Military History/WWII Armored Infantry in ETO
QUESTION: Hiya Col. Lynn,
Rich Mintz here in CA, referred by my buddy James Davis, who's corresponded with you often. As our dads served together in the 65th AIBn of the 20th Armored Division, we've been doing dual research to learn all we can of our pops' experience in the war. A few questions, if I may.
We're wondering how the mobilized Armored Infantry went into battle. On 30 Apr '45 our dads were involved in a massive firefight at the SS Barracks & Anti-armor Training School in Neuherberg, Germany, serving the primary defense for the city of Munich. It easily encompassed all 3 arms of the Armored Division mission: Armored Field Artillery (AFA; M3 Priests), Armored Tank Battalions (Shermans), and Armored Infantry (our dads in M3 Halftracks). (2 photos attached.)
What would've been the typical protocol for Armored Infantry, whether traveling through an enemy town, or in this case, assaulting a major fortification? Appears in many cases the halftracks pulled to within a certain distance and then dismounted Infantry followed on or near tanks, for mutual support. We've found it curious that a bunch'a HT's would just be parked in a field or roadside somewhere, presumably vulnerable to capture, sabotage, or etc. Were they perhaps left in the protective care of S&R personnel??
Second. Our dads were in the Light Mortar (and, we think) MG Squads of their respective platoons. In assaulting the gargantuan SS bldg., would these specialized squads have performed their primary functions ALSO dismounted (like the std. Rifle Squads), or perhaps from their halftracks, themselves? (Or might it vary?)
Separately: We recently discovered & have been raiding the Natl Archives for Company-level Morning Reports. There are a couple of abbreviations we're unclear of (often in reference to hospital xfers, it seems): RACE, and ETOUSA. I wonder if the latter refers to the proverbial "Million Dollar Wound," wherein a GI was sent home from the ETO? Or is it perhaps reference to authority by a certain Command?
Re the latter, another example (a bit obscured on the archived microfilm) appears to be: "Auth: par 2 SO(or SQ??) (IG?? or I9? or F9??) HQ 65th AIBn". We get it's on the auth of Btn HQ, but are you able to help clarify the rest???
Also. Appears from the Morning Reports that following a brutal urban ambush with losses to all Task Force units (Lohhof and Haimhaussen, Germany, on 29 April), a S/SGT Squad Ldr. (quite possibly my dad's!) was demoted all the way to – not even Pfc, but Pvt!! We're wondering.... what would one – who was SWA, besides -- have (or, not?) to do for such severe reprimand, and stripping of all possible command? Somehow he must've COMPLETELY derogated his duties... perhaps got others WIA or KIA? Deserted?? Only further mention is subsequent transfer to the Evacuation hospital. (The 'irony,' if you will, is that soon thereafter, my dad was promoted conversely, from Pfc to S/SGT (and presumably, to a Squad Ldr. role.). Thus, the hidden inference is he may've been singled out to replace his own commander.) I suppose a followup question is, is there somewhere in the records I might seek further background details re these 2 specific rank changes?
Next. For further pilfering of the Natl Archives, do you think there'd be Command-level records for inter-Btn. “Task Forces”?? As it drove / attacked through the Southern Germany campaign, the 20th Armored Division split into 4 Task Forces, including our dads' TF20. Do you think records would simply have been incorporated into Battalion (and/or Division?)-level records at the Natl. Archives?
Lastly. You referenced to James the other day servicemens' Record Books, detailing their entire service records. Would this have come home with veterans at war's end, or kept in Gov't. archives? If the latter, might we find them somewhere? Part of one's OMPF, perhaps? As you likely know, sadly, most of those were lost to a 1973 fire at the National Archives.
Many thanks(!) for helping us to sift through clues to try to better understand our dads' roles and experiences as part of America's Greatest Generation.
Feel free to check out (and join, if you wish!) our public Facebook Group, at: www.facebook.com/groups/20thArmoredDivisionInWorldWarII/
Sincere best regards,
ANSWER: Dear Rich,
I apologize for not getting back to you sooner but I have been out of the U.S. on active duty. Here are the answers to these questions:
*While advancing, the personnel would ride in the halftracks to quickly deploy if enemy contact was made. Upon contact or having to assault an entrenched or fortification, the halftracks and tanks would immediately position themselves in support of the armored infantry assault. The vehicles would stay far enough away from the assault while still delivering direct support with their guns and mortars. The ammunition for both were kept in the tanks while the mortar and machinegun were kept in the halftracks for quick delivery. If there was a withdraw order given, the armored infantry could quickly re-deploy to the halftracks and withdraw while the tanks provided covering fire.
*The specialized squads would either have dismounted or stayed near the vehicles providing support. RACE refers to White or Black while ETOUSA means European Theater of Operations-USA. I'm unable to make out or clarify Battalion HQ authority without looking at the actual documents. The rank changes should be in the Morning Reports.
*Task forces were temporary collections of units put together under one command for a specific assignment. They varied considerably in size and configuration. A group of companies could just as easily be called a "task force" as a division-sized collection of men. Traditionally, a task force was named after the man commanding it. Most task forces were ad hoc formations in effect for a short period of time. No records were kept on various components of each task force.
*All U.S. military personnel record books would be sent to St. Louis, Missouri.
May God Bless-Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Col. Lynn, how are you?
Thanks much for your previous answers, much appreciated!
A followup question if I may. In the case of my father's promotion (detailed previously), is it likely he wouldn't been promoted (as I envision) & put in charge of his existing Squad, having previously been "one 'a the boys," or more likely put in charge of a different squad, perhaps even reorganized and populated in part by newly acquired replacement personnel, following heavy combat losses in an enemy ambush of 29 April, 1945?
Many thanks again!!
I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. The answers to your questions are listed below:
*Your father would have been put in charge of the existing squad that he was a member of due to the war's ending within a matter of days. The Allied advance was moving very quickly.
*His squad would receive replacements from the Repo Depot or Replacement Depot to bring it up to its authorized strength.
May God Bless-Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard