Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
H. B. Sayler
Chief Ordnance Officer, ETO
THE STORY OF ORDNANCE IN THE ETO
A mighty armada -- the greatest assembly of ships the world ever had known -- moved steadily across the English Channel and headed for the French Coast. Overhead roared a fleet of aircraft so immense that it nearly hid the sky from view.
This was the invasion of Europe, June 6, 1944, and nearly a quarter of a million American soldiers were bound for two beaches -- Omaha and Utah. Primed to destroy the German Army, these men were equipped with the finest weapons and vehicles modern science could devise, that modern industry could produce. Quality of equipment was equalled only by quantity. For every man participating in the invasion, there were 1500 pounds of Ordnance material.
What is Ordnance?
It's the blockbuster and the rocket which softened up the invasion coast and supported the infantryman as he hit the beach. It's the M-4 tank which rumbled off an LST and smashed its way into an enemy stronghold. It's the 105mm howitzer which helped pave the way for the doughs who carried Ordnance in the form of semi-automatic rifles, carbines, machine guns and every other type of small arms weapons. It's the anti-aircraft gun which brought down ME-109s two miles away; the director which did the gun's thinking. It's the scout car that went out on reconnaissance, the two and a half-ton truck hauling supplies from the beachhead. It's everything that rolls, shoots, is shot, and dropped from the air.
The story of Ordnance in the European Theater of Operations is the story of men as well as materiel. It's the story of maintenance crews who put damaged vehicles back into action while sniper bullets zinged nearby and 88s screamed overhead; of ammunition companies fighting off dive bombers and infiltrating attacks; of tank recovery units and contact teams, depot companies and storehouse workers. It's the story of welders, small arms mechanics, artillery technicians, instrument repairmen, bomb disposal men, foreign materiel experts and clerks. It's the story of 150,000 officers and men who not only delivered the goods but kept that equipment in fighting condition through France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Germany. It's the story of supply and maintenance in five United States Armies.
When asked how he won a certain Civil War battle, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest replied that he arrived "first with the most." Gen. Forrest was translating the word "logistics" into simple terms.
Since the first cave man picked up a club and began socking his enemies with it, logistics has been the Number One headache of any war. Supplying a military machine is a science. Supply was the secret behind the successes of Caesar, Napoleon, Grant, Pershing and Eisenhower. In part, logistics is the task of Ordnance, and Ordnancemen are justly proud of their job. Ordnance not only helped to assemble the mightiest military machine ever conceived, but it also supplied and maintained its part of this machine over communication lines thousands of miles long.
The history of Ordnance Service began during the early days of the American Revolution when a tactical problem involved driving the British from Boston. To do this, Gen. Washington required artillery, and the nearest field pieces were at Ticonderoga, near the headwaters of the Hudson. Struggling over 200 miles of trails, poor roads, mountain passes, through snow, rain and mud, Col. Henry Knox's men delivered the guns. These pieces were turned on British defenses and Boston soon was retaken.
During the Civil War, Ordnance played a vital role in the field of development when breech-loading, rifled small arms gradually replaced the clumsy muzzle-loading, smooth-bore muskets. Delivery of the goods was the power behind Gen. Sherman's smashing drive through Georgia and South Carolina. The picture was the same in 1917, but to a much greater extent, when America converted from peace time production practically overnight to throw the might of its arms into France and tip the scales of war towards Allied victory.
FLAMING BOMB -- 150 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENT
Ordnance was not at work any too soon. When Hitler's panzers rolled through France in the spring of 1940, Nazis were confident that the democracies had little with which to fight. Two factors Hitler overlooked and which eventually helped to shatter Germany's dream of world conquest were American inventive ability, and its product, American industry.
While Nazism struck crippling blows, American industry rolled up its sleeves. When Gen. Eisenhower threw his first punch at the Germans on the North African beaches, industry and Ordnance teamed up to pay dividends. The building of equipment stockpiles for the invasion of Europe followed. For two years, Ordnance labored unceasingly in United Kingdom depots to support a military operation which had not been accomplished successfully since the 11th century when William the Conqueror crossed the Channel to invade a hostile shore.
