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THE 369th Engineer Regiment (SS)
A personal commentary by the writer
On the 20th day of December 1942, one of the few special services regiments authorized by the war department was activated at the Engineer Unit Training Center, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. It was a new regiment with no prior history to distinguish it from other organizations that were being formed at that time.
This engineer regiment, in point of time, was destined to live one year and four months. One might assume that a year and four months is a relatively brief time in which to attain recognition.
No one, with the possible exception of its revered commanding officer, could foresee the enviable record which this regiment was destined to establish. In its early days, like other regiments, it prospered and gained strength but it was the spirit and will of its commanding officer that led it on to the great success it has enjoyed. The spirit and leadership of its commander, which permeated the whole activity of the regiment, was responsible for instilling in the minds of the men who made up the organization the resolve to do superior work: to do the seemingly impossible: to accomplish the mission.
On the eve of its disintegration, looking in retrospect, the composition of this regiment has been one, not of individual men held together by the strength of higher authority but rather of men formed into a unity so strong, that individual emotions, sentiments, and passions were surmounted by the irresistible spirit of the commanding officer, enabling the regiment to live unhampered by the trials and perplexity that foster discord. This factor enabled the 369th Engineer Regiment (SS) in the interval of one year and four months through its period of activation and training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana; its period of construction in the desert training center in the California-Arizona maneuver area; its preparation for extended field service at Camp Beale, California; and through its final stage of existence at Guadalcanal, B.S.I., to attain an outstanding record as a unit of the Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, and a distinctive name that will live incessantly in the memories of those who served in it.
On the 30th day of April, 1944 at Guadalcanal, B.S.I., this engineer regiment that accomplished so much in so short of time, ceased to exist. It was reorganized and re-designated as the 1394th Engineer Construction Battalion. It left to the new organization tradition and a history of achievement.
In the pages that follow, an attempt will be made to record the predominant events that occurred during the short-lived existence of the 369th Engineer Regiment (SS).
Activation and Training Period
The 369th Engineer Regiment (SS) was activated at Camp Claiborne. Louisiana, 20 December 1942, per General Order No. 118, Headquarters, Eighth Service Command, SOS, dated 15 December, 1942, with an authorized strength of 53 officers and 1272 enlisted men. Colonel J. Norman Pease, who, five days prior to the activation date of the new regiment was stationed in the control division office of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, Washington, D.C., assumed command.
The 363rd Engineer Regiment (SS), Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, was the parent organization. It furnished a cadre of five officers and 63 enlisted men. The officers pool, Engineer Unit Training Center, furnished two officers. The area assigned to the regiment in West Camp Claiborne extended from "A" to "C" Street between 10th and 12th Street. At the time the 369th moved in, the area was under construction. New hutment type barracks were being built and only one section was completed. During the first few days the cadremen were kept busy policing and making the area habitable. A temporary staff and command organization was established as follows:
The enlisted cadremen were sent from the 363rd Engineers in present grade, and so the first official act of the new command organization was to issue the necessary orders promoting the enlisted personnel to their cadre grade. In an impressive ceremony on the 23rd of December 1942, three days after activation, Colonel Pease presented to the promoted men their chevrons denoting their new rank and congratulated every man. This gesture of personal contact was to be the essence of the colonel’s idea of leadership as the organization developed.
During the period of orientation prior to the influx of filler replacements, tragedy in the form of the death of an officer struck without warning. Lt. Teaver, acting in the line of duty, was on his way to the camp Red Cross office to investigate an emergency furlough when he met instantaneous death in a motor accident. While the association of Lt. Teaver with the regiment was brief, nevertheless he had made an impression on its personnel. In final tribute to a former officer, at the same time funeral services were being held in Senath, Missouri, the 369th Engineer Regiment assembled on the regimental parade ground and along with the brigadier general John Schulz, commanding general of the EUTC and his staff, silently honored the memory of Lt. Teaver. This incident is mentioned because it happened so early in the life of the regiment.
After the death of Lt. Teaver and before the start of the official training program, fillers, both officer and enlisted men were assimilated; the physical layout of the regimental area was completed and the permanent command and staff responsibility was organized as follows: (Note: Rather than list the names of all the officers in the body of the script, a complete listing of the officers is appended).
Having thus established the chain of command, the individual companies within the regiment were organized. The enlisted fillers came mostly from camps and reception centers in Illinois, Tennessee, California, Ohio, Missouri, and Georgia. A subsequent check on home states disclosed that every state in the union was represented in the regiment. In addition, there were subjects of several foreign countries including China, Canada, Bulgaria and Italy.
The tentative date for the start of the authorized training period had been set 26 January 1943. Through the efforts of the Executive and S-3, under the supervision of Colonel Pease, the first training class was started on schedule and continued thereafter for three months.
The training program then in use at the Engineer Unit Training Center was known as "A training outline for initial mobilization training of general and special service engineer units, Headquarters, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana".
Under this program, individual units conducted their own training classes, but it was all under the supervision of the Plans and Training Section of the Training Headquarters. This headquarters had a staff of officers whose duty it was to check on the conduct of the training by the separate units: the relative ability of the instructors, and the receptiveness of the trainees. Constructive criticisms and suggestions were made on the spot but delinquencies were sent to the unit headquarters through military channels.
