54th Engineer Battalion
54th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Mechanized)
The mission of the 54th Engineer Battalion is to plan, integrate, and provide command and control of 3 to 5 engineer companies, and one forward support company to provide full spectrum engineer missions in support of the operational commander. Prior to 2007, the 54th Engineer Battalion had been a mechanized combat engineer battalion of the 130th Engineer Brigade. Its mission at tha time had been to, on order, deploy all or part of its strength to conduct mobility and survivability operations in support of V Corps or Allied Mobile Force (Land) combat operations. In addition, on short notice, it would have deployed elements in the USEUCOM area of responsibility in support of V Corps to provide trained, ready forces to meet operational requirements.
The 54th Engineer Battalion was first constituted in the National Army on 7 December 1917 as the 42nd Engineer Battalion (Auxiliary Forestry). The unit was organized on 7 February 1918 at the American University (Camp American University), Washington, DC. The United States' growing role in World War I stimulated the need for a unique organization, one capable of handling the increased demands for engineering "know how" presented by mobilization. To meet this need, General Order #108 authorized the reorganization of the 42nd Engineer Battalion. The Battalion Headquarters was disbanded, while Companies A, B, C, and D were concurrently reorganized and redesignated as the 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and 45th Companies, 20th Engineers. The 20th Engineers met the engineering needs of the US forces between 1917 and 1919.
From the onset, the 20th Engineers were a unique organization. An assignment to what was, at that time, the largest regiment of any kind in the world, was no easy task. The officers and soldiers who became a part of the 20th Engineers were a select group of highly trained specialists, a quality which would be an essential ingredient in the unit's future success. By 18 October 1918 the unit consisted of a Regimental Headquarters, 14 Battalion Headquarters, 49 Forestry companies, 28 Engineer Service Companies, and 2 attached Engineer Service Battalions, totaling 268 Officers and 19,385 men.
Following its organization in 1918, the 20th Engineer Regiment deployed to Noisier, France, as a part of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). For the next 2 years, the soldiers of the 20th Engineers toiled endlessly constructing roads, barracks, airfields, emplacing mines and obstacles, and installing bridges in support of the AEF. For their valiant labors the 20th Engineers were awarded a streamer in the colors of the Victory Medal to honor the outstanding performance rendered by the "To build and To Fight" unit.
After the end of World War I, the 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and 45th Companies, 20th Engineers were demobilized between June and July 1919 at Camp Merritt, New Jersey, and Newport News, Virginia. The 42nd Engineer Battalion was reconstituted on 1 October 1933 in the Regular Army as the 42nd Engineers. The unit was activated on 1 June 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 1 July 1940 the unit was redesignated as the 20th Engineers and again on 1 August 1942 as the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment. After completing basic training and 2 major construction projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, the Regiment deployed overseas aboard the Hugh L. Scott from Norfolk Virginia on 22 October 1942, to assist in halting Hitler's march across Europe.
The 20th Engineers were assigned as part of the Western Task Force, whose mission was to make assault landings on the coast of Africa. In November 1942, the 2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Combat Regiment, the element of the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment that the 54th Engineer Battalion traces its lineage and honors to, landed at the port of Fedala, French Morocco, as part of the 3rd Infantry Division. There the Battalion successfully assisting the infantry in securing and clearing the beachhead, earning the Algeria/French Morocco Streamer with Arrowhead for its participation in the initial assault.
While assigned to Fedala, the 2nd Battalion cleared docks, operated railroad trains, unloaded ships and ran a ration warehouse that supported the entire Western Task Force. In mid November 1942, select elements of the Regiment participated in the assault landings on Casablanca. These elements of the 20th Engineers were subsequently charged with operating a phosphate pier, and constructing the site for the historic Casablanca conference between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.
