Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no one - for I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley."

My great-uncle Ted was a World War II veteran. He died when I was just a baby. Uncle Ted was a true hero, although an unsung hero of my entire family. I have attempted as best I can to piece together his war record. His discharge papers are not very accurate from the information I have received which is why it has been difficult to piece together his trek across Europe. I do know he was a member of the 738th Medium Tank Battalion (Special)(Company B) which trained at Camp Bouse in Arizona. The existence of Camp Bouse and the “special” tanks they had there was second in secrecy only to the atomic bomb. The special tanks had a light near the tank turrent which flashed much like a strobe light in the darkness, making it nigh impossible to shoot as the opposing force could never get a clear bearing on its position. Under threat of death and Leavenworth, the military personnel were not allowed to speak of it. Unfortunately, even after intense training, the tank was never used for its intended purpose and the lights only came on when barging into the Rhineland area of Germany. While the discharge papers state that Uncle Ted entered the European Theater of Operations (ETO) on the 2nd day of June, 1943, that would be impossible as he was training in Bouse, Arizona. Had he entered ETO in June of 1943, then he couldn’t have been wounded in Rhineland in February of 1943, now could he? Sources state that the Infantry divisions he was most likely attached to were in Rhineland in February of 1945, not 1943. Two of the special tank battalions from Bouse were supposed to be deployed on D-Day, however, they were not. More confusions sets in here. My father’s recollections of Uncle Ted’s war stories are very similar to his discharge papers which list the major campaigns he was involved in as Normandy - Northern France - Rhineland - Ardennes - Central Europe. However, an extremely abbreviated history of his tank battalion says they were never at Normandy, instead they debarked at Le Havre, France (well north of Normandy) and then entered Aachen, Germany, with Company A attaching to the 3rd Armored Division and then attaching to diverse units after that. It does not mention Company B. Perhaps Company B had entered at Normandy, I don’t know. I have found that keeping up with one platoon from one company from one tank battalion in World War II is next to impossible, especially not knowing what platoon Uncle Ted was in. Battalions, especially those in armored units attached and detached within weeks, days, or even hours. Sometimes the companies from the battalions split and sometimes the platoons from the companies from the battalions split. Uncle Ted was a tank gunner and because they weren’t using the tanks for what they were intended, the tanks became mine exploders, breaching and clearing mine fields while also providing combat support. Uncle Ted received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. His unit received the Distinguished Unit Citation (or Presidential Citation - which is something like the Medal of Honor for a unit). He also received the European African Middle Eastern Service Ribbon. He returned home in the Fall of 1945 . . .
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    1 Comments:

    Blogger Ivan Hance said...

    I have a short unit history in pdf. 25 pages by Col Brier. I've been looking for his book. I'll be glad to send you a copy. ihance@comcast.net

    10/28/2014 07:00:00 PM  

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