Unit History

The 20th Engineer Battalion (Mech) has a rich and colorful history that dates back to the beginning of the American involvement in World War I. From England and France in World War I, through French North Africa and Sicily, across Omaha Beach and deep into Europe in World War II, back to Germany during the Berlin Crisis, through the jungles of Vietnam, and the sands of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, fighting fires in Idaho and Montana, and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the soldiers and officers of the 20th Engineer Regiment and Battalion have gallantly served as one of the proudest units in the United States Army. This history is dedicated to those officers and men who have trained, fought, and died as members of the Lumberjack Battalion.

Chapter I

WORLD WAR I

The 20th Engineer Regiment was formed by General Order number 108 on 15 August 1917. That General Order authorized the formation of the 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry) at Camp American on the campus of American University in Washington, District of Columbia under the command of Colonel W. A. Mitchell. The Regiment was to be filled from the Engineer Enlisted Reserve Corps by recruiting from the government Forestry Service and from the Selective Service Draft. Since space was limited at Camp American, many of the 20th troops were camped at Fort Meyer and Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The draft of the United States filled the ranks of the newly formed regiment beginning on 11 October 1917, and many of the draftees were seasoned lumberjacks from the forests of the Northeast. In its final form, approximately one year after organization, the regiment consisted of a Regimental Headquarters, 14 Battalion Headquarters, 49 Forestry Companies, 28 Engineer Service Companies (Forestry), and two attached Engineer Service Battalions. The total personnel were 368 officers and 19,385 enlisted men. In addition, there were 146 officers and 10,760 men belonging to Quartermaster units working under the direction of the 20th Engineers.

Prior to the formation of the 20th Engineers, the Army had begun constituting engineer forestry and road companies in May 1917. These companies were built entirely of volunteers though draftees from the forest industry later filled the ranks of the forestry companies. Each company was comprised of 250 men. One of these companies, the 49th Company was obtained subsequently from the New England sawmill units which were sent to Old England in the early summer of 1917 to cut lumber for the British Government. Engineer forest and road companies, later to build the nucleus of the 20th Engineer Regiment, deployed to the European Theater prior to the formation of the 20th Engineer Regiment at Camp American.

These companies, though formed out of New England sawmills, had soldiers that represented all 48 states in the Union. The companies began cutting at a French Mill in the Jura Mountains on 26 November 1917 as the first lumberjacks of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to supply lumber to the war effort. They were established under the Forestry Section as a part of the Office of Chief Engineer, American Expeditionary Force. General Taylor served as the Cheif Engineer. On 25 September 1917, their responsibility was changed to the Engineer Supply Office.

A separate Engineer Forestry Battalion also arrived in France prior to the formation of the 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry). The 10th Engineers arrived at Nevers on 9 October 1917 and began operating their mill at Mortumier near Gien on 27 November 1917. The first battalion assigned to the Regiment arrived on 28 November 1917 and commenced operation on 15 January 1918 at Mur-De-Sologne. All forestry units were combined on 18 October 1918.

By 11 November 1918, the 20th Engineers were operating 81 sawmills and producing 2,000,000 board feet of lumber and round products every day. As of 1 December 1918, the Regiment had cut 272,500,000 feet of lumber including 2,728,000 railroad ties. Though the medical officer of the Regiment warned that 20th Engineer lumberjacks were being worked too hard, an increasing amount of lumber continued to be produced monthly.2

The battalions of the 20th Engineer Regiment do have distinct histories and are worth mentioning here. A brief history of each of the battalions, auxiliaries, the Regimental Band, and the Canadian Forestry Corps follows.

1st Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 1st Battalion was organized with the 20th Engineer Regiment at Camp American on 28 August 1917. The 1st Battalion was organized from soldiers of the 10th Engineers after they left for France on 09 September. Throughout September and October 1917, the two original battalions of the 20th, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, conducted close order drill, interior guard, and physical exercise. Also in line with the times, the 1st Battalion trained its soldiers on proper personal hygiene as many newly recruited soldiers lacked those basic skills.

On 11 November 1917 1st and 2nd Battalions left Camp American and boarded the U.S.S. Madawaska. The Madawaska once belonged to the Germans as a liner known as the “Konig Wilhelm II.” Both battalions arrived at St. Nazaire on 28 November. From here, the 1st Battalion would be separated across France for forestry duty. Companies A and C were assigned to the Dax District, newly formed forty miles south of Pontenx in the northern part of the region. Company B was sent to Central France. The district headquarters was established at Dax in a former bull ring. The existence of a bull ring, not a typical feature in France, was due to the close proximity of the city to the Spanish border.

“During the summer of 1918 the district strength was augmented by the arrival of the Sixteenth Service Company (colored) who were assigned to the Arengosse camp.”[i] The area was also home to members of the 6th Battalion and even several units of the Canadian Forestry Corps. Logging continued throughout the war until the Armistice was signed. At this point 1st Battalion assumed duties of road construction, but by March they relinquished the Dax District to 4th Battalion. On 21 March 1919, 1st Battalion boarded the transport Roanoke bound for Hoboken, New Jersey. They landed there on 18 April 1919.

2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry), like 1st Battalion, was one of the original battalions of the regiment. The battalions train-up, drill, and preparation for overseas movement closely aligned with 1st Battalion. Unlike the 1st Battalion though, the 2nd Battalion was made up of soldiers from Western states. Many of the officers and soldiers were from the Pacific Northwest, and the battalion came to be known throughout the regiment as the “Native Son” Battalion.

After a couple of weeks at St. Nazaire, the battalion received orders for travel to its various parts of France. Companies D and E with a detachment of Company F were sent to the Vosges region in northeast France. The remainder of Company F were detailed to join the 1st Battalion at Dax in the southwest. Headquarters, 2nd Battalion was established at the city of Epinal. Here the entire forestry activities of the Advance Zone were handled. The Epinal District encompassed all that part of the Advance Zone fronting on Lorraine, and the St. Mihiel and Argonne regions.ii

Company E were the pioneers in what was to be the largest forestry camp in France, except the Burnt Area. They located at the town of Eclaron, seven miles from St. Dizier, in Haute Marne. On 24 January 1918 they were joined by soldiers of Company B of 3rd Battalion. The location of the lumber mill for these units was not far from enemy lines, and the mill was not immune from German air raids. Luckily no soldier was ever killed during the air raids, probably due to relatively ineffective weapon systems used by the German biplanes; however, the company’s baseball diamond did suffer damage during one of the air attacks.

After the Armistice was signed, the 2nd Battalion sailed home with 1st Battalion aboard the Roanoke and arrived at Hoboken on 18 April 1919.

3rd Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 3rd Battalion was formed early in October 1917 from draftees arriving too late to fill the 1st and 2nd Battalions. Since the 1st and 2nd Battalions did not leave Camp American as early as planned, space on that camp was limited. 3rd Battalion moved to Fort Belvoir, then an ROTC camp on the Virginia side of the Potomac, some 20 miles South of Washington, D. C. On 19 November, the 3rd was split in half, one half moving back to Camp American to form the newly authorized 4th Battalion while the other half remained at Belvoir as the 3rd. By Thanksgiving Day, 1917 the 3rd was at full strength.

With Fort Belvoir too confining for a fully outfitted battalion, the 3rd then moved to Fort Myer, Virginia. Here the battalion completed its training. The 3rd at Fort Myer had great difficulty with disease and the mumps, measles and scarlet fever ran rampant through the fort, but on 2 January 1918 the battalion moved to Jersey City, New Jersey to sail for France. They joined the 4th Battalion on the U. S. S. America and sailed for Brest.

The 3rd Battalion arrived at Brest on 17 January 1918. From Brest the battalion was split and Company A accompanied the Battalion Headquarters to Dijon. Company B was sent eastward to the Haute Marne region where they joined Company E of 2nd Battalion on the St. Dizier operation. Company C drew hardwood operation at Sauvigney les Gray in the upper valley of the Saone under the Dijon administration.

Upon signing of the Armistice, elements of the 3rd Battalion continued heavy fuel production. By March 1919 camp operations were complete and the battalion began preparations for the voyage back to the United States. The battalion marched to Genicourt, passed through St. Nazaire, and boarded the converted Holland America transport Zeelandia. The transport docked at Newport News, Virginia on 23 May 1919. The battalion headquarters and one company remained behind in France and sailed on 14 May aboard the Santa Paula. They docked at New York on 28 May and were disbanded at Camp Merritt.ii

4th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 4th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment was authorized on 28 September 1917 by a communication from the Army Chief of Staff to the Chief of Engineers. The 4th was formed from half of the 3rd Battalion which was training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. By 27 November, the 4th was at full strength and began drilling in preparation for overseas movement. The 4th sailed on 4 January 1918 aboard the America.

The 4th Battalion disembarked on 20 January 1918 and began a period of quarantin in the old Napoleonic barracks of Pontanezen. Like the other battalions, the companies were separated before moving inland. Company D was sent to Marchenoir. Headquarters with Companies E and F were sent to the Landes, south of Bordeaux.

After 16 months of separation, the 4th was reunited on 11 May 1919 at Bordeaux. They sailed with elements of the 3rd Battalion aboard the U. S. S. Zeelandia on that day and landed at Newport News, Virginia on 23 May 1919. The 4th was deactivated at Camp Alexandria, Virginia.

5th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 5th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry) was formed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The three companies of the battalion were organized 05 December 1917 and the headquarters detachment followed by a week. Again many soldiers of this battalion were recruited from the Northwest, but nearly all 48 states were represented.

After six weeks of training, the 5th was prepared for overseas movement, but before they could deploy the battalion was tasked to build a plank road from Fort Belvoir to Camp Humphreys. Enduring extremely harsh weather, the battalion completed the plank road and was again prepared for overseas movement on 10 January 1918 with the 6th Battalion aboard the Tuscania. However, fate would intervene. A case of meningitis appeared and the battalion was quarantined for a period canceling the embarkation, thus saving the 5th from suffering the tragedy of the 6th battalion aboard the Tuscania.

On 25 January 1918, the 5th marched to Mount Vernon bound for Washington where they occupied the barracks recently vacated by the 6th at Camp American. On 29 January, the Battalion moved to Jersey City, New Jersey and boarded the U. S. S. Calamares, a converted freighter. On 17 February the Battalion arrived at Brest and was broken up. Headquarters Detachment was directed to assume control of the new district in the Loire valley, 100 miles South of Paris. Companies A and B were assigned to operate in this district.

After the Armistice, elements of the 5th took over the departing 10th Engineer mills near Mortumier near district headquarters in Gien. The 5th Battalion was reunited on 10 May 1919 at Nantes, but the companies would not sail together. The battalion boarded the transports Princess Matoika and Henry R. Mallory for the voyage home. Th Matoika sailed for Charleston, South Carolina. Elements of the 5th landed there on 23 June 1919 and broken into home detachments at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. The companies were then sent to Camp Lewis, Washington due to the disproportionate number of Pacific Coast soldiers. The Mallory sailed for Brooklyn and landed there on 28 May 1919. The 5th Battalion suffered only two casualties to enemy fire when two officers were killed by enemy machine gun fire near a mill in Varennes on 5 October 1918.

6th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 6th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment was ordered organized on 07 December 1917. The formation began at Fort Myer, Virginia mostly of men left behind by the previously departed battalions. The 6th moved to Camp American just after Christmas, but it didn’t reach full strength until just after the new year when 600 new lumberjacks from the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region arrived. The 6th moved from Camp American by foot to Fort Myer where they boarded the train for New York. At New York the battalion along with elements of several air squadrons boarded the ill-fated transport Tuscania. (see pages 16-17)

After the battalion’s arrival in France on 24 March 1918, it moved to Castets where it would stay until October 1918. At Castets the 6th had the dubious honor of being attached to the British Forestry Service. All three companies remained within five kilometers of each other centered around the city. The battalion, known as “the Fighting Sixth”, apparently was honored in this fashion not by their prowess in the trenches, but because of the lack of continuity between the commissioned officers in the battalion. In October, the 6th turned over operations at Castets entirely to the British and moved to Catieux and Labrit. After the Armistice, milling was halted and clean up began.

The “Fighting Sixth” left Genicourt on 11 May 1919 and boarded the transport Santa Paula. Undoubtedly many of the soldiers were weary of the trip home since their trip to France had been marked with the tragedy of the Tuscania. On 28 May 1919 the 6th arrived back in the United States and moved to Camp Merritt and disbanded.

7th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 7th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment was organized at Camp American on 15 January 1918. It consisted of three forestry companies, headquarters detachment and medical detachment. The battalion was commanded by MAJ C. E. Clark of Wilmington, North Carolina. After the mandatory drilling and preparation period, the battalion boarded the transport Pastores. The 7th was accompanied by replacements for the 1st and 2nd Battalions already in France.

On 4 March 1918 the battalion debarked at St. Nazaire for encampment. After only a few days the battalion received orders to be attached to the French Army. The 7th, like most of the other battalions, was separated. Company B was sent to Blois, Loire et Cher. HQ and company A proceeded to Chateauroux, Indre. Company C went on to Ardentes. Each company began logging operations to supply the French Army at the front. The battalion continued attachment to the French Army until 1 February 1919 almost three months after the Armistice was signed.

After reassignment to the American Expeditionary Force, the battalion was sure it would be sailing for the United States any time; however, the Army had other intentions for the battalion. The battalion was reassigned to rebuild and repair roads. Since 1 August 1918 the battalion had been commanded by CPT H. A. Maas, formerly the commander of Company A. Once the battalion began road repair, he was assigned as district officer in charge of engineer work in that vicinity. A company of the 816th Pioneer Infantry was also assigned to the district.

On 16 May 1919 the battalion moved to St. Nazaire and boarded the Kroonland. The battalion arrived at Hoboken, went by ferry to Jersey City, and then by train to Tenafly. The battalion then marched to Camp Merritt. Since much of the 7th Battalion had been formed in California, it was sent in its entirety to the Presidio in San Francisco where it conducted its final muster on 15 June 1919.

8th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The 8th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment began organization on 20 January 1918 at Camp American. Recruiting brought the battalion to full strength, but several outbreaks of mumps, measles, and scarlet fever forced the 8th to draw soldiers from the newly formed 10th Battalion. The 8th drew 60 replacements from the 10th and left Washington on 25 February 1918 and boarded the U. S. S. Mount Vernon, formerly the German liner Kronprincessin Cecilie. The battalion sailed on 27 February and arrived at Brest on 10 March 1918.

Like the other battalions, the 8th was split at Pontanezan Barracks. Headquarters and Company D were sent to the Loire Valley. Company E was sent to Landes and Company F to the Swiss border. Unlike the other battalions though, the 8th was never reunited and it continued to exist only on paper.

Company D left Brest with Headquarters Detachment for La Mallardais near the town of Le Gavre in the lower valley of the Loire. Headquarters then moved to Bauge where a new district organization was established. The new district included Le Gavre, Rennes, Marchenoir, and several smaller camps. After the Armistice, Company D moved to Company E’s camp and began preparations for sailing home. However, like the 7th Battalion, the 8th too would be forced into road reconstruction near Blois. On 8 February the two companies began work on 500 kilometers of highway, their workload reduced somewhat by 500 German prisoners of war. After the completion of the road, half the unit was sent to Paris to complete construction of the Pershing stadium.

The battalion had been separated throughout the duration of the war, so it was only fitting that the companies traveled home separately. Company D was sent to St Nazaire on 13 June 1919 and two days later sailed for home aboard the transport Texan. They arrived at Newport News on 29 June 1919 and dissolved. Company E boarded the transport K. I. Luchenbach on 16 May 1919 and arrived at Hoboken on 1 June. They hiked to Camp Mills and dissolved. Company F sailed on 15 June aboard the U. S. S. Tiger and arrived at New York on 1 July 1919. It was dissolved soon after.

9th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The Ninth was the latest of the original Battalions of the Twentieth to form, its primary organization beginning in February 1918. Both the Seventh and Eighth departed from Camp American University during the latter part of February, leaving the Ninth and Tenth, and the three auxiliary Road and Bridge Battalions, to divide the recruits, then arriving steadily in large contingents from all parts of the nation. The Ninth reached authorized strength early in March, and was rapidly equipped and trained. Earlier difficulties in obtaining troop and engineering supplies had been largely overcome, and the Battalion reported ready with a minimum delay. After the customary inspection the outfit entrained for “an Atlantic port” on 27 March 1918. The battalion sailed two days later aboard the transport Northern Pacific and reached Brest April 8th.

Upon arrival the Ninth Battalion was scheduled for duty in the Jura Mountain region of eastern France, and proceeded to report for assignments to the Besancon Forestry District, the administration of the Second Battalion, Tenth Engineers.

Company A was detached from the organization and sent to the Epinal District, where they became one of the many units of the extensive force operating within range of enemy raids in the Nancy sector. Companies B and C remained with the Bourg District, constructing and operating mills at Mouthe, in the Doubs, and Murat, Cantal, and developing, at Oyonnax, and Brenod, Ain.

In June the district was reinforced by the addition of the 49th Co. (Company D of the 43 Engineers) who took over the operation at Muray, the 26th concentrating at Brenod. Murat was so far distant from Bourg – upwards of 150 miles – that administration presented increasing difficulties, and the situation was met by creating another new district, with the headquarters organization of the Fourteenth Battalion (43rd Engineers), in control. The new offices were established at Le Puy.

After the Armistice all of the companies of the Ninth were included in the list destined for Burnt Area service. Headquarters was not included in the orders, their organization being transferred to Besancon. The battalion started homeward, sailing from Bassens for Hoboken and Camp Merritt and Home, aboard the K. I. Luckenbach on 16 May 1919.

10th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The Tenth and final Battalion of the Twentieth Engineers was formed in December 1917, to function as a Depot unit for the earlier Battalions. For three months it served as a halfway station between the recruit barracks, Walter Reed Hospital, and the outfits destined for immediate embarkation. During this period its personnel changed constantly, and it was not until the 9th left for France on 26 March, 1918 that the 10th was seriously organized as an overseas Forestry unit.

The battalion left Camp American on 8 May, sailing from Hoboken two days later aboard the transport Pastors which had already conveyed the Seventh Battalion across.

The Pastors anchored in Brest on 23 May, and the 10th As with most, Company F was ordered to the Epinal district, under Second Battalion Headquarters, while the remainder of the 10th were assigned a new district, with Bourges, in the center of France as headquarters.

Like the Third and Fourth, the Tenth Battalion went overseas with considerable extra strength. The attached men were designated as casuals, and were to be employed as replacements in earlier Battalions. While at Brest the extra men, 96 in all, were assembled and attached to Company D, with whom they remained until July. On 29 May 1918, 10th Battalion Headquarters and Companies D and E left Brest for the Department of Cher. The Headquarters Detachment took up quarters in the ancient city of Bourges with the companies deployed for duty in neighboring oak forests. Company F left Brest on 1 June 1918 under orders attaching them to Second Battalion Headquarters at Epinal, in the Vosges. A three day trip in third class cars brought them to their permanent station, the village of Cornimont, in Moselotte, about twelve miles south of Granges, where Co. D of the Second Battalion was operating.

Company D arrived at their permanent station on 30 May 1918 at the village of La Celle Bruere, Cher. In July the unit was required to rebuild the ancient bridge spanning the Cher, the required timbers being brought over a thirteen-mile haul. In August a detachment of 29 men were detailed to operate a French sawmill at La Ferte St. Aubin, Loiret, with a force of 220 civilians. The strength of the La Celle operation was increased, early in August, by the arrival of the 13th Service Company. The demand for fuelwood in the northern camp necessitated further increase in the force, and Companies B and C of the 347th Labor Battalion arrived on 21 December.

Apart from cessation of timber felling, the Armistice made no change in the daily operations of Company D. It was not until March 1919 that working hours were reduced from ten to eight. The La Celle Bruere included the repair of about 40 miles of highway.

The next move was to Brest, where Companies D and E boarded the battleship New Jersey. The two companies arrived at Newport News the 4th of July. Two days later final inspection was held and Companies D and E stepped out of the Army lists into history.

Company G of the 10th Battalion was of unique origin and composition. As the records of the Chief of Engineers express it, the Sixth Battalion was authorized to be increased by one company, June 4th, 1918, and this company was transferred, upon organization, to the Tenth. As a matter of fact, the company was an outgrowth of the New England Forestry unit, a civilian group operating in Scotland. Upon completion of their tasks in Britain, the members of the unit were given the option of returning to the States or enlisting directly in the A. E. F.

The new unit was sent to Winchester, in southern England, for training and equipment. Here they spent two months; started for France August 23rd, 1918, via Southampton and Cherbourg and reached the Bourges (Tenth Battalion) District August 27th. For three weeks the unit was attached for duty to the La Celle Bruere. As soon as equipment arrived, they were assigned a lumbering operation at Couleuvre, Department of Allier and there they served until after the Armistice. The bulk of the Burnt Area force, including Tenth Headquarters, Companies F and G, left the Landes on 13 May for Bordeaux, and embarked 17 May aboard the transport K. I. Luckenbach. They landed at Pier 8, Hoboken, 1 June 1919, ferried to a landing on the Hudson, and hiked to Camp Merritt. Here they were disbanded.

41st Engineers – 13th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

Plans for the formation of an auxiliary battalion of the 20th Engineers were finalized in December 1917, and organization was commenced at Camp American in January 1918. As planned, the duties of the new unit were principally the building of roads and bridge production and delivery of forest products.

The unit was organized as a separate Regiment of Engineers with four companies, and an authorized strength of 28 officers and 1024 men. Its training period was brief, and interspersed with construction duty at the new Camp Humphreys, Virginia. On 26 February 1918 the battalion sailed from New York harbor aboard the giant transport Olympic, sister ship of the Titanic.

The battalion landed at Liverpool, England on 5 March 1918. O 10 March, the battalion

crossed the channel from Southampton and arrived at Le Havre. Headquarters arrived at the village of Bricon, in the province of Haute Marne, twenty miles from Chaumont. For two weeks the detachment was the center of attraction for the inhabitants of Bricon, as they were the first Americans stationed there. By this time their permanent duties had been mapped out. The operation at Eclaron, Haute Marne, conducted by the 5th and 8th Companies, had assumed sufficient importance to be directed as a separate district, and 41st Headquarters was assigned to the new administration.

In the meantime Company C was also sent to Eclaron, and added to the work force of the camp. By this time the original plans for employment of the 41st as a road battalion had fallen through completely, and all its units had merged with older forestry establishments. Company A was attached to the Second Battalion, Epinal District, and arrived 8 April at Chatenois, 10 miles east of Neufchateau, where they were added to the force of the 15th Co., logging and operating a French mill.

It was during this period that the most tragic incident in the career of the company occurred. Captain Harry E. McPherson, who was in charge of the mill at Ippecourt, near Soully, undertook a reconnaissance of newly won ground with a view to moving camp forward as soon as the lines were advanced. Accompanied by LT W. A. Fair, a medical officer attached to the unit, and a SGT, the CPT traversed a clearing exposed to the enemy lines. A burst of machine gun fire opened, and the CPT fell mortally wounded. LT Fair hurried to his assistance, regardless of the machine gun, and met death at his side. A determined stand by the Germans made the spot a no man`s land for several days When the ground was finally won the bodies had been interred, and their location could not be determined. For LT Fair’s bravery he was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross—the only such decoration accorded a member of the Twentieth Engineers, and the only decoration awarded for other than executive service.

The memory of CPT McPherson and LT Fair is revered by the veterans of the company. The Captain had served with the 41st since its inception, and is remembered by those he led as a man of honor and ability.

Once the Armistice was signed, the company was gradually brought together, and resumed company organization at Bains – les – Bains, Vosges, about the middle of December. Here they resumed routine work, and busied themselves at fuel production. Early in April they journeyed to Tours and served for two months on miscellaneous assignments, including convoy duty. Early in June they moved on to LeMans, accompanied by Company B and sailed from St. Nazaire on 14 June 1919 on the transport Texan. They landed at Newport News the 26th.

The 39th Co. was attached throughout to the Dijon District, under the Third Battalion administration, in the Department of Cote d’Or. Immediately after striking inland from Le Havre, the outfit reported at Vanvey, to assist Co. E of the Tenth Engineers at that operation. Here they labored until the timber available was exhausted, in July, when the force moved to St. Julian, 8 miles north of Dijon. The mill was rapidly built – a 20,000 capacity McDonough—and logging started on a large scale. The strength of the operation was increased to 600 by the addition of the 47th Co. Shortly after the Armistice as E of the Tenth was now designated, left for home and in April the 39th started westward, and rejoined the 38th Co.

Company D, underwent a totally different course. From LeHavre they proceeded directly to the Landes region in the south, arriving at Pontenx on 15 March, for duty with the 1st Battalion, 10th Engineers. At first the unit was split up. Half the company joined the 33rd Co., assisting at their logging camp on Aureilhan River for a month, then transferring to the mill on the lake. Early in August the detachment was moved eastward to the hamlet of Sore, where they built a new mill.

In the meantime the other detachment had been detailed to reinforce the Bourricose detachment of the 10th Engineers operating a 20,000 mill two miles east of Pontenx. On 14 September the Bourricose camp was turned over to the 41st intact, and 32nd relieving the Sore outfit. They sailed aboard the transport K. I. Luckenbach on 17 May and were mustered out at Camp Merrit early in June 1919. Headquarters Detachment was disbanded in May 1919.

42nd Engineers – (14th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

Of all the Engineer troops incorporated in the 20th Engineer Regiment, perhaps the least heralded and least known was the second of our three original auxiliary Battalions, the 42nd Engineers. While their sister units, the 41st and 43rd, were retained as Battalions of the Twentieth, and continued as units, though widely scattered, the 42nd was not accorded this recognition. The 42nd drilled and trained and went to France as a unit, but their personnel came back as separate and orphaned companies. To their credit be it said that no members of the Forestry Regiment brought back better records or a higher morale.

Organization of the 42nd Engineers was commenced early in March 1918. Like the 41st and 43rd, the unit was primarily intended for road and bridge.

After a brief but intensive period of preparation, the unit left Camp American on 8 May 1918. The next morning they boarded the transport Abraham Lincoln and sailed the next afternoon in convoy with twelve other carriers and a cruiser. The trip was comparatively eventful. The Lincoln dropped anchor at Brest on 22 May. The next day, the 42nd landed on French soil, and marched to Camp Bougen. Their first overseas duty was the unloading of the boat, and when the cargo was cleared the anchor was already hoisted home and the screws revolving. The last man man ashore was LT Glass of Company D. An enemy sub sank the big vessel on the homeward trip.

Twenty – four hours after the outfit reached camp, the prevailing confidence in immediate service at the front received a knock out blow, when orders arrived for dispersal of the battalion and attachment of the companies to various units of the 20th Engineers for forestry duty.

The scattering was rapid and thorough. Headquarters, Company A, and half of Company D were sent south to the Landes. Companies B and C went to the advance zone in the northeast. The remainder of Company D also went to the Vosges for temporary duty.

From this time on, the story of the 42nd is simply that of its component parts. Headquarters arrived at Pontenx – les – Forges, Landes on 1June and was attached for duty to 1st Battalion, 10th Engineers. Shortly after, the detachment was transferred to Base Section No. 1, and ordered to St. Nazaire, where they severed connections with the Forestry Section.

Company A, after the reorganization known as the 42nd Company, were assigned a sawmill operation at Sabres, in the Pontenx District. Although recruited for road and bridge work, the company took their new mission in stride and within a month were cutting far more than the rated capacity of their mill. They stayed at Sabres all through the war and left the Landes only when the windup of the Burnt Area job released the bulk of remaining forestry troops. Early in May they joined the homeward bound troops at Pontenx, and sailed from Bassens aboard the ship K. I. Luckenbach on 17 May.

Company B, after the reorganization known as the 42nd Company, likewise were fortunate enough to be held together. Their assigned station was the village of Vagney, in the Vosges mountains, not far behind the Lorraine sector. From May 1918 until the middle of January 1919, they logged and operated a mill, under direction of the Epinal District. The Company turned over the camp to a cleanup detail and left on 17 January for Orville, Cote d’Or, where they were employed for four months on road repair, chiefly along the national highway between Dijon and Langres. Upon their release from duty on 16 May, they headed for the coast, and after the inevitable delays, for home.

Company C, later known as the 44th Company, was also assigned to the Epinal District. The northern detachment of the company was first ordered to the northeast. It spent a month cutting fuelwood in the vicinity of Bazoilles – sur- Meuse, six miles from Neufchateau. The detachment was then transferred to the Bauge district in Brittany, and built a sawmill at Rennes. As soon as the operation was producing, the outfit was ordered back to the Vosges, where various auxiliary duties held them until after the Armistice. They were then attached to the Burnt Area expeditionary force, and arrived in Pontenx in February 1919.

In the meantime the southern detachment, which reached the Landes early in June 1918, was attached to the 4th Battalion for service in the Mimizan District. The detachment was again divided, details joining the 11th Company at Lamanchs and the 12th at les Pleyres. A few weeks later, the units were assigned to operate a new 10,000 capacity mill at Bias, south of Mimizan.

After the Armistice, two of the Mimizan District mills were removed to the Burn, and the southern detachment accompanied the 12th Company. Early in March 1919 Company D was brought together but immediately redivided among the three operations.

Upon release on 9 May the company joined the remainder of the old 42nd and left for home. Arriving at Hoboken on 1 June 1919, the units were ferried to a landing eight miles from Camp Merritt, and despite the many railway facilities available, were hiked the distance under full equipment and a blazing sun. Upon dispersal, most of the outfit were sent to Camp Dodge for discharge. The northern central states had furnished by far the largest quota of the 42nd Engineers, though, like all the other Forestry battalions, all sections of the country were represented.

43rd Engineers – 15th Battalion, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The last of the three Road and Bridge Battalions, and of the forestry troops which served overseas, was the 43rd Engineers, organized at Washington, D. C. in February 1918. The 41st consisted of a Headquarters Detachment and Companies A, B, C, and D. A large part of the 41st was drawn from recruiting centers and cantonments, largely from the middle west, but a considerable number of men were received from Walter Reed Hospital — men who had been left behind by earlier forestry units. The percent of convalescents making up Co. A was so large as to earn for that unit the nickname, “The Walter Reed Brigade.” Camp Dodge was the heaviest contributor to the total strength of the Battalion, which was achieved early in April 1918.

The unit was reported ready for overseas duty by the middle of May 1918. In spite of the tremendous numbers of combat troops waiting for transportation, the demand for forestry reinforcements brought quick action, and the 43rd started for Hoboken on 21 May. They boarded the huge transport Leviathan the next day, and sailed on 23 May. The battalion landed on the shores of Brittany. Following the thousands of their comrades, they plodded up the cobbled streets of Brest to the air of the ”National Emblem March” played by the volunteer band. While undergoing the customary rest, the companies were employed in camp improvements, sorely needed as the survivors attest. Detailed plans for the employment of the 43rd to the forestry section were received shortly. On 7June the Headquarters Detachment, and Companies A and B entrained for eastern France. Three days later the train reached the city of Neufchateau, Vosges.

On account of the proximity of the enemy lines the train was held here until twilight. During the wait occurred what is still remembered by the veterans as the first real thrill of overseas service. It happened thus: The band undertook to liven the wait with an impromptu concert. Among its audience was the French colonel in local command, who was so enthused by the martial airs and general display of allied fraternity that he offered to buy for the bunch. Courtesy and inclination combined to force an eager acceptance, but just as the corks were popping, a conscientious lieutenant took a hand, placed the band men under arrest and ordered them back to the cars. The genial French commandant was much chagrined and was only mollified by a round of apoligies.”ii

Proceeding to Dijon, the contingent there broke up and was never again united.

Company A moved north from Dijon, arriving at Chatenois home station of the 15th Co. on 16 June. Here the outfit was split into several detachments. One fraction accompanied the First Army in the Argonne. The others were utilized as reinforcements to the many camps of the 20th assisting the 4th, 6th, 25th and 43rd Companies. Routine duties, all heavy and all vitally necessary, filled the autumn and winter. In January 1919, the scattered forces were assigned to salvage the camps vacated by companies moving to the Burnt Area in the Landes. After cleaning up the Granges and Brouvelieures operations, Company A moved to Eclaron. Late in May, the company started for home, and after stops at Neufchateau, LeMans and Burges, they pushed on to the coast, and sailed on 24 June on the battleship Rhode Island. They landed at Newport News and were finally dispersed at Camp Stewart.

Company B arrived at St. Julien, Cote d’ Or on 10 June 1918 and quickly got rid of the notion that roads and bridges were their mission. Company E of the Tenth Engrs were conducting lumbering operations on an extensive scale, and Company B was added to the woods force. For the duration of fighting, and seven months after, the outfit labored at St. Julien, leaving only for the home trip. On 7 June the company entrained for the embarkation camp. A stay of ten days at LeMans and five at St. Nazaire, and the outfit was on its way to the states aboard the transport Mercury. They landed at Newport News on 5 July 1919 and were disbanded.

Auxiliary Units, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

No story of the 20th Engineer Regiment in France can be told without recognition of the various auxiliary troops who served with the 20th Engineers. Three distinct groups of auxiliaries existed within the Regiment: the Service Companies, who were at the end actually part of the Twentieth; Engineer Service Battalions, and Quartermaster troops attached for duty to the forestry organization.

Of the three classes, the Service Companies were incomparably the most important in to the Regiment, both by superior training, longer service, and greater administrative efficiency. But chiefly they were important because they actually became a part of the Regiment. Their devotion to duty, when duty meant only hard, continuous unrequited toil, was unsurpassed and probably never equaled in the whole grim business of winning the war.

Practically none of the service companies were organized with a view to forestry service. The 28 companies were formed as seven distinct engineer regiments, only the first of which were in France any length of time before being assigned to duty with the Tenth and Twentieth. The first four service companies went over as the 503rd Engineers. They arrived in France shortly after the 1st and 2nd Battalions, having sailed on 26 November 1917 aboard the transport Acolus and landed at St. Nazaire on 10 December. The outfit was thoroughly scattered; one company was assigned to the Pontenx District, where they took over the operation of trains on several French branch roads, handling the products of the 1st Battalion of the Tenth (11th Battalion , 20th Engineer Regiment), and the 4th and 6th, at Mimizan and Castets. Other detachments of the 503rd served with the 5th Battalion at or near Gien, and with Company E, Tenth Engineers, at Ciez-Colloutre in the same district.

With the exception of the first four companies, all the service units were composed of black troops with white officers and sergeants. Most of them had had thorough military training and were sent overseas with the expectation of front-line duties. Considering the abruptness of their transition to Forestry duties, their record is truly remarkable. The 15th Service Company were assigned a newly completed mill of 10,000 capacity, built for the 45th Company at Bias in the Mimizan District. On a few days notice the black men manned and operated the mill, the only outside assistance being a filer and an engineer. The 16th Company performed a similar operation at Arengosse. In general, however, the service companies were employed in loading lumber and in cutting and shipping fuel. Nearly every district employed one or more units.

The 5th Battalion was assisted by the 6th, 12th and 24th Companies in the camps near Gien. Several units took part in the Eclaron district and others around Bourges. The 517th were a part of the lumbering expedition that accompanied the First Army into the Argonne woods. The 9th Company made fuel production records at Provencheres, in the upper Marne valley.

The black service troops were chiefly drawn from Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi, and were a picked force, their comrades of lower physique gravitating to labor units. The morale displayed by them was uniformly high, under circumstances which could not have been foreseen by those responsible for their preliminary training.

The Engineer Service Battalions attached to the Twentieth Engineers were two of a series of units designed to act as labor elements for the Regiment of higher training in special lines, such as the Railway, Highway and Forestry regiments. The 547th and 548th arrived in Cherbourg just as the Armistice was consummated, and were utilized in the great drive to keep the A. E. F. warm during the ensuing winter. Most of their service was in the northern districts and the upper Loire basin.

The Quartermaster troops sent to forestry duty consisted of nearly 11,000 men, employed solely on fuelwood production, and almost entirely limited to the Advance Zone, within shipping distance of the troop concentrations in occupied Germany and the original American areas in northeastern France and the Base ports.

Band, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

The organization of the 20th Engineer Regiment included no provisions for an authorized band. With characteristic initiative, nearly every battalion formed a volunteer band. Some scattered companies also boasted self-made bands, but of all these, it fell to the youngest band of all, that of the 43rd Engineers, later the 46th Company Band, to inherit in part the glories that should have accrued to the march leaders of the greatest Regiment in history.

Without ratings, chevrons, or release from normal fatigue duties, except on special occasions, the 46th Volunteer Band came to be known, wherever camps of the 20th were found, as the ”official” Band.

Organized by recruits of the 42nd and 43rd Engineers, upon the initiative of MAJ H. L. Bowlby, the band formed on 17 April 1918 at Camp American. At Brest on 7 June, the personnel were transferred to Company A, the 46th, and accompanied the unit to their station at Chatenois, in the Vosges. Until the Armistice, labor was too scarce for the services of thirty husky men to be spared, and it was only on completion of the allotted ten hours work that the instruments came into action. Special occasions were excepted, and most of the nearby camps of the 20th were visited. For a time the band was detailed for duty at Eclaron, and later at Granges, and the Armistice found them toiling at Vagney. News of the great event called for a celebration; ten minutes after the word arrived, the band was leading an impromptu inter-allied parade through the village.

From this time on, the band received recognition in tangible ways. On 15 November 1918 they were sent into Alsace, and for the first time the “Star Spangled Banner” sounded in conquered ground. On Thanksgiving weekend the band was sent to participate in the celebrations attending the restoration of the Alsatian city of Ribeauville to French rule. An uproarious procession, a concert, and a dance, all pivoted upon the talent and endurance of the 46th Band.

In December the “special detail” made a flying trip to Strasbourg, enjoying the distinction of being the first American troops to enter the capital of the province. January 1919 was spent in a tour of all the forestry camps in the Vosges—a tour cut short by abrupt orders to accompany 2nd Battalion Headquarters to the coast. Wild visions of a quick trip home faded after three weeks at St. Nazaire, when the outfit was ordered to the Spanish Border to play at the Luchon leave area. The stay at St. Nazaire was marked by an inspection by General Pershing, before whom the Band performed mightily, with ‘Rosie O’Grady.”

While at Luchon the band achieved the unusual distinction of crossing the Spanish border in uniform, and playing a concert at the College of San Jose. Leave area duty came to an end early in March, and the Band returned to St. Nazaire, where it was ordered back to the Vosges. After six weeks of concerts distributed over the entire American section, from Vaux to the Woevre, and on to the Swiss border, the outfit rejoined the 46th Company at Eclaron on 8 May 1919. The long trip home began 25 May aboard the U. S. S. Rhode Island. On 22 June the band with the rest of their company closed at Camp Stewart, Virginia on 6 July 1919.

During its fifteen months of existence, the band had performed, besides regular engineer duties, these engagements: 311 Band Concerts, 53 vaudeville shows, 3 minstrel shows, 57 dances, Reveille 72 times, Retreat 10, guard mount 4, and two battalion parades.

Regimental Headquarters, 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry)

Although formation of the 20th Engineers was authorized on 15 August 1917, the first assignment of enlisted men to a Headquarters detachment was 11 Oct, and it was not until later that month that the unit assumed permanent organization. All through the training period in Washington, changes in personnel were frequent, both in officers and men. Early plans for the overseas movement called for headquarters to accompany the 10th Battalion, but it was finally decided to route the organization with the 8th. A small unit under LTC Marks, were left to report the last two Battalions ready and the Headquarters under COL Mitchell, sailed with the 8th Battalion on 27 February 1918, aboard the transport Mt. Vernon. Twelve days later they debarked at Brest and made the customary pilgrimage to Pontanezan.

Three muddy days in rest camp, and ten more at Genicart, and the Detachment reached their permanent station at Tours, the historic city on the Loire, where Headquarters of the service of supplies was developing. The voluminous work of coordinating the activities of the regiment necessitated many increases in the strength of the detachment, men and officers being drawn from several of the battalions. Shortly before the Armistice the long planned amalgamation of forestry troops was consummated. By the terms of General Order 47, dated 18 October 1918, the 10th, 20th, 41st, 42nd, and 43rd Engineers were consolidated as the 20th, and the Regimental Headquarters increased in strength to 11 officers and 82 men.

The Armistice affected headquarters routine but little. It was a foregone conclusion that the unit would stay overseas to the finish, and though several of the Regimental executives managed to draw sailing orders on various terms, the detachment was practically intact when ordered south to assume charge of the fragments of the Forestry forces in the Landes.

Arriving at Pontenx, which had been the base of the 11th, 4th and 10th Battalions, Headquarters picked up the rearguard of the Burnt Area and Dax contingents, and departed for the Bordeaux embarkation area late in June. The augmented force, totaling about 100 men, filtered through the delouser on 2 July and boarded the transport Santa Eliza on 5 July.

The homeward voyage was not all fair sailing. Defects in the engines had developed on the voyage, and when the vessel left the Gironde it was to proceed to Brest and transfer its troops to another ship. Arriving at Brest, the ship shortage led the authorities to order the Santa Eliza to make the passage in her crippled condition. Pausing only to fill all the staterooms assigned to the detachment NCOs with officers, and to quarter the NCOs in troop space shared with a group of general prisoners, including the execrated “Hard-boiled Smith,” the ship started for America, docking at New York on 20 July 1919. The outfit was demobilized at Camp Mills, their final scattering marking the dissolution of the largest, and undoubtedly the best known regiment of the United States Army.

LTC W. B. Greeley, the Assistant Forester of the United States and the Chief, Forestry Section for the 20th Engineer Regiment, wrote:

The lumbermen and foresters of the United States may well take pride in the men who have represented them on the American Expeditionary Force. Now they are returning, better men for the sacrifices they have made, for the sense of organization and responsibility which they have learned, for the difficulties which they have mastered, and for the understanding which they have gained of forest culture and forest thrift in France. Such a body of trained men represent an asset of the utmost value to the forest industries of America. Let us recognize their worth and their capacity by an intelligent direction of the return of these soldiers to civil life in positions where their experience in national service can be effectively utilized.”i

LTC Greeley’s tribute to the Lumberjacks of the 20th Engineer Regiment (Forestry) is indicative of the significant contributions made by the Regiment to the war effort. Though the American involvement in World War I, the War to End All Wars, was relatively short lived, the American Expeditionary Force expedited the signing of the Armistice by the Germans and the Austrio-Hungarian Empire. The effort of the 20th Engineer Regiment was no less significant, and its contribution also led to a more rapid recovery of the French economic system following the war.

Though 20th Engineer Regiment lumberjacks did not serve in the trenches during the war, tragedy did not escape the Regiment. On 23 January 1918, the 6th Battalion, 20th Engineers loaded the transport ship “Tuscania” bound for France. On 05 February 1918 while in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Scotland, the Tuscania was torpedoed. Many soldiers loaded the available lifeboats and made it safely to the shores of Ireland. When the supply of lifeboats was depleted, soldiers began loading one of the escort British destroyers that had approached the listing Tuscania on her starboard side. Four hours after being struck, the Tuscania sank into the Irish Sea. A large portion of the 95 soldiers killed were not killed onboard the Tuscania, but in the lifeboats floating aimlessly in the darkness of the Irish Sea. One such boat was loaded with more than 60 men and drifted to Scotland where the small craft was crushed on the rocks of the Isle of Islay. Only eight soldiers from this boat were saved. The 6th Battalion did make it to France though and was known as “The Fighting Sixth” under the command of Major F. S. Kellog.

The 20th Engineer Battalion (Mech), 1st Cavalry Division now traces its history only to the 42nd Engineers. The 42nd upon arrival in France was dissolved, so it can only be spoken of by its four companies. Companies A, B, C, and D were demobilized in June and July 1919 at Camp Merrit, New Jersey and Newport News, Virginia. However, 14 years later the battalion would return as a battalion in the Regular Army in 1933. Though now in the Regular Army on paper, the battalion would not be reactivated until 1 June 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Chapter II

WORLD WAR II

Though the United States had not formally entered the war in Europe, it did begin preparations for involvement in the conflict. England had already declared war, and the United States was contributing supplies and equipment to their war effort. With its preparations for war, the United States began activating units not active since World War I. One of these units was the 42nd Engineers.

Activated at Fort Benning on 1 June 1940, the 42nd Engineers was under the command of Colonel Raymond F. Fowler. In September and October 1940, the battalion constructed two camps: Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. The former is still used as a National Guard camp, primarily for the noncommissioned officer academy and local training area. Their duties at each camp were to construct a camp for a division of 15,000 officers and men. Facilities constructed included mess halls, mess tables, incinerators, wooden tent floors, and complete electric and water systems. The battalion also drove a well and built a water tower.

The battalion returned to Fort Benning, Georgia on 1 November 1940 to concentrate on completing basic training, which was conducted as an entire unit. This was a tremendous task with the arrival of several hundred selective service draftees. Throughout 1941, the 20th trained and participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers. In July 1942, the battalion left Fort Benning for a temporary home at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. It was here that the 42nd was redesignated as the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment on 1 August 1942.

The 1st Battalion, 20th Engineer Combat Regiment boarded the USAT Cristobal on 1 November 1942 and landed on 19 November 1942 at Casablanca, French North Africa (now Morocco), where they established a bivouac area at Priscine.

TUNISIA

While in Tunisia Colonel Eugene Caffey, the Regimental Commander, invented coded directional markers to be used to distinguish property. This distinctive sign, a wavy arrow, soon gave the 20th the nickname of the “Wavy Arrow.” The 20th began the longest motor march in its history here. It moved across French North Africa, over the Atlas Mountains, more than 1100 miles, through Meknes, Fez, Oujda, Tlemcen (Algeria), Relizane, L’Arba, Setif and into Tebessa. Tebessa was the “gateway to the war.” Here the commander of 1st Battalion, MAJ J. E. Sonnefield “gave one of his blood-and-thunder speeches to the officers and NCO’s.”[ii]

On 26 March 1943 1st Battalion, 20th Engineers moved to the vicinity of Kasserine. After laying mine belts around the bivouac areas, the battalion went to work on the roads. The Bekkaria-Thelepte-Sbeitla road was top priority as it was to become a major supply road for II Corps. The battalion built roads, culverts, dug ditches, hauled rock and Company C, hauling road material in Sbeitla, met its first S-mines in a bloody affair that left one dead and eight wounded.

On 5 April 1943 the regiment was alerted as II Corps reserve and ordered to move. The 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division had just defeated the Germans and Italians around El Guettar and Maknassy, and the 20th was moving to that location as reserve should a counterattack come. The Germans never counterattacked and the British 8th Army, pursuing the Afrika Korps up from Southern Tunisia, linked up with II Corps at gabes. Rommel was now staging his masterly retreat to Northern Tunisia. On 8 April the regiment moved back to the vicinity of Kasserine and took up its road building and mine-clearing duties.

1st Battalion minus Company C was used in support of the IX British Corps and on 10 May moved north to the vicinity of Pichon. The 1st Battalion primarily conducted maintenance of the British’s supply routes. On 15 April the 1st Battalion rejoined the regiment at Kasserine and on 17 April the 20th Engineers was on the move again. Northward through Thala, LeKef, and Souk-el Arba, over the mountains, through Lacroix and LaCalle, the regiment moved with General Bradley’s II Corps to Northern Tunisia. On 25 May 1943 Colonel Caffey left the Regiment to take command of Engineer Special Brigade. He was replaced by Colonel Arnold who was killed by a concrete mine on 6 June 1943. Colonel Daley assumed command of the regiment.

After a day at Roum-es-Souk repairing vehicles that had failed during the march, the regiment moved near Djebel Abiod. Two days later the 1st Battalion moved along the road that led from Sedjenane to Cap Serrat on the Mediterranean Sea. The battalion was to improve this road into a main supply route for the forthcoming attack. On 6 June, the 1st Battalion rejoined the regiment at El Alia across the lake from Bizerte. At El Alia the battalion began an intensive training period that included close order drill, infantry training, minefield emplacement, work with the treadway bridge, ranges, and arduous foot marches. On 23 June the regiment boarded LCI’s in the Lac de Bizerte and landed on Yellow Beach on 26 June. The 16 mile march back to El Alia was difficult with soldiers carrying packs, gas masks and arms, light and heavy machine guns, bazookas, ammunition, mine detectors and radios.

SICILY

The regiment again boarded the LCIs on 5 July for another training mission. On 6 July 1943 the 1st Battalion left the Bizerte Harbor and pulled around Cap Bone to Sousse. Finally the battalion was informed that it was to invade Sicily as part of George Patton’s Seventh Army. Passing within sight of Malota on 9 July and landing at 1230 on 10 July 2 ½ miles east of Licata. The 1st Battalion, less Company A, was attached to the 3rd Division and moved inland and took up defensive positions on the hills surrounding the beachhead. The next day, they marched to Licata and took over guard of the city.

On 12 July1943, 1st Battalion moved by truck to the extreme eastern flank of the 3rd Division’s beachhead and took up defensive positions in an Italian trench and pillbox system. While sitting on the hill east of Licata, the battalion was able to listen to radio reports, giving them the “big picture.” The 82nd Airborne dropped during the night while the 1st, 3rd, 45th, and 2nd Armored Divisions followed the paratroopers in assault craft. The American forces had landed on the southern side of the island, while the British 8th Army landed in the east around Syracuse.

On 15 July the 1st Battalion moved to the vicinity of Palma. On the 17th they moved to Agrigento to quell riots and spent a day hunting souvenirs and taking Italian prisoners who were tired of the war. They spent the next day taking out obstacles, removing road blocks and filling tank traps in the Agrigento-Porto Empedocle area. On 18 July 1943, the regiment was released from the 3rd Division and assigned to the 7th Army. From Agrigento they worked north, following the 3rd Division. The regiment remained in Sicily until November.

SCOTLAND

On 18 November 1943, the 20th boarded the USAT Sloterdyke in Palermo Harbor and moved west through the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibralter. On 24 November, the ship anchored off Greenock, Scotland. The men left the Sloterdyke on 27 November and boarded a train in Greenock for Devizes. On 5 December, they left Devizes by trained and traveled to Truro, Cornwall. Initial preparations were made for Exercise Duck, the first of the great rehearsals for the invasion of the European Continent. The 20th received the mission of building tent camps to house the participating troops.

On 21 January 1944, the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment was officially redesignated. Combat Regiments were a thing of the past and the 20th had been one of the few remaining. From redesignation, the 20th Engineer Combat Battalion was formed and personnel and equipment were taken from the first battalion of the old regiment.

The battalion after redesignation, continued working on two construction projects, Rolero and Overlord. Both concerned the housing facilities for the concentration of forces needed in the assault of the continent. Late in January, the 20th was relieved of all construction tasks and was assigned the task of widening the roads leading to Hards on the Fall River. On 10 February 1944, the 20th was officially relieved from attachment to the Southern Base section and attached to V Corps. That same day the battalion moved to Wellington, England to start training for the invasion.

On 1 March 1944, the 20th was notified that it had been selected by the 1st Infantry Division to support the unit in the assault on the continent. On 2 March they left by train for Dorchester to participate in Special Exercise Fox, a simulated assault on a hostile shore.

OMAHA BEACH AND FRANCE

On 5 June 1944, the 20th sailed into the English Channel in the midst of the greatest convoy of assault craft the world ever assembled. The unit landed on Omaha Beach off the Normandy Coast, supporting the men of the 16th Infantry in the advance on the beach. The 20th was given the task of removing mines and obstacles to move the supporting vehicles off the beach.

As the LCI’s moved past the support ships toward the beach, officers of the 20th began to feel as if something had gone awry. Why were there so many dead on the beaches? Had the 16th actually made it off the beach, or were they cut to shreds by the entrenched Germans? The 16th and the rest of the 1st Infantry Division did make it onto and through Omaha Beach, and the 20th followed and cleared the beach for inbound vehicles, ammunitions, and supplies.

Elsewhere, the men learned that the invasion had gone basically as planned. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had jumped into Normandy to disrupt German communications. The 1st and 29th landed at “Bloody Omaha” and had pushed inland. At Point du Hoc the Rangers had scramble up the cliffs and knocked out the coastal guns. On Utah Beach the 4th and part of the 90th came ashore. From Port-en-Bessin eastward the British and Canadians had gone ashore and drove inland toward Bayeaux.

