289th Engineer Combat Battalion (United States)

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289th Engineer Combat Battalion
289th Engineer Combat Battalion insignia.jpg
Shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1943–46
Country United States United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Combat engineer
Role Combat service support
Size Battalion
Engagements World War II (Ardennes-Alsace Campaign, Rhineland Campaign, Central Europe Campaign)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Lt. Col. Linnel Wallace[1]

The 289th Engineer Combat Battalion was a combat engineer battalion of the United States Army during World War II. It served under XXI Corps of the Seventh Army in action mainly in France and Germany in 1944 and 1945. It received campaign credit for participation in the Ardennes-Alsace campaign,[2][3] Rhineland campaign,[2] and the Invasion of Germany.[2]

The 289th's principal combat assignments in the Alsace and Rhineland included serving as infantry to protect an important road junction near Saint-Avold, France, ferrying assault troops across the Saar River near Saarbrücken Germany; escorting an ambulance corps across the Rhine at Worms near Mannheim; and ferrying troops and equipment across the Neckar River near Heidelberg.

Following these the battalion moved east towards Würzburg to support the assault of that city. In the latter stages of the War it campaigned south and southeast through communities straddling the states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Company B continued on assisting rapidly moving armor in the Seventh Army's race to head off German entrenchment in a feared National Redoubt and seal off Alpine passes to Nazi escape.

By early May forward elements of the battalion were spread as far afield as Austria and northern Italy. VE-Day found the Headquarters & Supply company and remaining components of the 289th in Göppingen near Stuttgart.

The 289th served occupation duty in three locations in southwest Germany before beginning its return to the United States via Antwerp, Belgium in August 1945.

History[edit]

World War II recruiting poster for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The 289th Engineer Combat Battalion was constituted at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Little Rock, Arkansas, in December 1942.[4] A cadre from the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion was detached to Camp Robinson to form its core,[5] establishing Companies A, B, C, and HQ and Service.[1] After training,[6] the 289th left New York Port of Embarkation[7] for the European Theater of Operations (ETO) on 22 October 1944. Upon arrival at Bristol on 1 November, it debarked for training in Weston-super-Mare. On 28 December it departed Southampton[8] for Le Havre, landing 31 December.

In the ETO the 289th was attached directly to the XXI Corps of the Seventh Army, U.S. Sixth Army Group. As a combat service support unit operating at corps level, the 289th was deployed as needed in whole or part, with companies and platoons often temporarily attached to other field commands. Thus it was common for elements of the latter to be far afoot of the unit's official location wherever its Headquarters & Supply company was stationed.[a]

Upon arrival in France the battalion traveled southeast by rail in 40&8s, stopping in Forges-les-Eaux and Lunéville before arriving at Fort de la Mouche in Epinal. In mid-January the unit was ordered to serve as infantry defending a key road junction near Saint-Avold connecting the heavily contested French fortress city of Metz, the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg, and the German city of Saarbrucken. The battalion's 30-cal and 50-cal gun crews were deployed to strengthen a badly over-stretched Seventh Army line depleted when elements were detached to fill the vacuum created when General George Patton's Third Army raced north to the Ardennes to relieve the besieged 101st Airborne at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge.

In late January and early February the 289th was briefly deployed as part of XXI Corps under the command of French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny's French First Army in its effort to clear attacking German troops from the Colmar Pocket during the Operation Nordwind offensive.[9] Nordwind's intent was to drive a wedge through the weakened Allied defenses in the Alsace to prevent reinforcement to the north against its main thrust toward the coveted Allied port of Antwerp and badly needed supplies staged there. Strasbourg was successfully defended, and XXI Corp restored to the US Seventh Army.

Immediately following this the 289th moved near Saarbrücken, where it refined its training and acquired combat engineering materials in preparation for joining in Operation Undertone, the Allied invasion of the Saarland set to commence on 15 March. Battalion engineers ferried infantry across the Saar in the breaching of the vaunted Siegfried Line March 17–20; followed by support over the Rhine near Mannheim March 30; and ferry and pontoon bridge construction assistance over the Neckar near Heidelberg March 31.[10] From there the 289th moved successively eastward closer to Würzburg through 18 April on the heels of the retreating Germans.

