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7 October 1944

7 October 1944

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7 October 1944

October 1944

> November

Eastern Front

Soviet Karelian Front begins offensive towards Norwegian border.


British 8th Army attacks across the river Fiumicino

7 October 1944 - History

President Roosevelt chose Columbus Day in 1944 to show the representatives of the Latin American republics how the Good Neighbor policy and the wartime hemispheric defense policy were about to be extended to the whole world as the basis for the new United Nations Organization. In his 1933 inaugural address, Roosevelt had declared that "In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor&mdashthe neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others&mdashthe neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors."

But the American isolationists, and the emerging fascist movement in Europe, had prevented him from implementing his plan across the Atlantic, so Roosevelt built a model of cooperation on a smaller scale&mdashwith the sister republics of Latin America. Roosevelt abhorred colonialism, and followed a policy of non-intervention in Latin America, backing up his policy with concrete actions.

Cuba was still a U.S. Protectorate in 1933, and when the Cubans overthrew their government and disorder reigned in the streets, everyone expected the American military to land, as it had done in the past. But Roosevelt called in the envoys from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico to assure them that the warships which he did send to Cuba were only there to evacuate the Americans, which they did. Then he ended the protectorate. The next year, FDR brought the last Marines home from Haiti, which had been occupied by the U.S. since the Wilson Administration. Roosevelt also renegotiated the Panama Canal arrangements with Panama, and refused to collect monies from the Latin American nations on behalf of American bondholders and oil companies.

When Secretary of State Cordell Hull attended the Seventh International Conference of American States at Montevideo in December of 1933, he laid the basis for a reciprocal trade program. In June 1934, Congress passed enabling legislation to expedite imports of tropical products and raw materials that the U.S. did not produce, in return for sales to Latin America of manufactured goods.

By 1936, Roosevelt was convinced that the fascist takeovers in Europe would lead to war, and he therefore took major steps to secure the American continent. He called for an inter-American meeting in Buenos Aires, and travelled to Argentina to personally keynote the conference. There, he stated that the role of the democracies must be to consult with each other on their mutual safety against aggressors, to raise their living standards, to promote social and political justice, and to exchange both commodities and ideas with other nations.

Out of that conference came a number of treaties and bilateral agreements on security, promotion of trade, and cultural exchange. For his part, Roosevelt directed that U.S. orders for raw materials should be directed to Latin America in order to support its developing economies.

Once the Munich agreement betraying Czechoslovakia to Hitler was signed in the fall of 1938, Roosevelt knew America was running out of time. In December, he sent Secretary Hull to Lima, Peru for the International Conference of American States, and included Alf Landon, the Republican Presidential nominee for 1936, in the delegation. The resulting Declaration of Lima provided for consultation in case of a threat to the security of any member nation.

When war broke out in Europe in 1939, trade between the U.S. and Latin America increased enormously. Roosevelt estimated that Latin America had lost 40% of its export trade due to the war, and he attempted not only to remedy the situation, but to greatly strengthen the Central and South American economies. In July 1940, the President asked Congress for legislation to allow the Export-Import Bank to increase its lending authority. The resulting measure led to credits for the central banks of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Loans were approved "to finance the purchase of commodities, machinery, and services required in connection with the development of these countries, such as steel mills, railroad improvements, highways, and industrial purposes."

Now that France and the Netherlands had been overrun by the German Army, and Great Britain was being attacked, there was great danger that the European powers' defeat would mean that their possessions in the Western Hemisphere would be taken over by Hitler's Germany and used as bases. President Roosevelt therefore called for a Pan-American Conference in Havana in the summer of 1940, and the resulting Act of Havana sufficed to empower the United States to seize islands where there was a change of sovereignty, or the threat of indirect control by an Axis power. That power never had to be used.

In the fall of 1940, Hitler asked his staff to draw up plans to seize Atlantic islands as a first step toward invading Latin America. There was also the threat posed by Vichy-held Dakar in French West Africa, the westernmost African port which could serve as a base to invade Brazil.

It was attacked unsuccessfully in 1940 by General de Gaulle with British backup, and did not enter the Allied camp until December of 1942. But the foremost threat was Nazi fifth column activity in Latin America, which actually did aim at an attack on the U.S. through Mexico.*

To counter these possibilities, Roosevelt had the Chiefs of Staff of both the Mexican and Canadian military establishments come to Washington to participate in joint defense studies. The President also sent FBI teams to Latin America to train their police and army in tracking down fifth columnists and saboteurs.

During the course of World War II, the Latin American republics, with the exception of Argentina, cooperated with the United States against the Axis. In September 1943, Roosevelt reported to Congress that "The policy of Good Neighbor has shown such success in the hemisphere of the Americas that its extension to the whole world seems to be the logical next step."

Thus, Roosevelt addressed the Chiefs of Mission of the Latin American republics on the occasion of Columbus Day in 1944: "Today is the birthday of the new world. The peoples of the American Republics are joining in paying tribute to the courage and vision of Christopher Columbus, whose name we honor and whose adventurous spirit we perpetuate.

"The survival of that spirit is more important than ever, at this time when we are fighting a world war, and when we are building the solid, durable foundations for future world peace.

"The little fleet with which Columbus first crossed the ocean took ten weeks for the voyage. And the crews of those three ships totalled approximately ninety men.

"Today&mdashevery day&mdashmany times that number of men and many tons of cargo are carried across the ocean by air&mdashthey go across in a few hours. And by sea transport, an entire division of some fifteen thousand men can be sent across the Atlantic in one ship in one week.

"Thus the margin between the Old World and the New World&mdashas we have been used to calling the hemispheres&mdashbecomes constantly narrower. This means that if we do not now take effective measures to prevent another world war and if there were to be a third world war, the lands of the Western Hemisphere would be as vulnerable to attack from Europe and Asia as were the Island of Crete and the Philippine Islands five years ago.

"The Fascists and the Nazis sought to deceive and to divide the American Republics. They tried not only through propaganda from across the seas, but also through agents and spies and fifth columnists, operating all over the Western Hemisphere. But we know that they failed. The American Republics were not deceived by their protestations of peace and friendship and they were not intimidated by their threats.

"The people of the United States will never forget how the other American Republics, acting in accord with their pledges of solidarity, rallied to our common defense when the continent was violated by Axis treachery in an attack on this country. At that time Axis armies were still unchecked, and even the stark threat of an invasion from Dakar hung over their heads.

"We have maintained the solidarity of the Governments of all the American Republics&mdashexcept one. And the people of all the Republics, I think without exception, will have the opportunity to share in the achievement of the common victory.

"The bonds that unite the American Republics into a community of good neighbors must remain strong. We have not labored long and faithfully to build in this New World a system of international security and cooperation&mdashmerely to let it be dissipated in any period of postwar indifference. Within the framework of this new world organization that we have heard so much of lately&mdashthis world organization of the United Nations, which the Governments and people of the American Republics are helping to establish, the inter-American system can and must play a strong and vital role.

"Secretary Hull has told me of the conversations he has had with representatives of our sister Republics concerning the formation of a world security organization. We have received important and valuable expressions of opinions and views from many of these Governments. And I know that Secretary Hull, and Under Secretary Stettinius who led the United States delegation at Dumbarton Oaks, are looking forward to further exchanges of views with our Good Neighbors before the meeting of the general conference to establish the world organization. We must press forward to bring into existence this organization to maintain peace and security. There is no time to lose. And this time I think it is going to work.

"Like the Constitution of the United States, and of many other Republics, the Charter of the United Nations must not be static and inflexible, but must be adaptable to the changing conditions of progress&mdashsocial and economic and political&mdashall over the world.

"So, in approaching the great problems of the future&mdashthe future which we shall share in common with all the free peoples of this Earth&mdashwe shall do well to remember that we are the inheritors of the tradition of Christopher Columbus, the Navigator who ventured across uncharted seas.

"I remember that when Columbus was about to set forth in the summer of 1492, he put in the beginning of his log-book the following words: 'Above all, it is very important that I forget sleep, and that I labor much at navigation, because it is necessary.'

"We shall require&mdashall of us&mdashthe same determination, the same devotion, as we steer our course through the great age of exploration, the age of discovery that lies before us."

*For a study of the Nazi strategy in the Western hemisphere, see the definitive series on Synarchism in the Americas, published in EIR Nos. 27 and 28, July 2004.

The original article was published in the EIR Online&rsquos Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

File #936: "Communications Bulletin No. 7, Vol. 1 October 31, 1944.pdf"

HQ, 32D AAF BASE UNIT (Civil dr Patrcl) CO!TUKICi.TIOr^S SU1L2TIN NO, 7, Vol.1.
5 0 0 F i f t h A v e n u o , N c a v Yo r k 1 8 , N o v ^ Yo r k . C o n i - F I A - s . . 3 1 O c t o b e r 1 9 4 4 »

A I ' T O R D A B O U T T H E I t i s . c . s s u m e d t h r t p r. i c t i c r l l y e V ' . i r y b o d y i n C / ^ P
ho.s seon by this time th.?st superl-^tivc pruSont?tion of rivi^.tion p.nd its ,is-

socir.tod scionccs which is the Civil lir Patrol C-adet Prcflight Study llanual.
Reports indicate that tho manual is boing used enthusiastically and it is
ri£:htly so. This office is particuil ?rly proud of the coraniunications section.
The AAF Office i-s who collaborr.tod in the viriting of that section wmt'^d to
present the technique of communications in a comprehensive yet interesting
mr.nner*and in our opinion they have succoeded. Readers v/ill find that many
of the communication activities depicted in the narrative part of the com
munications section will find close par^'^Hels in civil aviation. Conseq u e n t l y, a l l c o m r ^ i u n i c a t i o n i n s t r u c t o r s w o u l d fi n d t h e i r w o r k g r e a t l y f a c i l i t
ated should they thoroughly fpjniliarize themselves with the cadet manual.
DOT AND DASH. A great derJ. of excellent data on ./5RS equipment has been re
ceived by National Headquarters, From such n?!terial and the.tpplications for
FCC I/ERS licenses, it is obsorv^.d that all wings.are usiac radiotelephone sets
e x c l u s i v e l y, ^ . / h a t h a s h a p p e n e d t o o u r c o d e f ? J i s ? Yo u r a t t e n t i o n i s i n v i t e d
to the fact that the ƍEP3 authority provides for A-1 emission. If any of
you CW operators have been pounding brass on a '.JERS circuit why not let us
Icnow the lurid details?

VJERS TRANSCEIVER. C'pt^in Franlc B. Hale-s, Connecticut Vving Communications Of

ficer, has submitted data concerning a V.'S^ transceiver v^hich wp.s constructed

e n t i r e l y o f t h e s u r p l u s a n d o b s o l e t e m a t e r i a l r e c e i v e d f r o m t h e A r m y. C a p t a i n
Hales and his associates in the Connecticut 'Jing have demonstPvated the sort of
know-how and enterprise which is requisite in realizing the possibiliti>^s of
fered by that material. Communications Officers who have been disappointed in

qualified radio people becausc Captrln Hales and others v^ho have adapted this
equipment to their needs have found among their assortment almost i,very last
n u t , c o i l , a n d r e s i s t o r n e e d e d , Ti - u e e n o u g h , t h i s e q u i p m e n t o f t e n c a n b e u s e d
only after extensive modification. For instance. Captain Hales says, "All re
sistors and condensers were obtrin^^d from one unit or another. Sizes suitable

could not always be found but by mrMng series, p^rr-llel, or series-parr^ilel
c o n n e c t i o n s t h e r i g h t v a l u e w a s o b t a i n e d . T h e s e n d - r e c v, i v e s w i t c h i s q u i t e
large ar.d ?s supplied vas a 3 pole 7 position switch. Signal Corps 1/j.crophone

Amplifier BC-216-A supplied rll nuts and screv/s, some resistors, as well as
the aluminum to make supports and brackets, Microphone and headphone jacks
w e r e a l s o o b t a i n e d f r o m t h i s a m p l i fi e r. T h e t u n i n g d i a l , v a r i a b l e c o n d e n s e r,
t u b e s o c k e t s , k n o b s , m i c r o p h o n e t r a n s f o r m e r, h o o k u p w i r e , e t c , w e r e a l l f o u n d
in one place or another pjnong the mi'Jiy items furnished this wing," The National
Communications Officer proposes to secure several copies of photographs of
the Connecticut trt'msceiver and also reproductions of the schematic so that a
l i m i t e d d i s t r i b u t i o n c a n b e m a d e t o a l l r n . n g s . T h i s m r. t e r i a l w i l l b e d i s t r i
buted with an a':propriate publication which vdll contrln essential technical

y/EST VIRGINIA AGAIN. Y/e have hoard again from our old friend Crptain V/illiam
J , A u l l , C o m m u n i c a t i o n s O f fi c e r o f t h e V / e s t Vi r g i n i a > Vi n g , a n d h i s l e t t e r i n
dicates that Connecticut is not the only wide-awake wing. Captain Aull in
forms us that very shortly his vdng will license several sets in V/ERS which
were constructed from his Arm,v material. Not only th'vt but they have taken a


12 volt DC, 10 tube, radio compass, nnd convcrtod it into a 110 volt AC
job which, -although it hp,^ r. lot of nricG-shift' compoife^mts j really works.

VJ"ith this compp.sfi thoy nov^ c.-in take boarihS) plnn hypothetical Approach^s^

plot positions^ ?.hd othorWise fp.niili.-'.rize thaisolvus with th.> cn.pabilities

and limitations of such an instruraont, s,o that thoir Icnov/lodgo can later be -

put to good advpiitago in the air. Captain Aull claims it is ^ on*- man in-

struiftcnt^ amateur assembled in a typical amateur manner and^ by golly^ ^
thpt's the quality'which will itifJco Communications the worth^vhile facil
ity that it can be. Ve don't mean to givu tho impression that many other

wings- haven't Submitted some mighty fine ideas, l/e merely wish to .show
skeptics what can be done.

R.'J^IO AIDE. Many mngs, wh'":n making application for their 1,'ERS license, have

included FCC Form 455A, Certification of H^.dio Aide. ^V^le it is correct for

OCD- aS, it is not necessary for Civil Air FatroJ. applicants to follow that
procedure. Section 15.95 of the FCC Rules "nd Rv.fulations defines a Com
munications Officer as nthe offioirl formally cohlgnrted by the station lic
ensee to direct and supervise the opeiratio,! of all A'acio stations authorized

by the related station licen^-." Inasmuch Vvixig ComiiunLcations Officet
is a bona fide member of Cival Air Patrol, receives his in accordance

with an established proc.-:dvir^:. and is . si^rfd his duties by ids .ing

Commander, a C.Pr'V>5R3 licensed ha3 fulll.v vath the law in that re-

spect, V/ing Comm.anders ?>J73 : .jndndcd taat a*l cificers should be furnished

with written authority for function. All v/ing Goi.miunications Officers
should check this rxid in those cases wh:^re th^sy have assumed their duties

by virtue of verbal orders^ auction should be taken to secure wrioten auth
' ority, -At any time when a V£ing Conu^unications Officer is relieved from duty to ^
for any reason whatsoever, written notification shou3.d forwarded
National Headquarters,


Following the Allied breakout after success in the battle of Normandy, they began a series of rapid advances deeper into France, away from their initial avenues of supply along the west coast of France.

Lack of a sufficiently robust supply line – including enough port capacity – was the main factor holding back further Allied advance. Brest, when finally taken, was too wrecked to use, and other ports were held as fortresses by the Germans. The Allies needed the large port of Antwerp and had counted on it. [2]

The first plans for liberating Europe by the Anglo-American armies, code-named "Roundup", had been drawn up in December 1941. They had stressed that the port of Antwerp would be crucial for an invasion of Germany, as it was the largest deep-water port close to Germany that the Allies could hope to capture intact. [3] Antwerp is a deep water inland port connected to the North Sea via the river Scheldt. The Scheldt was wide enough and dredged deep enough to allow the passage of ocean-going ships, and was close to Germany. [4]

The Witte Brigade (White Brigade) of the Belgian resistance seized the port of Antwerp before the Germans could blow up the port as they were planning. On September 4, Antwerp was taken by the 11th Armoured Division with its harbour 90% intact. [3] [5] However, the Germans had heavily fortified Walcheren island at the mouth of the Western Scheldt, establishing well dug-in artillery impervious to air attack and controlling access to the river. This made it impossible for Allied minesweepers to clear the heavily mined river. [6] Adolf Hitler ordered the 15th German Army, which had been stationed in the Pas de Calais region and was now marching north into the Low Countries, to hold the mouth of the river Scheldt, depriving the Allies of the use of the Antwerp port. Montgomery became aware of this on September 5, thanks to Ultra intelligence. [7] Hitler had personally designated the island "Fortress Walcheren", which he ordered to be defended to the last man. [6] Walcheren island was held by mixture of Kriegsmarine and Wehrmacht, with its garrison consisting of the 202nd Naval Coastal Artillery Battalion, the 810th Naval Anti-Aircraft Battalion, the 89th Fortress Regiment and the 70th Infantry Division commanded by General Wilhelm Daser. [8]

On September 5, SHAEF's naval commander, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay advised Montgomery to make taking the mouth of the Scheldt his main priority, stating that as long as the mouth of the Scheldt was in German hands, it was impossible for the Royal Navy minesweepers to clear the numerous mines in the river, rendering the port of Antwerp useless. [9] Among the Allied senior leaders, only Ramsay saw opening Antwerp as crucial to sustaining the advance into Germany. [10] On 6 September 1944, Montgomery told Canadian General Harry Crerar that "I want Boulogne badly" and that city should be taken at once with no regard to losses. [11] By this point, ports like Cherbourg, which the Americans had taken in June, were too far away from the front line, causing the Allies great logistical problems.

From September on, Admiral Ramsay was deeply involved in planning the assault on "Fortress Walcheren". He appointed Captain Pugsley of the Royal Navy, who landed the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division on D-Day, to the First Canadian Army headquarters to start preparations. [12] Had Montgomery secured the Scheldt estuary in early September 1944 as Admiral Ramsay had strongly advised him to do, Antwerp would have been opened to Allied shipping far earlier than it was, and the escape of the German 15th Army from France would have been stopped. [3] As a part of Operation Fortitude, the deception plan for Operation Overlord, the Allies had tricked the Germans into believing they would land in the Pas-de-Calais region of France instead of in Normandy, and as such, the Wehrmacht had reinforced the 15th Army in the Pas-de-Calais.

