Chapter XXI
Artillery And Armored Units In The ETO
 
Artillery
The nine separate Negro field artillery battalions remaining after the completion of the conversion program were all employed in Europe. All were heavy caliber units used as corps artillery for general support or for reinforcing the fires of one or more divisions. Because of the flexible group organization adopted by the Army in 1943 and because units were controlled by group headquarters according to the tactical needs of the day, the four Negro group headquarters controlled white and Negro battalions as the occasion demanded. The Negro battalions, similarly, were from time to time attached to one or another group, white or Negro, as required.
 
Of the Negro units in the Ardennes during the German counteroffensive of December 1944, one field artillery group and three field artillery battalions participated fully. The 3334 Field Artillery Group, the Negro headquarters and headquarters battery present, landed in France on 29 June with the VIII Corps Artillery. The VIII Corps Artillery used the 3334 Group and Negro battalions interchangeably with white units as needs arose. In the siege of Brest, for example, VIII Corps Artillery, which then had three Negro battalions and the 333d Group among the fifteen battalions and several groups initially available to it, distributed its artillery forces into two reinforcing groups, two mixed caliber general support groups, one reinforcing battalion, and one attached group. The Negro battalions were assigned to groups and attached to divisions as required. During most of the siege the 3334 Group had one Negro battalion, the 333d and two white battalions, the 557th (155-mm. Gun, SP) and the 771st (4.5-inch Gun). The Negro 969th Field Artillery Battalion ( 155-mm. Howitzer), formerly attached to the 3334 Group, was at first given the task of reinforcing the fires of the 2d Division and later placed under the control of the white 402d Field Artillery Group, through which it supported the 8th Division in its attack on the Crozon peninsula. The third Negro artillery unit, the 578th Battalion (8-inch Howitzer), along with three white battalions, was attached to the white 202d Field Artillery Group, one of the two general support groups responsible for counterbattery free.1 Neither the Negro battalions no. the groups experienced special problems as a result of their functional use. In the Negro groups, only one problem arose as a result of the attachment of white battalions to Negro group headquar-
[644]

Photo: FIELD PIECE IN THE PERIERS SECTOR
FIELD PIECE IN THE PERIERS SECTOR
 
ters. It was solved by the group itself when one of its two Negro chaplains had to be hospitalized and was replaced by a white chaplain, thereby satisfying those who preferred spiritual assistance from one of their own race.2
 
Representative of the initial use of the Negro battalions was the earlier career of the 969th Field Artillery Battalion, which landed at UTAH Beach on 9 July 1944, under the command of Lt. Col. Hubert D. Barnes. The 969th's first mission was to reinforce the fires of the 8th Division through the 3334 Field Artillery Group. On 10 July the battalion took its first positions at Lattage du Pont in the vicinity of Le Haye du Puits. At 2205 its Battery A fired the unit's first rounds in combat. The battalion commander was wounded that night, but this circumstance had little adverse effect on the unit. The battalion, under its executive officer, Maj. Einar Erickson, for the next fortnight continued to support the 8th Division through the 3334 Group, and later, from 14 July, through attachment to the division. The 969th fired special missions for the 90th Division as well. On 26 July, its Battery A was attached to the 4th Armored Divi-
[645]

sion; on 1 August, the full battalion went to the 4th Armored and occupied positions near Rennes. Fighting during this period was in country filled with snipers and the battalion was at times surrounded by the enemy and strafed by enemy planes. On one occasion Battery A's first sergeant manned a .50 caliber machine gun to silence sniper fire while a march order was completed, the battalion taking credit for seventy-nine prisoners captured. In late August, the 969th began its participation in the siege of Brest, continuing until hostilities in the area ceased on 19 September. In October the battalion, still in support of the 8th Division, moved from Brest to the Bastogne area where, attached to the 174th Field Artillery Group, it remained until December.3
 
In the Bastogne-Houffalize area there were three other VIII Corps Negro field artillery units: the 3334 Field Artillery Group at Atzerath supporting the 2d and later the 106th Division; the 3334 Field Artillery Battalion at Schonberg attached to the 333d Group; and the 578th Field Artillery Battalion of the 402d Group at Burg Reuland. The 3334 Group, after the siege of Brest, arrived at Houffalize, Belgium, on 5 October, with the Negro 333d and the white 771st Battalions attached. The group mission in December continued to be general support of VIII Corps, reinforcing the fires of the 106th Division, with the 333d Battalion reinforcing the 590th Field Artillery Battalion.
 
During their period in defensive positions in the Houffalize area, VIII Corps field artillery battalions had little activity. In the 3334 Group, firing was light, averaging 150 rounds a day.4 At Burg Reuland the 578th Field Artillery, like the other units in the area, was constantly improving its billets and positions. In December, their third month in this quiet sector, all personnel were billeted in houses, log cabins, or winterized tents. Ammunition expenditure in this battalion was limited to 250 rounds per four-day period. Enemy activity consisted of occasional shelling of observation posts, harassing fire on the battalion command post, and occasional robot bombs.5 Though the weather was damp and freezing with intermittent rain and snow, the battery positions boggy, and roads nearly impassable, the battalion found Burg Reuland "tranquil to a point almost approaching garrison conditions." Red Cross girls toured the positions with coffee and doughnuts. Troops saw USO shows and movies at least once a week, and officers and enlisted men were scheduled for trips to the Paris and Longwy rest centers. A battalion recreation center, with beer hall, bowling alley, badminton court, and game room, was operating in Burg Reuland and, for the Christmas season, men of the battalion were rehearsing a choral play. 6
 
When the great German attack began on 16 December against VIII Corps' position in Belgium, Bleialf, where the 3334 Field Artillery Battalion had two observation posts, was penetrated by 1100. Both observation parties withdrew by the next morning to the command post of the 590th Field Artillery
[646]

Battalion, where the 333d's liaison officer was located. These two parties were the first of the 333d's men to be lost to the attacking enemy.7 To the north from its St. Vith command post, the 402d Group was sending warning orders for a retrograde movement to its battalions. The 578th Battalion's observation post at Heckhuscheid, a town held by a battalion of the 424th Infantry, was subjected to heavy fire and attacked by the enemy. The 578th's commander, Lt. Col. Thomas C. T. Buckley, the observer, and his crew held off German infantry in a sharp fire fight in which Negro artillerymen, armed with M1 rifles picked up from the battlefield, accounted for at least half a dozen Germans.8 The observation party then withdrew to another battalion observation post where it took twelve German prisoners. During this first day of the Ardennes campaign the 578th Battalion fired 23 missions, expending 774 rounds.9
 
The seriousness of the German attack was apparent on the following day when the slow-moving heavy artillery battalions began to suffer losses. The white and the Negro battalions of the 3334 Group began to displace to prepared alternate positions on the night of the 16th, each battalion leaving one battery forward at the request of the Commanding General, 106th Division Artillery, who assured VIII Corps Artillery that his positions would be held. Forward infantry and cavalry reconnaissance units began retreating in large and small parties, moving more rapidly than the heavy artillery units, which lost several howitzers and vehicles to enemy action. The 333d Battalion, at the end of the day, possessed only five howitzers. On 18 December the 969th Battalion, approaching Vecmont, was assigned to the 333d Group by oral order of the Commanding General, VIII Corps Artillery.
 
On the 19th, the Negro 578th and the white 559th Battalions, out of contact with their 402d Group headquarters and temporarily organized under the 578th's commander as Groupment Buckley, planned to return to positions at Cherain, from which a reconnaissance party had been forced the day before. The two battalions conducted reconnaissance and, with the support of three 105-mm. howitzers, occupied their positions without opposition, only to receive orders from corps artillery to move farther to the rear before they could fire a shot. The 559th suffered casualties on the highway from Houffalize, now in enemy hands; the 578th ran into tank fire but had neither casualties nor losses of materiel. "The steadiness and determination of all concerned in this trying movement when a heavy artillery battalion was fighting a rear guard action is worthy of the highest praise," the 578th commander declared.10
 
On the same day, 19 December, the 333d Group was released by VIII Corps Artillery for attachment to the newly arrived 101st Airborne Division and ordered to move to the vicinity of Bastogne. The group received its verbal
[647]

orders at 1300, undertook reconnaissance immediately, and began to displace at 1430. By 1730 the 333d Group, with its one white and two Negro battalions,11 closed to its new positions. Its command post was at Mande-St. Etienne, with the 771st Battalion around Flamierge, the 969th in the Flamizoulle area, and the 333d Battalion in the vicinity of Rennamount, all north and west of Bastogne. During the night the enemy cut the Bastogne-Marche highway. Reports and rumors continued to come in indicating that the enemy was penetrating American positions from all sides. When small arms fire was received by the 771st and 969th Battalions, the group commander ordered all his units to displace toward St. Hubert, west of Bastogne. Considerable confusion resulted from the uncoordinated displacement following. Two batteries of the 771st each abandoned two mired tractors and two guns. The 3334 Battalion, receiving counterbattery and small arms fire while en route, left three of its five howitzers behind.12
 
The 101st Division Artillery tried to make contact with the 333d Group headquarters throughout 20 December. Not until early afternoon did it discover from the group's executive officer that the group commander had ordered his battalions to move without consulting 101st Division Artillery. When the units had proceeded about five miles to the southwest along the Bastogne-Neufchateau highway, the column was overtaken and instructed to halt. An hour later, the group commander ordered his units to return to the positions just abandoned, and they closed at 1600. When the units arrived they found that they had a new group commander. The former commander announced to his staff that he had been relieved by Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe of the 101st Division and that Colonel Barnes, commander of the 969th Field Artillery Battalion, was to take his place.13
 
Back at its old positions, the 3334 Battalion found two of its officers attempting to get the abandoned howitzers out of the mud with borrowed tractors. The battalion reclaimed its weapons, which were still usable. An armored unit had already brought one of the 771st's tractors and one gun out to the battalion; the 771st's other three tractors and guns were found still mired in their positions.
 
A half hour later, at 1630, the 101st Division Artillery ordered the group to move again, first to Morhet and then to the area around the towns of Chenogne, Sibret, and Villeroux, about three miles southwest of Bastogne, where elements of the 28th Division were expected to afford some security for the slow-moving artillery battalions. Displacement began immediately. The 771st, still unable to remove one of its badly mired guns, destroyed it. The battalions closed in their new positions at about 2000, with the 771st at Sibret, southwesternmost of the towns and the head-
[648]

quarters of the 28th Division; the 969th at Villeroux; and the 3334 near Chenogne, where the group located its command post. The battalions fired light harassing missions through the night. Rear echelons reached and remained in St. Hubert and Molinfaing, though individuals, especially officers, returned to their units in the Bastogne area.
 
On the morning of the 21st the enemy, tightening his lines about Bastogne, approached Sibret from the south and west. Enemy tanks and mortars began to fire into the town. The commanding general of the 28th Division walked through at about 0800, ordering all personnel into the streets to defend the town. The 771st moved certain of its batteries to the northwest in search of positions with no minimum elevation so that fire could be placed on targets as close as 1,500 yards away. Heavy fire began to fall in the town and on battery positions. As vehicles of the 28th Division began to move northwest through the town toward the rear, the 771st's commander ordered his headquarters battery to follow and maintain contact. His S-3, at Chenogne for a 3334 Group conference, had in the meantime received orders from group to have the 771st remain in position, firing in support of the 101st Airborne Division. The S-3, on his way back to Sibret, met one battery on its way out of Sibret and ordered it and another battery to take up new positions to the northwest of the town. Gradually the three batteries of the 771st displaced toward Chenogne. When the 28th Division evacuated Sibret at about 1000, all firing batteries of the 771st Battalion were in position near Chenogne.
 
