The history of the 54th Replacement Battalion.
Activation and training at Camp Sutton
As the United States ramped up for the invasion of Europe, a new plan for training replacement troops was put into action by the Army. One small piece of this plan was the 54th Replacement Battalion. The 54th was one of five battalions attached to the newly activated 12th Replacement Depot, along with the 50th, 51st, 52nd, and 53rd Replacement Battalions. The purpose of the Depot and attached battalions was to train and equip soldiers to go overseas as replacements for field casualties.
The 54th Replacement BN was activated 25 May 1943 at Camp Sutton, North Carolina, which is located about one mile from Monroe, North Carolina, in compliance with General Orders No. 11, Headquarters, Camp Sutton, North Carolina, dated 13 April 1943. Activation based on War Department letter, file AG 320.2 (3-23-43) OB-I-SPOPU-M, subject, “Constitution and Activation of Replacement Units in May, 1943,” dated 27 March 1943, and letter, Headquarters, Fourth Service Command, file AG 320.2 Camp Sutton, subject, “Constitution and Activation of Replacement Units in May, 1943,” dated 9 April 1943.
The Battalion, commanded by Major John R. Tindall, Infantry, was assigned to the 4th Service Command and attached to the 12th Replacement Depot. The 12th was activated on the same date, under the same authority and was commanded by George A. Moore, Cavalry.
The Battalion, consisting of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and Companies A, B, and C, was organized under Table of Organization 20-45, 1 April 1942 as amended, to have a strength of seven officers and 18 enlisted men in headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and four officers and 33 enlisted men in each company.
At the time of activation the battalion had cadre strength of:
HQ A B C total
Officers 6 3 4 4 17
Enlisted 4 7 7 7 25
These enlisted men had arrived prior to activation on 21 May 1943, from Quartermaster Replacement Training Center, Camp Lee, Virginia. Officers arrived at various times during the week preceding activation. Ten of the officers were from Officers Candidate School No. 2, Army Administration Schools, Grinnell Iowa, on their initial assignment following graduation. One of these officers was newly commissioned William Oliver McLain, SN 01897515. McLain had been an enlisted soldier with the 348th Military Police Escort Guard Co at Fort Wadsworth, NY, before attending Officers Candidate School. He was assigned to the 54th on 10 May, with 10-days travel authorized. His first assignment was as Platoon Leader, Co A. (McLain)
During the days immediately following activation various classes were held for officers and enlisted men to integrate the group and to aid in organization of the unit. Lieutenant Delbert E. Williamson, Assistant Adjutant and Adjutant, wrote the original BN history from which much of the information for the battalion was taken. The battalion was working under the handicap of limited personnel and the fact that such personnel were frequently taken from administrative duties for details and for training. The companies faced similar problems. It was not uncommon to see high-ranking noncommissioned officers working as kitchen police during the first days.
The first fillers were received about 10 June and were attached to the various battalions and subsequently to companies by the battalions. Following classification procedures by Headquarters, 12th Replacement Depot, a re-shuffle was made and on 22 June the first group of 84 fillers were assigned to the 54th Replacement Battalion. The battalion was to only receive 11 fillers directly assigned. These 11 were from the Reception Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. The rest of the fillers received by the battalion had been assigned to other battalions or to Headquarters Company, 12th Replacement Depot, and were reassigned by the Depot.
Robert Stamm Butcher married Fay Rozelle Bradfield on 16 August 1942 in St. Marys West Virginia. Sometime in May 1943 Bob received his draft notice. Bob was classified A-1 On May 28, 1943 he was appointed leader of a group of selectees for the train trip from St. Marys to Columbus, Ohio on 6 June 1943.
According to Bob’s Induction Report he had been working as an annealer for Crucible Steel Corporation in Midland PA for 4 months. His discharge records list his time as 6 months, annealing coil springs. He had also worked on and off in his father’s garage from 1935 to 1943, repairing automobiles.
On June 4th Bob Butcher and 43 other men boarded train #9 in Clarksburg West Virginia and headed to training. The New York Central System Conductor’s Report shows that they joined 2654 other passengers and continued on through Charleston WV and Athens Ohio before arriving at the Fort Hayes Reception Center Columbus Ohio. Here he was in-processed and sent on to Camp Sutton. He was at Camp Sutton by June 8th and received a physical exam at the Hq Company, 12th Replacement Depot.
Training began on 14 June 1943, even though the men were, in effect, on a casual basis. The training was coordinated by the Depot. The actual training was performed on a battalion basis, except for road marches, which were at first conducted by the Depot. At a later date the road marches were turned over to the battalions. Men who joined the battalion at a later date were given special concentrated instruction to bring them up to the training level of the men who had started earlier.
