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The Men of FOX COMPANYHistory and Recollections of Company F, 291st Infantry Regiment, Seventy-Fifth Infantry Division
By EDGAR "TED" COX SCOTT ADAMS
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Edgar "Ted" Cox and Scott Adams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFORMATION AND TRAINING FOR WAR
Fox Company was the only company in the division to have two squads in first place in individual proficiency tests
The 75th Infantry Division (ID) was called the "Diaper Division". It was said the 75th ID had the youngest age of all Divisions committed to Europe, because it had the average age, 21.9 years. Stephen Ambrose, in his book D-Day stated the average age of an American division was twenty-six. The 75th ID was thrown into combat soon after arriving in Europe in December 1944. Over the next 94 days, the 75th ID fought three campaigns. These were the Ardennes (Known as the Battle of the Bulge), the Rhineland (Colmar Pocket) and Central Europe (Ruhr Valley). Quickly the men of the 75th ID became seasoned combat troops. For their efforts in stopping the western attack of the German army in the Battle of the Bulge and the Colmar Pocket, the 75th ID was known as the Bulge Busters. This history will follow Company F, 291st Infantry Regiment, 75th ID through its battles. Each battle will be told by several men from different levels of command to get different points of view. During World War 2, the military phonetic alphabet used Fox for the letter F. Therefore the men thought of their company as Fox Company.
Fox Company was part of 2nd Battalion 291st Infantry Regiment of the 75th ID. 2nd Battalion also included E, G, and H Companies. The 291st Infantry Regiment and the 75TH ID were formally activated at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on April 15th 1943. Fort Leonard Wood was a new post, built in 6 months in 1940 by a construction group that went around the country building army bases. The officer cadre had attended new officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia prior to their arrival at Fort Leonard Wood. The sergeant cadre came from the 83rd Infantry Division. But in Fox Company the cadre did not fill positions below platoon sergeant. The 291st Infantry Regiment had been organizing at Fort Leonard Wood since March 10th, 1943. Colonel Julian Dayton was the first regimental commander. At activation Major John Keenon was the first 2nd Battalion commander. Captain Gene Droulliard was the first Fox Company commander but soon was transferred to Company G as its commander. But not before naming several of the new enlisted men to be corporals. Captain James (Sam) Drake took command of the Fox and led it through State side training and took the company to war.
On April 19th 1943 mobilization training started. The majority of the young teenage soldiers came from reception centers without training. The training at Fort Leonard Wood included weapons training, bayonet and grenade instruction, patrolling, map reading, field fortifications. Training progressed from individual soldier to squad then platoon and finally company. Mobilization training was concluded on July 24, 1943. Battalion and regiment training came next, often spending weeks at a time on bivouac to adjust to field conditions. Many soldiers who started training in April were made sergeants. Athletic teams were formed. In the summer of 1943 many soldiers were able to go home on leave. Some soldiers were selected for deployment overseas. New trainees came from the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) to fill the gaps. The ASTP was a military training program allowing enlisted men to stay in college so that later the Army would have a source of junior officers or soldiers with technical skills. One ATSP soldier was future Senator from Kansas, Bob Dole. Dole went through the Louisiana maneuvers training with the 290th regiment until the summer of 1944 when he went Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. Bob Dole went on to serve in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy and later became a United States Senator from Kansas.
2nd Battalion command was passed to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Jesse Drain Jr., West Point Class of 1936. LTC Drain had been a War Department observer of the war in Italy prior to coming to Fort Leonard Wood. From 1952 to 1953, Jesse Drain was a Colonel and commanded the 7th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War.
Each American Infantry squad had one BAR for fire support for its teams. The German squad had a light machine gun (MG34 or MG42) in its 10 man squad. German squad tactics were built around its machine gun. The German rifleman had a bolt action Mauser rifle.
Fox's company basketball team won the Regimental Championship and the Divisional Championship. Team consisted of Ed Baronian, George Thomas, Del Goodyear, Carlos Chavez, LT William Murphy (coach), John Porter, James Cardoza, Cecil Helphinstine (team captain), Earl Adams, and Royal Elf.
In January 1944 the 75th ID left Fort Leonard Wood for the 6th Louisiana Maneuver Period. Training in Louisiana lasted from February through April 1944. The 75th ID along with the 92nd ID was part of XVIII Corps called the Blue force. The Blue force maneuvered, defended and attacked the Red Force consisting of the 44th ID and the 8th Armored Division. The maneuvers took place around Merryville, DeRider, and Camp Polk, Louisiana. PFC Fred Reither remembers marching miles most days to set up road blocks and guarding bridges. After marching for miles many men including Reither had blisters for the medics to fix. On another march the company marched through a swamp and knee deep mud. They then crossed a river in assault boats to attack the enemy.
