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By James T. McGhee
St. Louis, Missouri 15 June 2001
Standing on the deck and leaning on the side rails of the U.S.S. Lyon, the Soldierrailroaders of the 713th Railway Operating Battalion (Santa Fe) looked out upon the Italian Port City of Naples. On this 6th day of October 1943, the city and its port facilities appeared completely destroyed. Technical Sergeant Louis Russell described Naples as a “Ghost City”.1 For these men, their experiences in Italy would prove to be their most challenging. During the next nine months, the men of Company “A” would overcome every obstacle to accomplish their mission of building a railroad to Rome, and help ensure the success of rail transportation operations in Italy. The men of the “Sante Fe” Battalion would face this difficult challenge not as new recruits but as seasoned railroad men backed by lifetimes of railroad experience and seven months of military railroad operations in North Africa. The experience of the officers and men assigned to Railway Operating Battalions during World War II was the result of a successful cooperative agreement between the United States Army and the civilian railroads. Following World War I and the passage of the National Defense Act of 1920, the Army was able to maintain, on paper at least, a force for the Military Railway Service (M.R.S.) troops on an affiliation basis with United States civilian railroads. Reserve Officers would be drawn from these railroads and assigned to battalions into positions comparable with their civilian positions on the railroads.2 The reorganization of the M.R.S. in World War II was established on 1 February 1939 ____________
Russell, Louis, “With the 713th Ry. Op. Bn. in Italy.” Railway Age, June 3 1944.
DeNevi, Don and Hall, Bob, United States Military Railway Service, (Toronto, Canada: Stoddard Publishing Co. Limited, 1992), 14.
when Carl R. Gray Jr., Executive Vice-President of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad, was commissioned as Manager, Military Railway Service.3 A complete restructuring of the M.R.S. was completed and within a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States had one Railway Operating Battalion (R.O.B.) ready for duty. Shortly after 1942, the American railroads began generously cooperating and accepting sponsorship or affiliation of units.4 Among these was the Santa Fe Railroad who sponsored the men of the 713th R.O.B.. In January 1942, a contract was entered into and negotiated between the railroads, represented by the Association of American Railroads, and the Government, represented by the Chief of Engineers. This contract established that the units sponsored by individual railroads would be trained on their respective rail lines.5 On 15 April 1942, the 713th R.O.B. was called to service and sent to Clovis, New Mexico to train with the employees of the Santa Fe Railroad. All of the men assigned to the 713th were experienced railroad men. They had come from practically every major railroad in the country. However, more than 600 recruits arrived straight from induction centers and without any formal military training. Establishing a training schedule to facilitate both technical training and military training became a significant challenge. Working long hours and weekends, the men of the 713th were transformed into Soldier-railroaders. This military training included but was not limited to drill and ceremony, field drill, manual ____________ 3 DeNevi, 16.
Gray, Carl R., “The Military Railway Service up to the Italian Campaign”, Military Review 28 No. 2 (May 1948): 9.
and care of arms, guard duty, and weapons qualification.6 The Table of Organization and Equipment of the 713th R.O.B. was similar to other U.S. Railway Operating Battalions. It was divided into four companies. The Headquarters and Service (H&S) Company provided for the overall command and control of the organization including the administrative and logistical support requirements. The H&S Company consisted of a company headquarters, an administrative section, a technical section, a supply and transport section, a mess section, a train movements section (dispatching unit), and a signal maintenance section. The “A” Company was known as the Maintenance of Way and Structures Company. This company was responsible for all track and signal maintenance to include bridges, tunnels, and building structures. The company was composed of four officers and 190 enlisted men divided into two platoons. One platoon was a Bridge-and-Building (B&B) Platoon and the other was a Track Maintenance Platoon along with a Signal Repair Section. Company “B” was the Maintenance of Equipment Company. This company consisted of four officers and 182 enlisted men divided into two platoons. One platoon was a rail carrepair platoon and the other a locomotive-repair platoon. Company “C” made up the bulk of the battalion and was known as the Transportation Company. It consisted of four officers and 425 enlisted men. These men made up two train-operating platoons each containing 25 train crews. The battalion also contained a Medical Detachment.7 ____________ Russell, Louis, The Sante Fe Battalion in World War II, (Chicago: Neely Printing Company, 1946), 13. DeNevi, 17. See also General Gray’s article in Railway Age, Dec 16 1944, 918. General Gray raises the “A” company strength to 229 enlisted men and five officers. Russell, Louis, 1946, 121, also shows an additional officer in each company as an Executive Officer raising the number in each line company to six.