The Table of Basic Allowance for an armored division calls for 13,148 small arms weapons, 499 artillery pieces, 879 combat vehicles and 1755 other vehicles. This equipment weighs 23,317 tons. For tanks alone, monthly replacements number 8000 different kinds of parts and assemblies, involving 1,500,000 individual pieces packed in 15,000 containers. The initial equipment of an infantry division calls for 16,843 small arms weapons, 280 artillery pieces, 17 combat vehicles and 2072 other vehicles. Total tonnage is 9072.
Production of ammunition is based on the formula of one ton per gun per day to support barrages like Third Army's XX Corps, which threw out 1000 tons during the 10-day assault on the fortress city of Metz. Today, there are 23 artillery pieces for every 1000 combat soldiers as compared with four field pieces for every 1000 line troops in World War I. Artillerymen of 1945 received more ammunition for their big guns than doughs got for their Springfield rifles in 1917!
To meet these requirements, Ordnance brought 2,000,000 tons of equipment to England before D-Day, including 22,741 combat vehicles, 281,768 general and special purpose vehicles, 1,494,941 small arms weapons and 19,959 artillery pieces. Since D-Day, Allied troops were supplied with 2,500,000 tons of vehicles and weapons. Artillery supply alone was 1,496,000 tons between D-Day and V-E Day.
Ordnance rolled into England at the rate of 10 tons per minute. There it was processed, assembled, water proofed, inspected, issued and replaced in 21 storage depots, 19 vehicle parks, 22 maintenance shops and eight ammunition depots. In 32 different plants, Ordnancemen assembled 1000 vehicles daily. The job of preparing thousands of the 350,000 different items which made up Ordnance equipment -- each item for its own specific part in the invasion -- was endless.
Waterproofing alone was one of the greatest problems facing Ordnance during the pre-invasion period. Ordnancemen worked on waterproofing techniques for almost a half year. Four or five minutes were needed for a vehicle to leave the landing craft, drive through the water, and roll ashore. To counteract the damaging effects of salt water, technicians prepared compounds and wrappings for equipment, and conducted training programs in waterproofing for drivers of vehicles. Experience in the North African and Sicilian invasions helped to some extent, but the scale on which the invasion of Europe was being planned made the job of waterproofing proportionately more difficult.
The basic unit of firepower for American infantry is the M-1 rifle, a semi-automatic weapon which spits out a clip of eight .30 caliber shells as fast as a dough can squeeze the trigger eight times. The Germans used the bolt-action Mauser, a good weapon but inferior to the Garand, which Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., calls "the greatest battle implement ever devised."
Anti-tank guns with a high muzzle velocity are a German specialty, but their performance falls short of the job done by American ATs, typical of which is the 57mm piece. This mobile weapon features a breech mechanism which ejects shell cases automatically, thereby increasing an already rapid rate of fire.
Allied troops respected the performance of the German 88mm all-purpose gun, but Ordnance answered this highly-touted piece with a variety of superior artillery weapons, including the 105mm howitzer which replaced the 75mm as the standard field piece. Germans were so awed by its rate of fire that prisoners frequently asked to see the American "automatic artillery." In the heavier stock, the 155mm "Long Toms" and the 240mm pieces consistently outslugged the German artillery.
Said one German PW: "I spent three years in Russia and then came to the American front. American artillery is 100 percent better." Said another: "I served in Italy, Russia and on the Western Front. The Americans have much better artillery."
According to Gen. Patton's tactics, it's tanks versus artillery, not tanks against tanks. Developed as a result of this basic concept of armored tactics was the M-4, the finest medium tank of any army. Had it not been for the M-4, Allied armies may not have been able to throw out the spearheads which paved the way for the smashing breakthrough at St. Lo, the race across France and the final assault on Germany.
The M-4 is fast, turns on a dime and throws 76mm shells from a gun with a 360 degree traverse. Germans could swing their armored artillery only 45 degrees and couldn't fire while under way. Because of the gyro-stabilizers, M-4s can blaze away while moving.
Shermans directed by Lt. John Kingsley, Co. B, 25th Tank Bn., knocked out 11 German Tigers in one day. Fourth Armored's S/Sgt. Pearce O. Miller's M-4 tank took four direct hits without being stopped as it left the smouldering remains of four Nazi tanks in its wake; S/Sgt. Joseph L. Laperle had one M-4 knocked out from under him, but he climbed into another and smashed four enemy tanks.
