Heroes: the Army


"...I don't remember the exact numbers, but it seemed we always had 3-400 men to feed three times a day. The small mess hall had a few tables and hot water facilities for each man to wash his mess kit..."



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 Robert E. Herrick

  • Branch of Service: Army
  • Unit: Co. F., 405th Regiment,
    102nd Infantry Division
  • Dates: 1943-1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: 1st Lt., BSM, Purple Heart
  • Birth Year: 1922
  • Entered Service: Lodi, CA


IMAGE of 102nd Infantry Division

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal


IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal



Experiences of Robert E. Herrick, Co. F., 405th Infantry




When asked to write about my experiences in the replacement system of W.W. II, it caused me to do a bit of reflecting on the big picture and the role of this system.

I remember telling my Dad after the war that we had overwhelmed the Germans and the Japanese with men and materiel. I didn't realize how true this was until I had read a book entitled "Brute Force', written by John Ellis.

When you reflect on how this country, wallowing in a depression, woke up and performed such a Herculean task of energizing its productive capacity, enlisting, training and equipping millions of men, coordinating all these activities, with materiel, transportation and infrastructure, it is amazing. In addition to taking care of our own forces, we also supplied our allies with an unbelievable amount of materiel.

The replacement system that I was part of was an extremely necessary activity to move soldiers along and provide for them on their way to participate in the war. It also was used to retrain lightly wounded men for non-combat type jobs, where they could do valuable and necessary work for the effort.

Think, too, of the huge medical system, that treated the wounded in temporary facilities and transported them to the rear to hospitals where they were patched up for more duty or transported back to the States.

Another part of the system, but not talked about much, were those who cared for the dead, prepared cemeteries and even shipped bodies home.

I believe it was also the system that handled the return of all the troops to the States after the war ended.

These were amazing systems, and I haven't even mentioned the vast production system that provided the overwhelming amount of supplies needed, and still provided for the home front.

While the nation neglected the military after W.W.I, it is remarkable that such a dedicated group of men and officers remained to form the nucleus and brains for the magnificent job of training and leading our armies and navies.

The following is my experience in this system as I remember it.


Robert E. Herrick, 1st Lt mf 5-15-07






Having been asked to write about my experiences as a replacement company - grade infantry officer, I'll do my best to describe mat experience.

I should start with how I got involved and what I went through to get to the point of joining a unit in combat.

It all started after my sophomore year in college in 1941, when I decided to apply for upper division ROTC. I was accepted and signed a contract with the Army to complete the course and accept a reserve commission in the Army Infantry.

In 1942 mere was not to be any summer camp, a usual part of the training, so they decided to have us attend a summer session of the college. This was to hurry along our education and prepare us for The Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The University of California, Davis campus was taken over by the Signal Corps beginning early in 1943 and those of us who had enough units to graduate were sent on to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia to begin Officer training. We were actually cadets while there and not really in the army. If we had flunked out we would have returned home to be drafted. We received Reserve Commissions rather than the AUS commissions most graduates received.

We arrived in February sometime, in civilian clothes as we surely weren't going to wear our ROTC uniforms. They kept us as casuals for a while which was a mess as taking hikes and so forth in a suit left a lot to be desired. When we were finally assigned to a company and got some uniforms, life was a lot better.

The first class I joined was almost all ROTC college grads from many colleges and it was a really fine bunch who knew all the book work, but were short on day-to-day experiences in me Army.

About three weeks into the program, I came down with the measles, and caused everyone to have to take their bedding out to be aired and given some sunshine. That made me very popular.

At any rate, I spent a week in the hospital and was assigned to another company ten slots later. That means that in a period of one week they had graduated about 2,000 Infantry 2nd Lts., less a percentage of drop outs, a number I do not know.

My new company was all enlisted men from the ranks that were being given a chance get a commission. The man in the next bunk had over twenty years and was a Master Sgt, the Sgt across the aisle had over 15 years, so I was me company neophyte. They helped me learn the ropes and I helped them with the book work. They were really fine men and I often wonder how they made out. Not all of these men graduated, but as I recall most did.

We graduated in the first week of June 1943, and were given a ten delay en route. This was quite an experience with the problems of travel in those days, and living in California made it more of a problem. Most people had great tales of travel problems during me war period.

A lot of this class of 2nd Lts, Inf were assigned to the cadre of the 42nd Infantry Division (Rainbow) being reactivated at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. The Division had three Regiments, 222nd, 232nd and 242nd. I was sent to the 222nd Inf, Hdqs Co 2nd Bn to be an Ammunition and Pioneer Officer. To be honest, I knew very little about being an A & P Pit Ldr. However, I was sent to a couple classes with the Division Engineers.

The reactivation ceremony was very elaborate and long and included a message from Gen Douglas MacArthur, as it was his Division during W.W.I.