During the week of 4 July the Battalion was on the range at Pageland, South Carolina, where all but about 6% of the men fired and qualified. The remaining men fired and qualified at a later date, so the final result was 100% qualification. The battalion breakdown on scores was:
Marksman Sharpshooter Expert
Officers 11 6 2
Enlisted 79 23 3
We know from Bob’s letter to his mother on 10 July 43 that from the 5th to the 10th the unit was camped at the rifle range. He told her that he scored 167 and 169 out of a possible 200 points and that the only guy to beat him shot 170. He also said that the first time he shot the rifle issued to him “It just kicked the hell out me and hit me in the lip at the same time. My lip swelled up twice as big as it should be”. On a more positive note he said that the food was good. William McLain, Pt. Ldr of Co A, qualified marksman on course 3. (McLain)
The 12th Replacement Depot announced eight awards for marksmanship, the prizes to consist of five dollars cash and a furlough. The battalion took four of these awards:
1st Sgt whose company made highest average score: 1st Sgt William C. Magner, Co. A, 158.9
1st Sgt whose company qualified the most experts: 1st Sgt Charles J. Paxton, Co. B, 1 man
Platoon Sgt whose men made highest average score: Sgt Lee E. Hadley, Co. A, 158.9
High score among Cadre men: Sgt Clyde W. Pitts, Co. B, 181
One of the highlights of the eighth week of training was a “battle course” on the post, which was designed to present situations, which might be encountered in a tactical situation. The training was aimed at increasing the ability of the men to grasp a situation, to think and to act. Beginning with the ninth week, specialized training was emphasized, groundwork having been laid in introductory special courses in the previous weeks.
A good portion of the time was devoted to physical hardening through road marching two or three times a week.
On 13 August a 20-mile (24 according to Bob’s pictures) road march was undertaken, with all but three battalion personnel completing the march. The infiltration course was run the following day. At intervals during the next week stragglers or newcomers that had missed these events were put through the courses.
These photographs are from Bob Butcher's collection. It is likely that these are all at Camp Sutton. But some may be from Camp Butner.
Click here for more photos from Basic Training.
"After the 24 mile hike, same day, I could still stand on my feet, tho it was hell."
The situation at Camp Sutton was not too good. Quarters for enlisted men and officers were in tents. The mess hall and the latrine were the only buildings in the battalion area. During the early period rains were heavy. All during the Sutton period showers were frequent, often soaking clothes and records. During the latter weeks the heat was intense and was felt particularly on the sun-baked, treeless clay upon which the battalion and depot were located.
Unfortunately, no morning reports were found in the National Archives for the period of time the unit spent at Camp Sutton.
Camp Butner, North Carolina, August 1943
On 25 August the situation took a change for the better when the battalion was moved, via truck convoy, to Camp Butner, North Carolina. Camp Butner was located about 19 miles north of Durham, North Carolina.
This movement was in accordance with Letter Order no. 103, Headquarters, Camp Sutton, North Carolina, 24, August 1943. At Camp Butner the men moved into wooden barracks. The battalion was first temporarily located on 27th Street near C Street, and subsequently in the assigned quarters at 26th and C Streets. The battalion was assigned two barracks for troops, a battalion orderly room and a mess hall.
At this time the battalion had 19 officers and 117 enlisted men divided as follows:
Hq Co. A Co. B Co. C
Officers 8 4 3 4
Enlisted 26 31 31 29
During the week of 4 September training tests were given to all enlisted men, 2nd Lieutenants and warrant officers. The tests were in all basic subjects and were given by the Camp Butner Training Officer. Results were generally satisfactory. All officers in the battalion scored above 80%. These tests did have the advantage of revealing the weaknesses of the personnel so that corrective action could be instituted.
The 13-week basic training course was completed on 18 September. Advanced and refresher training began on the 20th. In this phase of training came such things as the obstacle course, the attack on a village, combat firing, street fighting, instruction on the bazooka and carbine, technical training, practice convoys and troop movements. Bob told me once that when they were on convoys the drivers would sometimes put their tin ration cans on the manifolds of the motor to heat up as they drove. When they stopped they would open the cans and have hot food. The trick was to punch holes in the lids before heating on the motor. Sometimes the “new guys” would forget to poke the holes and partway down the road their rations would explode all over the motor. He seemed to get a real kick out of that.
On 1 November, the battalion was reorganized and re-designated in accordance with General Order No. 34, Headquarters, Camp Butner, NC, 1943. The headquarters and Headquarters Detachment was reorganized under T/O & E 20-46. Each Company was reorganized under T/O & E 20-47. Orders for the changes were dated 31 August 1943.
Old Designation New Designation
54th Replacement Battalion Hq and Hq Detachment Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl Bn
Company A 209th Replacement Company
Company B 210th Replacement Company
Company C 211th Replacement Company
Each of the four new organizations was assigned to the Fourth Service Command. The three companies were attached to the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl Bn, which was in turn attached to the 12th Replacement Depot. Lt. William McLain was assigned as Platoon Commander, 210th Repl Co.(McLain)
During the Camp Butner regime, overnight bivouacs of from one to three or more nights duration became the established custom. In each, camouflage, slit trenches, local security, blackout, and tactical problems were emphasized. Interspersed with these were the regular road marches two or three times a week, plus an extensive mass athletic program.
Morning reports for the period show the following movements:
5 November 1943: Left Camp Butner at 0730 by truck and arrived in bivouac area, Hickory NC, at 1530. Distance traveled – 179 miles.
