Archive for October, 2014

Ed and I returned home this past weekend from a memorable trip to Missouri and Illinois last week. The main reason for the trip was to view and record (with our cameras) five years’ worth of Morning Reports of the 111th, from 1940 to October 1945. We discovered this past summer that these reports still existed, in microfilm format, at the National Personnel Records Center (part of the National Archives) in St. Louis. We knew we had to go see them.

Ed reading morning reports in St. Louis last week

Ed reading morning reports in St. Louis last week

The National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO

The National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO

But before we tell you about the trip, please note that we have added a couple of items under the “About” heading at the top of this website: a description of the duties of a Medium Maintenance ordnance company and an explanation of the enlisted ranks used during WWII.

Another reason for our trip was to meet four children of two of the soldiers who have provided us with so much help and information about the 111th over the past year: Linda Campbell and Vickie Gratton, and their older brother, Ron Unangst, the children of the unit’s star memoir writer and photographer, Roland Unangst; and the son of Joe Sedlacek, Tom, who supplied us with the panorama photo of the men at Fort Dix in 1943 and the European itinerary, as well as many letters and photos. All still live near where their fathers grew up in Illinois. We had a wonderful time with all of them.

The Unangst kids: Vickie, Linda, and Ron

The Unangst kids: Vickie, Linda, and Ron

Lynn and Tom Sedlacek

Lynn and Tom Sedlacek

Morning Reports were a basic fact of life in WWII Army units. Here is one definition, from Wikipedia: “The report was signed by the unit’s Commanding officer…. It was the source for tabulation of the Army’s centralized personnel records. The morning report detailed changes in the status of soldiers in the unit on the day the change occurred, including, for example, transfers to or from the unit, temporary assignment elsewhere (TDY), on leave, promotion or demotion, and other such events. They were submitted daily to a unit’s headquarters and served as a record for two things: their location and any changes in personnel, that is, all the comings and goings of the men. “

Here are a few things we have learned from the 111th’s Morning Reports so far:

Heading to Normandy. The 111th left Albro Castle in Wales at half past midnight on the night of June 7/8, not June 6/7 as my father thought. There was some confusion about dates in the men’s memories, no doubt because their minds were on other things at the time. And we know for certain that they all boarded their LCTs in Southampton, England. The first “serial” or group left on the night of June 10 and arrived on the afternoon of June 11 on Omaha Beach; the second, slower, serial did so a day later.

Heading Home. On August 21, the first large group of 111th men (one officer, LT Perry Witt, and 44 enlisted men) to leave were assigned to HQ 16th Reinforcement Depot and left Brake, Germany, for the trip home to the United States in late August or early September 1945. (That list appears below, click to enlarge the image. You might see that these were the men with the highest points, and many were from the original Texas National Guard unit that was federalized in late 1940) The second group (25 enlisted men and 2 officers) were reassigned on Sept. 1 to the 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and left Brake on September 4, 1945, and departing by ship from Le Havre, France, to New York City sometime after that.

The list of the first group to be sent home, found attached to the morning report for Aug. 21, 1945

The list of the first group to be sent home, found attached to the morning report for Aug. 21, 1945

On September 21, CPT Art Brooks, the 111th’s CO and last remaining officer, was reassigned to the 19th Reinforcement Depot, HQ 29th Infantry Division. The third group, consisting of the new officer and CO (LT George McCorkle) and 54 men, left Brake on October 2, 1945, and drove by convoy 365 miles to Ettlingen, home of the Rhineland Kaserne, a large US Army base near Karlsruhe in the Black Forest area of southwestern part of Germany. The next day, they were assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, which then appeared to take care of shipping them home, apparently on various dates, as some of the men did not arrive home until December. On October 4, the 111th was down to one man—a new CO, LT Donald Sanborn.

Injuries. We gather from the reports that over the course of the unit’s time in Europe, many of the men suffered “non combat casualties.” This term meant sickness as well as bodily injuries (there were a few men noted as being “slightly injured” with one noted as being “seriously injured”). (The specific illnesses or injuries were not recorded.) They were usually sent to evacuation hospitals, with stays lasting from one day to several. We noted that nine men were sick or injured enough to eventually be “dropped,” meaning they were reassigned elsewhere, probably to a larger hospital. Interestingly, six of these men were dropped from the 111th rolls between early October and early December 1944, during the time when they had moved from France into Belgium and Holland.

As we read through each report—we took photos of all 1,371—we will let you know of any other interesting things we uncover.

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We have received many new photos in the past month, from former CO Captain Art Brooks; from Gene Karl’s daughter, Donna Leitzke; and from Leroy Brannon’s widow, Lillian. Here are a few–the rest we have posted in the “Photos” pages (at the top of this website) of “The Men” and “The Places.”

The new photos have given us some new information while also leading to new questions. We learned that the 111th had an earlier warrant officer we had not known about, Bill Hall; however, we have not been able to learn where he was from. We also now have photos of the men playing softball on the Poppit Sands near St Dogmaels, Wales, as well as more images of Albro Castle, where they lived for 4 months before Normandy; more photos of the men in Aberdeen, Maryland, in November 1942; and more photos taken in Europe. Sorry about the odd arrangement; WordPress doesn’t give much control over such things, at least as I have been able to learn.

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Warrant Officer Hall, 1944

Gen Karl in truck

Gen Karl in truck

Leroy Brannon

Leroy Brannon

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

Curt Vosz, Aberdeen, MD, Nov. 1942

CPT Malsbury

CPT Malsbury

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Charles Burns, Bill Campbell, and Robert Mauer

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on Poppit Sands, near St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

Playing ball on the beach, Poppit

George Legg and his D-Day beard

George Legg and his D-Day beard

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Major Dante Vezzoli, May 1945; he had been a Lt. with the 111th in 1942-3

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Waiting for the train, Aberdeen, MD, 1942

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Possibly the lane up to Albro Castle, St Dogmaels, Wales, 1944

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Gene Karl in train, buddies below

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

Men working at Albro Castle, Wales, 1944

MSG Frank Gomez

MSG Frank Gomez

Gene Karl in jeep

Gene Karl in jeep

St Dogmaels, Wales

St Dogmaels, Wales

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Army tanks in Neath, Wales, 1943

Albro Castle courtyard

Albro Castle courtyard

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

Gene Karl at Albro Castle with gun

CPT James Goode

CPT James Goode

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Cherbourg, France, 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Destroyed US tanks near Bastogne, Ardennes, July 1944

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Troop ship heading home, fall 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945

Dortmund, Germany, May 1945