This battalion organization was designed to allow a single battalion to construct or repair railroad facilities, repair and maintain locomotives and rail cars, and independently operate a rail line over 150 miles.8 The 713th would receive their opportunity to prove the effectiveness of their organization and training in the deserts of North Africa. In November 1942, British and allied forces under the command of General Bernard Montgomery had been in a “seesaw” battle for over 14 months with Axis forces including the famed German Afrika Korps under the command of General Erwin Rommel. American forces landed on the coast of Africa near Casablanca, Oran and Algeirs on 8 November 1942. Allied commanders realized very quickly that they were having difficulty with local rail operation and transportation. The Director of the Military Railway Service, General Gray, along with 25 hand select men were dispatched to Algiers arriving on 7 February 1943.9 Once General Gray made his assessment, railroad units including the “Sante Fe” Battalion under the command of LTC Charles D. Notgrass were immediately dispatched to Africa. On this fair day of 7 February, the 713th R.O.B. boarded two ships docked at Staten Island. The H&S and “C” companies commanded by Captain William S. Steamer and Captain Robert D. McGee respectively, boarded the former tourist passenger ship Brazil. The “A” and “B” companies commanded by Captains Hal E. Smith and Hilburn T. Ankerson boarded an old banana boat converted into a troop ship called the Hawaiian Shipper.10 ____________ Lourie, George E., “Development of the Military Railway Service”, Military Review 26, (Sep 1946) 29. Gray, Carl R., “Military Railway Service in World War II”, Brotherhood of Locomotive Enginemen’s Magazine, June 1947, 4.
10 9 8
Russell, 1946, 15.
After an uneventful trip across the Atlantic Ocean, the 713th R.O.B. disembarked onto the wharves of Casablanca on 19 February 1943. Over the next seven months the men of the “Sante Fe” Battalion would learn valuable experience in dealing with the numerous obstacles and hazards associated with operating a foreign railroad under wartime conditions. They controlled, operated, repaired, and built railroad facilities across North African locations in Algeria including Setif, Tebessa, Constantine, and Phillipeville. From Algeria they moved into Tunisia and ran operations in Tabarka, Sbeitla, Sousse and Bizerte. In North Africa, they proved their value and validated their organization. The 713th R.O.B. did not accomplish this task without loss. Three soldiers were reported killed in derailment accidents and one died of illness. The battalion also saw its commanding officer, LTC Notgrass and Sergeant Major W. T. Combs transferred back to the states due to illness.11 The Battalion Executive Officer, Major E. E. Foulks took command of the battalion and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The commander of the Company “A”, Captain Hal E. Wilson assumed the duties as the Battalion Executive Officer and was promoted to Major. This gave the command of the “A” Company to Captain Virgil I. Kessinger. By September 4th, 1943, the “Sante Fe” Battalion had ceased all operations in Africa to await their next mission. They didn’t have to wait long. On 9 September 1943, Allied forces of the U.S. Fifth Army under the command of General Marty Clark landed in Italy along the coast of the Bay of Salerno. The fighting in Italy proved to be some of the toughest of the war. German forces conducted furious counterattacks on the beachhead ____________
Russell, 1946, 22.