On 9 September, Montgomery wrote to Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (the Chief of the Imperial General Staff) that "one good Pas de Calais port" would be able to meet the logistical needs of the 21st Army Group only. [11] Montgomery further noted that "one good Pas de Calais port" would be insufficient for the American armies in France, which thus forced Eisenhower, if for no other reasons than logistics, to favour Montgomery's plans for an invasion of northern Germany by the 21st Army Group, whereas if Antwerp were opened up, all of the Allied armies could be supplied. [11] Montgomery had his eye on taking Berlin before either the Americans or the Soviets took the capital of the Reich. Montgomery ordered that the First Canadian Army take Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk and clear the Scheldt, a task that General Crerar stated was impossible because he did not have sufficient troops to perform both operations at once. [11] Montgomery refused Crerar's request to have British XII Corps under General Neil Ritchie assigned to help clear the Scheldt because he needed XII Corps for Operation Market Garden. [11]

The importance of taking ports closer to Germany was highlighted with the liberation of the city of Le Havre, which was assigned to General John Crocker's I Corps. To take Le Havre, the British assigned two infantry divisions, two tank brigades, most of the artillery of the Second British Army, General Percy Hobart's specialist armoured vehicles ("Hobart's Funnies"), the battleship HMS Warspite and the monitor HMS Erebus. [11] On 10 September 1944, Operation Astonia began when RAF Bomber Command dropped 4,719 tons of bombs on Le Havre, which was then assaulted by Crocker's men, who took the city two days later. [11] The Canadian historian Terry Copp wrote that the commitment of this much firepower and men to take only one French city might "seem excessive", but by this point, the Allies desperately needed ports closer to the front line to sustain their advance. [11]

Little was done about the blocked port of Antwerp during September because Montgomery chose to make the ill-fated Operation Market Garden his key priority, rather than clearing the Scheldt. [13] With Market Garden, Montgomery intended to by-pass the West Wall and break into the north German plain in order to take Berlin, but the British defeat at the Battle of Arnhem, which proved to be the proverbial "bridge too far", left the British forming an exposed salient reaching deep into the Netherlands. [14] In the meantime, German forces in the Scheldt estuary were able to deploy defensively and prepare for the expected advance. The first attacks occurred on September 13. [1] After an attempt by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division to storm the Leopold Canal on its own had ended in bloody repulse, General Guy Simonds, commanding the II Canadian Corps, ordered a halt to operations in the Scheldt until the French channel ports had been taken, reporting the Scheldt would need more than one division to clear. [15] The halt allowed the German 15th Army ample time to dig in to its new home by the banks of the Scheldt. [15]

On the German side, holding the Scheldt was regarded as crucial. Hitler ordered planning for what became the Ardennes Offensive in September 1944, the objective of which was retaking Antwerp. The 15th Army, which was holding the Scheldt on the far right on the German line, was deprived of supplies as the Wehrmacht focused on building up its strength for the planned Ardennes offensive in December, while a number of newly raised Volksgrenadier divisions were sent to replace the divisions lost in Normandy and in Operation Bagration on the Eastern Front. However, the flat polder ground of the Dutch countryside favoured the defensive, and was felt to compensate for the 15th Army's reduced numbers. It was assigned only two of the Volksgrenadier divisions. [16] Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt told General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen: "Enemy supplies, and therefore, his ability to fight, is limited by the stubborn defense of the Harbour, as intelligence report prove. The attempt of the enemy to occupy the Western Scheldt in order to obtain the free use of the harbour of Antwerp must be resisted to the utmost" (emphasis in the original). [17] In his orders to his men, Von Zangen declared:

Therefore, I order all commanders as well as the National Socialist indoctrination officers to instruct the troops in the clearest and most factual manner in the following points: Next to HAMBURG, ANTWERP is the largest port in Europe. Even in the First World War, Churchill, in person, traveled to ANTWERP in order to organise the defense of the harbor because he appreciated it as of vital importance to the struggle on the continent. At that time, Churchill's plan was completely shattered the same must happen again. After overrunning the SCHELDT fortifications, the English would finally be in a position to land great masses of material in a large and completely protected harbor. With this material they might deliver a death blow at the NORTH GERMAN plain and at BERLIN before the onset of winter. The enemy knows that he must assault the European fortress as speedily as possible before its inner lines of resistance are fully built up and occupied by new divisions. For this, he needs the ANTWERP harbor. And for this reason, we must hold the SCHELDT fortifications to the end. The German people are watching us. In this hour, the fortifications along the SCHELDT occupy a role which is decisive for the future of our people. Each additional day will be vital that you deny the port of ANTWERP to the enemy and the resources he has at his disposal. (signed) v. ZANGEN General der Infanterie. [18]

In early October, after Operation Market Garden, Allied forces led by the Canadian First Army finally set out to open the port of Antwerp to the Allies by giving it access to the sea. As the Arnhem salient was his major concern, Montgomery pulled away from the First Canadian Army (which was under the temporary command of Simonds as Crerar was ill), the British 51st Highland Division, 1st Polish Division, British 49th (West Riding) Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and sent all of these formations to help the 2nd British Army hold the Arnhem salient. [19] Simonds saw the Scheldt campaign as a test of his ability, a challenge to be overcome, and he felt he could clear the Scheldt with only three divisions of the 2nd Corps despite having to take on the entire 15th Army, which held strongly fortified positions in a landscape that favoured the defence. [20] Simonds not once registered complaints about his lack of manpower, the fact that ammunition was being rationed as supplying the Arnhem salient was Montgomery's chief concern, and the lack of air support, which was made worse by the cloudy October weather. [20]

Plan Edit

On September 12 and 13, 1944, the Canadian First Army, under temporary command of Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, was given the task of clearing the Scheldt once it had completed the clearing of the Channel ports, particularly Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. Montgomery then decided that the importance of Antwerp was such that the capture of Dunkirk could be delayed. [21] Under his command at that time were Canadian II Corps, with the Polish 1st Armoured Division, 49th and 52nd Divisions attached, and the British I Corps. Montgomery promised the support of RAF Bomber Command in attacking the German fortifications and that of the USAAF 8th Air Force "[o]n the day concerned". [22] The 51st (Highland) Infantry Division was to give up its transport to enable the movement of forces into battle positions. Abandoning the capture of Dunkirk freed the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.

The plan for opening the Scheldt estuary involved four main operations, conducted over daunting geography:

  • Clearing the area north of Antwerp and securing access to the South Beveland peninsula.
  • Operation Switchback, clearing the Breskens Pocket north of the Leopold canal and south of the Western Scheldt.
  • Operation Vitality, the capture of the South Beveland peninsula, north of the Western Scheldt.
  • Operation Infatuate, the capture of Walcheren island, which had been fortified into a powerful German stronghold. As part of the Atlantic Wall, Walcheren island, with its strategic position just north of the Scheldt river mouth, was considered to be the "strongest concentration of defences the Nazis had ever constructed." [23]

On September 21, the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division moved north roughly along the line of the Ghent–Terneuzen Canal, given the task of clearing an area on the south shore of the Scheldt around the Dutch town of Breskens, called the "Breskens Pocket". The Polish 1st Armoured Division headed for the Dutch-Belgian border further east and the crucial area north of Antwerp.

The Canadian 4th Armoured Division advanced from a hard-won bridgehead over the Ghent-Brugge Canal at Moerbrugge to find themselves the first Allied troops facing the formidable obstacle of the double line of the Leopold and Schipdonk Canals. An attack was mounted in the vicinity of Moerkerke, crossing the canals and establishing a bridgehead before counter-attacks forced a withdrawal with heavy casualties.

The 1st Polish Armoured Division enjoyed greater success to the east as it advanced northeast from Ghent. In country unsuitable for armour, and against stiffening resistance, the division advanced to the coast by September 20, occupying Terneuzen and clearing the south bank of the Scheldt east toward Antwerp.

It became apparent to Simonds that any further gains in the Scheldt would come at heavy cost, as the Breskens Pocket, extending from Zeebrugge to the Braakman Inlet and inland to the Leopold Canal, was strongly held by the enemy.

Securing access to South Beveland Edit

On October 2, the Canadian 2nd Division began its advance north from Antwerp. Stiff fighting ensued on October 6 at Woensdrecht, the objective of the first phase. The Germans, reinforced by Battle Group Chill, saw the priority in holding there, controlling direct access to South Beveland and Walcheren island.

There were heavy casualties as the Canadians attacked over open, flooded land. Canadian historians Terry Copp and Robert Vogel wrote: "the very name Woensdrecht sends shivers down the spines of veterans of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division". [24] Driving rain, booby traps and land mines made advance very difficult. Attacking on 7 October in heavy mist, the Calgary Highlanders came under heavy fire from German positions. As described in its war diary, "the battle thickened. the Germans forces. hit back with a pugnacity which had not been encountered in the enemy for a long time". [24] The Régiment de Maisoneuve was halted 1,000 yards from their target while the next day, The Black Watch of Canada was stopped in its attempt. [24] On October 9, the Germans counter-attacked and pushed the Canadians back. [24] The war diary of the 85th Infantry Division reported that they were "making very slow progress" in face of tenacious Canadian resistance. [25]

Back at SHAEF headquarters, Admiral Ramsay, who was more concerned about the problems facing the Canadians than their own generals, complained to Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower that the Canadians were having to ration ammunition as Montgomery made holding the Arnhem salient his main priority. [26] After Ramsay raised the issue with Eisenhower, the latter informed Montgomery on October 9 about "the supreme importance of Antwerp. It is reported to me this morning by the Navy that the Canadian Army will not repeat not be able to attack until November 1 unless immediately supplied with ammunition." [26] Montgomery replied by writing: "Request you will ask Ramsay from me by what authority he makes wild statements to you concerning my operations about which he can know nothing repeat nothing. there is no repeat no shortage of ammunition. The operations are receiving my personal attention". [26]

Field Marshal Walter Model, who was commanding Army Group B, ordered: "The corridor to Walcheren will be kept open at any price if necessary, it will be regained by forces ruthlessly detached from other sectors". [27] Model, a tough and ruthless National Socialist fanatic known for his devotion to Hitler, was called "the Führer's Fireman" because Hitler always gave him the toughest jobs. Model sent the 256th Volksgrenadier division and assault gun companies to allow the release of Battle Group Chill, the "fire brigade" consisting of 6th Paratroop Regiment and assault gun companies. [27] On October 10, the Royal Regiment of Canada launched a surprise attack against the German lines at Woensdrecht, but for the next days was engaged in heavy fighting against counterattacks from Battle Group Chill. [27] Major-General Charles Foulkes of the 2nd Division sent the Black Watch to support the Royal Regiment. [28] The German forces at Woensdrecht greatly outnumbered the Canadians and had Model known of this, he might have launched a counter-offensive. Instead he used attrition tactics by making piecemeal counterattacks. [29] During this time, war diaries of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry noted "many snipers in the houses and hedges" had been encountered while the weather was "cold and wet with high winds. Floods rising again". [30]

Simonds had planned to commit the 4th Division to assist the 3rd Division with clearing the Breskens Pocket, but problems faced by the 2nd Division forced Simonds to start peeling off units from the 4th Division. [31] On 9 October 1944, the South Alberta Regiment was ordered to "protect the right flank of 2 Division and prevent infiltration between 2 Div and 1 Polish Armd. Div". [32] The next day, Simonds ordered General Harry Foster of the 4th Division "to send 4 Cnd Armd Bde to the Antwerp area at the rate of one get a day, beginning 11 Oct". [30]

On October 13, on what would come to be known as "Black Friday", the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade's Black Watch was virtually wiped out in an unsuccessful attack. The Black Watch attacked German positions, already known to be well defended, while the rest of the 2nd Division was not engaged, suggesting that neither Foulkes nor Simonds had taken seriously the problem of fighting by the river Scheldt. [28] The Black Watch, whose officers had come from Montreal's Scottish elite, had billed itself as the most exclusive regiment in the Canadian Army. Despite this reputation, the Black Watch was considered to be a "jinxed" regiment which had had more than its fair share of misfortune. [28] One officer of the Black Watch reported that the soldiers sent to replace the Black Watch men killed and wounded in France "had little or no infantry training, and exhibited poor morale" and that the men of C Company had "all been killed or taken prisoner" during "Black Friday". [33] The Black Watch had already taken very heavy losses at the Battle of Verrières Ridge in July 1944 and its heavy losses on "Black Friday" almost finished the regiment. The Calgary Highlanders were to follow up with a more successful action, and their Carrier Platoon succeeded in taking the railroad station at Korteven, north of Woensdrecht. [34] Fighting at Hoogerheide [35] also ensued. On October 16, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, known as the "Rileys", under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Denis Whitaker, attacked Woensdrecht at night, taking much of the village. However, they were unable to pass beyond the ridge to the west of Woensdrecht. [36] By October 16, Woensdrecht was secured, cutting the land link to South Beveland and Walcheren. The "Rileys" suffered losses on October 16 equal to those of the Black Watch on "Black Friday". [36] The Canadians achieved their first objective, but had suffered heavy casualties.

On 14 October Field Marshal Montgomery issued "Notes on Command" that were highly critical of Eisenhower's leadership and asked he be made Land Forces commander again. [37] On the next day, Eisenhower replied that the issue was not the command arrangement, but rather the ability and willingness of Montgomery to obey orders, saying he had ordered him to clear the Scheldt and warned if he was unable to obey orders, he would be fired. [37] Stung by Eisenhower's message, a chastised Montgomery promised: "You will hear no more from me on the subject of command. Antwerp top priority in all operations of 21 Army Group". [37] On October 16, Montgomery issued a directive along that line. [37] To the east, the British Second Army attacked westward to clear the Netherlands south of the Meuse (Maas) during Operation Pheasant, securing the Scheldt region from counter-attacks.

As part of his newly focused efforts to assist Simonds, Montgomery assigned the 52nd Lowland Division of the British Army to the First Canadian Army. [38] The 52nd division, recruited in the Lowlands of Scotland, was a mountain division, requiring men with unusual strength and stamina in order to fight in the mountains, making it into something of an elite division within the British Army. [38] Simonds greatly appreciated having the Lowlanders under his command and told Major-General Edmund Hakewill-Smith that the 52nd was to play the decisive role in taking Walcheren island. [38] As such, Simonds ordered Hakewill-Smith to start preparing an amphibious operation as Simonds planned to land the 52nd division on Walcheren at the same time the Canadians attacked the island. [38]

Between October 23 and November 5, 1944, the U.S. 104th Infantry Division experienced its first battle while attached to the British I Corps. The division succeeded in pushing through the central portion of North Brabant against resistance from German snipers and artillery.

Meanwhile, Simonds concentrated forces at the neck of the South Beveland peninsula. On 17 October, Major-General Harry Forster announced 4th Division would attack on 20 October to take Bergen op Zoom. [32] The offensive began in the early morning of October 20 and was led by the Argyll and Lake Superior regiments. [32] On October 22, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, known as the "Lincs" in the Canadian Army, and The Algonquin Regiment took Esschen in a surprise attack. [32] On October 23, the German 85th Division launched a counterattack led by some self-propelled (SP) guns. [39] The Sherman tanks of the Governor-General's Foot Guards and the Lake Superior Regiments were decimated by the German SP guns. [39] For the next days, there occurred what the 85th Division's war diary called "extremely violent fighting". [39] The war diary of the Canadian Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders spoke of "nightmarish fighting" at Wouwsche Plantage. [40] The fighting at Wouwsche Plantage was considered so important that Field Marshal Montgomery arrived at the headquarters of the 4th Canadian Division to press Forster for speed, but Forster protested that the flat polder country made speed impossible. [41] One company of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment lost 50% of its men in a single day's fighting, while an advance company of the Algonquin Regiment was cut off and surrounded by the Wehrmacht, requiring desperate fighting to break out. [42] The Canadian advance towards Bergen op Zoom forced Rundstedt to redeploy the elite 6th Parachute Regiment, which until then had been blocking the 2nd Canadian Division on the Beveland isthmus to the defense of Bergen op Zoom. [38]

By October 24, Allied lines were pushed out further from the neck of the peninsula, ensuring German counterattacks would not cut off the 2nd Canadian Division, by then moving west along it towards Walcheren island. On October 26, 1944, Field Marshal von Rundstedt ordered to "forestall an enemy breakthrough and economize with our strength, I hereby authorize Fifteenth Army to withdraw to the general line Bergen op Zoom/Roosendaal/Breda/Dongen/west of 's-Hertogenbosch". [43] The 4th Canadian Armoured Division moved north from the Leopold Canal and took Bergen op Zoom. The South Alberta Regiment and The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, which liberated Bergen op Zoom, reported "the reception of the people of Bergen Op Zoom was as enthusiastic and wild as any yet seen". [43]

Dempsey had been ordered by Montgomery to use the 12th Corps to cut off the retreat of the German 15th Army. [44] The 1st Polish Division had been assigned a defensive role and was joined on 23 October by the U.S. 104th "Timberwolf" Division commanded by General Terry Allen. [45] Model argued that recently arrived 47th Panzer corps of two divisions making up 24,000 men and 40 tanks go on the offensive to distract the Allies, a request Rundstedt approved. [44] On 27 October, the Germans attacked the U.S. 7th Armored Division, which was holding the flanks for the Canadians with much success, advancing 6 miles. [44] Though Rundstedt believed that Model's offensive had achieved nothing and ordered his men back, in fact Model's "spoiling attack" had caused the British 15th Infantry Division to be pulled out of Tilburg to reinforce the 7th Division, slowing Dempsey's advance. [44] As the Germans had attacked, the American Timberwolf Division went on the offensive on 27 October with the aim of taking Zundert. [45] The disjointed attacks which Montgomery ordered with the 1st Polish Division and 104th heading towards Breda allowed the German 15th Army to escape once again. [45]

On 29 October, the 4th Canadian Armored Division went on the offensive, with the Algonquin Regiment trying to encircle German position at Steenbergen just north of Bergen Op Zoom while the Governor-General's Foot Guards heading towards Steenbergen. [45] The elite German 6th Parachute Regiment put stiff resistance, using panzerfausts (bazookas) and SP guns to knock out the Canadian tanks, but withdrew into Steenbergen when the Foot Guards threatened to cut off their line of retreat. [45] The war diary of the Canadian 4th Armored Division sarcastically described the 6th Parachute Regiment as ". under the command of Lt. Col von der Heydt and are of a better quality than most of the master race we have so far encountered. They worship their leader who is reported to have knocked out four of our tanks with a German bazooka. ". [45] On 31 October, the Algonquin Regiment and the Grenadier Guards attacked the village of Welberg just outside of Steenbergen, which was so fiercely defended by the 6th Parachute Regiment that ultimately the almost entire 4th Division had to be committed to take Welberg over three days of fighting. [45] On 7 November, Rundstedt, having pulled out most of the 15th Army, ordered German forces to move north of the Meuse in order to form a stronger defensive line. [45]

Operation Switchback Edit

The second main operation, Operation Switchback, opened with fierce fighting to reduce the Breskens Pocket. Here, the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division encountered tenacious German resistance as it fought to cross the Leopold Canal. [46] An earlier failed attempt by the Canadian 4th Armoured Division at Moerbrugge had demonstrated the challenge they faced. In addition to the formidable German defences on both the Leopold Canal and the Schipdonk Canal, much of the approach area was flooded.

