The 85th In North Africa - Official Unit History

Companies A and H&S in North Africa

Guide issued go the Engineers to help them acclimate to North Africa

What follows are excerpts from the Official Unit History of the 85th Engineers in North Africa:

On 29 April 1943, Company “A” of this organization sailed from the New York Port of Embarkation and arrived at Oran, North Africa on 11 May 1943. A detachment of Headquarters and Service Company sailed from the New York Port of Embarkation on 10 June 1943 and arrived at Oran, North Africa eleven days later. On 23 June 1943, the Detachment joined Company ‘A’ seventeen kilometers east of Mostaganem, Africa on the Cheliff River.

While in North Africa Company ‘A’ and the Detachment’s training consisted of constucting heavy ponton bridges across the Cheliff river and erecting bailey bridges across selected dry gaps. A school was conducted in mines and demolitions for all personnel.

- 7/9/43 Allies land in Sicily,

- 7/19/43 Allies bomb Rome.

- 7/22/43 Americans capture Palermo, Sicily.

- 7/25/43 Mussolini arrested and Italian Fascist government falls.

- 8/12/43 Germans evacuate Sicily.

Company ‘A’ plus the Detachment was assigned to Fifth Army on 21 August1943.

- 9/8/43 Italian surrender is announced.

- 9/9/43 Allied landings at Salerno and Taranto.

- 9/12/43 Germans rescue Mussolini.

- 10/1/43 Allies enter Naples, Italy.


After staging and completing the necessary details a motor movement was made from Oran to Bizerte in five days.Company ‘A’ and the Detachment of Headquarters and Service Company sailed from the Port of Bizerte on 13 October 1943 and arrived in the Port of Bagnoli, Italy 16 October 1943.

Company H&S men in North Africa
Companies A and H&S sailed from the Port of Bizerte en route to Italy on 10/13/1943

Company B 85th Engineers Arrives in North Africa

***On April 9,1944 the remainder of the 85th (Company B) arrived in North Africa, and would later join Company A and H&S Company already in Italy. This landing in North Africa is described in the Official History as follows:***

Crossing took about ten days, the destination was Casablanca, North Africa. Arrived port (Casablanca, N.A.) 9 April 1944, debarked and convoyed by truck to Camp Don B. Passage (approx 3 mi SE of Casablanca). Unit left Camp Passage 11 April, entrained for Oran, Algeria. Two days were spent enroute to Oran. Upon arrival at Oran, (13 April) unit was met by Major Perdue. Unit detrained and convoyed by truck to Floating Bridge School, Pont Du Cheliff, Algeria. First two weeks were spent setting camp area in order and arranging various training schedules necessary for maintianing and supervising a series of schools in technical phases of heavy ponton bridging.

The period from 1 July to 5 July 1945, saw the Battalion, less Company ‘A’ and Headquarters and Headquarters and Service Detachment engaged in closing the Floating Bridge School, NATOUSA Training and preparing for water movement. All ponton equipment and other heavy equipment of this Battalion with 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion, and the 1554th Engr Heavy Ponton Battalion left Pont Du Cheliff, Algeria 0615 hours 6 July 1944 by motor convoy. The distance traveled for the first day was 150 miles. The 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion and the 1554th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion had two (2) accidents. One truck tractor was damaged beyond repair. Upon arrival, the bivouac area was set up and all vehicles gassed and first (1st) echelon maintenance was performed. The unit departed from Affreville, Algeria at 0545 hours on 7 July 1944 and arrived at Bon Manceur, Algeria at 1630 hours. The distance traveled was a 170 miles. The 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion and the 1554th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion had two (2) more accidents. One (1) truck tractor was damaged beyond repair. This caused the trail unit of the convoy to fall behind. Upon arrival, the bivouac was set up, and all vehicles gassed, and first (1) echelon maintenance was performed.

H&S men in Vino Valley North Africa
Spoils of war in North Africa...vino!

Comany B Sails for Italy

The unit departed from Bon Mancoui, Algeria at 0700 hours, on 8 July 1944 without the trail unit. Word was received they were forty miles behind the convoy. The unit arrived in Constantine, Algeria at 1800 hours. The distance traveled was 165 miles. Less the trail unit, the 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion and the 1554th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion had three accidents. The kitchen truck of the 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion turned over. One truck tractor was damaged beyond repair. Upon arrival, the bivouac area was set up, and vehicles were gassed, and first (1st) echelon maintenance was performed. The unit departed from Constantine, Algeria at 0600 hours, on 9 July 1944 and arrived at Souk el Arba, Tunisia at 1700 hours. The distance traveled was 175 miles. One (1) vehicle of the 85th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion, while parking to permit a westbound convoy to pass. The cargo box on a 5-6 ton tractor was hit and the damaged received was easily repaired. The 1553rd Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion and the 1554th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion had two (2) accidents causing the loss of an auto car tractor and the lives of two (2) British soldiers.

The unit departed from Souk el Arba, Tunisia at 0600 hours on 11 July 1944 without the trail unit and arrived in Bizerte at 1200 hours. The distance traveled was 136 miles.

The unit departed from Souk el Arba, Tunisia at 0600 hours on 11 July 1944 without the trail unit and arrived in Bizerte at 1200 hours. The distance traveled was 136 miles.

The trail unit arrived at Bizerte at 0200 hours on 11 July 1944. The period from 11 July to 17 July 1944, was used for maintenance of equipment and preparation for overseas movement.

The vehicles were moved from the staging area and loaded on three Landing Ships Tank. The personnel was divided into three groups and part embarked on 18 July 1944 and sailed from the Port of Bizerti, Tunisia on 18 July 1944, for Naples,Italy, and arrived in the harbor of Naples, Italy at 1100 hours on 23 July 1944. At 1500 hours, the unit sailed south to Salerno, Italy and arrived in the harbor at Salerno, Italy at 1800 hours.

Orders pertaining to departure from Bizerti: All Army, corps, division, regimental or other organizational identifying insignia (including shoulder patches)will be removed from all classes of individual and organizational uniforms, clothing , baggage, property and equipment before embarkation and will not be replaced without the authority of the command to which you are proceeding.

Orders, con’t: You will be held responsible that any garrison prisoners belonging to these units and confined in the NATOUSA DTC are picked up and taken with the unit upon its departure from this base section.

The rest of the Battalion moved by motor convoy to MBS staging area #2.

The vehicles were moved from the staging area and loaded on board the S.S. John B. Hood. The personnel embarked on 10 July 1944.

The unit sailed from the port of Oran, Algeria, North Africa on 11 July 1944 for the port of Naples, Italy. The voyage took 9 days with an overnight stop at Augusta, Sicily.

The troops disembarked at 1900 hours on 19 July 1944, after waiting overnight aboard ship in the Gulf of Pozzuoli, Italy and proceeded by motor convoy to PBS staging area #4 and established a bivouac at 2130 hours.

On 24 July 1944, the unit left the PBS staging area #4 at Naples, Italy at 1500 hours by motor convoy and proceeded to the vicinity of Francolise, Italy and arrived at 1730 hours.

Hitting the deck in Africa...incoming rounds? No, incoming vino

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Latest comments

03.07 | 13:43

Adam and and Hopkins are also listed in Leonard's book.

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03.07 | 13:29

My Uncle was MH and my dad ML. They were twins.

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03.07 | 13:09

Rod, in Leonard's service book he listed his buddies.M.H Obarr, box 393 Cullman, Alabama, along with M.L. Obarr same address.your relation?

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03.07 | 11:11

Thank you sir! He deserves a special tribute.

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