| Pfc Joseph
Belgium, Holland, Germany
Co F, 103rd Engineer Regiment, 28th Infantry Division
As a 17yrs old Pfc in Co F 103rd Engineer Regiment
an element of the 28th Infantry Division Joseph L. Begin was
born on Sept 24, 1923 in Philadelphia, PA. He enlisted in the U.S.
Army on Sept 05, 1940 as a Pvt in Co F 103rd Engineer Regiment an
element of the 28th Infantry Division. He was inducted into Federal
Service on Feb 17, 1941 and began his training. The next few days
were spent with intensive preparations for extended active duty.
The days were devoted to physical examinations, inspection and preparation
of equipment. After several days of preparation at the armory, the
Regiment moved from home station in Philadelphia on Feb 25, 1941,
to the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, where it joined the
other organizations of the 28th Division. Camp construction at the
Gap was not entirely completed prior to the Regiments arrival,
and February-March weather in that area was not always favorable
for field problems.
However, these situations served to develop the
organizations initiative and ability to meet and overcome
difficulties. The preparation of the Regiment for active duty followed
the schedules prescribed by higher headquarters and began with basic
training for the recently joined personnel, with continuing emphasis
on physical conditioning. Programs were developed for small units,
larger units, specialist training, and familiarity with equipment
all essential to the preparation of the Regiment for its function
as an integral component of the division team. The unit at Indiantown,
including trucks, graders, tractors, pontoons, H-10 bridging and
other special engineer items, Joseph was promoted to the rank of
Pfc on Mar 01, 1941. Personnel were trained and qualified in their
operation, maintenance, capabilities and limitations.
As there was no suitable body of water at Indiantown,
several tactical movements were made to Mt. Gretna to make use of
that areas water facilities for footbridge and floating equipment
practice. The preliminary training and field exercises completed
at Indiantown, the Regiment moved with the division on Aug 25, 1941
to the A. P. Hill Reservation, near Fredericksburg, Va., for further
large unit training and maneuvers. Immediately upon return to Indiantown,
the 28th Division and the 103rd Engineers prepared for large-scale
maneuvers in the Carolinas with the 1st Army. The division, including
the Engineer Regiment, left for the Carolina maneuvers area on Sept
25, 1941 a four-day move, with bivouacs at Winchester, Va., Horse
Pens Lake and Greensboro, N. C. The 103rd arrived at base camp near
Lilesville, east of Wadesboro, N. C., on Sept 29, 1941. At the close
of these maneuvers the Division and attached troops were directed
to return to Indiantown Gap. This movement was made as a three-day
operation with overnight bivouacs at South Boston, Va., and Warrenton,
Va., and arrival at the Gap scheduled for the evening of the third
day. The Division moved under the command of the commanding officer,
103rd Engineers. This brought together a great contrast in vehicles
from the engineer pontons and heavy road equipment to cavalry horse
trailers and the pigeon companys mobile loft: An army was
on the march! The long and cumbersome road unit required early departures
and late closings in bivouac areas. The 28th Division and the 103rd
Engineers left Wadesboro, N. C., for Indiantown at daylight Sunday,
Dec 7, 1941!
That Sunday millions of Americans sat by their
radio sets in disbelief that Japan would attack the United States.
Japan did attack the United States and it was later disclosed to
be a great military disaster. But it also later proved to be a grave
mistake on the part of the Japanese. As the long, winding motorized
columns trundled toward South Boston, Va., the radio in the control
car crackled with the electrifying news that Japanese planes had
bombed Pearl Harbor. The excitement of the civilian population was
matched by the excitement of the troops when they bivouacked that
night near the North Carolina Virginia border. The excitement never
dimmed on the remainder of the movement to the Gap. Rumors were
rampant during the next several days; orders were received; orders
were cancelled. A divisional reconnaissance party, including the
Division Engineer, was dispatched on Dec 11, 1941 to the New Jersey
coastal area. The mission was to locate concealed bivouacs in the
pines southeast of Camp Dix where the entire 28th Division could
be placed in position to defend an assigned sector of the New Jersey
Maximum leaves over the Christmas and New Years
holidays were restricted, and in some cases it was necessary to
recall certain personnel after they had already departed from camp.
The Engineer Regiment was ordered to assist the Philadelphia District
Engineer on protective projects at the Philadelphia, Pa., and New
Castle, Del., airports. The work consisted principally of constructing
sand bag revetments around planes at these installations. The first
battalion was assigned to Philadelphia, the second to New Castle.