6 November 1943: Left Bivouac area 0830 by truck, arrived Swannanoa NC 1230. Distance traveled – 71 miles.
7 November 1943: Left bivouac area, 0930 by truck, arrived Camp Butner 2000. Distance traveled – 250 miles.
Lt. McLain’s timeline lists the infiltration course on 8 November, carbine familiarization on 17 November and rocket familiarization course on 9 December. (McLain)
The morning reports record that Robert Butcher went on a 7 day furlow from 17-24 November. On 17 November 1943 the first of Bob and Fay’s four children, Robert Vincent Butcher, was born.
During the entire period the battalion was attached to the 12th Repl Depot (25 May-18 December), administrative work and other necessary details suffered through the insistence of the Depot Commander that nothing be allowed to interfere with training. All personnel must be in training, whether classes, road marches, bivouacs, or mass athletics. However, the Depot was able to arrange some work in checking service records and other papers of ground force units on the post – work that was of great benefit to the personnel who participated and which aided them in preparing for the ultimate function of the replacement battalion and replacement company.
The Depot was rather "prodigal" with commendations and citations. Seven Officers and 26 enlisted men were cited and an additional 7 enlisted men were commended. Good Conduct Medals were awarded to 17 enlisted men.
On 24 June, Major Tindall had been temporarily relieved of command of the battalion to perform duties as Depot Inspector, and Major Gerald C Simpson, 019294, Infantry, was attached. Per verbal orders of the Commanding Officer, 12th Replacement Depot, he commanded the BN until 28 June, when Major Tindall was returned to the BN and Major Simpson was relieved. From 12 September to 19 September, Major Butler assumed command during the temporary absence of Major Tindall on leave, and again on 25 November to 29 November.
During the periods company commanders were on leave, the companies were commanded by the following officers:
23 September – 3 October Company A Lt. Alton U. Robinson
23 September – 1 October Company B Lt. Leroy Wilson, Jr.
22 November – 26 November 211 Repl Co. Lt. Ira W. Hart
On 9 October, five attached medical enlisted men were added to the BN. Later, four additional men were added from troops already within the BN. The first officer of the Medical Detachment was subsequently transferred prior to the time of the movement from Camp Butner and without having actually served in the Detachment. Officer personnel were detailed shortly before the BN left Camp Butner.
The Ocean Crossing, December 1943.
On December 17th 1943 the Hq Det was preparing to go overseas. Bob mailed a notice of change of address home to his wife Fay back home in St. Marys West Virginia.
The Battalion received orders to move out for shipment overseas. On 18 December 1943 the BN and attached companies departed Camp Butner by rail for Camp Kilmer, NJ, arriving the following day. Hq and Hq Det had 9 officers and 26 enlisted men. Each company had 4 officers and 31 enlisted men. The BN and companies were first located in Area 9. Following processing, the men were given passes to New York and vicinity, which enabled many of them to return to their homes in the vicinity and others to get to New York City for the first time.
Prior to Embarkation Lt. John G. Kroll, M.C., and Lt Albert H Kredo, D.C. were assigned to the Battalion.(Jabcznski )
Camp Kilmer is located 2 miles east of New Brunswick, near US Route 1. During the war Camp Kilmer was the main staging area for the main eastern ports. More than 20 Divisions were staged through Camp Kilmer on the way to Europe.
On 28 December the organizations departed from Camp Kilmer by rail and ferry heading to Pier 22, Staten Island. Morning reports list the HQ and HQ Det at Camp Kilmer with no changes for 1-2 January. The morning report for 7 January states that the Det. Left Camp Kilmer at 2000 and traveled by rail to NYPE, embarked on troop ship at 2330 enroute to secret destination. The unit history reports that they boarded the United States Army Transport Frederick Lykes on 7 January. The quarters assigned were generally poor. The troops were far in the bow of the ship and the company officers were in the “monkey cages” – wards used for mental patients when the transport served as a hospital ship. Lt McLain describes the officer’s room as “in the hold, furnished with only a bed, no mirror, no hooks for clothing, and door had to be propped open because it could only be opened from the outside, and outside was the massive machinery that moved the ship.”McLain Engine trouble prevented the Frederick Lykes from sailing that night with the convoy, and the following day the troops disembarked and returned to Camp Kilmer to Area 1. Aboard the Lykes, in spite of the quarters assigned, morale was at a peak. The debarkation brought a noticeable drop, but succeeding days did much to restore morale. When the troops again embarked the morale was excellent.
The next day, the battalion again departed from Camp Kilmer traveling by rail and ferry to a North River dock where they boarded the Cunard White Star Liner Mauretania. This was an English luxury ship that had been converted into a troop ship in 1939.