Elements of the 28th Division, including one of the division's organic field artillery battalions, and the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, passed through Chenogne and the positions of the 771st and 3334 Battalions. German infantry and tanks now approached one of the 771st's positions and friendly infantry broke and retreated northward. Direct tank fire destroyed a gun, a tractor, and a command car of one of the 771st's batteries and another tractor moving a gun to a new position was hit. As tanks appeared over the ridge previously selected for minimum elevation fire, all units of the battalion began to move out of position without orders from their commanders. The S-2 and S-3 gathered elements of the 771st Battalion together and, on orders from VIII Corps Artillery, proceeded to Matton, France, well to the rear, where scattered elements of the battalion were gathered together over the next few days. All guns, except two, were abandoned. The battalion commander, five officers, and fourteen enlisted men joined elements of the 3334 Group.14
 
In the meantime the two Negro battalions of the group remained in position, with the 333d Field Artillery Battalion in the Chenogne area and the 969th in position at Villeroux. The 333d Group headquarters moved in toward Bastogne as the enemy approached closer to Chenogne, giving movement orders to the 3334 Battalion on the way. Before the 3334 Battalion could move, an enemy tank fired directly into its area, hitting one prime mover and two howitzers. One howitzer and the prime
[649]

mover had to be abandoned as the battalion moved toward new positions closer to Bastogne. From about 1300 to 1600 on 21 December the group headquarters maintained a temporary command post at Senonchamps with the 420th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division. The group reinforced the fires of this battalion. When the enemy approached Villeroux, subjecting the 969th to heavy fire which killed its motor officer and killed and wounded several enlisted men, the 969th, on orders of the 101st Division Artillery, displaced to the northeast to a position a half mile west of Bastogne. There, as the 101st Airborne formed its perimeter defense line around the town, the three serviceable howitzers of the 333d Battalion were incorporated into the 969th Battalion. The two battalions, with men of the 969th manning the abandoned guns of the 771st, operated as one through the siege of Bastogne, reinforcing the fires of the 420th Armored Field Artillery Battalion as well as giving general support to the 101st Division Artillery. The 333d Group had only 450 rounds of high explosive shells left; missions were continually fired but with great care. All primary roads to Bastogne were now cut off and there was little possibility of resupply.
 
On 23 December, the third day after Bastogne had been cut off, C-47's came over with the first resupply for the besieged area, but no 155-mm. howitzer ammunition was included. Along with other units, the 333d Group's battalions were bombed on Christmas eve. They lost two battery commanders and three enlisted men. Friendly infantry lines were now within 300 to 500 yards north and west of the group command post.
 
On the 26th, as the 969th continued to fire its dwindling ammunition, C-47's dropped the first 155-mm. ammunition received during the siege. Late that night, the 333d Group learned that the 4th Armored Division was at Assenois, two miles from Bastogne.15 Following the 4th Armored Division was the 590th Ambulance Company, a Negro unit then evacuating for the loth Armored Division. Its ambulances were among the first to reach the besieged troops at Bastogne.16
 
The following day, after fifty gliders had landed with supplies, including more 155-mm. howitzer ammunition, the 333d Field Artillery Group Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, the badly depleted 333d Field Artillery Battalion, and the handful of men from the 771st Field Artillery remaining in Bastogne, were ordered by the Commanding General, VIII Corps Artillery, to displace on 28 December over the now open road to Matton, France. There, where most of the VIII Corps Artillery units which had escaped encirclement were assembled, the rear echelon of the 333d Battalion was maintaining roadblocks and a mobile reserve for security purposes. The 333d Battalion's rear echelon had tried vainly several times to send ammunition, gasoline, and ration trucks through to its batteries in Bastogne. On 26 December, one party, under Maj. Oscar Y. Lewis, group supply officer, at last succeeded in getting through with ammunition, gasoline, and rations.17
[650]

During the siege of Bastogne, where a number of units had lost their service personnel and equipment, Technician 4 Broman Williams of 3334 Group headquarters set up and maintained an improvised kitchen, feeding a thousand men daily. Other group enlisted men voluntarily carried messages under fire, salvaged abandoned trucks and carried personnel of a number of units to safety, and performed various other duties not normally assigned to them. One group soldier operated a radio for forty-eight consecutive hours without relief.18
 
The 3334 Battalion, which sustained heavier losses at Bastogne than any other VIII Corps Artillery unit, lost a total of 6 officers and 222 men, 9 guns, 34 trucks, and 12 weapons carriers. Only the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion lost more guns (16) ; the other 11 battalions present lost 346 enlisted men altogether.19 With the scarcity of trained Negro replacements, there was scant hope of rebuilding the 3334 Battalion. The 3334 Group, which now had the 771st, 333d  58th Armored, and 740th Field Artillery Battalions attached to it, reorganized and re-equipped all of the battalions except the 3334, the only Negro unit then under its control. The 771st, having lost its 4.5-inch guns, was re-equipped with 155-mm. howitzers. The 3334 Battalion sent the bulk of its remaining 286 men to the 578th and 969th Battalions, both of which were still engaging the enemy, and to the 3334 Group's Headquarters Battery. The 333d Battalion, originally scheduled to be disbanded, remained active as a skeleton unit, performing guard and ordnance duties while awaiting replacements. Not until the end of April 1945 did the battalion receive sufficient replacements to return to combat duties. It was then too late for it to participate further in the European campaign as an active field artillery battalion.20
 
The 969th Field Artillery Battalion's commander, Colonel Barnes, returned to his unit upon departure of the 3334 Group from Bastogne. The 969th continued to support the 101st Airborne Division until 12 January when, with operations approaching normal, it was relieved and reattached to the 333d Field Artillery Group, now re-equipped and reorganized. The 333d Group returned to its old command post at Bastogne with the mission of supporting the 11th Armored Division, then advancing north toward Houffalize. As Third Army widened its hold on the area to the south of the Bulge and as the siege of Bastogne was broken, Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, commanding the 101st Airborne, wrote to the commander of the 969th Battalion:
 
The Officers and Men of the 101st Airborne Division wish to express to your command their appreciation of the gallant support rendered by the 969th Field Artillery Battalion in the recent defense of Bastogne, Belgium. The success of this defense is attributable to the shoulder to shoulder cooperation of all units involved. This Division is proud to have shared the Battlefield with your command. A recommendation for a unit citation of 969th Field Artillery Battalion is being forwarded by this Headquarters.21
[651]

Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton, forwarding this commendation to the battalion on 11 January, observed that "Your contribution to the great success of our arms at Bastogne will take its place among the epic achievements of our Army."22 The 969th, along with other units of the 101st Division, received its Distinguished Unit Citation through Third Army on 7 February 1945, in accordance with authority granted by the War Department on 21 January. Though not the first earned, this was the first award of the Distinguished Unit Citation to a Negro combat unit in World War 11.23
 
The 578th Field Artillery, moving south and west from Burg Reuland with the 559th Battalion in Groupment Buckley, reached Mierchamps, west of Bastogne, on 20 December. There the 402d Group resumed control and the groupment was disbanded. The battalion moved into several positions where it expected to be able to fire, but orders kept it moving. Along the way, the 578th gathered and attached a miscellany of troops: a battery of the 740th Field Artillery's 8-inch howitzers, a platoon of antiaircraft troops, fifty enlisted men from the 740th Field Artillery acting as infantry, and a battery of 105-mm. howitzers. All of these were white troops. On the 21st the battalion reached the ForÍ du Luchy where, operating directly under VIII Corps Artillery control, it was instructed to reconnoiter and occupy a position near Flohimont so that it could fire to cover any withdrawal from Bastogne which the 101st Airborne Division might be directed to make. The 578th was convinced that now its retrograde movement would cease and the battalion could make a stand. "All concerned," the battalion commander reported, "were more than anxious to dig in and fight." Despite the battalion's expectation, a new order came from VIII Corps Artillery at 1135, directing further movement to the rear.24 The VIII Corps Artillery, in its Matton location, was planning to move its 402d Group toward Arlon, 20 miles south of Bastogne, for attachment to III Corps Artillery now heading north with Third Army for the relief of Bastogne. The VIII Corps Artillery considered the situation too fluid on its own front to use its heavy artillery battalions profitably itself. The 578th was among the five battalions offered "on loan" to III Corps, to which the 402d Group was attached on 22 December.25
 
The III Corps Artillery directed the 578th Battalion to take positions at Nagem. By midday of 23 December all batteries were in position. From Nagem the 578th Battalion fired in general support until 26 December when the battalion moved forward, continuing to support III Corps units through the 402d Group. On 29 December the battalion was attached to the I gad Field Artillery Group, and, later in the day, ordered to operate directly under III Corps Artillery, with batteries echeloning forward over icy and slippery roads to Neunhausen, where, on 31 December, the 578th was attached to the 203d Field Artillery Group. Despite its long marches since 16 December the battalion had expended 3,455 rounds of 8-inch
[652]

howitzer ammunition, firing on all but four days for an average of 288 rounds per firing day. Inspection of captured targets and target areas enabled the battalion to evaluate the effectiveness of a large portion of its fire missions. A three-volley unobserved transfer into the village of Bigonville on 24 December resulted in destruction of much of the town. Fifty-two rounds fired on enemy traffic in and around Boulaide on Christmas Day without adjustment were observed to be 100 percent effective; subsequent visits to this target area verified the effectiveness of these fires. On the afternoon Of 27 December, battalion observers conducting fire in the Boulaide area immobilized two tanks, destroyed one vehicle, and scored direct hits on houses around which enemy movements had been observed. Freezing weather hampered the battalion, especially when moving to new positions; it used borrowed tanks to tow its prime movers and howitzers up steep and slippery hills.
 
The 578th Battalion continued in general support of III Corps, firing from Neunhausen, until 16 January. Its battalion commander, Colonel Buckley, left the unit on 8 January to assume command of the rehabilitated 3334 Field Artillery Group, now returning from Matton to resume its part in the Ardennes campaign. The battalion itself was attached to the 3334 Group on 26 January.. While in its Neunhausen positions, the battalion received an unusual mission-on 4 January it was ordered to destroy Berle, an enemy-held village. Precision adjustment with delay fuzes was begun and four buildings were demolished before darkness made further observation impossible. The next morning, destruction of the town continued. By late afternoon every structure in the village was demolished or severely damaged with the exception of one marked with a large red cross. Throughout the mission, the 578th's Observation Post No.1, from which fire on Berle was directed, was continuously under mortar and occasionally under Nebelzuerfer fire.
 
After the Ardennes campaign, the 578th Battalion continued across Europe in general support of VIII Corps. It was attached at times to the 3334 Field Artillery Group and at times to the 402d, 174th, and 220th Field Artillery Groups. In February, after two batteries had been called on by 4th Division Artillery to assist in repulsing an enemy counterattack, the division artillery commander telephoned: "Congratulations and thanks for the effective and prompt fire."26
 
The battalion crossed the Rhine on 30 March, closing in an area near Limbach, where it was ordered to clear designated wooded areas. On the morning of 31 March, elements of each battery were formed into "infantry" platoons and squads. Armed with carbines, bazookas, and vehicular .50-caliber machine guns, the impromptu assault formations jumped off at 0930. Companies B and C cleared their assigned areas, but Company A quickly ran into machine gun and automatic pistol fire. The "reserve company," made up of headquarters battery personnel, was then committed and the advance was resumed. The unit captured sixty-one prisoners, including three officers; in its initial fire fight, Company A killed two and
[653]

wounded others of the enemy. Rapid advances of infantry and armored units after the crossing of the Rhine forced the heavy battalion to move frequently but left it with few opportunities for fire. Its patrols cleared nearby wooded areas immediately after the occupation of new positions as, during April, the battalion displaced across Germany to the Czech border, firing missions at enemy-held towns and critical road junctions. On 26 April, the battalion was ordered to move to Kassell, there to take up occupation duties. Its howitzers were turned in to "ordnance and to cosmoline" on the next day, for the war in Europe was ending.27
 
After the Americans of the 11th Armored Division linked with friendly troops in Houffalize on 16 January 1945, the 969th Field Artillery Battalion, with over a hundred of the 3334 Battalion's men attached as reinforcements, prepared to join the Seventh Army in the Vosges. Already in the Vosges, attached to 3d Division Artillery, was another Negro artillery unit, the 999th Field Artillery Battalion, an 8-inch howitzer unit. A sister unit of the 578th Battalion, formerly the 2d Battalion, 578th Regiment, the 999th, like the 777th Field Artillery Battalion (4.5-inch gun), had a considerably different employment career than the Negro units in the Ardennes.
 
