23RD. ARMORED ENGINEER BN

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Lt. Colonel Lawrence G. Foster led the
23rd through five European campaigns

     The history of the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion encompasses both world wars. The original regiment was activated at Camp Meade, Maryland, in 1917, and served brilliantly in France. Known as the “Road Builders Of The AEF,” the first 23rd set a high standard of achievement for its modern namesake.
      The Battalion was reactivated on April 15, 1941, at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, with the 3rd Armored Division. Cadres were made up of 28 officers and 728 enlisted men from the 17th Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division. Major Fremont S.Tandy was the first commanding officer.
      The 23rd trained at Camp Beauregard and Camp Polk Louisiana; at the Desert Training Center, California; Camp Pickett,Virginia; and Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, before sailing for Europe early in September, 1943. Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, the battalion was stationed at Fonthill Bishop, Wiltshire, England, and took part in exten -sive maneuvers over Salisbury Plain, and along the coast.
      Lt Colonel Lawrence G. Foster led the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion through all five campaigns in thr west. He and his troops went ashore on Omaha Beach on June 23, 1944. The hedgerows of Normandy presented an immediate problem, Some method had to be devised to get tanks through, or over these formidable embankments. After blasting passages with TNT at bloody Villiers Fossard and Haut Vents, Foster’s men invented a double blade hedge cutter which was attached to the division’s Sherman tanks by maintenance crews, These proved highly successful.
      The battalion’s first big combat bridging operation was carried out near Corbeil, France, when 540 feet of treadway were thrown across the Seine River. After the Seine, the engineers bridged the Marne, Aisne, and a number of other streams which paved the division’s march into Belgium. At Mons, they exchanged shovels for machine guns and declared a Roman holiday by mowing down disorganized enemy columns trying to break out of encirclement. Two bridges at Namur, one across the Meuse, and one spanning the Sambre Canal, were built under hazardous circumstances.
      Working under vicious mortar, artillery and sniper fire, men of the 23rd mastered the dragon’s teeth of the Siegfried Line, lifted thousands of mines, destroyed pillboxes and cleared road blocks. During the Ardennes fighting, units of the battalion aided in successful defense of Hotton, and later took part in fierce battles at Lierneux, Cherain, and Sterpigny. The normally hazardous work of lifting mines was made more difficult by severe cold and snow which prevailed during this period.
      Back in the Rhineland the engineers constructed four bridges across the Erft River and Canal under observed enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire. In the final great offensive, the bridge company also aided an engineer group in the bridging of the Rhine near Bonn. The battalion’s last operation, the bridging of the Mulde River, was abandoned by army order. The 23rd came out of the line with reason to feel that its combat record added much to the proud history of the original “Road Builders Of the AEF”

Dave Wolf

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