The Breskens pocket was held by the 64th Division commanded by General Knut Eberding, an infantryman with extensive experience on the Eastern Front who was regarded as an expert in defensive warfare. [47] When the 15th Army had retreated from the Pas de Calais region of France across the Low Countries in September 1944, an enormous number of guns and ammunition ended up in the Breskens Pocket, including one hundred 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. They were used by the Wehrmacht as a sort of "super-heavy machine gun" and were much dreaded by the Canadian infantry. 20-mm guns could shred a man to pieces within seconds. [47] Besides the 20-mm guns, the 64th Division had 23 of the famous 88 mm flak guns, known for their power to destroy an Allied tank with a single direct hit, together with 455 light machine guns and 97 mortars. [47]

While Montgomery focused on Operation Market Garden in September 1944, Eberding used three weeks of quiet to have his men dig in. He later expressed amazement about the Allied air forces hardly ever bombing the Breskens Pocket in September, allowing his men to build defensive works with barely an effort to stop them. [47] The flat, swampy polder country made the Breskens Pocket into an "island", as much of the ground was impassable with only a few "land bridges" connecting the area to the mainland. The Wehrmacht had blown up dykes to flood much of the ground so that the Canadians could only advance along the raised country roads. [47] Eberding reported that the polder country was "a maze of ditches, canalized rivers and commercial canals, often above the level of the surrounding countryside. which made military maneuver almost impossible except on the narrow roads built on top of the dykes. Each of these roadways were carefully registered for both artillery and mortar fire". [47]

It was decided that the best place for an assault would be immediately east of where the two canals divided: a narrow strip of dry ground, only a few hundred metres wide at its base beyond the Leopold Canal (described as a long triangle with its base on the Maldegem-Aardenburg road and its apex near the village of Moershoofd some 5 km (3.1 mi) east). Despite the fact that the Ultra intelligence provided by Bletchley Park had revealed that the 64th Division was digging in for a hard fight and that Eberding had ordered a fight to the death, Canadian military intelligence seriously underestimated the size of the German forces. They expected Eberding to retreat to Walcheren island once the 3rd Canadian division started to advance. [48] However, Simonds appreciated the problems imposed by the polder country and the Germans concentrating their forces at the few "land bridges". He planned to use amphibious vehicles known as "Buffalos" to travel across the flooded countryside to outflank the German forces. [48] Simonds planned to strike both at the Leopold canal and at the rear of the Breskens Pocket via an amphibious landing at the Braakman inlet. [48]

A two-pronged assault commenced. The Canadian 3rd Division's 7th Brigade made the initial assault across the Leopold Canal, while the 9th Brigade mounted the amphibious attack from the northern (coastal) side of the pocket. The 7th Brigade was known as the "Western Brigade" in the Canadian Army as its three regiments were all from western Canada with the Canadian Scottish Regiment coming from Victoria area, the Regina Rifles from the Regina area, and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles from the Winnipeg area, while the 9th Brigade was known as the "Highland brigade" as its three regiments were all Highland regiments with two coming from Ontario and another from Nova Scotia. The North Shore Regiment made a diversionary attack across the Leopold Canal, while the Regina Rifles regiment and the Canadian Scottish Regiment made the main assault. [48] The Royal Montreal Regiment, which had never seen action yet, were pressing to get into the fight, and as such, the B company of the Regina Rifles, nicknamed the "Johns", agreed to step aside so one company of the Royal Montreal Regiment could take their place. [49]

The 9th Highland Brigade, however, was unable to land at the same time as expected, owing to their unfamiliarity with amphibious vehicles. [50] The assault began on October 6, supported by extensive artillery and Canadian-built Wasp Universal Carriers, equipped with flamethrowers. The 7th Brigade was supposed to be on their own for 40 hours, but instead faced 68 hours of the Germans using everything they had to try the stop the Canadians from crossing the Leopold canal. [51]

Simonds had planned to take the Wehrmacht by surprise by avoiding a preliminary bombardment and instead having the Wasps incinerate the German defenders with a "barrage of flame". [51] The Wasps launched their barrage of flames across the Leopold Canal, allowing the 7th Brigade troops to scramble up over the steep banks and launch their assault boats. However, the Germans had dug in well and many escaped the flamethrowers. One company of the Royal Montreal Regiment was almost destroyed on the edge of the Leopold canal. The Germans brought down heavy machine gun and mortar fire and only a few of the Montrealers made it to the other side. [52] The A company of the Regina Rifles did not attempt to cross the canal because the volume of machine gun fire convinced the experienced "Johns" that it was too dangerous to try to cross the canal in daylight. [53] The Royal Montreal Regiment company held their precious "bridgehead" for several hours before being joined by the "Johns" three hours later when D company of the Regina Rifles crossed the canal. They were joined by C and A companies in the evening. [53] By that time, most of the men of B company of the Royal Montreal Regiment, who had been anxious to get into action, were dead. [53] By contrast, the "barrage of flame" worked as expected for the Canadian Scottish Regiment, who were able to cross the Leopold canal without much opposition and put up a kapok footbridge [54] within the first hour of crossing the canal. [53]

Two precarious, separate footholds were established, but the enemy recovered from the shock of the flamethrowers and counter-attacked, though the Germans were unable to move the Canadians from their vulnerable bridgeheads. Brigadier J.C. Spraggree became worried that the Regina Rifles might be destroyed by the Germans' ferocious defense, leading him to order his reserve, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, to cross over the Canadian Scottish Regiment's bridgehead and link up with the Regina Rifles. [53] The polderland, which limited avenues of advance, proved to be a major difficulty as the Germans concentrated their fire along the few raised roads. [53] At the same time, the Regina Rifles came under heavy counterattacks and were barely hanging on. [53] Canadian losses were so heavy that a squadron of tankmen from the 17th Hussars Regiment were given rifles and sent to fight as infantrymen. [53] The Canadian historians' Terry Copp and Robert Vogel wrote the fighting ". was at close quarter and of such ferocity that veterans insist that it was worse than the blackest days of Normandy". [53] The war diary of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles reported: "Heavy casualties were suffered by both sides and the ground was littered with both German and Royal Winnipeg Rifle dead". [53] The war diary of the Canadian Scottish regiment sardonically noted: "The grim fighting was such that Piats and Bazookas were used to blow down walls of houses where resistance was worst. These anti-tank weapons are quite handy little house-breakers!" [55] By October 9, the gap between the bridgeheads was closed, and by early morning on October 12 a position had been gained across the Aardenburg road.

October 10, 11, and 12 were days of intense struggle while the men of the 7th Brigade with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles took, lost and then retook a group of houses known as Graaf Jan and the Regina Rifles found themselves pinned down by a group of well dug-in pillboxes that seemed to be resilient to artillery. [56] The Germans had ample artillery, together with an immense number of artillery shells, and brought down heavy fire on any Canadian advance. [57] Making the fighting even more difficult was the heavy rain that started the day after the crossing of the Leopold canal, with a post-operation report on Operation Switchback stating: "In places the bridgehead was little bigger than the northern canal bank. Even protection was slight: slit trenches rapidly filled with water and had to be dug out many times a day". [57] The Canadians could not advance beyond their bridgehead on the Leopold canal, but Eberding, not content with stopping the Canadians, decided to "annihilate" the 7th Brigade by launching a series of counter-attacks that cost the German 64th Division dearly, as Canadian artillerymen were killing German infantrymen as proficiently as German artillerymen were killing Canadians. [57] Simonds' plan failed when the 9th Brigade did not land at the same time as the 7th Brigade crossed the Leopold Canal and the 64th Division decisively stopped the advance of the 7th Brigade. In the end, only Eberding's determination to wipe out the 7th Brigade allowed Simonds' plan to work. [57] In terms of numbers lost as a percentage of those engaged, the battle of the Leopold Canal was one of the bloodiest battles for Canada in World War II, with 533 killed and another 70 men breaking down due to battle exhaustion. [57] Copp and Vogel wrote: "One in every two men who crossed the Leopold became a casualty!" [57] The men who broke down under battle curled up in a fetal position and refused to move, speak, eat or drink as their spirits had been broken by the stress of the fighting. On 14 October 1944, Eberding, a man deeply committed to National Socialism, ordered that German soldiers who retreated without orders were to be regarded as deserters and summarily executed, and ". where the names of deserters are ascertained their names will be made known to the civilian population at home and their next of kin will be looked upon as enemies of the German people". [58]

The Canadian 9th Brigade conducted an amphibious operation with the aid of Terrapin (the first use of the vehicle in Europe) and Buffalo amphibious vehicles, crewed by the British 5th Assault Regiment of the Royal Engineers. [59] The brigade planned to cross the mouth of the Braakman Inlet in these vehicles and to land in the vicinity of Hoofdplaat, a tiny hamlet in the rear or coastal side of the pocket, thus exerting pressure from two directions at once. An "after action" report described the scene on the Terneuzen Canal: "As darkness fell only tail lights showed. The locks at Sas Van Gent proved difficult to negotiate, for the Buffaloes were not easily steered when moving slowly. Their aeroplane engines created a sound so like the roar of aircraft that over Flushing the anti-aircraft guns fired sporadically. Because of the damage to the locks near the ferry (at Neuzen) it was necessary to cut ramps in the bank and by-pass the obstacle. Not only was this a slow progress, but many craft were damaged. The decision was therefore taken to postpone the operation for 24 hours". [59] The delay allowed for Admiral Ramsay to volunteer the services of Lieutenant-Commander R.D. Franks of the Royal Navy to serve as a pilot, guiding the Buffaloes expertly down the river Scheldt without the Germans noticing. [59] Franks reported: "It was nearly ideal night, calm and quiet with a half moon behind a light cloud, but a bit of haze which restricted visibility to a mile at most. We were quite invisible from the north shore of the Scheldt, where all was quiet. Our touchdown was planned to be on either side of a groyne. we were able to identify it and then lie off flicking our lamps to guide the LVT's in. They deployed and thundered past us. I could see through my binoculars the infantry disembark on dry land and move off". [59]

In spite of difficulties in maneuvering vehicles through the canals and the resulting 24-hour delay, the Germans were taken by surprise and a bridgehead was established. The North Nova Scotia Highland regiment landed with no resistance and woke nine sleeping German soldiers at their dug-out, taking them prisoner. [59] The Highland Light Infantry regiment's major problem at the landing site was not the Wehrmacht, but mud. [59] After the initial landing, the Cameron Highlanders and the Stormont, Dundas and Glengary Highlanders were landed by Franks. [59] Once again, the Germans recovered quickly and counter-attacked with ferocity however, they were slowly forced back. Upon hearing of the landing at the Braakman Inlet, Field Marshal Model reacted promptly, telling Hitler: "Today, the enemy launched a decision-seeking attack on the Breskens bridgehead". [60] Living up to his reputation as the "Führer's Fireman", Model ordered Eberding to immediately "annihilate" the Highland Brigade. [60]

Starting on daybreak on October 10, the Highland Brigade came under counter-attack, with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengary Highland regiment, known as the "Glens" in the Canadian Army, spending two days fighting for the village of Hoofdplaat with a loss of 17 dead and 44 wounded. [59] The North Nova Scotia Highlanders took three days to take the village of Driewegen, with the regimental war diary reporting: "The artillery is kept busy and this dyke to dyke fighting is very different to what we have been doing. It appears the enemy are a much better type than we have been running into lately". [59] The Canadian Army was known for the quality of its artillery, which took a heavy toll on the German counter-attacks by day, with the war diary of 15th Field Regiment for 12 October reading: "Today we were the busiest we have been since Cormelles and Falaise pocket days". [60] The Germans' nightly attacks enjoyed more success, with the Highland Light Infantry losing and then retaking the village of Biervliet during a confusing night battle. [60] Canadian Major-General Daniel Spry of the 3rd Division changed the original plan to commit the 8th Brigade in support of the 7th Brigade, and instead sent the 8th Brigade to link up with the 4th Division and then come to the support of the 9th Brigade. [61]

The Canadian 10th Brigade of the 4th Armoured Division crossed the Leopold Canal and advanced at Isabella Polder. Then the 3rd Division's 8th Brigade was called to move south from the coastal side of the pocket. This opened up a land-based supply route into the pocket. Eberding used his reserves in his counter-attacks and reported to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht that some units of the 64th Division had "been reduced to one third". [58] Between October 10 and 15, the 64th Division staged a "fighting retreat", as Eberding called it, to a new pocket designed to shorten his lines, since so many of his units were now under-strength. [58] The Canadian Scottish Regiment found the village of Eede empty and abandoned, entered the village and promptly came under heavy artillery bombardment. [58] The Queen's Own Rifles regiment, leading the advance of the 8th Brigade, found the village of IJzendijke "well defended" on October 15, but abandoned the next day. [58] The Highland Light Infantry and the "Glens" broke through the main German line, but General Spry, unaware of this, ordered a withdrawal, in order to concentrate greater forces. [62]

The German officers explained away their retreat by claiming they were being overwhelmed by tanks, but in fact there were only four, belonging to the British Columbia Regiment, operating north of the Leopold canal. [63] The presumed tanks were actually the M10 self-propelled anti-tank guns of the 3rd Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment which provided fire support to the Canadian infantry. [63] Joining the Canadians on October 20 were the 157th Highland Light Infantry Brigade of the 52nd Division, which allowed Spry to group the three brigades of the 3rd Division for the final push. [64]

From the summer of 1944 the Canadian Army experienced a major shortage of infantrymen, owing to policies of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie-King. In order to defeat Maurice Duplessis, the Union Nationale premier of Quebec who called a snap election in 1939 to seek a mandate to oppose the war, Mackenzie-King had promised that only volunteers would be sent to fight overseas and that there would be no overseas conscription. With only so many Canadians willing to volunteer, especially as infantry, the Canadian Army ran seriously short of infantrymen, as their losses were not compensated by replacements. [65] In planning the final push, Spry favored a cautious, methodical approach, emphasizing firepower that was designed to save as many of the lives of his men as possible. [66]

The 3rd Division fought additional actions to clear German troops from the towns of Breskens, Oostburg, Zuidzande, and Cadzand, as well as the coastal fortress Fort Frederik Hendrik. When advancing, the Canadians proceeded very slowly and used massive firepower via air strikes and artillery bombardments when faced with opposition. [65] The shortage of infantry replacements meant that Canadian officers were loath to engage in operations that might lead to heavy losses. [65] On October 24, Field Marshal Montgomery arrived at the headquarters of the 3rd Division. Despite the fact that Montgomery had chosen to fight the Battle of Arnhem instead of clearing the Scheldt in September 1944, thus having allowed the Germans to dig in, he criticized the 3rd Canadian Division for its slow advance, saying the Breskens Pocket should have been cleared weeks ago and calling the Canadian officers cowards for their unwillingness to take heavy losses. [65] As a result, the 157th Brigade was withdrawn as a punishment and the 3rd Division was ordered to press on with "all speed". [67]

Despite the fact that the Canadians could not afford heavy losses, the 3rd Division began a period of "intense combat" to clear out the Breskens Pocket. [68] The Régiment de la Chaudière attacked the town of Oostburg on October 24, losing an entire company, but since they had been ordered to take Oostburg at "any price", the "Chads" dug in to hold their ground while the Queen's Own Rifles came to their aid. [68] On October 25, the Queen's Own Rifles took Oostburg after what its war diary called "a wild bayonet charge" amid "fairly heavy" casualties. [68] Lieutenant Boos of the A company of the Queen's Own Rifles was awarded the Military Cross for leading what should have been a suicidal bayonet charge on the Oostburg town gates but ended with him and his men taking the gates. [68] Despite tenacious German opposition, inspired at least in part by Eberding's policy of executing soldiers who retreated without orders, the Canadians pushed the Germans back steadily. [69] In the last days of the battle, German morale declined and the number of executions of "deserters" increased as many German soldiers wished to surrender rather than die in what was clearly a lost battle. [69] The Régiment de la Chaudière, which could ill-afford the losses, seized a bridgehead on the Afleidingskanaal van de Lije (Derivation Canal of the Lys), over which the engineers built a bridge. [69]

On November 1, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders stormed a pillbox and captured Eberding, who, despite his own orders to fight to the death for the Führer, surrendered without firing a shot. [70] After being taken prisoner, Eberding met Spry and accused him of not being aggressive enough in taking advantage of "opportunities", saying any German general would have moved far more swiftly. Spry responded that having lost about 700 men killed in two "aggressive" operations within five days, he preferred a methodical advance that preserved the lives of his men. [71] Eberding replied that this showed "weakness" on the side of the Canadians, noting that Wehrmacht generals were only concerned with winning and never let concern with casualties interfere with the pursuit of victory.

Operation Switchback ended on November 3, when the Canadian 1st Army liberated the Belgian towns of Knokke and Zeebrugge, officially closing the Breskens Pocket and eliminating all German forces south of the Scheldt. [note 1]

Operation Vitality Edit

On the afternoon of October 22, Major-General Foulkes, as acting commander of the 2nd Canadian Corps told the 2nd Canadian Division that the start of Operation Vitality, the operation to take the South Beveland peninsula, had been pushed forward by two days by the "express orders from Field Marshal Montgomery who had placed this operation at first priority for the British and Canadian forces in this area". [72] Major Ross Ellis of The Calgary Highlanders told Foulkes that the men were tired after the hard fighting earlier in October, only to be informed that the operation would go through. [73] Morale in the 2nd Division was poor, with only the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Essex Scottish Regiment, the Cameron Highland Regiment and the Calgary Highlanders being able to assemble anything close to four rifle companies. [73] The attack was to be led by the 6th Brigade consisting of the Cameron Highlanders, the battered South Saskatchewan Regiment and the even more battered Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who despite being very under-strength were assigned to lead the attack on the centre. [73] This third major operation opened on October 24, when the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division began its advance down the South Beveland peninsula. The Canadians hoped to advance rapidly, bypassing opposition and seizing bridgeheads over the Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland (Canal through South Beveland), but they too were slowed by mines, mud and strong enemy defenses.

The war diary of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal reports simply that the regiment had taken "heavy casualties", the Cameron Highlanders reported "stiff opposition" from the 6th Parachute Regiment of the Luftwaffe, while the South Saskatchewan Regiment reported: "The county over which we had come was not the kind you dream about to make an attack in as it was partly wooded, partly open, and it had many buildings, ditches, etc". [73] Joining the 6th Brigade later that day were the 5th Brigade, with the Calgary Highlanders leading the assault and reporting the "remnants" of two platoons that had advanced beyond the dyke to be joined by the Black Watch when night fell. [73] The Royal Regiment had seized its start-line during the night and in the early morning was joined by the Essex Scottish Regiment and the Fort Garry Horse Regiment to make a slow advance supported by heavy artillery fire. [74] On October 25, the Essex Scottish Regiment reported that 120 Germans had surrendered and that the "tough shell of defences at the narrowest point of the peninsula was broken". [75] On October 26, the 70th Infantry Division's commander General Wilhelm Daser reported to Rundstedt that the situation was untenable, and that retreat was unavoidable. [73]

An amphibious attack was made across the Western Scheldt by the British 52nd (Lowland) Division to get in behind the German's Canal through South Beveland defensive positions. The 156th West Scottish Brigade described the Dutch countryside as "extremely difficult", but also noted that German morale was poor, stating that they had expected the Wehrmacht to fight harder and that most of their casualties were coming from mines and booby-traps. [75] With the formidable German defence outflanked, the Canadian 6th Infantry Brigade began a frontal attack in assault boats. The engineers were able to bridge the canal on the main road.

With the canal line gone, the German defense crumbled and South Beveland was cleared. The third phase of the Battle of the Scheldt was now complete. Daser ordered his men to retreat and make a stand on "Fortress Walcheren". [75]

Operation Infatuate Edit

As the fourth phase of the battle opened, only the island of Walcheren at the mouth of the Scheldt remained in German hands. The island's defenses were extremely strong: heavy coastal batteries on the western and southern coasts defended both the island and the western Scheldt estuary, and the coastline had been strongly fortified against amphibious assaults. Furthermore, a landward-facing defensive perimeter had been built around the town of Flushing (Dutch: Vlissingen) to defend its port facilities, should an Allied landing on Walcheren succeed. The only land approach was the Sloedam, a long, narrow causeway from South Beveland, little more than a raised two-lane road. To complicate matters, the flats that surrounded this causeway were too saturated with sea water for movement on foot, but had too little water for an assault in storm boats.