The 999th arrived in Normandy on 17 July 1944 after a brief stay in England. With the commitment of Third Army and XV Corps after the capture of St. Lo, the battalion started out on 4 August with XV Corps in pursuit of the German army. In nine days it marched 180 miles in the face of enemy resistance, occupying seventeen positions near as many towns. From positions at Flacourt and at Mantes Gassicourt it fired over 2,000 rounds of ammunition and helped establish the bridgehead over the Seine that sealed off the last escape route of the German Seventh Army. During this rapid advance the battalion, attached to the 144th Field Artillery Group, supported the Both and 79th Divisions and the 2d French Armored Division. After a brief attachment to First Army when that army took over the bridgehead at Mantes Gassicourt, and after a brief rest period again under XV Corps, the battalion was attached to XX Corps and the 3334 Field Artillery Brigade. The XX Corps, having swept east across France, was about to assault Metz when the 999th, on 7 September, reached Chambley and began to fire in support of the 5th Division. On 10 September the battalion rejoined XV Corps and 40th Group supporting the 79th Division and the 2d French Division as they pushed the Germans across the Moselle and Muerthe Rivers. Along with XV Corps, the 999th passed to the control of Seventh Army in late October. It participated in the corps' assault on Sarrebourg, Saverne, and Strasbourg. It supported the 79th and 45th Divisions in their advance on Hagenau and, on 5 December, moved with XV Corps from Alsace back across the Vosges Mountains into Lorraine to support the tooth and 44th Divisions in their attack on Maginot Line positions near Bitche. On 21 December 1944 the battalion was relieved from XV Corps and the 194th Group and attached to the 17th Group, then supporting the 36th Division in the Colmar area. After a
[654]

Photo: ARTILLERYMEN, FIRING 8-INCH HOWITZER,
ARTILLERYMEN, FIRING 8-INCH HOWITZER,
held seal off the German escape route across the Seine, 20 August 1944.
 
sixty-mile night march, the battalion occupied its new positions, changing them slightly when the 3d Division replaced the 36th Division. On I January 1945 the battalion was relieved from the 17th Field Artillery Group end attached to the 3d Division Artillery, moving on 6 January to Asubure, high in the Vosges Mountains, where it remained until 20 January. When the 3d Division issued orders for the movement it realized that the icy, steep, and winding mountain roads would make the movement difficult if not impossible. "Nevertheless you accepted the mission cheerfully," the 3d Division Artillery said in commending the battalion, "and by an extraordinary display of ingenuity and hard work accomplished the movement in a remarkably short time. The entire matter is a splendid testimony to the efficiency and training of the 999th Field Artillery Battalion."28
 
For the elimination of the Colmar Pocket, beginning on 23 January 1945, both the 999th Field Artillery Battalion and the 969th Battalion were attached to French units. The 999th was relieved from the 3d Division on 18 January and attached to ALGA 2, a French artillery group. On 20-2I January, the 999th moved into offensive positions for the delivery of artillery preparations. The 969th, arriving at Selestat on 21 Janu-
[655]

ary, was attached to the 1st French Division (DNII), forming a groupment with the division's 4th Battalion. With the help of heavy artillery preparations, the attack, which started on 23 January, made good progress. The 969th Battalion alone fired 912 rounds on the first day. On 28 January, the 999th Battalion was attached to the 40th Group in the newly arrived XXI Corps; the 969th, on 25 January, was attached to the 5th French Armored Division upon commitment of that unit and, later, to the 75th Division and the 2d French Arglored Division. Both battalions continued in support of the French and American divisions engaged in encircling and clearing the Colmar Pocket, a task which was completed by 8 February. Both battalions received commendations from the French and American divisions which they supported and both were among the units given the right to incorporate the arms of the city of Colmar into their insignia. Both units, when heavy artillery was no longer needed in the Colmar area, moved north to XV Corps in the Sarreguemines area where the 999th was attached to the 144th Field Artillery Group and the 969th to the 30th Field Artillery Group. Already attached to the 30th Field Artillery Group was a newly arrived Negro 155-mm. howitzer battalion, the 686th, which had landed in France on 1 February 1945 and which had begun its general support missions with the 30th Group on 10 February. The three battalions fired in general support of XXI Corps' divisions in their attacks along the Saar River and in the advance to and across the Rhine.29
 
Keeping up with the infantry and armored units so that they would be in positions within range of targets when and if needed became a problem for heavy artillery units as the spring drive of the armies across Germany picked up speed. The 999th Field Artillery was relieved of this problem when on 8 April it received a special mission that took it back to the Atlantic coast. The battalion, attached to the 13th Field Artillery Brigade under the operational control of the French Army of the Atlantic, moved by road and rail from Sarreguemines back across France to the coast. There the French were attacking German fortifications which had been blocking the entrance to the harbor of Bordeaux since the June landings. With other American artillery of the 13th Brigade, the 999th turned its guns on the German-held Ile d'Oleron at the entrance to the harbor and on Pointe de Grave across the Gironde River. The Pointe de Grave pocket was cleared out in two days. For ten days heavy artillery fired on Ile d'Oleron. When the French forces made their amphibious landing on the morning of 30 April, the artillery fires had been so heavy and accurate that German resistance was already broken. The enemy surrendered by mid-afternoon. With the rest of the units in the 13th Brigade, the 999th reloaded and, on 6 May, started back to rejoin the Seventh Army. When they arrived in Germany on 11 May, the war in Europe was over and only occupation duties awaited them.30
 
The fluid situation during the advance across central Germany and the resulting lack of targets kept the howitz-
[656]

ers of the 969th Battalion, still in XXI Corps but then attached to the 4th Division, silent after 28 April 1945 when the battalion fired its last shots of the war. During its ten months of combat the 969th Field Artillery Battalion had fought with all four of the American armies in the European theater and with the French in the Colmar Pocket. It had fired a total of 42,489 rounds from its howitzers in support of American and French divisions.31 On 3 May, the 868th found itself once more attached to the foist Airborne Division under circumstances quite different from those attending its former attachment to this division at Bastogne. Though its howitzers were no longer firing, the battalion's trucks were kept busy transporting American infantry and German prisoners and the battalion assisted in processing the thousands of German prisoners pouring into the 101st Division's prisoner of war cage.
 
In the winter of 1 844-45 additional Negro artillery groups and battalions, including the 686th already mentioned, arrived in England for transshipment to the Continent. Some of these, like the 350th Field Artillery Battalion, had been stripped, refilled, and retrained during the manpower crisis of 1 843 and 1 844. The 350th Battalion, retrained between April and October 1 844, arrived in Scotland in December 1944, and in France on 22 February 1845. It was originally attached to the 351st Field Artillery Group, one of three Negro group headquarters and headquarters batteries arriving in Europe during the late winter months. These units were added to the armies' artillery strength for the final attack against Germany. Theirs was generally an employment of brief intensity. When the 350th Battalion, for example, moved up into firing position on 1 March 1945, it was attached to the 413th Field Artillery Group, XXI Corps, where it supported the 63d and 10th Divisions in their attacks toward Saarbrucken. By 22 March, the battalion went into bivouac east of Bitche, France, remaining until 5 April, when it moved to Heidelberg. There it was attached to the 421st Field Artillery Group in the 44th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade, with the mission of guarding installations-a duty which it performed until the end of the war. During April its units guarded thirty-five posts, including a prisoner of war hospital, an airfield, a repeater station, an engineer laboratory, and various dumps. In addition it operated a 245-man motorized patrol.32
 
The 686th Battalion, similarly, after firing in support of the 4th Division to which it was attached from 1 April, went to the 44th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade on 27 April for duty with its 68th Group of the Seventh Army Security Command. During the month, the 686th Battalion displaced twenty-one times, an indication of the speed with which it had to move. As a security force, the unit was charged with maintaining order and safeguarding American troops and installations in an area about twelve miles wide and thirty miles long adjacent to the Danube.33
 
Of the remaining Negro artillery units
[657]

employed in the European theater, the 777th Field Artillery Battalion and the 452d Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion had the fuller employment careers. The 777th, a 4.5-inch gun unit, was one of the Negro battalions activated in mid-1943, with cadre from the 969th and 3334 Field Artillery Battalions. It was one of the units whose entire training and most of whose operational service was spent under a white group headquarters, originally the 181st and, after 30 October 1944, the 202d Field Artillery Group. After a training period just short of a year, it left Camp Beale, California, on 1 August 1944 for England, transshipping to UTAH Beach on 16 September. It was one of the units that arrived just at the time when transportation for men and supplies was in great demand. Two officers and 76 men from the unit took 36 vehicles to form a portion of a truck convoy which carried men and supplies to the front, covering 3,100 miles between 25 September and 6 October. The remainder of the unit stayed in Brioquebosc, France, until 25 October 1944, when the unit set out for Tongres, Belgium, where it joined the XIX Corps as a general support unit attached to the 202d Field Artillery Group supporting the 30th Division. It participated in the Kohlschied penetration (31 October 1944 to 20 November 1944) and in the Julich sector, occupying positions at Richterich and Ubach, Germany. From 24 November it was in support of XIII Corps at Ubach and at Geilenkirchen. When the 349th Field Artillery Group, a Negro unit, became operational at Hontem, Germany, on 1 February 1945, the 777th Battalion was attached to it. The 754th, a white 155-mm. howitzer unit, joined the 349th Group on 8 February, and the 548th, a white 155-mm. gun battalion, was attached ten days later. For the first five days of February the 777th Battalion supported the British 12 Corps through the 349th Group; on 6 February it and the 349th Group turned to general support of XVI Corps, with which it and the other attached battalions of the 349th Group operated for the remainder of the campaign in Germany. In March the 777th saw its greatest firing activity. From positions at Heidhausen, east of the Roer, the battalion fired 1,337 rounds on the night of 3-4 March. At Weiers, on 4 March, the battalion, in the presence of the corps and corps artillery commanders, fired XVI Corps' first rounds across the Rhine into Mehrum. From Altfeld, between 5 and to March, the battalion sank barges, destroyed vehicles, including prime movers towing guns, and fired on a troop assembly point in the pocket south of Wesel and west of the Rhine. It fired preparations and supporting fires for Operation FLASH POINT, XVI Corps' crossing of the Rhine. On 25 March the 777th Battalion and the 349th Group crossed the Rhine, the first of the Negro combat support units to do so.34
 
Of the Negro antiaircraft artillery units with consistent and full employment in antiaircraft duties in the European theater, the 452d Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion was one of the most active. The XII Corps, to which this unit was attached in battle, considered it to be among the
[658]

best units of its type.35 It was among the antiaircraft units whose batteries were employed in England in 1943 and early 1944 to protect military installations.36 It spent most of its continental career protecting field artillery battalions from aerial attacks. From its arrival in Normandy on 23 June to early August 1944 it furnished antiaircraft protection for the landing beaches. In August it protected oil dumps, river crossings, and road junctions, and sent its first platoons to protect XII Corps' field artillery battalions. It made its first claims on 23 August when, out of fifteen enemy planes attacking 191st Field Artillery Battalion positions at the Sens River crossing, the 452d downed two, damaged two, and probably damaged two more. No casualties were suffered by the 191st Battalion.
 
Unlike many other antiaircraft battalions, the 452d was kept busy throughout its career overseas, although there were days and weeks when enemy planes were few. When protecting field artillery battalions, the 452d batteries and platoons, as was usual for antiaircraft units thus employed, were attached to a half-dozen or more field artillery units simultaneously. At one time in October 1944, the 452d platoons and batteries were protecting emplacements of the 738th, 179th, 945th. 731st, 191st, 752d 267th, and 278th Field Artillery Battalions. All of these were white units.37 The battalions which it protected reinforced and supported over a dozen infantry and armored divisions.
 
No installation defended by the 452d suffered materiel damage or personnel killed by enemy aircraft, although the battalion and the field artillery battalions which it protected suffered personnel losses from other types of enemy action. When enemy artillery fire caused casualties in the field artillery units that the 452d's platoons were protecting, men of the 452d went to the aid of men in the field artillery batteries. On one such occasion, on 27 September 1944, the platoon sergeant and an aidman of a platoon furnishing protection to a field artillery battalion went voluntarily to the aid of wounded men when they realized that the battalion's own aidmen could not give immediate attention to all casualties. When enemy shelling increased in intensity, the antiaircraft platoon and elements of the artillery withdrew, but the 452d's two soldiers remained to assist in the care and evacuation of the wounded. Another time, on 4 December 1944, three privates from a 452d platoon protecting a field artillery battalion, which had come under severe enemy artillery fire, went out to a gun position and removed five injured men to the battalion aid station, thus allowing the regular gun crew to carry on an uninterrupted fire mission.38
 
The 452d was among units informally cited for economical "shoots" after one of its batteries caused the destruction of an enemy ME-109 plane with four rounds of 40-mm. ammunition.39 In
[659]

March 1945, as XII Corps and Third Army drove east to the Rhine, enemy air activity increased sharply. The 452d experienced more activity during this period than at any other time since entering combat. It had 133 engagements during the month, claiming 42 enemy aircraft destroyed and 23 probably destroyed. On 17 March, two combat commands of the 4th Armored Division spearheading the advance toward the Nahe River were attacked throughout the day by Luftwaffe FW-190's and ME-109's dive bombing and strafing elements of the two commands in groups of two to five from an altitude of about 1,000 feet. Of a total of 53 planes in the area, the white 489th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, attached to the 4th Armored Division, destroyed 12, and the 452d, supporting corps artillery farther to the rear, engaged the remainder as they strafed artillery positions. The 452d destroyed 4 and probably destroyed 4 more.
 
