Eugene Palmer served in World War II in the European Theater.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 until 1946. He served in the 446th Battalion, Battery C, Gun Section No. 2. His unit was trained at Camp Davis, one of the Army's seven anti-aircraft artillery training centers at the time, from approximately November 1942 until September 1944, broken by a six-week stay in Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
In September 1944, the unit went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and on to the New York harbor, where they boarded the British ship H.M.S. Clies. They traveled through the St. George Channel and to the Irish Sea, docking at Greenock, Scotland on October 10, 1944. They traveled by train to England, received their weapons, and then went on to France.
They made their way to Belgium and the Netherlands in December 1944, and they saw combat. In the Netherlands and in Germany, their assignments were to protect ammunition dumps, gasoline dumps, artillery pieces, and pontoon bridges. They also guarded Russian refugees and German S.S. prisoners. Mr. Palmer was at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, just up the mountains from Berchtesgaden.
Mr. Palmer’s unit returned from Germany to France in boxcars known as 40 and 8’s; these French boxcars, designed to travel on the light-gauge French railroads, have approximately half the capacity of American boxcars and could carry up to 40 people or 8 horses. They were unheated. Mr. Palmer notes that he was nearly trampled in the process.
They returned to the United States on the S.S. Elgin Victory.
A Journal Written by Eugene O. Palmer
Battery C/Gun Section No. 2
As told to Raymond J. Kohtala, Chief Sergeant
We left on November 29th, 1942. The 446th Battalion moved from Camp Davis, North Carolina, to Fort Fisher, North Carolina, which was about 25 miles from Camp Davis.* We were at Camp Davis until February 1943 and then moved back to Camp [Fort] Fisher to 16th St. [September 16?], and we stayed there again until December 1943, when we moved back to Camp Davis again to Area 5, which was called “The Swamp.” In April 1944, we move to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and from there we were attached to the 95th Infantry Division (“Hickory Division”), where we stayed for six weeks.
In June of 1944 we moved back to—guess where?—Camp Davis! On September 18th, 1944, we left Camp Davis by train. On September 19th, 1944, we arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. On September 27th, 1944, we went by train to New York harbor, where we went aboard the British ship Clies, manned by a Scottish crew. On September 28th, 1944, we pulled out of the harbor about 4:00 a.m. On September 30th, 1944, another convoy joined us, off the coast of Canada. We had a nice voyage—no trouble from the submarines. We went up through the St. George Channel, then to the Irish Sea. We docked at Greenock, Scotland, on October 10th, 1944. It was the most beautiful harbor I have ever seen, with the plots around the hills.
On October 11th, 1944, we left the ship and went by train to Winbourne, England, arriving October 12th, 1944. There we received our 40mm guns and M-51’s and more boot training. Then we moved to London and on to Bournemouth, England. On November 29th, 1944 we boarded an LST** at Portsmouth, England. On the morning of November 29th, we sailed for France. On the night of December 1st, we docked at LeHavre, France. That night, we sailed up the Seine River to Rouen, France. We docked and unloaded on December 3rd, 1944. From there, we went about 30 miles to a camping site and stayed there until December 8th, 1944. It rained every day, it was a miserable week—lucky we found some wire to put our bed rolls on, under the tents.
On December 8th, 1944, we left by convoy to Vise, Belgium. We got there on December 9th and set up our 1st gun position. On December 21st, 1944 a V-1 (buzz bomb) hit about 15 yards from our M-51 gun. Rogers got a piece of shrapnel in his back and Hightower got a cut on his hand from broken glass. Rogers got the Purple Heart. I thought about a thousand V-1’s came near us. Our mission was to guard a gasoline dump and a vital bridge from German airplanes. We were not allowed to shoot at the V-1’s.
We moved to our 2nd gun position about ½ mile away, into Holland, on January 4th, 1945.
On January 7th, 1945 we moved to our 3rd position, on the Prince Albert Canal. Our mission here was to protect the largest gasoline dump of the 9th Army. On January 20th, I started to cook for our 16-men gun crew. Sgt. Raymond Kohtala was chief of our gun crew (and a good one). We went to Brussels, Belgium, on a pass. Our former battery commander, Capt. B. P. Fowler, was killed by a V-1, and a boy from D Battery was killed by a stray bullet.
On February 15th, 1945, we moved to our 4th gun position, back into Holland. We were protecting a big ordnance outfit of the 9th Army. While here, convoys were passing all the time with supplies, getting ready for the big push into Germany.
On March 8th, 1945, we moved to our 5th gun position at Rhienberg, Germany. Up until this time, we had only fired 5 rounds of 40mm ammo. The M-51 had not been fired at all.
On April 28th, 1945, we moved to Herzogenrath, Germany, on the Rohr River to guard 3,000 Russian D.P.’s****. Here we had the whole building. We were known as SG (security guards). We had “SG” painted on our helmets with a white band around the bottom of the helmet. This is when I went to Eisenhoven, Holland, on a 3-day pass. Here, also, several of us were in a wreck coming back from taking showers at the coal mines. The truck hit a tree because of a steering wheel malfunction. Three boys were injured pretty bad, but I only had my knee skinned up a little and a scratch on my nose. No one was killed, which was a miracle.