U.S. armor gained respect from others besides the men who drove the tanks and fired the guns. A Nazi prisoner who fought in France, Norway, Finland and Russia said: "Your artillery and your tanks are your best weapons."
The newest American armored Sunday punch is the M-26 "General Pershing," mounting a 90mm piece. When this tank made its debut with the 9th Armd. Div. in March, 1945, it crawled into a barrage of 88s, took several direct hits, then roared ahead as if nothing had happened. Since then, the M-26 has left a path of smashed enemy guns and tanks hundreds of miles long.
Among tank destroyers, the M-18 "Hellcat," which can fire its 76mm gun while moving at a speed of 45 miles per hour, knocked out more than its share of German armor. A typical performance occurred at Bastogne late in 1944 when an M-18 knocked out six Panthers in six minutes. Slightly larger and twice as mean is the M-36 TD, mounting a 90mm gun.
The many types of automatic small arms which answered every possible tactical need, the heavy artillery which plastered the opposition before the infantry assaults, the scores of combat, general and special purpose vehicles which made the U.S. Army the most mobile in world's history -- the performance of this equipment was evaluated by Gen. Eisenhower's recent statement:
The effectiveness of our Ordnance is partly due to simplicity in design and partly to the range of U.S. equipment, which provides a weapon for every target. The enemy's battle losses have been far greater than ours. In pieces of artillery, the enemy has lost eight to our one. We have knocked out twice as many tanks as we have lost.
D-DAY -- ORDNANCE HITS THE BEACHES
Within 1000 yards of enemy lines, they issued ammunition to 1st Division troops while simultaneously storing a reserve supply. These men were followed by hundreds of other Ordnance technicians, who hauled ammunition, recovered damaged vehicles and repaired knocked out artillery pieces despite intense fire.
The early days of the beachhead were chaotic. Demolition charges had destroyed wharves on which to land equipment. Railroads were twisted wreckage, highways had been bombed and shelled. However, beaches soon were converted into wharves and Omaha was transformed into a giant depot where, amid bomb craters and tetrahedrons, equipment piled in, from .45 caliber pistols to tanks and 40-ton tank transporters.
That was Round One. Between D-Day and July 16, Ordnance crowded the beaches with every kind of equipment to support the assault. During this period alone, 212,000 tons of ammunition and 64,292 tons of replacement part requirements were landed. Shipments were broken down, rushed to forward supply units by truck. It took more than knocked out bridges, bomb-pocked routes and enemy attacks to stop the rumbling two and a half-tons. Within two weeks, 8553 of these vehicles were transported across the Channel.
Supply problems alone were sufficient to keep Ordnance busy, but this was only half the job. There was maintenance. The late Ernie Pyle once described a small phase of that when he wrote:
This is not a war of ammunition, tanks, guns and trucks alone. It is as much a war of replenishing spare parts to keep them in combat as it is a war of major equipment. A thousand tanks or a thousand motor trucks are as good as no tanks or no trucks if the butterfly valve, no larger than a quarter, is missing from the carburetor of each of them. The gasket that leaks, the fan belt that breaks, the nut that is lost, the distributor point that fails, or the bearing that burns out, will delay GI Joe on the road to Berlin, just as much as if he didn't have a vehicle in which to start.
Ordnance technicians -- automotive mechanics, small arms experts, artillery contact teams -- worked far into the night to solve problems which had not even been foreseen at the training centers in Aberdeen or Flora. Germans struck back hard in those early days and the amount of equipment put out of action caused many sleepless nights for maintenance companies. But just as fast as battered equipment came in, tank experts and gun specialists patched it up. Nazis frequently were bracketed by guns they thought had been knocked out for all time.
Working conditions were far from ideal. Gone now were the air-conditioned shops and neat vehicle parks of the United States and England. Improvisation became the watchword as technicians moved into smashed French villages, posted guards, dug slit trenches and then buckled down to work. Hedgerows impeded the movement of every type of transportation, from tanks to jeeps. Units like the 3450th MAM Co. overcame that obstacle by collecting German tetrahedrons from the beaches, beating them into immense blades and attaching them to M-4 tanks. "Tankdozers" then ripped down the hedgerows with ease.