The four units this time were traveling separately and not as a battalion group. Each was quartered in a different part of the huge ship
The Mauretania sailed on 8 January 1944 –a Saturday – and was still well within the harbor when she was rammed in the bow by another ship, the American tanker “Hat Creek” (wikipedia, Maurentania) and compelled to return to dock. In “tying up” she struck the dock, causing further damage to the ship. She sailed again about 1630, 9 January 1944. William McLain describes the event:
The ship departed the dock in a clear day with blue sky from horizon to horizon. It cleared the harbor with the vast sea before it, only one other ship, heading in, on the entire ocean. He was curious to see how they would pass. As they closed in, they seemed to be playing a game of “chicken”. Then they hit, the other ship’s prow striking the Mauretania at the front port side. Both ships came to a stop, then the Mauretania turned about and went back into the port for inspection. She was found to be dented but seaworthy. The fuel tanks were topped off and the eight-day voyage continued. (McLain)
The passage was uneventful, although the crew declared the trip was the slowest the Mauretania had ever taken and that the ship was forced far off course to escape suspected enemy submarines. The crossing was made unescorted, except for a plane that flew overhead for the first two days. The ship also hit foul weather on the crossing. Bob once told me that the ocean crossing made his so sick that he swore to never go on a ship again. Since the trip hope also hit severe weather it is not know which crossing he was referring to. William McLain recalls that the waves were so large that the huge ship seemed to flex and that the spray would freeze in the air before reaching the back of the Mauretania. (McLain) Frank Baker also sailed on the Mauretania, but on a later passage. He met up with the battalion in England.
The 54th Replacement Battalion arrives in England.
The mouth of the Mersey River was reached on 17 January, the ship sailing down from the north between Scotland and Ireland. The ship lay in the Mersey that night and reached the landing stage at Liverpool the following day and was greeted by a British military band. But it was not until about 1030am on 19 January that the BN and attached companies debarked (0855 according to the morning report). Following a hike through the city of Liverpool troops were entrained and came by rail, via Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, to Frome, Somerset, England. William McLain recalled that the trip was made under blackout conditions and that they arrived in Glastonbury at 2245 (10:45 pm), “weather rainy, morale good”. (McLain)
The battalion is recorded by www.skylighters.org as being in Marston Bigot Camp in Frome from 14-26 January 1944. I am assuming that these are the dates planned for the BN to be there as we know that the units did not debark from the Mauretania until 19 January. The same website lists the HHQ 40th Repl BN as occupying the site from 4 August 1944 to 8 January 1945. It seems that this BN HQ would have processed the 54th on their way through Marston Bigot Camp.
Gordon Teasdale, of Witham Friary, Frome, England relates that the Seymour Arms pub in Witham Friary was frequented by soldiers from Marston Bigot Camp. The pub is still operated by the same owners from 1944 and they remember well the US and British soldiers that visited their pub.
The battalion left Marston Bigot by truck convoy, which took the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN and the 209th and 210th Replacement Companies to Glastonbury, Somerset (VT 9360 Ordnance Survey Ten Mile Map of Great Britain). The Convoy took the 211th Replacement Company to Midsomer-Norton, Somerset, about 25 miles away. On 18 Feb 44 the 211th joined the battalion at Street.
The 54th Replacement Battalion in Glastonbury England.
Upon arriving in Glastonbury, temporary quarters for troops and officers were arranged by the 102nd and 38th Cavalry Training Detachment, which had arrived in Glastonbury before the 54th. Subsequently, the 209th Replacement Company was established at Railroad Camp and the 210th Replacement Company at Abbey Park Camp, both in Glastonbury. The facilities furnished for Camp 16 (Hq Det.) were varied. Many buildings were furnished with the village by the British, including Squire Building, 28 Northload, another location on Northload used as the Motor Pool, Poplars, Hillside, Edgarley Lodge (a furnished home), the Dispensary on High Street, numerous scattered quarters for enlisted men, an orderly room of the Cavalry Replacement Training Detachment, and the Chicken Coop. Part of the Railroad Camp was buildings taken over from the railroad and the rest were Army Hutments. Abbey Park Camp was hutments. All of Camp 15 (Street) was hutment, augmented by tents, except part of the British Building Legion Building, which was used by this BN as the Army Exchange for the Street Area, and which subsequently became headquarters for the 71st Replacement Battalion. William McLain remembers that the tents were set up along a stone wall inside the gate of the Abby grounds.
The photo on the left is Robert Butcher parked in front of the Crown hotel and spire in Glastonbury in 1944. The photo on the right is the author at the same location in 2013.
The Squire Building
Headquarters, 54th Repl BN was established in the Squire Building on the Square. This building still exists at 9 Market Place, on the north side of the Abby Gatehouse. As of this writing it houses Man, Myth & Magik. Staff at the shop said that the HQ offices were on the first floor and officers slept upstairs. The photo of Bob Butcher in the jeep was most likely taken from directly in front of this building.
28 Northload Street
Officers were first quartered at 28 Northload Street and later part of them moved to Edgarley Lodge on the outskirts of the village. The house at 28 Northload was then used first as casual officer’s quarters and, about the middle of April, became quarters for the rest of the assigned officers and the location of the Operations and Classification offices. The house is now the office for Glastonbury Festival.
The Tapp Inn
The Tap Inn was located on Northload Street and housed men of the 54th. It was a long dormitory type room above the Inn. The Inn a part of the cider house which was part of the George and Pilgrim Hotel but was not in the same building. It was operated by Fred and Emily Pope. (White) Frank Baker was lodged in the Tap Inn along with other enlisted men from the Hq Det. He remembers that they went into the building and up a set of stairs on the left into a large dormitory type room. (Baker) The part of the building that had the dormitory is no longer standing but was at the corner of George and Northload Streets. It is now a parking area.
