Duration of time spent outside United States
The 94th had been activated at Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan, on September 15, 1942, as part of the massive expansion of the United States armed forces to meet the requirements of World War II
Because Fort Custer proved inadequate for its requirements, in November 1942 the 94th Infantry Division moved to Camp Phillips, Kansas, where training was conducted in extreme climatic conditions of snow, mud, and dust storms throughout the ensuing winter, spring, and summer of 1943.
Then, at the end of August 1943, the division moved again to the Army Maneuver Area in central Tennessee, where it was immediately drained of ¤fteen hundred personnel who were urgently required as overseas replacements.2
The 94th Infantry Division was eventually alerted for overseas service on May 26, 1944, by which time the standards of training achieved were such that despite the constant upheaval of personnel and equipment changes, the following day several of its units were awarded Expert Infantry Company streamers, and the following month the 376th Infantry Regiment quali¤ed as the ¤rst Expert Infantry Regiment in the U.S. Army, with the 94th In-fantry Division qualifying as the ¤rst Expert Infantry Division. Sadly, these standards were later allowed to slip, and every soldier who survived training camp was given the quali¤cation badge.
The eight day train ride was cramped as well as uncomfortable, none of the passenger cars had air conditioning back then. The Trip made in the middle of summer was unbearable. They arrived in New Jersey on August 1, 1944.
After a few days of sight seeing in New York City the Division was restricted to the base and began to prepare to board ship for the journey to England. The Division loaded on the Liner Queen Elizabeth for the crossing. Although this was a Luxury Liner it hardly looked it.
The QE was completed in 1940 after the war had started, so she never carried one passenger in peace time. She was immediately converted to a troop transport for the war effort. Completely fitted out with anti aircraft guns and the dark gray paint typical of Navy Ships. Each of the staterooms which normally would hold two people in twin beds now packed 15 soldiers to a room. The QE could carry 18,000 troops in one crossing. The division HQ set up it’s headquarters in the once prestigious Dining room the ship itself was divided into three parts Red, white, and blue sections each section had an orderly room and that is where the regimental HQ’s were set up. The QE left New York harbor at 0730 on August 6, 1944. (Exact match to Grandpop Thiels Service Record)
Training at Camp McCain ended In July 1944. They earned the Expert Infantry Badge, a $5.00 pay raise for making so many 25-mile marches and qualifying with different weapons. All this would soon be put to use in Europe. They thought. They packed up and traveled by train to Camp Shanks New York. Eddie got a pass to New York City to say good bye to his folks.
From Camp Shanks the 94th traveled by train down alongside the West bank of the Hudson River to New York City where they boarded the liner Queen Elizabeth I, without setting foot on shore. The Red Cross was there to give each soldier a small bag with a bar of soap, a toothbrush, and a new razor. Army soap was brown soap. Also in the bag was a paperback Perry Mason Mystery, however, there was no book trading because all 15,000 men on board got the same paperback.
Keeping the thousands on the ship organized, with a minimum of confusion, colored tags were attached to shirt buttons identifying each soldier's place of sleeping, eating, and drinking water.
Twice a day meals were set up on trestle tables in a makeshift mess hall at the bottom of the ship's swimming pool. The British were not like their French cousins in providing a menu with a variety of foods. Breakfast was an unknown boiled fish and supper the same with a small boiled potato. Toast and marmalade were served with both meals. Being on a ship did not get them out of guard duty, they had to guard the fresh water points to see that no one filled their canteen except during authorized water times.
Active German U-Boats made crossing the Atlantic dangerous. To help guarantee a safe passage, ships were blacked out at night, open portholes were closed, and there was no smoking on deck after dark. Turning off lights, opening portholes and catching outside air with a cardboard scoop stuck in the porthole reduced cabin heat.
After a five day crossing, the Queen Elizabeth docked in Firth of Clyde, in Scotland.
On the Morning of August 12th the troops of the 94th infantry division officially landed in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). The men began debarking the great liner and went straight ashore to the trains awaiting them at Greenock. From Greenock the GI’s of the 94th traveled South. The men were not looking forward to another train ride, only this time the weather had cooled considerably due to the northern latitude and the ride was much more pleasant. With the debarkation completed the division moved to temporary location at Wiltshire County. The division Headquarters was established at Greenway Manor House at Chippenham the 301st was billeted in Trowbridge. Uncle Freddie's C company arrived in Erlestoke located in Southern England just north of the port of Southampton. The rest of the regiment and division were camped in small towns in an area that formed an irregular shaped triangle. While there at Erlestoke the company conducted more training and attended lectures from British veterans on many subjects including
German battle tactics and how to escape if captured. This went on for several weeks while the 94th awaited assignment. While awaiting assignment the men did manage to do some sightseeing and visit some areas of southern England. On August 30th the division was placed on alert from HQ U.S. Ninth Army. On September 3rd the 94th received its orders and left Southern England. The 301st regiment, including Uncle Freddie's C Company loaded into two merchant ships the Crossbow and Neutralia. They departed on September 5th and sailed towards Normandy.
