History of the 406th
Back in 2011, General George Reb, who had served as commander of the 406th Combat Engineers during World War II, gave me two documents that together comprised a history of the 406th. I believe he gave them to me as PDF files, or else I scanned them and returned the originals – I can’t remember. The first half looks as if it is something that has been transcribed into a computer file. The second one is a simple scan of typewritten pages.
General Rebh did not recall who had written the document. I noticed the name “Campbell” affixed to the top of some pages, and disovered that there was a Rolf Campbell who served in the 406th. In 2013, General Rebh confirmed that Campbell was in charge of writing the 406th history. “But he incorporated input from other members of the company,” wrote General Rebh in an email.
In 2015 I reached out to Rolf Campbell’s daughter, Dr. Rita Blanchard. She was not aware of the 406th History, but mentioned that her father had written typed up and sent her several children’s stories during his time in the service. “The Bear Family Visit the City " and "Dr. Pillycan-the-Pelican". There was also "Wiggle Worm and Fuzzy Caterpillar" – so she was not completely surprised by the idea of his being the author of this.
The original history is without photos. We have added some photos of the 406th to help tell the story.
-Rick Beyer, November, 2023read more
Social life in Tullahoma followed the pattern of most southern soldier towns. The USO’s attracted a few. Many had their wives in town for their last taste of stateside marital bliss. The majority either wolfed around town or enjoyed the camp’s varied facilities for relaxation.read more
“Elephant” was the code name given to the battle bound group which consisted of Lt. Aliopoulos and his third platoon containing 48 enlisted men headed by S/Sgt. Wendle Tuttle, 14 officers, 1 W.0., and. 18 EMs came from 23d Hq.; the 603rd Eng. furnished 19 officers and 176 EMs while Signal Co. Sp. supplied 5 officers and 77 EMs. The medics sent along 1 officer and 7EMs. All the vehicles of the group had little white elephants stenciled on the bumpers.read more
Unofficial poop had the company heading for a marshalling area or a port of embarkation. One hundred seventeen train miles put the train in Blandford and it was “ALL OUT!” Q. M. trucks taxied the march part to Cherborough Park or as the vernacular had it, “the Admiral’s Estate.”read more
The chow hounds remember the camp for the excellent food and for the medical captain who instructed Lt. Kelker about personalized washing of mess gears and the whereabouts of the end of the chow line. Mess attendants remarked that the company was the happiest bunch that had ever come through their chow line.read more
The training schedule started at Mandeville was continued at La Fremonde. One of the main points of interest in the morning hikes was a field filled with abandoned enemy equipment. Here, the souvenir hunters loaded themselves with loot which in most cases was junked after a month or so of lugging it in the old duffle bag.read more
The objective of “Operation Brittany” was to stop withdrawal of German units in the Normandy pocket by creating an impression that the U. S. Army was weakening its forces in front of the main battle positions and turning to clear the Brittany peninsula prior to a major push in Normandy.read more
The general plan for T. F. “Z” was to simulate the 69th Tank Battalion of the 6th Armored Division. To do this, Co. “A” 709th Tk. Bn. Was to be expanded by the use of three rubber dummy tank companies plus radio, sonic and special effects. The simulated Bn. would supposedly be in support of the 29th Infantry Regiment.read more
On the 14th of September at 0900 news came to 23rd Hq. that an operation was being planned. From 12th Army Group at Versailles, it was learned that XX Corps, consisting of the 5th Infantry, 90th Infantry, and 7th Armored Divisions, operating in the vicinity of Metz, desired phantom armor. The outfit was alerted at 1210 while Colonel Reeder traveled 175 miles to the XX Corps C. P. Here it was learned that a simulated force of the 6th Armored Division Hq, CCA and CCR, was to be simulated at once, south of the city of Luxembourg.read more
The 5th Armored Division was the unit that was going to be represented. They had been located on the relatively inactive V Corps front, and were moving to the north to participate in an attack in that area. V Corps was being relieved in their sector by VIII Corps. The purpose of 23rd’s operation was to cover the 5th Armored’s move and fool the enemy into thinking that it was still in the same general position.read more
The 90th division was preparing a crossing of the Moselle River in strength, to the north of the area in which the 95th Infantry division was located. Included in the 95th Division’s plan (operation Casanova) for crossing the Moselle in their sector, was a cover scheme for the 90th.read more
With a heavy German concentration to the north of the VIII Corps front imminent, it was desired to draw additional German units to this sector, and prevent further withdrawal of enemy units until December 30. This was to be accomplished by indicating preparations for an attack toward Coblenz. The majority of the deceptive indications were to be transmitted to the enemy by actual units, the remainder by 23rd Hq Sp Trs.read more
General Patton’s 80th Infantry Division and 4th Armored Division were committed to action in a counter attack against the south flank of the St. Vith-Bastogne salient. Operation Kodak sought to confuse the German radio intelligence as to the real location of these divisions by creating radio deception in an area southeast of their actual sectors.read more
The mission this time was to simulate, the first night, three tank battalions moving into two different locations on the Moselle River. The second night the job was to portray the three battalions making adjustments and establishing outposts in the same location. The objective this time was to threaten the front, Grevenmacher to Saarlautern.read more
XX Corps was preparing an attack to pocket the German forces in the area bounded by the Saar, Moselle, and Rhine rivers, the main effort to be between Trier and Saarburg. Staff officers of 23rd Hq were consulted for advice on deceptive measures to conceal the location of this drive.read more
Thus it came as somewhat of a shock to hear that Col. Reeder had volunteered the services of his command to Gen. Patton in whatever way he saw fit. What did Patton want the 406 Engr C Co to do for him? All he wanted from the 406th (and 603rd as well) was to have them feed and care for some Russian and Polish Displaced Persons (hereinafter known as DP’s) who were causing quite a problem for the military government.read more
The company reopened its books on August 9th as the men began to trick in from their separation centers. It took several days before things began to get back to what could be considered the norm, but it was obvious from the start that the unit was going to enjoy its best “deal” since its inception.read more