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608 Engineer Light Equipment Co./Cpt. James L. Anderson

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by Clementine, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    My father served in the 608 Engineer Light Equipment Co. during WWII. His CO was Cpt. James L. Anderson. Cpt. Anderson was from the Paducah area. It was my father's understanding that Anderson owned a heavy equipment company in or around Paducah prior to the war. Anderson and my father traveled back to the states and mustered out together at Fort Knox in December of 145.

    I'd like to find anyone who might know of Cpt. Anderson or anything about the 608th.

    (I just know one day I'm going to connect with at least one person that has an interest in the 608th!)
     
  2. u00skc1

    u00skc1 recruit

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    Dear Clementine,
    I know quite a bit about the 608th Light Equipment Company, from its formation in Rockford, Illinois in early 1943, to its basic training in Austin, Texas, to its departure for England in late 1943, to its arrival in France shortly after D-Day, to its return home in late 1945. My father served in the unit from its formation until the end of the war. He has told me lots of stories about Captain Anderson. What specifically would you like to know?
     
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  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Welcome U00skc1,

    When you get through answering Clementine's questions, feel free to tell us anything about your father and his unit. We'd like to hear it.
     
  4. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    Everything! Anything! :D


    You've no idea how happy I am to hear from you! (I also sent you an email.)
     
  5. u00skc1

    u00skc1 recruit

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    I'll send you an email with more later. But here is an overview. My father was drafted in early 1943. He was sent to a camp in Rockford, Illinois and took tests to determine his placement. He was assigned to a newly forming light equipment company, the 608th. The term "light equipment" was a designation that meant equipment that did not have to travel by rail. So even though the unit used bulldozers, steam shovels, trucks, etc., it was considered light equipment. The unit's first and only commander was Lieutenant James Anderson. Anderson was originally from Paducah, Kentucky but at the time he joined the Army he was an engineer at Caterpillar Company in downstate Illinois. Anderson was in his 30s in 1943. His men liked him very much. Their nickname for him was "Dad" because he was so much older than the rest of them. They also sometimes called him "Jungle Jim", probably after the comic strip character. He was a very casual, unmilitary kind of guy. One of my father's recollections was seeing Anderson walk up to General Patton in France and stand talking with him with his hands in his pockets, jingling the coins he always kept there. As my father put it, "Patton didn't seem to mind, but Anderson wouldn't have cared if he did". The 608th originally had about 200 men when it left Rockford, Illinois for basic training in Austin, Texas. By the time basic training ended, the unit was down to about 110. The other 90 men either washed out or were transferred at their request. My father was in the company's First Platoon, commanded by a career officer named Lieutenant Washburn. Unfortunately, because of the way the company was deployed in England and on the continent, my dad tends to remember only the men from that platoon. The 608th completed basic training, went on maneuvers in Louisiana, and then went to a camp just outside Boston, from which they sailed for England in late 1943. Because they were headed overseas, Anderson was promoted to captain. While in England, my father mostly drove a truck hauling supplies around the island. My father's story is that on D-Day the original plan was for the 608th to land in Normandy on the first day, but another unit was chosen to go in its place. That other unit suffered 100% casualties. My father crossed the English channel and landed on Utah Beach on D+39, although since he and several other men went on a barge with some equipment, I don't know the timetable for the rest of the company. In France, the unit was deployed to other units who needed construction type services. So small groups of three or four or five men, depending on the job, would be sent to assist whatever unit needed construction type help. Among other tasks, they constructed graveyards, filled in bomb craters on road, pushed disabled equipment off to the side of roads, built bridges, dug foxholes. Anderson had told his men just before leaving for England that his goal was for all of them to live through the war and he almost achieved it. In early 1945, the company was about to enter a small German town named Aschaffenburg when they were fired upon by German snipers. One of the men of the 608th was killed by the sniper fire. It was the unit's only fatality. The unit retreated to woods outside of town and the town was bombed and shelled for three straight days. If you look up Aschaffenburg, you can find out more about that bombing. The unit proceeded to Munich and my father cleared rubble from the streets several blocks from the fighting so that the ambulances could pick up wounded infantrymen. The 608th had to stay in Europe long after the war because they had to train replacements and it took a while. Their last base was in Eppernay, France and that is where they caught a boat home in late 1945. The interesting story about that trip home was that the 608th was supposed to depart on a big ship but it broke down in the harbor. A general happened by and saw the large number of hash marks on the units' sleeves (designating their length of time in Europe) and he immediately ordered Anderson and his men to take the very next boat, which had just offloaded some returning German prisoners of war. It was a Liberty ship and there were storms in the Atlantic and it took longer than expected to get to New York. three days outside New York, the men of the 608th watched as that big ship, the one that had broken down, the one they should have been on, steamed past them and arrived in New York well ahead of them. The 608th held several reunions in the late 1940s in Chicago, my father went to one of them, but has since lost contact with everyone in the unit. I don't know what became of Captain Anderson after the war. More later.
     