The Motor pool
The motor pool was along George Street , off of Northload. The site is now developed and no longer resembles the 1944 period. (White)
In a phone conversation during our visit to Glastonbury, Bill Knight, who was a child in Glastonbury during the war, questioned whether that George Street location for the motor pool was correct. He also thought that the “Chicken Coop” may have been an elevated metal building on George Street at the time. (Knight)
The central dispensary was located in on High Street, and was part of the group of buildings around the Assembly Rooms (10 High Street). The “Boots” logo can still be seen at street level on the wall. Morland Aid stations were located in campsite of the Street camp, operated by training detachment personnel. A 6 bed infirmary was located in the central dispensary for treatment of conditions that could be dealt with locally. (Jabc) The nearest hospital was the 160th Station Hospital in Bath. (Jabc)
The Assembly Rooms today.
The Assembly Rooms are several spaces connected by a small courtyard reached through an archway. These were used for various recreational events for the soldiers and community
Some other shots from around Glastonbury.
The Poplars, near Edgarly Lodge became the quarters for the casual officers. There is also a house known as Edgarley Hall about 100 yards from Edgarly Lodge. Edgarley Hall was also used by the American forces, so there is some confusion as to which residence the 54th used.
There was no official mess facility for the Hq men. They would have to take a truck out to one of the company areas for meals. Baker Mess facilities were considered good by the BN surgeon. Garbage and waste removal was done by civilian contract. Outhouses with quartermaster type boxes were used in Glastonbury, while civilian latrines were used in the Street camps. Showers facilities were available at all camps. Laundry was done for the most part individually, with Quartermaster laundry facilities available for more static personnel. Jabc
Organized and supervised athletics, a civilian theatre, Red Cross Branch Club, and regular recreational facilities were available. The Special Services Section provided sightseeing tours of historic places and points of interest in the area on Sundays and Holidays if no training was scheduled. (Jabc)
Initially the Battalion worked to train and packets of free Cavalry and Armored Force Replacements. (Jabc)
On 2 February the 209th Replacement Company moved to East Camp, Street, about two miles from Glastonbury, and the 210th Repl Co undertook operation of both Railway and Abbey Park Camps. The 210th was divided approximately equally with Headquarters at Railroad Camp.
On 18 February the 211th Replacement Company was removed to West Camp, Street. Both officers and enlisted men were quartered with the camps at Street. The companies remained attached to the Battalion, and the BN was, in turn, attached to the 9th Replacement Depot, operating Replacement Depot no. 9, located at Redstock and later at Midsomer-Norton, commanded by Colonel Freehoff, Infantry.
Now the BN and the attached companies began performing the primary function for which they were activated. The organization took over 66 enlisted men and three officers, casuals, who had arrived prior to the arrival of the replacement units. Glastonbury (designated as Camp 16 of Replacement Depot No. 9) handled Mechanized Cavalry, with a training cadre from the 102nd and 38th Reconnaissance Squadrons. Street, (designated as Camp 15 of Replacement Depot No. 9) handled Armored Force, with a training detachment from Co. C, 745th Tank Battalion.
On one occasion there was a tank maneuver taking place outside of town. Glastonbury Tor is the only hill in the area. Frank Baker and some other men put a jeep in four-wheel drive and managed to get it to the top of the hill where they watch the maneuvers. Baker I related this story to William McLain who said getting a jeep up that hill would have been quite a feat as it was very steep. (McLain)
On 3 February the BN was authorized additional personnel of five officers and 18 enlisted men, as prescribed by Col 8 of T/O &E, to include personnel for Classification, Training and the Chaplain, in accordance with General Order No. 5, Headquarters, Replacement Depot No. 9, APO 545, dated 5 February 1944
The 5 Feb 44 morning report lists the promotion of Robert Butcher from PVT to PFC. The morning report for 7 March 44 lists Butcher being promoted to T/5.
On 28 March, the 334th and 335th Replacement Companies were received by the Battalion from the United States. The 334th Replacement Company was temporarily quartered at East Camp, Street, and was moved on or about 31 March to Stoberry Park, Wells, Somerset. The 335th Repl Co, commanded by Captain Ladis Glasgow, CAC (four officers and 31 enlisted men) was housed at West Street Camp and was attached, per verbal orders of the Commanding Officer, 9th Repl Depot, to the Battalion.
On an unspecified date Company C of the 745th Tank Battalion took charge of training in the Street area. On 2 April, Co C of the 745th Tank BN was moved from Camp No. 15 and was replaced by a new training detachment; Co A, 707th Tank Battalion.