Due to the close supervision by the 369th staff and the leadership of Colonel Pease, delinquencies were kept to the minimum. On the other hand, suggestions and criticisms were received and invited. It was this spirit of cooperation, insisted upon by Colonel Pease, that enabled the officers of the regiment to carry on their work of training with little interference by the center’s plans and training representatives.
The essentials of the training program were physically broken down as follows:
This was a varied program and its successful presentation demanded the whole attention of the officer and enlisted instructors. The officer personnel consisted of about 40% graduates of engineer school, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and the remaining were engineers and construction men directly commissioned from civil life and given military training at the officers training school at Camp Claiborne. This officer experience and ability was utilized by allowing the basic military to be handled for the most part by the O.C.S. graduates and the engineer training conducted and supervised by the engineers and construction men in the organization. This allocation of responsibility resulted in an excellent training record.
Basic military training normally reverts to routine. There were some incidents, however, that provided respite from the regular procedure. Rifle marksmanship is perhaps the single most uninteresting and at the same time the most fascinating phase of military training. During the long weeks in preparation for range firing, in which the basic principles of correct position, aiming, and trigger squeeze were taught. Instructors had to give constant attention to maintaining interest and morale, as well as getting the basic subject over to the trainees. On the other hand, when the week in which range firing was to be conducted arrived, interest was at a high peak and a ripple of excitement seemed to spread throughout the regiment.
Range firing was considered to be one of the most important phases of the training program. It was mandatory that, if the bi-monthly status report, which was forwarded direct to Headquarters, Army Services Forces (then Headquarters Services of Supply), Washington, D.C., indicated a percentage of qualified below 80%, the unit commander was responsible to explain the reason for his unit’s delinquency. When the range firing of the 369th was completed, the aggregate percent of trainees to qualify was 97.6%. This was the record percentage of qualified marksmen for any unit up to that time. To forestall any lack of interest in the men, Colonel Pease, with the permission of the commanding general of the Center, bought from the regimental fund three watches to be offered as prizes to the three men who attained the highest scores in rifle marksmanship. These prizes were on display during the week of firing and the men, while they were on the range, shot with the idea in mind of winning the contest.
While range firing provided most of the excitement during the training period, there were other incidents that helped to break up the routine. Officers were selected to attend service schools at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. There was the tactical march of 19 February 1943 when Colonel Pease and his staff marched for fifteen miles at the head of the regiment to complete the problem under the allotted time. The night of 11 March 1943 will not be forgotten by "H&S" Company and Company "E". These units were selected to construct a 70 foot four span trestle bent bridge at night under tactical conditions. The first ever constructed at Camp Claiborne by trainees. There was the overnight and later the scheduled three day bivouacs in the middle of the training period which gave the men of the regiment their first experience at living under field conditions.
On the entertainment side of the picture, there was the open air movie within the area which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. As a special attempt to bring something new and exciting to the life of a trainee in West Camp Claiborne, the Special Service Officer arranged to have a regimental dance in the area. Due to circumstances beyond his control, the dance was not a success. Undaunted by this initial setback, the Special Service Officer one month later arranged another dance and this time his efforts were rewarded. Girls from Alexandria and nearby towns came in numbers that exceeded expectations so that everyone had a pleasant evening.
One of the most interesting and certainly the most colorful phases of the training was the weekly retreat parade put on by the training units. It was a tradition in West Camp Claiborne that unless a unit excelled on the parade ground, its training was not complete. The 369th Engineers made its "debut" on 25 February 1943. Due to the splendid training record the regiment attaining, this first parade was watched with keen interest by the headquarters staff. The regiment was honored and complimented by the presence of General Schulz and his staff.
While this first review was most important, the most impressive occurred on 21 March 1943. It was Colonel Peases’s intention to award the prizes for marksmanship to the eligible soldiers at a retreat parade. Tentative plans for the ceremony had been made. These plans were mentioned in the presence of General Schulz. The general immediately announced his desire to make the awards personally. This decision of the general changed the original plan to take into account the presence of a general officer. The revised plan was submitted to General Schulz for approval. The general suggested some minor changes and then the regiment busied itself rehearsing. On 21 March 1943 at 1740 CST Adjutant’s Call was sounded, everyone was intent on the job at hand. After the band marched the length of the field and then resumed position, the three men to be awarded were presented to the general by Colonel Pease. After making the awards, General Schulz addressed the regiment. He said he was impressed by the training record of the regiment and he commended the officers and men for their diligent efforts. He particularly congratulated the regiment for its marksmanship qualification.
The close relationship that existed between the officers of the regiment and between the regiment and Training Center Headquarter’s was largely due to the colonel’s policy of cooperation and mutual respect. He established an officer’s club and made it an attractive meeting place for the officers, their wives and friends. It was a common practice for the wives of the officers to come to dinner. This family atmosphere tended to ease the strain that close association normally brings about.
Some of the most pleasant evenings spent by the officers were the informal monthly parties where wives and friends of the officers and special guests from headquarters spent a few leisurely hours dining, sometimes dancing and always creating an atmosphere of conviviality.
The success of the officers club in strengthening the regiment was supplemented by a unique idea. In an effort to further the cooperation between the regiment and headquarters, and to provide an interesting source of lectures for officer classes, Colonel Pease arranged, with the approval of General Schulz, to have staff officers of headquarters lecture to officers of the regiment.