Typical of the maintenance crews which worked and fought through Normandy was the 735th Maintenance Co., supporting Pres. Harry S. Truman's World War I outfit, the 35th Inf. Div. In the six months following D-Day, Ordnance technicians performed so expertly that the 35th hadn't a single artillery piece out of action because of malfunction or the lack of service.
These Ordnancemen saw their share of fighting as well. S/Sgt. Orville W. Johnson, Murtagh, Ohio, was awarded the Bronze Star for retrieving a knocked out 57mm anti-tank gun and a 105mm piece while Germans opened up with all available heavy stuff. Near St. Lo, S/Sgt. Kenneth D. Whitmore, Fremont, Nebr., broke up a traffic bottleneck caused by a damaged tank which blocked one of the main supply arteries in that area. Using a 10-ton wrecker, Whitmore dragged the tank to one side of the road as shell fragments and Mauser slugs peppered his vehicle.
HEROES EMERGE IN RACE ACROSS FRANCE
After St. Lo, the fluid situation vexed not only welders, mechanics and drivers, but "typewriter commandos," cutting through a blizzard of paperwork, as well. Because work orders and requisitions for weapons, ammunition and spare parts had to shuttle between forward and rear areas, a motorized Pony Express was organized. Ordnance couriers with First and Third Armies would roll up collectively as much as 1000 miles a day over roads that sometimes threatened to stop even jeeps. Pvt. "Lucky" Lucadamo, Newark, N.J., former pro football player, found bad roads weren't his only obstacles. On several occasions he left the wheel to engage infiltrating Germans with machine gun fire.
As American troops bore down the peninsula, Ordnance converted the chaos of those first slam-bang weeks into a semblance of organization. The Communications Zone was divided into Base and Advance Sections, and this combination of Base to ADSEC to Army smoothed out multiple supply wrinkles. But new situations developed, particularly when Gen. Patton's tanks punched through German defenses at St. Lo and launched a frenzied race across France. Ammunition companies tossed the SOP book out the window. Ammunition supply points were discarded temporarily; there wasn't sufficient time to unload ammunition. Instead, Ordnancemen left equipment and supplies aboard trucks as they leapfrogged depots forward in an attempt to keep up with the tanks, sometimes as far as 150 miles ahead of advance supply bases.
One ammunition unit moved into a small town at night, searching for infantrymen it was supplying during their advance. When they failed to find the doughs, the ammunition men settled down for the night, planning to shove on next day to catch up with the troops. Next morning, they were awakened by the crack of small arms fire, and discovered their infantrymen moving in to take the town still held by the enemy.
The summer was unusually hectic; ammunition outfits frequently were confronted with problems other than supply. The famous 57th Ammunition Co., a Negro outfit, was assigned to mop up a resistance pocket near the Belgian border. Bombed, strafed and shelled by Nazis for days, the men waited for the chance to answer back. When a call for volunteers was issued, every man in the company stepped forward.
Armed with Springfields, 62 picked men went to work, eventually located a barn which was the resistance center. T/Sgt. Harold F. Jackson, Milwaukee, Wis., put an end to the tough opposition when he scored a direct hit on the building with an incendiary grenade. Although the Germans shouted "Kamerad" there was little time to relax. First Army troops needed more ammunition. They got it.
The little French village near Morlaix always will be known as "Ordnanceville" to 14 members of the 16th Ordnance Co., who took the town from the Krauts without firing a shot. Detailed to deliver five tanks and three armored cars to the 6th Armd. Div., these men were stopped en route by Frenchmen who warned them of Germans in the village.
Discussing the situation, the Ordnancemen decided to attempt to take the village and deployed their vehicles so that every gun was zeroed in on the enemy position. Spotting this opposition, the German commander assumed an entire armored division surrounded his garrison; he surrendered his 123 officers and men.
