Friday, May 25, 2012

SGT Jasper E. Leonard, B Co 743rd Tank BN

My family puts flags on the Veteran's graves in my hometown of Red Oak, NC every Veteran's Day week and Memorial Day week.  I am always curious about the stories of each lost hero we visit.

I have found out that Red Oak, NC's, Jasper Leonard was in Company B, 743rd Tank Battalion.  I am trying to find out more info on him.  I believe he won the Bronze Star.  I have attached a photo of his grave site.

Thank you,

submitted by:
Byron Moore

Monday, April 30, 2012

Centennial Park

photo by Joey
My oldest son Joey is going to Hope College and found the time to take this picture of our uncle Juke's memorial in the center of Holland Michigan, @ Centennial Park. I'm proud of my son. He took AP US History in High School and knows the significance of this to me. Every kid you have has something special that you love. With my Joey it is the sense of history he is developing for the family and I am grateful for that.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Margraten Boys

Spring Break is always a great time of year for teachers and students. This year I was able to start reading a book I was very excited to get by Peter Schrijvers entitled The Margraten Boys: How a European Village Kept America's Liberators Alive. I never really knew about the adopt a grave program and the whole "adoption community"or how very much people in the Netherlands continue to keep alive the memory of US soldiers. This is a very moving book about how the Margraten Cemetery was formed. My uncle Juke is buried there (although his grave is tended to by a gentleman from Belgium) and some of my relatives have also visited there as well. I know one day I will too. But in the meantime this book will help me understand better what I'm looking at before I go.

One interesting tidbit I can use for Memorial Day this year in my classroom will be the story contained in the final chapter of the book about Willy James who finally received his Medal of Honor from Clinton in 1997. Since James is buried there, the only distinction made on the white Crosses or Stars of David in Margraten is for Medal of Honor winners. Their names and units are colored gold whereas the normal engraving is not.

 Cool stuff. It's always nice to know you're probably doing something that no other history teacher is doing. Not that I'm competitive or anything.

So, once again, my interest in my uncle Juke has led me in some interesting directions. God Bless the Dutch for their Debt of Honor, as the book puts it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heroes of "Old Hickory"

There is an independent documentary film being made, directed by Lew Adams, that features the war experiences of the 30th Infantry Division (ID). The 743rd was attached to the "Old Hickory" Division for the entire war (excepting the Normandy Invasion where the 743rd was part of the 116th Infantry Regiment, which was temporarily attached to the 1st ID...whew) As you peruse the web site you may find a contributor to this blog from Belgium, Mr. Vince Heggen! In the film there are also "stories within the story" featuring a survivor of Hill 314

at the battle of Mortain: a mini Battle of the Bulge that involved many of the same American and German units. I'm excited to see this film when it comes out and I do hope the ending, which is yet to happen, unfolds the way the director hopes with the 30th ID finally getting their Presidential Unit Citation. I wonder if because it is a National Guard Unit it has been denied this commendation for so long. We shall see!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CPL Charles L. Reynolds, A Co 743rd Tank BN

This is a photo of my granddad, Charlie Reynolds.  Don’t have any info on when or where the picture was taken though.  It’s a long shot, but anyone recognize the guy on the left.  My granddad is on the right.

Here’s a story my granddad told me about 6 months before he passed away.  They were preparing to land on Omaha Beach.  He was assigned to a jeep with John DuQuoin in A Co 743rd.  John was the communications sergeant and granddad was a Corporal Liaison.  He said the kid driving their landing craft was about 16 years old and said that was as far as he was going.  Granddad told him he was certain the jeep wouldn’t float but they pushed it out in 10 feet of water anyway.  He waded to shore.  He said John was an old man in a young mans war….about 36 years old.  They were on the beach and John was fixing a radio.  He had finished his work when a mortar went off close by and sprayed the radio with sand, water, and mud.  He said John turned around and waved his fist in the German’s general direction and shouted….” You sons of bitches!”    I think that’s the only time I ever heard my granddad swear. 

I think the most interesting thing about my visit with granddad came as I was getting ready to leave.  He had never spoken to me of the war before that day.  I’ve come to the conclusion it was because he carried a lot of guilt about making it home when so many didn’t.  As I was standing ready to leave, he looked at me and said, "The 743rd was the best battalion in the war."  He made a couple other comments after that about the brave men and buddies he left behind.  What really grabbed me was how the 92 year old suddenly had the “piss and vinegar” of a 19 year old kid.  I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.  Although he never spoke of it, you could tell how proud he was to have served.