This program of instruction was instantly successful. The headquarters officers were men of wide experience in the army and in civilian life. They had much to tell and they willingly gave their time. The subjects were varied comprising engineering, military law, training, military operations, and other subjects. One of the most educational and in view of the present circumstances of the regiment, one of the most interesting lectures was given by Colonel Butler, at that time recently returned from a tour of duty at Guadalcanal, B.S.I. The colonel, in his informal friendly manner, gave a detailed account of the difficulties encountered by army engineers in the South Sea islands. He stressed particularly the need for improvising and proper planning.
The lecture was notable in another way, too, Colonel Pease had been granted a five day leave of absence and a Colonel Earl R. Paules, awaiting an assignment at Headquarters, EUTC, temporarily assumed command. Colonel Paules had just returned from Alaska where he was a group commander of the engineers building the Alcan highway. These two officers, returned from opposite ends of the world added much to the knowledge of the regiment. Contrary to his own announcement, but convinced by Colonel Pease of the great value of his experience, Colonel Paules returned to the regiment as a guest lecturer and gave a true picture, commensurate with military censorship, on the construction of the Alcan highway.
There is one more incident of importance with respect to officer training lectures. During the week of 8 April 1943, a Colonel F. C. Nettingham, Royal Engineers, British Army, was the guest of General Schulz. Before he left Camp Claiborne, he spoke to the officers of the EUTC on the engineers in war. He gave many first hand word pictures of allied engineers in battle. He stressed three attributes of a military engineer: knowledge, foresight, and imagination. The truth of the Colonel’s statements were brought home to the officers of the 369th in their subsequent operations in the California desert.
By April 1943 the training of the regiment lacked two weeks of the scheduled time. A full week field problem involving road construction, bridge construction, camouflage, and tactical field exercises was the last real test of the regiment’s readiness.
On 13 April 1943 the regiment, intact except for necessary guard details, marched to the bivouac area, command posts were set up, company headquarters were established, and personnel and equipment were disbursed. Security patrols were organized and camouflage discipline was required of all personnel. The officers and men of the regiment who, for three months were trained as individuals, were now about to undergo the important phase of unit training. Men were obliged to forget their individualism and concentrate on completing the mission of the unit. As in previous trials, the officers and men strengthened their right to be known as a superior organization.
The actual construction project consisted of a section of road to complete, which other training units had started, with heavy equipment loaned by the EUTC engineer for the project. The other phase of the work was the rebuilding of a three span trestle bent bridge. As a result of a preliminary reconnaissance, it was determined that in order to complete the work on the bridge, it would be necessary to put the working crews on a twenty-four hour eight hour shift basis. Because the bridge formed a part of the Camp Claiborne road net, it had to be completed and every effort was concentrated toward that end.
Before going further, it is necessary to inject one other ingredient of general importance. On the 17th of April 1943, the Engineer Unit Training Center was to celebrate its first anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, General Schulz planned a huge review. All units then in the center were to participate. It was to be the greatest concentration of troops ever staged at Camp Claiborne. The units were organized into brigades, each brigade having its own commander. By virtue of his rank, Colonel Pease was designated commanding officer of the first brigade. To assure a creditable performance, practice review was held on the 13th, a critique was conducted and General Schulz outlined his plan for the real review. General Walter A. Weibel, Army Service Forces, Washington, D.C., was to be the guest of honor. With him was to be Colonel Joseph S. Gorlinski from the office of the Chief of Engineers.
The day before the review it rained. It was a steady downpour that lasts for days. On the morning of the 17th all the units of the center assembled in a huge mass formation on the newly constructed "Huckabee Field", named after a former officer of the center killed in action in Europe.
The review was cancelled and in its place was this concentration of over 15,000 troops of the Unit Training Center to hear General Weibel congratulate the officers and men of the center for the excellent job of training engineer soldiers.
Before General Weibel left Camp Claiborne, Colonel Pease invited him to inspect the jobs. The general, accompanied by General Schulz and Colonel Gorlinski, visited the bridge job at about 2000 hours. The general was very pleased at the skill and fortitude of the men, working under lights in the pouring rain with the heavy bridge timbers.
The rain almost upset the work schedule. On the last day of bivouac, the intensity of the rain increased to the extent that the bivouac area became flooded. Early in the morning on the 18th, the regiment was forced to return to base camp. The following day the bridge was completed on schedule. With the exception of refresher courses in basic military subjects, the preliminary training of the 369th Engineers was complete. They were ready to perform their primary mission. Their training rating was superior.
Up to this point nothing has been said about the administration of the regiment. Early in March, Colonel Pease had organized the first and second battalions. Major Collins (then Captain) was relieved from Company "E" and appointed battalion commander of the first battalion. Major Koons was selected to command the second battalion. Unfortunately his health broke down and he had to leave the regiment. From then until November of 1943, the second battalion had only temporary commanders.
During the training period, the regiment was subject to furnishing replacement of officers and men for alerted. As a result of this, a great many personnel changes took place. In addition, one ninety-five man general service cadre and one thirteen man communications zone cadre was organized and trained.
By the end of the training period, due to organized recruiting of personnel by headquarters plus those enlisted men who took advantage of discharge privileges, the regimental strength dropped from 1400 to 1051 men. It is evident that replacements did not keep up with the current demand. Finally, those officers who had been placed in T/O position vacancies received their promotions.