Ordnance field service, of which the Contact Team is a part, turned in a remarkable performance. Made up of four to six technicians, these teams constantly were on the move from their bases to front line units where they inspected artillery, small arms, fire control equipment and made on-the-spot repairs. Compact and mobile, the teams covered from 50 to 200 miles a day. Only the heaviest barrages interrupted their work when the men jumped into foxholes, sweated out the attack, then returned to their tools.
Typical was one team from the 520th Ordnance Co. comprised of S/Sgt. Harry R. Lemmen, Holland, Mich., heavy artillery specialist; Sgt. Francis J. Mosely, Union Springs, Ala., instrument diagnostician; Sgt. John Rigdon, Birmingham, Ala., small arms expert; Pvt. Hymon Sparkes, Ashland, Ala., driver, and jack of all trades. One of the most efficient teams in the ETO, this group was a welcome and familiar sight to many front line men. Said Sgt. Mosely:
The Germans got to know our vehicle pretty well during one period when the front was more or less static. Every day for a week they tried to zero us in with their 88s, but we were lucky and always got through okay.
"PULL BACK -- STAY IN BUSINESS -- FIGHT"
Flaming Bombers went into action when Seventh Army threw its invasion haymaker at Southern France Aug. 15. Two officers and 25 men of the 3rd Medium Maint. Co. accompanied glider troops. This invasion produced another supply problem. It was answered by SOLOC
With Paris as the ETO hub, supply routes to the front were shortened immeasurably. A number of supply and repair depots were established in the suburbs of the French capital. Typical was Depot 0-644, where thousands of vehicles, weapons, and spare parts were disassembled from bulk shipments and prepared for immediate reissue to smaller units in ADSEC. Staffed by more than 3000 officers and men. Depot 0-644 was the largest of any on the Continent.
The autumn stalemate was followed by the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944. Chief target in von Rundstedt's drive was the First U.S. Army; thousands of tons of equipment were in danger of being captured during the height of the Nazi blitz. From Col. J.B. Medaris, First Army Ordnance Officer, came the order:
Pull back. Stay in business. Fight.
Ordnance pulled back. The enemy captured little materiel. In three days, 3500 Negro troops of the 71st Ordnance Group evacuated three ASPs under enemy fire, reduced a large base ammunition supply depot to point size and set up a new ASP to serve an Army corps while turning over two of the supply points to another Army. Simultaneously, this unit supplied troops with a minimum of 3000 tons of ammunition daily, and, at one point during the Bulge battle, established a record by delivering 7500 tons in 24 hours.
The 100th Ordnance Ammunition Bn. grabbed seven Belgian locomotives and evacuated 100,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition and 43,000 rounds of 105mm projectiles. The 202nd Ordnance Depot Co. evacuated its 600-ton outfit in two days. The 310th Ordnance Bn. pulled scores of field pieces out of the line before Germans could capture them.
Ordnance stayed in business. The 590th Ordnance Bn. withdrew 100 miles in sub-zero weather. During this period, units of the battalion frequently lost contact with each other. Yet the 590th turned out 4000 repair jobs, including work on 88 tanks, while transferring its headquarters.
Ordnance fought. In one sector, the only troops blocking a complete German breakthrough was a group of Ordnancemen under Col. Nelson O. Lynde, then First Army Maintenance Officer. Known as "Lynde's Task Force," the men set up defense points and traded blows with the enemy until help arrived. In the wake of the 4th Armd. Div.'s smash into Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne Div. was the 3450th MAM Co., the same unit that built the "tankdozers" in Normandy.
In Seventh Army's sector, Flaming Bombers took their share of the counter-offensive, and for them it was the same thing: "Pull back; stay in business; fight." While evacuation was the general policy, there were some outfits which had to hang on because of the tactical necessity. One of the few ASPs not evacuated was that operated by the 680th Ord. Ammunition Co. Little distance separated it from the enemy, but men of the 680th, veterans of the North African and Italian campaigns, had seen rough days before. When the Krauts were only a few miles away, the Ordnancemen planted demolition charges in the ammunition, prepared to pull out in a hurry. But the American line held.