Submitted by: Mr. Brad Reynolds

Monday, February 13, 2012

SSG Clarence A. Smith, HHC 743rd Tank BN

from left to right, Boyd Glidewell, Clarence Smith,
Donald Mason, taken at Enunclaw, Washington, August 3, 1942

7 boys from Iowa
6 boys from Minn.
2 boys from Mo.
The rest from all over the states

Iowa Boys.
top and reading right.
1.Schouten - Orange City) Bottom row.
2. C.A. Smith -
3. Jessen -
6. Sac. City - Shade.
8. Mason - Des Moines.
Sec. row
7. Des Moines.
8. A. R. Smith. - Sioux City.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PFC Marvin K. Boller, D Co 743rd Tank BN

I just wanted to share this very emotional item from my Museum. I was very lucky to get  this wonderful letter. It was written by a Mrs. Smith for  PVT Marvin K. Boller, ASN 36839856. PVT Boller was a member of the Co D, light tanks, 743rd Tank  BN. The letter never arrived to Marvin as he was KIA. If someone can give me the date of his death, that would be very heplful for my research. The letter is still in the envelope, but was never opened. I decided not to open it out of respect for the Boller family. Thanks.

Submitted by: Vincent HEGGEN <> 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

SGT Leslie L. Soland, Tank Commander B Co 743rd Tank BN

Where the 743rd was formed, April 16th 1942.

England, 1944

Tank Commander

Bulldozer, France, 1944

Bronze Star

Return from Europe, High Seas, October, 1945

Submitted by: -Marcia Soland Davis

Thursday, January 26, 2012

M4A3 Sherman 1/35

One thing I am looking forward to starting is my Tamiya 1/35 Sherman tank model I got for Christmas. I sat down to look over the task since it has been probably 30 years plus since I've attempted to sit down and do any kind of model. I realized right away that I didn't even have any glue. So I went to the Web (becasue who uses phone books anymore) to find the address for the one hobby story that I THOUGHT was still open and low and hobby store. Hobby Lobby was there but no store where old guys gathered to advise younger guys about their latest adventure in putting together a model. I also realized that I wanted to make something that I wanted to put on a bookshelf next to a picture of my uncle Juke that would look decent. So I settled on the Testors plastic model finishing set for aircraft / military.
I guess I can substitute some Youtube clips for the old guys at the hobby store scenario. Seems kind of a shame though. Nevertheless I'm excited about doing this little project becasue it's so different from what I normally do as an adult. It was fun to get something that was "toylike" at Christmas too. Thanks mom and dad.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2nd Platoon, B Co 743rd Tank BN

Submitted by: -Marcia Soland Davis:
daughter of SGT Leslie L. Soland, Tank Commander (Front row 3rd from the right)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Combined Arms Research Digital Library

This photograph is getting to be well known, at least in 743rd circles, due to the efforts of Mr. Matthew Rozell, a fellow history teacher and blogger. I just found it on the Combined Arms Research Digital Library. There they have the 743rd Tank Battalion, S-3 Journal. "S" stands for "Staff level" such as a battalion sized unit (usually between 600-800 soldiers) as opposed to something larger like a division (10,000 to 20,000 troops) which would then be designated "G". "3" stands for "Operations" so "S-3" is the battalion level operational journal for the 743rd. In it you have all the After Action Reviews (AAR's). It starts in January of 1945 and goes to the end of the war. You get to read about the "Train Near Magdeberg" where the 743rd liberate an SS train moving Jews out of the death camps so as not to have evidence for the Holocaust. Teaching the Holocaust is a great thing to do as a History teacher and I salute Mr. Rozell for doing what he did. His blog is a must see for anyone interested in 743rd history. I hope I see him at a conference some day. He's become somewhat of a teacher/Rock Star as you can see from his blog, although I'm sure he would never admit it. Good Job Matt!

In the S-3 Journal of the 743rd, you also see the months of AAR's separated by whimsical drawings. I wonder if anyone out there knows who the artist is? Is it the same one who illustrated Move Out Verify?
I know from reading the Normandy Today Message Board that people are out there wanting to read the AAR's and it is good primary source reading. Here are some more month dividers:

This one I messed with a bit in Photoshop:
Happy AAR reading!

