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Weston497

Need help piecing my Grandpa's WWII story - 39th Combat Engr

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I am trying to piece together my Grandpa's time during WWII for a family reunion next summer (and my own personal interest).

James Lewis Corier's Separation Papers indicate he separated from CO C 643rd Engrs BN.  From this website I've learned 643rd was created from the 39th 2nd Battalion.  (I hired a researcher and after a month he came back with that information, and it was on the front page of this website.)  I have found some information about the 1st Battalion, but not a lot about the 2nd Battalion.  I understand Battalions have several lower level units,  so I would love to find out what his specific company, or platoon, or whatever actually did during the war.

His separate papers indicated he arrived on April 27, 1943.

Grandpa told me he had landed in Casablanca was part of the force that pushed back Rommel from Kasserine Pass (but that doesn't jive with his arrival date).  He talked about landing at Salerno and Anzio.  I think he might have been involved with the invasion of Sicily.  I have stories and I'm curious where they fit in the grand scheme of things.

I've look all over the web and this site comes up quite frequently.  I've looked through a lot of posts on this site, but I can't tell what he specifically worked on.  Any information would be appreciated.  Thank you.

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Have you tried the 39th's unit records in The National Archives (NARA)?  You can contact them by email and ask what records they hold for the regiment.  These records might include After Action reports, S-3 Message logs etc.The honors for the regiment includes the Italian landings you note.  

Since the 2nd BN did not become the 643rd until after the war was over, it suggests that your grandfather was transferred to the 643rd just to go home (having had enough points to get out).  

 

 

 

 

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I did reach out to the National Archives and received a quote for the unit history for 1943-1944 and the unit journals.  I am waiting to see what my research comes back with to see if the information will be what I am looking for.

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Thanks for joining. I wish that all my 39th WWII Engineers were still with us, but unfortunately most of them passed within the last ten years, including some high ranking officers. However, as you have seen, we have extensive information on this unit.  And there are several personal memoirs on this page, from the 39th. There are also many photos of the unit in our extensive gallery.

Sorry to say, but as far as individual history, that is extremely difficult. Even the archived records are unit records (Maryland archives), though they may mention some individuals from time to time. For instance, I have all the unit records from NARA in Maryland, but there are only two instances where he is mentioned (one was due to injury and one when he returned to the unit). However, morning reports from the unit can be found at NARA in St Louis. This is not to be confused with personnel records at NARA. As you know, many of those were burned in the fire of 1973. You need to hire a researcher (or go there yourself), and get the morning reports for the 39th. I received morning reports for the 540th, and gleaned info about my dad, which helped fill in some of the blanks. Very helpful. 

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My researcher got back with me:

There are actually three Reports included in the link: images 1-30 are the ‘Battalion-level’ reports.  Since we don’t know your grandfather’s Company in the 39th, I decided to exceed our scope of work and located the reports for the two constituent Companies of the 39 Engineers, which were Companies E and F.  Pages 31-63 are for Company E of the Battalion; and pages 64-95 are for Company F.

I looked through the reports, but I'm not sure if they are morning reports.  One page gives a general idea of what they were doing (training, building a staging area, recreation) and opposite page frequently has names and some notation which I can't understand.  I only reports for Sept 1943, which is when the invasion of Salerno happened.  My grandpa was a part of that invasion force.  His separation papers indicate he is a  demolitions specialist.  Based on the morning reports and other things I've read on the 39th, I'm beginning to wonder if my grandpa served in a different until and only joined the 643rd for the boat ride home.

Any suggestions of where I should look next?  I'm going to start Google-ing demolition specialist, but not optimistic I'll find any but an FBI agent at my door asking about my web searches.  :)

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Just to clarify and I hope this helps. Unit reports are gathered at NARA in Maryland. Morning reports are garnered at NARA in St Louis. So I take it your researcher has tried both places? You say your researcher gave you a link? A link to where? Records at NARA have to be copied with a scanner. A researcher has to schedule a date and time at the archives ahead of time, then NARA pulls the appropriate record boxes, then he would scan the info and give you copies. I am confused. Did he actually go to NARA or simply look up info online. Please elaborate. 

Morning reports are just that, roll call, etc.  Unit reports are of four different varieties - daily, weekly and monthly. And they also included after-action reports if the unit was involved in any fighting. 

Going back and re-reading what you initially wrote, he couldn't have been involved in the North Africa invasion (due to his arrival date), but the men of the 39th did train in North Africa for the invasion of Sicily which took place in July of 1943. Many units, including my father's trained there for this invasion. So that would jive. 

You aren't going to find much of anything under demolition specialist, just descriptions of what one is and what they do. To garner more info, read the histories I provide on the 39th's page on the main site and the memoirs of the men in the section I talked about a few days ago. 

 

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The link I referred to in my post was a link to a dropbox location.  The researcher indicated these were the morning reports.  Snapshot attached.  I'm not sure which NARA facility he obtained these records from.  I do have a quote from a researcher from the Maryland location. 

 

image.png.2f9047754a91cc985ae224f4ad98db7b.png

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16 hours ago, Weston497 said:

The link I referred to in my post was a link to a dropbox location.  The researcher indicated these were the morning reports.  Snapshot attached.  I'm not sure which NARA facility he obtained these records from.  I do have a quote from a researcher from the Maryland location. 

 

 

Morning reports come from St Louis. 