It then pivoted south through badly ravaged Crailsheim in several short encampments over the next three weeks, facing diminishing German resistance in areas then falling well behind rapidly advancing front lines. In late April Company B was tasked to support the fast-moving 12th Armored Division[9] in its drive deep into Bavaria to prevent the establishment of a German National Redoubt. With engineers building bridges as fast as the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS could blow them, the 12th roared toward the finish in the Seventh Army's race to the Alps to seal off the Brenner Pass to Nazi escape;[11] a prize nabbed at the wire by the rival 103rd Infantry Division on 4 May. VE Day was celebrated four days later with H&S company stationed in Göppingen, 20 miles southeast of Stuttgart, and forward elements of the 289th having sprawled as far afield as Austria[12] and northern Italy before war's end.[9]

Occupation duty included being rushed to secure the Kaufbeuren Air Base in southern Bavaria when it was revealed as the final location of the Nazi Party's top secret FA signals intelligence and cryptanalytic agency.[13] Perceived crucial by TICOM, the U.S. intelligence and technology gathering organization, its top secret records forced the 289th into the unusual role of military police. Next was a brief move to secure Neckarsulm, home of NSU Motorenwerke's SdKfz 2 production,[14] followed by an extended stay in Mosbach, site of an underground Daimler-Benz airplane engine factory codenamed "Goldfisch".[15]

Remaining there into August 1945, the 289th was transferred via train through the Netherlands to Belgium to ship out for deployment to the Pacific Theater in preparation for the invasion of Japan. It departed Antwerp 14 August 1945,[16] and was abreast of the White Cliffs of Dover in the English Channel when the announcement of the Japanese surrender on VJ Day, 15 August, was broadcast to all aboard. The transport was then re-routed to the United States, and arrived at Boston POE on 28 August.[17] Members of the unit were processed through Camp Myles Standish and detached to bases nearest their homes to be demobilized.

The unit itself remained active, serving as a shell for repatriating troops as part of Operation Magic Carpet at least into January 1946.[18]

Capabilities[edit]

Combat engineers ferrying infantry in M2 assault boat
Infantry support bridge over Saar River erected by 289th Engineers at Volklingen

As a combat engineer battalion the 289th was capable of providing a wide variety of combat support services essential to sustaining operating forces in the theater of war.[19] These spanned such diverse activities as construction, demolition, sanitation, map production, minefield clearing, and unit intelligence.

Combat engineer battalions also fielded defensive .30 cal. and .50 cal. machine gun squads, anti-tank rocket and grenade launchers, and were required to fight as infantry when needed.[20]

The range of services provided included but was not limited to:[21]

  • Bridge (mobile, floating, fixed), rail, & road construction and maintenance
  • Conducting river crossings by ponton/raft, motor-powered assault boats
  • Demolition
  • Placing/de-arming munitions, including mines
  • Port & harbor maintenance and rehabilitation, including beachheads:
  • Laying roads and unloading/loading supplies, vehicles & personnel from transport and cargo ships
  • Camouflage
  • Water supply and sanitation
  • Map production
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Establishing/maintaining supply and ammunition dumps
  • Building barracks, depots, and similar structures
  • Rescue & road patrols, bridge and road reconnaissance
  • Clearing of debris and wreckage
  • Serving as infantry when needed

Among those carried out in action by the 289th were the clearing of minefields, removal of demolition charges, and disarming of anti-personnel munitions and booby traps; deployment and operation of assault boats;[22] and the construction of various pontoon bridges,[23] including M1 treadways,[24] and modular steel truss Bailey bridges.[24]

Actions[edit]

The 289th Engineer Combat Battalion ferrying troops and vehicles over the Neckar River at Heidelberg

Principal combat actions involving the 289th Engineers include:

Timeline[edit]

Travels of the 289th by Technician Five John T. Bartolomeo, distributed to members of the Battalion commemorating the end of World War II
Sixth Army Group, Seventh Army, XXI Corps insignia composite.png

The 289th traveled as a unit from the U.S. to Saint-Avold, France. Once in the combat zone assignments frequently separated its companies or broke them into smaller outfits, often in support of other units. The travel and encampment dates below reflect the location of the battalion's Headquarters & Supply Company as established in the "Travels of the 289th":