At the beginning of April 1944 the 75th ID was sent to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky. At Camp Breckinridge individual training continued. Monetary awards were given to men who scored the highest totals in rifle marksmanship. During July and August the regiment was kept busy with squad and platoon proficiency tests, regimental combat team exercises and battalion combat firing tests. In a letter to his Aunt and Uncle in July, S/Sgt Earl Adams wrote that in squad tests S/Sgt George Thomas set the division record on one squad test and Adams got the record high on another squad test. Fox Company was the only company in the Division to have 2 squads in first place in individual proficiency tests . Adams wrote the "Old Man" (Capt Drake) was quite happy and it was good to have him on the good side. Overnight bivouacs were common with several days spent in the field. From every theater of the war overseas veterans arrived along with soldiers from the infantry replacement training centers. When it was shown more infantrymen were needed, men were transferred to the Infantry. Some such as Ed Letourneau and Ed Neville came from Colleges and the ASTP. Men such as Ray Stoddard came from the Army Air Corps. Others such as Dick Forni, came from military police units.
Ed Letourneau joined Fox Company and 3rd platoon during the last part of the Louisiana Maneuvers. Ed had been in the ASTP program studying Engineering for 5 months at the City College of New York. Since the Army needed more soldiers for combat replacements, the ASTP was ended. Ed had taken Infantry basic before going to CCNY so he assigned to the 75th ID, while it was taking part in the Louisiana Maneuvers. At Camp Breckinridge, Ed became friends with John Klimek from Chicago. John wanted to get married before shipping out for Europe. John asked Ed to be his best man. John's family was Polish and John's father owned a tavern. The wedding celebrations lasted 3 days. During the Battle of the Bulge John Klimek was killed.
Ed Neville was also in the ASTP and joined Fox's mortar section of the weapons platoon at Camp Breckinridge. In Fox Company, Ed made friends with Cecil Brooks, William Evans, Arthur Giustizia, Gerald Dickinson and Ben Combs. Brooks, Evans, and Giustizia were killed in action. Ben Combs was wounded. Ed was hospitalized in January for several weeks with dysentery and trench foot. Ed and Ben stayed friends after the war. After the war Ed married Marjorie Thon. His first date with Marjorie was with Ben and his wife Anne.
The Company posed for photos for 75th Infantry Division book produced by Albert Love Enterprises.
In the early summer 1944 members of Fox Company took the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) test. This was a field craft and weapons skill test that only a few pass. To compete, you had to first qualify as an expert marksman with the M1 Rifle. By orders dated July 15, 1944, eleven men from Fox Company were awarded the EIB. They were the following: S/Sgt Rupert Buchanan, S/Sgt Ernest Porter, S/Sgt Orville Reagan, S/ Sgt George Thomas, T/Sgt Oris Dobbins, T/Sgt Cecil Helphinstine, Sgt Thomas Cardoza, Sgt Gordon Harvey, Sgt Merle Johnson, Cpl Cecil Brooks, and PFC Richard DeBruyn.
For one Battalion exercise, Captain Drake assigned Corporal Ray Stoddard the mission of conducting one of the training stations. Ray was to lead training in compass reading, which Ray protested that he knew nothing about compass readings. Drake gave Ray a soldier's manual and told him to study it. But Drake took it upon himself to ensure Ray was ready to teach the subject. Drake led he did not push.
At Camp Breckinridge, Lieutenant (LT) Ted Cox arrived to be Capt Sam Drake's company executive officer. Platoon leaders were Richard Thompson (1st Platoon), Harvey P. Cannon (2nd Platoon), William (Bill) Hanser (3rd Platoon), and Paul K (PK) Bowman (Weapons Platoon).
First Sergeant was 1Sgt David Sigmund.
Tech Sergeant (T/Sgt) George Thomas was the 1St Platoon Sergeant. S/Sgt Orville Reagan was platoon guide. After the Battle of the Bulge, the 1st Platoon squad leaders were S/Sgt Richard (Dick) DeBruyn, S/Sgt Chuck Pippy, S/Sgt Elmer Prestridge.
2nd Platoon Sergeant was T/Sgt "Pappy" French. Platoon guide S/ Sgt Pearson Schiller. 2nd Platoon squad leaders were S/Sgt Robert T. Berkebile (1st Squad), and S/Sgt Del Goodyear (2nd Squad), S/Sgt Earl R Adams (3rd Squad).