The Nahe bridgehead, established at Bad Krueznach on 18 March, was attacked by enemy planes for the next forty-eight hours. The bridges suffered no damage and protecting antiaircraft units destroyed eleven and probably destroyed three more enemy planes. Of this total the 452d accounted for six of those destroyed and two of the probables. On 20 March, the Luftwaffe made its maximum effort against the Nahe bridgehead, sending over a total of 248 planes against positions now defended by elements of nine antiaircraft battalions. Of the aircraft attacking the area, 36 were definitely destroyed by antiaircraft fire and 14 were probably destroyed. The 452d, with 12 destroyed and 4 probables, was the high scoring unit, followed by the 489th Battalion, which destroyed 11.
 
When the 5th Division reached the Rhine at Oppenheim on 22 March and a ponton bridge was begun across the river, the 452d was among the units protecting the bridge site. On the afternoon of the 29d, while the bridge was still being built, 58 enemy planes operated against the area. Of these, 19 were destroyed and 8 were probably destroyed by antiaircraft units; of these the 452d destroyed 10.40
 
The 452d did not suffer casualties from air activity until April 1945 when, in an engagement with twenty ME-109's and FW-190's, the unit had four soldiers wounded. Just before the end of the war, the German Air Force had another spurt of activity. In the first days of May, the 452d had thirteen engagements netting four planes destroyed. Its final total of claims, confirmed and approved by V-E Day when its platoons were scattered through Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, was sixty-seven and eleven-twelfths destroyed, nineteen probably destroyed, and eleven damaged.41
 
Tanks and Tank Destroyers
 
Armored units, by virtue of their use in task forces and the attachment of their companies and platoons to infantry, had closer continuing contacts with the main stream of battle than most other small supporting Negro units. De-
[660]

spite the fact that some were attached to a number of units, seldom staying long enough with any one unit to become fully acclimatized, the employment of these units was generally normal for organizations of their types.
 
The 761st Tank Battalion, the first of the Negro armored units to be committed to combat, landed at OMAHA Beach on 10 October 1944 after a brief stay in England. The unit then had 6 white and 30 Negro officers and 676 enlisted men. The battalion entered France with greater confidence than most Negro units could muster upon entry into a theater of operations. It had gained assurance during the training period at Camp Hood, Texas, where it had been told by higher commanders, including the Second Army's Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, that it had a superior record and that much was expected of it. The 76 1st firmly believed that it owed its existence and survival and, therefore, a top performance, to Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, now dead on the battlefield. Its belief in its future and its sense of responsibility were renewed when it joined the 26th Division of XII Corps, Third Army. The division commander, Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul, in welcoming the battalion on 31 October, told the tankers and their officers: "I am damned glad to have you with us. We have been expecting you for a long time, and I am sure you are going to give a good account of yourselves. I've got a big hill up there that I want you to take, and I believe that you are going to do a great job of it." Two days later, General Patton visited the battalion and, standing on the same half-track used by General Paul, challenged the unit in characteristic Patton manner: "Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are, so long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sonsabitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down, don't let me down!" 42 The 761st, convinced that it was needed and wanted, that its first job was already laid out for it, and that the most highly regarded of armored commanders as well as the 26th Division's commander expected only the best from it, had now only to enter battle to justify its own hopes and those of men who, it felt, wished it well.
 
From the time that it was committed to combat on 7 November 1944 the 76 1st Battalion spent 183 days in action, its only pauses accounted for by the time needed to move from one task to another. In the Third Army it was attached to the 26th, list, and 87th Divisions, the 17th Airborne Division, and the 17th Armored Group; in the Ninth Army to the 95th and 79th Divisions and the XVI Corps; and in the Seventh Army to the 103d and list Divisions. With these larger units it fought in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Austria.
 
For its entry into combat on 8 Novem-
[661]

ber at Athainville east of Nancy, parts of the battalion, as was normal for separate armored units, were attached to elements of the 26th Division and placed in special task forces. The 26th Division was then preparing for XII Corps' November offensive.43 Company A of the 761st was attached to the 104th Infantry with one platoon attached to the 101st Infantry. Company C was attached to the 328th Infantry. Provisional Task Force A contained Company K of the 101st Infantry, engineers, the 602d Tank Destroyer Battalion (-), and the remainder of the 761st Tank Battalion (excepting its mortar, assault gun, and reconnaissance platoons, in reserve) , all under the command of Lt. Col. Peter J. Kopcsak, commander of the 602d Tank Destroyer Battalion.44
 
On the first day, Company A's two platoons supported the 104th Infantry's attack and capture of Vic-sur-Seine; the remaining platoon of Company A supported infantry in taking Moyenvic. Company C, attached to the 328th Infantry, used its twelve tanks in the assault on Bezange-la-Petite and a hill to the southeast.45 On 9 November, in the season's first snowstorm, the two platoons of Company A supported the 104th Infantry, which attacked and took Chateau-Salins after four hours of fighting. Company A then turned east toward Morville-les-Vic. The remainder of the battalion in Task Force
 
A, with infantry mounted on its tanks, was then approaching Morville. Two platoons of Company D, with two companies of the 3d Battalion, 101st Infantry, took positions south of Salival, a small town from which enemy machine gun fire enfiladed the western slope of Hill 310 (Cote St. Jean) , the 26th Division's main objective for the day. Company D shelled the town and set it afire. Infantry, at dusk, entered Salival and passed through the woods beyond.
 
At Morville-les-Vic, where heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire was encountered, tanks of Company B shelled the town. When they attempted to pass through, roadblocks and bazooka fire stopped the tanks. The lead tank, knocked out, blocked the narrow main road, halting the tank column. Infantry cleared the town in house-to-house fighting. In the meantime, Company C seized high ground to the northwest of Morville and held until infantry took over, while Company D, moving to the left flank from Salival to screen the attack, broke up a German counterattack. Company C, moving down from its high ground toward Morville, ran into a tank trap running from woods at the edge of the high ground to a road leading through Morville. Beyond the tank ditch were camouflaged pill boxes, by now further concealed by new-fallen snow. Company C lost nine enlisted men and one officer killed and seven tanks-four recoverable-in the action along the tank trap. Despite low visibility caused by the weather, the battalion's assault gun platoon, aided by the observations of artillery liaison planes, completed its firing missions, securing direct hits on an enemy armored vehicle and four trucks. Task Force A, finally
[662]

getting seven tanks through Morville, went on toward Hampont, the tanks assisting the infantry in gaining a foothold in the Bois de Geline to the northeast.46
 
In its entry into battle the 761st had three experiences which, in a unit with less confidence and will to achieve, might have proved disastrous. On the evening of 7 November the 761st tank column approached a crossroads at Arracourt, France, on the way to its line of departure for the next day's attack. A French farmer, possibly a collaborationist, drove a herd of cattle into the crossroads with the result that tanks, tank destroyers, and trucks loaded with infantrymen piled up into a confused traffic jam. The 761st's commander, Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates, leading his tank column, arrested the Frenchman and got traffic moving. Just as the crossroads cleared, heavy enemy artillery fire fell, disabling one of the tanks, and an enemy patrol, infiltrating the position, opened fire with automatic weapons, seriously wounding Colonel Bates, who was evacuated for hospitalization that was to last until mid-February. The loss of its commander just before its first battle alone might have unnerved the unit, but this mishap was followed by a more unusual event, more mysterious than unnerving. Its first five tankers killed, the first American Negro tankers to die in any war 47 were all members of the same tank crew. Their tank showed no sign of having been hit by shell, shell fragment, or bullet, yet the men within were all dead, sitting upright in their normal crew positions, apparently untouched, and with only a look of surprise on their faces. The next day, the 761st's executive officer, acting as battalion commander, was evacuated for battle fatigue. Lt. Col. Hopis E. Hunt came forward from the 17th Armored Group to assist the battalion's acting commander. Shortly after his arrival, both Colonel Hunt and Colonel Kopcsak, commander of Task Force A, were wounded by shell fire. After Colonel Kopcsak was evacuated, Hunt, though wounded, took over command of the task force. With the evacuation of the 761st's acting commander, Colonel Hunt took over command of the tank battalion as well, a command which he retained until the end of November.
 
But the unit's first day's work had compensations. If the men of the 761st had brooded on what death buttoned up in a tank was like, they gave no outward sign; if they had wondered what they would do without their accustomed leaders and how well they would stand up under heavy fire, they now knew. The demonstration of leadership afforded by Colonel Hunt became an admired standard of conduct for the 761st. Around the tank companies and platoons of the 761st, the infantrymen of the units of the 26th Division were performing deeds of heroism on 8 and 9 November, one resulting in a Medal of Honor for an aidman with the 328th Infantry who, though wounded himself during the fight near Bezange-la-Petite, worked his way under fire to dress the wounds of others, giving instructions to infantrymen until his own wounds made
[663]

it impossible for him to speak.48 These deeds were emulated by members of the 761st who before the unit's career was over, had won eleven Silver Stars and sixty-nine Bronze Stars, four of the latter with clusters, and nearly all for heroism under fire.49
 
On those first two days the 761st discovered as well in the crucial places-within its companies and platoons-good and trustworthy leadership to match that of its temporary commander. The platoons of Company A attached to the 104th Regiment were commanded by the one remaining white company commander in the battalion, Capt. David Williams II, a Yale graduate about whose point of view toward service with them the men of the 761st had not always been too sure. Just before the start of the offensive, Williams, "talking it up" with a Harlem twist, called to his men: "Now look here, ya cats, we gotta hit it down the main drag, and hip some of them unhepped cats on the other side. So let's roll right on down ole Seventh Avenue, and knock 'em, Jack!" This eased tension before the first tank rolled out. The unit's own enlisted historian commented candidly:
 
And that guy surprised us, too, for we had our doubts about him, back in the US, but he came through, and proved that you can be wrong, and we found out that we were wrong, for Dave Williams was alright (sic). We found that out on the battlefield, when the ferries were sending everything our way. In fact, we felt that Dave Williams actually liked killing up there, and it became a sort of secondary `sport' after the primary one, which of course, was 'keeping from getting killed.'50
 
On its first day, the lead tank in Company A ran into a roadblock obstructing the tank column. A sergeant dismounted under small arms fire, attached a cable to the roadblock, and moved it off the road. His action permitted the infantry-tank team to proceed and open the way to the successful assault and capture of Vic-sur-Seille.51 When the lead tank of Company B was set afire in the streets of Morville, one man within was severely wounded and the tank commander, emerging, was machine gunned and killed. The other members of the crew, realizing that until their fire mission was completed, infantry could not proceed-a dozen or more infantry of Company K, 101st Infantry, were already dead or wounded in the street around the tank-climbed out through the turret and escape hatch, bringing their weapons with them. They sprayed submachine gun fire on enemy foot troops and on fire positions in the upper stories of houses. A corporal climbed back into the disabled tank through the bottom escape hatch, manned his machine gun, and silenced several enemy machine gun positions and a bazooka team firing from an upstairs window. The tank was hit twice again, but the crew remained under it, firing individual weapons. In the Company D action along the edge of the Bois de Geline, one tank gunner personally accounted for twenty of the enemy with his machine gun. A tank crew,
[664]

after its tank had been hit and taken by the Germans, dismounted and recaptured the tank. In the heaviest action of the two days, that of Company C at the tank trap near Morville, 1st Sgt. Samuel C. Turley and 2d Lt. Kenneth W. Coleman, tank platoon leaders, organized crews from their disabled tanks into a dismounted combat group. This group successfully held off the enemy attack while crews from other trapped tanks escaped along the tank ditch. During the action, Coleman and Turley were both killed by enemy fire.52
 
During the two days there were, as well, men who re-entered tanks to pull out trapped comrades, tank commanders who strapped wounded men to their vehicles and successfully evacuated them, and men who, in exposed positions, pulled their heavy machine guns from their disabled tanks and returned German fire on foot. One tank driver, seeing seriously injured white infantrymen lying in the open, dismounted from his tank, moved across open terrain under heavy artillery and small arms fire, evacuated the men to the shelter of a disabled tank and administered first aid, and thereby saved the lives of three of the wounded. White infantrymen of Company K similarly but unsuccessfully tried to remove the body of the 761st's tank commander from his burning tank in Morville. A number lost their lives or were wounded in the attempt.53 At the close of the second day, the 761st felt that it had won the right to its motto, "Come Out Fighting."
 