A regiment of engineers was organized and trained. It awaited orders for a chance to prove its superior rating. That chance came, for on the 21st of April 1943, the regiment received orders for a permanent change of station to proceed to San Bernardino, California, and report to the commanding general of the Communications Zone, Desert Training Center. This change of station was to be effective 5 May 1943 at which time the regiment passed from the control of Army Service Forces to that of the Army ground Forces.
Prior to leaving Camp Claiborne, Colonel Pease received a personal letter from General Schulz wishing the regiment godspeed and best wishes for greater success. He said further that it had been a matter of pride and satisfaction to the Engineer Unit Training Center to have had a part in the formation and development of the 369th Engineers. Within a short period of training time available, the maximum possible use had been made of the opportunity to create an organization which will carry forward with credit the high traditions of the Corps of Engineers and the United States Army.
So ended the first milestone in the history of the 369th Engineers.
The Desert Training Center
On May 5 1943 the 369th Engineer Regiment (SS) proceeded from Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, by rail to its new station at Base General Depot, San Bernardino, California. The trip through Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Southern California was uneventful. It was an educational trip for the great majority of the personnel were from the East and South. For many it was their first contact with the American desert. The men were amazed at the flat plains of Texas; they were awed by the rugged, barren mountains and sandy wasteland of New Mexico and Arizona; they were disappointed by the apparent desolation of southern California. This initial disappointment, however, did not last. For as time went on even though the work was hard and living conditions were spartan, all the men grew to like southern California. Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and other California cities and towns proved to be havens of entertainment and rest.
The regiment arrived at Base General Depot, located six miles west of San Bernardino, on 8 May 1943. Base General Depot was the base supply depot for the whole Desert Training Center and for that reason consisted mostly of quartermaster troops. The 369th was assigned an area and established a headquarters and camp site. In two days the regiment was adequately quartered and preparations were already under way to begin work.
Colonel Pease and his staff reported to the commanding general of the Communications Zone, Desert Training Center with headquarters located at Banning, California, about thirty-five miles east of San Bernardino. At that time there were only two engineer regiments in the Desert Training Center. The Communications Zone engineer was given the duty of acquainting the commanding officer and staff of the 369th Engineers with the essential data involved in the scope, aim and operations of the Desert Training Center. He was responsible, too, for assigning of engineer projects to the units assigned to the Communications Zone.
The area of the Desert Training Area extended about four hundred miles west to east from southern California to Arizona and about two hundred miles north and south. It was an area of great distances, rugged mountains, sandy wastes, and little vegetation. Scattered throughout this area were a few cities and towns, but for the most part there were only small isolated communities. Transportation of troops within the training center was effected by government vehicles, although supplies were hauled in and distributed to the depots by rail. To add to this desert atmosphere there were large grape plantations and date farms. The date farms added a touch of wild beauty in an otherwise barren land. The complete story of this desert training center can not be told without mentioning the extreme temperatures. In Banning the nights were cool, sometimes cold; in Horn, Arizona, the thermometer went as high as 130 degrees fahrenheit. This was the extreme. The average temperature was about 110 degrees fahrenheit. The work of the 369th Engineers was to consist of heavy construction, to include rifle ranges, warehouses and hospitals, railroads, camps, roads, occasional engineer reconnaissance of roads and bridges and supervision of tasks performed by other units. Prior to the actual beginning of this construction work, the entire regiment was subject to overhead fire as a result of going through the prescribed infiltration course required of all Army Ground Force troops.
For the first three months of desert operations, the regiment was divided. The second battalion then commanded by Major McDaniel, as an additional duty, and Company "C" of the first battalion, carried on the construction of warehouses and railroads building within the confines of Base General Depot. The remainder of the first battalion was sent to Horn, Arizona, to construct a division camp. All of the work assigned to the regiment was on a priority basis with deadline dates. As a result of this pressure from higher headquarters, the officers and men were required to work under constant strain. Because the Class IV material supply was of paramount importance, an officer of the regiment was kept on detached service in the office of the district engineer in Los Angeles during the whole period of desert operations. This officer was invaluable in assisting in the procurement of needed supplies.
In the jobs at Base General Depot and in subsequent operations, great use was made of rented engineer equipment to supplement T/BA allowances of such equipment. Normally, this equipment came with operators furnished, but there were occasions when the 369th operated and maintained this equipment as well as its own. This factor was a definite aid in the training of the regiment’s operators and mechanics.
The most inspiring incident that occurred during the Base General Depot operations was meeting the deadline on 19 June 1943 of a 64’ x 160’ theater of operations warehouse that had to be completed ahead of schedule. Companies "C" and "E" concentrated all their efforts on this job. The reason for this particular job being mentioned is that as evening of the 19th of June approached, it was evident that the job could not be completely finished by normal quitting time. The men working on the project had worked at feverish pitch to do it and they did not want their efforts to result in failure. A request was made to the commanding officer to allow work to continue until the job was completed. At 0230, 20 June 1943, the last nail was driven and the warehouse was ready for use. This display of spirit and loyalty merely emphasizes the reason for the success of the 369th Engineers.
