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Camp Cooke was ideally suited for the manner and methods of training that were now undertaken. Its terrain made possible the reproduction of every conceivable situation that actual battle conditions might be expected to present. Skillful hands created realistic combat zones, and on them, Armored Infantrymen had a preview of the thrills, excitement and fears reserved only for combat soldiers.

From dawn to dusk the great military installation on the shores of the Pacific hummed with activity. The crack of rifle fire resounded throughout the Camp as remote target ranges became areas of intense activity. Columns of armored vehicles rumbled forth in never ending streams, their crews intent upon the day's "mission", each one designed to capture the true realism of a specific combat operation. Hour after hour, day after day, the program was accelerated to the highest possible pitch, while the incessant "dry-runs" brought forth anguished howls from soldiers rapidly approaching perfection in the complex tasks of modern warfare.


Speaking of Dry Runs

Hey, You... get that right heel down flat ! ! !
This snap-shot, taken from a German prisoner during the Brittany Campaign,
explains the reason for the tortuous hours of "dry runs" that each of us
endured during training days. Jerry did it too.
Those two jokers standing, giving out by the numbers, are not Officers as might
be suspected from their Hermann Goering uniforms. Actually, they're the Nazi
version of the plain everyday Staff Sergeant who made life miserable for
us .... remember????

Yet enthusiasm never waned, and the eagerness with which each new assignment was undertaken by an individual or any group, indicated beyond doubt that the enviable qualifications that then, as when the great conflict ended, distinguished the Sixth as the "Super" Division in America's Armored Force.

Aside from its tremendous military advantages, Camp Cooke offered as well, innumerable facilities for recreation. Two easily reached and well appointed Service Clubs provided a wide variety of entertainment for all troops. Nationally known bands gave frequent performances in the huge Field House, and on such occasions, training programs were revised where necessary to permit the fullest possible attendance. Celebrities in the world of sport made regular appearances at the Camp, and there demonstrated their championship form for the entertainment of the troops.

Perhaps the most popular of all recreational programs originated among the troops themselves. While baseball, as might be expected, held a large following, the Divisions Inter-Battalion Boxing Tournament, in the opinion of many held the stronger appeal. At any rate, in each Battalion Area, regulation size boxing rings were constructed, and every Saturday afternoon huge crowds were attracted to the exciting contests, carefully supervised by the Division's Special Service branch.

Even in friendly rivalry the will to win asserted itself among the troops of our Battalion, for in the final contests that climaxed the Tournament, three Division Championships were won by members of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion. Among those whose flying fists contributed to the fighting reputation of our Battalion, were Private Anthony Benezio, "B" Company, winner of the Division Lightheavy-weight Title, Private Ist [1st] Class Edward R. Johnson, Service Company, and Private Kenneth H. "Ace" Walden, also of "B" Company, who as Staff Sergeant Walden, died fighting against his Country's enemies on the snow covered hills beyond Bastogne, in Belgium.

It was indeed this well balanced program of work and play that brought our unit up to November in peak form, ready for the exacting tests prescribed for all troops by Army Ground Forces. Under the critical eyes of observers representing Fourth Army Headquarters, each Battalion in the now streamlined Super Sixth performed in dress rehearsal fashion, the very tasks that one day would be accomplished in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany.

During a three day mock battle, while artillery shells whistled overhead, as machine guns rattled a warning to Nazi legions abroad, and as grimy, mounted infantrymen careened through billowing clouds of dust in pursuit of the "enemy", the Super Sixth's newly formed Battalions were pronounced ready for the supreme test.

There could be no slackening in the feverish pace now, for the slightest let-up would impair the keen fighting edge of a military machine that was to astound our Nazi opponents, who still considered us the foppish products of a "decadent democracy".

The final month of 1943 witnessed the rounding out of a training program that had thoroughly prepared each individual soldier for a specific role in history's greatest conflict. It was a month of many changes as well; most notable was the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Arnold R. Wall, Arcadia, Calif., who assumed Command of our Battalion when Colonel Mc Ke was appointed Executive Officer of Combat Command "B". Events moved with amazing swiftness throughout this period, and each day new developments pointed with ever increasing certainty to an early departure from Camp Cooke, and from America.