Travel to southern England was by train. At their new base the army issued new equipment and a M 1 carbine. Training included firing several German weapons, and lectures on what to do if captured. The instructor told that their training in the States was not valid in real warfare. For recreation and a change of diet, Eddie and John went a local restaurant where they wanted to try a real English crumpet, but instead were served apple pie. Maybe the English thought the G.I.'s would like the American apple pie more than a crumpet.
The 94th Division departed England on September 8, 1944, 94 days after the D- Day invasion. The Division landed at a temporary seaport used for the D Day landings off the Utah beach. From there they boarded small landing craft and went ashore twelve miles from the intended landing zone so they had to hike back the 12 miles. Each soldier carried 165 pounds of equipment, ammunition, and supplies on their backs and enough stuff for another soldier.
The division landed across Utah Beach, France, on September 8, 1944, 94 days after the "D" day invasion. The sights that awaited them were truly amazing. The Invasion although three months past was evident everywhere, portions of ships bows, funnels and masts protruding from the water. Smashed landing craft and obstacles strewn about the beach in piles. The beach itself was still menacing with it's pillboxes and gun emplacements scattered among the dunes. The beaches were a buzz of activity; stockpiles of supplies, soldiers were everywhere, signposts pointing this way and that way, total confusion to a newcomer. Uncle Freddie along with the rest of C Company followed the columns of men through the maze of material and sand. Past the now marked off mine fields and inland to the assembly area. They spent their first night along Utah Beach, September 8, 1944 with the rest of the Battalion one half mile south of Saint Marie-du-Mont. The next day Freddie along with the rest of his company loaded into trucks and were headed south. The 94th's mission was to relieve the 6th Armored Division at Lorient and St. Nazaire, where German garrisons were besieged. These two cities were the home of the infamous U-boat pens. Earlier in the war, German U-Boats would sail out from them to attack British and American convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic. Now all that remained was the isolated sailors and troops in and around the besieged cities
After breaking out of the Normandy beach head in June 1944, Brittany was targeted because of its naval bases at Lorient, St. Nazaire and Brest. U-boats and surface raiders had used these bases, despite a bombing campaign by the RAF, and the Germans had launched 'Operation Cerberus' from Brest in 1942. So their capture would have ended any concerns that the Allies might have had about their potential further use. They would also prove very useful to the Allies as they needed as many ports as they could to land the vast amount of supplies their men needed.
The 6th Armored Division was relieved by the 94th at Lorient and St. Nazaire in Brittany where they contained the Germans from 10 September 1944 to 10 December 1944. For the first 106 days of combat, the 94th was involved in a holding action around St Nazaire and Lorient called "the forgotten front." There were submarine bases in the pocket with more than 25,000 or more German troops and Kriegsmarine (Naval Troops) - bypassed by the allied armies as they swept through France in their race toward Germany. The pocket - though cut off - was nonetheless dangerous. The actions of that 106-day period consisted of reconnaissance and combat patrols rather than large-scale assaults. Most of the combat occurred in an area around the Brest-Nantes Canal West of Blain and Bouvron called the "Spider" - formed by ten roads that radiated out from a hub.
The next several months the 94th would continue its containment action against the Germans in the Lorient-St Nazaire pockets. General Maloney mindful of his duties and frustrated at his orders not to engage the enemy in an offensive action decide on another course of action. He decide to commit the division piecemeal by indoctrinating them through patrolling. By sending out small patrols to encounter the enemy the 94th would receive the combat training it needed for future offensive operations.
Several of the patrols came under intense enemy fire and the GI’s of the 94th were learning their trade first hand. One such patrol occurred on October 2nd. K Company 301st ran into an enemy ambush and the entire patrol was wounded, killed or captured. Other patrols were more fortunate as some of the greatest acts of bravery were recorded in the 94th’s entire history of the war.
On October 3, 1944 2nd battalion 301st a routine patrol penetrated the line approximately one mile. The patrol was brought under heavy machine gun fire from an enemy strongpoint. PFC Herbert Austin disregarding his own safety charged at the machine gun nest over open ground. Upon reaching the site he fired his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) several times killing all five Germans at the nest. His fearless action allowed the patrol to continue its assigned mission. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Through out the rest of October and November numerous patrols took place as the GI’s from the 94th continued their mission of keeping the Germans penned in.
