? The 295th.com: History
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Forward

The 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (FA) was a Field Army company of the United States Army from April 16, 1943, through January 1, 1946. Serving under the First, Second, Third, Seventh, and Ninth Army divisions, the company participated in the liberation of Europe during World War II.

May 22, 2017: The Toccoa Historial Society removed the 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company from their website. Following my inquiry, I was informed that while they couldn't say for certain when the 295th would be re-instated, they assured me that (a) removal wasn't intentional and (b) 295th inclusion would be restored in the near future. No other units were removed.

Training

The 295th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company was activated at Camp Sutton on April 16, 1943. At the time of activation, the company consisted of four officers and twenty-three enlisted men. In 1944, the company name was permanently changed to the 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (see Camp Gordon).


Camp Sutton

Basic training began on May 31, 1943, at Camp Sutton in North Carolina. Hikes, bivouacs, lectures, drills, physical training, and firing range sessions became the daily regimen, as the men prepared for overseas duty.

On July 21, 1943, the company was moved to Toccoa, Georgia to complete their basic training. "The move was made by truck and for most of the men this was the first experience in convoy travel." (Coon, Thomas E. 1946 [:p. 8)


Camp Toccoa

Jack Hope, Camp Toccoa 1943
Photo: Jack Hope

On July 21, 1943, the men of the 295th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company arrived in Toccoa, Georgia and by November 24, 1943, completed their basic training, which included an increased emphasis on physical training, such as long road marches and running the Currahee Mountain.

"The men found Camp Toccoa more to their liking, as far as the weather was concerned. Although actually further south, it was more in the cooler air of the surrounding hills. The sturdy wooden barracks were a luxury, a far cry from the canvas city they had just left." (Coon, Thomas E. 1946 :p. 8)

In 2008, following photographic evidence of the 295th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company having trained at Camp Toccoa, The Stephens County Historical Society added the company to the Stephens County Historical Society's web site and now recognizes the company in the Currahee Military Museum along with the other notable companies such as the 501st Infantry Regiment (United States), 506th Infantry Regiment (United States)s, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment (United States), 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment (United States), and 38th Signal Light Construction Battalion.


Camp Campbell

Upon arrival at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, on November 25, 1943, the 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company was greeted by the advanced company with a delicious Thanksgiving Day dinner. "Except for a few of the drivers who were too exhausted to enjoy it, the men considered this meal to have been the most appreciated the company has ever eaten". (Coon, Thomas E. 1946 p. 9)

The company was immediately transferred from the 19th to the 14th Detachment, Special Troops, 2nd Army Division and given permanent assignments to different sections, as well as, instruction in shop operation. Many of the men were sent to specialist schools, including those at Atlanta, Aberdeen, and Detroit.

Aside from the daily hikes and calisthenics, the company began to serve such units as the 20th Armored and the 26th Infantry Divisions.


Tennessee Maneuvers

US Second Army Tennessee Maneuvers, June 6, 1943

On February 26, 1944, the company set out for Maneuver Headquarters in Manchester, Tennessee. The purpose of this training was to provide the company with experience in actual field operations. "Between September 1942 and March 1944, nearly one million soldiers passed through the Tennessee Maneuvers area."


Camp Forrest

Following the Tennessee Maneuvers, the company put into Camp Forrest, Tennessee, for several days to perform necessary vehicle and equipment maintenance. On April 1, 1944, they pushed onto Camp Gordon reaching Fort McPherson in East Point, Georgia, by evening.


Fort McPherson

On the evening of April 1, 1944, the 295th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company ate chow (dinner), claimed their evening passes, and eventually hit-the-rack (slept).


Camp Gordon

On April 2, 1944, the company arrived at Camp Gordon and was placed under the command of the 3rd Detachment of Second Army Special Troops as part of the 179th Ordnance Battalion. In addition, they were renamed, by order, from 295th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company to 295th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company.

The company received "night-ops" training (blackouts, infiltration course runs), extensive malaria control training along with the standard hikes and road marches.


Fort Jackson

The company moved to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on September 12, 1944 completing the move in one day. Upon arrival, it was placed under the command of the 12th Detachment, Special Troops, Second Army, and immediately began processing its vehicles, tools, and equipment for the long ocean crossing (waterproofing). After everything was ready, the company loaded its own equipment on flat-cars.

October 23, 1944, at 12:00 p.m., the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company marched to the railroad depot, while a band played "Dixie".