Along with the task of enlarging the railroad and warehouse facilities at Base General Depoy, and the construction of the camp at Horn, Arizona, the regiment carried on projects involving the construction of a station hospital at Pomona, California, by Company "F"; the completion of a station hospital at San Bernardino, by Company "A"; the construction of a rifle range in the mountains back of Base General Depot by Company "B"; the supervision of the construction of a general hospital at Redlands, California; the construction of a six thousand man camp at Bouse, Arizona, by Company "D"; the operation of railheads at Glamis, Goffa, and Coachella, California; the building of a railroad at Yuma; and the completion of a general hospital at Spada, California, by Company "E". These were the big projects assigned to the regiment during the period from 8 May 1943 to 5 August 1943. A complete listing of all the engineer projects assigned to and completed by the regiment during its entire desert operation is appended.
On 23 July 1943 the regiment was ordered to establish a camp at Banning, California, and to construct a one thousand bed general hospital about three miles west of the city. The move would involve only the first battalion due to the fact that Companies D, E, and F were at Bouse, Sprada and Pomona respectively. The move was effected on 6 August 1943. It was estimated that the task of construction including buildings, roadways and pipe lines would take about three months and a schedule of preparations was prepared on that basis. Companies A, B, and C were assigned areas of the hospital site and each company was responsible for the completion of its own area.
With four major projects going on the problem of supply was tremendous. Lt. Prohaska, Regimental Supply Officer, and Lt. Huensch, Construction Supply Officer, did a commendable job in procuring, accounting for, and distributing supplies and material to the various project sites. Their untiring efforts were instrumental in the final success of these projects.
While the hospital at Banning had a very high priority, nevertheless, the practice of being responsible for miscellaneous small tasks continued. These are too numerous to mention individually but they involved general construction of buildings, roads, and railroads. The original completion date for the hospital was moved up to 9 October 1943. The tempo of the work necessarily had to increase. By 20 September the first units of the 297th General Hospital arrived from Temple, Texas, which was to operate the hospital. The construction of the doctors and nurses quarters was rushed to completion. As the deadline date approached, Company "F" and Company "E" returned from their completed jobs in Pomona and Spadra and these companies were utilized to the fullest in meeting the date set for completion. By 9 October all major construction was finished. Several weeks were spent by small detachments in finishing and policing. By 15 October the hospital was in operation.
It was the intention of Colonel Pease, with the approval of Communications Zone Headquarters, to initiate a refresher training period following the construction of the hospital. This approval of Communications Zone Headquarters was rescinded on 15 October and the regiment was ordered to construct a camp for the Communications Zone at San Bernardino. This was the last major project for the 369th Engineers in the desert, for shortly after it was finished, the regiment was ordered to a new station.
As in Camp Claiborne, during the basic training period, administration of regimental affairs was of minor significance and followed a routine procedure. In July a general service regiment cadre of seven officers and ninety-five enlisted men was furnished to activate the 1304th Engineer Regiment at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. A requisition for filler replacements for two hundred enlisted men was submitted to the commanding general, Army Ground Forces, and in September 205 enlisted men reported from the Quartermaster Replacement Center at Fort Warren, Wyoming.
On 1 November, Major McDaniel was relieved of his additional responsibility as commanding officer of the second battalion and was able to devote his entire time to his job as Executive Officer. Captain R. R. Gast, then commanding H&S Company, was appointed commanding officer of the second battalion.
The practice initiated at Camp Claiborne of having guest instructors from headquarters continued. The commanding general and the staff heads of Communications Zone conducted the officer classes. In the course of these lectures, much valuable information on engineering in general, training of troops and first hand accounts of specific engineering problems encountered on the islands of the Pacific was imparted to the officers of the regiment.
By 9 November, the camp at San Bernardino was completed and the Communications Zone Headquarters was moved there from Banning. The new camp was officially opened by an informal supper held in the officers club on 10 November. Colonel Edmunds, then commanding the Communications Zone, took that occasion to publicly commend the work of 369th Engineers in their desert operations. On 10 November, an order was received from headquarters, Army Ground Forces, to have a permanent change of station to Camp Beale, California, effective 29 November 1943. There to prepare for extended field service. The period between 10 November and 29 November was utilized in arranging company administration and supply and the conducting of refresher courses in basic training.
The second phase of the activity of the 369th Engineers was at an end. Prior to leaving their desert camp for a new station and the activity incident thereto, Colonel Pease received a personal letter from Colonel Edmunds in which he extended a personal as well as an official commendation for the superior work accomplished by the regiment while assigned to the Communications Zone. Colonel Edmunds mentioned in his letter the major projects handled by the regiment and he closed with his personal thanks and good wishes for greater success in all future activity.
The work in the desert was hard but the men grew to like it. They were able to get away on occasion from class "B" rations, tents without lights, desert dust and the fatigue of normal work by making visits to nearby towns and communities. When the 369th Engineers left Banning, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Riverside, they left behind a record of accomplishment as well as a host of pleasant memories.
Preparation for Extended Field Service
The 369th Engineer Regiment proceeded from Beaumont, California, to Camp Beale, California, on 29 November 1943. Beaumont was a small community located about five miles west of Banning and had more adequate railroad facilities. An advance party of two officers and two enlisted men preceded the regiment to Camp Beale to arrange for area, rations, transportation, and such other items of equipment necessary for the operation of a regiment in garrison.
