FROM JANUARY 27, 1941 TO SEPTEMBER 17, 1944


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GENEALOGY


Company C, 55th Quartermaster Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia, known to have been in existence in 1936. On January 27, 1941 this unit was changed to Company F, 53rd Quartermaster Regiment. Under this designation Captain Irving P. Nelson, then first lieutenant assumed commanded on 26 July 1942. This company was redesigned 18 August 1942. The 863rd Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company traces it's lineage back to to Company F, 53rd Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Regiment (Q) and again on 20 September 1942 to 863rd Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (q, with station at Fort Benning, Georgia. During this time this organization operated the Fort Benning Motor Transport Shops.

The present company Officers were assigned as follows:

    Lieutenant Murray C. Clark 9 December 1942
    Lieutenant Clyde W. Cloninger 9 December 1942
    Lieutenant Richard S. Dale 13 December 1942
    Lieutenant Alexander H. Smith 13 December 1942
    Lieutenant John S. Weaver 13 December 1942
    Lieutenant John H. P. Jones 19 December 1942
    Lieutenant Melvin M. Specter 19 December 1942
At the beginning 1943, the company's enlisted strength was three hundred seventy-one. The unit was stationed in the Frying Pan area (64th Infantry Woods), Fort Benning, Georgia, and was living under field conditions and operated a field shop. About one third of the personnel worked in the shop while the remainder was undergoing advanced training under Second Army's famed multi-paged Training Directive 40, or "TD 40", in so far as the best mindset Fort Benning could interpret it. Quite a lot of men were lost to the Company when over 38 years of age were permitted to apply for discharge. Some fifty other men were sent to an Ordnance company at Camp McCain, Mississippi's fillers. When the unit departed for Training Maneuvers on 14 April 1943, the company strength was two hundred eighty-three enlisted men as authorized by T/O.

Movement to Scottsville, Kentucky on the northern boundary of the Maneuver area was made in two stages, since the total distance was five hundred and forty miles. On the morning of 14 April 1943 we arrived at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and was given a bivouac area that was thought to be a safe distance from the WAC (then WAAC) installation. No unusual circumstances occurred rather were reported except that someone playfully allotted a WAC shower room to the officers for their ablutions. The mistake was discovered by the WACs themselves while the officers (full strength) were in various stages of their toiletries.

At about 2000 hours on 15 April 1944 we resumed our journey to Scottsville, Kentucky, arriving at the bivouac area around noon. The original location was about three miles south of the town and three miles west of the main highway to Lebanon, Tennessee. When after a few days it became evident that the area was too small and too swampy to operate in, we moved to a more suitable area three miles north of the town on the road to Glasgow, Kentucky.

For the first few weeks of maneuvers we moved to other locations as the problems were changed from North and South to East and West. This appeared impractical since we were at best semi mobile. In the fourth week, after being stationed on the front line in an east west problem, Major Shoot, of the 73rd Ordnance Battalion, sent us back to Scottsville and there we remained until maneuvers ended.

Lieutenant Clark was Shop Officer, Lieutenant Jones was Maintenance Officer, Lieutenant Specter was in charge of Allied Trades, Lieutenant smith was Parts Supply Officer, Lieutenant Dale was in charge of evacuation and recovery, and Lieutenant Weaver was Company Mess and Supply Officer. Lieutenant Cloninger was Liaison Officer between the 81st and 79th Divisions.

Maintenance was performed for any and all comers, mainly through the ingenuity of the mechanics, who, for nearly the entire maneuver period, used as spare parts, baling wire, wood, and miscellaneous materials accidentally come upon. The parts stockage until two weeks before the maneuvers ended consisted of 53 bales of rags, 960 GPW batteries, 780 GPW batteries, 780 oil filter elements and 1716 (actual count) motorcycle spark plugs.