Camp Kilmer

The train arrived at 4:30 a.m. on October 23, 1944, several hours ahead of time. The first three days were spent receiving shots, participating in emergency drill procedures for life aboard a ship, and attending lectures on conduct overseas.


Battle Operations

Port of Embarkation

At 6:00 p.m. on October 29, 1944, the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company departed Camp Kilmer by foot en route to the Port of Embarkation; it was a three-mile walk to the railroad loading area.

When the train arrived across the bay from New York City, the company was transferred by ferry to the pier where they waited to board the SS Argentina troop ship and enjoyed coffee and doughnuts, compliments of the American Red Cross.

One by one, each man's name was called and he made his way on-board the converted luxury liner. The 295th was quartered on "B" deck near the center of the ship. In groups of twenty-eight, the men were assigned staterooms where they hung their hammocks.

At 10:15 p.m, the last 295th man boarded the ship, and at 7:00 a.m. on October 30, 1944, the SS Argentina made its way out of the New York Harbor en route to Liverpool, England. There were many cargo ships in the convoy, but several destroyer-escorts provided protection against possible attack.


Liverpool, England

Land was first sighted on November 11, 1944. The Argentina sailed up the Irish sea and into the harbor at Liverpool, England. For an entire day, the ship awaited clearance to dock. It was thought by many to be attributed to the dense fog and near zero visibility. On the evening of November 12, 1944, the Argentina moved to shore and was moored at the pier.

Early on November 13, 1944, the troops disembarked onto foreign soil, as an English civilian band played the tune the "Beer Barrel Polka". Once again, the men enjoyed coffee and doughnuts with compliments of the American Red Cross. Carrying packs and baggage, the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company made the tedious hike to the railroad station where they boarded the English railway coaches.


Wem

Following a forty-mile journey, the company detrained at the town of Wem in Shropshire, where they hiked to a less than desirable billet area. Under the command of Western District Base, the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company was attached to the Engineer Depot G-16 for administration. The first challenge confronting the company was the recovery of equipment, which had come in several different ships all docking in many of the various ports.

Teams from the company travelled throughout the United Kingdom on "Inspection and Maintenance" tours with a particular emphasis in working on weapons. In addition, the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company furnished M.P. patrols for the town of Wem.


Ninth Army

US Ninth Army Patch.

In January, the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company was transferred to the 23rd Corps; however, that did not last long and by the end of the month they were ordered across the channel as part of the Ninth Army.


Weymouth

In the early morning hours of January 29, 1945, the company departed Wem for Weymouth, a 209-mile trek through fog, snow, and icy road conditions. At 10:00 p.m., the convoy arrived at the Port of Weymouth having passed through the towns of Shrewsbury, Wellington, Worcester, Cheltenham, and Bath.

On February 30, 1945, the first group of men (six total) and most of the heavy equipment were loaded aboard the Landing Ship, Tank (LST) and then sent across the English Channel putting into Le Havre, France.

The next group (consisting of about half of the personnel in the company) and the remainder of the vehicles, were loaded and moved across the Channel on February 1, 1945.

One group, comprising most of the personnel, was left in England. This last team had to wait several days for the weather to clear up, and it wasn’t until February 5, 1945, following supper time, that they finally departed for Le Havre. They landed at about 12:00 p.m. on February 6, 1945.


Le Havre, France

Both the second and third groups, upon disembarking on the Le Havre beach, were convoyed to a marshalling area near Rouen, France.


Camp Twenty Grand

Carl McDaniel getting haircut at Camp Twenty Grand.
Photo: Carl McDaniel

On February 9, 1945, following the survey of damage done by Allied planes at Le Havre, the company convoyed approximately forty miles east of Le Havre to Camp Twenty Grand, one of nine "Cigarette Camps". Camp Twenty Grand consisted of thousands of six-man pyramidal tents set up as a staging area where newly arrived GIs would be assigned their duties in the ETO.

The best of accommodations were well-ventilated squad tents on grass floors; however, the luxuries of canvas cots and an occasional small stove were afforded. The 295th Ordnance H.M. Company had their own kitchen and mess hall serving three square meals a day. Most transient troops walked as far as three-quarters of a mile to the camp mess tent, which featured a five hundred man line, two meals a day, where one had their choice of either standing or sitting in the mud to eat.