on September 13th. The allied forces held and the crisis was over by the 16th of September when the American Fifth and the British Eigth Armies linked forces. The City of Salerno was in allied hands and the push to take the vital port city of Naples was underway. The Germans fought a skilled defense but did not contest the city of Naples. The British and Americans entered Naples early on the morning of 1 October 1943. They found that the German Military has destroyed the port and every other structure within three hundred yards.12 The 713th R.O.B. meanwhile was being assembled in Oran, Algeria. On the 27th of September, the men were taken by truck to the pier of Oran where they soon boarded the U.S.S. Lyon. Despite the crowded conditions, the limited comforts of the ship were a welcome reprieve from the past ten dreary days of sleeping on rocks in small pyramid tents. The U.S.S. Lyon raised its anchor and departed Oran at 10:30 on the morning of 30 September 1943 to join its convoy destined for Italy. It was a seven-day sea movement along the coast of Africa and across the Mediterranean to Naples. During this peaceful time the men did their best to remain entertained. Below decks the men slept on the available bunks and many participated in the usual dice and poker games which inevitably became a point of interest. Above decks the men enjoyed good weather, blue water and a few good “boogie-woogie” songs played by Soldiers including members of the 713th’s very own orchestra.13 Upon arriving in the port of Naples and seeing Sergeant Russell’s “Ghost City”, the ____________
Sulzberger, C. L., World War II, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970), 216. Russell, 1946, 23.
men of 713th quickly checked their weapons and equipment and began climbing down large cargo nets over the side of the ship. They were loaded onto small boats called LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) to be taken to the piers. So many ships had been sunk in the harbor that navigation by large vessels to the pier was impossible. The LCIs passed these huge submerged ships some lying on their births and others sunk with only their tall masts protruding above the water. The many warehouses and buildings around the piers were severely damaged and the hazy smoke of battle still hung over them. The battle lines were still very close, as the enemy was only 15 miles away. The men were unloaded and anxiously assembled at the dock where they marched off to the rail yard to take up quarters in a badly damaged warehouse. Walking through the city the men saw many half-starved civilians and refugees. Food and water sources were extremely scarce. All the water mains in the city had been damaged and rendered non-operable. The German Army had meticulously destroyed everything that had not already been damaged by the devastating effects of allied bombing raids. It was impossible to find a building that was not damaged. The warehouse occupied by the 713th looked as if it would collapse at any minute.14 That night the men nervously settled down for a rest under the continuous overtones of explosions and bright flashes of artillery from the front. That same night they experienced their first German air raid in Italy. There were no air raid shelters nearby to seek cover in so the men sat and watched through open doors or holes in the ceiling as a dazzling display of tracers and flak burst in the sky overhead.15 ____________
The Yankee Boomer, Vol. 1 No. 5, 4 Nov 1943. Russell, 1944.
The next morning a group of officers and sergeants toured the rail yards. Sergeant Louis Russel accompanied them on this preliminary inspection. “The demolition had been terrific. Charred and twisted cars were strewn around haphazardly, with lengths of rail cross ties still attached pointing toward the sky.”16 There were hardly any tracks that had not been blow apart every hundred yards or so. Large bomb craters were everywhere. Long rows of rail cars had been set afire by the Germans and sat charred and burned with only their steel skeletons remaining. Steam locomotives had been destroyed by explosive charges cleverly placed to immobilize and prevent cannibalization by repair units. On electric rail lines, the cantenary lines along with the electric locomotives were also methodically destroyed. One of the officers in the group observing the destruction with Sergeant Russell was First Lieutenant R.H. Anderson. According to Russell, Lt. Anderson said, “I believe that we can get a train out this way by Sunday.” It was Wednesday and Sergeant Russell had his doubts about getting anything through the mess for a month. He asked Lt. Anderson, “You mean Sunday after next?”.17 The Italians claimed it never could be done and the British said it would take weeks.18 Since no serviceable locomotives or track existed, a large majority of the battalion began to clear the rubble to get things moving. Company “A”, the Maintenance of Way forces pitched into the melee with even more fervor than that with which they had distinguished themselves in North Africa.19 They received welcome help from members ____________
Russell, 1944. Russell, 1944.
