75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #3 — Training in England, March 1944 / by Matt King

From the 4ID Yearbook published in 1946:

The general operation against Hitler's Atlantic Wall was now crystallized, and the target date determined. For each hour there was a specific job, representing an essential step in preparation for readiness on that target date. Slapton Sands, along the south Devon coast, was cleared of civilians. Water covered an area in the rear of this beach and resembled closely the water obstacle prepared by the Germans, who had flooded the area in the rear of the Normandy beach, which, if all went well, would see us on D-Day. Here landing rehearsals, complete with naval fire support and German air and E-boat opposition, were held many times.

From Chaplain Bill Boice's History of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in WWII:

England was beautiful, as beautiful and quaint, as old-fashioned and sincere as another century. The 22nd Infantry Regiment, detraining at Devon, was split and sent to the various camps that could accommodate it. Regimental Headquarters and the 2nd Battalion went to a camp outside the town of Danbury. The 1st Battalion was somewhat inadequately quartered in ancient and forbidding buildings in Newton-Abbott. The 3rd Battalion, plus cannon and anti-tank companies, was stationed some distance away at South Brent in a camp which consisted almost exclusively of Quonset huts. 4th Division Headquarters was at Tiverton. The nearest English city of any size was Exeter, a favorite shopping place soon to become known to us...

Torquay was the Atlantic city of south England and most of the officers and enlisted men went to Torquay for relaxation, usually to the excellent Red Cross Clubs.

...At a meeting of all the officers of the Division, General Omar Bradley, then commanding the First Army chosen to storm the beaches, told the officers that originally it had been planned to storm the beach with one United States Infantry Division. This division, picked by the top men of the General Staff, had been the 4th Infantry Division. The officers returned to their Regiments sobered, realizing that theirs was a job from which there was no turning back...

...Training in squad problems, the handling of weapons, camouflage, use of artillery and mortars, assault tactics, pole charges, bee-hives, and the bazooka were given to the men, squad by squad, until they became thoroughly familiar with their particular job. Certain tactics were taught, then company, battalion, Regimental, and Division problems involving these same tactics were run, in order to familiarize the troops with their practical application. Weak spots within the organization were discovered and removed. Officers were shifted in their command. Day by day, the tension increased as it became evident that the long-promised second front would soon be a reality.

Following is a story from my book War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku:

Billy Cater, Cambridge, OH - Service Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment

Captain "Big Hawk"

The Regiment was newly-arrived in England and was in the process of drawing all equipment, including vehicles. Captain Hawkins (Big Hawk) was the motor officer and I, as a lieutenant, was his assistant. Our living quarters were in a thin-walled barracks and conversations could be heard through them.

We had a few unassigned jeeps so I could slip out a jeep and several of us could go pub hunting at night. On returning one night, driving blackout, I made a wrong turn, tried to switch back and hit a stone fence head on, but managed to get it back to the motor pool. All I could hear through the wall that night was Captain Hawkins talking about the punishment he would dish out to the guilty party. I made a deal with the medic motor sergeant: He was to really complain, but would take the jeep and fix it and I would see that he would be favored forever. Big Hawk and I were good friends and I could never tell him I was the culprit, even after the war.

(Note: Both Billy Cater and "Big Hawk" are deceased now, but Billy's son and Big Hawk's son are regular readers of this trip down memory lane).

From COL Gerden Johnson's History of the 12th Infantry Regiment in WWII:

... The month of March brought new and rigorous training as combat problems got underway amid blinding snowstorms on the freezing windswept wastes of the famous English Moors near Dartmoor. Returning on the 10th, there was barely time to pack for another move from the regimental area. On the 13th we temporarily left Exeter, Bye-Pass Camp, Exemouth and Budleigh-Salterton for two weeks of ship-to-shore training with the U.S. Navy. A rail movement was made to Plymouth where the 12th embarked on three APA's anchored in the harbor.... Following extensive practice in organizing boat teams and reaching boat stations in blackout, several days were spent in learning how to debark with full equipment down rope ladders and nets....

... Having completed tactical landings of battalion landing teams, staffs began busily preparing a problem for the entire regimental combat team, while the men got in some well-earned rest as the three APA's began the return to Plymouth. This new problem was called Exercise BEAVER and on March 25th we went over the sides and landed on a strip of beach called Slapton Sands on the southern coast of England. It was our first prelude to invasion. By the next day, all units were back at their stations and normal training was resumed....

Landing craft : 4th Infantry Division Soldiers work with the Navy during amphibious training exercises in Southern England, March 1944.

Landing craft: 4th Infantry Division Soldiers work with the Navy during amphibious training exercises in Southern England, March 1944.

General Eisenhower visiting the 4ID in March 1944.

General Eisenhower visiting the 4ID in March 1944.

Church:  From George Knapp's book,  A Chaplain's Duty  - This is the Methodist Church at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England where we had our Protestant services for 12th Infantry Regiment in February through May 1944... The pipe organ was very good. I had Easter Services 1944 in this church, both Sunrise and regular services.

Church: From George Knapp's book, A Chaplain's Duty - This is the Methodist Church at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England where we had our Protestant services for 12th Infantry Regiment in February through May 1944... The pipe organ was very good. I had Easter Services 1944 in this church, both Sunrise and regular services.

"Collipriest" - the 4th Infantry Division command post at Tiverton, Devon, England from February through May 1944.

"Collipriest" - the 4th Infantry Division command post at Tiverton, Devon, England from February through May 1944.

Roosevelt:  On 25 March 1944, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. joined the 4th Infantry Division as a Deputy Commanding General. On D-Day, he earned the Medal of Honor and became a legend in 4ID history.

Roosevelt: On 25 March 1944, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. joined the 4th Infantry Division as a Deputy Commanding General. On D-Day, he earned the Medal of Honor and became a legend in 4ID history.

 


Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President