Inundation of Walcheren Edit

To hamper German defense, Walcheren island's dykes were breached by attacks from RAF Bomber Command. Due to the high risks for the local population, the bombings were sanctioned at the highest level and preceded by leafleting to warn the island's inhabitants. The first bombing was on October 3 at Westkapelle, on the western shore of the island. The Westkapelle dyke was attacked by 240 heavy bombers, resulting in a large gap that allowed the seawater to enter. This flooded the central part of the island, allowing the use of amphibious vehicles and forcing the German defenders onto the high ground surrounding the island and in the towns. The bombing at Westkapelle came with severe loss of life, with 180 civilian deaths resulting from the bombardment and the resulting flooding. Attacks on other dykes had to ensure that the flooding could not be contained. On October 7, dykes in the south were bombed, west and east of Flushing. Finally, on October 11, northern dykes at Veere became a target. Bombing against the island defenses was hampered by bad weather and requirements for attacks on Germany. [76]

The island was then attacked from three directions: across the Sloedam causeway from the east, across the Scheldt from the south, and by sea from the west.

Battle of Walcheren Causeway Edit

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division attacked the Sloedam causeway on October 31. Post-war controversy exists around the claim that there was a "race" within the 2nd Division for the first regiment to take the causeway to Walcheren island, implying that the failure to take the causeway on October 31 was due to reckless determination to win the "race". [77] Colonel C.P. Stacey wrote about the "race" in the official history of the Canadian Army, a charge that was vehemently disputed by Copp and Vogel in the Maple Leaf Route. [77]

The 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division had advanced rapidly up to the causeway, which led to Brigadier Keefler giving orders to take the causeway while the task of taking the Beveland end of the causeway had been given to the 52nd Division. [78] The Royal Regiment took the eastern end of the causeway in a night attack. [79] As there seemed an actual chance of taking the entire causeway, orders were sent to the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division to launch an attack, to be led by the "jinxed" Black Watch who were to advance down the causeway while the Calgary Highlanders and Le Régiment de Maisonneuve were to advance by boat. [79] An initial attack by the Black Watch was rebuffed while it discovered the waters in the channel were too shallow for the 2nd Division to cross it, leaving a company of the Black Watch stranded on the causeway under heavy German attack. [79] The Calgary Highlanders then sent a company over which was also stopped halfway across the causeway. [79] During a second attack on the morning of November 1, the Highlanders managed to gain a precarious foothold. A day of fighting followed and then the Highlanders were relieved by the Régiment de Maisonneuve, who struggled to maintain the bridgehead. [79] The Régiment de Maisonneuve finally did secure the bridgehead, only to find that it was useless for an advance, since the German defenses in the polderland were too entrenched for an advance to be made. [80]

General Foulkes ordered Major-General Hakewill-Smith to launch the 52nd Division into a frontal attack on Walcheren, which Hakewill-Smith protested strongly. [81] The "Maisies" withdrew onto the Causeway on November 2, to be relieved by the 1st Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders of the 52nd Division. Instead of launching a frontal attack as ordered by Foulkes, Hakewill-Smith outflanked the Germans by landing the Cameronian regiment at the village of Nieuwdorp, two miles south of the causeway, and linked up with the Glasgow Highlanders the next day. [82] In conjunction with the waterborne attacks, the 52nd continued the advance. [83] The battle for the causeway had caused the 2nd Division 135 dead in what has become of the most controversial operations of the 2nd Division, with much criticism centering on the decisions of Foulkes. [82] Despite the fact that Lieutenant-General Simonds and Foulkes were both British immigrants to Canada, the two detested one another and Simonds often spoke of his wish to sack Foulkes, believing him to be incompetent.

Because of port shortage, Captain Pugsley of the Royal Navy had to improvise heavily to provide the necessary shipping for the landings on Walcheren island. [84] Despite the refusal of Bomber Command to strike various German fortifications on Walcheren, opening up the Scheldt was regarded as so important that during a meeting on October 31 between Simonds, Foulkes, and Admiral Ramsay, it was decided that the landings on Walcheren were to go ahead. [84] Captain Pugsley, aboard the command ship HMS Kingsmill, was given the final decision, with orders to cancel the operation if he thought it was too risky. [84] At the same time, Simonds ordered two Canadian artillery regiments to concentrate 300 guns on the mainland, to provide fire support for the landings. [84] The amphibious landings were conducted in two parts on November 1.

Operation Infatuate I Edit

Operation Infatuate I consisted mainly of infantry of the 155th Infantry Brigade (4th and 5th battalions King's Own Scottish Borderers, 7th/9th battalion, Royal Scots) and No. 4 Commando, who were ferried across from Breskens in small landing craft to an assault beach in the south-eastern area of Flushing, codenamed "Uncle" Beach. With the Canadian artillery opening fire, the 4th Commando were carried ashore in twenty Landing Craft Assaults, to be followed by the King's Own Scottish Borderers regiment who attacked Flushing. [84] During the next few days, they engaged in heavy street fighting against the German defenders, destroying much of Flushing. [84] The Hotel Britannia, which before the war had catered to British tourists, was the headquarters of the German 1019th Regiment holding Flushing and became the scene of "spectacular fighting" described as "worthy of an action film" when the Royal Scots regiment engaged to take the hotel, which finally fell after three days. [85]

Operation Infatuate II Edit

Operation Infatuate II was the amphibious landing at Westkapelle, also conducted on the morning of November 1. To cross the shallow water required a daylight assault with fire support provided by the Support Squadron Eastern Flank (SSEF) commanded by Commander K.A Sellar, with additional support from the battleship HMS Warspite and two monitors, HMS Erebus and HMS Roberts. [86] Air support was limited due to weather conditions. With no air support, no spotter aircraft to guide the guns of his ships, and the Germans fully alerted with their coastal artillery already firing at the British ships, Captain Pugsley was faced with the difficult decision to cancel or proceed, and after some deliberation, sent out the message reading "Nelson", which was the code name to land. [86] The radar-guided guns of the German coastal artillery took a heavy toll on the SSEF, which lost 9 ships sunk and another 11 that were so badly damaged that they had to be broken up for scrap as they were beyond repair. [86] After a heavy bombardment by the Royal Navy (a battleship and two monitors, plus a support squadron of landing craft carrying guns), troops of 4th Special Service Brigade (Nos. 41, 47, and 48 Royal Marines Commando and No. 10 Inter Allied Commando, consisting mainly of Belgian and Norwegian troops) supported by the specialized armoured vehicles (amphibious transports, mine-clearing tanks, bulldozers, etc.) of the 79th Armoured Division were landed on both sides of the gap in the sea dyke, using large landing craft as well as amphibious vehicles to bring men and tanks ashore. The Royal Marines took Westkapelle and Domburg the next day. [87] Anticipating the fall of "Fortress Walcheren", on November 4, Admiral Ramsay ordered that mine-sweepers start the work of removing the German mines from the river Scheldt, a task that was not completed until 28 November. [88]

Heavy fighting ensued in Domburg as well before the ruins of the town were captured. [89] On 3 November, the Royal Marines had linked with the 52nd Division. [88] Part of the troops moved south-east toward Flushing, while the main force went north-east to clear the northern half of Walcheren (in both cases along the high-lying dune areas, as the center of the island was flooded) and link up with the Canadian troops who had established a bridgehead on the eastern part of the island. Fierce resistance was again offered by some of the German troops defending this area, so that fighting continued until November 7.

On November 6, the island capital Middelburg fell after a calculated gamble on the Allies' part when the Royal Scots attacked Middelburg with a force of Buffaloes from the rear. [88] Since Middelburg was impossible to reach with tanks, due to the inundations, a force of amphibious Landing Vehicle Tracked ("Buffaloes") were driven into the town, forcing an end to all German resistance on November 8. General Daser portrayed the Buffaloes as tanks, giving him an excuse to surrender as he was faced with an overwhelming force. [88]

Meanwhile, the Canadian 4th Armoured Division had pushed eastward past Bergen-op-Zoom to Sint Philipsland where it sank several German vessels in Zijpe harbor.

With the approach to Antwerp clear, the fourth phase of the Battle of the Scheldt was complete. Between 20 and 28 November, Royal Navy minesweepers were brought in to clear the Scheldt estuary of naval mines and other underwater obstacles left by the Germans. On November 28, after much-needed repairs of the port facilities, the first convoy entered Antwerp, led by the Canadian-built freighter Fort Cataraqui.

At the end of the five-week offensive, the Canadian First Army had taken 41,043 German prisoners. Complicated by the waterlogged terrain, the Battle of the Scheldt proved to be a challenging campaign in which significant losses were suffered by the Canadians. [90]

Throughout the Battle of the Scheldt, battle exhaustion was a major problem for the Canadians. [91] The 3rd Canadian Division had landed on D-Day on 6 June 1944 and had been fighting more or less continuously since. During the Normandy campaign, the 3rd Canadian Division had taken the heaviest losses of all the divisions in the 21st Army Group, with the 2nd Canadian Division taking the second-heaviest losses. [92] A psychiatric report from October 1944 stated that 90% of battle exhaustion cases were men who been in action for three months or longer. [91] Men suffering from battle exhaustion would go catatonic and curl up in fetal position, but the report found that after a week of rest, most men would recover enough to speak and move about. [91] According to the report, the principal cause of battle exhaustion "seemed to be futility. The men claimed there was nothing to which to look forward to – no rest, no leave, no enjoyment, no normal life and no escape. The second most prominent cause. seemed to be the insecurity in battle because the condition of the battlefield did not allow for average cover. The third was the fact that they were seeing too much continual death and destruction, loss of friends, etc". [91] The Canadian government policy of sending only volunteers overseas had caused major shortages of men, especially in the infantry regiments. Canadian units were too under-strength to allow leave, where U.S. and British units could. This stretched the soldiers tremendously. [93] A common complaint of soldiers suffering from battle exhaustion was that the Army was to trying to "get blood from a stone", with the under-strength units being pushed relentlessly to keep fighting, without replacements for their losses and no chance to rest. [91]

After the battle, the II Canadian Corps moved to the Nijmegen sector to take over from the 30 British Corps. [94] Although Antwerp was opened to Allied shipping on 28 November, the German 15th Army had delayed the use of Antwerp to the Allies from 4 September to 28 November 1944, which was longer than what Hitler had hoped for, justifying the German decision to hold the river Scheldt. [94] Even before the Battle of the Scheldt, the Canadian Army was aware that it lacked reinforcements to replace its losses, and the losses endured during the fighting help provoke the Conscription Crisis. [95] The Canadian Defense Minister, Colonel John Ralston, was forced to report to the prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, that the current policy of only sending volunteers overseas was not sustainable as the losses in the Battle of the Scheldt vastly exceeded the number of volunteers, and conscripts would have to be sent overseas. [96] Copp and Vogel strongly praised Simonds's leadership of the 1st Canadian Army, writing how his operations "were brilliantly planned and sometimes brilliantly executed". [97] Copp and Vogel also defended the Canadians from charges of incompetence and cowardice made by American and British historians stating: "The Canadian Army had, through October, the most difficult and important task of all the Allied armies, it had carried through a series of complex operations to a successful conclusion and it had done this with verve and skill despite the growing manpower shortage now apparent on all the Allied fronts." [98]

After the first ship reached Antwerp on November 28, convoys started bringing a steady stream of supplies to the continent, but this actually changed very little. Operation Queen continued to flounder while the Americans then suffered a major reverse in the Hurtgen forest offensive by December. The dismal fall weather hindered not only the Canadians in the Battle of Scheldt, but also the operations of 1st U.S Army in the Hurtgen forest, the 3rd U.S Army in Lorraine, and the 9th U.S. Army, the 7th U.S Army and 1st French Army further south. [99] On 5 November 1944, Eisenhower calculated that for the offensives into the western borderlands of Germany to be successful, over the following month, it would require 6 million artillery shells, two million mortar shells, 400 more tanks, 1,500 jeeps, and 150,000 spare tires to replace worn-out ones, none of which was readily available until the Scheldt was cleared. [99] By 15 December, only the 7th U.S. Army had reached the Rhine by taking Strasbourg while the U.S. Third Army had advanced into Germany to run up against one of the strongest sections of the West Wall. [99] At least part of the reason for the failure for the Allied offensives was the shortage of infantry replacements with the Americans coming close to running out of infantry replacements while the British were forced to break up divisions to provide reinforcements. [99] Germany recognized the danger of the Allies having a deep water port and in an attempt to destroy it – or at least disrupt the flow of supplies – the German military fired more V-2 rockets at Antwerp than at any other city. Nearly half of the V-2s launched during the war were aimed at Antwerp. [100] The port of Antwerp was so strategically vital that during the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front, launched on 16 December 1944, the primary German objective was to retake the city and its port. [101] Without Antwerp being opened, which allowed 2.5 million tons of supplies to arrive at that port between November 1944 and April 1945, the Allied advance into Germany in 1945 with the American, British, and French armies heading into the Reich would have been impossible. [89]

Controversy Edit

The Battle of the Scheldt has been described by historians as unnecessarily difficult, as it could have been cleared earlier and more easily had the Allies given it a higher priority than Operation Market Garden. American historian Charles B. MacDonald called the failure to immediately take the Scheldt "[o]ne of the greatest tactical mistakes of the war." [102] Because of the flawed strategic choices made by the Allies in early September 1944, the battle became one of the longest and bloodiest that the Canadian army faced over the course of the Second World War.

The French Channel ports were "resolutely defended" like "fortresses" and Antwerp was the only viable alternative. However, Field Marshal Montgomery ignored Admiral Cunningham, who said that Antwerp would be "as much use as Timbuctoo" unless the approaches were cleared, and Admiral Ramsay, who warned SHAEF and Montgomery that the Germans could block the Scheldt estuary with ease.

The Antwerp city and port fell in early September and were secured by XXX Corps under the command of Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks. Montgomery halted XXX Corps for resupply short of the wide Albert Canal to the north of the city, which consequently remained in enemy hands. [103] Horrocks regretted this after the war, believing that his corps might have advanced another 100 miles (160 km) with the fuel available. [104] Unknown to the Allies, at that time XXX Corps was opposed by only a single German division. [105]

The pause allowed the Germans to regroup around the Scheldt River, and by the time the Allies resumed their advance, General Kurt Student's 1st Parachute Army had arrived and set up strong defensive positions along the opposite side of the Albert Canal and Scheldt river. [106] The task of breaking the strengthened German line, which stretched from Antwerp to the North Sea along the Scheldt River, would fall to the First Canadian Army in the month-long, costly Battle of the Scheldt. [107] The Canadians "sustained 12,873 casualties in an operation which could have been achieved at little cost if tackled immediately after the capture of Antwerp. . This delay was a grave blow to the Allied build-up before winter approached." [108]

The British historian Antony Beevor was of opinion that Montgomery, not Horrocks was to blame for not clearing the approaches, as Montgomery "was not interested in the estuary and thought that the Canadians could clear it later". Allied commanders were looking ahead to "leaping the Rhine. in virtually one bound." [109] Despite Eisenhower wanting the capture of one major port with its dock facilities intact, Montgomery insisted that the First Canadian Army should clear the German garrisons in Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk first, although these ports had all suffered demolitions and would not be navigable for some time. [110] Boulogne (Operation Wellhit) and Calais (Operation Undergo) were captured on 22 and 29 September 1944 but Dunkirk was not captured until the end of the war on 9 May 1945 (see Siege of Dunkirk). When the Canadians eventually stopped their assaults on the northern French ports and started on the Scheldt approaches on 2 October, they found that German resistance was far stronger than they had imagined, as the remnants of the Fifteenth Army had had time to escape and reinforce the island of Walcheren and the South Beveland peninsula [111]

Winston Churchill claimed in a telegram to Jan Smuts on October 9 that "As regards Arnhem, I think you have got the position a little out of focus. The battle was a decided victory, but the leading division, asking, quite rightly, for more, was given a chop. I have not been afflicted with any feeling of disappointment over this and am glad our commanders are capable of running this kind of risk." He said that the risks ". were justified by the great prize so nearly in our grasp" but acknowledged that "[c]learing the Scheldt Estuary and opening the port of Antwerp had been delayed for the sake of the Arnhem thrust. Thereafter it was given first priority." [112]


CB Conceptual Formation

In the 1930s Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDocks) began providing for "Navy Construction Battalions" (CB) in contingency war plans. [10] In 1934, Capt. Carl Carlson's version of the CB was approved by Chief of Naval Operations [11] In 1935, RADM. Norman Smith, head of BuDocks, selected Captain Walter Allen, War Plans Officer, to represent BuDocks on the War Plans Board. Capt. Allen presented the bureau's CB concept with the Board including it in the Rainbow war plans. [11] The Seabees named their first training center for Capt. Allen. [12] A criticism of the proposal was CBs would have a dual command military control administrated by fleet line Officers while construction operations would be administrated by Civil Engineer Corps officers. [11] Additional criticisms were no provisions for the military organization or military training necessary to provide unit structure, discipline, and esprit de corps. In December 1937, RADM. Ben Moreell became BuDocks Chief and the lead proponent of the CB proposal. [11]

In 1941 the Navy and BuDocks decided to improve project oversight of civilian contractors by creating "Headquarters Construction Companies". [11] These companies would have 2 officers and 99 enlisted, but would do no actual construction. [11] On 31 October 1941, RADM. Chester Nimitz, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, authorized the formation of the 1st Headquarters Construction Company. [11] Recruiting began in November while boot training began 7 December 1941 at Naval Station Newport. [11] By 16 December, four additional companies had been authorized, but Pearl Harbor changed everything. [11]

On 28 December 1941, Adm. Moreell requested authority to commission three Naval Construction Battalions. His request was approved on 5 January 1942 by Admiral Nimitz. [14] The 1st HQ Construction Company was used to commission the 1st Naval Construction Detachment, which was assigned to Operation Bobcat. [15] They were sent to Bora Bora and are known in Seabee history as "Bobcats". [15]

Concurrently, the other requested companies had been approved. BuDocks took Companies 2 & 3 to form the 1st Naval Construction Battalion at Charleston, South Carolina. HQ Companies 4 & 5 were used for the 2nd CB. [14] All four companies deployed independently. CBs 3, 4, & 5 were deployed the same way. [16] CB 6 was the first battalion to deploy as a Battalion. [16]

Before all this could happen, BuDocks had to address the dual command issue. Naval regs stated unit command was strictly limited to line officers. BuDocks deemed it essential that CBs be commanded by CEC officers trained in construction. The Bureau of Naval Personnel (BuPers) strongly opposed. Adm. Moreell took the issue directly to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox. On 19 March 1942, Knox gave the CEC complete command of all NCF personnel. Almost 11,400 would become CEC during WWII with 7,960 doing CB service. Two weeks earlier, on 5 March all CB personnel were officially named "Seabees".

