World War II
  103rd Engineer Regiment

SEPTEMBER 1939 saw the 103rd Engineer Regiment, under Cal. Horace Inman, engaged in its efficient weekly armory drills, adding lustre to its proud record as a leading engineer regiment of the National Guard of the Nation. War was 21 years behind, but new battle streamers Normandy, Northern France, The Ardennes, The Rhineland, Central Europe were in the offing at this time even though not then visualized by the Regiment.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The overwhelming Blitzkrieg conquered the small country in less than four weeks, with the help of the Soviet Union which joined forces and occupied the entire eastern half. On September 3rd Great Britain and France declared war on Germany to aid the beleaguered nation. The cloth for the new battle streamers was being cut. The Regiment was redesignated the 103rd Engineer Regiment (Combat) on May 15, 1940. The Germans were overrunning Europe at this time, and three weeks later, June 4th, the British Army was evacuated from Dunkerque.

President Roosevelt, on January 31, 1941, ordered the 28th Division into active military service and the l03rd Engineers became a part of the United States fighting forces on February 17, 1941. The 28th Division for the next year was commanded by Maj. Gen. Edward Martin, who, several times during World War I, had been temporary commander of the 109th Infantry because of a critical personnel situation. (General Martin’s original unit was the 110th Infantry). He was later succeeded by Maj. Gen. J. G. Ord. The Regiment was mobilized at the Armory, Broad and Callowhill streets, on February 17th, where the next few days were spent as intensive preparations for extended active duty were made. The days were devoted to recruiting, physical examinations, inspection and preparation of equipment.

Several key personnel of the Regiment were unable to accompany the unit into service as a result of the physical examinations given preparatory to taking the field. Colonel Inman, regimental commander, was one of the casualties of the tests. He had served with the Regiment for a number of years and had also seen active duty in World War I with the 109th Infantry.
Colonel Inman was succeeded by Lt. Col. H. Wallis Anderson, who had only very recently joined the Regiment, having for some years served as G-l of the 28th Division. Colonel Anderson served with the 103d Engineers during its combat period in World War I, as a company and later as a battalion commander. He was advanced to colonel in May 1941.

After several days of preparation at the armory, the Regiment moved from home station in Philadelphia on February 25, 1941, to the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, where it joined the other organizations of the 28th Division. Camp construction at the Gap was not entirely completed prior to the Regiment’s arrival, and February-March weather in that area was not always favorable for field problems. However, these situations served to develop the organization’s initiative and ability to meet and overcome difficulties. The preparation of the Regiment for active duty followed the schedules prescribed by higher headquarters and began with basic training for the recently-joined personnel, with continuing emphasis on physical conditioning. Programs were developed for small units, larger units, specialist training, familiarity with equipmentall essential to the preparation of the Regiment for its function as an integral component of the division team.Considerable additional heavy equipment was received by the unit at Indiantown, including trucks, graders, tractors, pontoons, H-10 bridging and other special engineer items.

Personnel were trained and qualified in their operation, maintenance, capabilities and limitations. As there was no suitable body of water at Indiantown, several tactical movements were made to Mt. Gretna to make use of that area’s water facilities for footbridge and floating equipment practice. As the result of personnel losses at the time of entering on active duty, the Regiment did not have its full quota of officers. Continued efforts were made to correct this deficiency and assignments to the unit of Capt. Elmer J. Haile, Jr., and Lts. J. H. Costinett, Harry Cameron, Wythe P. Brooks, William F. Thomas, C. D. Willetts and others were made. Several, such as Costinett and Cameron, had previously been with the Regiment for summer training and had been requested by name due to the very favorable impressions they made at that time. Training progressed from small unit activities to participation in divisional problems, both field and C. P. X., in which the Regiment fulfilled its role as a support unit of the Division.

Additionally, key personnel attended the several special schools which were conducted by Division Headquarters. Friendly competitions and rivalries during this period kept the spirit of the 28th Division at high level. One incident, indicative of this feeling, involved the 103d and the “Medics.” As part of their    familiarization training with the new equipment, platoons from several line companies of the l03rd constructed the H-10 bridges across the gulley east of headquarters “against time.” The band and medical detachment witnessed the exhibition and promptly assumed an “any body can do that” point of view. A “provisional platoon” volunteered to “beat the record.” The “musical medics” erected a bridge in creditable time and signaled its completion by marching across carrying a simulated casualty on a litter. The l03rd Engineers relived some history of its 1918 counterpart the 103rd Engineers and its lineal antecedent the 109th Infantry when the Battle of Grimpettes Woods was re-fought at Indiantown Gap. Reenacted by the 110th Infantry, the battle was authenticated in detail by General Martin who played a major part in the original fighting in France. The demonstration was put on so that the members of the Division could profit from the lessons which had cost the Keystone Division much blood during that struggle.

