TO MY GRANDFATHER JOSEPH L. BEGIN
And the Men who served with him in the 180th Engineer Heavy Ponton
Battalion in World War II
My Grandfather Joseph Begin
was in the U.S. Army Company A of the 180th Engineer Battalion (Heavy
Ponton) in World War II he
held the rank of Corporal. His
unit the 180th Engineer
Battalion (Heavy Ponton) was attached to the 3rd Army;
XX Corps until February 6, 1945 when the unit was reassigned
to the 9th Army. His Battle Credits in
World War II are.
Normandy - Northern
France -Ardennes - Rhineland - Central Europe.
180TH ENGINEER HEAVY PONTON BATTALION
MOTTO: "IT SHALL BE CROSSED"
17 February 1942, 180th
Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion was redesignated from the Second
battalion 103rd Engineers. During the period from redesignation
to departure from the United States, 11 February 1944, the Battalion
trained for its primary mission at Plattsburg Barracks, New York and
Camp Maxey, Texas.
The Battalion participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers in February and
The Unit departed from the New York Port of
Embarkation on 11 February 1944 on the Duchess of Bedford bound for
England. It docked at Greenock, Scotland on 22 February
1944. During the time in England from 24 February 1944 to 20 July
1944, the Battalion was stationed at Congleton, Cheshire, assigned to
the Third U.S.
Army and trained at Chester, England on the River Dee in the
construction of the floating Bailey Bridge, Fixed Bailey Bridge and the
Heavy Ponton Bridge.
The Battalion landed on
Utah Beach, France on 22 July 1944 Assembled and prepared for future
NORTHERN FRANCE CAMPAIGN
From 24 July 1944 to 14
September 1944 the Battalion was utilized by Third Army to haul and
move Engineer Supplies and equipment needed during the rapid advance
Company B built Heavy
Ponton Bridge at Pagny, France over the Moselle River. Length of Bridge
Company A built Fixed Bailey Bridge at
20 September 1944
1-5 October 1944
Company B built two fixed bridges
at Auboue, France.
5-13 November 1944
Storm Boats of H&S Company and outboard
Motor Operators from A and B Companies participated in assault
crossings and ferrying operations on the Moselle River at Uckange,
Malling and Cattenom, France.
14-15 November 1944
Company A constructed Floating Baily Bridge
over the Moselle River at Thionville, France. Length of bridge
14-17 November 1944
Company B constructed Floating Bailey Bridge
on Moselle River at Cattenom, France. Length of bridge
20 November 1944
Company A constructed Heavy Ponton Bridge on
Moselle River at Metz, France. Length of bridge 630 feet.
3-20 December 1944
Storm Boat Operators from H&S
Company and outboard motor operators from A and B Companies
in assault crossings and ferrying operations on the Saar River in the
vicinity of Dillingen, Germany.
14 December 1944
Company B commenced construction of Heavy
Ponton Bridge over Saar River in the vicinity of Wallerfangen,
Germany. Bridge not completed due to extreme enemy artillery
and small arms fire.
18 December 1944 to 11
H&S Company repaired assault boats,
converted Bailey footwalks to duckwalks for footbridge and constructed
snowplows for XX Corp. Engineer Units.
14-15 January 1945
Company B with personnel from A and H&S
Companies constructed Floating Bailey Bridge at Uckange, France over
the Moselle River. Length of bridge 560 feet.
6 February 1945
Battalion was relieved of assignment to
Third Army and assigned to Ninth Army.
27-28 February 1945
Company A constructed Heavy Ponton Bridge at
Kivit, Germany over the Roer River. Length of bridge 190
In additions to the above tactical missions this
Unit was assigned various duties.
24 December 1944, to 15
The Battalion was engaged in several hauling
missions for Third Army to depots at Bastogne and Arlon, Belgium and
Esch, Luxemburg. A reconnaissance of the Moselle River in the
vicinity of Remich, Luxemburg was also made on 15 January 1945 for the
location of a suitable site for a bridge.