When Ordnance added fighting to its normal mission of supply and maintenance, technicians frequently found their jobs doubly dangerous. For instance, Pfc William Coleman, Detroit, was a member of the 334th Ord. Depot Co. which was helping evacuate another Ordnance outfit from Malmedy, a prime German objective. Continually bracketed by enemy artillery, Coleman loaded his truck, drove seven hours in blackout, almost was captured before he found his company. There, he was given a bazooka and told to guard a crossroads against Kraut tanks. This was not unusual. Ordnancemen frequently found themselves serving with infantry, artillery and TDs.
Equipment losses in four United States Armies for December doubled those of the previous month. However, maintenance service cut down losses immeasurably, putting back into action some equipment battered beyond recognition. The repair ratio was two small arms weapons for each one lost and 12 to one for artillery weapons.
In Third Army alone, maintenance crews put back into action more damaged guns and vehicles than were lost by four entire armies in December. Considerable economy in repair work was due to the Ordnance salvage program. Salvage crews stripped ruined equipment of every part which could be used again on another tank or gun. Set up at strategic locations, Ordnance collecting points served as salvage centers, facilitating proper distribution of damaged materiel and parts.
Between D-Day and V-E Day, third, fourth and fifth echelon maintenance shops in the Communications Zone repaired 335,995 vehicles of all types, 407,182 small arms weapons and 11,182 artillery pieces -- a total of 754,259 jobs.
French plants were used for reconditioning and overhauling of engines. Shortly after the liberation of Paris, 15 major French automobile plants were reopened. With French labor under Army Ordnance supervision, production was increased to more than 600 jobs per day on every type engine used by the army. The program cut down months, removed thousands of miles, saved several Liberty ships' shipping space and $25,000,000.
With the Allies all-out spring drive under way, the problem of keeping pace with tanks and infantry once again became the chief concern of maintenance and supply. Leapfrogging of depots again was initiated.
To support the Rhine offensive, speed was vital. One Ninth Army Ordnance outfit near Remagen received 50 new M-26 tanks destined for the assault on the east bank of the Rhine. These giant vehicles were processed in 72 hours. Maintenance was more mobile than ever before. Even heavy maintenance companies pulled stakes and advanced several times a week.
The 3448th MAM Co., operating a Third Army forward collecting point, had a difficult time keeping up with Gen. Patton's troops. Although it had to pack up and pull out unwieldy equipment six times in two weeks, it was able to load and move out of an area one and a half hours after receiving orders.
The 769th Light Maint. Co. was a part of the 69th Inf. Div. which spearheaded First Army's spring offensive, taking Leipzig and making the initial contact with Soviet troops at Torgau. Moving 35 miles a day, the 769th frequently flanked the infantry, and several times its mechanics traveled with the division. During the drive, these men improved their mobility with captured vehicles including 150 utility trucks, 250 trailers, 60 sedans, 50 busses and several fire engines. The company, which handled more than 1000 requisitions and repaired 2000 items of equipment, was awarded the Meritorious Service Plaque.
At this time, many German factories, buildings, roads and other facilities were being used by Ordnancemen to expedite their particular jobs. The 699th Heavy Maint. Co. (TK) used the famous stadium at Nurnberg for its control point. German autobahns, constructed to speed the Wehrmacht, became traffic lanes for Ordnance supply trucks to rush across the country.
FLAMING BOMBERS READY FOR ANY OR ALL JOBS
Roads were spotted with maintenance and tire patrols. In forward areas, Ordnance Intelligence teams scouted for new enemy weapons and inspected recently captured factories. Results of their findings now are being examined by experts in Washington and Aberdeen. These teams were made up of especially picked men like Sgt. Otto Hess, Brooklyn. Born in Germany, Hess used his knowledge of the country, language and people, as well as his civilian experience in commercial photography. He was of invaluable aid to his team.
Up ahead with armor and infantry, Bomb Disposal squads were busy pulling stingers from UXBs. Squads frequently helped combat engineer units remove land mines and neutralize road blocks. In several instances, Bomb Disposal men, working in advance of combat troops, including both infantry and engineers, removed fuses from demolition bombs to keep important bridges from being destroyed.
The 20th Bomb Disposal Squad deactivated shells and blockbusters from Normandy to the Cologne Plain. Like others, this squad was faced with unfamiliar problems. At Cherbourg, while inerting enemy demolition charges set in various parts of the city, the men became aware of the fact that Krauts had used French ammunition. Another harrowing situation arose in Normandy when the 20th defused two 2000-pound blockbusters lying on either side of a road while a column of mediums, whose vibrations threatened to set off the bombs' detonating mechanisms, rumbled over the road.