From 7 to 14 June 1944, the 20th supported the rapid advance of the 1st Division. On 12 July, the 20th received another assignment to support the 5th Division. The new assignment required the movement of the unit to Littry where the men did a vast amount of road work and mine clearance. During 9 to 16 August, the 20th was busy clearing debris and rubble and opening the road nets through the battered city of Vire.

Again the 20th was on the move with a long march on 17 August to Mortill. Here the Battalion received the mission of supporting the 80th Division in the push against the southern rim of the Falaixe Pocket. When the Falaixe Pocket was eliminated, the 20th joined the pursuit to the east and moved through newly liberated towns lined with cheering crowd to the city limits of Paris. On 26 August and for the next four days after the liberation of Paris, the 20th performed engineer and bridge reconnaissance in and around Paris. They removed roadblocks from the boulevards, guarded captured engineer dumps, and constructed the reviewing stand for the Victory Parade.

The 20th left France, passed through Belgium, and entered Luxembourg on 11 September 1944. The unit was now in support of the 28th Division, pushing northeast. All of northern France and Belgium was cleared of the German troops and all Allied forces had reached the German border. Here the Americans encountered the Siegfried Line, but the wait for supplies had given the enemy time to secure the defenses there.

The 28th Division had driven a small wedge into the famous line and the 20th had the mission of maintaining the supply routes. With the Autumn rains, the earthen roads, under heavy traffic, rapidly became rivers of mud. The 20th opened several quarries and poured rock onto the roads in an effort to maintain the routes. On 6 October, the battalion moved to a pine forest on the outskirts of Camp Elsenborn where they set up their bivouac in support of the 28th Division. Pre-fabricated buildings were erected to sere as combination mess halls and day rooms. During this time the 20th improved the supply roads in the division area and trained at Robertville Lake in assault crossing techniques for the prospective Rhine crossing.

The Siegfried Line had been pierced by both the 1st and 9th Divisions, but before the assembled troops could cross the Roer River and burst onto the Cologne Plain, it was essential that the Roer Dams be seized. These great earth dams had been built by the Germans as part of their Western defenses, and if there blown while Allied forces crossed the Roer, the resulting floods would destroy or cut off any advance into the flat Roer Valley. Thus the Roer River was the key to the attack, and the town of Schmidt, perched on a hill above the Roer River, where it controlled all approaches. On 26 October, the 20th was in direct support of the 122nd Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division in the attack on Schmidt.

The attack began with the 20th following the assaulting infantry. Their mission was to open and maintain a supply road from Germeter to schmidt. The men labored valiantly under heavy artillery fire. The Germans counterattacked in great strength and drove the 28th Division from Schmidt. The 20th was committed as infantry to hold the enemy along the line of the Kall River. This was the most costly fighting in which the battalion had engaged, as their positions were under constant artillery and mortar fire.

In the middle of November, the 28th Division was relieved and its place taken by the 8th Division, but the 20th remained in the Hurtgen Forest battling the mud. In December, the Germans made an appearance in greater strength than the battalion had ever seen. Striking with overwhelming armor forces in the thinly held areas, the Germans broke through the Allied lines. The 20th was pulled out of the Hurtgen Forest on 20 December and sent down to La Reid, Belgium. Their mission was to set up secondary defense barriers of minefields and to prepare trees for demolition.

The Germans attacked the Allied lines with the ultimate objective of reaching Antwerp and the sea and thus cutting off the 38 Allied divisions. The Allied line held, and the line lost momentum as the German supply lines were stretched over many miles. Snow came to the Ardennes, and the 20th was kept busy day and night removing drifts and keeping the lifelines open to the divisions holding the Germans back.

In February 1945, spring arrived and the snow vanished. Under the heavy traffic of troop movements, the mission of maintaining the roads became a demanding task. For the first time in their history, the Battalion had the infantry supporting them in an effort to maintain supply routes.

Supporting the 9th Armored Division, the 20th again crossed the Siegfried Line, removing mines and performing other general engineer work. The 20th crossed the Rhine River, and once across, moved far from the waters of the Rhine, dashing east over the Autobahn to Weilberg, where Companies A and C built Bailey bridges. Then from Weilberg to Kassel, the battalion removed obstacles and cleared roads.

In May 1945, the 20th moved in convoy to Munchberg. Victory was near, and it was only appropriate that the 20th should end the campaign by again supporting the Big Red One. One of the outstanding accomplishments of the 20th during this time was the construction of a huge prisoner of war compound for some 100,000 German prisoners. The Battalion also traveled into Czechoslovakia, replacing destroyed bridges with permanent ones of timber and steel.

Throughout its three years of intermittent combat in the European theater, the 20th fought hard and well. General Patton once said: “Give me the 1st Division and the 20th Engineers and I’ll go anywhere!” On 31 May 1945, in a formal review at Suxice, the unit colors were decorated with the blue streamer of the Distinguished Unit Citation. The unit had earned this coveted award in the action of D-Day nearly a year before, but never in that busy year had the 20th found time for formal presentation. Under the War Department General Order #67, Augusted 1944, the citation reads:

The 20th Engineer Combat Battalion is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action. The 20th Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 16th Infantry with the mission of clearing the beach obstacles within the tidal range of the beach form vicinity of Vierville-sur-Mer to Coleville-sur-Mer on 6 June 1944. In the execution of this mission the battalion came ashore under artillery, mortar, rifle, grenade, machine gun, and small arms fire. Despite persistent enemy activity, the 20th Engineer Combat Battalion, with courageous determination and tenacity of purpose, cleared gaps in barbed wire and minefields to gain the beach. The operation was especially complicated because infantry and other troops were within the danger radius of obstacle demolitions. Working at times ahead of the infantry, the engineer cleared a beach exit through antitank ditches, roadblocks, and minefields to insure the infantry’s uninterrupted advance. Although heavy casualties and loss of vital equipment, the battalion, by splendid foresight and technical skill, gallantly accomplished its difficult mission in a manner consistent with the highest traditions of the military service. The courageous prosecution of these extremely perilous tasks in the face of overwhelming odds and deadly enemy opposition is deserving of the highest praise.

In addition to the unit citation, the 20th earned streamers for participation in the campaigns in Algeria, French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. For its part in the Normandy Invasion, the 20th received the French Croix de Guerre with the following citation:

Valorous Unit which especially distinguished itself during the disembarkment operation of 6 June 1944. Having been given the mission of clearing up the beach from Vierville-sur-Mer to Coleville-sur-Mer, it accomplished its mission in advance of the infantry, under violent enemy artillery fire, and with the most absolute disregard for death. It thus permitted the regular and uninterrupted advance of the allied infantry. The citation carries with it the award of the Croix de Guerre with the star of Vermeil.

The 20th remained in Europe until 30 March 1946, performing general engineer work. It was deactivated in Frankfurt, Germany and returned to the United States. This ended the 20th Engineer Battalion’s participation in World War II and was the second time in 30 years that the unit had been deactivated. Unlike the last hiatus, the battalion would only remain inactive for four years and would return to Germany in only 15 years.

CHAPTER III

FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA

On 18 September 1950 the battalion was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina under the command of LTC Howard W. Penney. The battalion was a Third Army unit attached to V Corps. The state of the 20th Engineer Battalion upon reactivation was desperate. LTC Penney, in a letter to LTC Joseph O. Killian, wrote “the situation in this battalion is probably the same as in other engineer units: short two-thirds of our officers, short one-third of our cadre, short of most of our equipment, in a word – tough. But the 20th likes it tough.”

The companies of the 20th were not activated immediately. Headquarters and Service Company was activated 18 September with the Battalion, but the companies were not activated until 1 October 1950 per General Orders 3, 4, and 5 of Headquarters V Corps. The medical detachment was activated on 20 November 1950 per General Order 6. Other sections included a maintenance section and an aviation section. The companies were filled with soldiers moved from Fort Devens, Massachusetts and Fort Benning, Georgia. Many of the company-grade officers were reserve officers called up for extended active duty. Some of these officers were World War II veterans, and one, CPT Sten Johnson Jr., became the Assistant S-3, the same position he held in the 20th Engineer Battalion during World War II.

The battalion got on with training its soldiers, noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and officers on the latest techniques of combat engineering. A capstone exercise was conducted from 13 August to 27 August 1951 called Exercise Southern Pine. Exercise Southern Pine included all elements of the 20th and according to the Motor Pool’s Historical Report of 6 September 1951, the vehicles of the 20th Engineer Battalion logged 95,806 miles during the exercise with no accidents. The companies, including HSC, conducted realistic combat training and smashed road blocks established by the airborne aggressor forces.

Over the next three years the Battalion conducted numerous construction projects on Fort Bragg and participated in Exercise Flash Burn in 1954. Though no copy of the unit’s MTOE from 1954 is available, an organization day program dated 18 September 1954 details the size of the Battalion. Within HSC was an Equipment Platoon headed by a warrant officer. It contained 4 Master Sergeants, 15 Sergeants First Class, 10 Sergeants, 22 Corporals, and 40 enlisted members. Company A had a Captain as commander, two Second Lieutenants as platoon leaders, four Master Sergeants, seven Sergeants First Class, 16 Sergeants, 19 Corporals, and 93 enlisted members. Companies B and C were much the same except they were both commanded by First Lieutenants.

1954 also brought many construction projects and hurricane relief. The Battalion constructed combat range number 5, DTA range number 10, BAR transition range number 2, road repair at Johnson Rifle Road, M-1 transition range number 3, hand grenade range number 1, squad in defense range, platoon in night defense, and hand grenade range number 2. The battalion also worked on the following road projects on Fort Bragg: Washington Road, BAR transition Road, Colonel’s Creek Road, and conducted clay pit operations.

The destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Hazel at the beaches of North Carolina resulted in the Battalion being alerted on the night of 17 October 1954 for hurricane relief efforts along the coast. The Battalion was assigned the mission of clearing sand and debris from the streets of Carolina and Wrightsville beaches and effecting temporary repairs of utilities where necessary. Attached to the Battalion were the 66th Signal Battalion, 981st Engineer Battalion Construction, 618th Engineer Light Equipment Company, 64th Engineer FL Main Company, 322nd Engineer Topographic Company, and the 37th Trans Truck Company. Equipment used for the relief effort included: 2 D8 12 yard pans, D7 dozers, MRS with blade, D5 bucket loaders, D4 bucket loaders, mobile crane, grader motorized, 8 5-ton dump trucks, 11 2 1/2 ton cargo trucks, 12 2 1/2 ton dump trucks, 2 5-ton cargo trucks, 1 1200 gallon gasoline tanker, 14 3/4 ton trucks, 15 1/4 ton trucks, 2 air compressors, 1 5-ton wrecker, and 2 flood lighting sets. From the Carolina Beach, the Battalion removed 89,000 cubic yards of sand and debris, and from the Wrightsville Beach the Battalion removed 32,000 cubic yards of the same. Mayor Michael C. Brown of Wrightsville, NC wrote, “without the help of the 20th Combat Engineers, we would probably at this writing be far from having any semblance of order in our community.”

For the rest of 1954 and 1955, the Battalion was involved in construction and post beautification projects of Fort Bragg, NC and Fort Jackson, SC. The battalion constructed the Fort Bragg Post Hospital parking lot and combat range number 4, close combat range number 3, M-1 transition range number 4 and confidence courses for the 506th and 502nd Divarty at Fort Jackson.

On 22 April 1956, the Battalion was relieved from assignment to the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, NC, and assigned to 1st Army with new duty station at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

FORT DEVENS, MASSACHUSETTS

On 23 April 1956, the Battalion departed Fort Bragg, NC at 0555 hrs and arrived at Fort Lee, VA. On 24 April, the Battalion departed Fort Lee at 0535 and arrived at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. On 25 April the Battalion departed Aberdeen at 0630 and arrived at West Point, NY. On 26 April the Battalion departed West Point at 0530 and arrived at Fort Devens, Massachusetts at 1720. The Battalion traveled a total of 833 miles with all personnel and equipment and was ready for duty just four days after receiving the order to move.

Throughout 1956, the Battalion conducted Mine Field Testing for the Continental Army Command, and National Guard and United States Army Reserve support training at Camp Drum, NY. The support at Camp Drum included construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of a heavy equipment pool in conjunction with other post units, the operation and maintenance of all ranges and training facilities, and the operation of the bridge section. The Battalion also supported the Hungarian Refugee Program at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

The Battalion now began a cycle of working during the winter months at Fort Devens, MA and during the summer months at Camp Drum, NY. Each April, the Battalion moved from Devens to Drum for a period of 160 days to support National Guard and Army Reserve training programs there.

It was at Camp Drum during the summer months that the 20th Engineers Prayer was written.

Our Father who art in Washington, immersed in service records, requisitions, T. S. cards, red tape and other impediments which surroundeth the Army both in time of peace and in time of war, hallowed be thy name. Give us this day our partial pay, and forgive us our Company Bills. Guide us on the path of Righteousness by the all knowing articles of war and rules and regulations. Approve our passes and furloughs for thou knowest ours is not an easy lot to ear without leisure time. Relieve us from all duties so that our calluses may heal. Deliver us from the hands of nonworking Military Police for thou knowest our burdens are heavy. Yea, even though by diverse devices art these yellow-livered sons of Satan, these gutless washouts from Engineer School, after having been thrice beaten about the head with a shovel, allowed to don the hated white cap and belt of the Ersatz Gestapo, they falsely cry that they are the chosen children. Guide our pleasure bent footsteps from the lower regions of sin and iniquity known locally as Watertown lest we should godstray and contact certain social uncleanlinesses which thou so forcefully describeth in th6y sex hygiene training films. Take not away our working tools nor destroy our castle, but strike with relentless, swift and horrible death our company clerk, who redlineth our payroll, the Mess Sergeant who robbeth our empty bellies. By the ghosts of those who preceded us into the American Siberia, Camp Drum, we pray thee.

BERLIN CRISIS

On 1 October 1961, the Battalion was alerted for deployment to West Germany during the Berlin Crisis. The Battalion, minus Companies B and C, was attached to the 11th Engineer Group in Germany. Headquarters and Headquarters Company was located at Giessen, while Company A was attached to the Berlin Brigade. The mission of the 20th was to provide combat engineering in the defense of Europe. While in Germany, the 20th participated in a Battalion ATT and two Seventh Army FTXs (Exercise Grand Slam and Exercise Fallex).

On 15 March 1963, by General Order Number 13 from Seventh Army, the following provisional redesignations took effect: Company D, 547th Engineer Battalion became Company D, 20th Engineer Battalion; Company E, 547th Engineer Battalion became Company E, 20th Engineer Battalion; and Company D, 299th Engineer Battalion became Company F, 20th Engineer Battalion. Companies D and F and HHC were headquartered at River Barracks, Giessen, Germany, and Company E was stationed at Taylor Barracks, Mannheim, Germany.

Headquarters and Headquarters Company returned to Fort Devens in September 1963. Company A was reconstituted at Fort Devens and Headquarters assumed control of the line companies, including B and C, in September 1963. Again, the 20th assumed their dual mission of general engineering support for Fort Devens and supporting Camp Drum during the summer months. The Battalion also constructed the Fort Devens Golf Course in 1964 from 80 acres of previously unused training area.

CHAPTER

VIETNAM

On 3 September 1965 the battalion was again alerted for overseas movement, this time to the Republic of Vietnam. When alerted the battalion was heavily committed with one line company one Fort Drum, New York on road construction, 90 individuals on special duty and TDY support of Fort Devens and Fort Drum, and the remainder of the battalion engage in construction of range facilities at Fort Devens. The battalion was also short a total of 123 personnel as a result of heavy levy actions taken to fill units previously alerted. On receipt of alert notification, all personnel were recalled from special and TDY duty, and the range projects at Fort Devens were transferred to the 86th Engineer Battalion from Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Major emphasis was placed early after the receipt of the alert order to inventory, repair and/or requisition all supplies and equipment required for deployment. During the period 10 to 30 October 1965, a total of 108 vehicles and major items of equipment were turned in and about 100 were received. A significant shortage of organizational equipment persisted through the seventh week of training and included such major items as 15 2 ½ ton trucks and all radio mounts.

Upon receipt of the movement directive on 12 October 1965, and movement order on 14 October 1965, coordination was made with Headquarters, Fort Devens to expedite the receipt of personnel, vehicles and equipment. Task schedules, relating to each staff functional area, were established for internal control of all organizational actions required to meet the Equipment Readiness date of November 1965 and the Personnel Readiness date of 1 December 1965. In view of the short time remaining prior to movement, a phased personnel pre-deployment leave schedule was established from 26 October to 29 November 1965, which granted each individual 10 days leave. This schedule permitted all personnel to take leave, while providing at the same time sufficient personnel in garrison to prepare equipment for movement and allow for the orderly closeout of administrative and property accounts at Fort Devens. Port calls for equipment and personnel were received on 21 and 24 November. The majority of equipment and supplies were offloaded at the Boston Army Terminal on the USNS LT James E. Robinson, which sailed on 5 December 1965. The reminder of the shipment was shipped by rail to Oakland Army Terminal, Oakland, California where it was loaded on the MSTS Morgantown Victory for shipment to Vietnam. On 8 and 9 December, the main body of the battaloin departed Fort Devens via various commercial and military aircraft for Oakland Army Terminal for loading on the USNS William Wiegel. The ship departed for Vietnam on 9 December and arrived at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam on 1 January 1966. The Advance Party had already arrived there on 18 December 1965.

