The 85th in France

Historical Overview

General Alexander Patch commander of the 7th Army in Southern France

The U.S. 7th Army, under the command of Maj.Gen. Alexander M. Patch, called upon the experience and proven ability of the 85th Engineers to aid in the wresting of France away from the Germans. The commanding officer of the engineers in the 7th was Brig.Gen. Garrison H. Davidson. He played a major role in the planning of Operation Anvil, the code name for the invasion of Southern France which began on the 15th of August 1944.

The enemy faced in Southern France was 285,000 troops including some naval and air support. It was the German 19th Army, three corps strong under the command of Lt.Gen. Friedrich Wiese.

The commanding officer of the engineers in the 7th was Brig.Gen. Garrison H. Davidson.
The enemy faced in Southern France was 285,000 troops. German photo from an album captured by the 85th
The 85th faced the German 19th Army, three corps strong under the command of Lt.Gen. Friedrich Wiese.

The 85th would land at Nice, France on September 9, 1944 and was under the command control of SOLOC (Southern Line of Communications), the supply command in charge of personnel coming in from Italy and North Africa. Commanding SOLOC engineering operations was Col. Clark Kittrell. It was his job to maintain the supply routes in Southern France as the allies pushed up the Rhone River Vally toward the Rhine.

The 85th performed many tasks and motor movements throughout Southern France in support of the Allied push north during the month of September. During this time the unit lost only one man, Pvt. Kucera. This was a drowning on the Doube River which occurred when a boat was swamped while engaged in bridge pier repair.

The 85th would land at Nice, France on September 9, 1944. LST 906: Laid down, 24 January 1944, at Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard, Inc., Hingham, MA. Launched, 11 March 1944 Commissioned USS LST-906, 27 April 1944 During World War II LST-906 was assigned to the European Theater and participated in the: Invasion of Southern France, September 1944 Decommissioned, 20 May 1945, after grounding at Leghorn, Italy, 18 October 1944 Struck from the Naval Register, 22 June 1945 Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 22 June 1945 LST-906 earned one battle star for World War II service -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Specifications: Displacement 1,780 t.(lt), 3,640 t.(fl) Length 328' Beam 50' Draft unloaded, bow 2' 4" stern 7' 6", loaded bow 8' 2" stern 14' 1" Speed 12 kts. Complement 8-10 officers, 100-115 enlisted Troop Accommodations, approx. 140 officers and enlisted Boats 2 LCVP Armament two dual 40MM gun mounts, six single 40MM gun mounts, 12 single 20MM, gun mounts Propulsion two General Motors 12-567 diesel engines, two shafts, twin rudders
The Rhone River was bridged on October 17.

Prior to the Rhine assault, the engineers established three Rhine River crossing schools on September 26, 1944. The Rhine assault would be an amphibious operation complicated by swift current. In order to prepare for those currents, the 85th directed a crossing school on the Rhone River at Camp de Valbonne near Lyon. This was the most advanced course of the crossing schools. Here the trainees practiced bridge building over the rapid Rhone using heavier cable anchors. They also experimented with antimine nets to defend against enemy explosives set adrift to destroy the bridges. New methods of affixing cross-river cables used as guy wires for DUKWs were also tested.

As part of the crossing school the 85th was called upon to train French as well as American engineers in the art of bridge building. The Rhone River was bridged on October 17. On the 29th of October another man was lost when Pfc. Frank N. Niciforo was drowned when thrown from a power utility boat.

During this period the 85th spent some time in rest camp at Lyon. From Lyon they were ordered to Marseilles to load gasoline into their ponton boats to transport to a gas depot for use by Patton's tanks.

As part of the crossing school the 85th was called upon to train French as well as American engineers in the art of bridge building
Henry Gregorio on the streets of Luneville

Then it was on to Luneville, France on November 14, 1944 which was some 50 miles from the Rhine River and the German border. Again many motor movements and tasks were performed in support of the drive toward Germany. The Allied forces had pushed rapidly inland until they encountered prepared German defenses at the Vosges Mountains in late October and early November. The Battle of the Bulge would cause even more delay. And so the 85th would spend the winter at Luneville preparing for it's next major task. Supplies were stored at the Lorraine Dietrich plant in Luneville.

On December 6, 1944 The Soldiers Medal was awarded to Captain Nagel, Tech Sgt Citera, Staff Sgt Feldman, and Tech 5 Mitchell. The medals were presented by Brigadier General Davidson.

Ceremony awarding the Soldiers Medal to members of the 85th
February 1945 the 85th spent a lot of time hauling lumber from French lumber mills

During the month of February 1945 the 85th spent a lot of time hauling lumber from French lumber mills to depots along the French/German border. Company A hauled some 621,000 board feet of lumber.

Two members of the 85th, the twins Milt and Mel O'Barr lost their younger brother Pfc. Donald R. O'Barr, a member of L Company 275th 70th Infantry Division, just some 50 miles north of the 85th's position on February 22, 1945. He was KIA at Spicheren Heights.

On March 12, 1945 the 85th conducted a refresher course in bridge building on the Meurthe River in the vicinity of St. Nicholas, France. This was to better prepare them for their next major task. That task would be to bridge the Rhine River at an area near Worms, Germany. The 85th would remain attached to the 7th Army as they chased the Nazis back into the western Reich.

Captains Hunt and Brand on the Meurthe River bridge

Roster of H&S Company 8/1944

 

Lt. Col. Leonard A. Perdue; Capt. Raughley L. Porter; 1st Lt. Sylvester F. Brand; T Sgt. Citera, John A.; Stf Sgt Feldman, Harry; Hill, Kenneth H.; Sgts. Bila, Alfred P.; Witkin, Ralph D.; T4 Babiy, Peter W.; Burger, Joseph E.; Hemsey, George; Herod, Irvin W.; Manweiler, Victor; Cpl. Lattanzio, Frank A.; T5 Bapka, Joe J.; Boka, Joseph; Byers, Robert S. Jr.; Davis, Howard W.; DeAngelo, Arthur; Emmerson, Charles E.; Erwin, Ray; Goraliyzck, Chester; Hamblin, Arthur C.; Mitchell, John L.; Norwood, Robert H.; Pisciottano, Charles; Pritchett, George F.; Reiter, Cory N.; Turner, Henry; Pfc. Anich, John P.; Bellucci, Thomas B.; Covey, Allison J.; Guzzo, Nicholas P.; Marsh, Elwin J.; Prusasky, Joseph J.; Wonsienska, Joseph J.; Pvt. Aldape, Florencio Jr.; Biesiadecki, John S

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