For the remainder of November and into December, the 761st Tank Battalion continued to support the 26th Division in its movement through the Foret de Bride et de Koecking to Dieuze and Benestroff and toward the Sarre, where the division attacked and took Sarre Union and fought through the Maginot Line to Obergailbach on the German border. Fighting in the snow and mud against the stubborn resistance of the Germans in Lorraine was hard all the way. On 12 November two platoons of Company A repulsed an enemy counterattack at Wuisse, destroying two enemy tanks. The next day, one platoon, attached to the 2d Battalion, 104th Infantry, counterattacked on its own initiative, took Wuisse in the afternoon, and defended the town through the night.54 On 18 November, at Guebling, when the engineers completed a bridge hastily constructed under artillery and small arms fire, 761st tanks crossed into the town to give additional support to the infantry, found heavy mine fields, and then took a "terrific beating" which prevented continuation of support on that day.55 The crew of one tank escaped and returned for a replacement tank, and then rejoined the company at Guebling. Of the five tanks in Guebling, three were lost to antitank fire and one to mines, leaving but one tank operational in the town.56
 
Casualties in men and tanks were heavy during November-22 killed in action, 2 dead of wounds, 81 wounded, 44 nonbattle casualties, and 14 tanks
[665]

lost and 20 damaged.57 But tanks could be recovered and repaired, or replaced. On the other hand the 761st, like most other active Negro combat units, had difficulty replacing men. During its first month no replacements arrived at all and the unit ended the month with a shortage of 113 men.58 On 4 December the first of the 761st's replacements arrived. But these were not armored force replacements-there were none-and the unit had to retrain them on the job.
 
The unit received numerous requests for transfer from men in the theater's service units. A number of these had to be refused because of low test scores or court-martial records. At times the unit received master and first sergeants from service units in grade, but many of these men could not be used despite their high test scores and grades. On 19 December the unit transferred 58 of its unsuitable replacements and the next day it sent 17 to other units.59 By February it had accumulated 16 noncommissioned officers of the first four grades who had to be transferred out; at the same time it requested that 2'7 more replacements who had "shown no aptitude for armored training" be transferred.60 Though it gained some excellent men both from replacements and volunteer transfer, the battalion, like other armored and artillery units, remained short of personnel much of the time. In March it was short to Negro officers and 89 enlisted men. Since all of its wounded officers and a fifth of its hospitalized enlisted men returned to duty with the unit the 761st was generally able to perform its duties despite deficiencies and shortages in replacements.61
 
The 761st's work with the 26th Division in November elicited special commendation from the corps commander, in addition to commendation that went to all units of the 26th Division and XII Corps:62
 
1. I consider the 761st Tank Battalion to have entered combat with such conspicious courage and success as to warrant special commendation.
2. The speed with which they adapted themselves to the front line under most adverse weather conditions, the gallantry with which they faced some of Germany's finest troops, and the confident spirit with which they emerged from their recent engagements in the vicinity of Dieuze, Morville les Vic, and Guebling entitle them surely to consider themselves of the veteran 761st.63
 
To this General Paul added: "It is with extreme gratification that the Corps Commander's commendation is forwarded to you. Your battalion has supported this division with great bravery under the most adverse weather and terrain conditions. You have my sincere
[666]

wish that success may continue to follow your endeavors."64
 
When the 26th Division was relieved for a rest, beginning 9 December, the 761st Battalion was attached to the incoming 87th Division, officially committed to battle for the first time on 13 December. On 14 December the first of the 761st's tanks crossed the border into Germany. By 15 December the battalion had lost a majority of its tanks from enemy action and from mechanical failure caused by continuous commitment of all available tanks for extended periods of time. When the battalion returned to Sarre Union for four days of maintenance, only three tanks were operational. On the march from the Sarre region to Neufchateau, Belgium, southwest of Bastogne, beginning on 24 December and ending on 30 December, again in attachment to the 87th Division, ten medium tanks dropped from the column because of maintenance failures.65
 
Beginning on 31 December, when the battalion and the 345th Infantry of the 87th Division took Rondu and Nimbermont from an enemy still fighting around Bastogne, through January the 761st engaged in successful actions at Bonnerue, Recogne, Remagne, Tillet, and Pironpie in Belgium; at Steinbach in Luxembourg, and, working with the 17th Airborne Division, at Gouvy, Hautbillan, and Watermall. Steep and icy hills and snow-covered swampy ground in the Ardennes caused wear and tear on power trains and engines and caused tanks to bog down.66 When at times trucks could not reach elements of the unit, the light tanks of the 761st's Company D towed ammunition trailers to supply medium tanks from dumps placed as far forward as possible.67
 
At the beginning of February the battalion moved 140 miles to Jabeek, Holland, near the German border, where it was attached briefly to the 95th Division in XVI Corps, then holding a defensive position along the Maas while waiting for Ninth Army's drive to the Rhine to begin. Supporting the 79th Division in this offensive, which began on 23 February, elements of the 761st participated in the capture of End, Holland, cut the Roermond-Julich Railway at Milich, and moved on to Erkling where they crossed the border into Germany on 3 March. The battalion then moved on to Schwannenberg, mopping up bypassed pockets of resistance and capturing prisoners left behind by the advance of the 2d Armored Division. On 7-8 March it set out to join the Seventh Army where, on 12 March, each of its medium tank companies was attached to one of the 103d Division's regiments.68
 
When the 761st arrived, the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Towed), another Negro unit, was already attached to the 103d Division. The 614th, like the 761st, had five white officers; the remainder of its staff was Negro and all of its company officers were Negroes. The 614th had been with the 103d Division since 7 December. It was committed to action on 28 November when it began to relieve the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP), then supporting the 3d Cavalry Group (Mechanized). In the
[667]

3d Cavalry, one company of the 614th's towed three-inch guns was attached to each of the group's squadrons with the remainder of the battalion in reserve. At the time, the 9d Cavalry Group was protecting the north flank of XX Corps from the Moselle River to the vicinity of Ober Tunsdorf in Germany, where it maintained contact with the Both Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 10th Armored Division, then operating in a zone between the Moselle and Saar Rivers. Before it lay the dragons' teeth, antitank ditches, and pillboxes of the Siegfried Line. On 1 December, its first day in the line, the 614th's Company A scored three direct hits on enemy-held pillboxes north of Borg. The Germans raised a white flag, but when a cavalry patrol approached they opened fire. The tank destroyers then resumed firing and the enemy retreated out of his pillboxes. The company on its first day also accounted for one German 88-mm. gun, "displaying accuracy in destroying this weapon with three rounds in the vicinity of Borg," the 3d Cavalry Group commented.69 Late that night the 614th was relieved from the 3d Cavalry Group for movement to Luneville, France, where on Seventh Army orders, it was attached to VI Corps and, on 5 December to the 103d Division, effective upon arrival at Kuttolsheim, France.70 There its Company A was attached to Task Force Forest, made up of the 103d Reconnaissance Troop, a company of the 756th Tank Battalion and a company of the 409th Infantry.71 Company C was attached to the 411th Infantry.
 
The 103d Division was in process of relieving the 45th and 79th Divisions in a sector on the west bank of the flooded Zintzel du Nord River. Beginning 8 December, as elements of the 109d Division moved into line, the companies of the 614th began to fire, Company C knocking out an observation post in a church steeple, destroying a machine gun emplacement, and delivering harassing fire on enemy troops.72
 
The 103d Division's attack began before dawn on 9 December, with a crossing of the Zintzel to seize Uttenhofen and Mertzwiller on the opposite bank. The attack progressed through Griesbach and Fortsheim. In both towns observation posts in church steeples were knocked out by the 614th's guns.73 When the attack reached the Maginot Line, German defensive positions grew, stronger. In the rugged hills and woods of the Lembach-Climbach area, the 411th Infantry met particularly strong resistance. The regiment organized a task force under its executive officer to break the German hold on Climbach, a town in an open valley with high, well-defended ridges guarding its approaches. The task force contained a platoon of combat engineers, a platoon of tanks, a company of infantry, and a platoon of the 614th's towed tank destroyer guns. The force had the mission of pushing to the town of Climbach
[668]

and holding it, cutting the line of communications to Lembach.74
 
The task force left Prueschdorf at 1020 on the foggy, cold morning of 14 December. Visibility was less than 300 yards. The force, with Lt. Charles L. Thomas, commander of the 614th's Company C, in the lead armored scout car, proceeded through enemy territory, slowly ascending the steep, winding road toward Climbach. Heavy enemy small arms, automatic weapons, mortar, and artillery fire fell along the route. When within a thousand yards of Climbach, Thomas' M20 was knocked out by a shell and mine. Thomas, though wounded, dismounted from his wrecked car and helped his crew, including another wounded man, to dismount. Infantry and tanks deployed to both sides of the road. The task force commander directed the tank destroyer platoon to proceed up the road and go into firing positions. There they would place fire on the enemy in and around Climbach and act as a base of fire while the rest of the force flanked the German positions. Leaving the protection of his wrecked vehicle, Thomas ordered and directed the dispersion and displacement of two of his tank destroyers. These destroyers were soon returning the fire of the now alerted enemy, who were directing the fire of all of their ridge-top weapons upon the task force. Thomas, despite multiple wounds in his chest, legs, and left arm, continued to direct his men. Only when he was certain that his platoon commander was in full control of the situation did Thomas permit himself to be evacuated.75
 
On their exposed hillside, the ten-man tank destroyer crews went into action, loading, aiming, firing and then scooting back to their half-tracks to fire their .50-caliber machine guns at the enemy in the woods. The gun crews dwindled in size in a few minutes. One tank destroyer crew, although in the open, had better luck than the others. Its half-track bogged down in the open field but in a slight draw. The enemy poured small arms and tank fire into the position without being able to destroy it. Gun crews reduced to as few as two men went on firing, while the tank destroyers continued in action for four hours. Tanks were bogged down in the mud too far to the rear to be of any help. Three BAR men of the Pith's platoon volunteered to give flank security. The tank destroyer gunners and drivers flattened out alongside their guns and poured M t and carbine fire into the enemy. Technician 5 Robert W. Harris, knowing that the last gun was running out of ammunition, drove his truck to the rear over fire-swept roads for a new supply. When the truck was fully loaded, he started back up the Climbach hill. About half way up, he was stopped by the task force commander, who told him that he could not go farther because enemy fire was too heavy. Disregarding the warning, Harris drove to within twenty-five yards of his gun positions, unloaded the truck, uncrated the ammunition, and began to carry it forward. The remaining men of the platoon made trip after trip under fire to carry the 54 pound ammunition boxes to the one gun still functioning. Infantrymen of the 411th infiltrated from the flanks while the tank destroyers engaged the defend-
[669]

ing enemy. By the time darkness came, the enemy was offering only small arms fire from Climbach itself.
 
This "outstanding performance of mass heroism on the part of the officers and men of Company C, 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion," the 103d Division reported, "precluded a near catastrophic reverse for the task force." Their action before Climbach, in which the platoon had more than 50 percent casualties, lost three guns, two half-tracks, and an armored car, enabled the task force to capture the town and forced the enemy to retreat from Climbach and retire to his Siegfried Line. Two infantry-tank counterattacks against the town during the night were beaten off. For its action at Climbach, the 3d Platoon, Company C, 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, received the Distinguished Unit Citation, the first unit assigned or attached to the 103d Division and the first Negro unit to do so. In this action, in addition to a Distinguished Service Cross for Lieutenant Thomas, the platoon earned four Silver Stars, two of them awarded posthumously, and nine Bronze Stars.76 When Maj. Gen. Charles C. Haffner, Jr., commanding the 103d Division, personally pinned their decorations on two officers and nine enlisted men at a ceremony on 28 December, the unit declared it "a great morale factor in our troops."77
 
Through the winter of 1944-45 the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion remained attached to the 103d Division. It participated in the division's holding operations and limited offensives on the left flank of the Seventh Army and along the Moder River line. It fired star shells for patrols and indirect fire missions in attachment to the 828th Field Artillery Battalion, thereby relieving a critical shortage of howitzer ammunition. Its men engaged in raids and patrols with elements of the 103d Division.78 On New Year's Day, 1945, an enemy patrol attacked a thirteen-man outpost of Company A. The outpost was isolated for about an hour while heavy small arms fire was exchanged. When the action was over, the outpost had killed nine and captured two of the enemy without suffering losses itself. On 12 January the 1st Section, 1st Platoon, Company C, directed to destroy an enemy observation post at Forbach, fired 143 rounds in forty minutes and scored 139 direct hits.
 
On 20 January, when the battalion joined in a planned withdrawal of the 103d Division to new defensive lines west of Hagenau, Companies A and C remained in position in order to make their withdrawal under cover of darkness. The two companies met with unusual difficulties in their withdrawal over roads covered with snow and ice. For several hours, commanders of both companies remained behind the infan-
[670]

try force covering the withdrawal in an effort to salvage all possible materiel. One company commander and eighteen of his enlisted men arrived within friendly lines sixteen hours after the infantry covering force had withdrawn. One platoon towed one of its guns out with an ammunition vehicle. The infantry covering force, when it reached another platoon's position, insisted that the men leave and abandon their gun, but the men refused to do so. Their attempts to halt a wrecker or a tank moving to the rear failed, for withdrawing tanks had already been lost along the slippery roads and no tank driver wished to risk pulling a half-track out. Finally, the men determined to pull their gun as far as possible with their one jeep. Five hours later, fourteen cold, wet, tired soldiers, their platoon leader, and their gun, towed by a jeep, reached the new lines of the 109d Division. Despite the efforts of the men of the two companies, three guns, six half-tracks, and miscellaneous equipment had to be destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy who, though disengaged, was expected to move rapidly into the area given up by the 103d Division. The battalion took up positions in the security and antitank defenses of the division along the south bank of the Rothbach and Moder Rivers.
 