Lieutenant Clark was transferred to the 75th Ordnance Battalion on 15 May 1943. Shortly afterward the battalion was alerted and departed for Camp Forrest, Tennessee. The 205th Ordnance Battalion, Major Nobs in command, came into the scene as the first phase of maneuvers was coming to an end. Towards the end of May, we received orders to reorganize the company under T/O 9-197, but this we did not do until we cleared the maneuver area. Upon receipt of orders from maneuver director headquarters, this unit proceeded to Camp Gordon, Georgia, stopping enroute at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for overnight bivouac. We arrived at Camp Gordon on 25 June 1943 and were assigned to the 3rd Detachment Special Troops 2nd Army and to the 15th Ordnance Battalion, Commanded by Major Keubler. For the first time in almost a year, the company was billeted in regulation barracks and had specially constructed shop buildings to work in . The conditions were ideal but were not to last long

On the first of July we received instructions to prepare for overseas shipment. There was quite a lot to do . We began closing the shop, crating and stenciling equipment, filling shortages, processing personnel and cutting down to T/O strength. When this work was off to a good start, furloughs and leaves were given to all members of the command. Lieutenant Dale was transferred to the 3418 Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company, and Raymond F. Busching, former Company Clerk was made a Warrant Officer as of August 17, now Mr. Busching.

The 863d Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company departed by train from Camp Gordon, Georgia at 0900 10 September 1943 and arrived at Camp Shanks, New York 1400 11 September 1943, strength 6 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer, and 204 Enlisted Men. Unit was processed immediately for overseas duty, and was alerted on 16 September 1943.

On Sunday 19 September 1943 at 1900, this unit departed from Camp Shanks and proceeded by rail and ferry to North River Terminal, New York, and therent board ship N.T. 353 (Queen Mary) at approximately 2400 hours.

The ship sailed at noon 20 September 1943, and arrived at Greenock (near Glasgow), Scotland around 1200 hours on 25 September 1943. The trip was uneventful, daily APP and boat drills being the only activities.

The company remained aboard ship until the following day when, at approximately 1330, we were taken off by tender and landed at Greenock. Later in the day, and after supper at a nearby camp, we boarded a train and arrived at Cadoxton Station, Glamorganshire, South Wales, arriving at about 1000, 27 September 1943. Officers and troops were billeted in huts at Hayes Farm Camp, Sully, immediately adjacent to G-40.

When we arrived at G-40, there were about three hundred and fifty other troops mainly from two Ordnance Depot companies, all of which were engaged in Quartermaster work, or in camp and depot overhead activity. We spend about two weeks procuring vehicles and tools while awaiting modifications to our shop building which was located at the hanger.

On 20 October 1943, the shop was officially opened for the performance of third and fourth echelon maintenance. Due to the necessary secrecy and rapid arrivals and departures of units, it was impossible to know how many organizations would draw on us for maintenance and supply. By certain unofficial methods, the officers of the company secured several listings of units and locations and from these we endeavored to establish the number and kinds of vehicles and armament which we would be called upon to service. Continual application along these lines eventually gave the number of units that had been in the area, but frequent check-ups indicated that many units had remained. Our lists were never accurate, nor could we get help from the 29th District Headquarters or Western Base Section. So we dropped the idea and prepared for anything that might come.


Two items deserving of mention in the maintenance history of this organization is as follows: For several months after operations were begun we were the only maintenance unit to our knowledge in South Wales. There was one at G-25 some eighty miles away; two others, one in Liverpool and one in Tidworth, Southern England, were known to be operating. From this it was reasonable to assume that we would have an exceptionally large numbers of units to service. The second item was that the parts supply situation was "grave", to say the least. Our source of supply was G-25. However, whether the stock there was earmarked for other purposes, or whether there was no stock to speak of, one thing is certain: our requisitions brought only peace-meal results or nothing at all. Frequent changes in the SOP of paperwork added to the problem.


