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70 years later, still don't know him

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by Joe25W, Feb 14, 2015.

  1. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    My father Wilmer Willis was born in 1924 in Elizabeth, LA to a farmer and his wife, the fifth of eight children. At 19 he enlisted in the U.S. Army from what he told me as a young boy he after his training at Ft. Knox he was posted to a Calvary unit where he learned to ride motorcycles, then to a demonstration (possible testing) unit using light tanks (I've been told dropping airborne tanks but can't find any documentation) he was then sent to learn to drive the DUKW. Here's where I get lost. I know my father participated in the Normandy invasion. Served under Patton, assisted with the relief of the 101st during the Bulge, helped to cross the Rhine, and was part of a group that liberated one of the camps (was still chauffeuring the 101st at this point I believe). It was after VE that he was transferred to India. And was in China on VJ. I have part of his discharge papers and can post them later (on my tablet it tends not to take good pics) he ended the war as a Corporal. He was discharged in 1946. He worked for a short time for the Louisiana State Police, then began a career in construction worked from 1948 until his retirement in 1988 as a union insulator with local #53 at nuclear facilities across the nation settling in Richland, WA where he resides to this day.

    Against my fathers wishes I enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17. With his military service still haunting him he at first refused to sign for me. He told me about what it was like at Normandy and the concentration camp. To this day that's the only time he's talked to me about his service. Other than to tell me about his encounter with Patton outside a French town (Pont a Mousson) apparently a junior officer posted a guard at a winery Gen. Patton rolls up and asks what's going on. someone pipes up that the officers aren't allowing the Enlisted men to drink, to which Patton replied in his very Patton way. My favorite story as dad laughed every time he would tell it.

    My father's Awards:
    Army Good Conduct Medal
    WWII Victory Medal
    ETO Medal with Bronze Arrow and Silver Star Devices
    CBI Medal
    French Croix-de-Guerre

    My father's Patches
    3rd Army
    5th Amphibious Corps
    China Burma India

    I've attached a photo of my father when he came home in 1946
     

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  2. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    Joe,
    Welcome to the forum. Your experience is not unique with your father. Mine would talk a little but not a lot. I think the large family and farm thing might have something to do with that. The arrow head and star are typical to a 3rd army man who landed on D-Day and went to the end.
    The most information I received about my father was by hiring a good researcher. There are many threads on the forum with lots of good suggestions. I use Golden Arrow Research,however there are other good ones out there. The morning reports are what you want. They give day to day info on location and what was happening.
    Good luck! Your search will not be in vain.God bless you and your father and thank him and yourself for your service.
    Bob
     
  3. McCabe

    McCabe Active Member

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    In my experience, morning reports are good for two things: 1)Confirming if someone was actually with a specific unit at a specific time 2)As you said, locations.

    In the morning reports I have studied for my own research, I found very little on "what was happening" beyond entries along the lines of "departed assembly area at x-time, arrived at line of departure at x-time" etc. Very little detail. But, consistently, they all provided location coordinates that are accurate down to a few hundred meters (I believe) - locations were based on the Modified British System of maps, which chibobber can read about here: http://www.echodelta.net/mbs/eng-welcome.php What chibobber wants is the morning reports to establish that his father was with a unit on a date of interest. He then should refer to operational records and any available unit histories to get more info on the actual details of what happened on that date.

    Then again, I'm sure morning reports must have varied from unit to unit, not to mention theater to theater. Perhaps there are some here who found morning reports to be quite detailed and informative. But I would wager that the more combat a unit saw, the less time they had for detailed record-keeping, as it obviously wasn't the priority. As usual, I reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong on this.
     
  4. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    Please my give your father my regards Joe25W. Do you know the name of the camp that he liberated? I ask because I met a veteran who has been a major impact on my life who liberated a concentration camp with his unit. Still gets emotional when it is brought up :( .
     
  5. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I'll echo what Bob and McCabe said about Morning Reports. My experience with MRs is pretty much the same. They are great for indicating date and location, but usually have little information other than personnel changes. However, if you know when and where your father's unit was, you can find the unit records to see what was going on at that time.
     
  6. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    See his paperwork says "76th amphibious truck section" as his separation unit
    (sorry for my lack of knowledge)
     

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  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    76th Amphibious Truck Section. A section is a small unit, probably only a few vehicles.

    I cannot find it listed in the Unit Citation and Campaign Credit Register, which makes me think it was part of a much larger unit.

    I found this and you did say he was in India. http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/trans/0076trdet.htm
    I wonder if this is the same?

    See the date of formation? I tend to think he was with another unit while he was in Europe.


    5th Amphibious Corps. That is a Marine unit, isn't it? Red shield, three white stars and an alligator?
     