“Railroadin’ Fifth Army Does Splendid Job in Naples, Italy”, Locomotive Engineers Journal, March 1944, 148.
of “C” Company. Under the leadership of a Conductor, Sergeant Fred Tomer, assisted by Private Alexander Parker as his right hand man who had track gang experience, Sergeant Tomer put together a gang composed of engineers, firemen, brakemen, and yard clerks who made quite a name for themselves. They became known as “Sergeant Tomer’s Reclamation Department”. In two days, wielding picks and shovels, this gang cleared track, filled bomb craters, and put 20 serviceable cars into operation. The next day they found a German crane that had not been badly damaged. They repaired the crane, built 75 yards of track to get it into a place where it could be used, and began reclaiming serviceable rail cars at a rate of up to 100 a day. It made no difference whether the repairable cars were cross wire, sideways or upside down. They merely hooked the big chain around a car, set the German gears to grinding and put the car back on good rail.20 Another gang under the supervision of Sergeant Ralph M. Whitton, cleared away miles of mangled and tangled catenary wire which had been strung over and across the tracks.21 The men worked four long exhausting days clearing debris, repairing track and filling craters. Company “B” quickly repaired three damaged Italian steam locomotives and on Saturday, 11 October, a day ahead of the goal set by Lt. Anderson, a test train was run a distance of four miles pushing a head of it five cars. ____________ Gray, Carl R., Railroading in Eighteen Countries: The Story of American Railroad men serving in the Military Railway Service 1862-1953, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953, 125-126. See Also Russel, 1946, 29, and Yankee Boomer, Vol.1 No. 5.
The first train run on a new rail line was often sent forward pushing cars in the front. This was a valuable lesson learned in North Africa to overcome the problem of handling the numerous land mines placed by the retreating German Army. Thousands of antipersonnel and Teller mines had been placed along the railroad right of way, along the track, on switches and bridges, and in tunnels. Before North Africa, railroaders had been inadequately trained and equipped to remove these deadly mines. Following North Africa, the company commanders of all “A” Companies in each R.O.B. were appointed as the Officer of Mines for the battalion and received thorough training on the detection and removal of mines. These officers then returned to their units and trained selected men in their units in mine detection and removal. While mine detectors where often available, they did not work around steel tracks or switches. Soldiers were often forced to rely on individual probing methods to detect mines.22 Mines were not the only nuisances for the railway troops in Naples. Two days after their arrival the 713th moved their sleeping quarters from the demolished warehouse to another building which appeared more hospitable. For two days they remained in the building until an American Major rushed up to declare the place was loaded with time bombs ready to go off at any moment. The building was quickly evacuated. Buildings in the city of Naples were destroyed without warning for several days after the 713th arrived as clockwork detonators set by the Germans did their work.23 ____________
Sherer, Ralph E., “Acclaim for Soldier-Railroaders”, Railway Age, 8 April 1944,
Gray, 1955, 123.
An article from the Stars and Stripes describes one of these explosions. NAPLES, Oct. 8—Hundreds of Italian civilians, including many women and children were blown to pieces yesterday when a delayed action mine planted by the Germans before they abandoned Naples exploded in the basement of the post office building. The explosion in the massive modern building constructed under the fascist regime killed practically every person on the ground floor of the post office as well as many civilians working in the streets a block away. People were also killed in adjoining buildings. The mine, which contained several hundred tons of high explosives, went off at one of the busiest times of the day, when hundreds of Neapolitans were visiting the post office building. The post office, with this gigantic booby trap in its basement was the only public building left intact by the Germans when they quit the city. It was one of the landmarks of modern Naples. The total number of dead is not yet known, but several allied correspondents in Naples estimated that hundreds were killed in the blast. Some soldiers, nationality not identified, were included in the dead. American and British Red Cross services were on the scene immediately and worked at high pressure for several hours. “The most appalling aspect of the explosion was the number of children killed,” reported Noel Monks, London Daily Mail corespondent. “One moment they were playing in the street—the next they were mere ribbons of flesh. I visited the scene within a few minutes of the explosion and counted the torn bodies of 15 children. A woman walking around the corner on the Via Roma, 150 yards from the post office had her head blown off.”24 ____________
Russell, 1946, 77.