Within two weeks after opening, the shop was filled with vehicles— about eighty. By cannibalizing on those least likely to be repaired due to unavailability of parts, we began a steady production daily, but nothing in comparison to what we could produce under ideal parts supply conditions. Fortunately, but for us alone, there was an epidemic of major vehicular accidents during October and November, and consequently we started salvage operations. Cannibalization and salvaging provided about eighty percent of our parts supply until about the middle of December when releases from G-25 became more frequent.

The news that a heavy maintenance company was located at G-40 did not take long to spread. From the first we knew that a large parking area would be essential to our operations. However, the plan of the installation called for none. The driveways and roads at the depot were too narrow to permit parking, and our worries increased when our popularity overflowed the capacity of the shop. Moreover, completed vehicles would remain on our hands for several days since communication was mainly by mail. Directly across the street from the hanger was a cabbage plot, having a frontage of some three hundred feet. We had thought of using this before, but refrained for asking for it since it seemed to be so carefully tended by the agricultural officer. However, when the colonel in command of the depot saw increasing numbers of broken down vehicles parked in odd places throughout the depot and probably realizing that the cabbages were merely grown ostensibly to provide a talking point on reverse-lend-lease, he decided that the cabbages would have to go. So around the end of November we began hauling cinders, dumping them over the cabbages, and watching the cinders disappear and the cabbages continue to flourish.

We had a lot of trouble with that plot, partly nature, and a lot of it man-made. After several days of cinder dumping, the Labor Officer drove by and told use we would have to first remove eighteen inches of top soil from the entire surface in accordance with an agreement with the British. Another week or so was wasted while we tried to borrow or steal a bulldozer. Some of the local Engineers came to our aid. Honorable mentions here to Captain Summers, 413 Engineer D. T. Company, and to several of the officers and men of the 614th Engineers. With the bulldozer came considerable mud, and with the mud and the rain that was always familiar, came the Colonel. We worked harder trying to keep the mud from the streets than we did on our parking area. Still, all available trucks and men went out everyday looking for cinders, gravel, hard core, etc. We made "deals" with other units, used friendship, politics, and bribery, and in a few cases, hijacked rock-laden trucks when the drivers were not too determined or sure of where they were to go. The area was quite swampy and the 120,000 square feet used several thousand tons of fill. It was finished about the end of February 1944, and could hold about four hundred vehicles with sufficient driveway and maneuvering space in case hook-ups were required.

When we fist opened the shop, 20 October 1943, 1st Lieutenant John H.P. Jones was Shop Officer, 1st Lts. Alexander H. Smith and Melvin M. Specter command the First and Second Automotive Platoons, respectively; 1st Lieutenant John S. Weaver was in charge of the Service and Supply Platoon; 2nd Lieutenant Clyde W. Cloninger was Company Supply and Motor Pool, and WO (jg) Raymond F. Busching was Armament Machinist and Personnel Officer.

About 22 October 1943, Lieutenant Specter was made Camp Supply Officer of Hayes Farm Camp, and his duties at the shop were temporarily over.

On 3 November 1943, a detachment of sixty-five enlisted men commanded by Lieutenant Jones, with Lieutenant Specter assisting, were placed on detached service at Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales. To supply maintenance to the 28th Division, and other troops in the area. On the same date, Lieutenant Smith was made Shop Officer, and Mr. Busching took charge of the First Automotive Platoon.

The detachment returned on 14 December 1943, having completed one hundred and thirty major repair jobs, and in addition, modifications on three hundred and eight other vehicles. Lieutenant Jones replaced Mr. Bushing in command of the First Automotive Platoon, and Lieutenant Specter took over the Second.

On the 11th of November 1943, the 183rd Ordnance arrived at G-40 and our unit was assigned thereto. During training days back in the states (1942-1943) we had operated under this same battalion, and we welcomed their arrival in the U.K. Under Major Lorel E. Meyers, the battalion functioned efficiently and was the most helpful headquarters to which we were assigned. Considerable credit is due them for alleviating the critical parts supply situation.