New York

England

France

Germany

France

Germany

Post VE-Day Occupation Duty:

Campaign credit[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ No official history of the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion was ever compiled, and the individual records of those who served were destroyed in the 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire in Overland, Missouri. Its activities have been reconstructed from extant records, including a Summary History of the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion - WW II compiled by commanding officer Lt. Col. Linnel Wallace, on file at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center,[9] an unofficial unit history, oral and video histories of unit members preserved as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, and information contained in the "Travels of the 289th" compiled by Technician Five John T. Bartolomeo, as well as cross-referencing the unit histories and available records of units the 289th was detached to, supported, or was engaged alongside with in the ETO.
  2. ^ Via Camp Kilmer, aboard SS Sea Owl
  3. ^ Avonmouth, 5 m. NW of Bristol on the Severn
  4. ^ 15 m. SW of Avonmouth on Severn
  5. ^ 75 m. SE, via train. Board HMS Cheshire
  6. ^ 120 m. SE of Southampton. Bivouac in pup tents on frozen ground 10 m. from harbor
  7. ^ 65 m. E of Le Havre, via truck transport
  8. ^ 235 m. slightly SE of Forges-les-Eaux, via 40 & 8s
  9. ^ 30 m. S of Lunéville, in Epinal
  10. ^ 55 m. N of Epinal
  11. ^ 15 m. NE of Landroff, 10 m. SW of Saarbrücken
  12. ^ Immediately SW of and adjacent to Merlebach
  13. ^ 10 m. NE of St. Avold, 2 m. S of the Saar River, 5 m. W of Alt-Saarbrücken
  14. ^ 2 m. NE of Krüghutte on the S bank of the Saar midway between downtown Saarbrücken and Völklingen
  15. ^ 30 m. SE of Gersweiler
  16. ^ 12 m. NE of Bitche
  17. ^ 25 m. slightly NE of Pirmasens
  18. ^ Rheinfeld, 20 m. NE of Edenkoben, 1/2 m. west of the Rhine in Friesenheim section of Ludwigshafen
  19. ^ 2 m. E of Rheinfeld
  20. ^ 30 m. E of Mannheim and 35 m. W of Würzburg
  21. ^ Village within Königheim, 20 m. slightly NE of Mudau, 20 m. SW Würzburg)
  22. ^ 10 m. NE of Gissigheim (Konigheim), 10 m. SW of Würzburg
  23. ^ Village in the district of Uffenheim, 25 m. SE of Großrinderfeld, 10 m. N of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  24. ^ 15-20 m. SW of Welbhausen
  25. ^ Village within Wallhausen, 10 m. slightly SE of Schrozberg, 5-10 m. slightly NE of Crailsheim
  26. ^ 15 m. SE of Wallhausen
  27. ^ 40 m. SW of Dinkelsbühl. According to "Travels of the 289th" the unit passed through Bopfingen (35 m. slightly NE, near Nördlingen) between Dinkelsbühl and Göppingen. Bartolomeo's mapping conventions suggests it bivouacked there, but there is no individual entry for it in the calendar section of the artwork.
  28. ^ 75 m. SE of Göppingen, 25 m. N of Füssen, Austria. Final location of top secret FA (Nazi Party) signals intelligence and cryptanalytic agency[13]
  29. ^ 110 m. NW of Kaufbeuren, 3 m. N of Heilbronn. Home of NSU Motorenwerke's SdKfz 2 production[14]
  30. ^ 15 m. slightly NW of Neckarshulm, 20 m. E of Heidelberg. Site of a Daimler-Benz underground airplane engine factory, codenamed "Goldfisch"[15]
  31. ^ 230 m. NW of Mosbach, via truck transport. To Camp Tophat. Board SS Claymont Victory
  32. ^ Troops processed at Camp Myles Standish