The preliminary training and field exercises completed at Indiantown, the Regiment moved with the division on August 25th to the A. P. Hill Reservation, near Fredericksburg, Va., for further large unit training and maneuvers. Throughout these problems the organization again fully performed its missions and met its responsibilities as a unit of the division team. An unfortunate incident here was the sudden illness and untimely death on September 14th, of WO J. M. Graeve, the popular leader of the regimental band. Immediately upon return to Indiantown, the 28th Division and the 103rd Engineers prepared for large-scale maneuvers in the Carolinas with the 1st Army. The division, including the Engineer Regiment, left for the Carolina manuever area on September 25th, a four-day move, with bivouacs at Winchester, Va., Horse Pens Lake and Greensboro, N. C. The l03rd arrived at base camp near Lilesville, east of Wadesboro, N. C., on September 29th. At the close of these maneuvers the Division and attached troops were directed to return to Indiantown Gap. This movement was made as a three-day operation with overnight bivouacs at South Boston, Va., and Warrenton, Va., and arrival at the Gap scheduled for the evening of the third day. The Division moved in four serials: 55th Infantry Brigade; 56th Infantry Brigade; 58d Artillery Brigade; and fourth, all other units. The latter included the l03rd Engineers; 108rd Quartermaster Regiment; 103rd Medical Regiment; Tank Destroyer Battalion; a Pigeon Company; the attached Cavalry Regiment; and other miscellaneous units, all under the command of the commanding officer, 103rd Engineers. The fourth serial, the miscellany, brought together a great contrast in vehicles from the engineer pontoons and heavy road equipment to cavalry horse trailers and the pigeon company’s mobile loft: An army was on the march! The long and cumbersome road unit required early departures and late closings in bivouac areas. The serial left Wadesboro, N. C., for Indiantown at daylight Sunday, December 7, 1941!

That Sunday millions of Americans sat by their radio sets in disbelief that Japan would attack the United States. Japan did attack the United States and it was later disclosed to be a great military disaster. But it also later proved to be a grave mistake on the part of the Japanese. As the long, winding motorized columns trundled toward South Boston, Va., the radio in the control car crackled with the electrifying news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by Japanese planes. The excitement of the civilian population was matched by the excitement of the troops when they bivouacked that night near the North Carolina Virginia border. And the excitement never dimmed on the remainder of the movement to the Gap. Rumors were rampant during the next several days; orders were received; orders were cancelled. A divisional reconnaissance party, including the Division Engineer, G-1, G-4, Provost Marshall, etc., was dispatched on December 11th to the New Jersey coastal area. The mission was to locate concealed bivouacs in the pines southeast of Camp Dix where the entire 28th Division could be placed in position to defend an assigned sector of the New Jersey coast.

Maximum leaves over the Christmas and New Years’ holidays were restricted, and in some cases it was necessary to recall certain personnel after they had already departed from camp. The Engineer Regiment was ordered to assist the Philadelphia District Engineer (then Colonel, now Maj. Gen. Vaughn, ret.) on protective projects at the Philadelphia, Pa., and New Castle, Del., airports. The work consisted principally of constructing sand bag revetments around planes at these installations. The first battalion was assigned to Philadelphia, the second to New Castle. January 1942 was a tumultuous time. In addition to the problems of this fluid period the 28th Division was reorganized into a Triangttlar Division, with the engineer component reduced from a regiment to a battalion. “Over-age.in-grade” officers were transferred to noncombat assignments.

The Regiment lost both battalion commanders, Majors Harry Johnson, Jr., and John J. Borbidge, and several captains, including  John L. Ross and Fred J. Maurade, as well as 1st Lt. Howard C. (Pop) Daniels. Most ended up in overhead assignments in the Army Air Force. In January the 28th Division received orders to move to Camp Livingston, La., and to leave behind at Indiantown Gap certain battalions, including the second battalion, l03rd Engineer (C) Regiment, which was the first step in reorganizing the old square divisions into triangular divisions. The 111th Infantry Regiment became the nucleus of a separate Regimental Combat team and the second battalion, 103d Engineers, was detached from the Division and redesignated the 180th Engineers (Heavy Ponton) Battalion. As the Regiment then had no majors and was short of captains, senior officers Captains Wilbur E. Duryea and William H. Bender were assigned to the second battalion, with Duryea in command. First Lt. Henry H. Hayman was assigned as adjutant.
By Harmon Yerkes Gordon