During the weeks of enemy pressure and attacks against Seventh Army, coinciding with but less successful than the counterattack to the north in the Ardennes, the outposts of the 614th became as accustomed to fighting off patrols and raiding parties as did infantrymen. Typically laconic was the report of one platoon: "Last night a 6 man German patrol tried to infiltrate our out post line. But they all were killed. Otherwise it was very quiet in this sector."79
 
In the days before the March offensive, the battalion continued patrolling and training. A carefully trained party, consisting of two officers and thirty enlisted men from the reconnaissance platoons, raided an old mill between Bischoltz and Mulhausen on February, achieving perfect co-ordination and complete surprise. Each officer and enlisted man had been fully instructed not only in his own job but also in the jobs of the other men. Maps and recent air photos were carefully checked and the raid was rehearsed for three days. At 2000 the raiding party, assembling at a previously designated point, moved through the main line of resistance without drawing enemy fire. Two teams of raiders, consisting of six men each, entered the mill, while a section of machine gunners, setting up on either side of the building, covered roads outside. Eight of the enemy were killed and six prisoners captured; the raiding party itself suffered not a single casualty.80 In describing this raid, the 103d Division's enlisted historians now termed the battalion "the crack negro 614th." 81
 
With the attachment of the 761st Tank Battalion to the 103d Division on 12 March, each regiment of the 103d had one of the Negro tank and one of the
[671]

Negro tank destroyer companies attached in preparation for Seventh Army's spring offensive. When the Seventh Army's attack opened on the morning of 15 March, all elements of the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion were used in the 103d's sector. Company A laid direct fire on Kindwiller, then formed a force under its commander, along with thirty enlisted men from the company headquarters platoon, to attack and capture the town. The dismounted task force entered the town under fire; when Capt. Beauregard King, leading his men, fell, seriously wounded, the platoon sergeant, Charles E. Parks, ran to him. King ordered him on with "Don't stop for me-finish the job!" Parks took command of the force, took the town by 1,000, and captured nine prisoners in the process.82 The 1st and 2d Reconnaissance Platoons, under the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Frank S. Pritchard, with a platoon of Company B supporting, raided Bischoltz at 1590 and took forty-one prisoners. Companies B and C supported the regiments to which they were attached with direct fire.83 The advance continued for the next three days against little resistance until the 103d Division and its supporting troops reached Siegfried Line towns. There, on 20 March, a platoon of Company C of the 761st, supporting the 411th Infantry in its assault on Nieder Schlettenbach, neutralized 13 pillboxes and 12 machine gun positions, captured one 75-mm. antitank gun intact, and accounted for 35 enemy dead. Another platoon of Company C, supporting the 409th Infantry before Riesdorf, reduced 6 pillboxes, killed 8 Germans, and took 40 prisoners. Riesdorf, well defended by pillboxes and dugouts, was a key point to the division's advance through the Siegfried Line.
 
On 21 March, Task Force Rhine was formed from the 761st Tank Battalion (less Company C) ; the 2d Battalion, 409th Infantry; the 2d Reconnaissance Platoon of the 6 t 4th Tank Destroyer Battalion; and an engineer detachment. It was to be prepared to exploit any breakthrough in the Siegfried Line and to move on to the Rhine upon order. Company C of the 761st, still supporting the 411th and 409th Regiments, neutralized 7 pillboxes and 10 machine gun positions between Nieder Schlettenbach and Erlenbach, taking 64 prisoners and counting 20 enemy dead. It then attacked pillboxes covering the approaches to Riesdorf, capturing 64 prisoners and killing 12 of the enemy at this point. The next day, Company C and infantry entered the town.
 
Task Force Rhine assembled at the edge of Riesdorf on the morning of 22 March. With Colonel Bates in command and the reconnaissance platoon of the 614th and the light tanks of the 761st as its point, the task force moved through Riesdorf at 1600, attacked pillboxes northeast of the town, and then split into two columns, one going north toward Birkenhordt and the other going toward Bollenborn. In the column advancing toward Birkenhordt, soldiers of Company G, 409th, rode the lead tanks, firing at everything that moved. Reaching Birkenhordt, the column advanced against small arms fire and
[672]

moved through the town until halted by two antitank guns. Corps artillery concentrations-the task force remained in constant touch by radio-were called for and the column proceeded through the town, firing at all positions that might conceal an antitank gun. The other column, attempting to enter Bollenborn, was stopped by such heavy antitank fire that it withdrew and rejoined the first column at Birkenhordt. At 1800, the 103d Division directed the task force to proceed north and east to meet the 10th Armored Division, reported to be moving toward Silz. The task force set out into the night. A crater in the road beyond Birkenhordt stopped the advance, but repairs were made in about an hour by the accompanying engineer detachment and the task force moved on, using reconnaissance by fire throughout the column to resist effectively several attempts by groups of German soldiers to halt it.
 
On approaching Silz, the swiftly moving column found the enemy rather than the 10th Armored Division in possession. Turning east, the column fought its way through Silz. Firing into one house, the force's guns hit an ammunition dump. The house exploded, blocking the road. Silz burned brightly, providing illumination as the task force sped through the night over strange and unmarked roads. Shortly after midnight Task Force Rhine reached Munchweiler where its machine gun fire drove enemy crews away from defending antitank guns.
 
Just outside Munchweiler, on the way to Klingenmunster, toward which the 36th Division was reported to be advancing-a report which, like that on the 10th Armored, proved later to be in error-Task Force Rhine overran a retreating German horse-drawn vehicle column. The task force blazed through this column, killing and wounding many of the enemy and leaving the road blocked with the wreckage of vehicles and the bodies of dead horses.
 
Klingenmunster itself was guarded by permanent installations. As Task Force Rhine approached the town at 0 150, it was met by heavy fire, but the combined weapons of the task force were turned on the enemy, many of whom surrendered. They presented another problem. Prisoners taken earlier had been sent to the rear, but the enemy had now closed in behind the task force. Prisoners were loaded on gas and ammunition trucks and every other place where they could possibly ride as the task force moved on into Klingenmunster. One tank platoon with infantry support attempted to enter the town at about 0400 but was driven out by a combination of antitank and small arms fire and darkness. With another platoon it took up firing positions at the edge of Klingenmunster, fired all available weapons into the town, and set fire to several buildings. Task Force Rhine, seeing no sign of the expected 36th Division nor of the motorized friendly infantry which was to follow its advance, entered Klingenmunster and consolidated its positions. It now learned that the 14th Armored Division would pass through it and move on to the Rhine. By the time the contact party of the 14th Armored Division arrived, Task Force Rhine had penetrated 14 kilometers through defended enemy territory. It had destroyed 150 vehicles, 31 pillboxes, 49 machine gun nests, and 29 antitank and 4 self-propelled guns.
[673]

At least 170 of the enemy lay dead and hundreds of horses were killed or left to graze by the roadside. Twelve hundred prisoners were taken. The fire strength of the task force was such that the 761st Tank Battalion alone used slightly more than fifty tons of ammunition before it halted.84 The 409th's infantrymen paid their tribute to the lead tank of the 761st with: "That tank commander in the first tank was wonderful! He overcame a helluva lot of obstacles even before the second tank saw them." 85
 
The 103d Division reached the Rhine with the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion still attached. It went into an interim period of occupation and mopping up in the area cleared of organized resistance. The 614th's elements aided in setting up military government for the occupied towns and in rounding up enemy stragglers and bypassed pockets. The 761st Tank Battalion, relieved from the 103d, was attached to the 71st Division, in Third Army, on 28 March, joining it at Langenselbold, Germany, on 1 April after a 132-mile march. Companies A, B, and C were attached, respectively, to the 5th, 14th, and 66th Infantry. In the Third Army's drive across Germany to Austria, the 761st supported the division, acting at times as the sole armored spearhead for the 71st's advance toward the Danube. Tanks of the 761st entered Steyr, Austria, on 5 May, and the next day met the Russians of the 1st Ukrainian Front at the Enns River. Ten of the 761st's Tanks were part of the honor guard at the 71st Division's command post when General Lothar von Rundulic signed the surrender of his German forces in Austria.86
 
When the 103d Division resumed its pursuit of the enemy on 21 April, the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, with its companies attached to the division's infantry regiments, moved south toward Austria, destroying and neutralizing enemy positions and taking prisoners along the way. The battalion had its last casualties on 2 May, on the outskirts of Scharnitz, Austria, in an engagement in which one officer and six enlisted men were killed while spearheading a task force toward Innsbruck. On 3 May, one platoon from Company C joined the 411th Regimental Combat Team in a dash from Mittenwald toward the Brenner Pass where, on 4 May, they seized the pass without opposition and went beyond to meet elements of the Fifth Army's 88th Division, approaching from Italy.87
[674]

The 784th Tank Battalion, last of the three Negro tank units to be activated, had landed on the Continent on Christmas Day, 1944, and was committed to action on 1 January 1945. It was assigned to the Ninth Army on 27 November 1944 and remained so assigned until the end of the war. The 784th, trained and led throughout its career by the same commander, Lt. Col. George C. Dalia, was attached to the 104th, the 35th, and the 84th Divisions, with individual companies attached to the 8th Infantry and 17th Airborne Divisions for brief periods.
 
Except for an initial incident, the 784th began its active career more quietly than other Negro armored units. On 26 December 1944, while marching to join the 104th Division, the 784th, nearing Soissons, France, heard a bomb blast followed a half hour later by a series of explosions, increasing in intensity and rapidity, coming from an ammunition train probably hit by enemy bombs. At the request of an officer from an ammunition company, the 784th furnished four tanks and three recovery vehicles, with crews, to pull the untouched cars from the train. The crews of the 784th worked all afternoon, while heavy caliber ammunition exploded,88 and managed to save 160 carloads out of about 300.
 
The battalion closed into bivouac near Eschweiler, Germany, on 31 December and joined the 104th Division, which was then actively defending along the Roer River in the Duren and Merken areas.89 Elements of the 784th, with the exception of Company C, which was initially attached to XIX Corps as a part of corps reserve, were attached to units of the 104th; a platoon of Company D's light tanks to the 104th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop; the 81-mm. mortar platoon to the 414th Infantry; Company A (-) and Company B (-) to the 415th Infantry; Provisional Company "X," made up of one platoon of Company A and one of Company B, to the 413th Infantry until Company C joined on 25 January. The battalion's guns were used primarily to reinforce artillery fires until 3 February, when it was released from the 104th Division for attachment to the 35th Division. During the period, the battalion "ably supported the Division in defense . . . ." 90
 
When the 784th joined the 35th Division at Geilenkirchen, Germany, on 8 February 1944, the 35th had just relieved the British 52d Infantry Division in the Ninth Army's line along the Roer. The tank companies trained with the infantry regiments of the 35th Division, preparing for an offensive to begin at the end of the month. Company A, on 26 February, assisted the 134th Infantry in the capture of Hilfarth, Germany, across the Roer. The following day, a motorized attack force consisting of Company 1,137th Infantry, Company A, 784th Tank Battalion, and a platoon of tank destroyers attacked Wassenburg and took it. On the same day one platoon of Company B, attached to the 137th Infantry, participated in a successful attack on Goldrath. Task Force Byrne was organized on 28 February with the mission of liberating
[675]

Venlo, Holland. It contained the 320th Infantry; motorized, the 784th Tank Battalion (less Company A), the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, two field artillery battalions, and attached engineer and medical units, all under the command of Col. Bernard A. Byrne, the infantry regiment's commander. On I March, led by the medium and light tanks of the 784th carrying a company of infantrymen, the task force attacked from Widenrath along the main road to Venlo. Bypassing resistance, except in towns and villages along the road, the task force moved so swiftly that the enemy, surprised, had no time to destroy bridges. With close co-operation between infantry and tanks, resistance met was quickly wiped out. The task force gained twenty-five miles and captured a total of twenty towns and villages. It entered Venlo by 1800. Following the task force column came the 137th and 134th Regimental Combat Teams. Company A, 784th, remained with the 134th Infantry.91
 
While the two regimental combat teams were closing into assembly areas near Venlo, mopping up scattered enemy forces bypassed by Task Force Byrne, the task force set out again at 1000 on 2 March with the mission of seizing, successively, Straelin, Nieukerk, Sevelen, Linfort, and Rhineberg. Except for scattered resistance and a few blown bridges, the task force had little trouble as it forged ahead. One tank was destroyed by panzerfaust fire in Straelin, but the task force was not delayed. Beyond Nieukerk, the infantry was held up by a fourteen-foot antitank ditch blown in the road after the tanks had passed. Guns shelled the road, preventing its repair, until Sgt. Walter Hall, exposed to enemy mortar fire, managed to maneuver his bulldozer tank so as to fill the tank ditch and enable the task force to continue its mission. He then destroyed an enemy antitank gun that was harassing the column.92 Task Force Byrne captured fifteen towns and villages during the day.
 
