Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Wikipedia

The 808 TD Battalion now has an entry on Wikipedia. Here is the text of it:

"The 808th Tank Destroyer Battalion was a tank destroyer battalion of the United States Army active during the Second World War.
The battalion was activated on 27 March 1942. It deployed into Normandy on 19 September, equipped with towed 3" anti-tank guns. It first saw action six days later, on the 25th, when it was attached to the 80th Infantry Division. It was detached from the 80th on December 21st, and moved to participate in the Battle of the Bulge, where it protected the flank of XII Corps through to late January. Elements of the division fought with the 5th Infantry Division in late December.
In February 1945 it re-equipped with M36 Jackson tank destroyers, and was then attached to the 76th Infantry Division for the drive to the Rhine. In April it was transferred to 65th Infantry Division and pushed through southern Germany with Third Army. At the beginning of May it moved to Linz, and ended the war inside Austria."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

June 13, 1944

According to the Chronology of World War II website, on June 13, 1944:

"On the Western Front... On the left of the Allied line, the British 2nd Army continues to attack. The 30th Corps regroups its forces. The 7th Armored Division is shift to the right flank and advances to Villers Bocage. A German counterattack forces the division to fall back. To the left, the US 1st Army makes progress towards St Lo and across the Cotentin. Pont l'Abbe is capture in the peninsula. A German counterattack, spearheaded by 17th Panzer Division, toward Carentan is held."

This was also the day that Grandpa landed on the beaches of Normandy.

A Short History of the 808 TD Battalion

This document is one of hundreds that I've received from the National Archives regarding the 808 TD Battalion. Please click on the pictures below to view the full-size (and readable) image.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Grandpa landed in France on June 13, 1944, but I've never firmly established what exactly he did until the 808 Tank Destroyer Battalion went into action in September 1944.

Based on things he said over the years, I think that he went to France as part of a replacement company, a group of men not assigned to a particular unit, that followed behind the frontline combat troops and were doled out as need. My guess is that grandpa was assigned to the 808 as a replacement in September 1944. I'll have to do some more digging to see if this is true.

I do know that he was close to the French town of Saint-Lo (or St. Lo) during the battle for it in June 1944. He was not a participant however. For some very in depth discussions of the battle, I would recommend check the following links (Link 1 and Link 2).

The short version is the town of Saint-Lo blocked inland movement of American troops from the beaches of Normandy to the interior of France. The Germans fought fiercely to keep the town. The Americans tried using close air support to break through the German defenses, and proceeded to carpet-bomb the entire town. While it did ultimate lead to the American forces taking Saint-Lo, over eight-hundred American soldiers were killed by their own bombers.

The only concrete memory of the battle grandpa ever shared with me was this:

"I was watching a flight of four B-17's flying over in a diamond formation. Then, suddenly they were gone. German anti-aircraft fire hit the bombay on one of the planes and it exploded. It vaporized the whole formation."

And, as grandpa pointed out at the time, each of those planes carried around thirteen men. A lot of men died in the blink of the eye.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Matter of Time

Sorry for the long absence. It was regrettably unavoidable.

One problem that I’ve had with trying to put my grandfather’s stories in order is that they were given to me in no particular order. Basic training could jump straight to the Battle of the Bulge and then back to Wales before D-Day in a short span of time. Chronology is a chronic problem.

The short version of the order of things is basic training and such in Texas and Mississippi followed by a brief stop over in Washington, D.C., on their way to “grand ol’ England.” After a prolonged stay in Wales and England, grandpa finally went ashore on June 13th, 1944, a week after D-Day. Then he made his way across France, on to Luxemburg during the Bulge, to Germany, and finally Austria by war’s end. It has been left to me to fit all the stories and sundry bits into this rough time line.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Beginning

[My grandfather on the Mall in Washington, D.C., before he shipped out for England in 1943]

I think today is the perfect day to start posting on this blog. Sixty-three years ago today, my grandfather, PFC William F. Grabow, landed on the beaches of Normandy as part of the Allied invasion of Europe during the Second World War. The actually invasion began on the morning of June 6, 1944, and my grandfather was one of the tens-of-thousands of troops who followed after them.

This is probably a strange thing for someone of my generation to say, but the Second World War has always been with me. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in my grandparents' kitchen in Oak Park, Illinois, listening to my grandfather tell stories about growing up in Chicago and the war. The war stories were pretty innocent in the beginning, funny stories mostly. As I grew older, the stories progressively became more candid and gruesome.

When I was about 17 years old, I finally had the presence of mind to start writing down notes about my grandfather's stories. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to write them all down before he died a couple of years later. After he died, I decided that I needed to write down everything I could remember about his war experiences before I forgot them. Also, it appears that I am the only one in our family who has heard some of these stories. If I don't write them down, I'm afraid they will be lost.

The short version of the evolution of this project is this: what started as transcribing family stories grew into a research project on the 808 Tank Destroyer Battalion, anti-tank warfare, and the European theater of the War. My hope is this project may culminate in a book, but, incase I never reach that far shore, at least these stories will be preserved and shared in some fashion.