Seldom have the men of the Sixth been kept in ignorance of whatever plans concerned the individual soldier or Unit, but in that critical period, every movement demanded utmost secrecy. Consequently, the policy of Major General Robert W. Crow [Grow], whose practice it was to keep his troops fully informed, was, for the first and only time in the Division's history, wisely set aside.

The final week at Camp Cooke was devoted to the task of preparing heavy equipment for disposal; sturdy vehicles that had served to mould a mighty armored force were turned over to the 11th armored Division. New clothing and equipment was issued to troops now ready for overseas duty. Early on the morning of January 27, 1943, the Battalion assembled in Camp Cooke for the last time, and by late afternoon had entrained for the cross country journey that was to terminate at Camp Shanks, New York, the Port of Embarkation.

The giant military Installation located high on the banks of New York's Hudson River presented a dismal picture as the trains bearing our Battalion rolled slowly into Camp Shanks on February 2 and February 3, 1944. Bitter cold winds sweeping down from the Hudson River Valley were a decided contrast to the mild California climate to which our troops had become accustomed. Yet morale remained high, in fact was considerably bolstered when the entire Battalion was granted a twenty four hour pass shortly after the confusion attending our arrival had subsided. These passes permitted a pleasant visit to several East Coast Cities, the homes of many of the Battalion's personnel.

Subjects pertaining to overseas movement, as well as matters relating to conditions in Allied countries were completely covered in a series of lectures conducted by a capable staff at Camp Shanks, with the result that a thoroughly oriented Battalion boarded the USS Henrico riding at anchor at her dark and silent North River Pier. At about 2030 hours on February 11 the big transport headed for the open sea and a rendezvous with other ships that were to form the largest troop convoy ever organized up to that time.

An uneventful eleven day ocean voyage followed, marked by nothing more unusual than the sight of haelthy, brawny men suffering untold misery from the pangs of sea-sickness; an experience that will never be forgotten, especially by those who groaned their way across the wide Atlantic. After lying at anchor in the Firth of clyde for three days, the Battalion disembarked at Greenock, Scotland, on February 25 and entrained for the twelve hour journey that ended in the village of Burford, Oxfordshire, England, where our troops went into billets.

It soon became apparent that several months remained before our Battalion would enter combat with the enemy, now scarcely a hundred miles away. However, within a matter of weeks, new vehicles and equipment were made available, and once more the Battalion embarked on a long siege of training. Although not nearly approaching the broad scale that was possible in the States, it was more than adequate to maintain the high degree of efficiency reached prior to embarkation for the European Theater.

The monotony of this long, and in some respects, unexpected training grind, might have had harmful effects on the morale of men already fit and ready for combat, had not ample measures been taken to provide for a wide variety of recreation. Frequent short leaves were made available, with the result that our troops were enabled to visit many of the historical points of interest throughout Britian. Limited as were the recreational facilities of a nation that had known little but the hardship of war for more than four long years, its people, especially the population of Burford, grasped every opportunity to provide pleasant relaxation for the soldies of their Ally. As a result, many lasting friendships were formed there, friendships that will endure long after the enemies of peace and freedom have been eliminated from our midst.

A distinct admiration and mutual high regard developed between the citizens of this tiny Old English village and the members of our Battalion, and this could never be more clearly demonstrated than it was on the bright Saturday afternoon of July 15, 1944. On that day, our Battalion, fully equipped for war, rumbled through Burford for the last time. Never demonstrative, these quiet people of Britian lined the streets of their village and crowded each intersection, to catch a last fleeting glimpse of some grinning Yank who had done more to cement British. American relations than the combined efforts of diplomats of both countries could ever hope to accomplish.

Great was the task of transporting men and equipment to France and combat, yet it was accomplished with utmost speed and precision. Exactly ten days after our Battalion arrived at the Southampton docks, the last elements of the Super SIXTH ARMORED DIVISION had arrived at Base Camps on French soil, with our Battalion located in the vicinity of Besnesville.

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Last updated: November 11, 2007