On February 14, 1945, the company pulled out of Camp Twenty Grand en route to an undisclosed destination near Aachen, Germany. This journey required a trip across Northern France and through the southern half of Belgium. The convoy passed through the Amiens, Cambrai, and Valenciennes ; and in Belgium, through Mons, Charleroi, and Namur.


Vise, Belgium

Visé, Belgium, was reached on February 15, 1945, where the company was ordered to halt. Most of the Company spent the night in nearby hotels, while the rest found berthing in nearby buildings. It was planned that the company would set up a shop in Visé early the next day.

The next morning, while beginning their work, a German buzz bomb struck about a mile outside of town. This was the first real explosion that the men of the 295th Ordnance H.M. Company had experienced and many of them men stated that it "sounded like an old Model-T coming down the road. Then came a "Wham!" that knocked some of them flat and even made trucks bounce like toys." (Coon, Thomas E. 1946 [45]:p. 20)

The 295th Ordnance H.M. Company didn’t stay long in Vise. An inspection of the existing facilities within the town proved that it would be impossible to set up a functioning shop there.


Maastricht, Holland

On February 15, 1945, orders were issued for the company to move north to Maastricht, Holland, where conditions were more suitable. The convoy arrived in Maastricht at 7:30 that same evening and were given a portion of a large tile factory to set up shop and billets. While initially, there were no cots or suitable quarters, cots were eventually "procured" and various modifications were made within the structure to improve its habitability, including the installation of showers.

Maastricht was the site of Ninth Army headquarters and was always extremely active, especially given ongoing preparations for the Roer River Offensive. The 295th Ordnance H.M. Company was placed under the command of the 60th Ordnance Group and the 340th Ordnance Battalion and was issued work immediately, the brunt of it being automotive.

High water on the Roer river had been holding back the Ninth Army, but finally it subsided enough for a full-scale successful attempt at a crossing. The Company was reassigned to the 178th Ordnance Battalion, under the 79th Ordnance Group. On March 9, 1945, the company left Maastricht for Tegelen, Holland.


Tegelen, Holland

In some areas along the route to Tegelen, traffic was restricted to a single lane. Drivers were guided through deadly mine fields, and corpses, mostly those of the once proud and mighty German "Wehrmacht", were still being buried. Once more, a tile factory became the company shop; the men were billeted in an old, dirty school building about a quarter-mile from the factory. The nearest facilities for bathing was a Quartermaster mobile shower unit located approximately five miles across the line.

In the first two weeks at Tegelen, the company captured their first prisoners of war, two German S.S. Troopers hiding in a house on the outskirts of town. The two men, turned in by local Dutch children, were put into a jeep and taken to an Infantry outfit about 30 kilometers away to be turned in. Several days later, a pair of British Army men, thought to also be S.S. Troopers, were apprehended and processed accordingly.Coon, Thomas E. 1946

A detachment of 295th Ordnance H.M. company drivers were sent to the bank of the Rhine river to assist in preparing invasion equipment for the great thrust across the stream. Work could not be performed safely during the day due to Germans on the opposite bank of the river; therefore, testing of the "Alligators" and the latest swimming tanks occurred in the evening.

On March 23, 1945, Air Force and Artillery raged up and down the German side of the Rhine. The dazed Nazi forces were slashed by the Ninth United States Army. Two days later on March 25, 1945, the company was moved to Vluyn, Germany.


Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany

Facilities at Vluyn did not provide ample space for a large shop, so nearly all of the sections were setup in the field; instruments and service sections withstanding.

Enemy reconnaissance planes were quite active over this part of the front, and the company witnessed for the first time, a warbird being shot down by one of the many Anti-Aircraft Artillery crews in the vicinity.

The brunt of the fighting had bypassed Vluyn and while not exceedingly hit by the effects of war, the people of Vluyn had held a defiant attitude and displayed open contempt towards all American soldiers. In response, some of the company men began "liberating" in earnest, procuring some radios from private homes and tools and equipment from local machine shops and hardware stores.Coon, Thomas E. 1946

On April 4, 1945, the 295th Ordnance H.M. company covered the seven miles to the banks of the Rhine, driving across one of the first pontoon bridges en route to Sterkrade, Germany.


Sterkrade, Germany

The new station, a combination coal mine and synthetic gas plant, was reached on that same day. It had been hastily evacuated by fleeing Germans only a few days earlier. The Company was quartered in a building located on the fringe of Sterkrade, commonly referred to as the "Ruhr Pocket", near the town of Bottrop in Essen, Germany.