A tragic event for the BN took place one day (date unkown) in Glastonbury. Frank Baker had been out on an errand with two men from the motor pool in a BN truck. On arriving back at the motor pool the man sitting on Baker’s right got out and went behind the truck to help back the truck into a parking spot. Somehow the driver did not see the man behind the truck and backed over him, killing the motor pool man. The name of the man is unknown. (Baker)
The 71st Replacement Battalion, From the United States, moved into Camp 15 on 6 April 1944 and on the following day assumed command of the Street Area. At this time the 209th, the 211th, and the 335th Replacement Companies were relieved from attachment to the 54th Repl BN and were attached to the 71st Replacement Battalion, leaving the 54th with only one attached company, the 210th Repl Co.
The following day, 7 April 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Tindall, who had commanded the BN since its activation, was transferred to a casual status with the Replacement Depot No. 10, and on 8 April, Lieutenant Colonel Ranald B. Engelbeck, Cavalry, joined the BN and assumed command.
To the end of March 1944, the BN had handled 137 causal officers and 1526 casual enlisted men, of which 46 officers and 333 enlisted men had subsequently been transferred, leaving a balance of 91 officers and 1193 enlisted men as of 31 March 1944. Transfers during the first few days of April and the relief from attachment of the three Replacement Companies on 6 April reduced the casual strength to 23 officers and 434 enlisted men, all in Camp no. 16.
General Patton arrived in camp one morning to do an inspection. Mclain had worked late the previous evening and slept in a tent away from his regular quarters. The next morning Patton saw him before he had a change to shave and clean up. McLain tried to explain but was told to “Go home and shave now. McLain also said that “He [Patton] was so spit and polished it pissed me off a little bit. He had and orderly to polish his boots and buttons and he gave me hell because I wasn’t up to his standards”. (Goolsby)
The expansion in personnel necessitated the taking over, in the latter part of March, of a building in Glastonbury called the Chicken Coop, for casual enlisted men. On or about 16 April it became necessary to clear this building in order that it might become the United States Post Office for the district. It was possible at this time to absorb the casuals into the established camps. The two APO units, which arrived to run the Post Office were quartered at Hillside, near the Poplars, which had formerly been occupied by a detachment of Quartermaster troops performing experimental work on supplies. These quartermaster troops, in the location for about a month, remained, in general, outside the jurisdiction of the Battalion.
On the same day, 16 April, a group of five officers and 125 enlisted men from the 15th, 17th, 25th, and 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons, Mechanized, arrived. They became the new Cavalry Replacement Training Detachment, replacing the 102nd and 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron’s Detachments, which departed on or about 23 April.
For the period 12 - 31 May 44 the battalion headquarters trained Battalion Headquarters, 5th Provisional Replacement Battalion in the performance of the duties required in the accomplishment of their mission. The 210th Replacement Company is the only listed attached company. The 20 June 44 report shows that the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 5th Provisional Replacement Battalion had been transferred to the 71st Replacement Battalion.
One story I remember Bob Butcher telling me concerned getting vehicles ready for deployment to France. He talked about how much work it was to get vehicle properly stenciled with identification and that every number and letter had to be placed in just the right position. Another task he talked about was applying a clay-like substance to the motor area and adding long vertical exhaust pipes so that the vehicles could run in some water. I am assuming he was talking about getting the vehicles of the attached units ready to go into Normandy in the days after the initial invasion. The 6 June 44 morning report lists that Robert Butcher T/5, appointed to Tec 4 rank. The morning reports also report that Butcher was on detached service with the Ord Depot 0-617, APO 553 from 1-17 June 44. Ordinance Depot 0-617 was in Bideford England, on the Devon coast. The facility was used in part to test landing craft, conduct training in underwater combat, underwater obstacle removal, and conduct training in waterproofing vehicles for transport to the continent. ("GI’s in Bideford")
I thought he told me that some of the attached units went over on D-day plus 10, some family members remember his saying D-Day plus 4. Bob talked about how he was amazed by the devastation on the beaches when he arrived in France. The 7 July 44 report seems to say that the training detachments from the 15th, 17th, 25th and 86th squadrons were relieved on 16 June 44 by Troop B (less 1 Platoon), 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized. I assume that these are the troops that Bob was referring to. However, it has been widely reported that there was always a shortage of drivers to move men and equipment to France and beyond. So it is possible that Butcher drove trucks for the replacement companies during the crossover to France and then returned to the 54th, as the records show that he was still in England on 26 August 1944.
The rest of this section is compiled by the author from monthly reports from the Battalion.
On 14 June 1944 the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN, along with many other replacement battalions were relieved from assignment to Com Z, ETOUSA (base sections in which located) and assigned to Ground Force Repl System, ETOUSA. The attached units remained in place with the 54th.
From June through August the Battalion continued to operate as a Replacement Battalion. The main function of the Battalion and attached company was the reception, administration, and transfer of replacements and casuals to tactical units in the theater of operations as directed by higher authority. The 22 July report states that the headquarters was organizing a Cavalry Training Detachment to give further training to casual and replacement personnel "attached unassigned to the battalion."
On D plus 28 (July 4) McLain’s company, the 211th Replacement Company sailed to Omaha beach and he spent the most of the rest of the war in France forwarding tank replacement crews to Patton's 3rd Army.
Records state that in the period between 3 March and the 7 July report to HQ that the Battalion had received 208 casual and replacement officers, and 2172 casual and replacement enlisted men, and shipped 13 officers and 1371 enlisted men.