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My grandpa's separation papers indicate he was discharged from the 643rd Combat Engineers, who were originally the 39th Regiment Combat Engineers 2nd Battalion.

The papers say he has campaign credit for 

  • Sicilian 
  • Rome-Arno 
  • Naples-Foggia
  • Northern Appennines 
  • Po Valley 
  • GO 33 WD 45

My grandpa shared stories about him being in Salerno and Anzio (not much more than he was there).  Is Anzio part of the Rome-Arno campaign and Salerno the Naples-Foggia?  Also what is GO 33 WD 45?  He also had a Bronze Service Arrowhead and good conduct medal. Are those medals for being in the war, or are they for specific actions?  I feel like someone else has asked this question, but I can't find the thread.  Can anyone point me in the right direction?

As always, thank.

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GO 33 WD  Means general Orders #33, War Department.  These orders were the 'authority' by which the credits were granted.

The arrowhead, signifies an assault landing.  The Good conduct Medal was earned by not getting into any major legal difficulty with the Code of Military Justice during his time in service.  

According to the Depart of the Army's UNIT CITATION AND CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT REGISTER  Pamphlet# 672-1, 

--Anzio is listed separately for credit

--No separate listing for Salerno.

--North Apennines, Sicily, Rome-Arno,  Naples-Foggia and Po Valley are separate campaigns.   According to the Register, the 643rd received credit for Naples-Foggia, Po Valley and Rome-Arno.   It also received a Meritorious Unit Commendation dated 8 June 1945. 

The 39th Engineer Combat Regiment received credit for:  Anzio, Naples-Foggia, North Apennines, Rome-Arno, and Sicily. It also received assault credit for Gela,  Sicily. (the arrowhead.) 

Hope this helps.

 

Theron P. Snell, Ph.D

 

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2 hours ago, theron said:

GO 33 WD  Means general Orders #33, War Department.  These orders were the 'authority' by which the credits were granted.

The arrowhead, signifies an assault landing.  The Good conduct Medal was earned by not getting into any major legal difficulty with the Code of Military Justice during his time in service.  

According to the Depart of the Army's UNIT CITATION AND CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT REGISTER  Pamphlet# 672-1, 

--Anzio is listed separately for credit

--No separate listing for Salerno.

--North Apennines, Sicily, Rome-Arno,  Naples-Foggia and Po Valley are separate campaigns.   According to the Register, the 643rd received credit for Naples-Foggia, Po Valley and Rome-Arno.   It also received a Meritorious Unit Commendation dated 8 June 1945. 

The 39th Engineer Combat Regiment received credit for:  Anzio, Naples-Foggia, North Apennines, Rome-Arno, and Sicily. It also received assault credit for Gela,  Sicily. (the arrowhead.) 

Hope this helps.

 

Theron P. Snell, Ph.D

 

 

Well done sir !

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Theron, thank you for the explanation.  I figured as much about the "good conduct medal".  Your comment about that Anzio would have been given separate credit begs more questions.  As I mentioned previously, the 39th Combat Engineers 2nd Battalion was renamed/re-organized into the 643rd.  I have read a newspaper clipping indicating my Grandpa was part of the 39th which then goes on to recap all the activities of the 39th (from both battalions).   Based on stories my Grandpa told me and timing of the reorg to the 643rd, I am sure he was at Anzio.  Is there any other possibility?  Do you know of a way to find out which battalion / company my Grandpa served in before the re-org?  Would the 2nd battalion have earned the bronze arrowhead if they weren't part of the initial wave?

Sorry my thanks is so late, I forgot to refresh this page even though it was open.  :o

 

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You can read the entire history of the 39th on the main site. The 39th were at Anzio. There is no doubt about that.

I think you may have misunderstood, Theron. He is saying that Anzio is listed as a credit. 

There full and actual credits were:

 

39th Engineer Combat Regiment 
D-Day Landings

Gela Sicily
Naples-Salerno
Anzio Italy


Campaign Credits

Sicily
Naples-Foggia
Anzio
Rome-Arno
Po Valley
North Apennines

And please note, that the 39th did not change designations until two months before war's end. They were known as the 39th throughout the war. Again, please read the history from the page referenced above. The 39th's history is taken directly from archives, books and from direct stories and articles written by the men, one of them included is Col. Stanley W. Dziuban, a noted historian for the unit.

Lineage and History

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Do you know of a way to find out which battalion / company my Grandpa served in before the re-org?  Would the 2nd battalion have earned the bronze arrowhead if they weren't part of the initial wave?

Hi: You will have to refer back to your original post and the suggestions that were given to you previously regarding the acquisition of records. :-)  The archived records will include rosters.

The unit as a whole received the bronze arrowhead. If he participated in the landing, then he would have been entitled to it. 

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Oh yes, unfortunately you will have to wait a little longer. :unsure:

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I've combined your most recent post with this one. Makes it less confusing and easier to keep track of for everyone. ;)

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The research from the Maryland National Archives is back at work and responded.  There are a couple different available reports listed  - histories, Opn Rpt (I assume Operations Reports), Jnl (journals?), General Orders, and G-3 Periodics.  Which is most likely to mention people by name?

I already have the morning reports for the 39th regiment, 2nd Battalion, company E and F for Sept 1943.  

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That's a tough thing to answer. When I contacted a private researcher, i had her get me whatever she could. Each collection of records, filled in more blanks. You can take a look at my 540th records on the main site, to give you an idea. 

 

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