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"778th Tank Battalion, the Route to Battle"
by George Nicholson
CAMP HOWZE, TEXAS
WEEK OF AUGUST 18, 1944
It was hot in Texas and many of became afflicted with that hot weather ailment
heat rash. We were working day and night. Tankers were cleaning off that last
spot of dirt from their tanks, under flashlights at night: supply sergeants were
rushing completion of shipping boxes and filling duffel bags, while the First
Sergeant and the Company Clerk were sweating with those POM charts.
The new contingent of reinforcements from Fort Knox were being rushed through
firing courses and to those "must" we realized the THIS WAS IT!
Many of got our last weekend passes and rushed off to Dallas and Fort worth to
have that 'last fling' The officers held a party at the Adolphus Hotel in
Dallas. A tired bunch of tankers assembled for reveille the next Monday
WEEK OF AUGUST 25, 1944
We turned the tanks into Ordnance that week and in a few remaining days before
leaving the camp, devoted our time to organized athletics and physical
The supply sergeant came around again, and left us with only our underwear and
one set of khakis, then issued the duffel bags with new clothes in them We
checked them again, marked them and repacked them.
On Friday the 25 of August fully loaded we marched down the seemingly long road
to the railroad station. The line companies boarded the first train; Service and
Headquarters the second. We found ourselves in comfortable Pullmans speeding on
our way, destination unknown. Train #2 followed a somewhat similar route. Capt.
Bachrach was guilty of a security violation
in that he wired, information his family that the train would arrive at Decatur,
Illinois, at a certain time and then met his family at the station there. Action
has been instigated against Captain Bachrach and at this writing decision in
pending, Train #2 arrived at destination 1630 28 August 1944.
Before long we were on our way to Camp Myles Standish MASS.
WEEK Of SEPTEMBER 1, 1944
CAMP MYLES Standish
We found ourselves in comfortable Pullmans speeding across the country: a great
in improvement over the times we traveled in Day coaches while going to and
returning from furloughs. We traveled northward then eastward: passing through
and by many home towns. Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland
and Buffalo, all came within our route of travel It was here that we had our
first taste of censorship. All mail had to be submitted to our mail clerks, who
in turn gave them to the company officers for censoring.
On the 28 of August 1944 we drew into Camp Miles Standish, Mass. and the first
leg of our tourney was over. Upon alighting from the trains, we were given our
instructions over loud speakers. "This was a secret station, no telegrams,
no mention of this Camp at all." We marched off to the barracks and began
getting settled. We turned in our khaki uniform and donned the ODs which didn't
mind as it was a great deal cooler here than the Texas weather we had left
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 2, 1944
At Camp Myles Standish we were being rushed through a mass of inspections,
classes and lectures. They marched us to the lake and instructed us in the
correct method of abandoning ship, and living in a lifeboat. We were issued the
new type gas masks and impregnated clothing and instructed in their use. to top
it all we had to run the camp obstacle course.
Our medics, not to be outdone were busy sharpening their needles and in a period
of six days gave us two 'shots' of Typhus vaccine.
At least were permitted to make censored phone calls and several lucky men were
granted passes to either Boston or Providence. The men with families within 50
miles of the area were given preference and had the opportunity of joining them
once more before departing from the states (Some of these men did not return in
time and were busted to the lowly rank of Private).
On the 3rd of September 1994, our helmets were marked numerically with white
chalk and we prepared our packs for the trip to the Port the next morning. We
carried our duffel bags to the assembly area and left them there for the night.
Very early the next morning, after breakfast we marched to the area, picked up
our bags and continued the long trek to the Railroad Station.
With Martial music in our ears played by the Camp Band, we left Camp Myles
Standish aboard a New Haven Railroad Troop Train.
We drew into Boston Port after a ride of more than two hours. A few yards was
our ship. We later learned it was the SS Monticello, formerly the Italian Luxury
Liner 'Conti Di Savoia,
The Red Cross girls were on hand to greet us with coffee and donuts. Before long
we were marching up that long anticipated 'gangplank" While the band played
the World War1 song 'Over There.'
Upon reaching the deck we started a downward trek dragging our duffel bags. Down
and still down we went until we reached compartments E-5 and F-4. It was hot
down there, the air was stagnant and we all felt a bit nauseous. We were so far
below the water line that many of us jokingly asked for 'submarine pay'.
On the 5th of September 1944 (Labor Day) the Monticello, raised anchor and
slowly drew out to sea -- Its destination a military secret.
Aboard the huge Liner were the men of the 778th Tank Battalion, and the 44th
Infantry Division and the 3rd Corps.
Not until the ship had been out several days was even a hint given that Europe
would be the destination.
The 778 Tank Battalion landed on the battle scared beaches of Normandy
(Cherbourg, France) following a ten day crossing of the Atlantic.
The Battalion was the last of the three units aboard the ship to land and it
wasn't until after dark that the men the of the 778th Tank Battalion set foot on
The 778th was first attached to the ninth Army-but later became a task force of
Patton's 3rd Army.
An advance party consisting of then S-4 Captain Philip W. Goldman, 1st Lt. John
W. Holly, Battalion Adjutant, and P. F. C. John Straka, a one time battalion
clerk, had landed in Europe late in August and set up the unit's encampment near
The trip from Normandy to the Valognes staging area was made by trucks, only a
few residents were on the blackout streets at that late hour-- and their
emotions ranging from enthusiastic waving to indifference as the men of this
future task force of the Third Army sped to their bivouac.
The men hadn't been in Europe a half hour before they encountered their first
urgent pleas of 'cigarette for Papa' It was something new for the tankers and
many tossed their last package to the Frenchmen, and later had borrow a butt
from their buddies, while the natives walked with a satchel full of the popular
American tobacco products.
It was sometime after midnight before the tankers finally reached their area,
and most of the fellows simply laid down their blankets on the wet grass and
crawled in for the night.
We moved in the new area the next morning and after remaining there for a number
of days while being equipped with vehicles, moved to an area near Bricquebec,
where we remained until our assigned to the 3rd Army.
Incessant rain during virtually the entire two month stay in Normandy made the
bivouac areas a quagmire, and companies moved from lot to lot seeking firm
ground for their vehicles and tent-huts
Old timers reminiscing of those days jested "we should got the Normandy
Campaign Ribbon for those two months',
HEADQUARTERS 94TH INFANTRY DIVISION
5 OCTOBER 1945
Under the provisions of Section IV, Circular 333 War Departments, 22 December
1943, the following Units cited:
3rd Bn. 302nd Inf Reg.
3rd Pla. Antitank Co, 302nd Inf. Reg.
3rd Pla Cannon Co. 302nd Inf. Reg.
1st Pla. Co-B 774 Tk. Bn
1st Pla. Co-B 778th Tk.Bk.
--BY COMMANDER MAJOR GENERAL BARNETT--
Copies provided by Douglas LaRue Smith to the author. Captain Smith Commanded
Company M of the 302nd at Lampaden,Germany. This citation was Confirmed after
fifty years languishing in the archives in permanent order 224-1 of 1 `2 August
1997 awarding the Presidential Unit Citation to the units listed.
There were only three D.Sc. awarded in the Battalion, and the first awarded by
the 95th Infantry Division.
by George NICHOLSON
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