Whatever the personnel of the regiment expected in the way of quarters, rations, and general living conditions is not known. However, the conditions that existed were welcome relief from the harsh reality of the desert. Steam heated barracks, hot water, fresh rations, theatres, and service clubs were all a new experience to the men of the 369th. Never in the whole year of activation as a unit had anyone experienced such conditions. Because of the novelty of the situation and because the men deserved a rest, the commanding officer allowed more time to establish a camp than was customary.
In contrast to the desert schedule of 0700 to 1700, the work day at Camp Beale was from 0800 to 1630. The climate was different, too. At Camp Beale it was never cold but always damp. It rained a great deal but it was welcomed. In the desert there had been little rain. Colonel Pease made his usual visit to the post commander and was informed that the 369th Engineers was assigned to the Ninth Service Command and was stationed at Camp Beale to carry on a training program to prepare for extended field service. A representative from the training division of the Ninth Service Command inspected the regiment and outlined a three month refresher advanced training program officially known as MTP 5-101. No construction work was contemplated although before leaving Camp Beale, many improvements were made on the post by the 369th.
The program of training followed closely the training subjects at Camp Claiborne. There were a few things that were stressed. Scouting and patrolling, mines, booby traps, and tank warfare were very thoroughly discussed. Arrangements were made through the post training office to have a tank demonstration. Every man in the regiment had an opportunity to examine and in many cases, ride in a modern medium tank. This was a practical demonstration that brought home the advantages as well as the limitations of tank warfare.
MTP 5-101 included rifle marksmanship training and the entire regiment was required to fire the "B" course. A recent directive of headquarters Army Service Forces had made it mandatory for overseas qualification to have fired the "B" course in rifle marksmanship. Along with this, instructions in pistol and carbine and the firing of these weapons was conducted.
December 20th was the first anniversary of the 369th Engineers. Colonel Pease determined to honor the occasion with a review in the forenoon and then declare a holiday. To add a bit of color, Colonel Pease invited General McCoach, Commanding General of the Ninth Service Command to come to Camp Beale and witness the review. The general expressed his regrets that previous commitments prevented his coming but he visited Camp Beale and he extended an invitation to Colonel Pease to dine with him.
On 5 January 1944, the regiment was directed to prepare for an overseas movement. The commitment date was set for 1 March 1944. Shortly after the receipt of this directive, the regiment was inspected for readiness and efficiency by Major J. W. Wright, representing the Ninth Service Command, by Lt. Colonel W. W. Brotherton, representing the Chief of Engineers, and Colonel F. Lowry from the Office of Inspector General, Washington, D.C.
At the completion of these inspections the unit was declared ready to perform its primary mission in an overseas station. On 12 January, on authority of Headquarters Army Service Forces, the commanding officer, Camp Beale, issued the movement order for the regiment to proceed to Camp Stoneman, California, on or about 29 February 1944.
On that date the movement was made by rail. Processing at Camp Stoneman took four days and on 5 March 1944, the regiment proceeded by harbor boat to the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, Fort Mason, California, and embarked on USS Rochambeau, by virtue of his rank, Colonel Pease was appointed troop commander of all army troops aboard the ship. This included responsibility for the proper discipline of the troops in observing ship’s regulations and adequate police of the troop compartments and mess halls. On 6 March 1944, the USS Rochambeau sailed from San Francisco, California, for a South Pacific port.
The 369th Engineer Regiment arrived at Guadalcanal, B.S.I., without incident. It was assigned to Headquarters Service Command, APO 709, on Guadalcanal. The regiment was located in an area formerly occupied by a Navy C.B. unit on Highway 91 east of Henderson Field and just north of Fighter Strip #1. Two days were required to establish an adequate camp and the Service Command Engineer directed the regiment to prepare itself to perform whatever engineer tasks that might be assigned.
Shortly after arrival, Colonel Pease was informed of the fact that certain engineer regiments were to be reorganized into engineer construction battalions under a group command. This information was not enthusiastically received by either the officers or men of the unit. Both officers and men were proud of their organization and of the work it had done. Individual feelings were strong for the retention of the regimental entity.
Individual desires are not always considered and the effective date of reorganization of the 369th Engineer Regiment was set at 30 April 1944. On that date, the 369th Engineer Regiment was reorganized and redesignated the 1394th Engineer Construction Battalion, assigned to the 1177th Engineer Construction Group.
Just prior to the date of reorganization, Colonel Pease was assigned to Headquarters Service Command, APO 292, as Executive Officer to the commanding general. Major McDaniel assumed command of the 369th Engineers and subsequently the 1394th Engineer Battalion.
The 369th Engineer regiment performed all the tasks assigned without regard to conditions. It attained an enviable reputation as a regiment that did the job quickly and efficiently. The 55 officers and 1272 enlisted men of the 369th Engineers were proud of their regiment and the record it had attained. In their hearts, they wanted their regiment intact: in performance of their duty, they obeyed the command of their superiors.
Pease, J. N.
Gibson, W. B.
McDaniel, E. E.
Angus, W. N.
Cadigan, F. M.
Cazes, L. O.
Durham, P. T.
Gast, R. R.
Jungclaus, W. H.
Kelly, J. F.
O'Brien, J. P.
Schleinitz, F. B.
Waterman, D. W.
Wolfe, J. R.
Wyman, R. E.
Bellagamba, G. A.