3rd Platoon Sergeant T/Sgt Irwin, S/Sgt Clarence Shelton was platoon guide. 3rd platoon squad leaders were S/Sgt Merle Johnson, S/Sgt Donnie Glasscock, and S/Sgt Shea.
Weapons Platoon Sergeant T/Sgt George Thompson and T/Sgt Lee Albers, S/Sgt Earnest Porter, Mortar Section Sergeant, S/Sgt Ed Neville Neville, mortar squad leader.
Sports took their place in the Regimental activities. Soldiers formed boxing, baseball and basketball teams. The Fox Company basketball team won the Regimental and Divisional championship again with Captain Sam Drake as coach. Earl Adams wrote home from Camp Breckinridge that in the two seasons Fox's basketball team lost one game.
To keep soldiers informed about items of interest and recreational activities, a regimental newspaper was published. The newspaper was called the Rigamarole. The 75th Division printed a newspaper called The Mule.
As stated at the beginning of this story, the 75th ID had the youngest average age of its soldiers. For example the squad leader of 3rd squad 2nd platoon, Earl Adams, turned 21 in October 1944. His squad scout, Dick Phillips, was eighteen in October 1944. At the time of deployment to Europe, the Army regulations stated an eighteen years old soldier did not have to serve overseas. Captain Drake told Dick Phillips he did not have to deploy. But Dick did not want to go to war with any other unit, so he deployed and turned nineteen in England.
Before the 75th ID shipped out, some families were able to visit. Viola Edge came to see her husband PFC Kay Edge. PFC James Davis's wife and 3 oldest children came to say goodbye. His oldest son, Bill was only 4 and a half but he remembers Camp Breckinridge. He also remembers Viola Edge was very kind to his mother and the children. S/Sgt Earl Adams' mother travelled to Kentucky.
At midnight with bands playing on October 16, 1944, Fox Company and the 75th ID moved by train to Camp Shanks, New York, arriving October 18 in the afternoon. Dubbed "Last Stop USA," the Camp Shanks housed about 50,000 troops spread over 2,040 acres and was the largest World War II Army embarkation camp.
GOING OVER SEAS
If there had not been the mistake in routing troop trains, it would have been the 75th Infantry Division at the point of the German attack in the Battle of the Bulge
On October 21th the 291st Infantry Regiment boarded the U.S. Army Transport, the SS Edmund B Alexander and steamed out of New York harbor past the Statue of Liberty on October 22nd. SS Alexander joined a large convoy and arrived at Swansea, South Wales on November 2nd. There were several German U boat scares. Sub chasers and destroyers sped around once in a while and dropped depth chargers. According to reports one submarine was sunk. Fred Reither remembers for the first few days blimps flew overhead. Besides troop ships the convoy include aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers. The weather on the crossing was good. There was not much to do on the crossings. There were life boat drills to train the soldiers where to go to man a life boat. The Alexander was a converted passenger liner. Ed Letourneau remembers the bunks were three high and many soldiers were sea sick.
The officers had it better than the enlisted men. Officers had private quarters and ate in the ship's officer dining hall with white table clothes and Filipino waiters. After dinner, card games would be played. LT Ted Cox won $400 by the time the ship reached Wales, which he sent home to his wife and young son.
November 2nd the ship arrived at Swansea. The troops left the ship at dark and took a train ride to Haverfordwest, Wales. By truck they went to Camp Picton. It was cold. The 291st spent about 30 days in South Wales, organizing equipment, physical conditioning, marching with field equipment and unit drills. Ted Cox remembers "We were under blackout conditions and did not know it, until a uniformed Bobbie knocked on our door after dark and informed us to put curtains on our windows."
On December 9, 1944 Fox Company left Haverfordwest at 11pm and took a train ride to South Hampton arriving at 8am. Fox boarded a British ship, the SS Empire Javelin, at South Hampton and crossed the channel to Le Havre, France. Ted Cox recalls, "The ship was small and the seas rough. The officers ate with the ship's officers in their mess. The food was good but the quantity was small. At 9 o'clock in the morning and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, everything stopped while the British had their tea. Of course we were invited and we accepted because our stomachs were empty because of the small amount of food we had. With the tea we were served one small cookie and there were no seconds. We learned that they were short on food so they had to get by with a smaller amount. We Americans were accustomed to eating all we wanted. The crossing was rough and many were sea sick." Fred Reither remembers the trip was crowded and had bad food. The troops played cards. On December 11, the SS Empire Javelin arrived at Le Havre and the men and equipment are barged to shore. Troops had to go down cargo nets to get into landing craft. On line you can read The Battle Diary of Jack Graber and Company I-291st Infantry, 75th Division. Jack wrote the he sailed to France on the SS Empire Javelin. The SS Empire Javelin was built in the United States and given to the British under the Lend Lease Act. was not without danger. On December 23, 1944 less than a month after the 75th ID crossed the English Channel, two Infantry Regiments of the 66th ID boarded the SS Leopoldville to cross the English Channel. Five and one half miles off Cherbourg, France, the SS Leoleopoldville was struck by a torpedo from a German U Boat. The ship sank slowly and over 1400 soldiers were saved. But 763 soldiers were killed, many were key leaders. It took time to reconstitute the 66th, so they were used to contain German units trapped in pockets along the coast of France. Then on December 28, 1944, the SS Empire Javelin that had carried the 291st Regiment to France was sunk. It is not known if it was sunk by a U boat or by a mine. Nearby ships got all of the 1400 troops and most of the sailors off the stricken ship. Only a few sailors near the explosion died.