Upon arrival in Cam Ranh Bay, the battalion was attached for all purposes to the 35th Engineer Group (Construction), by General Order #5, Headquarters, 18th Engineer Brigade. For the period 1 January to July 1966 the 20th Engineer Battalion and the attached 584th Engineer Company (Light Equipment) were located at Dong Ba Thin. During this time the battalion was engaged primarily in construction work. However Company C was involved in operational support missions in the vicinity of Nha Trang during May and June. On 15 January 1966 the 584th Engineer Company was attached for all purposes to the 20th Engineer Battalion. On 15 June 1966 both units were attached to the 45th Engineer Group.

While at Dong Ba Thin the battalion and its attached units either completed or worked toward completing the following projects:

1. The highest priority projects in the Dong Ba Thin Complex was to bring the entire area to grade. It was estimated that 1,500,000 cubic yards of loose measure sand borrow would be necessary to raise the entire area to 6.51 feet above mean seal level at Cam Ranh Bay. It was determined that with this amount of fill, the complex would not be flooded during the monsoon season. At the time the battalion departed from Dong Ba Thin over one million cubic yards had been placed on the area.

2. Construction of three miles of interceptor ditch on the inside perimeter around the Dong Ba Thin complex.

3. Construction of two foot steel bridges with reinforced concrete piers on QL-1 across the interceptor ditch.

4. Construction of shoulders, overruns, and drainage structures for the 3000 foot runway at Dong Ba Thin.

5. Construction of 75 concrete helipads to be utilized by UH-1 Iroquois helicopters.

6. Construction of a 1200 ft parking area providing parking facilities for 18 CV-2 aircraft.

7. Construction of a 3000 ft parallel taxiway with connecting laterals and warm aprons in conjunction with the runway.

8. Construction of a CH-47 aircraft helipad.

9. Construction of two CH-47 hardstands (282’ x 400’)

10. Construction of three UH-1B maintenance hardstands (60’ x 300’).

11. Construction of Republic of Korea 2nd Marine Brigade Headquarters in the vicinity of Dong Ba Thin to include earthwork.

12. 33,000 square feet of vertical construction to include standard tropical buildings for mess halls, administration/supply buildings, latrines, showers, dispensary, post exchange, chapel and arms room for the 1600 soldier contonment area at Dong Ba Thin.

13. Construction of a 900 soldier contonment area to standard three to include tent frames on concrete floors, mess halls, and adminstration/supply rooms.

14. Numerous small projects to include equipment and carpentry support to the ROK Marine Brigade, providing technical assistance to Company B 51st Special Forces detachment, construction of a crusher headwall and chinaman loading ramp as well as improving the bridge approaches to the My Ca float across Cam Ranh Bay. Company B replaced the 1100 ft M4T6 float bridge at My Ca with class 60 bridge decking. This was accomplished in three days and two nights and the bridge was broken only at night to minimize the interruption of traffic.

During July and August the 20th Engineer Battalion with its attached Light Equipment Company deployed to various locations. Battalion Headquarters, HHC, Company A, and the 584th Engineer Company moved to the vicinity of Ninh Hoa to construct the Division Headquarters complex for the ROK Army 9th “White Horse” Division. Company C moved to the vicinity of Nha Trang to do construction work on the ROK Army Logistical Complex and Company B deployed to the vicinity of Ban Me Thout to begin construction of a Brigade size bivouac area for the 4th Division.

While at Nha Trang and Ninh Hoa the battalion and its attached units completed the following projects:

1. Construction of 5 miles of standard two road and culvert work in the ROK Army 9th Division headquarters.

2. Construction of 4 tropical quonsets in the Commanding General’s area.

3. Construction of 24 tropical quonsets in the Division Administration area.

4. Construction of 7 miles of standard two road and culvert work in the Nha Trang ROK Army logistical complex.

5. Construction of tent frames, mess halls latrines, and showers for the ROK Army complex.

In September 1966, Company B (-) departed Ban Me Thout for Phu Tuc to begin construction of a C-130 airfield complex while one platoon deployed to Nhon Co to rehabilitate an existing C-130 airfield. From 3-10 September, the battalion supported two companies of the 101st Airborne Division on search and destroy operations in the vicinity of Ninh Hoa. Demolitions teams were provided in direct support of offensive elements. In addition, security for bridge sites and command posts was provided as well as logistical support consisting of hot meals, water, and ammunition.

On 10 September 1966, the 502nd Infantry was committed to the defense of the hamlet of Long Hoa. Concurrent with movement of that force to Long Hoa, Route QL1 was opened from Ninh Hoa to Tuy Hoa. One platoon of Company A was placed in direct support of the 502nd in defense of the hamlet. One squad of Company A provided mine and demolition reconnaissance for the convoy movement. Convoy command and control was assigned to the Company Commander, Company A. The route was opened from Ninh Hoa to Tuy Hoa on 14 September 1966. Defense of the hamlet terminated on 16 September with Company A returning to Ninh Hoa.

On 5 October 1966, Company A was reorganized as infantry, attached to the 1st Brigade 101st Airborne Division, and moved to the vicinity of Long Hoa for defensive operations. During the attachment Company A manned outposts and conducted combat patrols and ambush site operations. This operation ended on 13 October 1966.

In October, the battalion minus deployed to the vicinity of Pleiku where it immediately began construction effort in the 4th ID base camp and provided combat operational support to Operation Paul Rever III, IV, and V (renamed Operation Sam Houston). After arriving in Pleiku, Company C moved out in support of 3rd BDE 25th ID “Tropic Lightning” and the 4th ID on Operation Paul Revere IV. The mission involved the construction of bridges and bypass on Route 509, the main land logistics operations center of the division, and the installation of culverts and a bridge on Route 14B, a lateral highway connecting Routes QL19 and 509. In 17 days of direct combat support, Company C installed 210’ of culvert, erected 88’ of dry span bridging, completed 140’ of tank bypasses, prepared 5 AVLB abutments and stabilized bridge approaches with 415 cubic yards of crushed gravel. During Operation Paul Revere IV the division passed an average of 160 vehicles (wheeled and tracked) a day over the road. It should be noted that this marked the first time in six months that any heavy traffic had used Route 509 as a main supply route. The opening of this road markedly contributed to the success of Operation Paul Revere III and IV. On 10 November 1966 the 20th Engineer Battalion and the 584th Engineer Company was attached to the 937th Engineer Group.

On 13 November 1966, Company A (-) with one platoon of the 4th Engineer Battalion attached, was airlifted to a small landing zone vicinity ZA 6055 where it immediately began to enlarge the area. By 1800 an LZ large enough to accommodate an infantry battalion was completed. Concurring with clearing operations, the 1/12 Infantry Battalion with supporting artillery, moved into the landing zone. Clearing, enlarging and improving the defensive positions continued throughout the next day and Company A was extracted on 15 November 1966.

On 16 November 1966, Company C (-) moved to the Se San River vicinity YA 7450 to continue a pioneer road (designated 509B) previously initiated by the 4th Engineers. The battalion’s responsibility for the road began on the north shore of the Se San River. Almost immediately the scope of the work changed from the construction of a well-shaped, adequately drained, and correctly oriented one-way road. Two Rome plows (with KG cleared blade) were attached to Company C. The Rome plows were assigned to expedite cutting a 30; wide path through the dense jungle. When enemy contact began to drop off in this area, the work on 509B was discontinued on 6 December 1966 after 5500 meters of roadway and one fire support base had been constructed. On 2 January 1967, 3/C/20E moved back across the Se San River to resume construction of Route 509B. Two Rome plows, in addition to two bulldozers, were attached to the platoon. Work continued on building the road to the northwest and constructing fire support bases so the artillery could move to a forward position.

On 3 December 1966, Company D, 35th Engineer Battalion, now Company D, 20th Engineer Battalion, moved to the vicinity YA 8646 to construct the New Polei Djereng CIDG Camp and C-130 airfield. In addition to the CIDG Camp, a camp was constructed for a U.S. Artillery battery. Effort on the CIDG Camp consisted of clearing and leveling specified areas, emplacing the outer defense wire, and building a bypass road around the camp. Work on the artillery position was more extensive. Four gun pads with their associated ammunition and personnel bunkers were constructed. In addition a latrine, shower, mess hall, fire direction center, and maintenance slab were constructed and slots for future self-help construction were dozed. The C-130 airfield was constructed. The runway was initially an earth strip capped with a 62 layer of laterite. 3/B/20E, attached to Company D, then covered the runway with MX-19 aluminum mat, the first use of the MX-19 matting in Vietnam. No accessory kits were available, and an expedient anchorage system was successfully installed. On 24 January 1967, a C-130 standardization flight was made and the runway was found to be in excellent condition.

On 24 December 1966, Company C (-) moved to Ban Blech to rehabilitate the existing airfield, which had fallen into serious disrepair. The western 1000 feet of the runway was badly rutted, the under the T-17 membrane was extremely saturated, and the drainage of the area was found to be inadequate. After removing all the T-17 membrane, the runway and parking apron were sacrificed. Both the runway and parking apron were allowed to dry, were refilled and recompacted, and the centerline was raised one foot and capped with a 6 inch layer of decomposed rock. The runway was again graded and compacted.

On 01 February 1967, Company C (-) began a long distance move from Ban Blech to Duc Lap to construct a new C-130 airfield. Due to the fact that Duc Lap was so far removed from Battalion Headquarters, approximately 150 miles through unsecure territory, and because there was no existing airfield facility to effect receipt of supplies, all construction materials, POL, and rations for the project were assembled and loaded on a convoy originating at Battalion Headquarters in Pleiku and delivered to Company C at Ban Blech in the early afternoon of 1 February. After the supply convoy married up with the Company C convoy, the journey to Duc Lap proceeded with a stopover in Ban Me Thout that same evening.

Work on the project began on 4 February with clearing operations and the moving of a village which was located on the east end of the airfield centerline. Scope of work for this project consisted ob building a C-130, T-17 emmbrane covered airstrip and packing apron to accommodate five C-130 aircraft. On 15 February 1967, six C7As landed on the newly completed 1000 foot runway. In addition a two way all weather access road, approximately three miles from Route QL-14 to the Special Forces camp, which provided bivouac and job site security, was required.

On 2 February 1967, Company D, 35th Engineer Battalion (now a One Station Unit Training battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri) relocated to Oasis to rehabilitate the existing 3000 foot runway to C-130 criteria, provide parking facilities for 5 C-130 aircraft, and to construct a staging area for 40 helicopters. The existing airfield had been covered with T-17 membrane which was severely damaged by constant use and the airfield drainage had failed, causing deep ruts in the runway. The new 3500 foot runway was to be covered with MX-19 and the C-130 parking area with M8A1.

On 7 February 1967, 3rd Platoon, Company C closed in the Battalion Base camp after extending Route 509B approximately 11,000 meters to the northwest and constructing two fire support bases. On 17 February, 3rd Platoon departed base camp for Phu Nhon to engage in an airfield repair project. This C-130 airfield had fallen into a serious state of disrepair with many ruts, soft spots, drainage problems, and sever damage to the T-17 membrane.

On 12 March 1967, Company B (-) completed its missions at Phu Tuc. The scope of the work as outline in the project directive was to construct a C-130 airfield in the vicinity of Phu Tuc Special Forces camp by extending an existing 2200 foot earth runway to 3500 and surfacing it with T-17 membrane. In addition, parking facilities for five C-130 aircraft, a forward assault heliport for three Airmobile companies, two turn-around and a 5300 foot access road from Route 7B to the staging area were constructed. In March 1967, Company B (-) returned to Dragon Mountain base camp. On 16 March, 1st Platoon, Company A relocated to the Danner (Oasis) Quarry and began commuting to construct an 80 foot pile bent bridge on Route 14 B.

On 16 March 1967, Company D, 299th Engineer Battalion (now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas) was attached to the 20th Engineer Battalion to support base camp development of the 4th ID headquarters at Dragon Mountain Base Camp, Pleiku.

On 22 March 1967, Company A moved to the Oasis rock quarry. Due to the remote location of Companies B and C, it was necessary to resupply by aircraft. A rear detachment was established at Cam Rahn Bay to provide support for Company B at Phu Tuc and Company C at Duc Lap. Cam Rahn Bay was chosen as a base of support due to its extensive logistical facilities and the availability of C-7A aircraft for transporting supplies. Supplies including repair parts, POL and rations were flown to these companies from Pleiku Air Force Base and the Battalion Base Camp. In addition, aircraft from the 937th Engineer Group were utilized.

On 17 April 1967, a new OPLAN on base camp defense was initiated by the 4th ID. Though this OPLAN relieved the 20th of sole responsibility for a perimeter sub sector, the Battalion was still required to augment Infantry personnel in manning the perimeter bunkers within the 1st Brigade sector. The OPLAN further integrated the battalion into the 4th ID Village Visitation Program. Company B was assigned the responsibility of visiting the villages of Plei Breng and Plei Monu Dooch and submit periodic reports to the 4th ID G-5.

On 6 May 1967, Company D, closed at Duc Co Special Forces Camp to upgrade, construct shoulders, staging area and drainage system for a C-130 airfield. Also upgrade QL-19W eastward from Duc Co to class 35 two way, class 50 one way capability with a parallel class 55 tank trail. The Duc Co airfield was to be used extensively by aircraft in support of tactical operations during the 1967 monsoon season.

Since November 1966, the responsibility of the construction of the Division cantonment, both vertical and horizontal, was assigned to Company A. ON 20 March 1967, Company B relieved Company A of the responsibility for the construction of the Division special staff area complex. Company D, 299th EN BN, joined Company B to support base camp development.

The 4th ID now had an active self-help program. Full-scale production of prefabricated buildings did not start until early February. The Battalion prefab yard was opened on a 24 hour basis starting early in March and production increased to approximately 10 buildings per day. The yard was run during the day by 8 enlisted men and 75 civilian workers. Approximately 12 enlisted men operated the yard at night. Total construction through 1967 was:

62,600 square feet of mess hall

13,872 square feet of maintenance facilities

46,720 square feet of medical facilities

8,800 square feet of administrative facilities

62,400 square feet of troop housing

The battalion pre-fab yard had issued 252 20 X 80 feet buildings. In addition, the untis of the 20th Engineer Battalion constructed:

8 20 x 48 quonset huts

3 40 x 100 warehouses

2 40 x 100 track maintenance facilities

3 26 x 90 automotive maintenance facilities

1 26 x 104 automotive maintenance facility

1 20 x 200 mess hall

1 20 x 120 mess hall

11 20 x 100 tropical buildings.

Prior to being attached to the 4th ID Village Visitation Program the battalion and attached units found time to participate in many civic action projects. All of these projects were undertaken and carried out during off-duty time. Some of the noteworthy programs completed were:

1. Clearing of a 400 x 500 meter refugee area located about two miles north of Dong Ba Thin military complex.

2. Construction of a 60 pupil school house with associated furniture and adjacent playground in the village of Than Thanh.

3. Construction of a 36 x 76 foot dormitory at the Loving Cross Orphanage in Lap Dinh.

4. Installation of a generator which was used as a power source for the village of Nihn Hoa.

5. Construction of a series of earth dams with wooden flood gates to control the flow of water to the Nihn Hoa area.

6. Assistance in digging wells in Montagnard villages near Ban Me Thuot.

7. An aggressive MEDCAP program was established in all battalion areas.

In mid 1967, the Battalion civic affairs section was active in welfare support of 2 villages of Montagnards that border the Dragon Mountain base camp. By mid 1967, soldiers of the 20th Engineer Battalion had been awarded 22 Purple Hearts, 5 Bronze Stars with V device, and a total of 103 Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medals for meritorious service.

In the second week of May 1967, Company A closed at Jackson’s Hole, forward command post of the 1st Brigade 4th ID and was engaged in upgrading and recapping three MSRs. In order to accomplish this project, one earth moving platoon, one dump truck platoon, one engineer line platoon, and various smaller elements were attached to the company.

Simultaneously, Company D, after completing the upgrade requirements of QL-19W from Duc Co east to road junction 14B-QL19W, began consolidating equipment and personnel to begin M8A1 surfacing project on Duc Co airfield. A survey of the airfield revealed that the existing strip was 100 feet wide by 3000 feet long. Rains continued for 20 days, during which time the effective work accomplished amounted to cutting and shaping all airfield drainage ditches, removing about 75% of the laterite cap which had become saturated, and maintenance of Route QL-19W.

On 22 May, Company C moved from its base camp at Combined Arms Hill to Danner Quarry. Company C was assigned construction of a two way class 55 tank trail from Dragon Mountain base camp to Duc Co. The company was given the secondary mission of keeping QL-19W open to traffic during the monsoon season. Company A was given a similar task. A tank trail from the intersection of QL-19W and 14B to the vicinity of the SF camp at Polei Djereng. It was emphasized that this project would not be allowed to interfere with the road maintenance mission. Due to a lack of equipment, progress on the trail was somewhat hampered. On 29 May, the tank trail projects were deferred until the end of the monsoon season since heavy equipment and compaction equipment could not be used effectively. Both companies cleared 60% of the tank trail right of way.

On 29 May 1967, the 173rd Airborne Brigade (now stationed in Italy), at their bivouac site at Catecka became bogged down in mud and was unable to get their supply areas or maneuver in their base camp. Company C was committed to provide drainage and build drainage and build all weather road capabilities throughout the 173rd area.