August brought a change of location to the 54th Replacement Battalion. On 8 August the Battalion moved from Glastonbury England to Tidworth Barracks, Hants (Tidworth Park Camp), by motor convoy; 14 officers (including attached) and 41 enlisted men (including attached). Then on 17 August the unit moved to Tidworth Barracks, Wilts, by motor convoy; 13 officers (including attached) and 44 enlisted men (including attached). The 8 August morning report states that the unit departed Glastonbury at 0830 and arrived at Tidworth at 1100, “weather good, morale excellent”.
During August time this Battalion operated as a separate Replacement Battalion. It had absorbed, temporarily (20 August - 3 September), the mission and functions of the 9th Replacement Depot to which it was formerly attached. The 9th Replacement Depot had been moved to the continent and the 54th was to act as Replacement Depot until the next Depot, the 12th Replacement Depot, moved in. Records show that for the period 30 June to August the battalion handled approximately 1000 officers and 6000 enlisted men, in addition to the 220 officers and 5280 enlisted men who were part of "Transient Packages."
On 28 August the BN was detached from the 9th Replacement Depot and was assigned to the 12th Replacement Depot, along with the 210th and 325th Replacement Companies ETO
By September the mission of the Battalion included retraining enlisted men of the services as infantry (there was a shortage of infantrymen at the time and many men were retrained from their original function to be infantrymen). This mission continued through the end of November 1944. During this time the Provisional Company "R" was formed and attached to the battalion from 18 August to 8 September 1944. Another Provisional Company "U" was also formed earlier and attached to the battalion for the period 8 September -30 October 1944.
On 20 September, command of the 54th was passed to Henry A. Keipe, Major, Infantry.
A growing psychological reaction against the use of the word ‘replacement’ caused a change, during the month of December, 1944, in the designation from the ‘Replacement System’ to the ‘Reinforcement System’ and it was directed that the Reinforcement System be composed of the Ground Force Reinforcement Command, and the Air Force Reinforcement Command. All Units of the Reinforcement System in the European Theater of Operations were directed to use the term ‘reinforcement’ and cease using the term ‘replacement’ (Eisenhower, p 7-8).
Records show that on 4 October the BN had the following Repl Co's attached: 210th, 325th, "U" Provisional Repl Co, 514th Repl Co. The 526th Replacement Company was attached to the Battalion on 27 October 1944. At that time the location was listed as Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth.
Troop Assignment No. 31, Headquarters, GFRS, ETO, dated 2 December 1944, announced that the Hq and Hq Det, 54th Repl BN, along with the 210th, 325th and 523rd Repl Co's were relieved from the 12 Repl Depot and assigned to HQ, GFRS, for duty at the port of Marseilles. The 526th Repl Co was released from the 54th BN and assigned to the 9th Repl Depot (ETO, 571d, p70).
Recent research has revealed that on 22 September, Pfc Leonard J Doucette, Pvt Ollie H Ballard and Pvt Robert S. Butcher were released from assignment to the 54th and transferred to 3rd Platoon, Det 80, GFRC, APO 551 (p2 SO 182 Hq 12th Repl Depot) under 2nd Lt Zenon E. Ostrovski (0545461). This is part of a group of 189 truck drivers assigned to Replacement Detachment X122A, unit serial #A 0122, location: 12th Repl Depot APO 551.Lady Bird Research This timing coincides with the addition of a second route for the Red Ball Express. Bob butcher once talked about hauling supplies to Patton’s Army “When we could find the SOB”. This is the first record that I have found that supports the story. Records have not been found to date that indicate if or when Butcher came back to the 54th.
Click here to see the monthly reports submitted by Battalion Hq.
The 54th Replacement Battalion in France.
As of this writing (May 2018), record of Robert Butcher’s service is not clear in the records until July 1945. We do not know exactly where he was in the first months of 1945. However, based on photos and preliminary information searches for the 388th MP BN may show that he was in an MP unit as early as January and no longer part of the 54th Reinforcement Battalion.
In early December the 54th Replacement BN prepared to move from England to France. From 6 December 1944 to 17 December 1944 the Battalion moved from Tidworth Barracks, Wilts, to 3 miles west of Septemes, France, T4228. (9 miles north of Marseilles, France). The movement progresses as follows: Rail and motor convoy from Tidworth, Wilts, England to Southampton England; ship to La Havre France, arriving 8 December at the 9th Reinforcement Depot (571C-14). The Battalion is still listed with the 9th Reinforcement Depot on 14 December (571C-15). Then by rail to Fontainebleau, France. Truck convoy with 4 Officers and 23 EM debarked at Rouen, France and joined the Battalion at Fontainebleau. This was followed by a motor convoy from Fontainebleau, France to Septemes. When the HQ moved from Tidworth Barracks to France there were not enough dock workers in the port to handle the loading of the ships. Frank Baker and others from the Hq Det. had to load their own ships. Dock cranes were used to load equipment onto the ship, but they had to drive them into positions in the ship themselves. (Baker)
Frank Baker was one of the drivers and recalls that the trip was very cold and that they spent one night in the forest near Rouen sleeping in the trucks to try to keep warm. They had been issued 8 K-rations for the trip from La Havre to Marseille. (Baker)
In Rouen the men saw the square where Joan of Arc was burned. At Fontainebleau the men were billeted overnight in the hallways of the Palace. They slept on straw pallets and were not allowed into the rooms. The rooms were all roped off. Frank Baker remembers that they stayed in the main building, entering from the south entrance. (Baker)
Calas Staging Area and Marseille
The U.S. Army operated Staging Depots, or port depots, at la Havre and Marseilles, Depot #15 operating at La Havre, and a separate battalion, the 54th Reinforcement Battalion, at Marseilles. These Ground Force Reinforcement Command units, while under the control of Headquarters, Ground Force Reinforcement Command, operated with close liaison and cooperation with appropriate base section, Communications Zone, and Port Headquarters. The 54th handled port shipping and receiving, as part of the Delta Base Section and Headquarters, 6th Port. (Eisenhower, pp 16-17).
