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Bob Collins

1269th Engineer Combat Battalion
An Outline of its History

by William H. Allison

    The battalion was activated at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas on 30 March 1944.

    A senior cadre was organized under the command of Major Willard White.  In April a core unit of 18-year-old ASTP volunteers and Army Air Corps trainees arrived for five months of engineer basic training.  Many of that group were promoted to round out NCO cadre vacancies, after which replacements were brought in to fill the unit to T/O strength.  The battalion moved by train to Camp Kilmer, NJ, arriving 18 October 1944.

    The battalion sailed unescorted from New York harbor aboard a converted luxury liner, the SS Mariposa, on 27 October, docking in Marseille, France on 6 November 1944, after passing through a great storm.  The unit marched to CP 2, a Mistral-buffeted, miserably cold staging area near Aix-en-Provence, spending three weeks in advanced training, demolitions mostly (in which one trainee was killed), while waiting for equipment and vehicles.  The battalion was now part of the U.S. Seventh Army.

    On 29 November the battalion traveled by motor convoy to Nice, France.

    From 30 November 1944 to 23 March 1945 the battalion was attached to the 44th AAA Brigade, in support of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Japanese-American [Nisei] troops) and later the 65th Infantry Regiment (Puerto Rican troops) on combat duty in the Maritime Alps, on the southern Maginot Line above Nice and Menton.  In that time the 3rd platoon of Company A built a timber trestle bridge under fire, naming it in honor of Pfc. George I. Bernay, the first among our unit to be killed in action (7 Dec 1944).

    Company A line platoons were located at Peira Cava, St. Martin Vesubie, and La Bollene--engaged in minefield work, demolitions, bridge building, road work, patrol activities and other combat engineer assignments, confronting the enemy-held forts Mille Fourches and La Forca, on the Alpine heights of l'Authion above the Turini forest.  HQ units were in Nice and St. Martin-du-Var.  Early in March 1945 Company A units were pulled back to duty on the Côte d'Azur, guarding key points on the shore between Nice and Menton.

    Company B units were in Menton and Sospel and Company C was at Nice and l'Escarene.  Battalion HQ was located at Beaulieu-sur-Mer.

    On 18 March 1945 the battalion began the move from Southern France to Germany, going by way of Montelimar, Lyon, Dijon, Rosieres-aux-Salines, and Sarreguemines, France, reaching the battle front at Frankenthal, Germany on 23 March 1945.

    Operating under the command of the 6th Army Group T-Force (an intelligence assault force) the battalion advanced to the Rhine River at Ludwigshafen on 24 March under a heavy artillery barrage, seizing and holding T-Force targets at the I. G. Farben factory and elsewhere in the city.  At 08:00 on 29 March the battalion left Ludwigshafen, crossed the Rhine on the Seventh Army's pontoon bridge near Worms, and advanced to T-Force targets in Mannheim.  The battalion moved with the battle front in the weeks thereafter, rushing forward with assault forces to secure vital intelligence targets with their records, equipment, and personnel intact.  Heidelberg, an open city, was entered on 1 April--the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute being a main target there.  Würzburg was next (10 April), then Heilbronn (16 April), and on 22 April the column brushed the outskirts of Stuttgart, heading for the Black Forest.

    The 1269th was now functioning as the combat arm of the Alsos Mission, a Military Intelligence assault force commanded by Colonel Boris Pash, which was directed against the Nazi atomic weaponry program.  In the final rush to seize the German atomic research center at Haigerloch, Alsos and the 1269th ECB, less Company B, crossed through the French First Army's spearhead column (which was moving on Sigmaringen and Stuttgart, contrary to Sixth Army Group command).

    On 22 April at Haigerloch, and for six days thereafter in the towns of Hechingen, Bisingen, Tailfingen, and Thanheim, the 1269th ECB participated in taking atomic scientists into custody, seizing laboratory records and equipment, and securing uranium, heavy water, and other items and materials important to the U.S./British Manhattan Project.

    Leaving the Alsos Mission on 28 April, the battalion became one of the first combat units to enter Munich, advancing with Company C, 30th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.  Elements of the battalion were among the first troops to come upon the concentration camp at Dachau.

    In Munich the 1269th was responsible for the exploitation and guarding of T-Force targets, as well as for disarming mines and booby traps and for other combat engineer duties.  Units of Company A were sent to Berchtesgaden on 5 May and thereafter, to exploit intelligence targets in that area.

    The 2nd Platoon of Company A was instrumental in the discovery of the Reichsmarschal Herman Goering art treasures hidden in a cave near Goering's house at Berchtesgaden.

    Their work in Munich and the pre-Alpine region completed, the battalion began a series of moves westward.  On 14 May, H&S and C Companies moved to Augsburg to open a camp for some 250 to 300 special investigators of the T-Force.  Company A moved from Munich to Bad Rappenau on 16 June.  Company C moved to Neckargemund on 10 July.  On 13 July, H&S Company and the Medical Detachment moved to Heidelberg.  B Company was instrumental in collecting data that was used in the Nuremberg trials.  On 16 June that company moved to Heinsheim, then to Waibstadt on the 19th.

    Changes of location and assignments continued, with Company A moving from Bad Rappenau to St. Ilgen on 15 July.

    The battalion was ordered to work with a German contractor charged with building a bridge across the Neckar river at Heidelberg.  Company A spent three days, beginning 27 July, crossing the Neckar with a Treadway (pontoon) bridge and then dismantling it, to fulfill that Seventh Army assignment.  Then on 31 July Company A moved from St. Ilgen to Seckenheim.

    On 3 August, the 1269th ECB was relieved from attachment to the Seventh Army T-Force, under orders that the Battalion be depleted and its personnel transferred to the 3rd Reinforcement Depot, near Marburg.

    On 4 August, B Company personnel were transferred to the 3rd Reinforcement Depot, except for the company CP, which moved to Heidelberg.  On 5 August, A and C Companies followed the same course of action.  Then on 6 August, the Battalion HQ and H&S Company CP, plus some other personnel, were transferred to the Reinforcement Depot.

    Most of Company A troops were moved by train (40 & 8 boxcars, [forty men, eight horses] dating from the 1st World War) from 14 through 16 August to Camp Top Hat near Antwerp, by way of Kassel, Maastricht, and Liege.  Other companies of the 1269th made a similar trip at about the same time.

    Most of Company A sailed from Antwerp on 19 August aboard the NYU Victory, reaching New York Harbor on 29 August.  From there, a ferry boat took the troops up the Hudson river to Camp Shanks, where they were welcomed with a lavish feast, then swiftly sent home on furloughs.

    Other battalion members sailed from Antwerp in August 1945 as conditions permitted--transported on various ships including the SS Samuel Ash, SS Mariposa, and Claymont Victory.

    The battalion remnant was deactivated at Camp Kilmer, NJ on 2 March 1946.


    The record of 1269th Engineer Combat Battalion activities outlined above comes mostly from National Archives records and from the memories of comrades from Company A.  It is our purpose to expand and correct the record of our old outfit and to share what information we have.

    We invite whoever may be interested in sharing their information about the 1269th ECB to contact us.  To do so, please click on the email address given below.