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Huge WW2 70th Infantry Division Group!


T1gertank519
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T1gertank519

I purchased this group a few days ago and am still astonished by everything. The named M3 Knife (with last name written on the scabbard), captured German map case (ID’d to the Grossdeutschland Division), and the large amount of correspondence are my favorite parts. Hope y’all enjoy!

 

Richard Edwin “Dick” Myers was born in Elkhart, Indiana on August 31st of 1919. His father, Elmer, worked as an electrician, while Dick’s mother Irene provided for the family as a housewife. His brother Kenny was born soon after Dick turned 8. Richard attended school, did housework, and learned to play the piano. He drove out west to pursue job opportunities as a teenager. Richard kept in touch with his girlfriend Betty at home while regularly going from Indiana to Colorado in the summer. He graduated high school at 18 and spent a year in college, ultimately deciding to continue to travel. The youthful Myers spent time trading stocks, working in management for various businesses, as well as driving for a taxi service. In his spare time, Dick honed his skill on the piano, often creating a crowd around the bar. At twenty-two, Dick did not foresee how the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would change his life.

 Global conflict seemed so far away from small-town Colorado. Richard Myers received a formal letter of introduction from the United States Army in June 1942. He did not have much of a say in the matter and was sent to Camp Grant, Illinois, less than a week later. The Army considered Private Myers with great potential due to his college experience. He went through basic training with the 27th Medical Training Battalion, hoping to become a medic and help soldiers in need. Each day consisted of long hikes and the thorough study of medical procedures. Military leadership saw prospects in Private Myers’ education and sent him to a special school at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver. After months of additional training, Myers graduated from Medical Department Technician’s school as a qualified surgical tech. In November of ‘42, he was promoted from private to technician-fifth-grade while serving at an Army hospital in Oregon. Richard did not expect his military service to consist entirely of dim-lit surgeries in ill-equipped field hospitals. He saw his chance and applied to take a test for entry into the Army Specialized Training Program. Passing with flying colors, Dick sacrificed his non-commissioned officer’s rank to be qualified for the program. He was demoted (without prejudice) to the rank of private and sent to take classes at Oregon State College. The ASTP offered soldiers an opportunity to earn college credits and degrees in technical fields, promising many that they could commission as officers upon completing the program. The requirements of life in the ASTP were tough. Dick carried a full courseload of compressed classes, attended multiple mandatory training events each week, and complied with military physical standards. He came close to earning his degree in mechanical engineering but was curtailed by the cessation of the Army Specialized Training Program in late March of 1944. 

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the ASTP became replacements for infantry divisions. Private Myers ended up with the 70th Infantry Division “Trailblazers” at Camp Adair, Oregon. By May, Dick was reinstated as a technician-fifth-grade, working as an intelligence specialist in the Headquarters Company of the 276th Infantry Regiment. The workup to deployment continued until the Trailblazers began moving cross-country. Most men received leave before they departed from the States. Also home on leave was Dick’s brother Kenny, now serving in the Naval Amphibious Forces. The extended Myers family came together to give their servicemen a proper sendoff. Positive memories like this ultimately helped Richard push through tough experiences on the battlefield. On October 19th, Richard married his high school sweetheart, Betty Ruth at home in Indiana. 

T/5 Myers’ regiment traveled to France aboard the formerly United States Lines cruise ship America, now under military service as the transport USS West Point. They sped directly from Boston to Marseilles in just nine days, landing on French soil on December 15th, 1944. Christmas was spent in “Forty-and-Eights”; boxcars racing toward the frontline. The Infantry dug in on the west bank of the Rhine River, defending a wide stretch of land on the border of Northeastern France. While the Battle of the Bulge unfolded in Belgium, German Waffen SS troops massed in Alsace-Lorraine, preparing for the final major German offensive on the Western Front. Operation Nordwind aimed to break through the American Seventh Army’s lines in Northeastern France, annihilating large units of American and French forces as well as providing a path towards the encirclement of Allied forces fighting in Belgium. Riflemen used the forsaken Maginot Line to hold out against the attacking Germans. Now Staff Sergeant Richard Myers was transferred to the 1st Battalion Headquarters Company of the 276th Infantry Regiment. As an Operations NCO, S/Sgt Myers focussed on intelligence, reconnaissance, and the security of his unit. In the predawn darkness of January 3rd, 1945, SS Mountain troops of the 6th Waffen SS Division broke through. Two battalions captured Wingen, taking hundreds of American prisoners and confining them to the village church. The 1st Battalion of the 276th was ordered to retake the town, but multiple attempts resulted in a disastrous level of casualties. B and C Company were encircled on the northern side of town. The commander of the first battalion was seriously wounded, as were most of the men in headquarters. Men like Dick could do little more than hold the line against the much more experienced enemy forces. After two days of heavy fighting, the 3rd Battalion of the 276th successfully wrestled the small Alsation town from the elite German troops. In Dick Myers’ own words, “Wingen was a massacre, the SS were fanatics. They acted as if they were ‘hopped up.” Battered elements of the Trailblazers in Wingen waited for the rest of the 70th Division to arrive in France. 

Now on the attack, the 276th “Bloody Axe” regiment moved northwest on the drive to the major German city of Saarbrücken. Forbach Castle fell relatively quickly, but the lower town of Forbach “was routed out building by building, block by block to the tune of German mortars and screaming mimis.” Early on March 20th, Trailblazing infantrymen made an assault crossing of the main bridge across the Saar River, coming ashore deep in the heart of the city of Saarbrücken. The city was reminiscent of a biblical apocalypse. Bombers and heavy artillery pounded the city for days before the eventual capture. Soldiers struggled to find a building completely intact. A shell of its former glory, very few civilians of Saarbrücken met the American advance. After taking part in the assault on the city, Dick “doubt[ed] that they can ever rebuild Saarbrücken”. GIs discovered an underground wine cellar filled with thousands of gallons. Soldiers of the 70th used liquor to cope with their depressing surroundings. US troops fought side-by-side with French soldiers and resistance fighters. Myers questioned the morality of his supposed Allies. One morning he awoke in his foxhole to find a large group of German POWs guarded by French Senegalese Tirailleurs. It unnerved Dick when he realized that the French had slit the throat of every other POW. He witnessed similar atrocities, but this first time stuck with Dick for the rest of his life. Myers could never forgive the French for their atrocities against the German POWs. After Saarbrücken, the 70th Division assisted in cutting off the Saarland, denying German military use of one of their most important industrial areas. Following the cessation of hostilities, Richard stood occupation duty on the Rhine, “in the heart of the world’s best wineries”. This land was at one time owned by the French, and many GIs considered it their “military duty to rescue the wine for the Allies.” Dick was briefly hospitalized due to extreme nearsightedness, but it was not long before his return to the US. He boarded the RMS Queen Elizabeth for his final trip of the service in early October 1945. Weeks later as S/Sgt Richard Myers returned home to Indiana, he reflected that although he has “seen quite a bit of Western Germany and quite a bit of France, including Paris (from a hospital window), he is thankful that it is all over.” Dick embraced his wife Betty and resumed the life he lived before the war. His son was born in 1947, followed by a daughter two years later. Richard made a career in sales and continued to find time for the piano. He was a member of the Elks, Lions Club, Jaycees, and the Toastmasters. He played piano in bars every week until his health caught up. Richard “Dick” Myers passed away from cancer on September 19th, 1992 surrounded by his friends and family at home in Indiana.


 

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Beautiful grouping.  When does the log book start?  Right when they entered combat?  I would love to see more entries.

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