In March 1943, the 20th Engineer Combat Regiment was assigned as Corps Engineers in support of II Corps, receiving the Tunisia campaign streamer. During this period the 20th constructed a Regimental Rifle Range, performed extensive mine clearing operations, and constructed a major road network in support of the British Eighth Army, extending its supply lines by some 20 miles. Near the end of the Tunisia campaign Company B of the 20th Engineer Regiment acted as Corps Engineers for the French Corps Franc D'Afrique, during which time the Regiment removed an estimated 200,000 German "teller" mines. During these activities Colonel Arnold, the regimental commander, became a casualty.
Following extensive assault training with the 3rd Infantry Division, the 20th Engineers participated in the 10 July 1943 invasion of Sicily. The Regiment was then assigned as Seventh US Army Engineers and tasked to construct numerous timber and Bailey bridges, plus several major runways. In November 1943 the Regiment departed Tunisia with 1st and 2nd Battalions stopping in Palermo and Trapani, Italy where the Battalions earned the Sicily campaign streamer with arrowhead and constructed 2 airstrips before rejoining the remainder of the Regiment in England on 23 November 1943.
The early days of December 1943 found the 20th Engineers working full-force constructing camps in support of Operation Overlord. The camps, which involved extensive planning and meticulous execution, were designed as a contingency in the event that France was invaded. The work involved in the Overlord project taxed the expertise of the unit to the maximum extent possible. The 20th Engineers not only constructed the camp site, but also ran supply depots, conducted amphibious exercises and functioned as Military Police.
On 15 January 1944, while on assignment in England, the 20th Combat Engineer Regiment was reformed into the 1171st Engineer Combat Group. 2nd Battalion, 20th Engineer Combat Regiment was reorganized and redesignated as the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion. The remainder of 20th Engineer Combat Regiment thereafter had a separate lineage. The 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion and the 20th Engineer Battalion (the former 1st Battalion, 20th Engineer Combat Regiment) were assigned to the 1171st Engineer Group.
On 6 June 1944, the elements of the 1171st Group, including the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion, were participating in the D-day invasion of Normandy, earning the Normandy campaign streamer with arrowhead for participation in the initial assault. On the night of 9-10 June 1944, A Company, 1340th Engineer Battalion distinguished itself by constructing a 60-foot double single Bailey bridge in the dark while under heavy enemy fire. For this exceptional display of valor and technical expertise, the 1340th received a War Department Presidential Unit Citation.
Another significant incident occurred during the crossing of the Our River just north of Trevieres, France. An enemy road block, which was effectively covered by small arms fire, denied access to the bridge crossing. After failing to eliminate the obstacle with direct fire from a medium tank, the plan was conceived to have 3 volunteers, each carrying a 50 pound charge of TNT, ride behind the turret of a tank up to the site and place the charge. The 3 soldiers Privates Bradford, Farrar, and Szelwach, successfully breached the obstacle and returned unhurt. Each of them was awarded the Silver Star. This campaign gave the battalion Northern France Streamer.
By November 1944, Vossenack, Germany was the scene of intense fighting between German and American Forces. It was against this backdrop that 3 battalions of the 1171st Engineer Group, including the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion, executed their most outstanding achievement. Enemy forces had cut off or driven out elements of the 28th Infantry Division, which had attempted to secure the Vossenack area for US occupation. Between 5 and 10 November 1944, the 20th, 1340th, and the 146th Engineer Combat Battalions were committed as infantry and tasked to relieve the depleted infantry forces. During those 5 days the 1340th suffered over 50 percent casualties, but the engineers recaptured Vossenack from German control and held their position until a complete withdrawal of the 28th Infantry Division had been executed. It was during this campaign that the Battalion received the Rhineland campaign streamer.
In January 1945, the Battalions of the 1171st Engineer Group were supporting the 8th, 1st and 30th Infantry Divisions in the Ardennes forest following the initial German offensive thrust into allied lines. By that time German forces were making a desperate attempt to hold their ground in the face of a major US counteroffensive designed to drive the Germans back to the Rhine. As a result of its participation during these battles, the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion received the Ardennes/Alsace campaign streamer.