A night attack was planned for Sevelen. Here enemy paratroop resistance stiffened and slowed down the advance. Out of the task force, one light tank company, one medium tank platoon, an assault gun platoon, and a company of infantry were chosen to attack the town. This force left Nieukerk at 2200 on 2 March and entered Sevelen at about midnight, meeting little resistance until it reached the center of the town. The enemy then blew a bridge over a deep railroad cut at the south entrance to the town, trapping the force in the town and cutting it off from reinforcements and resupply. Nevertheless, at dawn, the troops resumed their attack and the town was cleared of resistance by 1100, just as reinforcements entered Sevelen by another route from the north. In addition to seizing huge stores of food and ammunition, the Sevelen force killed 53 and captured 207 of the enemy.93
 
Company A, with the 1st Battalion, 134th, and tank destroyers, drove against
[676]

slight resistance to a road junction west of Geldern where they made contact with the 12th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, of the British 8th Armored Division.94 Company A was then released from attachment to the 134th Infantry. Upon its release, the regimental commander wrote to the division commander:
 
1. I desire to commend Company A, 74th Tank Battalion, for the splendid performance of that unit while attached to this organization for the period 25 February to 9 March 1845.
2. The Company Commander, .Capt. Robert L. Groglode, 01017224, and his entire company proved indispensable to the 134th Infantry Regiment in the assaulting of Hilfarth and the Roer River and the dash to Wassenburg, Bergenlen, and Geldern.
3. Their high morale, aggressiveness, and willingness to fight deserves commendation.95
 
Within Task Force Byrne, Company B of the 784th was now attached to the 1st Battalion, 320th Infantry, and Company C to the 2d Battalion. Company A, 784th, was attached to the 137th Infantry. As troops approached the Rhine, resistance became stronger. On 4 March the 1st Battalion, 320th Infantry, and Company B, 784th, attacked Kamperbruch, Germany. The tank platoon leader believed friendly infantry to be in the eastern portion of the town when, in fact, they had been forced to withdraw by a strong German counterattack. The 784th's tanks ran into antitank guns, and lost three tanks in the action. One tank commander, Sgt. Douglas F. Kelly, kept his crew in his vehicle when his tank was hit and immobilized, and continued to direct fire against the enemy until his ammunition began to explode. He then dismounted, made his way to an artillery command post under mortar and small arms fire and, by accurate directions, enabled the artillery to destroy four German antitank guns. Technician 5 Dave H. Adams, observing three wounded infantrymen in a burning building, left his tank, which was then pinned down by antitank fire, made his way to the burning building under heavy fire, and evacuated the wounded soldiers.96 Kamperbruch was taken the next day.97
 
The units of the 784th continued to push toward the Rhine with the 35th Division. Company A, on 5 March, became a part of Task Force Murray, along with the 137th Regimental Combat Team, Combat Command C of the 8th Armored Division, a company of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 692d Field Artillery Battalion. Under the command of Col. William Murray of the 137th Infantry, this force had the mission of seizing Wesel and the Rhine bridge still intact at that point. Task Force Byrne moved ahead, with resistance stiffening toward the late afternoon of 6 March. For the next four days the two task forces fought their way ahead, meeting tenacious resistance in Ossenberg, Huck, and Milligen. On 10 March, with the 134th Regimental Combat Team relieving it, Task Force Byrne
[677]

was dissolved. Task Force Murray cleared Ossenberg and went on to Wallach on the same day, completing its mission. Company A, 784th, was relieved from attachment to the 137th Infantry and, with the rest of the 784th, moved to Tegelen, Holland, where, from 12 to 25 March, the battalion was refitted, performed maintenance, and trained replacements.98
 
As part of the plan to exploit the XVI Corps Rhine bridgehead, the 35th Division was ordered on 25 March to move one combat team across the Rhine. Company A, 784th Tank Battalion, again attached to the 134th Infantry as part of Task Force Miltonberger, controlled by the 78th Division, crossed the river at 0800, 26 March, and assisted in the attack upon a wooded area beyond Dinslaken. In the meantime the remainder of the battalion, attached to the 137th Infantry, crossed the Rhine and began to attack toward Neukoln. Resistance, consisting mainly of rifle and panzerfaust fire, was slight, but the advance through the wooded area was slow. Infantry-tank co-operation was close, with tanks as well as infantry sending out patrols to uncover sources of self-propelled gun fire. In Company A's zone of advance along the autobahn north of the Rhine-Herne Canal, the enemy offered only spasmodic resistance. In Company B and C's zone south of the autobahn, resistance was heavier, but the Germans were becoming disorganized and were withdrawing steadily through the Ruhr towns instead of offering their former stiff resistance. Both infantry and tankmen took hundreds of surrendering prisoners.
 
Continuing the offensive from the Rhine to the Ruhr pocket, the 784th's companies attacked toward and across the Rhine-Herne Canal, supporting the infantry regiments in their attacks on Herne and Gelsenkirchen. As resistance wilted, the units continued south, with Companies B and C attached to the 17th Airborne Division on 10 April for that division's attack on Oberhausen and Mulheim. From 13 April, the battalion remained in division reserve, patrolling the wooded area around Blatz on the west bank of the Elbe, and picking up enemy soldiers and materiel left in that area during the German retreat. On occasion companies were attached to infantry for specific missions. Company D went with the 134th Infantry to clear a wooded pocket west of the Elbe on 15 April; one platoon of Company C was attached to the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion for a security patrol mission on 16 April; one platoon of medium tanks was attached to XIII Corps to secure a truck column in the Miueste area on 18 April. The battalion moved to Immensen on 26 April, where it set up occupational governing teams for Immensen and surrounding towns. Smaller towns were governed by teams of one officer and six enlisted men each. A constant guard and patrol system was maintained during this period, which lasted until 26 May For most of June the 784th occupied and governed Kelberg and the vicinity During its combat career the battalion had i40 battle casualties from all causes, including 24 killed in action.99
[678]

The tank and tank destroyer units so far discussed, including the two battalions attached to the 92d Division in Italy, were all marked by one thing in common-the belief that they could carry- out assigned missions. This will and confidence was shared by officers and men alike and, after initial demonstration, became stronger. The units differed in their training, their leadership, the caliber of their enlisted men, and, as outlined, in the nature of their employment, but so long as they were busy as supporting units they performed their duties, sometimes spectacularly but more usually as average units of their types. One other unit provided an exception to any generalization that might be made about them or about smaller units. At the same time, it provided within itself dramatic evidence that the rule of motivation combined with effective leadership was still the best guarantee of usefulness in units regardless of the efficiency of their general training or the presumed abilities of men as measured by test scores.
 
The 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion moved to Europe in November 1944 after its scheduled shipment to the Pacific in the spring of that year had been cancelled because of training deficiencies. Other Negro tank destroyer battalions had been converted to service troops by the spring of 1944. Some of these were considered by the 827th to have been better units than itself. The battalion executive officer, newly assigned to the unit just like the commanding officer, just before its departure for Europe, was of the opinion that the 827th had been "railroaded through the training tests." The S-3, an officer of longer service with the unit, shared this opinion. The commander, a field artillery Reserve officer generally assigned to staff duties before coming to the 827th, was convinced upon receiving his assignment and checking into the training history and qualifications of the battalion that he had been given a mission that would lead to the conversion or inactivation of his unit.
 
The battalion, whose training career had been analyzed and found wanting by previous commanders, had had about two and a half years of training in the United States, but under unusual circumstances. By the time it moved overseas, it had had eight different commanders, more than one of whom had recommended that the battalion be made a service unit. It had been organized and reorganized under four different tables of organization and equipment. It was re-equipped with primary weapons four times. Starting its career with towed 75-mm. tank destroyers, it changed successively to self-propelled M-10's, then to towed 3-inch destroyers, and finally to self-propelled M18's. These changes, normal as tank destroyer theories and weapons changed and improved, involved the disbandment and reconstitution of the battalion reconnaissance company, a unit which, in its final form, was looked upon by the battalion's officers as especially inefficient. With 78 to 83 percent of its personnel in AGCT Classes IV and V, the battalion had been hardly adaptable enough to weather the changes in equipment and organization to which it was subjected. Never able to create a strong group of noncommissioned officers from among its substandard men, the 827th was no luckier with its commissioned officers. It went through the exper-
[679]

fence of having its original white junior officers replaced by Negro officers who, upon the arrival of one of the unit's commanders, were blamed for most of the battalion's difficulties. The Negro officers were later removed and replaced by a new staff of white junior officers, many of whom came from other inactivated Negro tank destroyer units and who were therefore already predisposed to a jaundiced view of their new unit's future. The new white officers were no more successful, whereupon it was determined that the enlisted men; with their extremely low AGCT scores, and not their officers, were primarily at fault.100
 
By August 1944 the 827th had already failed five Army Ground Forces battalion tests. It never did complete its training. Training in indirect fire, one of the chief requirements for certain of the secondary missions of tank destroyer battalions, was waived entirely. During a round of training tests and retests in August 1944, the new battalion commander and most of his officers became firmly convinced that the unit's enlisted men could not and would not learn to maintain communications, read maps, or perform first and second echelon maintenance on their vehicles. Officers generally were convinced that their noncommissioned officers were incompetent and that no better noncommissioned officer material existed within the unit.
 
Preparations for overseas movement and further training in September were disrupted by two general courts-martials, one involving a meat-ax murder and the other a shooting. Both required not only considerable paper work on the part of a headquarters already swamped but also demanded the presence of the many men of the battalion concerned in the cases as witnesses. Both cases were indicative of the general state of discipline within the unit, where neither officers nor noncommissioned officers were able to control their men.
 
The battalion finally left Camp Hood in October 1944, and sailed from New York directly to Marseille, where it bivouacked in Delta Base Section for a month. Moving from the dock to the staging area, the battalion's vehicles became involved in several accidents, most of them attributable to carelessness. The five-day battalion march from Marseille to the Vosges to join the Seventh Army, undertaken over icy roads in December, was a nerve-destroying approach to combat for both officers and enlisted men. Accidents, speeding cases, column breaking and doubling, breakdowns from lack of lubrication, slow starts, and late arrivals marked the route. When the battalion arrived at Sarrebourg, its vehicles went to shops for immediate repairs. Seldom had a unit approached commitment to combat with less confidence or more internal disorganization.
 
At the time Seventh Army was adjusting its lines to cover the gap left by Third Army, which was speeding north to the Bulge. The 827th was attached to the 12th Armored Division, a SHAEF reserve unit, on 20 December 1944. The battalion sent one company into
[680]

the line on 21 December, where it supported the 714th Tank Battalion. The towed 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion was operating in the same area at the time and tried to help orient the 827th. The 827th remained in its assignment for three days, seeing no action but experiencing difficulties with discipline among its gun crews, many of whom, despite previous instructions, left their guns unguarded while they gathered firewood and built fires in violation of front-line discipline. Men leaving their vehicles was to be a continuing problem in the 827th Battalion during its short combat assignment.101
 
Seventh Army expected a German counterattack to begin at any time after 1 January.102 The army established alternate lines for possible withdrawals and alerted its reserve units for use in case of a heavy enemy attack. On 1 January, the 12th Armored Division attached one of the 827th's companies to the 92d Reconnaissance Squadron, then maintaining a counter-reconnaissance screen west of the Saar River and south of the Maginot Line. The company remained on this mission until 6 January. The 12th Armored Division requested XV Corps' permission to use other parts of the 827th in an indirect fire mission planned to increase the fire power of one of the division's artillery battalions, but XV Corps G-3 denied the request since it would involve clearance from Seventh Army and since there was a greater need to hold the battalion for use in its primary mission.103 Fortunate circumstances thus prevented the 827th from getting an initial assignment for which it was completely untrained.
 
