US Army

The Mighty


The Mighty
In October 1943, I was assigned to a newly formed unit, the 252nd Combat Engineers, and sent to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, for basic training in a new cadre of non-commissioned and commissioned officers.  We were shipped to England in August of 1944 where we went through some intensive training and then crossed the English Channel where we were dumped out in waist-deep water, crossed the beaches, and went up through St. Mere-Eglise where so many soldiers had given their lives three months earlier during the invasion. 
Being combat engineers we were trained in infantry as well the front line had moved north about 50 miles.  We were assigned the task of removing personnel mines from the hedge rows and fields so they could be used for staging areas for equipment.  In the process of neutralizing the mines fields, our companies lost 13 men of which one of them was a very dear friend of mine. 
After a week or so clearing mines, we were ordered to head north, following the front lines, repairing roads, building air fields, and other dirty jobs that engineers do in war time.  We arrived in Maastricht-Heerlen, Holland, area in November 1944.  We took over a saw mill and became engaged in felling trees and cutting them into lumber to build bridges.  We were billeted in coal miners’ barracks. 
On or about December 12, 1944, I was assigned the task, as a squad sergeant to take two heavy army trucks and travel south to a small village in the Ardennes.  There we contacted a small lumber owner to make arrangements to bring back heavy timbers for some bridges that we were to repair.  We arrived in this small village on the evening of December 13th.  We were billeted in, as I remember, a kind of community hall for the night. 
We visited a little pub in the center of the village before retiring.  While there, we were told that the German front lines, which was seemingly somewhat dormant at that time, was just a couple of miles deeper in the Ardennes.  All during the night we could hear sporadic gun fire and we knew the Germans were close. 
At the end of the day on December 14th, we had the two trucks loaded with the timber that was needed and, since it was getting late in that day, I decided to spend the night there and return to Maastricht, the next morning. 
Arriving safely back in Holland that evening we unloaded the lumber, not realizing that soon the place where we picked up the lumber and lodged on the 14th and 15th, would be overrun by the Germans on the 16th, as they began their offensive to overthrow the allies. 
It wasn’t long after that, on January 5, 1945, the 252nd Engineer Combat Battalion was ordered to the front lines.  We were placed under The 9th Army (I believe) and replaced an infantry division that was ordered elsewhere.  For six days we sat in foxholes, on the bank of the Wurm River, protecting the north flank of the units engaging the Germans a few miles to the south.  Although our losses were minimal with three dead and some frostbite casualties, we served our tour of the Ardennes well.
When the Allies finally broke out of the German offensive the 252nd Engineer was drawn back to Maastricht, Holland, to pack up and head north to the Rhine River. One of our main jobs there was to help the 1146th Engineer build the famous Rhine River bridge, which was named in honor of President Franklin Roosevelt, who died just before the bridge was completed in April 1945.
After 45 years I decided to investigate why the 252nd never received any recognition or received the commendation ribbon with the battle star for their part in the Battle of the Bulge.  In 1993, I contacted the Veterans Personnel Record Division, in St Louis, to see if they had any records concerning the 252nd Engineers serving in the Ardennes encounter.  Two years later, I received a letter from them, saying that they had no record of the 252nd Engineer Combat Battalion serving in the Battle of the Bulge.  Therefore, the unit received no credit for its part in it.
The raison that I feel we never received any credit or recognition for service during this battle was the fact that we were attached and detached to so many armies and battalions that no one took the responsibility to see that the 252nd Engineer Combat Battalion did serve in the Ardennes Battle of the Bulge with honor.  I still have a good memory and “We were there”  I can remember it vividly because I became a Christian while serving on the front lines.

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Source: The Bulge Bugle May 2001

By Sgt Richard D. CURTS


252nd Engineer Combat




Battle of the Bulge,