-3, 1st Lt. Heller as S-1; Companies were commanded by the following: Company A, 1 st Lt. J. K. Polk; Company B, 2 nd Lt. R. Anderson; Company C (unknown); Headquarters and Service, 1 st Lt. Heller (in addition to duties as S-1).
The officer personnel of the unit were increased throughout April and May until a good percentage of the authorized complement was present.
Major R.N. Blancett assumed command of the organization in April or early May 1943.
By the time troops had arrived (in May, 1943), the officers and enlisted cadre (from 35 th (?) Engineers, Hawaiian Dept.) were organized in what was to become their permanent assignments. Companies were commanded by the following officers at the time training started: Company A, J.K. Polk, 1st Lt.; Company B, H.C. Davis, 1 st Lt.; Company C, H.A. Benton, 2 nd Lt., Headquarters & Service, Heller, 1 st Lt. (also Adjutant). The S-3 was Captain Garrett; The S-4 was Captain Fellheimer (formerly the Commanding Officer); The S-2 was Captain Ray; The Executive Officer as K.C. Stainbrook, and the Commanding Officer was R.N. Blancett, Major.
The unit received filler personnel totaling approximately 750 men, the bulk of which were recent inductees with no training. A 13-week training cycle was launched and was carried through with the normal difficulties experienced by a unit of this nature, which is under strength in cadre and officer personnel.
The average age of the unit, including officer personnel, was in the neighborhood of 21 years. This youth was later to prove a definite asset to extended fatiguing work.
The unit completed its training while still at Camp Maxey, Texas early in September and moved to the Louisiana-East Texas maneuver area by motor convoy on or about 15 September 1943.
The mission of the unit in the maneuver area for the first few weeks was the repair of roads and bridges in the area. Acting as a neutral organization, much training was received in reconnaissance for engineer information, repair of roads and bridges and the construction of new bridges. The unit received some pontoon (heavy) bridge training under one of the maneuvering Pontoon Companies. Later the unit participated in a problem in the maneuver attached to the 102 nd Division. During the problem, the Bn. concentrated on barrier tactics, laying minefields and preparing obstacles. At one time, the unit was used on a dual mission of protecting the northern flank and preparing obstacles. At another time, the unit was used as Infantry to assist in holding an attacking force.
The unit received much valuable training on the maneuver, more in the sense of general experience than in consideration of any one subject.
During the maneuver, the unit was commanded by Major K.C. Stainbrook, who had relieved L. Col. R.N. Blancett just prior to the departure of the unit from Camp Maxey.
While on maneuvers, a complement of officers was sent to Fort Belvoir to form a cadre for another unit. The Bn. was then reorganized as follows: Commanding, K.C. Stainbrook, Major; Executive Officer, W. Hogue, Major; S-3, H.C. Davis, Captain; S-1, C.O. Harris, 1 st Lt., S-4, H.A. Benton, 1 st Lt.; Company A, J.K. Polk, Captain; Company B, R. Anderson 1 st Lt., Company C, B.W. Snippen, Captain; Headquarters & Service, V.H. Dowdy, Captain.
In November 1943 the unit returned to Camp Maxey, Texas and immediately began to prepare for overseas movement. From November 1943 to February, 1944 the unit trained night and day in order to complete the required POM subjects in the amount of time allotted. Much valuable night training was received during this period.
In February 1944 the unit moved to a New York POE (Camp Shanks) and after processing, to the ship that was to take it to England. The unit left the United States 27 February 1944.
On or about 10 March, 1944 the unit arrived in England at a small port near Bristol, and was moved by train to a tent camp near Tiddeworth, north of Saulsberry. Remaining there but a short time, it moved by motor convoy in a blackout move to Chipping Norton, just north of Oxford.
The unit remained at Chipping Norton under control of the 1109 th Engineer (C) Group, commanded by Colonel Sorley, training in road repair and in fixed and floating bridges. A general review in mine warfare and other training was carried on.