During the months of November and December, and increasing until after D-Day, the unit worked at all hours on all kinds of projects, small groups being dispatched in all directions. Even Christmas Eve found a group of men working in the shop with Lts. Jones and Smith uncrating cartons of Ordnance material that had been taken from a foundering ship. This work being taken over by Lt. Weaver and WO (jg) Bushing and another group of men on Christmas Day. An effort was being made to save the material before the salt water damaged it beyond use.


Around the first of January 1944 it became evident that one of the important phases in preparation for the Continental Invasion was the waterproofing of vehicles and equipment. Lt. Jones and Lt. Specter attended the waterproofing school at Bideford commencing 10 January 1944. Staff Sergeant Edward F. Bydynkowaki and Technician Fourth Grade Harold Holcomb also attended. The school lasted ten days, and upon returning instructions were given to the other members of the company. Soon afterward a group of twelve enlisted men became engaged in daily waterproofing instruction and inspection for First and Third Army units in the vicinity. Wading trials were run at Barry Island, just outside of Barry Docks, Wales.

In the middle of February 1944, Lt. Jones and Lt. Weaver with twenty-five enlisted men went to Newport for an emergency operation. For two weeks they worked day and night deck proofing vehicles, guns, and special equipment of the Air Corps and Engineers.

Lt. Specter with six enlisted men were placed on Detached Service with the 29th District on 23 February 1944 for the purpose of conducting inspections of the first and second echelon maintenance of the units in the district. This group continued work until the first of April when as a result of the inspections, the 224 Oordnance Base Group, momentarily controlling headquarters for our unit, decided to begin a course of maintenance instruction. Lt. Specter was placed in the capacity of Liaison Officer, with the duty of arranging a schedule of dates and places where the instructions were to be held. Lt. Smith with two enlisted men followed up and gave instruction. This operation came to an end 2 May 1944.

Throughout the winter months it was possible to give the men every other Sunday off unless emergencies arose. Around the beginning of April time off became infrequent. It was then that this unit began performing more direct service to the troops that were marshaling in the area. On 10 April 1944 we sent three cooks to a marshaling camp at Bridgend. They remained on duty for three weeks. Three days later on 13 April 1944, we sent S/Sgt. Edward F. Bycynkowski, Sgt. Philip J. Blanchard, and Tec 4 James M. Wadkins to St. Mary's Hill Camp, also near Bridgend, to supervise waterproofing preparations by alerted units. They remained there until D-Day, at which time they were sent to Weymouth, England, to continue their inspections there. The report of their work was that it was "Strenuous". In one particular non-stop period of eighteen hours they inspected thirteen thousand pieces of equipment. During their duty here, they were under aerial attack five times.

This record necessarily does not include the social activities that commenced almost immediately after our arrival at G-40. However, it is fitting that an exception be made in one instance. Our commanding officer, Captain Irving P. Nelson, took unto himself a wife, Miss Betty Farmer of Barry, South Wales on 24 April 1944, the ceremony being attended by Colonel G.C. Pilkington, the Company Officers, and some British Naval Officers stationed at Barry.

The shop productions of completed vehicle repair jobs rose from the modest six or seven per day in October 1943 to a steady monthly output of four hundred seventy-five to five hundred in the early months of 1944. Moreover, the types of vehicles became greatly varied, the men having no previous training on many of them. However, production continued on a smooth level: British impressed cars, special combat vehicles, tanks, etc., rolled out as frequently as GMCs and Jeeps. The small arms repair section kept at a full schedule traveling from one locality to another making technical inspections and on-the-spot repairs. Their work was practically doubled when the marshaling of invasion troops began taking place.