January 1942 was a tumultuous time. In addition to the problems
of this fluid period the 28th Division was reorganized into a Triangular
Division, with the engineer component reduced from a regiment to
Then on Feb 17, 1942 the 103rd Engineer 2nd Battalion
was redesignated as the 180th Engineer Battalion and relieved from
assignment to the 28th Infantry Division. The 180th Engineer Battalion,
which was divided into three companies: the H&S, Headquarters
and Service Company, and two line companies, A and B trained for
its primary mission at Plattsburg Barracks, New York and Camp Maxey,
Texas. Joseph was reassigned to the H&S Co 180th Engineer Battalion
on June 17, 1942 he was promoted to the rank of T/5 on July 06,
1942. On Aug 1, 1942 the 180th Engineer Battalion was redesignated
as the 180th Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion. On Nov 01, 1942 Joseph
was promoted to the rank of Cpl, and on Mar 17, 1943 he was promoted
to the rank of Sgt. Then on Aug 10, 1943 the rank of S/Sgt, and
on Oct 06, 1943 he made the rank of T/Sgt. He was reassigned to
Co A 180th Engineer Battalion, Heavy Ponton, on Dec 06, 1943. On
Dec 27, 1943 he was reduced in rank to Cpl. The Battalion participated
in the Louisiana Maneuvers in February and March 1943.
The Battalion departed from the New York Port
of Embarkation on Feb 11, 1944 on the Duchess of Bedford bound for
England. It docked at Greenock, Scotland on Feb 22, 1944.
During the time in England from Feb 24, 1944 to July 20, 1944, the
Battalion was stationed at Congleton, Cheshire, assigned to the
Third U.S. Army and trained at Chester, England on the River Dee
in the construction of the Floating Bailey Bridge, Fixed Bailey
Bridge, and the Heavy Ponton Bridge. The Battalion landed on Utah
Beach, France on July 22, 1944 and began to prepare for future operations.
It was utilized by Third Army to haul and move Engineer Supplies
and equipment needed during the rapid advance across France from
July 24, 1944 to Sept 14, 1944.
Joseph Begin and the 180th Engineer Battalion spent the next few
months constructing the Floating Bailey Bridges, Fixed Bailey Bridges
and Heavy Ponton Bridges until December, when Patton relieved them
because the Germans had launched the Ardennes Offensive (known to
Americans as the Battle of the Bulge). Patton's army made a spectacular
battle march to relieve the 101st Airborne's Screaming Eagles who
were holding Bastogne against all odds. The Battalion was reassigned
to engage in several hauling missions for Third Army to depots at
Bastogne, Arlon, Belgium and Esch, Luxemburg. A reconnaissance of
the Moselle River in the vicinity of Remich, Luxemburg was started
on Jan 15, 1945 for the location of a suitable site for a bridge.
The Third Army Engineers constructed 2,498 bridges with a total
footage of 255,520 feet, almost 48 and one half miles of bridging.
They built or maintained an average of 2,240 miles of road.
On Feb 6, 1945 the 180th Engineer Battalion was detached from
Patton's Third Army and assigned to the Ninth Army. The Battalion
built a bridge across the Roer. Then it began stockpiling material
at Linford for bridges across the Rhine. Late in March, the Battalion
built two bridges across the Rhine. On May 12-13, 1945 Companies
A and B built a Heavy Ponton Bridge over the Elbe River, at Magdeburg,
Germany. The 180th Engineer Battalion received credit for occupation
duty in Germany for the period of May 02, to July 05, 1945. At the
end of the war, they were in Osterberg, Germany, which may or may
not be where they performed their occupation duties. Joseph Begin
was Assistant Unit Foremen of Co A 180th Engineer Bn. In the ETO
his unit build Bailey Bridges, Ponton (floating) Bridges, and Timber
Trestle Bridges, all while under direct enemy fire.
While performing his occupational duties
Joseph Begin was assigned to Co A 552nd Engineer Battalion (Heavy
Ponton) on July 02, 1945. Then on July 09, 1945 he was reassigned
to H&S Co 602nd Engineer Battalion and again reassigned to Co
G 274th Infantry (70th Infantry Div.) on Aug 27, 1945. He returned
to the U.S.A on Oct 09, 1946, separated from the U.S. Army on Oct
22, 1945. He served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He
received Five Bronze Service Star for participation in the Campaigns
of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes Alsace, Rhineland, and Central
Europe. He also received the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American
Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European
- African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the World War II (WWII)
Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany bar, and
the Army Driver/Mechanic Badge With Driver W & A Badge Bars.
And the U.S. Army Marksman Badge with Qualification Badge Bars for
Rifle, Carbine and Pistol Shooting..
Joseph L. Begin
Patch of the 28th Infantry Division
Meeting up with the Russians.
Building bridges to help the war effort.
Building bridges to help the war effort.