It had been decided by General Gray on 7 October that railway operations in Italy would be divided for reconstruction and operating purposes into two districts. Also, a separate division was established under the Director General known as the Reconstruction Division under the command of Colonel E. L. Parkes. This division was charged with the responsibility of repairing the tracks and facilities of the 1st and 2nd districts utilizing all available American, British and Italian railroad maintenance troops and equipment. The general program included the American units being assigned to the west-coast ports and west-coast lines including the cross line from Salerno to Taranto. The British units were assigned to the east-coast ports.25 With the first trains running from the port of Naples, the men of Company “A” (minus one squad left to continue work in the Naples yard) were sent seven miles to the north of Naples to set up camp near a station at Frattamaggiore-Grumo. This was an equal distance behind the front lines of the Fifth Army. These men were assigned to work on Line 89 and 90 north to Casserta. Along this rail line from Naples to Aversa was a large rail yard consisting of up to 15 tracks each which could accommodate up to 75 to 100 rail cars. At the time of the German withdrawal from the area, each of the tracks was full of rail cars. The Germans blew out the center of every other rail then placed a time bomb in each car, covered them all with gasoline and set the whole yard ablaze.26 “A” Company cleared away tons of damaged equipment and reconstructed over 8,500 feet of damaged ____________ Gray, 1952, 112-113. Gray issued Field Memorandums No. 1 and No. 2 dated 7 October 1943 to establish this division of responsibility.
track during four days of miserable weather working in rain and mud and living in pup tents.27 During this time, on 12 October 1943, the Italians who had surrendered to the Allies unconditionally on 3 September 1943, declared war on Germany. Also during this time on 13 October, the Fifth Army crossed the Volturno River. On 21 October, Company “A” packed up their muddy equipment and moved ten miles further north to Maddaloni. Here, the member of the track gangs called “Gandy Dancers”28 encountered the same type of track destruction found on the Aversa line. The Germans used two basic methods to destroy track. The first type, found at Aversa and Maddaloni, was to place an explosive charge in the center of every other rail that blew out approximately 16 inches of the rail. The rail lines along lines 89 and 90 consisted of a double track system. In reconstructing a single-track system the railway track gangs were able to utilize the undamaged rails from the other track to quickly repair the damage. Technical Sergeant William V. Smith describes this method in his account. “The job here (Maddaloni) was the same as the Aversa line, cutting blown rails with cutting torches, loosening and sliding them together and, when a 10 or 15 foot gap was open, inserting a piece of rail from the other track.”29 Company “A” restored 12,000 feet of track in six days utilizing these methods. In the subsequent two weeks they placed 11,700 and 16,200 feet of track respectively. German resistance in Italy was ever present ____________
Russell, 1946, 27.
“Gandy Dancers” is railroad slang for the track gangs. The term is from the rhythmic movements of the railroad laborer working with tools produced by the Gandy Manufacturing Company in Chicago.
Russell, 1946, 28.
with the nightly bombing of Naples by German bombers. According to Sergeant Smith, “The men had an excellent view of the raids on Naples from their positions at Maddaloni. The German bombers were over Naples almost every night, bombing the rail yards, the docks, and the shipping in the harbor”.30 While the job in Maddaloni was being completed by the “Gandy Dancers” of the Track Maintenance Platoon, the Bridge and Buildings (B&B) Platoon left the company on 28 October. They joined the Sante Fe Battalion’s sister battalion, the 727th R.O.B. at Capau to assist them in reconstructing the railroad-bridge over the Volturno River. Because of the numerous mountain streams and valleys in Italy, there were many bridges on the Italian State Railway. American bombers and the Germans in their retreat destroyed virtually every one of them.31 The original bridge over the Volturno River at Capau was a double track through girder structure of seven spans on masonry piers and abutments with an overall length of 525 feet. The steel was entirely demolished and blown to the riverbed. The abutments and all but three of the masonry piers were completely destroyed. It was decided to restore the structure as a single-track bridge.32 The M.R.S. was fortunate enough to have in its possession 25,000 tons of captured German Roth Waagner prefabricated truss bridging to accomplish this sizeable task. Sergeant C. E. Quist discovered this vital equipment undamaged in Italy on the line between Aversa and Caserta.33 This prefabricated bridging materiel went together like a ____________
Russell, 1946, 28. Gray, 1952, 129.