Road maintenance, airfield construction, helicopter hanger erection was well under way in June 1967. Revetments and land clearing continued to be prominent in the daily work schedule. Company D commenced work on a forward support helipad. In the designated area of the helipad, a minefield was uncovered. Before work could progress, the minefield was cleared. The minefield contained 88 M14 and M16 mines.

On 24 June 1967, Company D, 299th Engineer Battalion returned to the control of their parent unit. Company C (-) worked on the 173rd Airborne Brigade cantonment area. On 3 July 1967, the 173rd Airborne Brigade moved headquarters from Catecka to Kontum to engage in Operation Greely. Company C began to devote full effort in maintaining QL-19W from intersection of QL-19W and QL-14 to Danner Quarry.

On 10 July 1967, Company A received a priority directive to cover the airstrip at Duc Co with MC-30 and to emplace M8A1 mat on 3500 feet of runway. 3rd Platoon was deployed and began laying M8A1 at an average of 18 to 20 thousand square feet a day. Later in the month Company A received an additional directive to construct 150 ft square turnarounds at the end of the runway. This project was complete on 31 July.

Company A continued the maintenance of highways QL-19W and 14B throughout the monsoon season. On 15 August, Company A assumed the repair and maintenance responsibility for 600 meters impassable section of the interior road net through Jackson’s Hole. The project involved ditching, draining, and shaping the 600 meters of road before placing the necessary quantity of crushed rock. The road work was done mostly by hand during the heavy rain. On about 20 August, the impassable section of the road was opened for traffic, allowing desperately needed 4th ID supply vehicles into Jackson’s Hole.

Company C continued maintenance of QL-19W. On 3 August and aian on 15 September, the Bailey Bridge collapsed under a combination load of a VTR and M48A1 tank and a UTR. Company C diverted its effort to repairing an existing bypass at the bridge site supporting the 509th Panel Bridge Company in replacing the destroyed bridge. On 3 August the 584th Engineer Company (LE) was committed to maintaining the portion of QL-19W (MSR) from the bridge site, east to Camp Enari. This MSR mission was assigned the Light Equipment Company, while Company C was engaged in repairing the bridge. The 584th LE Company retained maintenance responsibility until 26 September 1967.

On 15 August, word was received that prop wash from a CH-47 helicopter had displaced 480 linear feet of MX-19 runway at Polei Djering Airfield. On 16 August the second and third platoon of Company B were airlifted to Polei Djering. By 17 August 30,000 square feet of matting had been realigned and reconnected when another CH-47 disconnected an additional 435 linear feet of runway. On 18 August, a field expedient anchorage system, consisting of 36 inch V shaped pickets and #9 tie wire, was flown in and realignment and anchorage wire completed on 19 August. Both platoons had returned to Camp Enari by 20 August.

On 19 August, Company C and the 584th Engineer Company moved form Danner Quarry to the Wooly Bully Quarry – 2.3 kilometers from Danner Quarry. The new bivouac site was prepared by 1st Platoon, Company C.

The 35th Engineer Platoon (Land Clearing) was attached to the 20th Engineer Battalion and closed at Camp Enari base camp on 19 August 1967. During the next week the first and second squads were supporting the 70th and 299th Engineer Battalions respectively. The third squad remained attached for land clearing operations to the 20th Engineer Battalion for work in the area of operation. The third squad began a clearing operation on QL-19W in the vicinity of the Wooly Bully Quarry on 25 August. From 25 August thru 22 October the 35th Land Clearing Platoon cleared over 3648 acres on Routes QL-19W, QL-19E, QL-14S, and TC-6C. On 24 October the 2nd squad of the 35th was reassigned from the 70th Engineer Battalion to the 20th for work at the Edap Enang settlement village.

With the shift of the 1st Brigade, 4th ID from Jackson’s Hole to the Oasis, Company A moved one platoon to the Wooly Bully quarry on 17 September to prepare a company sized bivouac area. Company A (-) relocated to base camp on 21 September and assumed several small proects. On 21 October 1967, Company A opened its CP at the Wooly Bully Quarry, assumed the mission of MSR maintenance and upgrading of QL-19W from the west to Duc Co.

On 22 September, Company C and Company D exchanged tasks and locations. Company C took over Company D’s base camp projects and Company D assumed responsibility for a portion of QL-19W. Among Company C’s projects was the construction of 88 helicopter revetments for the 7/17th Air Cavalry Squadron scheduled to arrive in the Republic of Vietnam on 23 October.

On 11 October 1967, Company B’s CP and its second platoon, reinforced with earth moving equipment from the Battalin Equipment platoon, moved to Plei Do Lim to begin upgrading of Route LTC-7B from Plei Do Lim village. The scope of the work involved upgrading the roadway from a fair-weather to limited all-weather capability and repair of a bridge. This was an operations support mission in general support of 4th ID’s OPLAN Middleton. The first platoon of Company B moved to Phu Tuc airfield to repair the T-17 runway that was ripped open by C-130 prop wash. On 20 October, Company B’s CP and second platoon returned from LTC-7B MRS upgrading and bridge repairs were reported as 100% complete. On 28 October, the first platoon of Company B returned to base camp having completed repairs of the T-17 membrane at Phu Tuc Airfield.

On 25 October 1967, the first platoon deployed to Ban Blech to begin work on upgrading the existing airfield and to provide general engineer support to CP 2nd BDE, 4th ID. On 2 November, one squad of first platoon Company C convoyed from Ban Blech to Phu Nhon to undertake repair of the T-17 airstrip. This project was completed on 7 November and the squad returned to Ban Blech.

Land clearing and upgrading on QL-14B was completed on 4 November 1967. At this time, the second platoon of Company A and its attached Land Cearing Section were committed in general support of the 6/14th Artillery and the Special Forces detachment at Polei Djerang. Work at this location involved draining and leveling of abandoned positions. The Polei Djereng project was completed on 10 November 1967. Company A was assigned to the mission of LOC upgrading of QL-19W from the Wooly Bully Quarry west to the intersection of QL-19W and 14-B; Company D retained responsibility of QL-19W from the quarry east to Dragon Mountain.

On 11 November 1967, the 35th Engineer Platoon (LC) was committed in general support of the Battle of Dak To. The mission of the detached platoon was to conduct land operations along the 4th ID’s Pleku to Dak To MSR. With the Battle of Dak To termination on 31 December 1967 with total US victory, two sections of the platoon were returned to the 20th Engineer Battalion operational control and were recommitted to agricultural draining at Edap Enang.

On 10 November, the battalion received the mission to upgrade Ban Blech airfield to MACV Class II, C-130 criteria; a survey team was dispatched to obtain data on the center line profile and conduct a topographic survey of the existing facility. On 22 November 1967, the survey was completed and preliminary planning and work estimates began. Due to the fact that the airstrip was situated in a cut across the tip of a hill with extensive filling at one end, it would e necessary to do massive cut and fill operations to satisfy MACV specifications of line and site of lateral drainage criteria. For this reason waivers of line of sight, lateral drainage, and overruns were submitted to the 937th Engineer Group. A waiver was approved for runway length, but all others were refused. Preliminary work estimates indicate that the cut and fill operation would require the moving of approximately one-half million cubic yards of earth to have the strip conform with unwaivering criteria. When these figures and accompanying equipment requests were submitted to the 937th Engineer Group, a conference was arranged with IFFV’s Army Logistics Officer. As a result of this preconstruction conference, the existing airfield was accepted with modified lateral clearance and line of sight criteria.

In late November, enemy activity with the battalion’s area of operations increased. On 24 November a minesweep team from the third platoon, Company A was ambushed by an estimated NVA Company north of Jackson’s Hole. Prompt reaction by 3rd platoon and the attached security force caused the enemy to be driven off and minimized friendly casualties.

On 7 December, the 584th Engineer Company (LE) began a project to pave QL-19W through Tanh village. It was decided to accelerate the paving effort in this area because of the extreme dust problem caused by US traffic. On 16 December 1967, the project was completed and the road was officially opened with a ceremony attended by the battalion commander, 20th Engineer Battalion; commanding officer, 937th Engineer Group, Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division; the Pleiku Province Chief and several local Vietnamese officials. The efforts of the Engineers were well received and the commanding officer of the 584th Engineer Company was presented a plaque as a token of appreciation of the Tanh Anh villages.

On 20 December 1967, Company B was committed in direct support of the 5th Special Forces Group’s Operation Florida. The mission: construct a Civic Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) camp and a C-7A capable airfield at Tier Atar. Due to the fact that Tier Atar is completely inaccessible by road, all equipment, personnel, and supplies were moved ot the job site by CH-47 Chinook and Ch-54 Skycrane helicopter. An advance party consisting of a platoon (-) was air lifted to the site on 20 December. The remainder of the company closed on 21 December 1967 utilizing 12 CH-47 helicopter sorties. Airmobile engineer equipment necessary to accomplish the mission was obtained from the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Division, the 937th Engineer Group, and the 5th Special Forces Group.

The equipment was flown to Ban Dan Special Forces camp by C-130 aircraft and lifted 33 kilometers to the work site by CH-54 Skycrane. All construction materials were supplied by the 5th Special Forces Group and were air dropped into the work site by C-7A aircraft. Initially all work efforts were directed toward sitting up a defense perimeter and clearing fields of fire for the engineer work force and the security unit. Since the entire area of the camp and airfield was heavily forrested with large hardwood trees, clearing was a major task. All possible work was done with the attached engineer equipment. A demolition squad followed approximately two days behind the equipment to remove large trees. Native timber was extensively used in bunker construction. By 30 December 1967, preparation of the defense perimeter was sufficiently advanced that the work effort could be diverted to clearing of the airfield.

On 20 December 1967, arrangements were made for the 35th Engineer Group (Construction) to use its organic tractor/trailer capability to have M8A1 matting and asphalt for the upgrading of Ban Blech airfield. The haul was to be thru shipped from the Logistical Depot at Qui Nhon to Ban Blech. With the procurement and delivery of these items assured, Company C (-) moved by convoy from Camp Enari to Ban Blech on 21 December to undertake the project. The move into the bivouac site was accomplished quickly and work began immediately. The scope of the work involved the construction of a 3000 foot M8A1 runway with a 150 x 150 foot turnaround and a 750 x 160 foot parking apron severed by two 170 foot taxiways. All surfaces to be covered with M8A1 matting were first treated with pencprime and RC-3.

The close of 1967 found Company A, Company D (-), and the 584th Engineer Company (LE) engaged in upgrading of QL-19W and quarry support at Tier Atar; Company B continued the upgrading of Ban Blech airfield, and the first platoon of Company D remained at Camp Enari with responsibility for the Battalion Batch Plant and Prefab Yard. Headquarters and Headquarters Company remained in Camp Enari.

During the period of February 1968 to October 1969, the 20th Engineer Battalion and its attached units, namely the 584th Engineer Company (LE) and the 35th Land Clearing Platoon (reorganized as the 538th Land Clearing Company under MTOE 5-500C on 20 January 1969), completed or worked toward completing the following missions in their Area of Responsibility.

(1) Land clearing

From 1 May 1968 to 31 July 1968, the 35th Land Clearing Platoon with support from Companies C and D, cleared QL-19E from Many Yang pass to Pleiku and QL-14N north of Kontum through an often used ambush site. At the end of this period the 35th Platoon was detached from the 20th and attached to the 35th Engineer Group (Construction) for missions in Bong Son. Total acreage cleared during the period was 10,800.

During the period 1 May 1968 through 31 October 1968, 2/C/20 was engaged in clearing 300 meters (line of sight) along QL-14N. The mission totaled 330 acres of regrowth being cleared.

From 1 November 1968 through 31 January 1969, 1/A/20 was engaged in clearing QL-14N totaling 1100 acres of virgin jungle. ON 7 December, the 35th Platoon was again attached to the 20th, and with Company D began clearing QL-14S north of Ban Belch to Ban Me Thout, then continuing 76 kilometers to the south. Utilizing 17 Rome plows and 10 Bull Blade 07E Dozers, a total of 4800 acres had been cleared at the end of the period.

From 1 February 1969 through 30 April 1969, heavy emphasis was given to land clearing operations throughout the 20th Engineer Battalion Area of Responsibility. The major routes cleared were QL-19E west from An Khe; QL-2E, from Ban Blech to Muan Man to include the construction of 18 kilometers of one lane road 8 to 10 feet wide with V ditches, and spanning a 23 x 9 foot gap on the roadway; organization of Task Force Stinger, comprising a 4 phase Joint Vietnamese-American clearing operation which included an M4T6 rafting operation across the Ea Krong River; clearing QL-19E, from An Khe to Qui Nhon; and the completion of Task Force Bush Hog along QL-14S, to include a total of 6895 acres cleared. The primary emphasis on all clearing operations during this period was clearing densely covered areas along main supply routes in an attempt to diminish the possibility of ambushes.

During the period 1 May 1969 through July 1969 the completion of Task Force Stringer was consummated with extensive civil affairs projects being incorporated. Along with this additional clearing operations around a proposed firebase for the 2/8 Infantry (Mech) and the organization of Task Force Rapid Cut along LTL-6B which was begun on 14 June 1969. From 1 August to 31 October 1969, the 538th Land Clearing Company prepared to undertake Task Force Land Sweep consisting of clearing QL-19E through An Khe and Mang Yang passes. This project was completed on 31 October at which time the Land Clearing Company extracted for a 14 day stand-down.

(2) Airfields

From 1 May 1968 through 31 July 1968 airfield missions including an emergency repair mission on Plei Djering Airfield caused by a helicopter crash on 18 June 1968 which damaged 24 MX-19 panels; the mission was completed in one day and the expeditious performance permitted air traffic missions to continue without delay.

During the period 1 August 1968 through 31 October 1968 the 20th Engineer Battalion was committed to only one airfield repair project at Ban Blech airfield. The work required the repair and upgrade of the shoulder slopes along the runway which had begun to erode due to monsoon season. The repair work consisted of building three retaining walls secured by V pickets, driven at 4 inch intervals. The eroded ditches were filled and reshaped to original contour to include a 120 square meter area laid with sod.

From 1 November 1968 through 31 January 1969, two major airfield repair missions were undertaken. The first consisted of extensive upgrade of failed subgrade underneath the taxiways at the An Khe airfield. The scope of work accomplished included the use of soil cement and M8A1 matting in repairing 145,000 square feet of eroded taximways. The second mission again concerned with erosion on the existing airstrip at Cheo Reo incurred during the monsoon season along with damaged turning points caused by pivot action of C-130 and C-123 aircraft.

Airfield repair was also accomplished on Ban Blech airfield and Polei Kling between 1 February and 30 April 1969. The mission at Ban Blech included placing timber and sandbags along both sides of the airstrip to control erosion subsequent to the upcoming monsoon season. At Polei Kling repair work was required due to enemy artillery fire which caused extensive damage to existing parking aprons and the substrip. Work consisted of upgrading and replacing the damaged areas on the airstrip and rebuilding the parking aprons.

From the period 1 May 1969 through 31 July 1969, increased emphasis was again placed on airfield repair missions. A total of four projects were undertaken to include airfields at Cheo Reo initially required placing 4 large concrete patches on the airstrip at touchdown and turning points. The failure was caused due to problems with the penetration macadam. During the mission, additional failures occurred from twelve sorties of C-13s landing on the airstrip. The damage was extensive on the surface of the runway. The increased scope, due to this failure, included excavation of failed areas, upgrade of subgrade, and an application of a 4″ cold mix asphalt covering the entire runway area. At An Khe airfield the repair project included repair of subgrade and replacing 105,000 square feet of M8A1 matting over the airstrip caused by repeated turning of C-130 and C-123 aircraft. Dak Seang airfield required airlifting 130 barrels of RC-800, an asphalut kettle, and 1 squad of engineers. The entire airfield was sanded, shot with RC-800 in tow coats, and sanded again. The 52nd Artillery airstrip required a complete upgrade of the airstrip to include scarifying, shaping, and resealing utilizing RC-800.

From 1 August through 31 October 1969, two airfield repair missions were undertaken. At Dak To the airstrip, damaged by enemy incoming artillery rounds, received extensive repair. The Ben Het airfield failed under constant use, and repair began by removing the SSP from the entire airfield.

(3) Lines of Communication Maintenance

During the period, work on Highway QL-14N encompassed the entire road stretching from Ben Het to Camp Enari access road. Throughout the period the 20th Engineer Battalion wqs tasked with upgrade, repair, and construction of various sections of this road to insure constant trafficability. The battalion was tasked with many other maintenance projects along QL-14N, QL-19W, and QL-14S. The projects included preparations for paving, paving, improving drainage, installing lateral ditches and culverts, improving road surfaces, and maintenance of the above roadways.

(4) Prefab Yard and Batch Plant

The Battalion’s Prefab Yard and Batch Plant were operated by Company D and Company B from 1 February to 30 April 1968. The work accomplished in these months included stockpiling and issuing prefab materials for various missions throughout the AOR to include cement for LOC upgrading and self-help projects.

From 1 May to 31 July 1968 the yard and plant were operated by 2nd platoon, Company B. Work accomplished during this period consisted of prefabricating 46 20 x 100 foot two story tropical buildings, 2 40 x 100 warehouses, 13 latrines, and 24 tent frames. The Batch Plant produced over 676 cubic yards of concrete during the same period. By August, Company B had the additional responsibility of operating a rock quarry operation at the base of Drago Mountain. On 5 September, Batch Plant operations were discontinued at Camp Enari.