The 146th BD Squad distinguished itself in Italy, France and Germany. The rough jobs it handled typify the work of any Bomb Disposal Squad. It was all in the day's work when Capt. Andrew B. Nicholls, Ithaca, N.Y., and T/Sgt. James P. Kendall, Louisville, Ky., deactivated two "screaming meemie" rockets in a CP 100 yards from the German lines; when Sgt. Robert H. Cowan, North Canton, Ohio, and Cpl. Melvin J. Beck, Pittsburgh, removed several artillery shells from another CP while dodging enemy mortars; when Cpl. Leo M. Gugliatti, Brooklyn, was blown 30 feet into the air as his jeep went over a land mine and lived to tell the story.
With the 4th Armd. Div., which launched the incredible Third Army spearhead in April, 1945, was the 126th Maint. Bn. It literally was a garage on wheels, and used 16 tons of parts and supplies in its daily repairs. Forty Purple Heart awards were made to men of the 126th.
The 726th Light Maint. Co., serving with the 26th "Yankee" Inf. Div., was charged with 30 to 60 percent of the division's maintenance but never handled less than 80 percent. Its armament platoon alone turned out more than 1000 jobs in three months.
Attached to the 2nd Inf. Div., the 11th Ordnance Co. manufactured 1300 grenade launcher sights for the M-1 rifle in the record time of three weeks.
Tire repair seldom makes front page stories, but had it not been for outfits like the 158th Tire Repair Co., there might have been little headline news about the mobility of American Armies. One unit of the 158th, under S/Sgt. Robert Fullerton, Dallas, Tex., repaired and put back into service 7000 tires in eight months as well as inspecting and evaluating thousands more.
Third Army tankers almost bogged down because of a spark plug shortage. But several Ordnancemen got their hands on 40,000 captured plugs, made a few minor changes and put them into Shermans. One soldier owes his life to S/Sgt. Rudolph Mathews, Placerville, Calif., and S/Sgt. Wallace W. Jensen, Omaha, Nebr., who, in only 15 minutes, maufactured an intricate part for a Bovie electrical surgical instrument which broke down during a delicate brain operation. Parts weren't available; Ordnance ingenuity was.
Lt. Anthony Pluth, Chisolm, Minn., 136th Ord. Bn., worked out an added safety feature for armored vehicles. Sandbags were placed in a rack, fitted around the hull of a tank. In the event of a direct hit, the bags would explode Panzerfaust and bazooka shells before reaching the armor.
Carbine-carrying troops can thank two Ordnancemen, Sgts. Walter H. Walker, Winkle, Ohio, and "Slim" Wolffe, Philadelphia, for a device which enables the weapon to be fired on full automatic.
The 3212th Ordnance Small Arms Maint. Co. put 85 liberated Soviet Russians and 25 French civilians to work for the troops of a French regiment attached to Seventh Army. Performing 400 jobs a day, these mechanics, under Ordnance supervision, repaired more than 20,000 automatic and semi-automatic rifles and machine guns in two months.
The story of Ordnance's achievement in the ETO actually requires volumes; every one of the 150,000 Flaming Bombers -- from Maj. Gen. Henry B. Sayler, Chief Ordnance Officer, to Pvt. Joe Smith, welder -- has a story to tell.
The story each can relate varies in importance, but, according to Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance, "Collectively they turned out a mechanical and technical superiority for American troops which no other Army in the history of the world has ever equalled."
Ordnance gave the American soldier his weapon, then made sure that the weapon kept firing.
A few years ago a kid in dirty overalls was putting the finishing touches on somebody's shiny convertible back at Frank's Garage in Twin Falls. Today that same kid has put the finishing touches on the bogie suspension of an M-4 tank. He and thousands like him are mopping the grime from their faces, and maybe grinning just a little. The Nazis are whipped and Ordnancemen have a right to smile. But it's a quick one, for Ordnance Joe is spitting on his hands. Flaming Bombers are ready for any or all jobs. Anywhere!