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  6. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    I am getting misty-eyed......sorry, hate to be all emotional, but this means so much to me.

    My father worked with Patton, directly at some times, and you do corroborate a couple of things my father told me. Not that I didn't believe him, or you, but it ties the two together. He often talked about Eppernay and of Aschaffenburg. He said they were standing on a bluff or higher ground of some sort watching the bombing of Aschaffenburg. He was standing with two other men and he said suddenly the man in the middle just dropped to the ground, he'd been shot by a sniper. I often heard him say he could never understand why that man and not him. We talked about it just the other day, he said he can't remember the guy's name but he remember he was a really nice kid and he said how he wished he had written to "that boy's" parents, and he just couldn't understand why that boy died and he lived.

    I look forward to hearing and discussing this more.

    Is your father still living?
     
  7. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    Steve - Do you know what kind of shoulder patch our father's wore?
     
  8. u00skc1

    u00skc1 recruit

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    Other than a patch he wore in Europe which just had his corporal's stripes over the letter "T", the only patch I saw in the photographs I have is a round patch with a white capital "A" in the middle.
     
  9. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    View attachment 13702

    I assume you mean the Third Army Patch (obviously the one with the A) which makes perfect sense for our dads to have worn.

    The other patch is the Army Service Forces Patch. When I contacted the US Army Corps of Engineers the person I talked to thought my dad might have worn this patch because he was an engineer, but it was just conjecture on his part and I was a little leery of taking it as fact because of that reason. If the Third Army patch is what your father had on in photos, and he was in the 608th for the duration, then it obviously would have been what my father wore, as well.

    FYI - my father had a number of photographs he took himself and, I assume, some of him, but they were all stolen while he was in the staging area on his way home. The only photos we have of him was around the time he was in basic wearing - I am not sure of the proper term - the khaki service uniform, no jacket. Nothing with a patch. And when I asked him, he said he thought he wore the Third Army Patch, but he couldn't remember what it looked like.
     

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  10. u00skc1

    u00skc1 recruit

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    I keep having trouble navigating this site. My fault, not the site's. Anyway, this is the first time I saw the pictures of the two patches. The patch I saw in my dad's photo was the one on the right with the A in the middle. There are no photos of him wearing the other patch.
     
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  11. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    Thanks!
     
  12. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    I just spoke via telephone with a fine gentleman who served with my father in the 608 Engineers Light Equipment Company! He even remembers my father. He only lives four hours away! A reunion may be in the offing and he has two photo albums from his days with the 608th.

    Keep your fingers crossed for us!
     
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  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I've missed this post until now and have my fingers crossed.
     
  14. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Good luck on your venture Clementine! Keep us up to date, I love this thread!
     
  15. Buten42

    Buten42 Member Patron  

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    This is such great news. Bring a tape recorder and don't put off seeing him-even the real heroes are mortal :)
    Good luck
     
  16. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    I called him first just to make sure he was agreeable to talking to us. He called me back later in the day because he was so excited to hear from us, so he gave my dad a call and they talked on the phone for about a half hour.

    You just have to love it, my dad is almost 91 and this man is 93 and both are hard of hearing, so their talking on the phone was a treat in itself.

    I hope to get together with him soon and I will report back!
     
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  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    Sounds like a hoot (the phone call, I mean). Keep us posted on the small reunion.
     
  18. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Like Biak, I missed this thread on the first go around. What a marvelous thing that these two commerades of the 608th were able to connect after all these years. I hope they get to do it face-to-face in the near future. You are a truely a wonderful daughter, Clementine. :)
     
  19. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    My dad is just one hell of a guy. Makes being his daughter easy.

    And, like everyone else here, I just love these veterans. I know my dad's unit isn't any more special than anyone else's, they all sacrificed and they all did their part. But it really pains me that there's nothing out there on my dad's unit. And I want to at least put something together, no matter how small, so that people know there was a 608th Engineers and that they did their part!

    I will keep you posted.
     
  20. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Clem, I was chasing down a 'dead-end' on the 608 (sorry nothing found) but I did see a post that mentioned your Dad was a Missileer in 1964? Possibly at Vandenberg? My Uncle was there during that time frame and we may have crossed paths, we had lunch in L.A. with him that Summer.
    If so he might be interested in this:

    Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles - Appendix 1
     

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