From 1 November 1968 to 31 July 1969, the Battalion’s Prefab Yard was operated at full capacity by Company B. On 1 February 1969 the Prefab Yard operations were augmented by the addition of 40 local nationals to aid the company in the upcoming construction season. Work during this period included the prefabrication of SEA huts for firebases at Oasis, Blackhawk, and Mary Lou; construction of latrines for Mary Lou and Ben Het firebases; and forms for Bridge 14-22-1.

On 26 August 1969, with the Battalion relocated at Engineer Hill, the prefab yard moved from Camp Enari to Engineer Hill. Upon relocation, work was begun on prefabrication of bunker complexes for perimeter upgrade on Engineer Hill. In addition an enormous prefabrication mission was undertaken to construct Living/Fighting bunkers at Ben Het firebase. The scope of the work was large enought to warrant another prefab operation. Company D relocated from Engineer Hill to Kontum and began operating an additional prefabrication yard. With this new yard being in operation, the yard at Engineer Hill was given an additional mission of constructing Living/Fighting bunkers for the perimeter upgrade at Tan Kanh.

(5) Minesweep responsibilities

Since one of the major requirements of any unit in a combat environment is mobility, the responsibility of insuring that all major routes throughout the AOR are kept open and free of mines is of vital concern. The 20th Engineer Battalion was tasked with numerous minesweep responsibilities to include the following road networks: daily minesweeps on QL-19W, QL-14, and QL-14N.

(6) Bridges

To insure the constant trafficability of the road networks throughout the 20th Engineer Battalion’s AOR, emphasis was placed on bridge construction and repair throughout 1969. Bridges were repaired along QL-19W, bypass construction for bridges QL-19W-47 and QL-19W-38, repair of bridge QL-14B-1, repair of Bridge QL-19-30, construction of a pile bent bridge north of Bridge 19-33, and a bypass at Bridge 19-38. Construction of an AVLB abutment at Bridge QL-19-37 was also completed. A double bailey and treadway were replaced on the bridge. Other bridge construction projects included a class 120 bridge, a MACV type L bridge over the IA Meneye, and the construction of Bridge 19-37. Bridge 19-37 was a 60 foot single span bridge with steel stringers and augmented with timber decking.

(7) Vertical construction

(a) Oasis Airfield – Much construction was accomplished at the Oasis Airfield. 3rd Platoon of Company B was tasked with repairing the 7th Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry’s helicopter revetments. The scope of work included widening the existing revetments, changing the height of various revetments, and bringing to final grade areas around the revetments. On 2 May 1968, Company C began construction of gun pads and berms for heavy artillery pieces. The work consisted of constructing the following: 1 8 inch gun pad, 3 175mm gun pads, 8 ammunition storage bunkers, 1 Tactical Operations Center, 1 Executive Bunker, and 1 mess hall.

(b) Tieu Airstrip – The scope of work at Plei Djerang included the construction and erection of 2 ammo storage bunkers, the redecking of the existing 175mm gun pads, 3 personnel bunkers, 1 gun pad, and 4 additional ammo storage bunkers which were required due to the existing bunker complex having been destroyed or severly damaged by an enemy rocket attack. The scope was extended to include 2 underground powder and shell magazines. Work also was done for the 6/14th Artillery to include redecking of 4 40 foot gun pads.

(c) Camp Enari – Base camp construction for the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Enari consisted of many varied projects to include 1 two story administration building; 1 40 x 100 warehouse; 2 40 x 100 repair and utility shops; 4 prefabricated steel PASCOE buildings for the General Education Development Center; 1 90 x 160 theater-gymnasium type tropical building; 3 175mm gun pads; 6 ammo storage bunkers; 1 aircraft maintenance hanger for the 7/17th Cavalry including one 800 x 140 standard wood modular building with a 12 inch reinforced concrete pad; 3 20 x 50 concrete pads; 1 40 x 100 concrete pad for the 704th Electrical/Communications Maintenance Building; reconstruction of a 40 x 130 snack bar for the 4th ID PX concessionaire which was destroyed by fire; an 80 x 144 maintenance hanger for 7/17th Cavalry which included the pouring of 440 cubic yards of reinforced concrete; a controlled environment engine maintenance shop; and 4 72 foot valley drains; 2 40 x 100 warehouses, wood frame with installation of 5000 square feet of shelf space; a 60 x 100 concrete pad, footers for columns, and side walls for a raised stage including the use of 240 cubic yards of concrete for the Ivy Theater; prefabrication of generator revetments for the central power facility; 7 50 x 50 concrete helipad wash pads.

(d) 283rd Dust Off – Pleiku – Work included the erection of 2 19 foot high guard towers, 1 50 man protection bunker, 10 3 man fighting bunkers, 5 30 x 50 aircraft revetments for protection of UH-1H helicopters.

(e) Camp Holloway – Work included completing an aircraft control tower which has transferred to the 20th from the 70th Engineer Battalion which was preparing to move to a new AO. Work consisted of erecting guard rails on the roof of the cabin, plexi-glass windows, 3 air conditioners, 6 inch reinforced concrete pads to accomodate a 14 x 17 foot generator shed and a FAA Communications Van.

(f) Wooly Bully Quarry – Work included pouring two each 20 x 100 x 8 foot reinforced concrete pads, a 90 x 26 foot maintenance shop, a quarry chinaman, and one each grease trap; two each 22 x 27 foot concrete pads for mess halls; replacing the damaged chinaman to include the posts, footers, decking, and siding.

(g) 815th Engineer Quarry Site – The scope of the work included placing 6000 meters of triple concertina fencing; 2500 meters of cyclone fence; and the construction and replacement of 10 guard towers around the perimeter.

(h) Blackhawk Firebase – Construction consisted of one mess hall, five living and ammunition bunkers, and truck revetments. Construction began on a helicopter rearming point to include cut, fill, and drainage; 16 helicopter rearming points; 8 each 32 x 9 foot revetment; and a complete application of pencprime over the entire area.

(i) An Khe – Construction of 60 8 foot revetments which were prefabricated at Engineer Hill and then transported to An Khe for erection; helicopter revetments at the golf course; installation of a 24 foot high B-40 standoff around the POL tanks in the An Khe Tank Farm to include elevating the existing berms an additional 5 feet; construction of U-21 aircraft revetments; assembling burying five miles of pipe west from An Khe. Work included laying 26,000 feet of coupled tubing using five entrenchers and an MCA Gradall; it included a 24 hour operation with a two platoon effort.

(j) Kontum – Construction of FOB II helipad for CH-34 helicopters to include repairing and surfacing a 30 x 200 foot area firebase at Kontum to include site preparation with the construction of 4 each 175mm/8 inch gun pads, revetments, and berms; eight ready storage ammo bunkers and two each powder bunkers; constructing a tower to support 3000 gallons of water; eight ammo storage bunkers and replacement of decking on gun pads at Mary Lou; B-40 standoff for asphalt plant including driving 38 12 inch piles on 16 foot centers and hanging a 20 foot high cyclone fence curtain; in addition 2 16 x 16 foot gates were constructed of 3 inch pipe and cyclone fence; and work on a MACV Get Well project.

(k) Ben Het – Construction included 2 each 20 x 20 projectile bunkers, two 20 x 20 powder bunkers, connected by a 15 foot side by 14 high by 60 long covered passageway; replaced decking on 4 175mm gun pads; refurbishing berms around ammo and powder storage bunkers; 15 20 x 40 living/fighting bunkers; 5 mortar pits; 5 priority roads, 1 helipad, and an airstrip apron.

From 1 January 1970 to 28 August 1971, the 20th Engineer Battalion with its attached units, the 584th Engineer (LE), 15th Engineer Company (LE), and the 509th Engineer Company (PB) provided virtually all engineer support in the Central Highlands of MRII. Primarily situated near Pleiku, the Battalion pursued its engineer mission from Dak To in the north to Ban Me Thout in the south and from the Cambodian operations n the west to An Khe in the east. During the initial months of this period, the battalion was involved in a change over process from the primary mission of providing combat support to the 4th Infantry Division to a mission with emphasis on Lines of Communication construction. Consequently the unit was in a highly fluid situation.

Support of the 4th Infantry Division called for Company A to be located at Camp Enari near Pleiku disassembling maintenance hangers and preparing them for movement to the 4th Infantry’s new base cmap at Camp Radcliff near An Khe. Company B was at Camp Radcliff constructing living/fighting bunkers and building an Artillery firebase. In March 1970, Company A relocated to Camp Radcliff to reconstruct the maintenance hangers they had disassembled at Enari. Headquarters Company was located at Engineer Hill near Pleiku along with a portion of Company D and A. Company D had elements at both Engineer Hill and Camp Enari. A platoon from the 584th Engineer Company and one platoon of the 15th Engineer Company were preparing the earthwork of QL-14S. The 538th Engineer Company (LC)( was based at Engineer Hill but spent most of its time in road camps on QL-14S and QL-14N due to their land clearing mission. The remainder of the Battalion was stationed at the Weigt-Davis Industrial Site, 40 kilometers south of Pleiku. There Company C and the 584th Engineer Company were involved in base cam construction, preparation of a soil stabilization plant to produce black base for QL-14S, and quarry and crusher operations.

As the construction season of 1970 progressed and the Battalion became highly committed to Operation Last Chance, a tremendous push to complete as many kilometers of pavement as possible was initiated and in February the Battalion formed a provisional Dump Truck Company to provide the haul support for the extensive paving operations. Trucks were pulled form each line company and from the 509th engineer Company (PB) which was only OPCON to the battalion at that time. A complete Company Headquarters was established and the new unit rapidly assumed an important role in hauling asphalt from the CTA yard near Pleiku, base course from Webb quarry near Pleiku and black base from Weigt-Davis. Company D relocated to Camp Enari to be closer to the paving site as the Battalion responded fully to the operation.

Near the last of February, Company B competed its operational support of the 4th ID, moved to Engineer Hill and began its contribution to LOC projects by repairing bridges 19-33 and 19-34. As the dry season of 1970 reached its second half, the Battalion continued to readjust to efficiently perform its road construction requirements. In late March 1970, Company D, having completed the soils stabilization plant moved one platoon to Cheo Reo to perform an upgrade of 24 miles of Route TL-7B between Cheo Reo and 14-S. To add to the Battalion’s haul capabilities, the 585th Engineer Company (DT) was attached to the battalion near the first of April and located at Weigt-Davis. The Battalion’s provisional Dump Truck Company remained at Engineer Hill, Pleiku in order to be closer to the asphalt plant at the CIA yard. On 1 April 1970, the 509th Engineer Company (PB) was officially attached to the 20th Engineer Battalion.

Although the major efforts of the Battalion were in the field of Line of Communication maintenance, the 20th Engineer Battalion did not abandon the high priority mission of operational support. Mine sweeps for 1/92 Artillery, airfield and revetment construction as well as repair for 52nd Aviation Battalion at Camp Holloway, rehabilitation of several fire support bases, and upgrade of outlying airfields were all accomplished during the spring and summer of 1970. The LOC construction season came to a close with the Battalion having completed QL-14S between Enari and LTL-7B and having continued earthwork and black base lay down on QL-14S, south of LTL-7B and on LTL-7B itself. The bridge repairs on 19-33 and 19-34 had also been completed.

During the months of May and June the Battalion prepared to vacate Engineer Hill and move to Camp Wilson near Pleiku. This move was completed in July with HHC, Company A, Company B and the 509th occupying the post. Engineer Hill was turned over to elements of the ARVN Engineers. The end of the road building season brought about the detachment of the 585th Engineer Company in late June to the 589th. The 538th Engineer Company (LC) transferred to the 299th in mid July and the 1st Platoon of the 15th Engineer Company (LE) returned to its parent unit.

As the monsoon season of 1970 covered the Central Highlands, the 20th Engineer Battalion began to prepare for the next construction season and also shifted some of its emphasis to vertical construction. The highlights of August, September, and November was the relocation of the asphalt plant from the CIA yard to Weigt-Davis. Company A was called on to disassemble, transport and reassemble the plant while Company D was given the task of site preparations at Weigt-Davis. Company B was involved in the repair of the runway at Camp Holloway for the 52nd Aviation Battalion and the building of a headwall for a 75 TPH crusher at Weigt-Davis. The 509th Engineer Company relocated to Weigt-Davis and was given the sole responsibility of transporting the black base material and asphalt. The 20th Engineer Battalion was constantly involved in improvement of its defensive posture and living conditions as the monsoon season affoded a good opportunity to increase these efforts. Company C built nine new guard towers at Camp Wilson while also improving the perimter wire and Company B was tasked with the construction of four SEA huts on the compound. In late October a reinforced platoon from Company A relocated at Ban Me Thout to assume responsibility for projects of the 19th Engineer Battalion following their deactivation. Involved was Project 1000 requiring the construction of twenty PASCOE buildings and Project 25 which called for construction of four 96 x 20 foot buildings at MACV Team 25. Both projects had barely been initiated by the 19th Engineer Battalion left the 20th Engineer Battalion as the only major US Engineer Unit in the entire Central Highlands.

With the end of the monsoons the Battalion once again directed its efforts toward LOC construction. due to a destructive fire at the newly constructed asphalt plant at Weigt-Davis construction of QL-14S was delayed a little more than 30 days. Company B rebuilt the damaged sections and the plant became operational again in early December. Company D once again received the missions of placing the base course and the asphalt in the push to complete QL-14S to Ban Blech by the end of the construction season. The 584th Engineer Company continued its outstanding support of the operations by preparing the earthwork and handling the Quarry Crusher Operation at Weigt-Davis. The 509th Engineer Company (PB) was once again transformed into a Provisional Dump Truck Company utilizing the five ton dump trucks from Companies A, B, and D. They provided the haul capability necessary for work on Routes QL-14S and QL-14N.

In mid-November the 15th Engineer Company moved from Quin Nhon into Camp Wilson with a mission of correcting earthwork and drainage on Route QL-14N. They began work immediately and completed their project in late March. The then prepared to move south to assist the 584th in the earthwork requirements and the construction of QL-14S. After upgrading the Pleiku bypass in November, Company C was tasked to upgrade Route QL-14N by placing 5 feet of black base on the shoulders recently constructed by the 15th Engineers and repairing those areas which exhibited evidence of subsurface or pavement failure. This project continued throughout the construction season and was completed after many inspections in August 1971.

Company A initially began work on repairing the failure area at Deadman’s Curve on QL-19E, but in early February they were called to relocate to Ban Me Thout in support of Task Force Sierra. During the period Company A was attached to the Task Force. The constructed the Ban Me Thout Industrial Site. They also opened the quarry, handled the necessary earthwork, prepared the crusher sites, built the asphalt plant, a seven bay maintenance facility, a mess hall, headquarters building and various other buildings. They completed their mission on 1 July 1971.

Meanwhile on QL-14S, Company D had progressed far enough south with paving operations to call for a relocation. Within a few days a new LZ was built by Company D, one platoon from the 584th, and one platoon from Company C. The new LZ was named LZ Lonely and road surfacing operations after mid-February originated form there. Just south of LZ lonely, Bridge 14-17 presented a serious obstacle to the southward push of earthmoving equipment. A Triple-Single Bailey Bridge 150 feet long, was constructed over the partially destroyed bridge by Company C in mid-February to enable 290s and D-9 dozers to continue their work.

As the paving train and earthwork operations progressed southward in February and March enemy activity increased greatly. Mine incidents became an everyday occurrence, ambushes and sniper fire caused many delays, yet paving continued. Finally on 16 March a major NVA offensive was launched in the area and primarily directed against the city of Phu Nhon, which lay astride 14S roadway between Weigt-Davis and LZ Lonely. The 95th NVA Regiment (Reinforced) established control over the 5 to 6 kilometers of 14S north of Phu Nhon and consequently cut off supplies to LZ Lonely. An immediate airlift of supplies to LZ Lonely enabled the units to prepare themselves defensively. The siege of Phu Nhon was finally lifted by the NVA on 22 March 1971 and vehicles were again able to travel to LZ Lonely. However, on 1 April 1971 the road was once again severed by NVA units. Despite the fact that LZ Lonely received mortar and rocket attacks daily, no US KIAs were sustained during this action and 5 Engineers were wounded.

The 20th had been planning to redeploy a line company and a light equipment company to a newly constructed LZ (LZ Marlar) near Ben Blech the terminal point of the assigned road work. These units were to begin earthwork and drainage work northward from Ban Blech to link up with the units moving south. The intense enemy activity however caused a postponement of this move and a reevaluation of the importance of QL-14S.

The importance of the completion of 14S to Ben Blech was weighed against the massive security which would be required by ARVN units in the area, the possible casualties in ARVN and engineer units, and the obviously slow progress that would be made. It was decided to cease operations on 14S, move out of LZ Lonely, and begin as soon as possible paving operations eastward from Pleiku on QL-19E. The plan was to upgrade 19E to CECOM E modified standards. Weigt-Davis industrial site was to provide the base course and asphalt for the paving trains.

QL-19E became of major importance to the 20th Engineer Battalion. After paving operations were withdrawn from 14S in mid-April. Initially, plans were to pave eastward from Pleiku and to add 1.5 meters as shoulder rock as far as possible. Unexpected bad weather, equipment difficulties and altered plans caused various delays. It was finally decided that the Battalion could upgrade the shoulders form Pleiku to a point 12 kilometers eastward and that a 4 kilometer section between bridges 34 and 33 be overpaved. This was accomplished by 8 August 1971.

Certain critical repair jobs on 19E were assigned to the Battalion coinciding with paving operations on the road. Bridges 19-33 and 19-23 were repaired and the entire section of road at Deadman’s curve replaced.

