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Donald A. Stewart

610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 80th Infantry Division

 

 

May 26, 1945

 

Dear Folks:

    All censor restrictions have been lifted, and now we don't even have to sign our names in the lower left corner of the envelopes as we used to. This is the first time we have been off an "Alert" status since January, 1944. This does not mean that we will not go to the pacific. Perhaps about all it indicates is that we will remain here for a while, and then maybe to the C.B.I. I found out long ago, no one can second guess the Army, so it is useless to try - anything can happen.

 

For the present we are still endeavoring to maintain law and order in our assigned portion of the Landkries Eichstatt, which is the same locality I have already described to you previously - that is the area in the vicinity of Kipfenburg (which is midway between Nurnberg and Munich). Our problems are slowly vanishing and soon we should have things pretty well back to normal. We are now in the process of registering all German people- and screening them in an effort to find out who were active party members and who were not. Now that censor regulations are practically nil I can tell you a few things that I would like to have told you before.

 

We left New York on June 1st or 2nd, sailing on the New Amsterdam, a former Dutch luxury liner. It was one of the larger ocean liners and still had its original Dutch crew. The ship was crowded similar to any troop ship. After sailing for eleven days at sea, we docked in Glasgow on the 12th of June. Here we were immediately impressed with the spirit and friendliness of the Scotch people. They lined the tracks for miles - waving and cheering as our train headed south into England. We traveled all night and all day, and in the darkness detrained at a small rural rail station, called Hampton station. Here we boarded trucks and took a short ride to our destination. We arrived at Packington Park in the middle of the night - and tired is not the word for it. Packington was an old family estate of an English earl, and in 1940 had been converted into training area and camp for British troops. Now it has been loaned to Uncle Sam on the reverse end of the Lend-lease program. It was comprised of "Nissen" huts (crescent shape) for barracks. A few of the officers, including myself, lived in the many and spacious rooms of the Earl's manor hall, a huge building which must have been quite a show place in its day. Packington Park is located midway between Coventry and Birmingham. This was our home for six weeks. Here we received most of our equipment and it took all of our time to oil it up and get it all in working order. At the end of this time we once again headed south - this time to Salisbury. Here we put the finishing touches on all our equipment and became set for the big test - Combat! For two weeks we lived in pup tents just outside of Salisbury - this was for furthering hardening. From here we drove to Weymouth where we boarded L.S.T's and L.C.V.P's and started our trip across the Channel.

 

Fortunately for us the Channel was extremely calm. We spent two days and two nights on the boat and on July 31st landed at Utah Beach - on something like D plus 51. Even at this late date they still landed vehicles right off the boats onto the beaches. By this time they had traffic control worked to such perfection that we merely rolled onto the beach and rolled right off with no waste of time. We spent our first night in France far behind the lines in a bivouac located near Bricbaque which is directly south of Cherbourg about 15 miles. We remained here for six days, and it was here that we all had the opportunity of swimming in the ocean. In the distance we could see the grey outlines of the Channel Islands- Jersey and Guernsey which remained in the German's hands until the war was officially over in Europe.

 

At the end of six days our pleasant stay near Bricbaque ended. We were given a surprise mission of stopping two Panzer Divisions that had broken through in the vicinity of Mortain. The night of August 6th we rolled south through St. Lo, Constance and Avranches. At Avranches, the Luftwaffe was waiting for us and we had our first taste of combat. We were bombed and strafed for one full hour, it is quite an indescribable sensation. It was here we suffered our first casualties. We arrived at our destination early the following day to find that the breakthrough had been stopped and that we were not needed - that did not make us mad.

 

Here we joined the 80th Infantry Division and went with them to Argentan to help close the Argentan-Falaise Gap. We saw a good dose of action here, and as you already know, our Colonel Herold was killed and Major Greenhaw was seriously wounded in this engagement. Major Greenhaw is back in the States and there is little doubt that he will see action again. He was wounded in the leg. It was his place which I took, when I became S-3, a job which I still have.

 

After Argentan, we followed the Germans across France, barely missing Paris, out hitting such places as Sena, Charious-Sur Marne, Bar le Duc, St. Michiel, Commercy and then the Moselle River at Pont-a-Mousson. This is where the whole 3rd Army ran out of gas, giving the Germans time to reinforce defensive positions along the Moselle. Had not this happened, the war might have been over last fall. Our supply lines were stretched too far.

 

Establishing the bridgehead across the Moselle River was a costly objective but it was done, and for two weeks the 80th received violent counter attacks every day and sometimes twice a day. One day the 610 Tank Destroyers knocked out 12 German tanks. This was in the middle of September. On the 27th of September we were hauled out of the line for a rest in a bivouac between Nancy and Toul. Here we turned in our cumbersome towed 3" guns for the latest thing in Tank Destroyers the 90mm Self propelled M36. We had the distinction of being the first Tank Destroyer unit to be equipped with this weapon. On November 8th we once again shoved off with the 80th and by sheer power pushed the Germans back through mud, rain, floods and stubborn defenses, passing through such places as Chateau Salins, Failquemont and finally St. Avold. This was early December.

 

We continued the drive across the German border and to within sight of the German city of Forbach, but on the 22nd day of December we received orders to move to Luxembourg to help stem the tide of German break-through. After traveling over 200 miles we were ready for an attack on German position just north of Luxembourg City on December 23rd. We spent Christmas and New Years in Mersch. The Germans were slowly driven back and we advanced as far as Wiltz before receiving new orders to report (January 28th) to the 4th Infantry Division. This division is a D-Day Regular Army outfit and is without question one of the best Uncle Sam has. With the 4th we went through Bastogne, St. Vith and crossed the German border near Blielof and Prum - going through the Siegfried Line at the same time. This all sounds smooth and easy but actually there was heavy - much heavy - fighting all the way. One day the 610th neutralized 25 forts in the Siegfried line and knocked out 6 tanks (German). In the vicinity of Prum, the 11th Armored division passed through the 4th and continued all the way to the Rhine. This was the middle of March and the 4th Division was pulled back in the vicinity of Luneville for a rest. We remained with them.

 

On the 29th of March we crossed the Rhine at Worms along with the 7th Army. Some towns were defended and some towns were not, but in those that were, these fanatical young SS troopers would stand against over-whelming odds, usually to their death. Our route of advance included Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Aalen, Augsburg, Munich, Bad Talz, then south almost to the Austrian border in the vincinity of Berchtesgaden. Here the war ended and we immediately moved to our present location.

 

Since August 6th our battalion has knocked out 94 German tanks and three self-propelled guns, as well as numerous other smaller targets. This total of tanks destroyed ranks second best in the ETO and this includes Tank Destroyer units that have fought all the way from North Africa.

 

Well, this is the story of our activities. I couldn't begin to portray the real action behind the lines, so I have generally given you an idea where we traveled. We have been credited with four campaigns and as a result are entitled to wear four bronze stars on our ETO ribbon. If nothing else it does stand for 20 points on the new "Point System". I have a total of 70 points which is not quite good enough. It still looks like a long war ahead for me.

 

It is after eleven o'clock pm and I'm going to hit the hay.

Take care of yourselves.

With Love,

Don

 

 

 

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