June 1992 Issue By Ted Doscher
The 1304th Engineer Regiment was cadred in the summer of 1943 at Camp Sutton, North Carolina. Personnel then came from all areas of the country and included men with some service behind them, as well as some with only a few months. Of some prominence, were a number of men who had served in Engineer outfits that built the Alcan Highway. Coming from the Yukon Territory to North Carolina must have been quite a change for them. Needless to say, they brought with them, valuable experience that was helpful to those who had been in other branches of the Service, and who knew little of the work involved in constructing bridges, buildings, culverts, roads, etc. Camp Sutton was an engineering training center and there were a number of regiments formed there. In late September, after returning from the Catawba River training area, the 1304th was changed from a regiment to a battalion. Some of the other numbered units (1303d thru the 1308th) remained as they were. (The 1308th was later sent to the European Theatre and suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of the Bulge.) Training was finished in May, 1944, and preparations were begun for the Battalion to leave Camp Sutton. The outfit was sent to Newport News, Va., in June, and remained there for nearly two weeks. On June 27th, we shipped out of Newport News on the General Anderson - a ship that had been built as a transport, with a crew of over 1,000 and carrying over 4,500 troops. Little did we know that we were to emulate Noah by being on the ship for 40 days. The voyage took us thru the Panama Canal, across the South Pacific, thru Cook's Strait at New Zealand and into Melbourne Harbor. There, supplies were loaded aboard as we waited overnight. (An interesting fact regarding the supplies is that the food served all personnel aboard ship was priced at $.56 per meal - figuring the number aboard, about 5,500, at three meals a day for 40 days meant that over $350,000 was the cost of food for this one trip. War is expensive!) Leaving Melbourne, we sailed around Australia and thru the Indian Ocean, landing at Bombay, India. Left the ship the next day and entrained on British troop trains, those wooden-bench cars with which most CBIers are probably familiar. An eight-day train ride across India, including changing to narrow-gauge railroads and river crossings on ancient passenger-only ferries, ended at Ledo. Here, we had our first experience with bamboo basha huts, and the local latrines. Our stay there was relatively short, happily so. We received some extra equipment, a lot of orientation about the do's and don'ts in that area of the world, and trucks of various sizes that became part of the Battalion's permanent property were furnished. A short time later, we left for Burma, going over the Patkai Mountains thru the Pangsau Pass which separated Assam and Burma. The road was dirt, gravel and mud and had been cut thru the jungled mountain by earlier engineer units. Coming down out of the Patkais we came into the Hukawng Valley, and traveled a number of miles on a corduroy road, which was also the work of an engineer unit. (An issue of the Roundup, about a year ago, included a letter from one of the lads who laid this length of corduroy.) We overnighted at Shingbwiyang and then continued up the Valley, passing Tinsukia, and finally came to Warazup. This was the end of the "Road" at that time, and was the location of an airstrip from which supplies were being flown to Myltkylna at that time. At Warazup, the Battalion spread out, Company B being closest to the Hukawng River, which at that time only had a small pontoon bridge. First activities were to get the Company area set up. British army cotton, double ceilinged tents were used, and they were great compared to the regular US Army canvas tents. Our Company commander, Capt. Shiro, prohibited all vehicles from the Company area and so kept it from becoming a real mudhole. As it was, duckwalks were constructed from tent to tent, and to other Company office and supply tents. One of our first jobs assigned to us was to build a building to be used as a telephone relay station. A Bailey bridge was being put across the nearby river, and we assisted with that, putting on the decking. After that, Co. B began its main work program which was to construct the wood bridges which were needed in various sizes at frequent places along the Road. Co. A was separated from us and was involved in similar work, I believe. Co. C was assigned the task of entering the nearby jungle areas and cutting trees that would be used for the piling for the bridges. (Later on, Co. C was sent to China.) At various times, platoons or squads were separated from the Company and placed with other Engineer units, and so became involved in their jobs. These included a sawmill operation, laying the four and six inch pipelines, erecting pole buildings to be used as pumping stations, building truck service centers, and cutting trees for the pole buildings. Our line of work ran from Warazup to Myitkyina, the Irra-waddy River and Mogaung, and points inbetween. Truck traffic did not wait for all bridges to be completed, but often was routed via access roads that later were abandoned, once the bridges were built. The middle of July '45 found us 'caught up' with building projects, and many of the personnel were sent back to DumDuma in Assam, where we were set up next to a large tea plantation. Our days were spent in work details of various kinds and, to us, of little Importance. Later in August, those with higher numbers were being selected for the trip back to the States. I, along with some others, was sent to Chabua in late October, spent a week there, watching the 'posting lists,' and in early November took the C-54 ten-hour flight to Karachi. Our hope for a quick trip to the U.S. was not to be, as we waited for four weeks, living in tents in the desert area outside of Karachi. In the second week of December we boarded the transport. Gen. Taylor, waited for the tide to come in, and then began the final leg of our trip home. The 21-day trip took us through the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, and across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.
A Short History of the 1304th Engineer Battalion