  8. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    Possibly a misquote on my part most likely I've mixed up something from my time in service might be an Army Amphibious Forces patch
    Dads patch is the blue background with gold Eagle, Thompson SMG, Anchor, but you are correct in saying the USMC has a fifth amphib corps as well. I've included their patch.

    If I'm not mistaken there were Army and Navy units combined into Special engineering brigades (similar to todays inter-service units) the naval version of the patch had a red background with gold Eagle, Thompson SMG, Anchor. I believe both were taken from a British special boat services patch that had a black (dark blue in some) background and red emblems.

    The patch was worn on the left chest pocket of dads dress uniform, unsure of location on any combat uniform
     

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  9. Owen

    Owen O

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    Not SBS but Combined Operations.
     
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  10. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    Slipdigit,
    Unfortunately the link takes me to a "page not found" sir.

    Owen,
    Thank you for the clarification sir.

    I do greatly appreciate all the input, I'm by far not the best researcher. There's a reason that we Infantry are known as Grunts lol. On a serious note, I have little knowledge of Army or foreign force structure, my military experience lies in infantry tactics and automatic weapons so to delve into the unit history side of things I am utterly lost.
     
  11. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    [​IMG]
    USA variant of the British badge. An article on the American Army Engineering Amphibian Units mentions that the shoulder patch worn by members was approved on June 17th 1942. This patch, embroidered in yellow on a light blue background, was worn at the top of the left arm only.
    http://www.combinedops.com/INSIGNIA%20SPECIMENS.htm

    Found this little bit of information about the Combined Operations patch.
    Do you have a clearer picture of your father in uniform? The one you posted is a bit hard to decipher. I see nothing on his discharge paper about the Croix-de-Guerre. How did you come across that?
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Also found this about the 76th:
    Other TC Units 28th TC Traffic Regulating Battalion - Parbatipur
    Det, 28th TC Traffic Regulating BN - Calcutta

    38th Staging Area Co, TC - Activated 24 Aug 45 in IB theater
    76th TC Amphibian Truck Detachment - Calcutta


    Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History (76th Transportation Detachment) Lineage:
    • Constituted 19 July 1945 in the Army of the United States as the 76th Transportation Corps Amphibian Truck Detachment
    • Activated 12 August 1945 in India
    • Inactivated 12 October 1945 in India
    • Redesignated 5 November 1962 as the 76th Transportation Detachment and allotted to the Army Reserve
    • Activated 15 February 1963 at New Haven, Connecticut
    • Inactivated 15 March 1972 at New Haven, Connecticut
    • Activated 30 September 1976 at Middletown, Connecticut
    • Inactivated 16 February 1981 at Middletown, Connecticut
    • Activated 16 October 1984 at Gainesville, Florida
    • Inactivated 17 October 1984 at Gainesville, Florida
    • Activated 16 September 1989 at Orlando, Florida
    • Ordered into active military service 2 February 2003 at Orlando, Florida; released from active military service 1 May 2004 and reverted to reserve status
    • Ordered into active military service 8 June 2011 at Orlando, Florida
    Campaign Participation Credit:
    • World War II: Asiatic-Pacific Theater, Streamer without inscription
    • War on Terrorism: Campaigns to be determined
    Decorations:
    • Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered SOUTHWEST ASIA 2003-2004
    Lineage and Honors Information as of 13 July 2011

    http://www.cbi-history.com/part_iv_trans.html#41
     
  13. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    Mr. Russo,

    I do have a better copy, but having just moved I'm having difficultly finding it at the moment. I appreciate your assistance greatly sir, closer inspection in the lower right hand corner of the photo I can see I was mistaken as the outline of the patch is visible on the left upper shoulder. Thank you again for pointing that out sir and thank you for the 76th info it makes sense now why I could not find any info on that unit in the European theater. As for the Croix-de-Guerre I remember dad telling me that it was a awarded after his separation (I don't know on what grounds, believe it had to do with a Normandy invasion anniversary but I have no documentation or information to confirm it as dad has Alzheimer's and moms a bit of a hoarder.)

    Respectfully,
    Joe
     
  14. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Glad I was of some assistance. Please call me Lou; Mr. Russo is much too formal.
     
  15. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    Will do Lou, thanks again sir.
     
  16. Joe25W

    Joe25W New Member

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    So to the best of my (very limited) research only one amphibious truck unit participated in both the Normandy invasion and the crossing oh the Rhine. The 453rd Amphibious Truck Company. From the documentation I can find, at the Rhine the unit was split among two locations. One went to VIII Corps location and crossed in the St. Goar - Oberwesel area the second went to XII Corps and crossed in the Oppenheim - Niersiien area. With the 89th and 90th IDs being crossed by the trucks of the 453rd in a total of 454 trips across... Any one able to find a unit roster for the 453rd by chance?
     

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