While hearing from any veteran or family member of a veteran is always wonderful, it is an added thrill for me to be in contact with another VI Corps Combat Engineer. J.W. Hamiter Jr wrote to me this week with information on Major O'Neal, his wife's father and I am very pleased to add his story to our ever-growing engineer family.


Mrs. Chard:

Thank you for your response to my Email concerning Major Lester C. O'Neal's service with the 39th Combat Engineers. I am very pleased that you would like to use the information about him on your web site. I regret that I don't have any photos, etc. for you to use.
I look forward to seeing his entry on the site and your new article about the 39th.

J. W. (Bill) Hamiter

My wife's father, Major Lester C. O'Neal , M.D. was Regimental Surgeon of the 39th Engineers from Sept 42 at Camp Bowie, Texas until he was killed in action on Nov 7, 1943 near Riardo, Italy . Riardo is north of Naples and about 20 miles southeast of Cassino.

Dr. O'Neal was a 33 year old physician and surgeon in his hometown of Andalusia, Alabama . When the local National Guard unit, 117th Field Artillery Bn., was mobilized in Nov 1940, he volunteered to go with them as Battalion Surgeon. In Feb 42, he was reassigned to 27th Signal Construction Bn. as Battalion Surgeon at Camp Bowie, Texas.

In Sept 42 he was assigned to 39th Engineers as Regimental Surgeon at Camp Bowie, Texas . On Dec 24, 1942, the Regiment departed Camp Bowie for deployment to Oran, Algeria.

The 39th Engineers remained in North Africa until they entered into the invasion of Sicily in July 43. Major O'Neal landed at Gela, Sicily with the pre-invasion force "X" made up of elements of the 39th Engineers and Darby's Rangers.

Upon completion of the campaign in Sicily, the 39th Engineers participated in the invasion of Italy in Sept 43. After his death in Nov. 43, the Regiment continued the Italian campaign until the end of the war.

About 10-12 years ago, we were contacted by Mr. Herman Shirley of West Point, MS. Lt. Shirley was in the command car with Major O'Neal when he was killed in an attack by German aircraft. Mr. Shirley later came to visit us (my wife, her mother and Dr. O'Neal's brother). He told us about the incident and was most thoughtful to share his memories of other experiences with Dr. O'Neal while serving in the 39th Engineers. The family was most appreciative of his visit.

In Feb 03, I found the phone number of Stanley Gasawski as a member of the 39th Association. When I called him and related my relationship to Dr. O'Neal, he was very gracious to send me information on the history of the 39th. He also remembered the day and raid when he was killed.

Thank you again for your work to keep the memories of these brave men alive.

J.W. Hamiter, Jr.
Andalusia, AL


Received the following correspondence from Bill this week that also includes a photo taken in Sicily near the very end of the campaign in August 1943. The following includes letters from Colonel Stanley Dzuiban who commanded 1st Bn from his arrival in N Africa Jan 43 until Anzio 1 Jan 44, when he commanded 2nd bn until Apr 44.








Bill sent me a copy of a letter he sent to Susan Bohdan, daughter of Lloyd D Troyer, also of the 39th.

Lester's diary entries from Sicily