A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago. The beginning posts set the stage for 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europewith the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

#27- Almost Ready

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    6 June - 21 August 1944
D-Day to D-Day+76: Allies moving south and east across France after D-Day.
The Normandy landings were the first successful opposed landings across the English Channel in over eight centuries. They were costly in terms of men, but the defeat inflicted on the Germans was one of the largest of the war. Strategically, the campaign led to the loss of the German position in most of France and the secure establishment of a new major front. In larger context the Normandy landings helped the Soviets on the Eastern Front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces and, to a certain extent, contributed to the shortening of the conflict there. (-Link)

It was not a smooth and easy invasion. In fact, through the month of June and most of July, the Allies made very little progress. They needed a breakthrough- a breakout from the Normandy peninsula and get moving across France. It came from July 25-31 in Operation Cobra.

Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army (Lieutenant General Omar Bradley) seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II. The intention was to… break through the German defenses that were penning in his troops… (-Link)

As seems to be the story of the invasion and much of what would happen over the next months, the operation was delayed at first- by the weather. When it did begin on 25 July, it proved as decisive as Bradley and the Allies hoped. Within the next few days, the Allied forces managed what has since been referred to as their “breakout. “

The immediate aftermath was the ability to expand the forces and put further plans into action.
At noon on 1 August, the U.S. Third Army was activated under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges assumed command of the First Army and Bradley was promoted to the overall command of both armies, named the U.S. 12th Army Group. Patton wrote a poem containing the words, 
So let us do real fighting, boring in and gouging, biting.
Let's take a chance now that we have the ball.
Let's forget those fine firm bases in the dreary shell raked spaces.
Let's shoot the works and win! Yes, win it all! (-Link)

The U.S. advance following Cobra was extraordinarily rapid. Patton and the Third Army were hell-bent for leather rush across France as can be seen below. This is an animated series of maps showing

An incredible series of maps from June 6 - August 21, 1944. About 10 weeks into the invasion. It is interesting to note that the Allies were relatively slow until the very beginning of August, then they seem to explode across France. Click on map if it is not moving. (-Link)

Animated maps, 6 June to 21 August
Three days after the final series of maps above, the "Battle of Paris" ended with Allied troops liberating the French capital.

The 10th Armored Division, one of the key elements of Patton’s plan for the Third Army, was now at Camp Shanks, NY, waiting to board a ship. Within three weeks they will be heading east among the first divisions to travel directly from the United States to the mainland of Europe.

#26- Movement Begins

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    July 31, 1944

The 10th Armored Division left Camp Gordon for Camp Shanks, NY, point of embarkation
With six-weeks left until embarkation, the 10th Armored Division, along with Buddy’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion, left Georgia. The training was done; Tiger Camp was closed; they were ready to become active participants.

Orangeburg, NY, 19 miles north of New York City, was home to Camp Shanks, known as "Last Stop USA," the largest World War II Army embarkation camp. 1.3 million US service personnel en route to Europe were processed at a sprawling camp that covered most of the town. On the western shore of the future site of the Tappan Zee Bridge. (— Link)

Memorial at the site of Camp Shanks
The area was served by two railroad lines; it also had quick access to piers on the Hudson River which could handle large military ships, so troops could get in from bases across the country and then back out to New York — and on to Africa and Europe.

As only the Army can, 17,000 workers were mobilized to transform Orangetown’s farms into a city of nearly 50,000; the base included Quonset hut barracks, headquarters buildings, stores, chapels, a theater, a laundry, a bakery, and a hospital. “In three months, they built more than 2,500 buildings,” says Donnellan. “You can’t put a deck on your house in three months now.”

Named after the general who commanded New Jersey’s Camp Merritt during World War I, Camp Shanks opened in January 1943. Here soldiers would be “staged” — inspected for proper equipment and supplies and made ready for deployment. “After being trained all over the country, they came here to make sure their rifles worked, that they had the proper boots, then they got their orders and were put into units,” Donnellan says. There were seven staging areas, including one for the Women’s Army Corps — and one for African Americans. The military was still segregated, Donnellan says, and blacks were at times treated worse than prisoners of war, who also were housed at the camp. “The WAC area was near the POWs, but the blacks were kept all the way across the camp,” he says. (— Link)
Shanks was part of the New  York Port of Embarkation (NYPOE).

The NYPOE was the largest of eight Port of Embarkation commands, the second largest being the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and the second largest on the East Coast being Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation. By the end of the war 3,172,778 passengers, counting 475 embarked at the Philadelphia cargo port, and 37,799,955 measurement tons of cargo had passed through the New York port itself with 5,893,199 tons of cargo having passed through its cargo sub-port at Philadelphia—about 44% of all troops and 34% of all cargo passing through army ports of embarkation. (-- Link)

How does one prepare for going overseas to war? Or more to the point, in the midst of what may be an unprecedented expansion of overseas troops, how does the Army prepare so many people in such a short time? In 1943 as the Army was putting the finishing touches on its post-Pearl Harbor buildup, the Medical Field Services school in Carlisle, PA, published a thirty-page pamphlet for officers on what to do before leaving for war. Most of it was what you would expect with the possibility that the reader wouldn’t make it home.

The introduction began:
Personal affairs of your family become personal problems only when they remain unsettled. Over here, you have the time and facilities; over there, you may not.
The Table of Contents
    I.    Wills
    II.    Powers of Attorney
    III.    Survivorship Bank Accounts
    IV.    Class E Allotments
    V.    National Service Life Insurance
    VI.    Certification of Officers
    VII.    Designation of a Beneficiary
    VIII.    Clothing & Equipment for Overseas Duty
    IX.    Pensions
    X.    Checklist for Personal Identification

It told you what the Army would provide (gas mask, tent, tent pole, canteen, etc.) and what you would need to provide (belt, shirt, soap, socks, towels, etc). And then gave a postscript of the things they might wish they had when they got overseas.
The pamphlet concluded with a one-page summary and well-wishes.

    ◆    75 Years Ago
    ◆    August 4, 1944


Military ID issued to Harold K. Lehman