One of the crucial tasks that faced the 1340th Engineer Battalion during the initial phase of the counteroffensive, in addition to extensive mine and obstacle emplacement, coupled with bridge installation, was the maintenance of the major supply routes used to resupply all 3 divisions in its area. Extreme weather conditions along with rocky frozen soil required the efforts of every engineer unit within 1171st Engineer Group to keep the roads open. In April 1945, elements of the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion constructed the crucial bridge near Gilenburg, Germany, which allowed American and Russian forces to link up. As US Forces continued their march of liberty across Germany, the Battalion literally paved the way. When V Corps and Third US Army began their move into Bavaria and Czechoslovakia, the men of the 1340th Engineer Combat Battalion were there: they built bridges, repaired roads and met the challenges laid before them. There the Battalion received the Central Europe campaign streamer.
When the formal surrender of Germany became effective on 7 May 1945, the majority of the 1171st Engineer Group was in Czechoslovakia supporting the 1st Infantry Division and the 16th Armored Division. The 20th Engineer Battalion remained on occupation duty with the 1st Infantry Division in Czechoslovakia until 2 January, 1946, when the 1340th was returned to the states and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
The Battalion was redesignated on 29 April 1947 as the 8th Engineer Combat Battalion. It was reactivated on 15 September 1948 at Panzer Kaserne, Bobligen Germany. On 1 December 1948, the Battalion was redesignated the 54th Engineer Combat Battalion and assigned to support the 3 Armored Cavalry Regiments in the Constabulary Corps in Germany until late 1950. The Battalion was redesignated on 5 June 1953 as the 54th Engineer Battalion.
In October 1953, the Battalion moved to Fliegerhorst Kaserne, Leipheim, Germany. On 3 May 1954 the Battalion, with the attached 93rd Engineer Company (Float Bridge), demonstrated the use and capabilities of the Class 60 Floating Bridge at the Gunzburg Bridge Training Site on the Donau River. Numerous high ranking officers were present for the demonstration including British General Sir Richard Gale, Commander in Chief (CINC), Northern Army Group; General William H. Hoge, CINC, US Army Europe (USAREUR); and Lieutenant General A.C. McAuliffe, Commander, Seventh US Army. In 1956 the 54th Engineer Battalion assisted in the construction of the Hohenfels ring road at the Hohenfels training area.
The Battalion departed Germany on 15 April 1957 aboard the USS Buckner as part of Operation Gyroscope, and was subsequently assigned to the Second US Army, and attached to the US Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In March of 1958 the Battalion was designated as a Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) unit and was attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps, the STRAC Headquarters. While stationed at Fort Knox, the Battalion constructed the tank monument located at the center of post and performed rehabilitation work at Camp Pickett, Virginia.
In February 1960, while on a training exercise at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, an emergency Special Task Force was sent from the Battalion to Tell City, where an Air Force plane had crashed with nuclear weapons aboard. An Engineer Recovery and Decontamination Team was sent to clear the wreckage. The Battalion was designated a superior STRAC unit in 1961 after its excellent performance in a STRAC Mobility Test Exercise. The Battalion once again deployed to Europe during the Berlin crisis as a part of Operation Round-Out. It departed the United States on 10 October 1961, aboard the USNS Gordon, arriving at Wildflecken, Germany on 21 October 1961.
From its arrival in 1961 until the opening of the East-West border in November 1989, the Battalion had the mission as the V Corps Covering Force Engineers in support of the 14th and then the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiments. During that time the proximity of the Battalion's station (at Wildflecken) and its General Defense Plan mission earned it the nickname "the One Inch Line" Battalion. The Battalion also relieved the regiments on the border on several tours. In 1986, the 54th Engineer Battalion became the first Corps Combat Engineer Battalion to become mechanized.