The 94th continued its monotonous routine of patrols and artillery barrages of the enemy’s lines of defense. General Maloney realizing that the combat effectiveness and the morale of his men were slipping away by remaining on a static front repeatedly requested to transfer his division or permission to launch small scale attacks on the enemy’s vulnerable positions. His requests were repeatedly denied, and he was ordered to continue his mission of holding the enemy in its position. On December 7-8 General Maloney was given permission to attempt and isolated the two pockets even further by splitting them apart. A force consisting of the 3rd battalion 301st, the regimental anti-tank company and a company of the 319th engineers was assigned the task of clearing the Germans from the Quiberon Peninsula. Field artillery support was provided by the 390th After an artillery barrage that lasted for ten minutes the attack began at 0833. The engineers worked all night to clear the mines from the area. Using flamethrowers and antitank gunfire two companies managed to reduce the strongpoint of nine pillboxes and capture over 50 prisoners. The Americans losses were two dead and four wounded.
This would be the only coordinated action the 94th would have in Brittany. On December 16th the Germans started their Ardennes offensive and things would change for the 94th.
When the Battle of the Bulge started, the 94th was the only division in Europe that was near full strength, and had some combat experience, so they were pulled out of the line. A laundry truck came by and washed their uniforms. (That Sunday they went to church services in long underwear and helmets, even the Chaplain.) And then they were loaded on trains and sent to the Bulge.
The 94th got to the Saar- Moselle -Triangle under an ever-increasing blanket of snow. Only the roar of XX Corps and the 82nd German Corps Artillery that bellowed empty threats at each other across the Saar River broke winter silence.
Major General Harry J. Malony, commanding the 94th Infantry Division replaced Major General James A. Van Fleet and his 90th Infantry Division On 7 January. The section was known by various names, Saar-Moselle-Triangle or the Siegfried-Switch Position or Line or the Southern end of the "Bulge". While they moved to the frontlines they existed on "D", rations, a high calorie, high energy chocolate bar that tasted terrible and gave them diarrhea. The Saar-Moselle-Triangle was formed by the confluence of the Moselle and Saar Rivers with the ancient city of Trier at its apex. The double line of a riverfront and the village of Orsholz made an ideal anchor for the Siegfried-Switch line. Capturing Orsholz would unhinge the enemy's left flank anchored on the Saar River. Orsholz was situated on a hill some four hundred feet high and was surrounded by massive pillboxes set in an arc roughly a quarter of a mile in front of the town. Terrain was wild, broken and heavily wooded. The first attack on the German Siegfried-Switch Line was at the heavily defended village of Orsholz that ended in debacle for the Americans.
Ten miles below Orsholz, the 94th's, 301st and 376th regiments were dug in over a ten-mile stretch across the base of the triangle that faced the Siegfried line.
Facing the 94th was the veteran German 11th Panzer Division nicknamed the Ghost (Gespenster) Division for its celebrated ability to appear and disappear without warning. It had been active on the Russian front in 1943. Under the command of General Major Wend von Wieteraniem, age 45, the Division had distinguished itself in Russia, in heavy fighting. In the spring of 1944, the remnants of the Division left Russia and moved to southern France to refit and form a part of the Nineteenth German army. The 11th Panzer Division was moving from a rest area in the vicinity of Bitburg in der Eifel, when it was ordered into the Saar-Moselle-Triangle with orders to reestablish the position of the German 416th Division immediately.
On Christmas Eve, 1944, the S.S. Leopoldville made her final crossing of the English Channel. This Belgian passenger liner converted to troopship was carrying 2235 men of the 66th Infantry Division from Southampton to Cherbourg, reinforcements for the Battle of the Bulge. Five and a half miles from shore, the Leopoldville was struck by a torpedo fired by U-486, a Type VIIC U-boat commanded by Oblt. Gerhard Meyer. Several hundred of the troops were killed in the initial blast. Although the ship sank slowly, a combination of errors, delays, oversights and communication problems eventually resulted in the death of several hundred more infantrymen.