24 March 1945
H&S Company made initial assault
crossings of Rhine River in Ninth Army's big push.
24-25 March 1945
Battalion with two Companies of 554th
Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion and 171st Engineer C Battalion built
Heavy Ponton Bridge over the Rhine River at Wallach, Germany.
31 March to 1 April 1945
Companies A and B built Heavy Ponton Bridge
over the Rhine at Orsoy, Germany. Length of bridge 1,080 feet.
12-13 May 1945
Companies A and B built Heavy Ponton Bridge
over the Elbe River, at Magdeburg, Germany. Length of bridge 680
The 180th Engineer Battalion received credit for occupation duty in Germany
for the period 2 May to 5 July 1945. At the end of the war,
they were in Osterberg, Germany (which may or may not be where
they performed their occupation duties) The Battalion
returned to the U.S. on 26 Nov 1945.
Joseph Begin's first year of service in the U.S. Army
The Engineers were
builders and fighters. Combat and general service Engineers built
thousands of miles of roads and railroads, hundreds of bridges and
airfields, and countless square feet of storage and troop support
facilities. Combat Engineers fought along side the maneuver arms, and
in some instances, in advance of infantry and armored forces. They
became experts in expedient roads and bridges as well as mine warfare.
Often, they laid aside the tools of the Engineer and shouldered the
weapons of combat soldier, fighting as Infantry.
02/17/41 TO 02/17/42
Pennsylvania's historic regiment:
The 103rd Engineers
T/Sgt. Richard Shafer, H&S
Co 180th Eng. Bn
His Story of WWII and the 180th Engineers Heavy Ponton
CHAPTER IV. SOLDIER
Some of the men of the 180th Engineer Bn in Normandy, France July 1944
with a captured German vechile & Nazi Flag
Comic from WWII (Yanks or Stars & Strips)????
It reads - Bombing of Ordnance Ammo Dump at Las Repas. 180th Engineers
Pre-Operational Phase In Normandy When the
Third Army Headquarters
landed on French soil, the first thing done was to insure absolute
security. In accordance with the plan Overlord, the presence of
the Third Army
was to be kept secret as long as possible. The idea was to keep the
German High Command guessing as to the where-about's of General Patton.
During the first days in the Allied invasion, the XIX Tactical Air
Command, whose primary job was aerial support for the Third Army,
established its own headquarters adjacent
to the army headquarters.
Their detailed planning then started with high hopes for quick
destruction of the Germans.The G-2 Section
of the Third Army made an in-depth report on enemy capabilities. It was
the immediate concern of Third Army Headquarters to receive and prepare
their arriving troops, who were coming in via control points
established at the Utah and Omaha beachheads. During the month of June,
over five hundred units of the Third Army were moving over the small
roads of the peninsula. With these troops arriving daily, Patton was in
a hurry to get going. He was fearful that the war might be over before
the could get into the battle, battle reports had indicated the First
Army alone had, by July 7, taken 46,219 prisoners of war (POWs) and
killed 4739 of the enemy.
Joseph Begin served under
George Patton, with the Third Army Lucky Forward (Third Army’s
code name) in the XX Corps, commanded by Walton H. Walker, one of
Patton's favorites. Patton once said of Walker that 'He will
apparently fight anytime, anywhere, and with anything that I will give
to him.' That was the type of commander Patton liked. The Third Army
became operational at 1200 hours on August 1, 1944 The Third Army swept
through Europe with a vengeance. Attacking in four
directions at once, they drove west, south, east, and north across
France, destroying everything in their path that was
In December, when the Germans launched the
Ardennes Offensive (known to Americans as the Battle of the Bulge),
Patton’s army made a spectacular battle march to relieve the 101st
Airborne’s Screaming Eagles who were holding Bastogne against all odds.
