I received an email from Richard on Tuesday, August 17, 2004. Richard started off as a telephone lineman with the 104 Barrage Balloon Battery. He was later assigned to the newly formed 370th Combat Engineer Battalion when the 104th was disbanded in 1944. You can read about his experiences as both, in the letters and articles below.
You can see more of his pictures below and in the link called One Veteran's Story.
May 2014 - I was informed by Dick's daughter, that he passed away a few months ago. She was desperately trying to reach all his email contacts, etc., so we didn't find out right away. Totally understandable.
He and I became good friends and stayed in touch for the last ten years. Was proud to know and love him and to also feature him in my documentary, No Bridge Too Far. Shall always love and miss you, my friend.
August 17, 2004
I served with the 370th Combat Engineers in the latter days of the European campaign. But before that I was a telephone lineman with the 104 Barrage Balloon Battery. We landed on a beach below La Croix Valmer on D-Day (8-15-44). On D plus one we moved over to the beach at Baie de Cavalaire. During our first day there, the 36th Combat Engineers were busy clearing mines and booby-trapped artillery shells from the fields adjoining the beach so they could be used as a staging area for the French. Unfortunately, the 36th had lots of problems and suffered enormous casualties. We were sitting on the front porch of our villa, watching their operation. It was horrible to watch. Somewhere, I have a photo of the 36th in that field. I also have numerous pictures of the first French forces (nurses) assembled after the mines were removed.
We stayed at Cavalaire for nearly three weeks before moving into Marseille.
At year's end balloons were no longer needed, and the 104th was disbanded. I then became a c.e.. Our operational activities were nearly all in Germany, removal of mines and booby-traps, bridge and road repair and construction.
I wrote an account of both units' activities. Last summer WWII magazine published the account of the 104th Barrage Balloon Bat.
The full account is on file in the Library of Congress Veteran's History Project under my name.
If you have any specific questions, I would be happy to try to answer them for you.
East Bethany, NY
Richard is in middle, very bottom row
August 17, 2004
My daughter was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Marseille for two years. During that time I visited for a month. I took her to the invasion beaches and the factory building where we were billeted in Marseille. The following summer she was designated to place the wreath on the 3rd division memorials at La Croix Valmer, and two other sites. The mayor of La Croix Valmer is an amateur historian and was overjoyed to meet the daughter of one of the GI's and to receive copies of all of my invasion pictures.
The article on the 104th appeared in the July 2003 issue of WORLD WAR II. The editor took some real liberties with my text. I actually landed at the northernmost beach at Salerno, but he always heard that the British landed on the East coast and changed my copy to suit himself.
In going through my files I found a copy of the piece I sent to the Library of Congress. I'll attach a copy of it. If there are any photos of interest to you, I can send them in full page format.
I also wrote a piece for the magazine regarding the 370th Combat Engineer Battalion which he did not use. I'll attach it too.
In the picture of the French nurses you can clearly see that they are standing in what was a vineyard. That is the field that was cleared by the 36th at a great cost in life and limb. The mines alone were bad enough but what made it worse was the huge number of booby trapped artillery shells attached to long trip wires.
Just to explain my sudden interest in WW II: I dug out all the pictures of the Southern France operation when my daughter was assigned there in 1998. One, in particular, got me doing research--the picture of Wilfred Boucher next to his Piper Cub on the beach. A little research identified him for me. We began corresponding and developed a circle of individuals who had an interest in that invasion. It consists of Dutch Schultz, who wrote about his Piper Cub "Janey", Cap't. Francis A. Even, of the 10th Engineer Combat Battalion, who designed the take-off platforms on LST's that were used to launch observation planes, Wilfred Boucher and myself.
Good luck with your web site.
Excerpt from August 18, 2004
...Mistaken ideas about who did what in WW II are not uncommon. I was attached to the Royal Navy for six weeks at the beginning of the Italian campaign. I'll bet money there is no official record of that. We were a 17 ship (LST's) flotilla with a full complement of American barrage balloons. We ran a decoy operation with the British in Sicily and a harbor protection unit in the port of Salerno. The idea was to get the job done...
...One more thing: I know that the 370th Combat Engineers was part of the 1175th C. E. Regiment. The fact that I was sent on a 3 day pass to VI Corps rest area in Nancy, might indicate that we were part of VI Corps. Until I corresponded with the Corps of Engineers, I couldn't even prove that the 370th even existed. An officer told me that we, in fact, did exist, and that we were made up from a triple A group that had also been disbanded. As an aside: Our commanding officer was a WW I vet OF THE GERMAN ARMY. He was Colonel Dieter.
One Veteran's Story - From signing up for the army to the end of the war in '45
104th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Barrage Balloon) Battery - WWII Magazine, July 2003
I have two pictures that I believe I took at Mannheim-Ludwigshaven. This may be what Dirk is looking for. I'll send the other in a separate e-mail. The 370th was detailed to watch for floating mines for several days, before we moved.on to Ulm.
The two photos of our training camp on the banks of the Marseille-Rhone Canal are interesting in that they show the ingenuity of our leadership. Air defenses were no longer needed. So they converted anti-aircraft gunners and barrage balloon technicians to combat engineers--and in just eight short weeks.
We were fully trained and in place for the breakout of the Colmar pocket--one of the key battles for the Fatherland. From the date that battle began to the end of the war in Europe was eight short weeks.
I can't emphasize enough the importance of the invasion of Southern France. The capture of two major ports by the French enabled Allied forces to supply Patton with the gasoline he needed to keep the Germans on the run.
Without the combat engineers repairing roads, railroads, bridges, etc., the war would have bogged down.
FDR insisted on "unconditional surrender" in spite of the National Council of Churches criticism. The prosperous Europe that evolved after the war was really in spite of the best efforts of a lot of people who would gladly have repreated the mistakes of Versailles.
Yellow Beach D-Day
Training camp on the banks of the Marseille-Rhone Canal