On 24 December 1990, the Battalion was notified to prepare to deploy to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield, as part of VII Corps. A reconnaissance party was in Saudi Arabia within a week and the advance party deployed on 19 January 1991. As the air war of the subsequent Operation Desert Storm raged, the Battalion closed on Ad Damman port by 31 January 1991, and the Battalion's vehicles arrived in the same week. The Battalion was attached to the 1st Armored Division on 1 February 1991. The Battalion played catch up, hurrying to move into the central Saudi Arabian Desert around Hafr al Batin (Theater Assembly Area Thompson) to begin support for the 1st Armored Division.
Upon arrival in TAA Thompson, the Battalion task-organized in conjunction with the 16th Engineer Battalion to support the 3 maneuver brigades. Task Force 54th Engineers was composed of HHC/54th Engineer Battalion, A/54th Engineer Battalion, C/54th Engineer Battalion and A/16th Engineer Battalion in direct support to 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (the largest maneuver brigade). Task Force 16th Engineers comprised HHC/16th Engineer Battalion, B/16th Engineer Battalion, B/54th Engineer Battalion, and D/16th Engineer Battalion in direct support of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division (the lead brigade). Task Force Sapper (later changed to Task Force Wildcat) was formed from HHC elements of the 54th and 16th Engineer Battalions, C/16th Engineer Battalion, and D/54th Engineer Battalion in direct support of 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, which took the Division's right sector alongside the 3rd Armored Division.
Between 14 and 17 February 1991, the 1st Armored Division's task forces conducted the movement to Forward Assembly Area (FAA) Garcia as part of the deception plan that shifted VII Corps 100 kilometers west of the tri-border area in order to conduct the flanking movement through western Iraq. While in FAA Garcia, the Battalion continued to distribute ammunition and integrate drills with the maneuver forces.
The ground offensive commenced on 24 February 1991, and although 1st Armord Division was not scheduled to attack until G+1, the speed of the advance in the east prompted VII Corps to issue a warning order to move out towards the line of departure by 1200 hours. Task Force 54th Engineers crossed the Line of Departure (the double "Saudi Berm," which comprised the de facto border) at approximately 1900 hours. During the 87 hours of the 1st Armored Division attack, over 244 kilometers were covered, hundreds of enemy vehicles were destroyed and 2100 prisoners of war were captured. During the battle, the Battalion suffered 1 soldier killed and another wounded due to friendly fire from a boundary incursion by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The Battalion provided mobility support throughout the battle, reduced bunkers, and marked the Brigade's "Log Line" safe travel route into Iraq. The Battalion received the Defense and Liberation of Kuwait campaign streamer for its participation and actions in the ground war campaign from 24 to 28 February 1991.
Following the cease fire, the Battalion was moved to northern Kuwait, and then later back into Iraq, as it conducted extensive denial missions destroying enemy equipment. Throughout the denial missions, the Battalion destroyed countless vehicles and tons of stored ammunition. On 10 March 1991, D/54th Engineer Battalion and most of the HHC moved back to King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia to construct the Divisional Redeployment Assembly Area (Camp Kasserine). The Battalion was awarded the Southwest Asia Cease-Fire campaign streamer for it's outstanding service in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia from 1 March 1991 until the last of the Battalion redeployed to Germany. For its service with the 1st Armored Division the Battalion was awarded the Valorous Unit Citation Embroidered Iraq/Kuwait.
The Battalion redeployed to Germany between 28 April and 5 May 1991, and its equipment returned to Germany between July and September 1991. The 54th Engineer Battalion returned to its mission of supporting primarily the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with other units in V Corps as required, as part of the smaller, more mobile US Army in Europe.
Once the Battalion completed its' redeployment to Germany it immediately began inventorying, cleaning, and reconditioning personal combat equipment and weapons. Preparations for the return of the Battalions' vehicles and equipment were begun in anticipation of the extensive maintenance, repair and replacement that would be needed to get the vehicles and equipment back to readiness standards. While the unit remained in support of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, it subsequently had had to be prepared to road march its' vehicles and equipment up to 250 kilometers in any direction and begin mobility, countermobility and survivability missions in support of the Regiment.