The cadre was made up of some enlisted men and a lot of non-coms and officers drawn from various units already in training, one of which was the 102d Inf Div which I later joined in combat.

Fillers were the newly inducted enlisted men that were received to fill out the unit strength. I was delegated to receive these men for our regt and met all the trains, night or day to march these men to our regimental area and disperse them to their units. This was about a two or three week job, night and day.

When this was completed basic training began and it got very busy.

One of our activities before getting the fillers, was a course in standards presented by our Regimental Commander, a Colonel who was a senior instructor at the War College and the grandson of a Civil War General. I believe he was one of the planners of the landing in North Africa, after which, he supposedly said "give me regiment and I will show you how to train soldiers". The course took several days and was for Officers only.

He would take the stage and talk for couple hours without notes, we'd take a break and go back at it again. The man was remarkable, and I'll never forget that experience. In my opinion every officer should have had the benefit of such a presentation. He was a tough man and had a sign in his Hdqs, "No excuses ever, explanations only when called for."

But he knew what it took to be a soldier and an officer to lead men in combat.

The further along I got in the war, the more I admired the man and appreciated what he was trying to do.

One day after we had received all of our fillers, I went to the Battalion Hdqs to get my mail and the Bn Cmdr was there and asked me if I would like to be S-4 (supply officer}.

I said I was flattered but didn't know anything about the job. I suggested a friend of mine who got the job and did well in that position all through the the Division's actions in Europe.

A couple of days later, I again was in the Hdqs getting my mail when the Bn Cmdr saw me and asked if I would like to be S-3 (Bn Operations and Training Officer), I said I would try it and so became an Operations officer. I stayed in this position until I was shipped out, a period of about 6 or 7 months. This was a great experience for a new 2nd Lt.

After 10 or 11 months with this unit, I was to move on. The Army was getting ready to invade the continent and it required a pool of company grade infantry officers to replace those expected to be lost in the invasion. In the first week or so of May all of the junior officers that were overseas qualified were shipped out. I was sent to Fort Meade in Maryland with a short delay enroute but too short to make it home and back. Here we were given some more equipment, tested our gas masks, assigned to groups and waited to be shipped to Europe.

While at Ft. Meade I received an unexpected surprise of being promoted to 1st Lt.

We soon boarded a large ship (I believe it was the SS George Washington in civilian life) Our group of casual officers were put in B Aft and given bunks aka the Navy. We were given duty in the various holds and levels as Duty Officers, which was OK as long as the sea was calm, but in early May that is not always the case. So at times with a large number of soldiers being seasick it could be a bit of a chore.

However, we made it to Liverpool, deboarded and were then marched to a train. This took us to Cuddington Station about halfway to Manchester, where we were marched to Delamere Park Camp, a temporary British camp, consistimg of a few buildings and lots of tents. I don't remember the number of men and officers there, but it was quite a few.

A Provisional Battalion operated the facility, did the feeding and housekeeping. I believe there were three company staffs and a Hdqs group. As casuals waiting to be used as replacements, we didn't have much to do, but to wait and wonder what was in store for us and when we would be moving on.

Maybe these facilities weren't as fancy as we would have liked, but they were very adequate. Think of the job it was for the British to provide such facilities for all the units sent there before the invasion, including air force and support units like ours.

The provisional battalion was commanded by a Lt Col., and had a Major for Executive Officer, Captain for Adjutant, a 1st Lt Supply Officer, and I think 3 companies {each with about 4 officers and maybe 8 or 10 non-coms and enlisted). I was called to the Bn Hdqs one day and told I was being assigned to one of the companies for temporary duty. I reported in and found there was a Captain in command and a 1st Lt. Ex 0 and another newly assigned 2nd Lt. I think the Capt and his Ex were in the correct jobs. I think they had been in the reserves for some time. I was not impressed with either of them. This assessment was confirmed as time went by. The 2nd Lt was a good officer and I'm sure he did well when he went in to combat with the 5th Armored Div.

I was informed that I was to be Mess Officer for the Company, little knowing what that entailed. The kitchen was, I believe, in a Quonset hut with an attached structure that served as a small dining area. The stoves were British Army types, I guess, and coal fired as I remember. The foodstuffs were mostly dehydrated products, eggs, potatoes, veggies, some cheese, spam and some canned items. Those cooks had a hard task, but tried the best they could to prepare edible and somewhat attractive meals. They were good men and hard workers.

I don't remember the exact numbers, but it seemed we always had 3-400 men to feed three times a day. The small mess hall had a few tables and hot water facilities for each man to wash his mess kit. I went into Chester one time and purchased some salt shakers for the tables, which were appreciated.