Friday, January 20, 2012

From the Saving Private Ryan Online Encyclopedia

743rd Tank Battalion

Company A of the 743rd Tank Battalion, commanded by Captain Vodra Phillips, consisted of 16 M4 Sherman tanks and 8 tankdozers (2 tanks and 1 tankdozer per LCT(A)) and was planned to land on Easy Green, Dog Red, Dog White and Dog Green sectors of Omaha Beach at H-5 Hour (6:25 a.m.).
Companies B and C, commanded by Captains Charles Ehmka and Ned Eldar, consisted of 16 DD tanks each and were planned to land on Dog Green and Dog White sectors of Omaha Beach at H-10 Hour (6:20 a.m.).
743rd Tank Battalion, Company A
Landing CraftTanksNotes
LCT(A)-22273Landed on beach.
LCT(A)-22733Landed on beach.
LCT(A)-20503Landed on beach.
LCT(A)-21243Landed on beach.
LCT(A)-23073Landed on beach.
LCT(A)-20753Landed on beach.
743rd Tank Battalion, Company B
Landing CraftDD TanksNotes
LCT-5354Landed on beach.
LCT-5864Landed on beach.
LCT-5874Landed on beach.
LCT-5894Landed on beach.
743rd Tank Battalion, Company C
Landing CraftDD TanksNotes
LCT-5884Landed on beach.
LCT-5904Landed on beach.
LCT-5914Landed on beach.
LCT-7134Landed on beach.
The DD Tanks were originally meant to be launched from their LCTs approximately 6,000 yards from the shore, but the rough waters off of Omaha Beach convinced Captain Ned Eldar to take the 743rd's tanks directly onto the beach. The eight LCT's landed on the beach at approximately 6:40 a.m., about 15 minutes later than planned. One LCT of Company B was sunk by an artillery shell just as it was landing.
Although the 743rd had had more success in landing its tanks on the beach than the 741st Tank Battalion, the tanks did not have proper infantry support and had difficulty locating targets due to the positions of the German defenses. The tanks were also easy targets for German artillery fire, and as the tide rapidly rose they quickly lost room to maneuver.
A promotional shot from Saving Private Ryan does show one tank on the beach, but this does not appear in the movie during the opening battle. At one point Miller makes reference to "dozers," which could either have been actual bulldozers or converted Sherman tanks known as tankdozers.
The 743rd Tank Battalion is not mentioned by name in the movie, but there are references to DD tanks that would have been from this unit. Captain Miller erroneously comments that "all of the armor is foundering in the channel." His comments would have been appropriate if he had been referring to the 741st Tank Battalion, but not the 743rd. At this early stage in the battle Miller would certainly not have known what was going on on the other side of Omaha Beach.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tec 4 Weyman P. Simpson, C Co 743rd Tank BN

Tec 4 Simpson being awarded Bronze Star
Inscription on back says "dated 24th Apr [1945] Maj Gen Leland S. Hobbs, Commanding General 30th Division, 9th U S Army, awards the Bronze Star to Tec 4 Weyman P Simpson, Hartsfield, Ga., somewhere in Germany.743rd Tank BN, 30th Div, NUSA [Ninth US Army], Magdeburg, Germany

Weyman was a tank driver in WW2 and passed along some of his experiences in the war. He said he was only scared once during the entire time he was in the war. It started when he stepped onto the ship when he was sent to Europe and ended when he arrived home.  He was in 5 major battles in Europe and was never shot. He had every position in a tank at one time or another, but was mainly a tank driver.  His tank was number 13 which he viewed as a lucky number, since the tank was never completely disabled in battle.

My father (Alexander H. Simpson Jr.) was also in Europe during the end of the war and was in a few minor skirmishes, but not any of the same battles as Weyman. After the Germans were defeated, my father was sent to be part of the invasion of Japan.  The atomic bombs on Japan eliminated any need for an invasion, so he was sent to the Philippines. Later he went to Takaoka, Japan where he met my mother.

Two of the battles Weyman fought in were the infamous D-Day Landing and the Battle of the Bulge. He also fought in 2 battles in Belgium. On D-Day, he was due to land several hours earlier than the main landing force, but was delayed due to choppy seas. He was part of the group that put their tanks on floats and arrived at the beach just 10 minutes ahead of the main force. The only group to beat them to the beach were the paratroopers who had arrived the night before. This happened at daybreak and he remained in his tank until 11pm, at which time they were able to make a break in the German lines and make an advance. During the battle, he saw the devastating carnage first hand. He saw single cannon shots take out entire landing boats with 20-25 men so that there was nothing remaining. Read the rest of the post @:

Submitted by: Ralph Simpson

Duty of Memory

Picture of 743rd tankers taken during the liberation
Hope everybody can contribuate to this blog and share information with each other (not like on other forums where guys want to keep information for themselves ) so that we can learn more about those wonderful tankers. My father remembers the tankers very well. When they arrived on my father's fields, they dug in and slept near their tanks. Fouron le Comte, the village where I'm living, was used as a repair place for Shermans. Co C was in my town with Harry Hanssen in command.  I think he was wounded during the battle for Aachen. Living not far away (6 miles) from both American Cemeteries: Henri-Chapelle (Belgium) and Margraten (Holland), I adopted eight  743rd tanker's graves and would like to know more about those guys and the area where they were killed. My father sheltered many 30th Inf Div guys in his barn in 1944.  I'm running a Museum entirely dediacted to the 30th Inf Div and attached units so the young European Generation can remember the sacrifices of the many GI's made so many years ago. For most of them, the last and ultimate one. It's our duty of memory.
Submitted by: Vince Heggen:
"Old Hickory Museum "
Ps I 'm still looking for pictures or other 743rd items to  display in the museum so they are not forgotten.

743rd Tank Dozer taken during the liberation of Belgium

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Their Names: Officers and A Company KIA or Died of Wounds

Submitted by: 
Marcia Soland Davis, Daughter of:  Sgt. Leslie L. Soland, Tank Commander, B Co, 743rd Tank Battalion

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

D Day and DD Tanks

It wasn’t until I was middle aged that I realized I had an uncle that was on Omaha Beach on D Day. I knew I had an uncle that had been killed in the war but nobody ever talked about him. The reasons might have been long lasting grief or that they just didn’t know any details of his service. I happened to be home for a visit and at the some time I was reading Stephen Ambrose’s book on D Day. Someone mentioned that Uncle Philip had been in the 743rd Tank Battalion. Stephen Ambrose’s book had a diagram that showed the landing order of the assault units. The 743rd Tank Battalion was the lead unit, 10 minutes ahead of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division, on the right hand side of Omaha Beach opposite Vierville sur Mer. The beach assigned to his company, Company B, was code named Dog Green.
As I started doing research, I was surprised to find that little was discussed in the popular literature about the 743rd Tank Battalion and their position in the assault on D Day. There was almost nothing about them in the exhibits in the World War II Museum in my own hometown of New Orleans. Yet they were a unique secret weapon that military planners relied upon very heavily for close infantry support. It seemed to me that more should be known about them. (Click on the last sentence to read the rest of the post)

Submitted by John Robinson:

Monday, January 16, 2012

SSG John S. DuQoin, A Co 743rd Tank BN

This is a photo of S/Sgt John S. DuQuoin, Company A, 743 Tk Bn, receiving the Silver Star from General Leonard Gerow on June 21, 1944 - this for his actions during the beach head operations on June 6.

John DuQuoin (at age 36) was part of the initial cadre forming the 743rd at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1942.  In late 1942 he completed radio school at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then rejoined the Battalion just in time for the desert training that occupied most of 1943.  He made the Normandy landing (at age 38!), served with the Battalion in the fighting across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, participated in the Battle of the Bulge and was sent stateside on furlough in late January 1945.  Just before returning to the ETO he flunked an Army physical and consequently remained stateside until war's end.  He spent the last six months of his service doing office work at Jefferson Barracks - the processing, transferring and discharging of high point GI's from every theater. 

In September 1944 my uncle, John DuQuoin, sent a letter and photo to his sister (my Mom) as follows:

 "I'm enclosing a photo of a section of the Beach head, found in a magazine in Holland.  It is right in the section we operated in, and gives a good idea of the way debris was littered everywhere.  The tank is one of our own company's which was knocked out."
John was discharged in August of 1945 and resumed civilian life.
Submitted by John Warner

Sunday, January 15, 2012

PFC Julius Marvin Helder, A Co 743rd Tank BN

I began looking into family history with a big assist from (and a cousin who is also into genealogy) a couple years ago. Among other things, I began to piece together the story of my Great Uncle Juke who was part of a unit I had never heard of before. The unit that this blog is created to tell the story of: the 743rd Tank Battalion. I would very much like to provide a place for anyone who would like to share their experiences doing the same thing I'm doing with family history, or for anyone who simply has an interest in this unit. I am soliciting guest bloggers for this site. Just email me the text and any images. I'll even clean them up for you in Photoshop CS5 if you'd like, before I post them. While I was in the Army, I was not a tanker but I must admit I'm enamored by the unbelievable story this unit has. This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Uncle Juke of course, and all those brave souls who came together to form this particular separate tank battalion and part of the highest rated unit in WWII!
In Memorium