The first volunteers were tradesmen that received advanced rank for their trade skills. This resulted in the Seabees being the highest-paid group in uniform. [17] To recruit these men, age and physical standards were waived up to age 50. Until November 1942 the average Seabee was 37, even so, all received the same physical training. [5] In December, FDR ordered the Selective Service System to provide CB recruits. Enlistees could request CB service with a written statement certifying that they were trade qualified. [1] : 136 This lasted until October 1943 when voluntary enlistment in the Seabees ceased until December 1944. [1] : 136 By war's end, 258,872 officers and enlisted had served in the Seabees. They never reached the Navy's authorized quota of 321,056. [18]

In 1942 initial CB boot was at Camp Allen, VA., which moved to Camp Bradford, which moved to Camp Peary [5] and finally moved to Camp Endicott, Rhode Island. CBs 1-5 were sent directly overseas for urgent projects. CBs that followed were sent to Advance Base Depots (ABDs) for deployment. [19] Camp Rousseau at Port Hueneme became operational first and was the ABD to the Pacific. [20] The Davisville ABD became operational in June with NTC Camp Endicott commissioned that August. [21] Other CB Camps were Camp Parks, Livermore, Ca., [22] and Camp Lee-Stephenson, Quoddy Village, Eastport, Maine [23] and Camp Holliday, Gulfport, Ms. CBs sent to the Pacific were attached to one of the four Amphibious Corps: I, III, and V were USMC. The VII Amphibious Force was under General Douglas MacArthur, Supereme Commander.

The Office of Naval Operations created a code identifying Advance Base (AB) [24] construction as a numbered metaphor for the size/type of base. That code was also used to identify the "unit" that would be the administration for that base. [25] These were Lion, Cub, Oak and Acorn with a Lion being a main Fleet Base (numbered 1–6). [26] Cubs were Secondary Fleet Bases 1/4 the size of a Lion (numbered 1–12). [27] Oak and Acorn were the names given air installations, new or captured (airfield or airstrip). [28] Cubs quickly gained status. The speed with which the Seabees could make one operational led the Marines to consider them a tactical component. Camp Bedilion shared a common fence-line with Camp Rousseau at Port Hueneme and was home to the Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment (AATD) [29] As the war progressed, BuDocks realized that logistics required that Advance Base Construction Depots (ABCDs) be built and CBs built seven. [30] When the code was first created, BuDocks foresaw two CBs constructing a Lion. By 1944 an entire Regiment was being used. The invasion of Okinawa took four Construction Brigades of 55,000 men. The Seabees built the infrastructure needed to take the war to Japan. By war's end CBs had, served on six continents, constructed over 300 bases on as many islands. [31] They built everything: airfields, airstrips, piers, wharves, breakwaters, PT & seaplane bases, bridges, roads, com-centers, fuel farms, hospitals, barracks and anything else. [32]

In the Atlantic the Seabees biggest job was the preparations for the Normandy landing. After which CBMUs 627, 628, and 629 were tasked to facilitate the crossing of the Rhine. For CBMU 629 it was front-line work. [33] The Pacific is where 80% of the NCF deployed.

African American Service: the Seabee stevedores Edit

In February 1942 CNO Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark recommended African Americans for ratings in the construction trades. In April the Navy announced it would enlist African Americans in the Seabees. Even so, there were just two CBs that were "colored" units, the 34th and 80th. [35] Both had white Southern officers and black enlisted. Both battalions experienced problems with that arrangement that led to the replacement of the officers. The men of the 34th went on a hunger strike which made national news. The Commander of the 80th had 19 enlisted dishonorably discharged for sedition. The NAACP and Thurgood Marshall got 14 of those reversed. In 1943 the Navy drew up a proposal to raise the number of colored CBs to 5 and require that all non-rated men in the next 24 CBs be colored. The proposal was approved, but not acted on.

The lack of stevedores in combat zones was a huge issue for the Navy. Authorization for the formation of cargo handling CBs or "Special CBs" happened mid-September 1942. [36] By wars end 41 Special CBs had been commissioned of which 15 were "colored". They were the first fully integrated units in the U.S. Navy. [35] V-J Day brought the decommissioning of all of them. The Special CBs were forerunners of today's Navy Cargo Handling Battalions of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (United States). The arrival of 15 colored Special CBs in Pearl Harbor made segregation an issue for the Navy. [37] For some time the men slept in tents, but the disparity of treatment was obvious even to the Navy. [37] The 14th Naval District felt they deserved proper shelter with at least separate but equal barracks. [37] Manana Barracks and Waiawa Gulch became the United States' largest colored military installation with over 4,000 Seabee stevedores housed there. [37] It was the site of racial strife to the point that the camp was fenced in and placed under armed guard. [37] The Seabees were trucked to and from the docks in cattle trucks. [37] Two naval supply depots were located at Waiawa Gulch. At wars end 12,500 African Americans would serve in the Construction Battalions. [38]

The 17th Special(colored) CB at Peleliu 15–18 September 1944 is not listed on the USMC order of battle. On D-day, the 7th Marines had a situation where they did not have enough men to man the lines and get the wounded to safety. Coming to their aid were the 2 companies of the 16th Marine Field Depot (colored) and the 17th Special CB. The Japanese mounted a counter-attack at 0200 hours on D-day night. By the time it was over, nearly the entire 17th had volunteered to carry ammunition to the front lines on the stretchers they brought the wounded back on. They volunteered to man the line where the wounded had been, man 37mm guns that had lost their crews and volunteered for anything the Marines needed. The 17th remained with the 7th Marines until the right flank had been secured on D plus 3. [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] According to the Military History Encyclopedia on the Web, "were it not for the Black Marine shore party---the counterattack on the 7th Marines would not have been repulsed". [44]

    On Peleliu, shore party detachments from the 33rd and 73rd CBs received Presidential Unit Citations as did the primary shore party (1st Marine Pioneers). [45] The Commander of the 17th Special CB (colored) received the same commendatory letter as the Company Commanders of the 7th Marine Ammunition Co. (colored) and the 11th Marine Depot Co. (colored). Before the battle was even over, Maj. Gen. Rupertus, USMC wrote to each:

"The negro race can well be proud of the work performed [by the 11th Marine Depot Co./ 7th Marine Ammunition Co./ 17th Special CB]. The wholehearted co-operation and untiring efforts which demonstrated in every respect that they appreciated the privilege of wearing a Marine uniform and serving with the marines in combat. Please convey to your command these sentiments and inform them that in the eyes of the entire division they have earned a 'well done'." [46] [47] The Department of the Navy made an official press release 28 November 1944 of the 17th CB's copy of this letter. [48]

Seabee North Slope Oil Exploration 1944 Edit

Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) 1058 was formed from "screening Camp Peary and the NCF for geologists, petroleum engineers, oil drillers, tool pushers, roustabouts and roughnecks" and later designated 1058. [51] [52] Additional personnel were chosen for their arctic experience with CBs 12 and 66. [51] They mustered at Camp Lee Stephenson for Operation Pet 4. Congress put $1,000,000 aside to wildcat for oil in U.S. Navy Petroleum Reserve No. 4(NPR-4) in 1944. NPR-4 had been created and placed in the oil reserve in 1923. [51] Today NPR-4 is the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The detachment's mission was:

  • Do a detailed geologic study at Umiat and Cape Simpson
  • Drill test and core holes
  • Drill a deep well
  • Do complete aerial and overland pipeline surveys for NPR 4. [51]
  • Build a base camp with a runway at Point Barrow
  • Build field camp runways at Umiat and Bettles

On July 19 the USS Spica headed north with the S.S. Jonathan Harrington for Point Barrow and Cape Simpson. The det's base camp was constructed at Point Barrow. Four D-8s with twenty sleds of supplies were prepped for the 330-mile trek to Umiat once the tundra had frozen. [53] The first tractor train delivered supplies, the second, heavy well equipment. [53] The D8s would make eight trips total. When summer arrived a wildcat was drilled to 1,816' before the cold shut down operations. The hole was designated Seabee#1 [54] It was near four known seeps at Umiat in the very south-east of NPR 4. [51] [53] The rock strata there was from the Upper Cretaceous and a stratum of it was named the "Seabee Formation". [55] On the coast the Seabees drilled test holes at Cape Simpson and Point Barrow. [56] Once the runways were completed additional supplies were flown in. In March 1946 civilians took over the project. Some Seabees of CBD 1058 were hired immediately upon discharge to continue doing the work they had been doing" [55] The Navy applied the cold weather experience from CBD 1058 for Operation Highjump and Operation Deep Freeze. Seabee #1 remains a USGS monitor well today. [57]

Twice the Seabees have been tasked with large-scale land surveys. The first was done by CBD 1058 for a proposed NPR 4 pipeline route to Fairbanks. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline follows a portion of their survey from roughly the arctic circle to Fairbanks. The second would be done by a Seabee team from MCB 10. They went to Vietnam in 1956 to survey and map the existing road network. [58] That survey was extensively used during the Vietnam War.

Malaria and Epidemic Control Group

BUMED created the Malaria and Epidemic Control Group to deal with insect-borne diseases. Between August 1942, and February 1943, American troops in the Pacific averaged 10 malaria cases for every combat injury. Seabees oiled, drained and sprayed mosquito breeding areas and inspected and fumigated ships and aircraft transiting malaria-infested areas. [59] It was an important task that absolutely needed to be done in order for the United States to field an effective combat force. On Guadalcanal the 63rd CB had malaria control as its primary task. [60] At Gulfport a school established to train Battalions for the Malaria and Epidemic Control Group.

During World War II Seabees were tasked outside the NCF in the USMC, NCDUs, and UDTs.

Marine Corps Edit

USMC historian Gordon L. Rottman wrote "that one of the biggest contributions the Navy made to the Marine Corps during WWII was the creation of the Seabees". [64] In exchange, the Corps would be influential upon the CB organization and its history. After the experience of Guadalcanal the Department of War decided that the Marines and Seabees would make all subsequent landings together. [65] That arrangement lead to numerous Seabee claims that they had landed first, even leaving signs on the beach asking the Marines "What took you so long?" [65] The Seabees in the UDTs made an effort of this [65] that their mates in the CBs approved of.

When the first three CBs were formed the Seabees did not have a base of their own. Upon leaving boot the recruits were sent to National Youth Administration camps in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia to receive military training from the Marine Corps. [1] : 138 The Marine Corps listed CBs on their Table of organization: "D-Series Division" for 1942, [66] "E-Series Division" for 1943, [67] [68] and "Amphibious Corps" for 1944/45. [69]

When CBs were created the Marine Corps wanted one for each of the three Marine Divisions, but were told no because of war priorities. Even so, early Seabee units were connected with Marine Corps ops. The 1st Naval Construction Detachment (Bobcats) [15] together with and A Co CB 3 was transferred to the Marines and redesignated 3rd Battalion 22nd Marines. [70] The Bobcats had deployed without receiving advanced military training. The 22nd Marines took care of that. [71] The 4th Construction Detachment was attached to the 5th Marine Defense Battalion for two years. [16]

By autumn, the 18th, 19th and 25th CBs [72] had been transferred to the Corps as combat engineers. [73] Each was attached to a composite engineer regiment, [74] redesignated as 3rd Battalion: [73] 17th Marine Regiment, 18th Marine Regiment, 19th Marine Regiment, and 20th Marine Regiment. The 18th and 19th CBs each claim to have been the first CBs authorized to wear standard USMC issue. [63] Both received their military training and USMC duffle bag at MTC New River, NC. There is no record of how many CBs received USMC issue. It is known that the 31st, 43rd, [75] 76th, [76] 121st and 133rd CBs received partial or complete issues. [77] On 15 January 1944 the 142nd CB was commissioned at New River,Camp Lejeune. On 2 February that Battalion arrived at Camp Pendelton for further training, mounting out 19 April.

After Guadalcanal amphibious operations became joint USMC/Seabee pairings. The 6th CB joined the 1st Marine Division after combat had started on Guadalcanal. The 18th CB was sent to join them from Fleet Marine Force depot Norfolk. [78] Many more would follow. The 6th Special CB was tasked to the 4th Marines Depot in the Russells. [16] November saw the 14th CB tasked to the 2nd Raider Bn on Guadalcanal. In June, the 24th CB had been tasked to the 9th Marine Defense Bn on Rendova. [79] The 33rd and 73rd CBs had dets tasked to the 1st Pioneers as shore party on Peleliu [80] as was the 17th Special CB colored. At Enogi Inlet on Munda, a 47th det was shore party to the 1st and 4th Marine Raiders. [70] The 3rd Marine Div. made the Commander of the 71st CB shore party commander on Bougainville. His 71st had support from the 25th, 53rd, and 75th CBs. [81] At Cape Torokina the 75th had 100 men volunteer to make the assault of the 3rd Marines. [82] Also at Bougainville, the 53rd provided shore parties to the 2nd Raiders on green beach and the 3rd Raiders on Puruata Island. [83] The 121st was formed at the CB Training Center of MTC Camp Lejuene as 3rd Bn 20th Marines. [84] They would be shore party to the 23rd Marines on Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Tinian.

When the Marine Engineer Regiments were inactivated in 1944, CBs were then tasked to Marine Divisions. For Iwo Jima, the 31st and 133rd were attached to the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. The 133rd was shore party to the 23rd Marines. [85] while the 31st CB was in the 5th Shore Party Regiment. The 31st demolitionsmen attached directly to the Division. [86] [87] The 8th Marine Field Depot was the shore party command eschelon for Iwo Jima. They requested 26 heavy equipment operators and received 8th CB volunteers. [88] Okinawa saw the 58th, 71st, 130th, and 145th CBs detached from the Navy and tasked to the Marine Corps 6th, 2nd, and 1st Marine Divisions respectively. [89]

From Iwo Jima the 5th Marine Div. returned to Camp Tarawa to have the 116th CB attached. [87] When Japan fell the 116th CB was part of the occupation force. V-J day left thousands of Japanese troops in China and the III Marine Amphibious Corps was sent there to get them home. The 33rd NCR was assigned to III Marine Amphib. Corps for this mission. [90]

CBs were also tasked individually to the four Amphibious Corps. The 19th CB started out with the I MAC [78] prior to joining the 17th Marines. The 53rd CB was attached to I MAC as Naval Construction Battalion I M.A.C. When I MAC was redesignated III Amphibious Corps the battalion became an element of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. [91] For Guam, III Amphibious Corps had the 2nd Special CB, 25th, and 53rd CBs. The CO 25 CB was shore party commander for the 3rd Marines on beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The 3rd Marines would award 25's shore party 17 bronze stars. [92] V Amphibious Corps (VAC) had the 23rd Special and 62nd CBs on Iwo Jima. On Tinian the 6th Construction Brigade was attached to V Amphibious Corps. [93]

  • Two sections of CBMU 515 saw combat with the 22nd Marines on Guam. [94]
  • When the decision was made to construct Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton in 1942, BuDocks issued the main contracts to civilian contractors. However, the base project was so large that some smaller contracts were awarded to the Seabees, one of which was a Quonsent Camp for USMC instruction of Naval Construction Battalions in area 25(Vado del Rio). [95] Seabees were involved in the construction of Camp Del Mar in area 21 and erected a construction camp closeby while they were involved. [95]

When the war ended the Seabees had a unique standing with the U.S. Marine Corps. [96] Seabee historian William Bradford Huie wrote "that the two have a camaraderie unknown else-wheres in the U.S. military". [97] Even though they are "Navy" the Seabees adopted USMC fatigues with a Seabee insignia in place of the EGA. At least 10 CB units incorporated USMC insignia into theirs. Admiral Moreell wrote, tongue in cheek, that the Marines were the best fighting men in the Pacific, but one had to serve 90 days with the Seabees to qualify to as a "Junior Bee". [98]

Naval Combat Demolition Units Edit

In early May 1943, a two-phase "Naval Demolition Project" was ordered by the Chief of Naval Operations "to meet a present and urgent requirement" for the invasion of Sicily. Phase-1 began at Amphibious Training Base (ATB) Solomons, Maryland with the creation of Operational Naval Demolition Unit # 1. Six Officers lead by Lt. Fred Wise CEC and eighteen enlisted reported from Camp Peary dynamiting and demolition school. [100] Seabees called them "Demolitioneers". [101] Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) consisted of one junior CEC officer, [102] five enlisted, and were numbered 1–216. [103] After that first group had been trained Lt. Commander Draper Kauffman was selected to command the program. It had been set up in Camp Peary's "Area E"(explosives) at the dynamiting and demolition school. Between May and mid-July, the first six NCDU classes graduated at Camp Peary. While the program was at Camp Peary the men were given head-of-the-line privileges at the mess hall. The program was moved to Fort Pierce where the first class began mid-July. [101] Despite the move, Camp Peary remained Kauffman's primary recruit center. "He would go back to the dynamite school, assemble the (Seabees) in the auditorium and say, "I need volunteers for hazardous, prolonged and distant duty." [5] Fort Pierce had two CB units assigned, CBD 1011 and CBMU 570. They were tasked with the construction and maintenance of obstacles needed for demolition training.

The invasion of Normandy had 34 NCDUs. When the first ten arrived in England they had no CO. Lt. Smith(CEC) assumed the role, splitting them up to train with the 146th, 277th and 299th Combat Engineers. [104] As more NCDUs arrived they did the same, with 5 combat engineers attached to each NCDU. [105] Group III(Lt. Smith) did research and development and is credited with developing the Hagensen Pack. [104] NCDUs had a 53% casualty rate at Normandy. [5] Four from Utah beach later took part in Operation Dragoon.

With Europe invaded Admiral Turner requisitioned all available NCDUs from Fort Pierce for integration into the UDTs for the Pacific. That netted him 20 NCDUs that had received Presidential Unit Citations and another 11 that had gotten Navy Unit Commendations. [106] Prior to Normandy 30 NCDUs [107] had embarked to the Pacific and another three had gone to the Mediterranean. NCDUs 1–10 were staged at Turner City on Florida Island in the beginning of 1944. [108] NCDU 1 was briefly in the Aleutians in 1943. [109] The first NCDUs in combat were 4 and 5 with the 4th Marines on Green Island, Papua New Guinea and Emirau Island. [109] Later NCDUs 1–10 were combined to form the short-lived UDT Able. NCDUs 2, 3, 19, 20, 21 and 24 [110] were assigned to MacArthur's 7th Amphibious Force and were the only NCDUs remaining at the war's end.

Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT)s Edit

Prior to Operation Galvanic and Tarawa, V Amphibious Corps had identified coral as an issue for future amphibious operations. RADM. Kelly Turner, commander V Amphibious Corps had ordered a review to get a grip on the problem. VAC found that the only people having any applicable experience with the material were men in the Naval Construction Battalions. Lt. Thomas C. Crist, of CB 10, was in Pearl Harbor from Canton Island [112] [113] where he had been in charge of clearing coral heads. His being in Pearl Harbor was pivotal in UDT history. While there he learned of the Adm. Turner's interest in coral blasting and met with him. The Admiral tasked Lt. Crist to develop a method for blasting coral under combat conditions and putting together a team to do it. [107] Lt. Crist started by getting men from CB 10, but got the remainder from the 7th Construction Regiment. [114] By 1 December 1943 he had close to 30 officers and 150 enlisted at Waipio Amphibious Operating Base on Oahu. [107]

In November the Navy had a hard lesson with coral and tides at Tarawa. It prompted Adm. Turner to request the creation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams to address those issues. [115] Six teams for VAC in the Central Pacific while the other three would go to III Amphibious Corps in the South Pacific. UDTs 1 & 2 were formed from the 180 men Lt. Crist had staged. Seabees make up the majority of the men in teams 1–9, 13 and 15. [116] How many Seabees were in UDTs 10 and 12 is not listed, for UDT 11 they composed 20% of the team. [117] [118] UDT officers were mainly CEC. [119] UDT 10 had 5 officers and 24 enlisted originally trained as OSS Maritime Unit: Operational Swimmer Group II, [120] but the OSS was not allowed to operate in the Pacific Theater. Adm. Nimitz needed swimmers and approved their transfer from the OSS to his control. The MU men brought with the swimfins they had trained with and the Seabees made them a part of UDT attire as quickly as the Supply dept. could get them. [120] In the Seabee dominated teams the next largest group of UDT volunteers came from the joint Army-Navy Scouts and Raiders school that was also in Fort Pierce. Additional volunteers came from the Navy's Bomb disposal School, Marine Corps and U.S. Fleet. [107] [116]

The first team commanders were Cmdr. E.D. Brewster (CEC) UDT 1 and Lt. Crist (CEC) UDT 2. Both Teams were "provisional" totaling the 180 men Lt Crist had put together from the 7th NCR. [121] [114] They wore fatigues, life-vests and were expected to stay in boats like the NCDUs. At Kwajalein Fort Pierce protocol was changed. Adm.Turner ordered daylight recon, and Ensign Lewis F. Luehrs, Charp. Bill Acheson and the men with them wore swim trunks under their fatigues. [107] They stripped down, spent 45 minutes in the water in broad daylight. Still wet and in their trunks they reported directly to Adm. Turner. He concluded what they had done was the only way to get accurate intel on submerged obstacles, reporting as much to Adm. Nimitz. [122] At Engebi Cmdr. Brewster was wounded. [107] The success of UDT-1 not following Fort Pierce protocol rewrote the UDT mission model and training regimen. [123] Ens. Luehrs and Charp. Acheson were each awarded a Silver Star for their initiative. [124] while unintentionally creating the UDT "naked warrior" image. Diving masks were uncommon in 1944 and some had tried using goggles at Kwajalein. [125] They were a rare item in Hawaii so Lt. Crist and CB Chief Howard Roeder had requested supply get them. [125] A fortuitous observation by one of the men spotted a magazine advertisement for diving masks. A priority dispatch was made to the States that appropriated the store's entire stock. [125] The UDTs adopted goggles independent of the OSS. When UDTs 1 and 2 returned to Hawaii Chief Acheson and three other UDT Officers were transferred to the 301st dredging CB. [114] The 301st had 12 dredges saving Teams from blasting channels, but needed divers to get the job done. Ensign Leuhrs made Lt. and was a member of UDT 3 until he was made XO of team 18. Commander Brewster's purple heart got him out of the UDTs and elevated to Commander 7th NCR instead of back to CB 10.

Adm. Turner also requested the formation of a Demolition Training Center at Kihei. It was approved. The actions of UDT 1 were a model, making training distinctly different from Fort Pierce's. Lt. Crist was briefly the first training officer and emphasized swimming and recon until he was made CO of UDT 3. When UDT 3 returned from Leyte in the fall of 1944 it became the school instructors with Lt. Crist again OIC of training. [116] The classes now included: night ops, weapons, bivouacking, small unit tactics, along with coral and lava blasting. In April 1945, team 3 was sent to Fort Priece to instruct there. Lt. Crist was promoted to Lt. Cmdr and sent back to Kihei. Team 3 would train teams 12–22. [116] UDT 14 is called the first "all fleet team" even though it had Seabees from Team Able and the CO and XO were both CEC. UDT 15 was the last team formed of NCDUs. Teams 12–15 were sent to Iwo Jima. Three cleared the shoreline for five days, D+2-D+7. After July 1944 new UDTs were only USN. In 1945 CBMU 570 was tasked to the UDT coldwater training center at ATB Oceanside, CA. [126]

On Guam team 8 requested permission to build a base. [127] It was approved by AdComPhibsPac, but disapproved by Island Command. [127] Team 8 turned to the CBs on the island and got everything needed. [127] Coral paving got placed the night before Admiral Nimitz inspected, giving teams 8 & 10 a glowing review. [127]

By V-J day 34 teams had been formed. Teams 1–21 saw actual deployment with the Seabees providing over half of the men in those teams. The Navy did not publicize the existence of the UDTs until post-war and when they did they gave credit to Lt. Cmdr. Kauffman and the Seabees. [128] During World War II the Navy did not have a rating for the UDTs nor did they have an insignia. Those men with the CB rating on their uniforms considered themselves Seabees that were doing underwater demolition. They did not call themselves "UDTs" or "Frogmen", but rather "Demolitioneers" [129] reflecting where LtCdr Kauffman had recruited them from, the CB dynamiting and demolition school.

UDTs had to be of standard recruiting age, Seabees older could not volunteer. Mid-year 1945, in preparation for the cooler waters around Japan, a cold water training center was created. With it came a more demanding physical. Team 9 lost 70% of the team to this change.

Postwar, MCB 7 was tasked with projects at the UDT training facility on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

When World War II ended the Cold War began. Seabee service during this period supported a broad spectrum of the national interest nuclear testing, two wars, embassy security, space race, CIA, military communications, international relations, pure science, and Camp David.

Postwar interlude: Siberia-China Edit

On V-J-Day CB 114 was in the Aleutians. In September 1945 the battalion sent a detachment to the USSR to build a Fleet Weather Central. [130] [131] It was located 10 miles (16 km) outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula. [132] The original agreement gave the Seabees 3 weeks to complete the base. Upon arrival the Russians told them they had 10 days and were amazed it was done in 10. [132] It was one of two that Stalin agreed to.

V-J-Day brought about Operation Beleaguer and the repatriation of the Japanese Army from China. Elements of the 33rd CB Regiment were involved: CBs 83, 96, 122 and 32nd Special. [133] These units landed at Tsingtao and Tangku in November 1945 attached to the 6th Marine Division. CB 42 and A Co. 33rd Special landed at Shanghai with Naval Advance Base Unit 13. [134] With the war over, the ongoing discharge men eligible left only enough for one CB and the two CB Specials. The men were consolidated in the 96th [133] with the other CBs decommissioned. In December the 96th started airfields at Tsingtao and Chinwangtao in support of III Marine Amphibious Corps operations. [133] May 1946 CB III Marine Amphibious Corps was ordered to inactivate the 96th CB on 1 August. The 96th was transferred to the 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division and deactivated from them.

Nuclear tests Edit

In early 1946 the 53rd NCB was deployed with Operation Crossroads for the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll. [135] It was designated Task Unit TU 1.8.6. [136] 53's project list included observation, instrument and communication towers, radio beacons, seismic huts, photo reference crosses, general base and recreational facilities, as well as dredging the lagoon. In addition, recreational facilities were constructed on Japtan Island for the ships crews of the Operation. The Battalion also assisted the relocation of the natives. They disassembled bothbthe Community center and church for reassembly on Rongerik Atoll. In August the battalion was decommissioned with men transferred to CBD 1156 that was then commissioned on Bikini. [137] The TU 1.8.6 designation transferred to the CBD. CBD 1156 remained for nine days after the second test. [138] [139]

UDT 3 was designated TU 1.1.3 for the operation. On 27 April 1946, seven officers and 51 enlisted embarked at CBC Port Hueneme for Bikini. [140] Their assignment was to retrieve water samples from ground zero of the Baker blast. In 1948, the displaced bikinians put in a request that a channel to the island Kili where they had been relocated be made. This was given to the Seabee detachment on Kwajelin who requested UDT 3 assist.

The 121st CB was decommissioned in December and re-designated CBD 1504. [141] In January 1947 CBs 104 and 105 were reactivated. The 30th NCR was home-ported on Guam composed of CBDs 1501-13 and NCB 103. In 1949, the 103rd was made a Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) while CBs 104 and 105 were made Amphibious Construction Battalions(ACBs). From 1949 until 1968 CBs were designated MCBs. In 1949 MCB 1 was reactivated at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, VA. In June 1950 the NCF totaled a few thousand.

Korean War Edit

The outbreak of the Korean War led to a call-up of 10,000 from the Seabee Reserve. Seabees landed at Inchon during the assault, installing causeways dealing with enormous tides and enemy fire. Their actions there and elsewheres underscored the necessity of having CBs. During that war the authorized size of a CB was 550 men. When the truce was declared there was no CB demobilization as there had been at the end of World War II.

During the Korea, the U.S. realized the need of an air station in the region. Cubi Point in the Philippines was selected. Civilian contractors were approached for bids. After seeing the Zambales Mountains and the maze of jungle, they claimed it could not be done. The Navy then turned to the Seabees. The first to arrive was CBD 1802 to do the surveying. MCB 3 arrived on 2 October 1951 to get the project going and was joined by MCB 5 in November. Over the next five years, MCBs 2, 7, 9, 11 and CBD 1803 all contributed to the effort. They leveled a mountain to make way for a nearly 2-mile long (3.2 km) runway. NAS Cubi Point turned out to be one of the largest earth-moving projects in the world, equivalent to the construction of the Panama Canal. Seabees there moved 20 million cubic yards (15 million cubic metres) of dry fill plus another 15 million that was hydraulic fill. The $100 million facility was commissioned on 25 July 1956, and comprised an air station and an adjacent pier that was capable of docking the Navy's largest carriers. Adjusted-for-inflation, today's price-tag for what the Seabees built at Cubi Point would be $906,871,323.53.

Seabee Teams The World War II precursor to Seabee teams was the PT Advance base Detachment of the 113th CB. Each man was cross-trained in at least three trades with some qualified as corpsmen and divers. [144] During Vietnam the requirement of being skilled in three trades was continued. < ref name="NAM"/> The first Seabees referred to as "Seabee Teams" were CBDs 1802 and 1803. [145] They were followed by Detachments Able and Baker. The U.S. State Department learned of the teams and concluded they could have a Cold War purpose. They could be U.S. "Good Will Ambassadors" to third world countries to counter the spread of Communism, a military version of the Peace Corps. These 13-man teams would construct schools, drill wells or build clinics creating a positive image for the U.S. They were utilized by the United States Agency for International Development and were in S.E. Asia by the mid-1950s. Then in the early sixties, the U.S. Army Special Forces were being sent into rural areas of South Vietnam to develop a self-defense force to counter the Communist threat and making use of the Seabee teams at these same places made sense [146] to the CIA. To start, twelve "Seabee teams, with Secret Clearances, were sent with the Army's Special Forces in the CIA funded Civilian Irregular Defense Group program (CIDG)" [147] [148] in the years 1963–1965. By 1965 the U.S. Army had enough engineers in theater to end Seabee involvement with Special Forces. At first teams were called Seabee Technical Assistance Teams (STAT) and were restricted to two in theater at a time. Teams after STAT 1104 were renamed Seabee Teams and by 1969 there were 17 in theater. [148] As a military force Seabee Teams received many awards for heroism. [149] Teams were sent to other nations as well. The Royal Thai government requested STATs in 1963 and ever since the Seabees have continued to deploy teams.

Construction Civic Action Details or CCAD [150] CCADs or "See-Kads" are larger civic action units of 20–25 Seabees [151] with the same purpose as Seabee Teams. The CCAD designation is not found in the record prior to 2013.

Camp David Edit

Camp David is officially known as Naval Support Facility Thurmont, as it is technically a military installation. The base is staffed by the CEC, Seabees, [152] and Marines. "In the early 1950s, Seabee BUs, UTs and CEs took over routine maintenance of the base and additional rates were added for administrative functions. Today Seabees still man the base public works and see that the grounds are in an impeccable condition." [153] "Selectees undergo a single scope background investigation to determine if they qualify for a Top Secret Sensitive Yankee White (YW) clearance. All personnel in Presidential support activities are required a "Yankee White" security clearance. The tour lasts 36 months." [152] When the base has a larger construction project a Construction Battalion from the fleet can be tasked. NMCBs 5 and 133 have drawn these assignments.

Antarctica: Science Edit

In December 1946, 166 Seabees sailed from Port Hueneme on the USS Yancey and USS Merrick assigned to Operation Highjump. They were part of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Antarctic expedition. The U.S. Navy was in charge with "Classified" orders "to do all it could to establish a basis for a (U.S.) land claim in Antarctica". [154] The Navy sent the Seabees to do the job starting with the construction of Little America (exploration base) IV as well as a runway for aerial mapping flights. [155] This Operation was vastly larger than IGY Operation Deep Freeze that followed. [154]

Operation Deep Freeze

In 1955, Seabees were assigned to Operation Deep Freeze making Antarctica an annual deployment site. Their task was the construction and maintenance of scientific bases for the National Science Foundation. The first "wintering over" crew included 200 Seabees. They cleared an 6,000-foot (1,800 m) ice runway at Mcmurdo for the advance party of Deep Freeze II to fly to South Pole Station. MCB 1 was assigned for Deep Freeze II.

Antarctica added to the Seabee's list of accomplishments:

  • Tractor train traverses covering hundreds of miles.
  • Bases built: McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, Byrd Station, Palmer Station, Siple Station, Ellsworth Station, Brockton Station, Eights Station, Plateau Station, Hallett Station, and Little America IV and Little America V
  • MCB 1s construction of a nuclear power plant[157] which got them a Navy Unit Commendation.
  • NMCB 71s construction of a Buckminster FullerGeodesic dome at So. Pole Station. [158] It became a symbolic icon of the United States Antarctic Research Program (USARP).

Vietnam War Edit

Seabees were in Vietnam twice in the 1950s. First in June 1954, as elements of Operation Passage to Freedom and then two years later to map and survey the nation's roads. Seabee teams 501 and 502 arrived January 1963 and are recorded as the first Seabees of the Vietnam War. They went to Dam Pau and Tri Ton to build Special Forces camps. [159] In 1964 ACB 1 was the first CB in the theatre. In 1965 Marines and Seabees made an amphibious landing at Chu Lai and entire Naval Construction Regiments followed. [160] Seabees supported the Marines at Khe Sanh and Chu Lai combat bases in addition to building numerous aircraft-support facilities, roads, and bridges. Every mile of road improved equated to 100' of bridgedeck constructed. [160] They also worked civic action projects throughout the country. In June 1965, Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields of Seabee Team 1104 was at the Battle of Dong Xoai. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and is the only Seabee to receive the award. Seabee Teams were deployed throughout the War. They typically built schools, clinics, or drilled wells. In 1966 Seabees repaired the airfield at Khe Sahn laying aluminum matting covering 3,900'x60' in four days. General Westmoreland "called it one of the most outstanding military engineering feats of the war." [161] MCB 4 had a det at Con Thien whose actions were a near repeat of Dong Xoai.

In 1968 the Marine Corps requested that the Navy make a change. The Marines were using "MCB" for Marine Corps Base while the Navy was using "MCB" for Mobile Construction Battalion, it was causing confusion in logistics. The Navy agreed and added "Naval" to MCB creating the NMCBs that now exist. During that year the 30th NCR had five battalions in the Da Nang area and two at Chu Lai. The 32nd NCR had three battalions tasked near Phu Bai and one at Dong Ha. In May 1968 two reserve battalions RNMCB 12 and 22 were activated, bring the total number of battalions in Vietnam to 21. Both ACBs were in theater as well as CBMUs 301 and 302. In 1968 NMCB 10 drew an atypical Seabee "task" supporting the 101st Airborne. During 1969 the number of Seabees deployed reached 29,000, from there their draw-down began. [162] The last battalion withdrew late 1971 with the last Seabee teams out a year later. When it was over they had sent 137 Seabee teams, built 15 CB camps, and deployed 22 battalions. [163] CBMU 302 became the largest CB ever at over 1400 men and was homeported at Cam Rahn Bay. On 23 April 1975 it was announced that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was over. That day CB 4 started construction of a temporary camp for Operation New Life on Guam. In seven days 2,000 squad tents were erected and numbered 3,500 when done. [164]

During Vietnam the Seabees had a few uniform variations. One was the stenciling of unit numbers across the back of the field jacket M-65. [165] Another was the collar and cover devices for enlisted E4-E6. The Navy authorized that the "crow" be replaced by the rating insignia of each trade. Nametags were another, they started out white with a multicolored seabee. In 1968 the USMC OD green pattern was copied. The NAVCATs became the only Seabees to ever be authorized to wear a shoulder patch. [166]

NAVCATs Naval Construction Action Teams

CBMU 302 had 23 NAVCATS(Naval Construction Action Teams) total with 15 the most active at one time. [167] Teams were numbered 1-23. They were Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's expansion of the Seabee Team concept. He submitted it in November 1968 to General Creighton Abrams commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. [168]

Agent Orange Many Seabees were exposed to the defoliant herbicide while in Vietnam. NCBC Gulfport was the largest storage depot in the United States for agent orange. From there it was shipped to Vietnam. [169] In 1968 the NCBC received 68,000 barrels to forward. [170] Long term barrel storage began in 1969. That lasted until 1977. The site covered 30 acres and was still being cleaned up in 2013. [169] [171] see Notes0

Space race: NASA/Tektite I Edit

In 1960 a MCB 10 detachment built a Project Mercury telemetry and ground instrumentation station on Canton island. [172] [173]

On 28 January 1969 a detachment of 50 men [174] from Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 plus 17 Seabee divers began installation of the Tektite habitat in Great Lameshur Bay at Lameshur, U.S. Virgin Islands. [175] The Tektite program was funded by NASA and was the first scientists-in-the-sea program sponsored by the U.S. government. [176] The Seabees also constructed a 12-hut base camp at Viers that is used today as the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station. [177] The project was a by product of the space race. It caused the U.S. Navy to realize the need for a permanent Underwater Construction capability that led to the formation the Seabee Underwater Construction Teams". [178]

At present NASA is working on the Moon to Mars program. In 2015 ACB 1 was involved in moving the Orion's Boilerplate Test Article (BTA). [179] ACB 1 was tasked in August 2019 in a test recovery exercise of the Orion spacecraft. [180] ACB 2 was put through the same task a year later in August 2020. [181]

CIA and Naval Intelligence/Communication support Edit

  • After the Seabees left Camp Peary the CIA moved into the base and now refer to it as "the Farm".
  • During World War II NAS Tanapag, Saipan was a "major propaganda site of the Office of War Information" (OWI). [182] In 1947 CBD 1510 began maintaining NAS Tanapag for the NTTU (Naval Technical Training Unit). [183][184] In 1948 CBD 1510's men were transferred to CBD 1504 when it was replacing CB 121 as island Public Works. That year the CIA created the NTTU as a "cover" and made access highly restricted to the base. The CIA station had Capitol Hill constructed to administer its operations at a cost of $28 million. The station covered the northern half of Saipan including, Kagman Field, Marpi Point Field, and the four radio towers. [184] "Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, Pentagon expert on guerrilla warfare, shared with Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, President Kennedy's military adviser, on "Resources for Unconventional Warfare in SE. Asia.". that the "CIA maintains a field training station on the island of Saipan . the installation is under Navy cover and is known as the Naval Technical Training Unit. The primary mission of the Saipan Training Station is to provide physical facilities and competent instructor personnel to fulfill a variety of training requirements including intelligence tradecraft, communications, counter-intelligence and psychological warfare techniques. Training is performed in support of CIA activities conducted throughout the Far East area." [185] The Seabees cease listing the Public Works assignments at NAS Tanapag in 1953 while the CIA remained until 1962. However, MCB 9 deployed to Saipan in 1954 with one of their projects being the up-grading of the Public Works shops. [186] MCB 10 Det Bravo deployed to Saipan from July 1957 until February 1958 with projects unlisted. [187]
  • A year before the Bay of pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis the CIA took a "top secret" urgent/immediate project to the Seabees. [188] The agency wanted two 220' radio towers with a supporting airstrip, dock, and quonsets erected on Swan Island, built asap, with no construction plans for the Seabees. [188] The station would be independent-self sufficient. Det Tango of MCB 6 was given the project. [188] LSTs 1046 and 1056 delivered men and materials from CBC Quonset Point. [188] The Seabees had the CIA's "Radio Swan" on the air in short order. [188]

Naval Intelligence: NAVFACs

The Navy built 22 Naval Facilities (NAVFACs) for its Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) to track Soviet submarines. They were in service 1954–79 with Seabees staffing all the Public works. In the 1980s the number of tracking stations was halfed with the advent of the Integrated Underwater Surveillance System (IUSS). The NAVFACs were decommissioned by further advances in technology, the end of the Cold War and disclosures by John Walker to the Soviets.