Gray, Carl R., “Rebuild Blasted Bridges in Italy, Part 1.”, Railway Age, 16 Dec 1944, 919.
Gray, 1952, 127.
child’s erector set. It can be used for spans of any length up to 250 feet. Bridge Engineers decided to use three 150-foot and one 80-foot span to restore the crossing. Simultaneously, two 150-foot spans were erected from the south shore while the remaining 150-foot span and the 80-foot span were erected from the north shore. The 525-foot bridge was completed in 22 days by the B&B Platoons of the 713th and 727th Railway Operating Battalions with the assistance of Italian Engineer Construction Troops.34 Upon the completion of the bridge, the B&B Platoon of the 713th was to rejoin their company but the company was no longer at Maddaloni. They had been moved further up the Italian “Boot” to Pignataro on 13 November. Company “A” set out to reconstruct about 27,000 feet of shell holes and destroyed track. At Pignataro, Sergeant Smith remembers the dangers of German air attacks, “There was plenty of trouble from strafing by “Jerry” planes and a few were shot down close to the Company area. The constant strafing made it necessary to appoint airplane spotters and thus give the men time to take cover”.35 These types of German air attacks were a common problem for the men of the M.R.S.. To help protect the soldiers and the many supply and troop trains from these attacks, Allied trains were equipped with anti-aircraft guns. There is no complete record available of enemy attacks on Allied trains, shops, or track reconstruction troops, but as late as 24 April Nazi planes struck at railway facilities near and in Naples.36 ____________
Gray, Rebuilding Bridges Part 1, 920. Russell, 1946, 28.
”U.S. Army Transportation and the Italian Campaign”, Monograph No. 17, Historical Unit: Office of the Chief of Transportation Army Service Forces, Sep 1945, 199-200.
The 713th completed the track reconstruction at Pignataro and was moved to Sparanise on 25 November where they found more of the same widespread destruction. From Sparanise on 18 March 1944 the 713th witnessed one of the most powerful events of Mother Nature when the most violent volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius occurred since 1872. The great volcano poured fourth millions of tons of ash and lava for five days. The succeeding days saw a reduction in the activity of the volcano until it finally quit on 28 March. Through it all, Company “A” continued with the endless construction following behind the Fifth Army on Line 90 through May 26th.37 While the men of the 713th worked at Sparanise, the Allies conducted an amphibious attack at Anzio. The landing took place on 22 January 1944. Once again, allied forces found themselves in a delicate defensive pocket facing determined German resistance that threatened to force them back into the sea. The beachhead held but did not achieve its goals of breaking the stalemate in Italy and capturing Rome. At the end of March the Allied position was facing Field Marshal Albert Kesserling along the Gustav Line which extended for 100 miles westward across Italy, from the Sangro River to Cassino and on to the Tyrrhenian Sea near the mouth of the Garigliano River. The Allies spent the month of April and the first half of May planning for another assault on the Gustav Line at Cassino.38 The final assault on Cassino was one of the most controversial attacks of the ____________ Gray, 1952, 132-133. See also the account in U.S. Army Transportation Monograph No. 17, 199. Logistical History of NATOUSA, MTOUSA, Naples: U.S. Army, North African Theater of Operations, 1945, 3.