When the unit arrived at Marseille (Septemes?) the staging area was not complete. The engineers were still clearing and preparing the area. The men of the 54th slept in a cleared vineyard leased by the army until the staging area was ready. Once in the staging area the men slept in pyramidal tents with no floors. After a time, the men went down to the docks and scavenged wood from packing crates to make floors for the tents. It was very cold. The men ate standing around a wooden table outside, standing in the snow. He remembers that as they ate the local hungry French children would come and beg for food. The Calas Staging Area was a large raised flat area that “Had been stripped of every blade of grass”. It was very dusty. Frank said that the thing that bothered them the most was the constant dirt and dust. (Baker)
As the BN was on the move from England to Marseille the battle of the Bulge started. No sooner had the 54th Replacement BN gotten set up then they had to start processing replacements to be sent forward to combat.
During the Battle of the bulge the 54th worked very hard re-equipping men and getting them to the front quickly. Baker said that when men arrived at the depot they needed all of their equipment, weapons, clothing etc., filled out. The men in the Depot issued these items to the replacements, got their paper work in order and sent them to battle. He said that men were moving to and from the battle on a daily basis and kept them well informed of what was going on at the front. With the reality of combat looming over the replacements caused many to request church services before shipping out. The Chaplain Adams and Baker had access to a large hospital tent and converted it to a chapel for these services. (Baker)
Acording to Frank, the BN received the Meritorious Unit Citation for doing such a good job of supplying the replacement during the Battle of the Bulge. (Baker) There is a Meritorious Unit Award on Bob’s uniform, but we do not know which unit it represents.
On 31 December the monthly report stated that the Battalion was functioning as a separate Replacement Battalion processing the following types of troops:
Casuals returning to their units from hospitals.
Reinforcements arriving in this theater.
Rotation and return of troops to the Zone of the Interior.
The first three months of 1945 were spent in this location carrying on the same type of duty. During this time there was some reorganization of T/O & E and personnel, which can be seen in the appendix.
As of 20 January 1945 the battalion was in Septemes bT4527, and using the Marseilles railhead to move reinforcements571D. On 3 March 1945 the Battalion moved by motor convoy from Septemes, 3 miles West, T4228, France to Calas Staging Area, 2.5 miles West, T40.2 – 32.5, France with sixteen (16) officers (including attached) and 109 enlisted men (including attached). The mission of the Battalion remained the same.
Lt. Colonel Gustav M. Bacharach, Infantry, assumed command of the BN on 8 March 1945.
At the end of April, the Battalion mission was listed as processing Casuals returning to their units from hospitals and reinforcements arriving in theater. On 19 April, the battalion was listed at Staging Area B, bT-3429, and using the Johnson Spur railhead. (571D) By the end of May, the Battalion was also returning Age Limitation Troops to the Zone of Interior.
Frank Baker related that late in the war the Germans were surrendering by the thousands. Many of these POWs were shipped to a train depot in boxcars to be held in the Calas Staging Area. The depot was out in the middle of nowhere. There were not enough MPs to bring all the prisoners back the 6 miles or so from the depot to the staging area. Drivers, including Baker, were pulled from the Hq Det of the 54th to drive jeeps and escort the POWs. The Germans were marched in columns 4 wide from the train depot to a holding area in Calas. Mr. Baker believes that this photo likely was taken during this time. The photo is marked Marseille, April 1945. When the prisoners arrived at the staging area the Mp’s stripped them of their filthy clothing, washed and deloused the men, then gave them US GI clothing to wear. The prisoners were well behaved. Some were used to clean the trash around the area. It was discovered that a few of the German prisoners had been cooks in the German army. They were put to work cooking what Frank called “quite excellent food”. He said that most of the prisoners were just happy to be out of the war. Baker
The following group of photographs were from Frank Baker's collection. They are all taken in Marseilles and the Calas Staging Area.
In June 1945 the Battalion Surgeon submitted a detailed report of the medical section for the periods the 54th Replacement Battalion was in England and France. To read the report click here.
The 54th Reinforcement (Replacement) Battalion was deactivated on 4 November 1945.
For References please click here.