In June 1944 the unit moved to South Hampton and embarked for France. The ships set aside for the unit were being loaded by other units and it was through the efforts of the Bn. Commander only that the unit was finally loaded. Once loaded, the unit remained on board ship for seven days before debarking in France (Utah Beach) on the 21 st of June 1944.
Once in France, the unit moved directly to Volognes with the mission of opening routes through the city and maintaining other routes in the area.
The roads of Northern France were bituminous and required constant maintenance to withstand the heavy army traffic. The unit had received no training in the repair of bituminous roads and much experimenting was carried on. German and French tar mixed with beach sand was used most extensively, although it was found that the best “mix” was RC 3 road tar and beach sand mixed at the ratio approximately 1 to 12 by volume while both the sand and tar were heated.
From Volognes, the unit (attached to the 1109 th Group as it was throughout the war in Europe) under the First Army, moved to St. Saveur le Vicomte with the same mission as previously assigned in Volognes. From St. Saveur, the unit moved through LeHuy de Puits to Issigne and thence to an assembly area just north of St. Lo.
With the breakthrough at St. Lo, the unit moved by night over roads jammed with traffic, southward, moving all night and bivouacking at day. During this move, it was learned the unit was assigned to the Third Army, attached to the XV Corps. After a series of moves, night and day with little time for rest and the servicing of vehicles, the unit arrived at Le Mans and without pause followed the 79 th Division northward toward Alencon. The only engineering work done so far in this move was the installation of a Bailey bridge over a blown span of a multiple arch bridge. The bridge withstood traffic all night and collapsed the following day with no vehicle on it. Reason: no provision had been made for horizontal forces and the dead weight of the bridge caused it to collapse. A lesson was learned here that was never forgotten; an arch bridge (keystone), once the series of arches are broken, must be braced against itself to prevent its collapsing from its own weight on a horizontal movement.
Never quite reaching Alencon, the unit turned eastward and with the 79 th Division reached the Seine River at Mantes Gassicourt. The 79 th Division made a bridgehead at Rosecrans and the River was bridged by the 163 rd Engineer (c) Bn., of the 1109 th Group, with an M-2 treadway. The bridge was under constant serial attack but was never knocked out. The 157 th Engineers were charged with building a bridge across the Seine at Mantes Gassicourt that would relieve the bottleneck. The 79 th Division was charged with enlarging the bridgehead east of the Seine around Lemay to a thousand yards to permit the construction of the bridge. This could not be done in the time allotted but work on the bridge started on schedule without the expected observed artillery fire.
The bridge to be built was suggested and designed by Lt. Col. K.C. Stainbrook and work started immediately (see pictures). The bridge was first built as a 1-way class 40 Bailey mounted on the Seine River barges found in the vicinity. The barges were floated into position after night under fire from both friendly and enemy small arms. The necessary steel hangers were welded into place and the bridge launched. Since this was a new use for the Bailey bridge, many trial and error methods were used. In spite of this, the bridge was positioned in a minimum amount of hours and then, once in place, converted to a Class 70 by the addition of more panels and transoms. A second bridge was completed on the same barges permitting unobstructed two-way traffic. During the construction of the bridges, the site was under constant aerial attack with negligible results. It is reported that the AA Artillery alone brought down over 200 enemy planes in a 3-day period at this site. In addition, a number of enemy planes flying low were brought down by the organic weapons of the Bn. and surrounding units. This bridge site was turned over to the British and the unit moved with the XV Corps southwestward around Paris to the vicinity of Troyes.
After a short recuperation period south of Paris, the unit moved on with the XV Corps on the southern flank of the Third Army. When contact was made with the Seventh Army, the XV Corps and attached units were placed under the Seventh Army.
Work in this sector, while moving toward the Moselle River at Charmes, was generally bridge construction and road repairs.
At Charmes, the 163 rd Engineers had installed a treadway bridge (M-2) with the aid of equipment from the 157 th Engineers and units were crossing the Moselle.
The unit moved northward and crossed the Moselle River at Bayon, moving on to the vicinity of Luneville. Company C had meanwhile been designated to establish a bridge dump west of Charmes and later moved the dump near Luneville. At Luneville, the Bn., with one company of the 163 rd attached, was charged with building a bridge across the river (Meurthe), and maintenance of approximately 40 miles of road (Charles to Bayon, on east bank of Moselle), Boyon to Luneville and the connecting roads in the area, the building of a bridge at Lamathe on the MSR without interrupting traffic, and numerous other engineering tasks.
At Luneville, a treadway (M-2) bridge was first installed and as possible, lumber was gathered from any and everywhere to build a fixed bridge. This bridge was unique in that the lumber obtained came from a lumber yard under mortar fire, and that some of the stringers were steel I beams removed from a factory building nearby, carefully, so as not to weaken, too much, the structure of the building. No one span was similar to the next, but a 190-foot 2-way class 40 bridge was soon in place.
The 79 th Division was held up in the Foret De Parroy and in general, the entire front had bogged down in mud faced by a determined enemy.
The mud in and around Luneville was the worse enemy. Bridges at Charmes were washed out and Company A put in another treadway, starting work immediately on additional bridges, which were again washed out. At Bayon, Company B put in a treadway to supplement the fixed bridge, which was in danger. Roads in the area were covered with slush; bivouac areas were mud bogs, hospitals were crying for engineers to build access roads. In general, there was more engineer work to be done that there were engineers. French civilians were hired but proved too slow. A squad of the unit (15 men) could do more than 100 Frenchmen in one day.
Bridges east of Luneville were under water. New ones were required at Marionviller and at Manoville. At Marionviller, Company A built a bridge using existing (damaged) pile bents. At Manoville, Company B built a 2-way 40 bridge on a floating crib sunk in the middle of the stream with large stones. The bridge at Manoville though subject to enemy artillery fire was not fired on until completed.
Roads in the area just east of Luneville were gravel and, with the rains, had become almost impassible. Water covered the area and it was decided to use the railroad as an MSR. Rails were rolled back by the bulldozers and the MSR was made.
The unit still had roads to maintain as far back as Charmes and in addition, prepare artillery positions. Artillerymen, seeking protection from enemy action and the weather, were damming the ditches and preparing foxholes in the ditches or in the banks at the sides of the road, further complicating road repairs. When the waters started to recede, the roads literally ran with mud.
With the build-up of artillery in the area, the XV Corps jumped off and eventually captured Sarrebourg. The Bn. had the mission, on the move, of clearing the roads of wrecked equipment, building a few bridges and repairing roads. By this time, the private in the ranks had learned that there was no job, or number of jobs, the Bn. could not complete.
At Sarrebourg, the unit maintained and cleared the roads into the city and on through the Savern Gap. Snow and ice were expected anytime, and all roads had to have sand piles placed on hills and curves. This occupied all dump trucks in the vicinity.
When the town of Sarrebourg was threatened with capture by counterattacking enemy forces, the Bn. was called in to defend the city, along with the 163 rd Engineer (c) Bn. Minefields were laid, and positions prepared around the city. When the fight failed to materialize, the unit moved on northward, stopping eventually at Diemeringen and remained in that vicinity all winter, clearing roads of snow, repairing roads and bridges and preparing positions on the Maginot Line for the 100 th Division.
During the Battle of the Bulge, the unit was busily preparing obstacles in the Bitche area; placing minefields, sometimes using the air compressor to dig the holes for the mines on the frozen soil, and preparing bridges for demolition.
Wire obstacles were placed in 6 to 10 inches of snow and again the Bn. was faced with more work than it could do. In addition to laying mines, the unit was charged with removing enemy mines. It was during this period that a platoon leader in Company C was killed by an enemy mine, and an entire squad of Company C was wiped out when a non-magnetic mine exploded under the wheel of the squad truck. During this period, Company A was attached to the 106 th Cavalry Group and had been acting as both Infantry and Engineers. During an enemy attack, a squad of Company A was captured and a few Company A men wounded.
Eventually, with the Battle of the Bulge over, the XV Corps attacked Bitche. For the operation, the Bn. was attached to the 100 th Infantry Division and became Division Engineers, supplementing the regular Division Engineer Bn.