Lt. Specter, on 4 May 1944, was put on Detached Service to Operational Headquarters, 29th District, and was given the duty of Ordnance Liaison Officer with the Second Division. On the same day, Lt. Smith went on detached service to the 29th District, and with three other officers spent eight days inspecting alerted units. From this duty he was placed with Operational Headquarters and was attached to the 90th Division as Ordnance Liaison Officer. The duties of both Lt. Specter and Lt. Smith were to see that all ordnance requirements of both divisions were fulfilled before boarding the ship for the invasion. Each division occupied seven or eight camps, there being fifteen to twenty miles distance between the camps. The supply points ranged from Depot O-640 in southern England to Depot O-616 in Liverpool, and, consequently, there was much traveling about to procure last minute shortages. This worked continued until the last boat was loaded two days before invasion day.

In the last three weeks before D-Day, the company was split into various groups, performing different kinds of work in as many localities. The small arms section was supporting Maintenance Companies working with the 2nd and 90th Divisions; the waterproofing group was working out of Bridgend, as has been mentioned before; Lt. Specter and Lt. Smith were out with their divisions; Lt. Jones and Lt. Weaver were traveling all over the country attempting to procure parts for deadlined vehicles of alerted units. Miscellaneous groups were pulled out for two or three days emergency duty in many different places.

In addition to this activity, Lt. Cloninger, in the middle of May, was placed in charge of a detachment of twenty-five enlisted men for a special mission. No particulars can be given here at this time, but most of his time was taken up in procuring special supplies and equipment.

When 6 June 1944 arrived, the work continued in all sections despite the fact the continental invasion had taken place.

On 14 June 1944, this unit moved to Heath Camp, Cardiff, about eight miles from G-40, and there set resumed operations. The camp was a permanent installation built for British groups and the accommodations for billeting, messing, and recreation were the best we had seen in the U.K. The camp was empty when the unit arrived, but shortly afterward after Meyers (183rd Ordnance Battalion) moved the Battalion Headquarters in, followed by the 3529 Ordnance remained about two days, and then departed, the tow companies and headquarters remaining.

On the 23rd of August 1944, the 183rd Ordnance Battalion departed for France. About the same time, both the 349th Ordnance Depot Company and our own were notified to prepare to move to Depot O-616, New Brighton, Cheshire.

This unit moved to O-616 on 30 August 1944, preceded by the 349th by two days.

Depot O-616 was operated by Two Battalion Headquarters; 319th Ordnance Battalion and 195th Oordnance Battalion. The former commanded by Lt. Col. Roy C. Klossner, the latter by Major Sidney Boudreaux (Lt. Colonel Zwingel being in France). Billets were in private residences scattered throughout the borough of New Brighton. The depot itself was somewhat scattered. The main shops and depot headquarters were situated in what was formerly a roller skating rink adjacent to an amusement park, and fronting on the Irish Sea. The motor pool, inspection, small arms repair, parking, and GPW repair sections had been a motorcycle racetrack, which was about a mile from the main shop.



Most of our personnel were used in the main shop and in the motor pool, another heavy Maintenance Company, the 874th Ordnance heavy Automotive Maintenance Company furnished about one hundred men.

Assignments of officers at O-616 were as follows: Captain Nelson, Assistant Shop Officer; Lt. Specter, Inspection Department; Lt. Smith, Dodge and 4 Ton and Over Vehicle Repair; Lt. Weaver, GPW repair; Lt. Jones, Service Section and Parts Expediter. Lt. Cloninger and Mr. Bushing were left free to carry on company duties.

On 17 September 1944 Mr. Bushing and six enlisted men traveled to Depot O-642 to attend a three-day course of instructions in German Armament. On the 20th, Lt. Jones and six men attended the same course; also on the 20th of September, Lt. Smith and eight enlisted men went to Chrogham, Surrey, British School of Tank Technology for a three day course in familiarization, maintenance, and driving of German tanks Mark IV, V (Panzer) and VI Tiger.

As this account closes there is a certain speculation as to the disposition of the units at Depot O-616. Evidently, the depot will close soon and great many of us are looking forward to continued operations.