Perhaps the major project on 19E was the repair of a slope failure at Deadman’s Curve. Due to a culvert and slope failure at that location, the full upon which the road had been built was toatlyy sturated and the road in danger of slipping into a ravine. It was decided to build a bypass, remove the damaged culvert, emplace four 72 inch culverts, and then realign the road as new fill was added. Initially it was necessary to pump many thousands of gallons of water from the uphill side of the fill in order to locate the old culvert and remove the damaged fill. In mid-June close to 100,000 cubic yards of earth was removed in order to reach a stable base. Fill was then added and then compacted up to the desired elevation of the four large culverts. The culverts were emplaced, and extensive reinforced concrete headwalls were constructed to insure that the culvert would not fail as they had in the past. Upon completion of the headwalls in mid-July the filling resumed. Final grade was reached on 9 August, after utilizing 84,000 cubic yards of fill. A six inch lift of base course was placed and the area overpaved by civilian contractors. The bypass was removed and the swamp on the uphill side of the fill drained with the use of 2144 pounds of explosives. A previously failing, very dangerous section of 19E that had often been an ambush site had been replaced with a high speed, well drained section of road.

The stand down of the 20th Engineer Battalion began on 28 July 1971 and was completed on 28 August 1971. During this period every item of equipment from seven companies was either turned in to the Keystone Facility at Cha Rang Valley or laterally transferred to other units. Only through extensive planning, extremely hard work, and aggressive problem solving was the unit able to meet its 28 August deadline. One of the major problems was the transport of more than 120 heavy lifts over 100 miles to the Keystone Facility. Every heavy lift, in the form of dozers, bucket loaders, rollers, deadlined trucks, etc., were carried by organic tractors and trailers. Although the transportation unit near Pleiku provided five ton cargo trucks for miscellaneous items, the were not able to carry any heavy lifts. Only through great efforts of the Battalion Maintenance Section was the Battalion able to continue its heavy life haul. Many 10 tons and lowboys which had previously been deadlined were converted to an operational status by hard work and outstanding preventive maintenance on the part of the operators. The 13 ten tons were the key to the Battalion’s successful stand down operations.

The fact that the Battalion did meet its established stand down date and complete its vital construction missions is a tribute to the attitudes and energies of the men and officers of the 20th Engineer Battalion. The colors were proudly encased on 20 August 1971 and transported back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where the 51st Engineer Battalion assumed the long lineage and heritage of the Wavy Arrow Battalion.

CHAPTER

FORT CAMPBELL, KENTUCKY

On 20 August 1971, the battalion encased its colors in the Republic of Vietnam and moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where it took the place of the recently deactivated 51st Engineer Battalion. Here the histories of the 20th and the 51st are combined. The 51st throughout 1971 had been conducted normal training and construction operations at Fort Campbell. The colors of the 20th were still in Vietnam for much of the year. When the colors of the 20th returned to Fort Campbell, the annual histories of the companies reflect the histories of the 51st Engineer Battalion as well as those of the companies of the 20th Engineer Battalion.

For the remainder of the 1971, the companies of the 20th conducted various post projects, NBCAIC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Accident/Incident Control) alerts, building improvements, 24 hour alerts, and short field training exercises. Each of the companies reported severe manpower shortages in their October histories. In a relief attempt, many soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade who refused jump status were reassigned to the 20th. Though this was a temporary fix, these soldiers were not up to the Engineer standard and many were AWOL within just a few months.

In 1971 and 1972, the Battalion was again completing construction projects on Fort Campbell including ranges, heliports, ammunition supply points, tank trails, and stockade building rehabilitation. Company D also worked on a civic action project in the Bowling Green, Kentucky community. The company constructed a recreation park, cleared debris, constructed a foot bridge, installed culverts and constructed picnic tables. HHC also provided construction expertise to the Hopkinsville, Kentucky Senior Citizen’s Center by constructing a wood working shop, roof renovations, and wiring and hanging of florescent lights.

In 1972, the Battalion also participated in Operation Flamingo at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. The operation involved loading 88 aircraft with soldiers, vehicles, and equipment as a deployment readiness exercise. The Battalion was still critically short soldiers and reported only a 35% fill of mechanics in October 1972. That same month the 114th Engineer Detachment (Fire Truck) and the 26th Engineer Detachment (Water Purification) was attached to the 20th Engineer Battalion. Construction projects in Flatwoods, Tennessee, Clarksville, Tennessee, and Eddyville, Kentucky were also completed as part of the Civic Action Program.

On 29 May 1973, the 20th Engineer Battalion was the first non-divisional unit at Fort Campbell to receive the coveted Commanding General’s Outstanding Unit Award.

The Battalion also completed the Indian Mound Airfield for Fort Campbell in 1973. Company B and elements of the 326th Engineer Battalion reshaped and recrowned the runway and conducted rock crushing operations in preparation for Operation Brave Shield VII. The project also supported Operation Orbiting Eagle II in mid-November 1973.

Civic Action Projects were at the forefront of 20th Engineer Battalion missions throughout 1973 and 1974. The following projects were completed:

West Point, GA demolition of 1000 foot long, 85 foot high Seaboard Coastline Railroad Bridge spanning the Chatahoochee River

Cleveland, TN country recreation area including athletic fields and picnic areas

Clarksville, TN Fairgrounds Park

OPERATION DESERT SHIELD/STORM

Like most all of the units at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the 20th Engineer Battalion deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 in support of Operation Desert Shield. This compilation is based on an oral interview conducted by MAJ Robert B. Honec III of the 116th Military History Detachment with LTC Frank D. Ellis, commander of the 20th Engineer Battalion and a historical summary compiled in 1991 by the unit historian, 1LT David H. Tavassoli.

At the time of notification on 18 August 1990, the 20th Engineer Battalion was a nondivisional engineer asset assigned to the United States Army Forces Command, though the Battalion habitually supported the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In preparation for the deployment, the soldiers, NCOs, and officers of the 20th Engineer Battalion conducted numerous training exercises to include MOPP and NBC training, weapons qualification, and road marching in preparation for the heat of the Arabian desert. The battalion was also integral in manifesting and mobilizing the 101st Airborne Division for deployment to Saudi Arabia. After the 101st had left Fort Campbell, the 20th began their own preparations by shipping vehicles by road and rail to the port of Jacksonville, Florida . The Battalion deployed with 674 officers, NCOs, and soldiers between 2 and 20 October 1990.

Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, the Battalion was separated in two different locations – MABCO (an industrial park and the co-located with the Brigade Rear) and Camp Beacon Hill. Camp Beacon Hill was comprised of two story dormitories with a kitchen facilities that was converted into a Battalion mess facility. The vehicles, which had been shipped from Jacksonville on seven different ships, arrived at Dhahran two days after the battalion closed there. As the vehicles were off-loaded from the ships, the battalion consolidated at Camp Beacon Hill where they stayed for about two weeks. The vehicles were staged at Guardian City while the soldiers remained at Camp Beacon Hill.

Originally the Battalion was ordered to provide general engineering support for the 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), but as the mission became more clear the Battalion was organized under the 20th Engineer Brigade from Fort Bragg, North Carolina commanded by COL Robert Flowers. Under the 20th Engineer Brigade were its two organic units, the 27th Engineer Battalion (ABN) and the 37th Engineer Battalion (ABN). All of these units were aligned under the 937th Engineer Group, the same group to which the 20th Engineer Battalion provided support during the Vietnam Conflict.

The 20th was the center Battalion of the Group, stationed near the Group headquarters and supported the 101st Airborne Division while the 37th supported the 3rd ACR, and the 27th was charged with building a large road. The battalion then moved north to a camp about 20 kilometers due west on the Tapline from the town of An Nariyah. Here was Camp Bastogne where the 101st was camped. Though the 20th supported the 101st, the battalion found it difficult establishing normal support channels through the division. The battalion learned very quickly to support itself and regularly made trips back to Ad Damman for mail and supplies.

The Battalion built a very functional base camp intended to house approximately 700 soldiers. The Battalion used GP Medium tents, though not organic to the unit, for housing the many soldiers of the Battalion. Eventually the Battalion would upgrade each tent to have a wooden floor and an electrical power system. The Battalion built its own shower facilities with a water distribution system that could process about 12,000 gallons of water per day. They also built a road system around the base camp which was suitable for running, even in formation. A viable PT program followed, a luxury not afforded to many units stationed in the Gulf.

The Battalion also constructed an elaborate bunker system to protect against possible SCUD missile attacks. With the construction of the bunkers, the soldiers conducted missile attack simulations, reaction force drills, and NBC alerts. Since most of the work distribution was for equipment operators, the combat engineers of the battalion continuously trained and conducted exercises in preparation for an attack from Kuwait by the Iraqis.

Initially, LTC Ellis was concerned about the forward position of the Battalion. The Battalion was one of the most forward units in Saudi Arabia, and LTC Ellis wondered why the Battalion had not been directed to emplace minefields or tank ditches to stop an attack into Saudi Arabia. Though stopping Iraqi aggression into Saudi Arabia seemed to be the purpose of Operation Desert Shield, senior officers knew that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were more concerned with American aggression. Iraq was too busy installing its own defense to conduct an effective attack into Saudi Arabia. So the Battalion went to its primary mission of horizontal construction.

The first big road construction project was to construct an ammunition supply point known as Skibbie. It became a 47,000 ton short-ton ammunition supply point approximately 20 kilometers south of An Nariyah. Upon completion, the ASP had a four-mile, graveled access road and internal gravel roads to accommodate the M915 tractors. The Battalion also upgraded a 42-mile section of the Tapline Road to all-weather standards and constructed survivability positions for the 75th Field Artillery Brigade and the 212th Field Artillery Brigade.

The Battalion also built an entire base camp for the 561st Combat Support Battalion including facilities, berms, pads, and roads and provided logistical support to many other units in the area. Just before the air war began on 17 January 1991, the Battalion was tasked with constructing a helicopter pad for Vice President Dan Quayle’s visit. The platoon in charge of the project was able to meet and shake hands with the Vice President and the XVIII Airborne Corps Commander, LTG Gary E. Luck.

As the air war progressed, the Battalion was to be prepared to move on short notice. The battalion was given four hours notice to move from Log Base Charlie and had the first echelons moving within only two hours. After some minor issues with the transfer petroleum point, the Battalion’s main objective, Tactical Assembly Area Elm was established on 17 January 1991. Within 36 hours, they had met the initial requirements of the log base. The Battalion constructed an ammunition supply point that could handle 25,000 short-tons with three access and egress routes, pads for two million gallons of bulk water, roads for retail points for both fuel and water, seven hospitals, a Class I yard, as well as some logistical assistance for neighboring units. The Battalion also assisted in the construction of MSR Texas and a Forward Landing Strip. During its time at TAA Elm, the Battalion was finally able to get soldiers’ weapons zeroed and fire AT-4s, shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapons.

The 20th Engineer Battalion was also tasked to cut access through the Escarpment, the route for the French 6th Light Armored Division and the American 82nd Airborne Division into Iraq. This mission was complete on 20 February 1991, and plans for the ground offensive were laid.

At G-2, 22 February 1991, the Battalion moved about 10 miles to be in position to launch the attack into Iraq on the MSR Texas extension. The soldiers of the Battalion spent the night of G-2 sleeping in their vehicles in preparation for the attack. On G-1, 23 February 1991, the Battalion moved another 10 miles closer to Iraq and again slept in their vehicles in preparation for a 0400 move. On G-1, the day before the start of the ground war, the Battalion was again tasked to cut another access route through the Escarpment for the French combat trains.

On G-Day, rather than moving at 0400 as planned, the Battalion could not move until approximately 1600 while they waited for the French and the 82nd Airborne to roll through the Escarpment. Once on MSR Texas, the Battalion moved within four kilometers of the 27th Engineer Battalion. On G+1 as the French and the 82nd took Objective Reauchambeau, the Battalion continued to move along the MSR to Objective White where they bivouacked for the night near the town of Al Salman. At first light on G+2, the Battalion moved down MSR Virginia, clearing it as they went, and wound up in Objective Brown. Objective Brown had been cleared by the 24th Infantry Division, and the 20th began construction of Log Base Romeo.

At Log Base Romeo, they began to build facilities for the 44th Medical Brigade’s hospital and fuel and water points. As the offensive actions continued to move at a rapid pace north and east into Iraq, the need for Log Base Romeo diminished. The 20th Engineer Brigade Commander informed LTC Ellis to be prepared to move immediately to support the ongoing attack. They were to move to Objective Purple near the town of Al Bussayyah at first light on G+4, the next day.

As the Battalion prepared to move out at first light, LTC Ellis heard over the radio that President George Bush had just announced that all offensive actions in Iraq would stop within two hours. LTC Ellis called the Brigade Commander, COL Robert Flowers, who then instructed the Battalion to stand fast. After standing fast for two hours, the Brigade Commander directed the Battalion move to down MSR Virginia to Objective Purple. MSR Virginia near Al Bussayyah was littered with unexploded American ordnance left behind from the air campaign. Because of the amounts of ordnance littering the desert, the 37th Engineer Battalion, who was leading a 20-mile long convoy of American combat support units, was clearing and grading a route around much of the ordnance. This slowed traffic to a near standstill while they completed the bypass route. As the battalion began to move, the Brigade Commander ordered the 20th to clear Objective Purple of unexploded ordnance, destroy bunkers and ammunition, and to clear and destroy the weapons and munitions in the town of Al Bussayyah. The Battalion also had to clear MSR Virginia and 100 meters on each side of the road for safe trafficability. After LTC Ellis conducted a reconnaissance of Al Bussayyah with the Brigade Commander, he asked to be absolved from the mission of clearing the town. He contended that the town was too large and the mission too dangerous for his soldiers. The Brigade Commander agreed and the Battalion continued the mission of destroying weapons, munitions, and bunkers.

Little did LTC Ellis know at the time, but three other engineer units in the area had been given the same mission of clearing Al Bussayyah and the neighboring area. The 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division; 588th Engineer Battalion; and an Explosives Ordnance Disposal unit were all around Al Busayyah clearing the area of unexploded ordnance and destroying equipment. LTC Ellis took control of the situation, contacted the 326th Engineer Battalion commander, and diffused the situation before any soldiers were injured. With the situation under control, the Battalion moved into Al Busayyah and destroyed 750 AK-47 assault rifles, subcaliber ammunition, and an NBC vehicle closely resembling the American Fox vehicle. The 20th, along with the 326th and the 588th Engineers, also concentrated on the areas surrounding the town destroying six tanks, six anti-aircraft guns, and tons of munitions. The Battalion cleared the MSR of over 60 cluster munitions.

The next morning the Battalion resumed work on MSR Virginia with only Company D remaining in Al Busayyah to clear remaining enemy equipment. While Company D cleared the town, a soldier from another unit picked up a cluster bomb and threw it. The resulting explosion put shrapnel in his arm, chest, and leg, but the soldier lived. The doctor assigned to the 20th Engineers treated the soldier and evacuated him. The next morning the Battalion was ordered to be prepared to move at first light back toward Log Base Romeo.

Once at Log Base Romeo, the Battalion again began providing general engineer support. Though desperately short of surface material, the Battalion continued to maintain approximately 60 miles of MSR Virginia around Romeo. LTC Ellis was told that the Battalion would remain at Romeo for approximately seven days, but two days later they were ordered to move back to Tactical Assembly Area Elm from which the Battalion had launched the ground campaign.

At TAA Elm, the 20th Engineer Battalion began a stand down consisting of intensive maintenance, turning in ammunition and supplies, and cleaning and accounting for all property. Equipment was cleaned, inventoried, and loaded into conexes and milvans. Physical fitness was also stressed during the stand down and the 20th Engineer Brigade encouraged this with the Best Company competition in which D Company won the award as the Best Combat Engineer Line Company in the Brigade. On 22 March 1991, the main body convoyed back to MABCO in Second Industrial City. On 6 April, the Battalion moved back to Khobar Towers, the final redeployment staging area. By 12 April 1991, the main body of the Battalion arrived at Campbell Army Airfield to be welcomed by the families and the 101st Airborne Division Band. On 25 April, all elements of the 20th Engineer Battalion had returned to Fort Campbell after the single most successful military campaign in American history.

CHAPTER

FORT HOOD, TEXAS

At Fort Campbell, the 20th Engineer Battalion consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, four line companies, and an attached Medium Girder Bridge Company. The Headquarters and Headquarters Company had nine sections: administration (S-1), intelligence (S-2), operations (S-3), supply (S-4), maintenance, communications, medical, heavy equipment, and combat construction. Each of the four line companies had three combat engineer platoons, one headquarters section, and one mobility/countermobility platoon.

In 1992, the battalion was ordered to move from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Fort Hood, Texas to become a part of the 1st Cavalry Division. As a part of the Engineer Restructure Initiative, mechanized divisions, which had previously had only one engineer battalion, were reorganized with three engineer battalions and an engineer brigade headquarters. The 20th Engineer Battalion, while at Campbell a Corps Wheeled Engineer Battalion assigned to Forces Command, was reorganized as a mechanized engineer battalion at Fort Hood. The change was significant. The Battalion at Fort Campbell was authorized 809 soldiers. Under the ERI system, the Battalion was authorized 444 soldiers.

Upon completion of ERI, the 20th Engineer Battalion consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, three line companies, and a support platoon. The Headquarters and Headquarters Company had seven sections: administration (S-1), intelligence (S-2), operations (S-3), supply (S-4), maintenance, communications, and medical. Each of the three line companies consisted of two combat engineer platoons, one headquarters section, and an assault and obstacle platoon.

OPERATION JOINT FORGE

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