The Seabees have also been tasked building Naval Communication facilities. One at Nea Makri Greece was built by MCB 6 in 1962 and upgraded by NMCB 133. Naval Comm Station Sidi Yahya was first built in World War II another is NavCommSta Guam. It started out on the island as the Joint Communications Agency (JCA) in 1945.

Naval Support Unit: Department of State/Embassy security Edit

In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, Seabees were assigned to the State Department because listening devices were found in the Embassy of the United States in Moscow. [190] Those initial Seabees were "Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR, Detachment November". [191] The U.S. had just constructed a new embassy in Warsaw. After what had been found in Moscow Seabees were dispatched and found many "bugs" there also. This led to the creation of the Naval Support Unit in 1966 as well as the decision to make it permanent two years later. [192] [193] That year William Darrah, a Seabee of the support unit, is credited with saving the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia from a potentially disastrous fire. [194] In 1986, "as a result of reciprocal expulsions ordered by Washington and Moscow" Seabees were sent to "Moscow and Leningrad to help keep the embassy and the consulate functioning". [195]

The Support Unit has a limited number of special billets for select NCOs, E-5 and above. These Seabees are assigned to the Department of State and attached to Diplomatic Security. [196] [190] Those chosen can be assigned to the Regional Security Officer of a specific embassy or be part of a team traveling from one embassy to the next. Duties include the installation of alarm systems, CCTV cameras, electromagnetic locks, safes, vehicle barriers, and securing compounds. They can also assist with the security engineering in sweeping embassies (electronic counter-intelligence). They are tasked with new construction or renovations in security sensitive areas and supervise private contractors in non-sensitive areas. [197] Due to Diplomatic protocol the Support Unit is required to wear civilian clothes most of the time they are on duty and receive a supplemental clothing allowance for this. The information regarding this assignment is very scant, but State Department records in 1985 indicate Department security had 800 employees, plus 1,200 Marines and 115 Seabees. [198] That Seabee number is roughly the same today. [199]

Cold War winds down Edit

As the Cold War wound down, new challenges and changes came for the Seabees starting with the increased incidence of terrorism. This was in addition to ongoing Seabee support missions for USN/USMC bases worldwide. Cold War Facilities still required support, like the Polaris and Poseidon submarines at Holy Loch, Rota. In 1971, the Seabees began the huge project on Diego Garcia [200] in the Indian Ocean. It was completed in 1987 at a cost of $200 million. With the extended construction timeline, it is difficult to inflation-adjust that cost into today's dollars. The complex accommodates the Navy's largest ships and cargo planes. The base served as a staging facility for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Additionally, Seabees were also tasked upgrading and expanding Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily for the United States Sixth Fleet.

In 1983, a truck bomb demolished the Marine's barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. [200] From the Beirut International Airport Druze militia artillery harassed the Marines. NMCB-1 was in Rota and sent its AirDet to construct bunkers for the Marines. [200] EO2 Kirt May became the first Seabee post-Vietnam to receive a Purple Heart while on this mission.

CN Carmella Jones became the first female Seabee when she cross-rated to Equipment Operator during the summer of 1972. [201] The Cold war ends 1991.

The Cold war did not end until 1991 and 9/11 was further off yet, but SW2 Robert Stethem was executed by the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah when they hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985. Stethem was a diver in UCT 1. The Navy named USS Stethem (DDG-63) in his honor. On 24 August 2010, during a shipboard ceremony, Stethem was posthumously honored to the rank of Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM) by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and given the Prisoner of War Medal.

Persian Gulf War Edit

Over 5,000 Seabees served in the Gulf War. In August 1990 the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) was assigned NMCBs 4, 5, 7, and 40. [202] The first Seabees in theater were a Det from ABC 1, followed by a Det from ACB 2 [202] and then CBUs 411 and 415. [202] Mid September Air-Dets from the four battalions deployed to construct air fields for Marine Air Groups (MAG) 11, 13, 16, and 25 of the 3rd Marine Air Wing. [202] NMCB 7 was the first Battalion to arrive. Camp Nomad was a NMBC-74 project at Ras Al Mishab for MAG 26. Camps were constructed for both the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions as well as Hq complexes for MEF I and II. [202] In Saudi Arabia, Seabees built numerous camps, galleys, runways, aprons,helo zones, plus two 500-bed Fleet Hospitals near Al-Jubayl. The 3rd NCR was activated to provide a command echelon. NMCBs 24 and 74 also deployed in support of the Marines. [202]

Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror Edit

Seabees deployed in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. All active and reserve NMCBs and NCRs were sent to repair infrastructure in both countries. [203] NMCB 133 deployed to FOB Camp Rhino and Kandahar Airfield where a detention facility was constructed. [203] One of the Seabees most visible tasks was the removal of statues of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. In Afghanistan, the Seabees' main task was the construction of multiple forward operating bases. [203]

Since 2002, Seabees have provided civic action support in the Philippines. [203] Most notably near Abu Sayyaf's jungle training area in the southern Philippines. Seabees work with Army, Marines, and Air Force under the Joint Special Operations Task Forcem -Philippines. [203]

    hit NCBC Gulfport, Mississippi, NMCB-121 was in homeport and was tasked with base cleanup, rescue, and community outreach. in 1990 NMCB 133 sent a det to American Samoa to aid the recovery. , Seabees supported the disaster recovery. in 1992, Seabees provided disaster recovery to Homestead, Florida. [202] In 1992–1993 two battalions were sent for the humanitarian efforts in Somalia. [204] 1994 Seabees provided assistance to the Haitian Relief effort at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. [202] In Dec. 1995, Seabees were in Croatia supporting the peacekeeping in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. NMCB 40 was tasked to the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Div. for dismantling FOBs during the IFOR/SFOR phase. [202] Seabees deployed to the Caribbean with damage assessment teams, generators and water trucks providing disaster relief. 1998 Seabees deployed to Honduras with Joint Task Force Bravo. They did road and bridge repair, debris cleanup, and erected camps. For NMCB 7, it was on their second humanitarian mission of the deployment. NMCBs 1 & 74 deployed in September 2004 to the repair Naval Air Station Pensacola. They cleared debris, repaired roads, erected tents, and provided general support. NMCB 7 provided disaster relief. NMCBs 7, 40, and UCT 2 provided disaster relief. 2005. Seabees from NMCBs 1, 7, 18, 40 and 133 plus ACB 2 and CBMUs 202 and 303 and UCT 1 were tasked the reconstruction of CBC Gulfport and the recovery of the Gulf Coast[205] NMCB 7 provided construction support and disaster relief with UCT 1, ACB-2 and Army Engineers. Seabees from NMCB-133 and UCT 2 deployed to Japan as part of the relief effort. NMCB 11 Air Det deployed to support disaster recovery in New Jersey and New York. [206] NMCB 5 assisted disaster relief throughout the Sandy Hook area. [207]

At present, there are six active-duty Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) in the United States Navy, split between the Pacific Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet.

30th Naval Construction Regiment is located on Guam. Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme Ca. is homeport to the Regiment's battalions.

22nd Naval Construction Regiment is stationed at Naval Construction Battalion Center (Gulfport, Mississippi) the homeport to the Atlantic fleet CBs.

NCF Reserve From the 1960s through 1991, reserve battalions were designated as "Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions" (RNMCBs). After 1991 "Reserve" was dropped with the integration of reserve units within the NCF making all battalions NMCBs

  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14, HQ Gulfport, MS. detachments in five states and Puerto Rico.
  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18, HQ Port Hueneme, CA., detachments in six states and Guam.
  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 22, HQ Port Hueneme, CA. detachments in five states. , HQ Port Hueneme, CA. detachments in six states.
  • Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27, HQ Gulfport, MS. detachments in seven states.

Detachment: A construction crew that is "detached" from the battalion's "main body" deployment site. The size is determined by the project scale and timeline.

Battalion: The battalion is the basic NCF unit with a HQ Company plus four Construction Companies: A, B, C, & D. CBs are organized to function as independent self sufficient units.

Regiment: Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) provide a higher echelon command to three or four CBs operating on close proximity.

Naval Construction Groups 1 and 2: In 2013, Seabee Readiness Groups (SRGs) were decommissioned, and re-organized as NCG-1 and NCG-2. They are regimental-level command groups tasked with administrative and operational control of CBs, as well as conducting pre deployment training for all assigned units. NCG-2 is based at CBC Gulfport while NCG-1 is at CBC Port Hueneme.

Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Team (SERTs)

SERTs are the Special operations capable element of the NCF developed by the First Naval Construction Division (1st NCD) in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They are intended to provide engineering assessments in the field in support of the United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions. A team has two CEC officers and eight enlisted Seabees, augmented by additional personnel as needed. [208] A team has three elements: liaison, security, and reconnaissance. The liaison (LNO) element has an officer and two communications specialists responsible for communicating the assessments and intelligence. Reconnaissance has the other officer, who is the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), a BU or SW cpo with bridge construction experience. The team has a corpsman or medically-trained member, the remainder are selected for being the most qualified in their trade. All are required to have the Seabee Warfare pin. In 2013, 1st Naval Construction Division along with SERT's were decommissioned. Today, UCTs performance demonstrate the SERT concept for NECC. [209]

Amphibious Construction Battalions (PHIBCBs)

ACBs (or PHIBCB) were preceded by the pontoon assembly CBs formed during World War II. On 31 October 1950, MCBs 104 and 105 were re-designated ACB 1 and ACB 2, and assigned to Naval Beach Groups. ACBs report to surface TYCOMs. Additionally, in an ACB half the enlisted are a construction rate while the other half are fleet.

Construction Battalion Maintenance Units

When during World War II these units had 1/4 the personnel of a CB. Their task was to assume maintenance of bases once CBs had completed construction. Today, CBMU's provide public works support at Naval Support Activities, Forward Operating Bases, and Fleet Hospital/Expeditionary Medical Facilities during wartime or contingency operations for a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), Marine Expeditionary Group (MEG), or NSW. They also provide disaster recovery support to Naval Regional Commanders in CONUS.

  • CBMU 202 [210] Naval Base Little Creek, VA
    • det Jacksonville
    • det Port Hueneme
    • det Pearl Harbor

    NAVFAC Engineering & Expeditionary Warfare Center Ocean Facilities Department. [212] Gives support to the Fleet through the support of Underwater Construction Teams. [212] UCTs deploy worldwide to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and underwater demolition.

    Underwater Construction Teams (UCT)

    UCTs deploy worldwide tasked with underwater construction, inspections, repairs, and demolition operations. They can support a Fleet Marine Force amphibious operation or provide combat service support ashore. UCT1 is home ported at Little Creek, Virginia, while UCT2 is at Port Hueneme, California. [213]

    After basic UCT training a diver is qualified as a 2nd Class Diver. Training is 26 weeks at the Dive school at Panama City, Florida. It includes a tactical training phase for advanced combat and demolitions skills. [214] The training qualifies divers as Underwater Construction Technicians skilled in: seafloor excavation, hydrographic surveys, search and recovery, engineering reconnaissance, and precision demolitions. Senior NCOs are schooled for their supervisory positions whether construction or demolition. [215]

    UCT divers can apply for selection to support the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. [216]

    Public Works: U.S. Naval Bases

    These units have CEC officers leading them and enlisted Seabees for the various crews. About one-third of new Seabees are assigned to Public Works Departments (PWD) at naval installations both within the United States and overseas. While stationed at a Public Works Department, a Seabee can get specialized training and experience in multiple facets of their rating. Many bases have civilians that augment Public Works, but the department is a military operation.

    Combat Service Support Detachments (CSSD) / Naval Special Warfare (NSW)

    The Seabee detachments have several hundred supporting Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units based out of Coronado, CA, and Virginia Beach, VA. Field support can include camp construction, camp and vehicle maintenance, power generation, transportation logistics, and water purification. [217] [218] The assignment requires additional training in first aid, small arms, driving, specialized equipment, and [217] [218] qualifying as Expeditionary Warfare Specialists. [219] With that qualification a Seabee can be classified as 5306 – Naval Special Warfare (Combat Service Support) or 5307 – Naval Special Warfare (Combat Support). [220] They also can apply for selection to support the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. [221]

    Trainees begin "A" School (trade school) upon completion of boot: 4 weeks classroom, 8 weeks hands-on. From "A" School, trainees most often report to a NMCB or ACB. There recruits go through four-weeks of Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) which is also required for those who report to a Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. ECS is basic training in: map reading, combat first aid, recon, and other combat-related skills. Half of each course is spent on basic marksmanship to qualify with a M16 rifle and the M9 service pistol. Those posted to Alfa Company of a NMCB may be assigned to a crew-served weapon: MK 19 40mm grenade launcher, the .50-caliber machine gun, or the M240 machine gun. Many reserve units still field the M60 machine gun. Seabees were last U.S. military to wear the U.S. Woodland camouflage uniform or the Desert Camouflage Uniform. They now have the Navy Working Uniform NWU Type III and use ALICE field gear. Some units, with the Marines, will use USMC-issue Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE).

    Current rates: [222] [223] The current ratings were adopted by the Navy in 1948.

    The Seabee "constructionman" ranks of E-1 through E-3 are designated by sky-blue stripes on uniforms. The color was adopted in 1899 as a uniform trim color designating the Civil Engineer Corps, but was later given up. Its continued use is a bit of Naval Heritage in the NCF.

    At paygrade E-8, the Builder, Steelworker, and Engineering Aid rates combine into a single rate: Senior Chief Constructionman (CUCS). Before NAVADMIN 054/21, at the E-9 paygrade they were referred to as a Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM).

    Before NAVADMIN 054/21, the remaining Seabee rates combined only at the E-9 paygrade:

    • Master Chief Equipmentman (EQCM) for Equipment Operator and Construction Mechanic.
    • Master Chief Utilitiesman (UCCM) for Construction Electrician and Utilitiesman.

    Per NAVADMIN 054/21: Constructionman Master Chief (CUCM), Equipmentman Master Chief (EQCM) and Utilities Constructionman Master Chief (UCCM) renamed Seabee Master Chief (CBCM). Those Master Chiefs already in CUCM, EQCM or UCCM ratings were to be automatically converted to CBCM on 15 March 2021, but current source ratings badges were to be retained.

    Diver : is a qualification that the various rates can obtain with three grades: Basic Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5932 (2nd Class Diver), Advanced Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5931 (1st Class Diver), and Master Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5933 (Master diver). Seabee divers are attached to five principal commands outside the NCF:

    • UCT ONE, Little Creek, VA. [224]
    • UCT TWO, Port Hueneme, CA. (NFESC) that has detachments in Port Hueneme, CA, and in the Washington Navy Yard, DC. These are CEC officer billets only. Those at Port Hueneme are with the highly technical NFESC "Dive Locker Team". [225] , e.g., NAVSEA or NAVAIR. These are CEC officer billets only. [224]
    • NEDU/NDSTC (Navy Experimental Diving Unit – Navy Diving & Salvage Training Center) [224]

    On 1 March 1942 the RADM Moreell recommended that an insignia be created to promote esprit de corps in the new CBs to ID their equipment as the Air corps did to ID squadrons. It was not intended for uniforms. [1] : 136 Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian file clerk at Quonset Point Advance Naval Base, Davisville, Rhode Island, who created the original "Disney Style" Seabee. In early 1942 his design was sent to RADM Moreell who made a single request. That the Seabee being set inside a letter Q, for Quonset Point, be changed to a hawser rope and it would be officially adopted. [226]

    The Seabees had a second Logo. It was of a shirtless constructionman holding a sledge hammer with a rifle strapped across his back standing upon the words "Construimus Batuimus USN". The figure was on a shield with a blue field across the top and vertical red and white stripes. A small CEC logo is left of the figure and a small anchor is to the right. This logo was incorporated into many CB Unit insignias. [227]

    During World War II, artists working for Disney Insignia Department designed logos for about ten Seabee units including the: 60th NCB, [228] 78th NCB [228] 112th NCB, [229] and the 133rd NCB. [230] There are two Disney published Seabee logos that are not identified with any unit. [231]

    The end of World War II brought the decommissioning of nearly all of the CBs. They had been in existence less than four years when this happened and the Navy had not created a Historical Branch or Archive for the NCF. So, there was no central archive for Seabee history. As time passed, first with Korea and then Vietnam, Construction Battalions were reactivated with the units having no idea what the World War II insignia had been so they made new ones.

    The military qualification badge for the Seabees is known as the Seabee combat warfare specialist insignia (SCW). It was created in 1993 for both officers and enlisted personnel attached to qualifying units: NMCBs, ACBs, UCTs, or NCRs. Its designer, Commander Ross S. Selvidge, CEC, USNR, was the first to wear the insignia.

    The Fleet Marine Force Insignia or Fleet Marine Force pin (FMF pin), is for USN officers or enlisted trained and qualified to support the USMC. It comes in three classes : enlisted, officer, and chaplain. For requirements, see: Fleet Marine Force Warfare Specialist (EFMFWS) Program per OPNAV Instruction 1414.4B.

    The Peltier Award is given annually to the "Best of Type" active duty Construction Battalion. It was instituted by Rear Admiral Eugene J. Peltier CEC in 1960. He was Commander of BuDocks 1959–1962. [232]

    There were six "Seabee" ships built: [233] the SS Cape Mendocino (T-AKR-5064), the SS Cape May (T-AKR-5063) , SS Cape Mohican (T-AKR-5065) and three operated by Lykes Brothers Steamship Company. (the SS Doctor Lykes, the SS Tillie Lykes, and the SS Almeria Lykes). The NCF is the principal user of Seabee barges. Barges are shuttled to and from the mother ship, facilitating the unloading of containerized cargo wherever needed. These ships have an elevator system for lifting the barges out of the water at the stern onto the vessel. Barges, loaded or not are elevated to one of the three decks and then moved forward towards the bow on a track to be stored. The ship can carry 38 barges, 12 each on the lower decks and 14 on the upper. The 38 barges have a total capacity for 160 shipping containers. They have a draft of 2.5', and measure 97'x35'. [234] Besides the barges, the ship has a fuel storage capacity of nearly 36000 m³(9,510,194 gal.) built in its sides and double hull, allowing it to double as a fuel transport. The ships were purchased by the Military Sealift Command.

    The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum [235] is located outside the main gate of Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Ca. In July 2011 the new facility opened with galleries, grand hall, theater, storage, and research areas.

    The Seabee Heritage Center is the Atlantic Coast Annex of the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme. [236] It opened in 1995. [237] Exhibits at the Gulfport Annex are provided by the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme. [238]

    The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park [239] in Davisville, Rhode Island was opened in the late 1990s. A Fighting Seabee Statue is located there.


