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Question
Dear Mr. Collette,
I am helping a friend with genealogical research on his uncle's service in WWII. We just received a copy of his discharge papers. It lists his battles and campaigns as: Normandy, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He was in the 342nd Engineers but on his discharge papers it lists his organization as 6960th Reinforcement Infantry.
His decorations and citations are listed as : European African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with five (5) Bronze Stars, American Theatre Ribbon, World War II Victory Ribbon.
We are not sure what all this means and would appreciate any clarification you can offer. We also are wondering if any of this info could tell us what General he may have served under. Thank you for any help you may give us.

Answer
Hi Dorothy

Thanks for the question.

First, the Bronze Star Accoutrements represent the campaigns he participated in. He participated in the Normandy, S. France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe campaigns which were fought in the European African Middle Eastern (EAME) Theatre. Therefore  he received the 5 Bronze Star Accoutrements, which are worn on the EAME ribbon. According to the website listed below 5 bronze stars should be replace by 1 silver star.

http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/UniformedServices/Accoutrements.aspx

Some information on his medals:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European-African-Middle_Eastern_Campaign_Medal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Campaign_Medal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_Victory_Medal_%28United_States%29

The 342nd Engineer General Service Regiment appears to have been attached to VII Corps (Major Gen Joseph Lawton Collins) which was part of the US 1st Army (Lt. Gen Courtney H. Hodges). It was the only reference I could find of the unit. Regrettably, there is very little about support units (engineers, logistics etc). Having been a combat engineer, I find this particularly galling. But people seem to want to read about combat units (infantry, armor, artillery) instead of support services, without which there would be no battle at all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Bulge_order_of_battle#12th_Army_Group

The 6960th Reinforcement Infantry was a unit that service personnel would have been assigned to for retraining as infantry. As the war in Europe progressed there was a severe shortage of infantry replacements. Many units, including engineering, anti-aircraft and Air Corps trainees were either disbanded or transferred en mass for retraining as infantry. I could find no information on this unit.

The only other thing I can offer is a poem about the Engineers:

A Salute To The Engineers

Now the Lord of the Realm has glorified the Charge of the Light Brigade,
And the thin red line of the infantry, when will their glory fade?
There are robust rhymes on the British Tar and classics on Musketeers,
But I shall sing, till your ears ring, of the Muddy Old Engineers.

Now it's all very fair to fly through the air, or humour a heavy gun,
Or ride in tanks through the broken ranks of the crushed and shattered Hun,
And its nice to think when the U-Boats sink of the glory that outlives the years,
But whoever heard a haunting word for the Muddy Old Engineers?

Now you mustnít feel, when you read this spiel, that the sapper is a jealous man,
That he joined the ranks for a vote of thanks in search of a hero's grave.
No your mechanised cavalry's quite alright and your Tommy has damned few peers
But where in hell would the lot of them be, if it werenít for the Engineers.

Oh they look like tramps but they build your camps and sometimes lead the advance.
And they sweat red blood to bridge the flood to give you a fighting chance.
Who stays behind when it's getting hot, to blow up the roads in the rear?
Just tell your wife she owes your life to some Muddy Old Engineers.
Some dusty, crusty, croaking, joking Muddy Old Engineers.

No fancy crest is pinned to their chest, if you read what their cap badge say's
Why 'Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense' is a queersome sort of phrase,
But their modest claim to immortal fame has probably reached your ears,
The first to arrive, the last to leave, the Muddy Old Engineers,
The sweating, go getting, uproarious, glorious Muddy Old Engineers.

Attributed to Cpl Radley, 18 Field Company RCE (Royal Canadian Engineers)

I hope this helps in some small way. It is gratifying to see people interested in their family history. I think it's important.

Kind regards

Trevor

Military History

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Trevor Collette

Expertise

I can answer most specific questions regarding the war on the Eastern Front 1941-45 and general questions on WWII regarding the European Theatre of Operations. I can answer most questions on weapons and vehicles used in those areas of operation, Russian, German, Allied. I can also answer questions on contemporary weapon systems (land/sea/air), nuclear weapons and nuclear war fighting, biological and chemical warfare. I also have an interest in epidemiology and disease in history and Russian history during Stalin, specifically the GuLags. I cannot answer any more questions relating to discharge papers or other paperwork, obtaining military records, ranks and their comparisons, military duties etc. as there are outside my expertise.

Experience

3 years Lance Corporal in infantry regiment and 3 years Sapper (Combat Engineer)in Engineer Regiment, both Canadian Army Reserve. Extensive military history library, up until recently I was reading 3-5 books per month on military affairs, then ran out of shelf space, much to my wife's delight.

Education/Credentials
Business Administration, Human Resources Management

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