Collis, L. N.
Cox, W. B.
Goode, V. D.
Haiman, B. A.
House, R. M.
Jenkins, L. B.
Latson, T. J.
McGee, W. B.
Miller, L. O.
Nix, L. W.
Prohaska, R. A.
Richford, J. E.
Rosenson, L. A.
Rowland, J. E.
Roycraft, J. T.
Stanowicz, S. J.
Wing, J. B.
Baumberger, T. E.
Chatham, G. T.
Cook, B. E.
Davies, J. D.
Farrell, J. J.
Faulk, E. F.
Freeman, T. H.
Huensch, P. R.
Kelts, D. R.
Killough, W. J.
Kuras, T. R.
Phillips, A. T.
Rogosa, I. J.
Schilling, R. E.
Sousek, M. R.
Sturges, E. F.
Suiter, J. L.
Traylor, W. B.
Ulmer, D. H.
Arnot, C. D.
Klappsa, J. J.
Paules, E. G.
Shane, H. K.
Womble, W. E.
Canavan, D. P.
Collins, R. S.
Koons, H. F.
Nichols, G. C.
Parker, I. H.
Richardson, E. M.
Tabor, C. E.
Asperger, H. A.
Beebe, F. T.
Binkele, E. C.
Buch, J. E.
Casey, D. E.
Cronin, W. F.
Dair, J. H.
Dunwiddie, B. R.
Durway, C. T.
Gribble, W. J.
Hill, G. F.
Metcalf, R. A.
Meyer, M. G.
Neal, L. G.
Peterson, A. E.
Rubey, J. R.
Sheehy, J. F.
Sherbaum, W. R.
Sullivan, J. J.
Yeo, N. A.
Ackerman, R. W.
Adams, J. W.
Baszner, K. W.
Beer, O. N.
Brock, H. P.
Brugger, R. L.
Carey, W. M.
Cohen, J. S.
D’Amore, J. E.
Fetherson, E. A.
Galloway, B. E.
Gailey, D. R.
Hargrave, G. M.
Hyland, F. T.
Leavitt, H. S.
Lemire, A. G.
Pfisterer, H. A.
Phillips, W. D.
Wallis, W. R.
Watson, L. R.
Whiteside, G. C.
Benson, A. J.
Black, W. E.
Ellison, J. E.
Etherton, W. W.
Gleeson, O. H.
Hicks, W. B.
Howard, R. F.
Kaczmarek, F. T.
Konecky, G. M.
Mayo, L. L.
Mills, J. B.
Robertson, C. A.
Rother, L. O.
Teaver, B. H.
Veschio, L. T.
Elton, C. F.
Base General Depot, California
Complete buildings - 24 company area - 95%
Complete buildings - Devil Canyon Road area - 85%
Complete interior carpentry 13th Field Hospital
3 bath house - 13th Field Hospital area
Internal alterations Signal Building
3 warehouses 60' x 160', 47% completed by 369th
5 warehouses 60' x 160', 40% completed by 369th
AGD warehouse - U shaped bldgs erected from 3 - 20' x 64' bldgs
Dental clinic and lab buildings
Engineer supply office, 20' x 64'
Dispensary building, 20' x 64'
14 - 20' x 64' buildings removed
Addition to AGD warehouse 2 - 20' x 64' buildings
QM supply office, re-erected from 6 - 20' x 64' buildings
3 roof shelters between warehouses
Repair buildings 220th Station Hospital (storm damage)
1 - 12 hole latrine
1 - 12 hole latrine
Bath house and latrine, Pomona Ordnance Base
Camp Granite, California
10 showers; 3 miles waterline; 5 miles repaired waterline; 50,000 gallon water tower/tank
Camp Horn, California
160 double tent frame kitchens; 190 latrines; 35 showers; 50 miles gravel road; 8 mile water line
Camp Ryder, California
15 mess halls; 15 kitchens; 15 latrines; 1,500' gravel roads
70 latrines; 45 kitchens & mess shelters; 3 mess halls; 9 dispensaries; 1 PX; 3 group headquarters; 1 theatre; 1 maintenance shop; 1 repair shop; 1 school building; 2 wards; 1 clinic and surgery; 1 stockade; 1 50,000 gallon reservoir; 1 septic tank; 9 battalion supply; 1 540' well; 2 fire hydrants; 1 25,000 gallon water tank; 4.1 miles pole line; 6 miles of roads; 900' sewer line; water lines - 6450' 10", 6600' 8", 1750' 6", 350' 4", 4500' 2"
57th Medical Battalion campsite; 300' 1-1/2" waterline; 16 head shower; 7 latrines; 1 mile gravel road
Replacement Depot; 13 mess shelters; 20 latrines; 5 showers
San Bernardino, California
Communication Zone Camp Headquarters and camp; 1 officers mess and club; 1 det PX; 1 det rec room; 3 det mess and kitchens; 1 MRU building; three signal, medical and school buildings; 7 latrines; 2 showers; 1 officers latrine and shower; officers tent frames and floors; 200 enlisted men tent floors; water pipe - 200' 1-1/2", 1700' 2", 1380' 4"
MP Battalion Camp Site: 1 re-erected latrine; 54 tent floors; 600' water line; 400' sewer line; wiring to all buildings and tents
Replacement Depot: 1 mess hall re-erected; 1 bath house re-erected; 20 position wash stand; 1 water storage tank; 500' water lines
Base General Depot, California
One station hospital: 7 wards; 7 barracks; 2 mess halls; 2 rec halls; 2 store houses; 3 bath houses; 1 fire house; 1 clinic and surgical' 1 lab and infirmary; 1 boiler house; 1 administration building; 1 bath and disinf; 1 morgue; (Completed: utilities, carpentry, flooring, exterior wall covering and painting.)