By New Years Day, the 94th moved out and began its trek to take over positions in the Saar Valley, then held by the 90th Division. Transportation to the Saar Valley was by railroad boxcars called 40 and 8's (40 men or 8 horses). The army's idea of taking good care of the troops was by feeding them suppers of "C" and "K" rations. Their boxcar got a case of lunches of eggs and bacon and that is all they had to eat for all the men. Because of only eating eggs and bacon many of the men had diarrhea. The only latrine they had was the open boxcar door. Later, staying in a stationary position for a while gave them a chance to eat three regular meals. The K rations had a cat food sized can of egg and bacon for breakfast. Sometimes breakfast was powdered eggs, canned bacon and toast. Powdered eggs and powdered milk were sometimes doctored by the cook with vanilla or pineapple extract. The flavoring made the powdered milk drinkable. Three little hard tack crackers, an envelope of coffee mix. Each meal included a few Walnetto candies, packets of sugar, and three cigarettes. Lunch was honey and peanut butter sandwiches, cheese, and lemonade that would not dissolve. Supper was Spanish rice and mystery meat stew. The C rations were about the same, but had a soup can sized main dish of stew or dog food or something similar; a second soup can with about the same stuff, and cocoa. One meal had a bundle of olive drab toilet paper and a book of matches. When bivouacked at a location, slit trenches were dug for latrines. (In the states in training we had a canvas "fly" that provided some privacy, but not over seas). The closest thing to a bathroom was the slit trench with a nearby roll of paper on a stick.
Without proper winter clothing and boots many men would freeze in coming January and February. The lightweight Olive Drab (OD) field jacket was more windbreaker than winter jacket. A regular OD long sleeved shirt, and pants, and another OD shirt and pants under that. Underwear was long Johns, cotton undershirts and shorts. Combat boots were made of "inside out" leather, rubber soles, and cuffs with two buckles on top of the shoe to replace the old style leggings. They did not have combat winter clothing or boots. There was a mystery as to why fighting in freezing weather they never got winter clothing. Was the winter clothing somewhere in the transportation pipeline? Eddie 's answer was the rear echelon had the stuff. General Patton said his troops had winter gear but for sure they knew the Germans had their winter overcoats and "jackboots". The "jack boots" had insides of valuable rabbit fur insoles that prevented frostbite. The G. I' s learned to "liberate" the jackboots from German soldiers who no longer needed them. Sadly, this foot saving liberation was not learned till after the Saar River crossings.
The 66th relieved the 94th on New Years Day 1945. Following their relief the division assembled in Chateaubriant and Plouay. On January 2nd the division boarded trucks and proceeded to Rennes. On January 5th, after a three day encampment the men shuffled into boxcars. “40’s and 8’s” as it was marked on them.
The trains were designed to carry 40 men or 8 horses. However, each cramped boxcar only held 27 men with packs and weapons. For three freezing days the train alternately sped then crawled toward its final destination Reims, France near the Luxembourg and German Border. The division was allowed three days to travel by motor to Reims.
As the 94th moved east the names on the signposts became too familiar: The Marne, Chateau-Thierry, Meaux, Dormans, Epernay, and Soissons, cities and towns famous from the First World War. Once at Reims the divisions continued its journey past Verdun until it reached the final destination of Sierck on the French border. After relieving the troopers of the 3rd Calvary the 94th settled in to their defensive position south of the "Siegfried Switch".
Between January 7 and 10, 1945, the 94th Infantry Division moved out of France into the southwest corner of Germany and deployed in the forward line of the XX Corps of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army. The sector assigned to it was the base of the Saar-Moselle Triangle on the left ®ank of Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker’s XX Corps, whose front extended eastward beyond Saarlautern.
On April 20, 1945 the Division was alerted for movement across the Rhine to assume new occupation duties in the city of Dusseldorf. The 250th Field Artillery regiment relieved the 94th at Krefeld and the division moved once more. Dusseldorf was in the heart of the German Industrial Rhur valley. The division set up its headquarters in the main offices of the Krupp Steel Works. After the division settled in the largest concern was the tens of thousands of DP's in the area. A special staff section was set up to handle the difficult task of taking care of these people. While this was happening the rest of the 94th set about it's military governing duties. Motorized and foot patrols were established. Houses and buildings were searched for contraband and weapons. The 319th engineers went about their business of building two pontoon bridges across the Rhine into Duisberg. Another Bailey bridge named after war correspondent Ernie Pyle was constructed.Ernie Pyle bridge at Dusseldorf, Germany Thousands of German civilians were allowed to moved west back across the river after careful screening for Nazis. Troops not actively involved in the military duties were given training in foreign languages, exercise, first aid and drills in order to better prepare them for the occupation of Germany. On April 30th a Mass grave of political prisoners was discovered and were dug up and identified by the local population. Also on April 30th news of the death of Adolf Hitler was reported, and later confirmed. Finally on May 8, 1945 Germany surrendered to the Allies in Rhiems, France, the war was officially over. The 94th continued its occupation duties until the beginning of June when they received word to move to a new assignment in Czechoslovakia.
By mid-April, the division relieved the 101st Airborne Division and assumed military government duties, first in the Krefeld vicinity and later around Düsseldorf. It was in that status when hostilities were declared at an end on 7 May 1945. From mid-June until the end of November, the division served the military government in Czechoslovakia.
The 94th Infantry Division was inactivated on 9 February 1946.