Excerpted from The Men of FOX COMPANY by EDGAR "TED" COX SCOTT ADAMS Copyright © 2012 by Edgar "Ted" Cox and Scott Adams. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsINTRODUCTION....................IX FORMATION AND TRAINING FOR WAR....................1
GOING OVER SEAS....................11
BATTLE OF THE BULGE....................15
HOLLAND, DEFENDING THE WEST SIDE OF THE MAAS RIVER....................61
DEFENDING THE WEST SIDE OF THE RHINE RIVER....................67
CROSSING THE RHINE RIVER....................73
THE BATTLE FOR THE RUHR....................79
CAMP BALTIMORE, FRANCE AND GOING HOME....................115
APPENDIX A CASUALTY LIST....................139
APPENDIX B MEN WHO SERVED IN FOX COMPANY....................145
APPENDIX C PORTRAITS OF MEN OF FOX....................157
APPENDIX D STEGEN'S LIST LOCATIONS....................169
APPENDIX E BELGIAN AWARD....................171
APPENDIX F REUNIONS....................173
APPENDIX G CAMPAIGN MAPS....................187
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
great story from WW II
Earl Adams lived for 71 years, was married for 48 of those 71 years, had 3 children, and served in the US Army for 32 years, eventually achieving the rank of Colonel. There was a portion of his life that he seldom spoke of, a 3-year stretch of time that would give him membership in what became known to later generations as the Greatest Generation. His son, Scott, the author of this book, would also serve in his father's profession and 16 years after his death would attempt to learn the story that his father declined to tell. This book, Earl Adams' story as written by his son with the assistance of the Earl's World War II company commander, is an important contribution to the story of the Greatest Generation and an invaluable historical record that future historians will be grateful for. Over a dozen members of F Company provided their memories for this book. Adams skillfully provides context to their story. The story begins in April 1943 when F Company is formed and begins mobilization training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The division that they were a part of, the 75th Infantry Division, had an average age of 21.9 (average age of an American Division was 26). Eighteen months later, after 8 months at Leonard Wood, 4 months in Louisiana, and 6 months at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, F Company would be on a ship to England. F Company would be deployed to Belgium to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. The weather was horrific; 2 feet of snow and sub zero degree temperatures, the misery and cold weather injuries compounded by a lack of cold weather gear, a deficiency not remedied until March. They would begin combat on 27 December 1944 and participate in their last battle on April 12. Within those 105 days, the company would decline in strength from 6 officers and 190 enlisted men to 3 officers and 65 enlisted men. F Company would suffer their first death on 16 January (LT Bowman) and be restored to full strength in late February. Though Churchill would officially declare the war in Europe won on 8 May, it caused no elation in F Company; the possibility of being transferred to the Pacific Theater lingered until August when Japan also surrendered. Still, it would be 9 months until the last members of F Company would be returned to the US. Within this time frame, through the eyes of F Company, one begins to understand why combat veterans are reluctant to tell much of their story. The new soldiers had to avert their eyes when seeing the bodies of those who were once their friends. Veterans were reluctant to get too close to replacements for fear that they would lose them soon. Friends standing side-by-side would wonder until their last days why shrapnel struck their friend and missed them. For some, the war would never leave their consciousness, something as innocent as a photograph or cold weather could trigger memories of the terrible days in the Battle of the Bulge. Balancing these memories are ones of heroism (numerous), stupidity (HQ demanding a report of survey for equipment lost in combat), and pleasure (discovery of casks of wine in French basements, vacationing in Europe after hostilities ceased). Scott Adams and Tex Cox have provided a story that future generations must know to appreciate what their forefathers bequeathed them.We should be grateful that they have preserved it for us.