"The main enemy line was only two miles away, along the Dortmund-Ems canal, and when the company first arrived, the sound of furious small arms firing was still close at hand."Coon, Thomas E. 1946

Sleep was practically impossible in the evening due to the incessant roar of American artillery, such as the 240 mm howitzer, which were set up in the woods surrounding the company area. On the evening of April 7, 1945, following mail call, several rounds of German artillery fell into the area and approximately fifteen rounds of what was thought to be 105 mm rounds dropped before it became safe.

While the company spent two weeks at Sterkrade performing Ordnance operations, a few passes were given out, including passes to the Ninth Army Rest center, in Maastricht.

It was in Sterkrade that the company learned of President Roosevelt's untimely death. On April 15, 1945, the company departed for Detmold, Germany.


Detmold, Germany

This move covered 140 miles into Central Germany and was completed in one day. The company was quartered into one building equipped with electric lights, running water, and hot showers. Detmold was the company's favorite overseas station, and there was no shortage of German trophies, such as cycles, pistols, and rifles.

Shops were set up in large storage bays within the barracks area, and a great deal of work was performed at Detmold, as the company was responsible for servicing the artillery of the entire 16th Corps. In addition to its usual functions, the company was engaged in various other activities, such as servicing vehicles of any unit in trouble on the road.

Drivers were constantly on the move while at Detmold. Battalion headquarters was nearly 50 miles away, and the continuous evacuation of weapons and equipment required traveling to collecting points in Hamm, approximately 75 miles away.

On May 8, 1945, news of victory in Europe reached the men and the company celebrated the occasion by firing any weapon they could lay their hands on! A large statue of a Nazi eagle, located in the corner of the barracks, was removed with a 10-ton wrecker, painted red, white, and blue, and lettered, "295 ORD" on its breast. Being constructed of hollow cast metal, the bird became the company's mascot and was carried with them on every subsequent move.Coon, Thomas E. 1946


Occupation in Post-War Europe

Following victory in Europe, an athletic program was instituted to keep the men busy during decreased operational activity. In addition, a huge redeployment program began, as the Japanese were yet to be defeated in the Pacific Theater. The 79th Group was sent to the States in the early part of June, and the 295th was transferred to the 187th Battalion. Within days, the company was attached to the 328th Battalion and then the 184th Battalion just a few days later.

On June 15, 1945, the Company departed by convoy for the 200-mile trip to Amendorf, Germany.


Ammendorf, Germany

The 295th, no longer under the Ninth Army, was now under control of the Eighth Corps, which fell under the First Army. Just south of Halle, Germany, the company moved into Amendorf, where a former Hitler Youth school would serve as their barracks.

Understanding that the territory was scheduled to be taken over by the Russians, no real assignments were issued and the only work performed was that of conditioning the unit's own equipment; most of the afternoons were spent participating in various sports activities.


Gotha, Germany

On June 23, 1945, the company relocated to Gotha, Germany, about four to five hours from Amendorf. The installation was already occupied in part by the 84th Battalion and two other Ordnance companies so the stay was quite short and not marked by any volume of operations outside of a little automotive maintenance.

There were several large buildings that made up the post, including shops and barracks. In addition, there was an "athletic field", which was given more consideration as the effects of peacetime progressed.


Karlsfeld, Germany

The was company was ordered to Karlsfeild, Germany, on July 3, 1945. The 300-mile trip was exhausting for everyone, especially the drivers. A deserted aircraft engine factory, the facility was a mess with debris strewn all over. The 295th was the first company to move into the area; however, there were a few G.I.'s from an Aviation Engineer unit guarding the installation.

As more facts had been gathered, it was brought to light that the plant had been a division of Germany's famous B.M.W (Bayerische Motoren Werke). The plant was situated about five miles north of Munich, Germany, just outside the village of Karlsfeld. The company chose a large "undamaged" three-story building to serve as their billets. The building had been the plant engineering and administration headquarters and was still completely furnished. A workers canteen about 500 yards away was converted into the mess hall.

It was determined that only about 8% of the plant had any damage to it. Intact were wonderful laboratories, engine test blocks, and stores of valuable materials. The plant, built in 1936 as a testing and rebuild branch of the B.M.W. factory in Munich, was a real curiosity for the men. In 1939, orders from Berlin bolstered the engine-building operation, which promptly began turning out 14 cylinder radial engines for their Luftwaffe fighters. Nearly 18,000 people had been employed at the plant but only about 4,000 were from Germany; the remaining workers were recruited from conquered countries.