war. To break the German defenses the Allies sent hundreds of bombers to destroy the ancient Abbey of Monte Cassino. The attack commenced on 11 May but Allied forces were unable to occupy the abbey until 18 May. On 23 May the Allied forces at the Anzio beachhead took the offensive and joined troops of the Fifth Army advancing from the south. The Germans began their retreat from the Gustav Line. “As goes the 5th Army, so goes the 713th.”39 On 26 May 1944 Company “A” moved to Formia on Line 89. At Formia, the 713th would find the track completely devastated by the Germans utilizing their second method of track destruction. The Germans had constructed an ingenious device know by them as the “Trackwolf”. This piece of equipment known by the Americans as the track-ripper or “Scarifier” was a gigantic adjustable hook attached to a rail car and pulled behind three or four locomotives. The hook would be dropped onto the center or the track behind the advancing train where it would break all the wood or concrete ties in half. Steel ties were bent into scrap. To complete the destruction, explosive charges were once again dropped onto the rails. This device could completely destroy several miles of track an hour.40 Company “A” went to work reconstructing the track, bridges and tunnels at Formia. First Sergeant of Company “A”, Otis B. Schooley distinguished himself by supervising the reconstruction of a bridge over the Savone River in 22 days. Since bridges have to be maintained and often slow trains on account of speed restrictions,41 First Sergeant ____________
Rusell, 1946, 29. Zeil, Ron, Steel Rails to Victory, (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1970), 128. Ibid., 135.
Schooley utilized the “Sante Fe” method of replacing the bridge with a multi-pipe culvert and fill. Salvaged ventilating pipe from a destroyed steel mill was used for the culvert opening.42 Additional assistance from British construction troops provided heavy earthmoving equipment including three bulldozers. First Sergeant Schooley received a Legion of Merit for his supervision of the Savone River Gorge crossing.43 Allied forces marched into Rome on 4 June 1944. However, this grand event was overshadowed by Operation Overlord; the Allied invasion of France on 6 June 1944. New Rail lines were available for reconstruction with the capture of Rome. Company “A” was moved from Formia to Campoleone on 11 June and even had men working on Anzio Beach. June was a busy time for all the soldiers in Company “A”. The Signal Repair Section was engaged in removing obstacles and cantenary wire from Anzio to Campoleone and at Camp Di Carne. When they completed there, they went on to string a five-mile wire communications line from Littoria to Cisterna. The Company moved from Campoleone to Montalto De Castro on 27 June. On 1 July, the first test-train entered Rome. The official opening of the line from Naples to Rome was conducted with much fanfare on the 4th of July 1944 when a train carrying much needed coal arrived in Rome operated by men of “C” Company, 713th R.O.B. The completion of the railway to Rome did not end the work for Company “A”. They continued to work but also began preparing equipment for shipment. From 1 August to ____________ Gray, Carl R., “Rebuilding Blasted Bridges in Italy, Part 2”, Railway Age. 23 Dec 1944, fig.20, 954.
Russell, 1946, 28.
23 August all four units of the 713th R.O.B. were occupied in crating and packing for another boat ride. The men of Company “A” had made railroad history in Italy. For their extraordinary work General Clark presented the soldiers of the M.R.S. with the Fifth Army Plaque and Clasp for excellence in discipline, performance, and merit for the years 1943 and 1944, with the following citation: “ALLIED FORCE MILITARY RAILWAY SERVICE is awarded the Fifth Army Plaque and Clasp for meritorious service 1943-44. During the early days of the Fifth Army’s campaign in Italy, this organization reconstructed inoperative railroads which were able to carry substantial tonnages. In subsequent stages of the Italian Campaign they have enabled freight and hospital trains to come within close proximity of the front lines. The services performed by the Allied Military Railway Service have contributed materially to the military operations of the Fifth Army.”44 The “A” Companies of the M.R.S. were presented a commendation for meritorious service by General Gray for their outstanding performance of duty with the following citation: “Following rapidly the advance of the Fifth Army these units successfully dealt with the maximum demolition of track, bridges, and tunnels left behind by the retreating enemy. Without the aid of specialist groups, these units swept mines and removed booby traps and demolition charges in rehabilitating railway lines to a distance of approximately 200 Kilometers north of Rome. Such a record of duty and excellent performance as these “A” companies have attained is one of which they may well be proud and one that is a ____________
Gray, 1952, 148.
