387th Engineer Battalion in Italy
#1
       

Greetings to all users of this site !!!!!!!!!!
 
I have been using this fine site for several years as a resource for various research projects into U.S. Army engineer units which served in Italy during WWII. 
 
My father, Frazier Savage, served in the H&S Company of the 316th ECB (91st INF DIV) from AUG 1943 thru the unit's inactivation at Camp Rucker (AL) in NOV 1945. Afterwards, he was assigned to the engineering section of 1st Army HQ, which was then based at Fort Bragg (NC) but subsequently relocated to Fort Jay (NY) in JUN 1946. In 1948, my dad attended Army Intel School and then joined the Attache' Section of the Pentagon to which he remained assigned until his retirement in 1970 after an Army career of just over 30 years.
 
In keeping with the stoicism of many men of his generation, my dad spoke little of his wartime experiences. He unfortunately passed away not long after retirement and before I was mature enough to show real interest or ask meaningful questions about his experiences in the Army. After raising my own kids and seeing them stand on their own feet as adults, I found myself yearning to understand my own father's history, and ... thanks to the miracle of the internet, plus a little luck and the help of many like-minded people ... I have learned a lot. 
 
In my research, and owing to the fact that I am an engineer by trade myself, I have developed a broad interest in the amazing accomplishments of US Army engineer units during WWII and I have been collecting original vintage photos of engineering projects underway in Italy. At this time, I have decided that this site will be a good place to share some of my photos, which leads me to the topic of this thread.
 
The 387th ENG Bn arrived in Italy at Naples-Bagnoli in OCT 1943, initially attached to Peninsular Base Section. In JAN 1944, the 387th came under operational control of Fifth Army, attached to VI Corps. At that time, Companies B and D were attached to the 540th ENG Combat Regt and travelled by water to Anzio harbor, as part of the initial unloading detail there. The photo image here is a scan of an original 8x10 in my collection which depicts men of the 387th (presumably either Companies A or C) grading a lot with heavy crushed rock in preparation for the staging of trucks used to haul supplies unloaded from ships at the adjacent Harbor of Naples. The photo was taken in early FEB 1944. In the background is the massive Castel Nuovo, and just off camera to the right is the Piazza del Municipio. Directly behind the photographer would be the Naples Maritime Station, with an array of docks stretching as far as the eye can see over the photographer's right shoulder.  Photo Credit: Bureau of Aeronautics. Source: Office of Public Information, U.S. Navy Department.
 
Adjacent to the 1944 photo is snippet from Google Earth depicting the same location today. The spot where the photographer evidently stood in 1944 is today the main parking lot for the Naples Maritime Station.
Reply
#2
   
Depicted here is another project assigned to the 387th ENG Bn while in Italy.

Shortly after the liberation of Rome in early JUN 1944, the 387th ENG Bn was relieved of its attachment to the 540th ENG Combat Regt and attached to the 92nd ENG Regt (G.S.). Under operational control of 92nd ENG Regt, the 387th had a variety of assigned projects, but its primary task was the maintenance of the two main roads leading from Anzio to Rome. On 19 JUN, the 387th was relieved of its attachment to the 92nd ENG Regt and sent north to Civitavecchia (the vaunted Port of Rome) there to take over engineering work on the port from the 540th ENG Combat Regt.

In late JUN 1944, south of the Civitavecchia port along the coastal road (today Strada Statale 1, known as SS1), Company D installed the battalion's first Bailey Bridge, a 140 foot triple-single Bailey. The photograph above, while published in "Engineer History - Fifth Army - Mediterranean Theater", is actually a scan of an original print in my collection. The photo depicts men of Company D launching the span across a railway cut. In the foreground is a classic D7 Dozer, actually a crawler tractor with attached blade made by Caterpillar. At the far left of frame, obscured by a tree, a D4 Dozer can be seen with operator in place waiting to assist.

I have researched the modern location where this bridge was installed and I am 90% certain I have identified the spot. However, I am not ready to post a current photo until I have eliminated all other possibilities. The location today is going to appear dramatically different, so I am not expecting the infallible 'Before and After' likeness as in my post above. What I do know is that the bridge did not serve as a primary route because SS1 in that area was already in traffic-worthy shape when the 387th ENG Bn arrived in Civitavecchia. "Engineer  History - Fifth Army - Mediterranean Theater" does offer some clues, suggesting the bridge approach was off the main highway and that several houses had to be demolished to prepare the way. Going back to pre-WWII, the rail lines in this area run closely parallel to the main coast road (SS1) which runs almost perfectly north-south at this point. The bridge, I believe, services a lateral road used to connect the main highway with a convenient storage depot located on the inland side of the rail line (notice what appears to be an Army Motor Pool in the background within the walled yard). The area of the demolished buildings is in the immediate foreground, and the photographer (who is facing almost due east) has his back is to Tyrrhenian Sea.
Reply
#3
   
   
I am still looking for assistance confirming the modern day location of the triple-single Bailey Bridge installed by the 387th ENG Bn south of Civitavecchia in late JUN 1944.

The embedded map and satellite view of the area show where I believe the bridge to have been located in 1944.

If there is anyone familiar with this area, I would appreciate any feedback as to the bridge site.
Reply
#4
   
The 387th Engineer Battalion (Separate) was activated for WWII in MAY 1942 at Ft. Meade (MD). I do not have the date on which the unit was constituted. However, the unit essentially existed only on paper prior to spring 1942, at which time it was initially stood up with a cadre of officers and senior NCO's. In FEB 1945, while still in Italy, the unit was inactivated. Most of the battalion personnel were used to form the 3rd Battalion of the 92nd Engineer General Service Regiment. 

During its short existence, the battalion did not get approval for a Distinctive Unit Insignia. However, members of the unit were authorized by battalion HQ at some point in Italy to wear a cloth tab on their left shoulder bearing the unit number. This tab was worn above the Fifth Army shoulder sleeve insignia. Unfortunately, I do not have a good photo image of this tab.

Meanwhile, the unit did apparently develop artwork for a battalion coat-of-arms. Although never approved by the War Department, that artwork was the basis for an insignia being made by 'Aresta of Hawaii' at some point in the last 30 years. This company was the brainchild of Charles William Aresta, a military insignia collector and enthusiast who himself was a veteran of the Korean War. As a service to collectors, veterans groups, and the families of veterans, Aresta commissioned many distinctive insignia for units which never had such insignia developed or approved. Educated insignia collectors understand there is no attempt being made by Aresta to pass off these insignia as authentic period pieces. I have attached a photo from my collection of the Aresta made insignia for the 387th Engineer Battalion.

I would be very interested if anyone on this forum can produce images of the original artwork on which this insignia was based.
Reply


Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Photo of 34th Monument - Italy - 2010 Walt's Daughter 0 3,491 08-24-2010, 09:01 AM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Found!!!! Picture of my Father in Italy `44 Wendy 5 7,831 06-04-2007, 10:56 PM
Last Post: SonofaMP
  This Day in History - Italy March 12, 1944 Walt's Daughter 3 6,650 05-25-2007, 05:19 PM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Cassino, Italy Walt's Daughter 16 16,954 09-12-2006, 11:58 PM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Vet recalls intense fighting in Italy Walt's Daughter 56 56,089 05-12-2006, 11:39 PM
Last Post: WATSON
  The 88th in Italy Walt's Daughter 1 4,116 04-03-2006, 04:24 PM
Last Post: Custermen



Users browsing this thread: 4 Guest(s)