To run a kitchen requires some KP's and in our company there was a shipment of men from military intelligence that were to be order-of-battle personnel. They should have been in a MI shipment and not ground forces. These were highly educated men and didn't take kindly being told they had to do KP. We finally had to court martial a couple of them in order to impress on them that they had a duty to perform so that their group could be fed.

In July 1944, sometime, as I recall, in one of me groups that came through our facility were two of my best friends from college, who had left the Davis campus and went to the Berkeley campus of the University of California to get their Degrees before going into the Army. They were on their way to the Continent, one to be killed it the Hurtgen Forrest, a complete disaster that didn't accomplish much. The other went on to be a fine combat officer and decorated for valor. And there I sat, my time was yet to come.

We did our thing through the latter part of May, June, and I believe into July and were then moved to place called the American School Center, west of Swindon. It was permanent British base with magnificent facilities, huge barracks, etc.. The purpose of the school was to retrain lightly wounded from action in Africa and the Continent to become clerks, drivers, cooks and so forth and in turn relieve troops that could be sent forward as replacements for combat units. Manpower was becoming critical.

We hadn't been there very long when the battalion was ordered to double its capacity to equal six companies, by dividing it's cadre. My company commander did this by assigning me his Supply Sgt, who was due to be shipped out and giving me the responsibility for 55 sets of married NCO family quarters.

The Sgt and I took charge of me units, accepted troops, (up to 4 or 500 at a time) assigned them to quarters, arranged them in proper groups to get to class and various other duties.

In one of these groups there was an older man a Master Sgt., who I talked into helping me out. He was priceless. And things began to work even when the Supply Sgt. left.

These troops, who had all been in combat and through me medical system, had very little regard for rules or Army folderol. Of course when they broke the rules and you tried to discipline them, they always had a bunch buddies that would swear they didn't do anything wrong. It was a nightmare. For example, each unit had a gas jet into the fireplace and lighting the end of that became the only heat they had and my saying not to do that had little impact.

A while later, a series of Company-Grade Officers who had been wounded and were assigned for housekeeping until the Army found a spot for them. Of course, they looked down on us as they had been in combat and we had not. Nor were they interested in trying to help out the situation. Many were nice guys and sympathetic but really didn't want to get too involved

We did our best and operated this way through about October 1944 and me need for qualified replacement officers caused those of us who had been pulled out of a shipment to serve in the provisional Bn again became casual Officers to move on to the Continent.

I assume some limited duty Officers replaced us. However, when we got there, we were no longer part of a unit and were again Officers awaiting assignment to a unit.

In another writing, I described arriving in France and ending up in a pool of Officers in Compiegn and men Noyon, where I was again pulled out and given temporary duty.

They were needing infantrymen badly and were gathering up all the manpower they could from the Air Force, Coast Guard, AntiAircraft Artillery, men who ran the railroads in North Africa and such. They were housed in an old school building of several stories and they had carried in so much mud on their shoes the rooms were more like caves. I was given the equivalent of about a platoon and told I had six weeks to make infantry men put of mem.

We got started and tried hard with no facilities or equipment that would be needed to do a proper job of training. It was not a happy group and I only hoped I did them some good.

It is very difficult to have stripes and no real infantry training and then join a unit in combat as a replacement, and be expected to perform according to your rating. It is hard enough to join a unit when you have been trained. My experience was that the unit commanders and Sgts. in charge took these men under their wing and coached them in their duties, as they needed to be able to count on them.

As it turned out, the Bulge happened and we were all shipped out after two weeks of training to join units. We were loaded in 40 & 8's (40 men or 8 horses) French freight cars. My first trip in one of these cars, the roof leaked and the floors were bare This time we had straw on the floor and plenty of room to stretch out. We detrained in Heerleen, Holland, and spent the night. Later, I was taken to cellar some where in Germany where the 405th Inf Regt received it's replacements and shortly taken forward to join the 2nd Bn and on to Co F. I thought of it as a home at last.

While this experience was at times frustrating, it was the lack of a sense of belonging to a unit that you felt the most. You missed being a part of a unit and doing what you were trained to do. At one point in time, my friend and I were going to try to join the newly activated 17th Airborne Div. So much for frustration, but it didn't happen.

However, I must be honest, being caught up in this system probably saved my life by keeping me away from the invasion and also the Bulge.


-----Robert E. Herrick


Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...

United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division

102 Infantry Division

History of the 102nd Infantry Division

Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944

Gardelegen War Crime

image of NEWGardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn

American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll

National World War II Memorial


Information was generously provided to World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words by Mr. Robert E. Herrick through Mr. Edward E. Sauder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Infantry. The subjects of these essays are all members of Co. F., 405th Regiment.Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share their stories!

Original Story submitted on 24 May 2007.
Story added to website on 3 June 2007.