credit to the officers and enlisted men of their units as well as to the entire Military Railway Service.”45 World War II would continue for the men of the 713th R.O.B.. They would leave Italy on 24 August 1944 and land in Southern France on 30 August 1944 as part of the U.S. 7th Army. They reconstructed miles of track, built more bridges, strung more wire, and enjoyed some of the pleasures of France until they entered Germany on 4 April 1945. The “Lone Wolves” of “A” Company set up camp at Landau, Germany in a Shoe Factory.46 They continued working on the German rail lines through “V-E Day” and on to August 1945. The first group of “A” men left Germany to return home on 12 August 1945. Many of these soldier-railroaders had been with the 713th since they arrived at Camp Clovis, New Mexico in April of 1942. Some remained separated from their families for 40 continuous months of service. During this great adventure, they would railroad through six countries on two continents. The story of the men of “A” Company and the rest of the 713th Railway Operating Battalion (Sante Fe) is one of great success and courage. In the great American Spirit, these men, these Soldier-Railroaders, working as non-combatants under combat conditions, overcame every obstacle presented to them to complete their mission and built a railroad to Rome. ____________
The Yankee Boomer, Vol. 1 No. 29, 20 April 1944.
Russell, 1946, 49.
DeNevi, Don and Hall, Bob. United States Military Railway Service. Toronto, Canada: Stoddard Publishing Co. Limited, 1992. Gray, Carl R.. “Rebuild Blasted Bridges in Italy, Part 1.” Railway Age. Dec 16 1944. ____________. “Rebuild Blasted Bridges in Italy, Part 2.” Railway Age. Dec 23, 1944. ____________. “Military Railway Service in World War II.” Brotherhood of Locomotive and Enginemen’s Magazine, June 1947. ____________. “The Military Railway Service up to the Italian Campaign.” Military Review 28 No. 2 (May 1948): 3-11. ____________. “The Military Railway Service in Italy and Northwest Europe.” Military Review 28 No. 3 (June 1948): 20-26. ____________. Railroading in Eighteen Countries: The Story of American Railroad Men Serving in the Military Railway Service 1862-1953. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955. Logistical History of NATOUSA, MTOUSA. Naples: U.S. Army, North African Theater of Operations, 1945. Lourie, George E.. “Development of Military Railway Service.” Military Review 26 (Sep 1946): 26-33. Myers, Jefferson H.. “The Military Railway Service in World War II.” Military Review 11 (Feb 1945): 1-12. Russell, Louis. “With the 713th Ry. Op. Bn. in Italy.” Railway Age. June 3 1944. ____________. The Sante Fe Battalion in World War II. Chicago: Neely Printing Company, 1946. “Railroadin’ Fifth Army Does Splendid Job in Naples, Italy.” Locomotive Engineers Journal. March 1944, 148-149. Schultz, Christopher F., Dictionary of Railway Track Terms. Simmons-Boardman Books Inc., 1990. Sherer, Ralph E.. “Acclaim for Soldier-Railroaders.” Railway Age. 8 April 1944. Sulzberger, C. L.. World War II. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1970. The Yankee Boomer. Vol. 1 NO. 4. 28 October 1943.
The Yankee Boomer, Vol. 1 NO. 5. 4 November 1943. The Yankee Boomer. Vol. 1 NO. 29. 20 April 1944. “U.S. Army Transportation and the Italian Campaign.” Monograph No. 17, Historical Unit: Office of the Chief of Transportation Army Service Forces. (Sep 1945). Wardlow, Chester. The Transportation Corps: Responsibilities, Organization and Operations in USAWWII Series. Washington D.C.: OCMH, 1951. Zeil, Ron. Steel Rails to Victory. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1970.