Soon after the completion of the maintenance stand-to, the Battalion went back to its' regular CMTC rotation schedule in Hohenfels. The Battalion also provided much support to other USAREUR units such as the Berlin Brigade, 1st Armored Division, 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions, and the OPFOR maneuver battalion at CMTC. The 54th Engineer Battalion completed numerous rotations in 1992 in this capacity, and provided excellent training benefit for the maneuver units conducting exercises at CMTC. It was during this time and the period shortly after, that the Battalion set an annual OPTEMPO for its armored personnel carriers of 1832 miles per vehicle, 3 times that of any Engineer Battalion in Germany, an a solid testimony to the amount of quality training conducted by the 54th Engineer Battalion.
D Company, 54th Engineer Battalion upon its return from Southwest Asia, received the ACE Mobile Force (Land) mission and immediately began training to meet the requirements of the NATO rapid deployment force. The AMF (L) company deployed to and conducted training in Italy, Turkey, England, and Denmark as well as participating in rotations to CMTC with the Battalion, when available. Not only was D Company required to train for and conduct AMF missions, but it also had to be prepared to deploy with the 54th Engineer Battalion if ever called to do so.
After spending much of 1992 in the field, 1993 began with the Battalion preparing for the Engineer Restructure Initiative (ERI) transition that was to begin in February 1993. Reconfiguring under the ERI meant the battalion was to lose one line company, one line platoon per company, all of the vehicles and equipment for each of those units, and over one third of the Battalion's soldiers. Reconfigurations such as this normally took from 9 to 12 months to complete, but the 54th Engineer Battalion completed this extremely difficult task in 90 days, faster than any previous unit in USAREUR.
On 15 June 1993, the 54th Engineer Battalion received official notification that it was to inactivate, with an end-date in January 1994. On 15 January 1994 the Dagger Battalions held an Inactivation Ceremony at Hanau Germany, hosted by the 130th Engineer Brigade. The Battalion was awarded the Cold War campaign streamer, by the German Government, for its enduring performance against the Warsaw Pact and the assistance provided for in the reunification of Germany. On 16 February 1997 the 54th Engineer Battalion was reactivated and returned to the 130th Engineer Brigade. Concurrently, the 16th Engineer Battalion was inactivated and reflagged as the 54th Engineer Battalion.
54th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade returned from a 10-month Iraq deployment in December 2003. Throughout the deployment, the 54th Engineer Battalion had provided command and control for the initial breach lanes into Iraq and installed and maintained several assault float bridges on the Euphrates River. The unit provided combat engineering and construction support from Ar Ramadi west to the Syrian and Jordanian borders, as well as numerous bridge and route reconnaissance missions throughout the western sector of Iraq. The troops conducted weapons searches to destroy caches being used for attacks on military convoys. They also provided security for operations at the Abu Ghurayb prison complex and Logistical Support Area Dogwood. Prior to redeploying, the Battalion provided command and control for Task Force Rocketeer, a Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7) directed task force, which removed more than 60 SA-2 and Al Samoud missiles littered throughout Iraq. They also provided construction support to the 130th Engineer Brigade at Logistical Support Area Anaconda, improving the living conditions of more than 700 Soldiers and conducting route reconnaissance and clearance missions. The unit suffered one casualty during its deployment.
The Battalion's remaining organic elements (Companies A, B, and C) were inactivated on 16 August 2007 in Germany. A Support Company was concurrently constituted and activated for the unit. Also in 2007, as part of the realignment of US forces in Europe, the 130th Engineer Brigade was inactivated and the 54th Engineer Battalion was reassigned in its new capacity to the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, USAEUR.
As part of continuing restructuring of US forces in Europe, it was announced on 1 March 2013 that the 535th Engineer Company would be inactivated during 2013, while the 42nd Engineer Company would return to the United States. The 54th Engineer Battalion and the 370th Engineer Company would then be inactivated in 2014, while the 541st Engineer Company would return to the United States.
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