On 6 January, Seventh Army relieved the battalion from XV Corps and attached it to VI Corps.104 With Combat Command B, 12th Armored Division, it moved on verbal orders to join Task Force Wahl of the 79th Division, then defending the northern part of that division's lines. Before the 827th could move out, a company officer and an enlisted man shot each other when the company officer attempted to quell a disturbance among soldiers. A disgruntled soldier attacked a first sergeant in another company. The sergeant, shooting at his attacker, hit another enlisted man, an innocent bystander. The company nominated for initial commitment could not move out on time: the company commander reported that approximately 75 percent of his men were missing from their bivouac area and that many of those present were drunk.105 Another company had to substitute and lead the battalion's march to its first combat assignment.
 
Task Force Wahl, under Brig. Gen. George D. Wahl, 79th Division Artillery commander, consisted of the 3d Battalion, 313th Infantry; the 315th Infantry (-) ; the 222d Infantry (-) of the 42d Division; Combat Command A of the 14th Armored Division; the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion (-); and the 827th
[681]

Tank Destroyer Battalion.106 The 242d Infantry of the 42d Division, the 79th Division Artillery, and the 79th Reconnaissance Troop were added later. Elements of the 827th were attached to units of Task Force Wahl at 0300 on 8 January. Twelve days of combat followed in which units of the 827th, in Rittershoffen and Hatten especially, were engaged in fierce and often confused fighting-both German and American forces fought in the streets of Hatten for several days, with American forces cut off from their lines much of the time. The attachments themselves caused some confusion within the newly committed unit. On 9 January, the 827th was attached to the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion, or at least the 813th so believed, although the attachment orders were never confirmed. The 827th thought, on the other hand, that it had been directed to "coordinate" with the 813th. In some cases, the two types of destroyers were expected to be "mixed in together." At the same time, the infantry commanders with whom elements of the 827th were operating expected to control the movements, select positions, and assign targets to tank destroyer guns and crews. Company officers within the 827th felt that the infantry commanders too often confused tank destroyers with tanks and assigned missions which destroyers could not-or were not supposed to-carry out, a tendency which the 819th, a veteran of North Africa, Italy, and Normandy with thirty months overseas, was still finding objectionable. The 827th itself expected orders to be given through its own officers, in fact, had so encouraged this that its crews were directed to fire only on the order of an officer, preferably an 827th officer. The procedure was enormously complicated by poor communications within the 827th. As a result, platoon officers of the 827th shuttled back and forth between their sections, trying to be everywhere at once, and 827th crews fired neither on their own initiative nor on the orders of officers strange to them. The upshot of this arrangement was that infantry commanders concluded that the 827th's crews fired only on those targets which they decided were good ones, and ignored or backed away from all others.107
 
Between 8 and 20 January the platoons and companies of the 827th had varied experiences and gave varying performances-some extraordinarily good in light of the unit's background and some extraordinarily poor by any standards. By 14 January, there existed a tangle of fact and opinion from which the unit was never to extricate itself.
 
One company, starting out for Oberroedorn on 9 January to fill the request of the hard pressed 3d Battalion, 313th Infantry, for more tank destroyers-this battalion had lost all but two of those attached to it-arrived with only two of the twelve guns with which it had started. The company commander sent searching parties to find the remainder of his column, and then went himself into an infantry pillbox where he remained for three and a half hours during a German attack. When he emerged, he went back to pick up his M-18's, and found that seven of his destroyers were already in position though there was utter con-
[682]

fusion about their locations and missions. Two of the destroyers had gone into a ditch along the icy roads, one had been hit, and two others were still unaccounted for. Infantry commanders' requests for fire on particular targets often went unacknowledged while men looked for a confirming 827th officer or argued about the appropriateness of the targets. Men were found in cellars and houses instead of at their guns. On one occasion the destroyer crew refused to fire on a German tank stuck along a roadside; the infantry battalion commander ordered his company officers to shoot the entire crew if it did not fire on the tank, but by this time the Germans had recovered their tank and disappeared. A series of similar incidents, wherein men were not on their guns when needed, where gun commanders executed missions slowly or argued about positions and targets, came to a climax on 14 January when a tank destroyer parked in a barn where antitank mines were stored caught fire. The crew, when ordered by their sergeant to drive the burning destroyer out before the mines caught and exploded, refused to enter the barn. Under orders of the infantry battalion commander, an infantry lieutenant fired five times at the crew, missing each time. Another tank destroyer was brought up to tow the burning destroyer out, but by that time the fire had gone too far. In the meantime, infantrymen had carried the mines from the barn.
 
The infantry battalion commander, already annoyed with dilatory tactics and inefficiency within the 827th, asked for white crews to replace the Negro crews. He had been promised four white crews and, knowing that there were over 200 white replacements in his division, he had considered requesting that some of them be given him for antitank work. Crews of the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which had lost during the month nineteen out of their thirty-one M-10 destroyers, including four captured with the entire 2d Battalion, 314th Infantry, were already manning some of the 827th's M18's.108 Continuing difficulties with elements of the 827th brought the VI Corps inspector general for an investigation of training and discipline within the unit.
 
The investigation disclosed an amazing state of affairs. Certain of the units of the 827th attached to other infantry elements of Task Force Wahl had acquitted themselves well, especially in light of their officers' estimates that their units were at best barely satisfactory, and in view of the facts that they were green and partially trained, and that the entire action took place under strafing by jet planes, against flame-throwing tanks, and in support of troops who were themselves disorganized and confused. On 9 January, for example, Company B of the 827th, then attached to the 68th Armored Infantry in Soulzsous-Forets, was dispatched to the area north of Hatten at 1325 to help halt an enemy attack. Sixteen enemy tanks were headed for Rittershoffen and fifteen more approached Hatten. The' tanks approaching Rittershoffen (like Hatten, a village on an open plain) were fired on by the 827th's men, resulting in the destruction of eleven tanks and one full-tracked vehicle. Upon meeting this fire the remaining tanks with-
[683]

drew.109 A joint team of the 827th and 813th destroyed nine tanks at Hatten. On 10 January, 827th destroyers in Rittershoffen knocked out four more enemy tanks.110 Thereafter in Hatten, isolated by day and subject to resupply over the open snow-covered plain only at night, one section of a Company B, 827th, platoon continued to engage in close fighting, accounting for several enemy tanks and vehicles. Another section, under more strenuous urging from its commander, reportedly under armed threats at times, performed well-or` well enough for the 315th's infantrymen to report that they had received excellent support from the 827th. Nevertheless, in the investigation, every officer of the 827th expressed some doubts that his men, characterized as untrainable, slow in their reactions, or stricken by fear, would ever be dependable on tank destroyers, although some officers explained that a majority of their men could be counted upon and that they had always believed that if adequate replacements could be obtained for the remainder theirs would be excellent units.111 Replacements had not been available in the past and, with the shortage of Negro enlisted replacements then current, hope for enough new men to make an appreciable change in the unit was practically nonexistent.
 
During the investigation, the elements of the 827th in Rittershoffen and Hatten continued street fighting. The force in Rittershoffen used its guns to shell buildings and drive the enemy from them; those in Hatten knocked out two tanks at a range of 1,400 yards, and lost one destroyer, hit by enemy fire, and its full crew.112
 
After taking testimony for four days, the inspector recommended that the 827th be withdrawn, given additional technical training, and recommitted to combat; that the men refusing to operate their guns be tried; that the unit commander be replaced with a more forceful officer; and that the noncommissioned officers be improved by making each one perform his normal duties. The Commanding General, VI Corps, recommended instead that the unit be disbanded and that its enlisted men, excepting those who had proved themselves "to be worthy," be distributed to appropriate service units.113 The Commanding General, Seventh Army, approved, recommending that the battalion be inactivated and that a substitute tank destroyer battalion composed of white personnel be activated within the Seventh Army. White truck, medical ambulance, car, and smoke generator companies could be converted to Negro, both to provide white soldiers for the new battalion and service unit vacancies for the Negroes. If higher headquarters decided that a white combat unit had to be converted to Negro to preserve a racial balance between service and combat troops, Seventh Army would convert a white engineer combat battalion instead.114
 
Now began a long administrative discussion of the disposition to be made of the 827th Battalion. The simplest procedure would have been to adopt the
[684]

VI Corps and Seventh Army recommendation, but the investigation supporting this recommendation had not reached the same conclusion. Tank destroyer battalions had now returned to high priority and were in demand.115 The investigating officer had questioned only officers of the 827th Battalion and a few officers of units to which its elements were attached. These did not include officers of all units with elements of the 827th attached. Moreover, no enlisted men of the 827th were questioned during the investigation. On 14 February 6th Army Group therefore requested that additional testimony be taken from representative enlisted men of the unit.116
 
In the meantime, the 827th was relieved from Task Force Wahl, its last unit leaving on 23 January. The battalion returned to attachment to the 12th Armored Division, now engaged in the Colmar Pocket operation. One platoon was attached to each of the combat commands of the division on 2 February, participating with these units in the last few days of the Colmar operation.117 The remainder of the battalion was with the division's trains. Colmar itself fell to Allied troops on 2 February, but the next day the 12th Armored Division, then in XXI Corps, was committed to continue the attack to the south and east where resistance, though scattered, was intense at some points. Combat Command B, divided into three task forces, launched an attack south from Colmar to seize Sudhoffen, with two task forces attacking and a third in reserve. The attack progressed slowly. Task Force Boone, the reserve force consisting of a platoon of the 827th, a company of armored infantry, and a company of tanks, was committed on February. It overran enemy strongpoints, destroying antitank guns and continuing the attack.118 The other 827th platoons saw little action, for the 12th Armored Division met French forces on 6 February, sealing off the remaining Germans in the Vosges.
 
The uncommitted elements of the 827th, under their own commander in division trains, made up for the lack of action among the attached platoons engaged in the attack from Colmar. On the night of 5 February, the battalion commander called upon the 12th Armored Division for help. His enlisted men were becoming increasingly difficult for him to handle. They drew guns, molested civilians, and indulged in wild shootings. The division judge advocate general and inspector general went dawn to the 827th Battalion and' conferred with the commander. As a result, 12th Armored Division asked to be relieved of the 827th Battalion.119 Ironically, VI Corps was, during this same period, inquiring if the 79th Division still intended to award Bronze Stars to one of the 827th's crews which had performed exceptionally well in Hatten.120
 
On 12 February the 827th departed for Baccarat on verbal orders of the 12th Armored Division. There it was at-
[685]

tached to the 68th Antiaircraft Artillery Group in XV Corps for operations.121 It spent the remainder of the month in guard duty as prescribed by the 68th Group.122
 
The 6th Army Group's request for additional testimony concerning the performance of the 827th was complied with in March when a total of twelve enlisted men performing duties as platoon sergeants, gun commanders, gunners, drivers, and radio men were queried, primarily on their duties, training, and knowledge of map reading and first aid. The inspector concluded that the men interviewed had a satisfactory knowledge of their duties but an examination conducted after six weeks under rear area conditions could not indicate accurately the combat efficiency of an organization. Of the twelve men questioned only one gave the inspector the impression that he would prefer to return to combat rather than remain on guard duty; the others, who said that they would do as told or that they would like to return if in a tank or tank destroyer unit or if attached to a "good" division like the 79th, all hesitated "sufficiently long," in the inspector's opinion, to indicate that they did not really wish additional combat duty. The inspector recommended this time that the enlisted personnel of the 827th be transferred to a Negro infantry division .123
 
Seventh Army in the meantime nominated the 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion for use by 6th Army Group to
provide housekeeping facilities and transportation for military and civilian specialists at 6th Army Group headquarters. Since these housekeeping requirements had to be met from some source and since either conversion or retraining would take considerable time-and conversion might prove embarrassing to the theater and the War Department the unit remained active, with its self-propelled destroyers returned to Seventh Army stocks for use by other destroyer units. To prevent its nomination for redeployment as a tank destroyer unit, the battalion was eventually named as one of those surplus to redeployment needs so that it could be returned to the United States after V-E Day for inactivation .124
 
Despite the misfortunes of the 827th -attributable largely to the state of training, discipline, and leadership within the unit as well as to the critical nature of its initial employment-the record of the smaller combat support units, including that of the armored and artillery units with the 92d Division in Italy, lent support to the older theories that Negro troops could be effectively employed in smaller units in combat support roles. Even within the 827th, smaller elements at times performed so as to lead to the belief that wiser management at one or more points in that battalion's career might have made it a useful unit.
 
A further type of employment for Negro troops was in the making just when the 827th was undergoing its
[686]

greatest difficulties. This type of employment was to be doubly important, for the units here were to be smaller still and their roles were to require direct and close contact with the enemy the very area in which the larger Negro units of the same type were already having their major problems.
[687]

Endnotes

Previous Chapter    Next Chapter


page created 15 January 2002


Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online