    The month-long battle had been a severe test for the Canadian Army, and coupled with casualties in the Battle of Normandy and the battles for the Channel Ports, exacerbated a demand for infantry reinforcements which would lead to a full blown crisis in Canada regarding conscription.

    The 3rd Canadian Division was dubbed the "Water Rats" by Field Marshal Montgomery, intended as a tribute to the horrible conditions of mud and water which the Canadians had fought through. (General Crerar disliked the nickname and dissuaded others from using it).

    In the course of five weeks of fighting, First Canadian Army had taken 41,043 prisoners, and suffered 12,873 casualties (killed, wounded, or missing), 6,367 of whom were Canadian nationals, the remainder from British and Polish units under command.

    Antwerp remained a significant location after the Scheldt German V-2 rockets were launched against the city to disrupt the movement of Allied supplies, and in Dec 1944 the Ardennes Offensive was aimed at recapturing the port.

    Jeffery Williams described the fighting in the Scheldt as follows:

    Flat, dyked country, much of it polderland reclaimed from the sea, borders both banks of the Scheldt. Roads and a sprinkling of houses are built on some of the dykes, villages on islands of higher ground. Small orchards and the trees lining roads and canals offer some vertical relief to the landscape but can, in themselves, be monotonous in the regularity of their planting. But dykes had been opened and water glistened on the polders, not deep enough to float an amphibious vehicle but sufficient to drown a wounded man.

    There were days of bright sunshine during the Scheldt battles, usually after morning mist and fog, but these have been forgotten. The abiding memory is of grey skies, rain, fog, bone-chilling dampness, boots, battledress and blankets soaking wet, cold food, matches that wouldn't light, the soldier's weariness that is as much fear as lack of sleep, and everywhere, mud and water. The Long Left Flank: The Hard Fought Way to the Reich pp.114-115

    Shore Party: The Truth Behind the Famous MacArthur Photo

    Douglas MacArthur’s anger at being forced to wade ashore at Leyte in October 1944 (above) faded when he saw the powerful photo that resulted.

    I conic photos often have their own stories—some real, some myth.

    For more than 76 years, questions have swirled around the famous photos of General Douglas MacArthur’s beach landings—first on Leyte, then on Luzon—as American troops returned to liberate the Philippines. Stories persist that MacArthur, no stranger to controversy or drama, staged the photos by coming ashore several times until the cameraman got the perfect shot, or that the photos were posed days after the actual landings. Those who were present say neither of these oft-repeated stories is true. But what really happened is even stranger than these misguided rumors.

    MacArthur’s return was the high point of his war. In July 1941 he had been named commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, including all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines. In March 1942, with Japanese forces tightening their grip around the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered out of the islands for Australia. After reaching his destination, he vowed to liberate the Philippines, famously proclaiming, “I shall return.”

    By April 1942, Japanese units advancing across the Philippines forced beleaguered Allied troops there to surrender. From then on, the Philippines “constituted the main object of my planning,” MacArthur said. By late 1944 he was poised to fulfill his promise—until an interservice battle threatened to derail his plans.

    The U.S. Navy wanted American forces to bypass the Philippines and invade Formosa (now Taiwan) instead. MacArthur objected strenuously, both on strategic grounds and upon his belief that the United States had a moral duty to the people of the Philippines. The dispute went all the way up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ultimately sided with MacArthur.

    Finally, on October 20, 1944, MacArthur made his long-anticipated return. At 10 a.m., his troops stormed ashore on Leyte, an island in the central Philippines. The heaviest fighting took place on Red Beach, but by early afternoon, MacArthur’s men had secured the area. Secured, however, did not mean safe. Japanese snipers remained active while small-arms and mortar fire continued throughout the day. Hundreds of small landing craft clogged the beaches, but the water was too shallow for larger landing craft to reach dry land.

    Aboard the USS Nashville two miles offshore, a restless MacArthur could not wait to put his feet back on Philippine soil. At 1 p.m., he and his staff left the cruiser to take the two-mile landing craft ride to Red Beach. MacArthur intended to step out onto dry land, but soon realized their vessel was too large to advance through the shallow depths near the coastline. An aide radioed the navy beachmaster and asked that a smaller craft be sent to bring them in. The beachmaster, whose word was law on the invasion beach, was too busy with the chaos of the overall invasion to be bothered with a general, no matter how many stars he wore. “Walk in—the water’s fine,” he growled.

    The bow of the landing craft dropped and MacArthur and his entourage waded 50 yards through knee-deep water to reach land.

    Major Gaetano Faillace, an army photographer assigned to MacArthur, took photos of the general wading ashore. The result was an image of a scowling MacArthur, jaw set firmly, with a steel-eyed look as he approached the beach. But what may have appeared as determination was, in reality, anger. MacArthur was fuming. As he sloshed through the water, he stared daggers at the impudent beachmaster, who had treated the general as he probably had not been treated since his days as a plebe at West Point. However, when MacArthur saw the photo, his anger quickly dissipated. A master at public relations, he knew a good photo when he saw one.

    Still, rumors persisted that MacArthur had staged the Leyte photo. CBS radio correspondent William J. Dunn, who was on Red Beach that day, hotly disputed these rumors, calling them “one of the most ludicrous misconceptions to come out of the war.” The photo was “a one-time shot” taken within hours of the initial landing, Dunn said, not something repeated sometime later for the perfect picture. MacArthur biographer D. Clayton James agreed, noting that MacArthur’s “plans for the drama at Red Beach certainly did not include stepping off in knee-deep water.”

    The next landing, however, was a different story.

    Hoping to replicate the effective walk ashore at Leyte, MacArthur arranged for his landing craft to stop offshore at Luzon, which photographer Carl Mydans captured in this famous image. (Carl Mydans/ The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

    On January 9, 1945, American troops arrived at Luzon, the main island in the Philippines, catching the Japanese by surprise. Opposition was light. MacArthur watched the landings from the cruiser USS Boise and at 2 p.m.—about four hours after the initial landings—he headed for shore.

    Navy Seabees had quickly built a small pier with pontoons so that MacArthur and his staff could exit their vessel without getting wet. On seeing this, MacArthur ordered his boat to swerve away from the pier so that he could wade ashore through knee-deep water as he had done at Leyte. He knew that Life magazine photographer Carl Mydans was on the beach. As he strode toward shore, MacArthur struck the same pose and steadfast facial expression as at Leyte. Mydans snapped the famous photo that soon appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the United States and became what Time magazine called “an icon of its era.” No one, Mydans said later, appreciated the value of a picture more than MacArthur.

    There is little doubt that MacArthur chose to avoid the pier—and dry feet—for dramatic effect. “Having spent a lot of time with MacArthur,” Mydans said, “it flashed on me what was happening. He was avoiding the pontoons.” Biographer D. Clayton James wrote that the Luzon landing “seems to have been a deliberate act of showmanship. With the worldwide attention that his Leyte walk through the water received, apparently the Barrymore side of MacArthur’s personality could not resist another big splash of publicity and surf.”

    MacArthur, on the other hand, blamed fate. “As was getting to be a habit with me,” he wrote, perhaps with tongue in cheek, “I picked a boat that took too much draft to reach the beach, and I had to wade in.” (continued after photos below)

    Editors from Life used Maydan’s other photos to present different view of the famous, widely published Luzon photo, perhaps as a ploy to make readers believe they were seeing something different after being scooped. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

    (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

    Other circumstances conspired to make it appear that MacArthur had waded in at Luzon more than once. Although Mydans worked for Life, on that day he was the pool photographer, which gave any news organization free license to use the image. On January 20, 1945, a tightly cropped version of the photo, making MacArthur the focal point, appeared in newspapers throughout the United States. When Life ran the photo a month later, editors used the uncropped version, which included other vessels and figures on the periphery and even another photographer in the foreground. Only a sharp-eyed viewer would realize that it was the photo they had already seen in newspapers weeks earlier, giving rise to the impression of repeat photo sessions. Life had also surrounded the iconic photo with other images Mydans had snapped moments before and after that one, including an unflattering shot of MacArthur being helped down the ramp of the landing craft. All of this may have been a ploy by the magazine—having been scooped by its own photographer—to make readers think they were seeing something new and different.

    In the end, controversies about MacArthur’s landings will likely continue. “These are stories that once created will keep being told,” Mydans said, “and each new generation will find…some reason for telling it. Usually it’s with delight.” ✯

    This story was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.

    7 October 1944 - History

    As Taffy 3&rsquos aircraft rose in defense, Johnston turned to lay a smokescreen and launch torpedoes. One of these nearly severed heavy cruiser Kumano&rsquos bow before Johnston was hit by battleship Kongo. Screen flagship Hoel launched five torpedoes at Kongo and five at cruiser Haguro before enemy shells put her out of action. Heermann also attacked battleship Haruna with torpedoes and then tried to hold off heavy cruisers with gunfire as they closed the slow-steaming escort carriers.

    Nearly an hour into the battle, Japanese flagship Yamato spotted torpedo tracks and turned away. This further broke up the Japanese formation&mdashtoo late for escort carrier Gambier Bay, destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts and Hoel, which were sunk by shellfire. Johnston, too, went down, after which the commander of a Japanese destroyer saluted her crew in passing. Posthumously, her Commander Ernest E. Evans was awarded the Medal of Honor for &ldquo . . . outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistently interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers.&rdquo

    Two hours into their pursuit but with mounting losses and their formation in disarray, the Japanese broke off and turned back for San Bernardino Strait, leaving Taffy 3 stunned but victorious. Sadly, the survivors remained unrescued for three days and two nights, during which wounds, the elements and sharks took their toll. Only 58 officers and men from Hoel and 145 from Johnston survived, but their heroic fight resonated throughout the Navy and stands as one of the outstanding surface actions of all time.

    7 October 1944 - History

    On 24 October, while a weak Northern Force approached from the northeast, hoping to lure part of the American fleet away from the main action, a powerful Center Force approached San Bernardino Strait from the west and two elements of a weaker Southern Force approached Surigao Strait.

    Temporarily stalled by aircraft attacks (Battle of the Sibuyan Sea), the Center Force passed through San Bernardino Strait in the early hours of 25 October. Meanwhile the Southern Force of two battleships, one cruiser and four destroyers, followed but unsupported by three more cruisers and four more destroyers, passed PT boat pickets without damage and entered Surigao Strait from the south. Tracking them and waiting in ambush were six battleships, eight cruisers and 26 destroyers of Adm. Kinkaid&rsquos Seventh Fleet.

    Three squadrons of destroyers attacked in sequence. Two, DesRon 54 and DesRon 24, attacked the leading Japanese column from the flanks. As the Seventh Fleet Battle Line opened gunfire overhead, the third, Destroyer Squadron 56, attacked in three sections, deployed to ensure the enemy would pass &ldquothrough torpedo waters, no matter which way he turns,&rdquo fulfilling the promise of Vella Gulf that American destroyers, operating independently, could deliver a decisive attack against heavy enemy forces.

    Overall result: both Japanese battleships and three destroyers were sunk while three cruisers were damaged, at a cost of damage only to DesRon 56&rsquos Albert W. Grant.

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    Canada in the Second World War

    Canada. Dept of National Defense. 1st Battalion, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, War Diary, 6-13 October 1944. Ottawa: National Archives of Canada, RG-24, volume 15234, 1944. Web.

    1st Battalion, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, War Diary, 6-13 October 1944

    National Archives of Canada, RG-24, volume 15234

    Friday 6 OCTOBER 1944

    Lt. Col. L. R. Fulton of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles receiving the Distinguished Service Order from Field Marshall Montgomery, Ghent, Belgium, 5 November 1944.
    Photo by Donald I. Grant. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-168229.

    Sunny and cool with fair visibility. At 0400 hrs the Battalion moved off for the form-up place in WARMSTRAAT and at 0530 hrs the companies were in position and Battalion Command Post established at 023993. The unit spent the day quietly as 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade reserve battalion. The 3″ mortar Platoon gave supporting fire to the Regina Rifles, who, with the 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment crossed the LEOPOLD CANAL in the face of a rain of enemy artillery and machine gun fire, and established two shallow bridgeheads on the North canal bank. The CO [Commanding Officer] attended a Brigade Orders Group at 2100 hrs and on his return at 2230 hrs held a Battalion Orders Group and issued orders for the four rifle companies to cross the canal during the night.

    Saturday 7 OCTOBER 1944

    Sunny with fair visibility. During the night A and B coys with Maj J.T. Carvell in command crossed the LEOPOLD CANAL over a heavily shelled bridge constructed by RCE [Royal Canadian Engineers] at 042020. Having completed the crossing the two companies, with A Coy leading, moved West along the Canal and by 0700 hrs had reached area of 033023 where a temporary halt was made owing to the presence of a strong enemy force at 034026. While moving up from the bridge, 12 Platoon of B Coy were sent to assist a hard pressed platoon of 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment in repelling a determined enemy counter-attack. A bitter close quarter battle was fought before the attackers were routed. Two Cpls, Goodall, J., and Blue, L.G.S., distinguished themselves in this action by taking PIATs out in the bullet swept open and blasting holes through a windowless brick wall of an enemy occupied house to enable hand grenades to be tossed at the sheltered attackers. A and B Coys opened an assault on the enemy at 034026. B Coy made a frontal attack while A Coy, under cover of a dyke, approached the enemy’s right flank unobserved. On reaching a pt less than a hundred yds from the enemy, A Coy opened up with fire from every available weapon, including PIATs and 2″ Mortars fired at low angle. The surprised Germans offered some confused resistance but were soon overpowered and 64 prisoners were captured while many more were killed. Forty troops of 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment were relieved by this action after having been cut off and believed lost since the previous day. B Coy occupied the area and A Coy returned to their original position along the canal. C and D Coys took up positions to the rear of A and B Coys in the afternoon. Continuous shelling, mortaring and small arm fire made movement almost impossible and the troops suffered greatly from being wet and cold. Casualties for the day were hy and evacuation slow and difficult as wounded had to be carried for over a mile over flooded fields and roads blocked by fallen trees.

    Sunday 8 OCTOBER 1944

    Partly cloudy and cool with rain in the evening. Visibility poor. At 0100 hrs 6 stretcher bearers were sent to 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment HQ to assist in evacuating wounded. The Battalion Regimental Aid Post moved to 042014 at 0400 hrs. Several counter-attacks involving close quarter fighting were beaten off during the night by the tired but spirited troops and hy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, including several prisoners captured. Lt-Col J.M. Meldram held an Orders Group at 0900 hrs and issued orders for an advance to the West in an attempt to link up with Regina Rifles right flank at 020017. D and C Coys started the adv at 1400 hrs and succeeded in pressing some distance fwd, but owing to hy casualties and lack of ammunition were forced to retire to original positions. A Coy was more successful and reached a pt at 026017 before concentrated enemy artillery and observed machine gun fire forced them to dig in along the canal. Hy casualties were suffered by both sides and the ground was littered with both German and Royal Winnipeg Rifles dead. Two Platoon Commanders, Lt J.A.M. Currie and Lt O.D. Hamilton and A/Coy Comd Capt W.B. Fraser were included among the wounded. Prolonged exposure to wet and cold still had to be endured in flooded slit trenches or smashed buildings as unusually bold enemy snipers and machine-gunners were on the lookout continuously and often succeeded in infiltrating between companies and platoons. Few of these lived to tell their story as the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were no less aggressive. Ammunition, cold rations and casualties still had to be carried for more than a mile.

    Monday 9 OCTOBER 1944

    Cloudy and cool with hy rain and poor visibility. Patrol activities and beating off counter-attacks occupied the four rifle companies during the night. Much needed reinforcements reached forward positions at 0330 hrs. At 0500 hrs A Coy launched an attack on an enemy outpost to the West and in the face of a hail of artillery and machine gun fire succeeded in destroying the position and occupying area 021018. This success completed the link up with the Regina Rifles and gave 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade an unbroken front. Lt W.G. Speechly with a party of pioneers attempted to clear fallen trees off the road at 040021 during the morning. Hy shell fire made the job impossible and after having suffered several casualties, including Lt Speechly, who was seriously wounded, the party withdrew. The CO attended a Brigade Orders Group at 1100 hrs and received orders to occupy the Southern approaches to the village of GRAAF JAN. With A giving covering fire, B Coy succeeded in reaching the objectives at 1500 hrs. Superior enemy forces in the village forced the coy to withdraw when ammunition was getting low. Hot meals were ferried across the Canal at 024017 during the evening. Wounded were evacuated by the same route. RAP moved to 024013.

    Tuesday 10 OCTOBER 1944

    Cloudy and cool with slight rain in the afternoon. Visibility poor. C Coy night patrol to GRAAF JAN returned at 0230 hrs without having contacted the enemy. During the morning A Coy assisted the Regina Rifles in destroying an enemy held pill box. Another C Coy patrol to GRAFF JAN failed to contact the enemy but rescued a wounded B Coy man who had been left when his Coy withdrew on the previous day. Enemy shelling was slightly less intense than during the first three days. SA fire continued to make it extremely difficult and dangerous to move about. Supplies and casualties were still ferried across the Canal. Capt H.C. Chadderton of C Coy and Lt L. Mendels of B Coy were among the numerous casualties for the day. Lt-Col J.M. Meldram left the area for medical treatment and the 2 IC [Second in command], Major L.R. Fulton, DSO, took command during the CO’s absence.

    Wednesday 11 OCTOBER 1944

    Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. During the night A Coy captured 28 prisoners who were taking part in a counter-attack on the Regina Rifles right flank. A Scout Patrol sent to GRAAF JAN in the morning were forced to withdraw by hy enemy SA fire from BIEZEN. At 1400 hrs a platoon from C Coy attempted to occupy GRAFF JAN but after a bitter struggle with strong enemy forces from BIEZEN the platoon was forced to withdraw owing to severe casualties and lack of ammunitions. Another C Coy Platoon assisted in the withdrawal by giving intense covering fire. Shelling and SA fire continued to make it impossible to move about in fwd areas except by crawling on the semi flooded ground or in water filled ditches, both of which were littered with German and Canadian dead.

    Thursday 12 OCTOBER 1944

    Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. At 0530 hrs C Coy, assisted by one platoon from A Coy launched a second attack on the village GRAAF JAN and by 0620 hrs the Royal Winnipeg Rifles had succeeded in occupying the village. The enemy immediately launched a determined counter-attack which resulted in a house to house battle and in some cases room to room. Every available weapon was employed by both sides and the issue was undecided until Sgt Kelly of C Coy, with a few of his men rushed out in the open and tossed hand grenades through windows of enemy occupied houses. The exploding grenades were too much for the Germans and leaving many dead and wounded the enemy withdrew to BIEZEN. Casualties among the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were also hy and included Lt D.L. Riesberry and one sec of A Coy who were killed or captured when they were surrounded and had used up all their ammunition. The Battalion snipers were brought forward and succeeded in killing Germans who risked exposing themselves. The remainder of the day was devoted largely to reinforcing the walls of occupied houses and in bringing up food and ammunition.

    Friday 13 OCTOBER 1944

    Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. Activities during the day consisted mainly of patrol activities which involved exchanges of fire with enemies to the North of the Battalion position. A Coy remained at 021019, B at 029023, C at 017023 and D at 030020. During the evening C Coy repelled a counter attack and inflicted severe losses on the enemy. Shelling was less intense but snipers continued to be numerous though less aggressive. Few casualties were suffered and many troops had succeeded in improving water proof shelters.