The plant had been in operation until April 1945, at which time work was halted due to the lack of transportation for delivering raw materials. The factory was captured by the Americans on April 29, 1945.

The 84th Battalion, which the 295th was still attached to, was transferred from the 52nd to the 70th Ordnance Group, a part of the Third Army. The shuffle of higher commands continued and the 84th Battalion was replaced by the 316th and again by the 182nd. Of course, these were all under the 70th group. Headquarters, incidentally, took over half of the company's building after the 295th had spent a week as the sole occupant of the area.

For assignment, beginning on the day of their arrival, the company processed and stored towed artillery, full tracked primer movers, small arms, and fire control instruments for the entire Third Army. In accordance with plans from the Third Army, the former engine plant became officially known as the "Karlsfeld Ordnance Depot". For nearly three months, the 295th alone, setup and operated the depot. The task was a tremendous one, requiring 500 prisoners of war to assist on the job, in addition to several hundred civilians.

Many large buildings were cleared out to make room for a tremendous amount of storage. The company set up a depot headquarters and control point near the main entrance, as well as other functions related to the depot including a Railway Transportation Office, a P.W. stockade, a post utilities shop, a detachment of sentries was posted, and arrangements were made to hire and control civilian labor. This was all performed quite well by the 295th Heavy Ordnance Maintenance Company, which had no previous experience or training in operations of this nature.

Without any outside assistance, the company received tremendous quantizes of equipment to either be shipped or stored. Before another unit arrived, the 295th received 4,200 pieces of artillery, 100,000 fire control instruments, 1,500 electric generators, 800 truckloads of tools and parts, 375,000 small arms, and 600 tractors.

Up until the latter part of August, movies were shown for entertainment in the mess hall; however, a deport theatre was opened in a reconditioned building and operated by the 295th. A basketball court was fixed up on one part of the large mess hall and used extensively. There was softball and some men acquired horses by some means or another. The horses were stabled and included as a means of off-duty recreation.

On September 2, 1945, the Japanese surrendered. As a result, instead of redeploying equipment for use in the Pacific Theatre, the 295th was now disposing of equipment in Europe or shipping useful equipment back to America. Towards the end of September, other units began arriving at Karlsfeld Ordnance Depot, including a Base Depot Company and the 143rd Ordnance Base Automotive Battalion. The 143rd, now under Theatre Service Forces, took control of the depot was released from the 70th Group and attached to the 51st Ordnance Group, Third Army, for administration.

Several sight-seeing trips were organized. Trucks were utilized to transport those who which to visits interesting places, such as Brenner Pass, Berchtesgaden, and Dachau concentration camp. Later in the year, Army Special Services began to sponsor conducted tours to those same locations and also to the world-renown winter sports haven at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, scene of the 1936 Winter Olympics.

In late December, work was completed on a company tavern. While there had been temporary taverns before, this was designed by the 295th and constructed by Prisoners of War. The "295th Enlisted Man's Club" was located on the ground floor of the billets. The club featured a fine quarter-circular bar built into one corner fully equipped with booths, tables, and benches places along the outside of the wall. The grand opening of the club was December 21, 1945 with the "real" dedication coming just ten days later on New Year's Eve.

Just before the 295th went under T.S.F.E.T., the Third Army, facing a shortage of men, transferred over 80 men from the 295th into its other Ordnance outfits. This left the 295th about 100 men, a figure which steadily diminished. Following V-J Day, men began going home to the United States in large groups. Those whose redeployment point scores, dependencies, or age made eligible for return and discharge were sent back as soon as possible. Replacement from the U.S.A had been promised but were slow in coming.

At the beginning of 1946, the company is still part of the Army of Occupation and although authorized a strength of 184 men by the War Department, now has less than 40. The 143rd Battalion took over nearly every installation in the depot and other units assumed control of the labor and transportation situations.

References

Parker Jr., Theodore W. & Thompson, Col. (1947). "History Conquer: the Story of the Ninth Army, 1944-1945". Washington Infantry Journal Press.ISBN 0898390273

Coon, Thomas E.(1946). "History of 295th Ordinance H.M. Company (FA)".Printed By R. Oldenbourg. Munich, Germany