In the spring of 1945, Patton’s Army drove relentlessly into Germany,
across the Rhine, and into Austria. At war’s end, his soldiers were in
Czechoslovakia. Throughout the
war, Patton and his warriors had given a magnificent performance. Third
Army had gone farther, faster, conquered more territory, killed,
wounded, and captured more enemy soldiers than any other Army in the
recorded history of war. Third Army engineers constructed 2,498
bridges with a total footage of 255,520 feet, almost 48 and one half
miles of bridging. They built or maintained an average of 2,240 miles
There are three levels of military units:
Combat, Combat Service, and Combat Service Support. Combat is Armor,
Infantry, Artillery, those whose job is to fight. Combat service is
those who directly service combat units: Medical, Engineers, Military
Police, ect. Combat service support are the logistics train that keeps
the machine running. A survey
after WWII showed it took 20 men to keep one combat soldier in
operation. Engineer Bns in WWII were in classed in groups of Combat
Engineers, Construction Engineers, Bridge Building Units, Heavy
Construction, and Facilities Engineers. Combat Engineers served
directly with Infantry & Armor Units as an integral part,
generally one Battalion per Division. They put in and took out
minefields, built and cleared obstacles, blew bridges, direct combat
utilization. Construction Engineers built roads, housing, provide
water, ect. Bridge units build Bailey Bridges (pre assembled parts),
pontoon (floating) bridges, and timber trestle, all while
under direct fire. Facilities Engineers basically rebuild town
essential functions such as power, water, ect.
Foremen of CO A 180th Engineer Bn, Joseph Begin most
likely provided all these functions at some time. While in a defense
mode he'd have put in minefields, built bunkers, run miles of barbed
wire, built tank traps and obstacles. While in the attack he would have
removed ememy minefields and obstacles while under fire, cleared rubble
and roads so they could be used, and when necessary use a rifle to stay
alive. If necessary he
would have built hasty bridges over creeks and obstacles so units
could proceed. It was a very dangerous, hard, unforgiving, and
thankless occupation. The Engineers stopped the German advance by
blowing essential bridges at the Battle of the Bulge, they kept the
Bridge at Remagen up long enough for essential units to develop a
bridgehead. If the infantry/armor units come to a place where they
proceed, they immediately call on the engineers. I am very proud,
I am the descendant of a combat veteran who was a member of the
greatest generation of Americans up to this date.
It was perhaps fitting that the U.S. Army,
with an officer corps heavily influenced by the teachings of the United
States Military Academy (which was the first
engineering school in the United States), should be lavishly equipped
with engineer troops and equipment. The divisional combat engineer
battalions were capable of performing most engineering
tasks (including demolitions, obstacle emplacement, fortification, and
light bridge building) for the division. Additional battalions
from corps or army augmented divisional engineers for more extensive
tasks. Corps battalions were assigned to the command of an engineer
group headquarters, which consisted of an H&H Company and an
engineer light equipment company. Normally there were between three and
battalions in an engineer group and one or two groups per corps or
Combat engineer battalions tended to have high esprit de corps; they
rightly considered themselves to be elite specialists. In a pinch,
combat engineers also could act as infantry and did so frequently. In
the Battle of the Bulge, a handful of engineer battalions proved to be
a vital asset to the beleaguered American Army.
In addition to the combat engineer battalions there were in the Army a
number of other general engineer units. The Engineer Amphibian Brigade
was designed to support amphibious operations and included an H&H
Company, three boat-and-shore regiments, a boat maintenance battalion,
a medical battalion, and a quartermaster, ordnance, and a signal
company. A single amphibian brigade (with naval support) was capable of
transporting and landing an infantry division. Later, the brigade was
strengthened and re-designated as the Engineer Special Brigade. Six
Engineer Special Brigades, numbered 1st to 6th, were eventually formed.
The 1st served in the MTO, ETO and PTO, the 5th and 6th served in the
ETO, the others all served in the PTO.
Engineer aviation regiments and battalions were designed to construct
and maintain air bases. Aviation engineers included engineer airborne
aviation battalions, which were designed to be air transportable; so as
to repair airfields captured by airborne forces.