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Trailblazer Magazine: [1] Account of Dalton R. Dennis
  2. ^ a b c d e f Department of the Army, [2] Unit Citation and Campaign Participation Credit Register p.242
  3. ^ a b Department of the Army, General Order 63 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 2016-06-29. Units Entitled to Battle Credit, p.22
  4. ^ Program of the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion Reunion, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 11 October 1997. Page 2, Remembering Our Tour of Duty: "The 289th Engineer Combat Battalion was activated at Camp Robinson, Arkansas and began training on December 30, 1943."
  5. ^ History of the 299th Combat Battalion: [3] "The Battalion arrived in Fort Pierce during the night of 14 December 1943...Two days after our arrival, a cadre was drawn from our unit and sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, to activate the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion."
  6. ^ Niagara Falls Gazette: [4] Article on promotion of Corporal Clarence R. Jackson, 17 February 1944
  7. ^ Depart Camp Kilmer, New York POE, aboard SS Sea Owl [5] "The Battalion departed from Camp Kilmer for New York on October 21. The Atlantic crossing was made on the Sea Owl on 31 October 1944."
  8. ^ Aboard HMS Cheshire; Image: HMS Cheshire, armed auxiliary cruiser and transport
  9. ^ a b c d e f Wallace, Linnel, Lt. Col., Commanding Officer, Summary History of the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion - WW II, 1990, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, PA
  10. ^ VI Corps Engineers First ponton across the river in Heidelberg: [6] The ferry was operated by the 289th Eng Combat Bn.
  11. ^ United States Army in World War II, Special Studies: Chronology 1941-1945
  12. ^ Grotjean, David, Technician Five 2 1/2 ton truck driver Oral History interview at the Library of Congress.
  13. ^ a b Ticom Intelligence: [7] FA (Nazi Party) cryptoanalytic agency site
  14. ^ a b Wehrmacht History: [8] NSU Motorenwerke's SdKfz 2 production facility
  15. ^ a b A Year in Potsdam: [9] Daimler-Benz underground aircraft engine factory
  16. ^ Depart Camp Tophat, aboard SS Claymont Victory [10] Huntingdon Daily News 1 September 1945
  17. ^ Arrive Boston, 28 August 1945 [11] Pittsfield Berkshire Evening Eagle: "The Pittsfield soldiers who arrived this morning at 8:30 at Commonwealth pier in Boston on the S.S. Claymont Victory are..."
  18. ^ Going Home -1946 My Final Days Of Military Service, Joe Lipsius, Headquarters 272nd Infantry Regiment: [12] "In early January 1946, I [had been promoted to commander of the 3rd Battalion 311th, now stationed in the port town of Bremerhaven] boarded a Liberty Ship (I think this was the name of those small war-built transports) as part of the 289 Combat Engineer Battalion headed for the good ole USA and civilian life once again. The 289th was just a shipment Unit for the troops headed home. The boat had about 900. "
  19. ^ Department of the Army Field Manual No. 4-0, Chapter 1 [13] The Engineering element of providing the essential capabilities, functions, activities, and tasks necessary to sustain all elements of operating forces in theater at all levels of war.
  20. ^ United States Government War Department Engineer Field Manual FM-5-5, Engineer Troops, 11 October 1943
  21. ^ VI Corps History: What Did Combat Engineers Do?
  22. ^ a b 70th Infantry Division, 270th ECB: [14] Documents: AAR Mar 45: "Liaison was established with the 1150th Engineer Combat Group and it was decided that the 289th Engineer Combat Battalion would be responsible for the assault boat crossing of the river." (map)
  23. ^ 549th Engineer Light Ponton Company History [15]
  24. ^ a b c d Dixon, Steven, K. (2002). The 270th Engineer Combat Battalion in World War II: From Camp Adair to Germany (4 ed.). Mirriam Press. p. 88. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  25. ^ 70th Infantry Organic Units Roster: [16] Attached Units - Engineer
  26. ^ 70th Infantry Division, 270th ECB: [17] Documents: AAR Mar 45: "By the evening of the 20th of March the Division had completely crossed the SAAR RIVER and the following bridges were in place:...3. Infantry Support Bridge at VOLKLINGEN (Constructed by 289th Engineers)" (map)
  27. ^ Image of infantry support bridge over Saar erected by 3rd Platoon, Company B, 289th Engineers
  28. ^ Per Travels of the 289th (map)
  29. ^ VI Corps Combat Engineers after-action notes [18] indicate ferry was at Ladenburg (map) midway between Mannheim and Heidelberg
  30. ^ Image of 289th ferrying operation in action

External links[edit]

Library of Congress Veterans History Project