Landscaping, site grading, ½ outside wiring. Installed 5 fire hydrants; 7 miles gravel road.
Spadra General Hospital: 9 wards.
Pomona Station Hospital: 2 store houses; 4 barracks; 1 morgue; 1 PX; 1 bath house; 1 guard house; 9 wards; 3 mess halls; 2 rec halls; 3 nurses and officers quarters; 1 bath and disinf; 1 heater room; 1 clinic and surgical; 1 administration bldg; infirmary; 1 fire station; water lines: 280' - 1", 2490' - 2", 1583' - 4", 1539' - 6"; sewer lines: 2703' - 4"; 693' - 6"; 2715' - 8"; 3 miles 4" gravel roads.
Banning General Hospital: 34 wards; 6 store houses; 4 officers quarters; 6 nurses quarters; 13 det barracks; 1 clinic and surg; 1 administration building; 1 lab; 1 rec and evac; 1 infirmary; 1 bath and disinf; 3 mess halls; 4 rec halls; 1 PX; 1 morgue; 1 guard house; 1 fire station; 1 shop; 1 laundry; 7 baths and latrines; 1 - 12,000 gallon water tower reservoir; 1 pump house; water pipes: 2545' - ¾"; 3685' - 1", 1529' - 2"; 5450' - 4"; 8465 - 6"; 625' - 8"; Sewer pipe: 8705' -6"; 5525' - 8"; 1710' 10"; 6.85 miles roads.
Cherry Valley 1000 bed hospital supervised by 369th.
Convalescent Hospital: 6 latrines; 3 kitchens; 1 battalion shower; 3 3,000 gallon water tanks; roads.
|Yuma, AZ||2 RR Sidings - 2570'|
|B.G.D., CA||Spur to gasoline tanks|
|B.G.D., CA||South track open storage and wye|
|Glamis, CA||1000' spur and access road|
|Ogilby, CA||200' track removed|
|Camp Hyder, AZ||750' track, 300' dock built|
|Camp Hyder, AZ||3400' track, recon & location|
|Yuma, AZ||Recon & location 2 spurs 4800; & 3500'|
|Yuma, AZ||8750' track, 7.5 miles gravel road|
|Glamis, CA||1000' track removed|
|Ogilby, CA||850' track removed|
|B.G.D., CA||Construction Cable Canyon rifle range; 48 target Transition range and infiltration course|
|Needles, CA||Survey and recon 48 pt Class A range|
|Yuma, AZ||Survey and recon 48 pt Class A range|
|Camp Hyder, AZ||1500' gravel road, Camp Hyder Extension|
|Glamis-Nyland||32 miles road graded|
|Danby, CA||2 miles road graded|
|B.G.D., CA||¼ mile entrance road built|
|B.G.D., CA||220th Station Hospital roads oiled|
|Indio, CA||4700 sq yd loading area graveled 6"|
|Pomona, CA||½ mile Pomona Country Club Road graded|
|Hyder, AZ||2 10,000 gal water storage tanks erected|
|Camp Young, AZ||Hospital laundry equipment installed|
|B.G.D., CA||Completion of stockade, 1 shower, 1 latrine, 1 mess hall & kitchen, adm bldg & latrine|
|B.G.D., CA||400' 2" water line, 13th Field Hospital|
|Hyder, AZ||Chlorinator installed|
|B.G.D., CA||2 auto wash racks built|
|B.G.D., CA||QM Service Battalion area work completed|
|Camp Horn, AZ||4 sprinkler tanks built|
|B.G.D., CA||Erected 2 10,000 gallon, 1 5,000 gallon gasoline storage tanks and 6 pumps|
|Yuma, AZ||Water point constructed|
|Quartsite, AZ||Demolition for pole lines|
|Camp Young, CA||Laundry plumbing & equipment installation completed|
|Indio, CA||300' loading dock plus 5 ramps|
|Banning, CA||Construct fire truck for Banning General Hospital|
|Laguna, AZ||Remove earth dam|
|Bouse, AZ||Construct 35-ton portable ramp|
|Bouse, AZ||Gasoline engine and pump installed at well; 1 12-hole Latrine; road graveled/drainage|
|Spadra, CA||Arm and leg bath installed Spadra General Hospital|
|Yuma, AZ||Well pumps removed Yuma General Hospital|
|Spadra, CA||Ditching surface water drainage Spadra General Hospital|
|Banning, CA||Preparation of water connections, etc., for hospital train|
|Banning, CA||Various installations M.W.D. east portal camp|
|Palm Springs, CA||2 12-hole latrines; 2 wash racks built|
|Yuma/Needles||Equipment removed from Yuma and Needles hospitals to Banning General Hospital|
|Banning, CA||Repair of M.W.D. buildings (formerly Communication Zone Headquarters)|
|Banning, CA||Cleanup of former Communication Zone Detachment campsite|