Engineer bridging units included heavy ponton (the word pontoon is
properly pronounced ponton, and beginning in World War II, that is the
way it has been spelled by U.S. Army Engineers) battalions (nineteen
formed, allotted usually one to three per army), light ponton companies
(usually one per engineer group), and treadway bridge companies
(usually one per armored division, but held at corps).
Engineer general service regiments and battalions performed
construction, repair, and maintenance duties of all kinds behind the
lines. Many general service battalions were formed as pools of
unskilled labor troops, usually African-American, and later
were organized as regiments. Fifty-five of the 103 general service
regiments that were formed were Colored units.
Engineer special service regiments (seven formed) contained highly
skilled construction personnel and had a large allotment of heavy
equipment. The remainder of the engineer corps was made up of various
specialist units, topographic, water supply, railway,
oil field, railway operating, and camouflage battalions. In addition,
there were large numbers of separate companies and even specialist
engineer detachments consisting of a few officers and men. Over
600 battalion-size engineer units were formed during the war.
Curiously, only the engineer combat regiments were broken up into
separate battalions as a part of the pool concept in 1943. The H&H
Company of the engineer combat regiments were re-designated as engineer
combat groups in 1943. The other specialized engineer regiments were
retained to the end of the war.
Corps, Army, and Army Groups
Twenty-four corps were activated by the end of the war, all except the
XXXVI Corps served overseas. Three were originally formed as
armored corps, of which the I Armored Corps was inactivated in Morocco
and its personnel utilized in the formation of
the Seventh Army, the II Armored Corps became the XVIII Airborne Corps,
and the III Armored Corps became the XIX Corps. The other corps
organized were the I-XVI, XX-XXIV, and XXXVI.
Twelve army headquarters eventually existed. By 1945, the First, Third,
Seventh, Ninth, Fifteenth, and First (Allied) Airborne Armies were
operational in the ETO, the Fifth was in the MTO, the Sixth, Eighth,
and Tenth were in the PTO, and the Second and Fourth
Armies were in the United States with training missions.
Finally, four army group headquarters were formed. The 6th and 12th
Army Groups served in the ETO and the 15th Army Group in the MTO.
With few exceptions,
all the armies and corps were organized by the AGF or existed in the
Regular Army or Organized Reserves at the start of the war. However,
the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Armies, First (Allied) Airborne Army, and
all of the army groups were activated overseas.
ENGINEER HEAVY PONTON BATTALION; 1153RD ENGINEER COMBAT GROUP; XVI
CORPS, NINTH US ARMY OPERATION "FLASHPOINT", RHINE RIVER CROSSING,
The Ninth Army Engineer's where the major
Engineer support for the operations in the Rhine River Crossing in
March 1945 the 1153rd Engineer Combat Group and the 180th Engineer
Heavy Ponton Battalion part of the XVI
Corps took part in (CODE NAME "DEBONAIR") the 180th Engineer Heavy
Ponton Battalion played a major part in the Events in Preparation and
Construction and Engineer Plans for the Rhine River Crossing, 21-24
March 1945 of Heavy Ponton Bridge Across the Rhine River. Vicinity of
Gen. Patton marking his territory
Patton stops in the middle of a ponton bridge
over the Rhine River near
Oppehneim to urinate on March 24, 1945. Said Patton, "I drove to the
River and went across on the ponton bridge. I stopped in the middle to
a piss and then picked up some dirt on the far side in emulation of
the Conqueror." Later, he sent the following communique to Eisenhower:
SHAEF, I have just pissed into the Rhine River. For God's sake,
send some gasoline.
Gardelegen Massacre, April 1945
ENGINEER HEAVY PONTON BATTALION
On May, 12 - 13 1945 they constructed a Heavy
608 feet long at Magdeburg, Germany across the Elbe River.
Sgt Vincent Iannazone of H&S Co 180th Engr meets Russians May
Companies A and B of the 180th constructed this Heavy Ponton Bridge
over the Elbe River on May 12-13 1945 at
Germany. Length of bridge 680 feet.
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFO ABOUT THE 180TH ENG. BN.
PLEASE E-MAIL ME AT
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