The Bn. preferred working with the 100 th Division over working with the 1109 th Group in that there was less confusion, in spite of the changing tactical conditions, and much more work could be accomplished without Group intervention. During this period, a platoon of Company B was attached to a Troop of the 121 st Cavalry Squadron. The platoon leader, when faced with the necessity of crossing light tanks over a deep ditch under the pressure of an enemy counterattack, constructed a bridge of two I beams and a barn door which proved sufficient and was easily destroyed when its usefulness was over.
It is complementary to the Bn. that the 100 th Division requested it be attacked to the Division for an indefinite period. However, the Bn. was again attached to the 1109 th Engineer (C) Group and started a series of moves behind the Third Division, which eventually took it to the Rhine River.
At the Rhine, the Bn. had the mission of supporting the 542 nd Engineer Group in crossing near Frankenthal.
Once the crossing was completed, the Bn. moved north and took over the maintenance of roads in the vicinity of Worms and the maintenance of bridges south of Worms. Here the traffic was so heavy and the road network so poor, the Bn. worked 36 hours without rest in crossing a number of Divisions.
The Commanding Officer had been wounded at the Rhine and the unit was now commanded by Major W. Hogue.
The unit crossed the Rhine at Worms and proceeded eastward to the Main River. Again it was the same old story, repair and rebuild roads and bridges. The Bn. area at times was in excess of 200 square miles.
The unit’s next job of note was providing bridges over the Main River at Bamberg. Company B erected a Bailey bridge at night and immediately started work on a fixed bridge (pile) to replace the Bailey bridge. For speed, Company C was crossed to the far bank to work toward Company B and Company A was assigned the project of providing materials and maintaining roads. Working day and night, the bridge was soon in place (approximately 190 foot of pile bridging in approximately 4 days and nights).
The unit then had as a primary mission, the support of the 42 nd Division in the attack on Nurnberg. Once Nurnberg was captured, the unit moved toward Munich, or Munchen as named in Germany. Two companies of the Bn. were kept back in the Corps area to maintain roads and repair bridges and remove mines. Company A, with a unit of Bailey bridge and a platoon of treadway bridge attached was made a task force commanded by the Bn. S-3 and attached to the 42 nd Division. Just west of Munich, this task force installed a treadway bridge, during the night, providing its own security in front of the infantry.
Munich soon fell and the Bn. was together again in Munich. The Corps Engineer wanted engineer information of the material available in the city. This information was gathered at night and the unit moved the next day.
The next major job assigned to the unit was bridging of the Salzach River, west of Salzburg, Austria on the autobahn. The unit was engaged in this project on VE Day. After VE Day, the unit completed the project and moved to Golling, Austria, to construct another bridge there. At this time, orders were received to reinforce all bridges toward Italy to Class 40 for a combat team expected to be sent south. The Bn. worked night and day on bridges and roads, even going down into the British area to reinforce bridges. After this job, the unit settled down to easy living, working German PW’s and civilians on the restoration of utilities in Salzburg and repairing roads and railroads.
The units moved to Zipt, Austria and then back to Golling with still the same mission. I left the unit at Golling in August 1945.
HARRY C. DAVIS
The following was taken from US Senator John Sununu's website, October 5, 2007.
Lempster WWII Veteran Recounts War Experience
Our nation owes an enormous debt to the Greatest Generation, especially to the veterans who fought and won World War II. Clearly, their service and sacrifice changed the world.
World War II Veteran Harold Whiting, of Lempster, shared history of the war with John.
It was my pleasure to meet with Lempster’s Harold Whiting, Sr., during his recent visit to our nation's Capitol. Whiting, who was eighteen years old when he was drafted in 1943, served as a Sergeant in the 157th Engineer Combat Battalion in France and Germany. While traveling across war-time Europe, Whiting built bridges, maintained roads, and recalls eating and sleeping under his Army truck.
I arranged tours of the Capitol and the World War II Memorial during his visit to Washington, DC.
Senator John Sununu and Harold Whiting
Harold last year's reunion in Hershey, PA
History Sketch of the 157th Engineer Combat Regiment