Monday, January 18, 2010

US Port Units in Antwerp in WWII

The Port of Antwerp was run by the British Army after capturing it from the Germans in September of 1944. They assigned a section of the port for American use. The American units were under the command of the 13th Major Port and 5th Major Port. The following lists comes from a 13th Major Port document housed in the FELIXARCHIEF (city archives) of Antwerp. A Belgian friend of mine scanned a few pages for me. I will be requesting more 13th Port documents from the US National Archives.

There are two things that interest me about these pages. First, I'm happy to learn the names of the American units working in the port during the war. Secondly, I was impressed to see that these units all received Belgium's Croix de Guerre. My grandpa and his buddies were not aware that the 519th was awarded this military decoration. Their discharge papers do not reflect this because the Army did not typically include mention of foreign military awards. However, I am aware that France bestowed their Croix de Guerre on the the 519th for its part in the Normandy invasion. To signify this the men received received ribbons for their uniform and the unit flew a special banner. I wonder if the same treatment was intended by Belgium, or if the recognition was meant only to appear on paper. More investigation is needed! [Important note (February, 26, 2010): since posting this piece I have learned the 13th Major port did not receive the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Read the update.]

Below is the text from the 1946 13th Port document.
It appears to exclude the anti-aircraft units that shot down V-Weapons on the perimeter of the city. I read the names from a photo of the document. I think I got all the numbers right, but I may have miss-read a couple blurry numbers.

With Whom We Served

Unfortunately records of units who served with us in England are unavailable. The order awarding the Belgian Croix de Guerre to the 13th Port and attached units, fortunately gives us a list of those who were with us in Belgium during the long bombardment. The Belgian decree is follows:

Decree of December 7, 1946, No 3254ter

The Port Units of the armed forces of the United States in service at the Port of Antwerp who participated in the defense of the city against flying bombs include:

Headquarters and Headquarters Company 13th Port
Headquarters and Headquarters Company 5th Port
228th Army Postal Unit
22nd Postal Regulating Section
358th Engineer General Service Regiment
1598th Engineer Utility Detachment
1592nd Engineer Utility Detachment
694th Engineer Base Equipment Company
1072nd Engineer Port Repair Ship Company
1218th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
1717th Engineer Floating Power Plant
138th Finance Disbursing Section
134th Finance Disbursing Section
345th Medical Composite Section
350th Medical Composite Section
29th Field Hospital 30th General Hospital
119th Ordnance Bomb Disposal Squad
120th Ordnance Bomb Disposal Squad
121st Ordnance Bomb Disposal Squad
Headquarters Detachment 793rd Military Police Battalion
Company A 793rd Military Police Battalion
Company B 793rd Military Police Battalion
Company C 793rd Military Police Battalion
Company D 793rd Military Police Battalion
3037th Quartermaster Bakery Company
995th Signal Service Company
3616 Quartermaster Truck Company
267th Port Company
268th Port Company
HQ and HQ Detachment 152nd Quartermaster Battalion
HQ and HQ Detachment 487th Port Battalion
Medical Detachment 487th Port Battalion
184th Port Company
185th Port Company
186th Port Company
187th Port Company
282nd Port Company
283rd Port Company
339th Harbor Craft Company
334th Harbor Craft Company
344th Harbor Craft Company (this was accidentally omitted from the original, and correctly added in 1953)
345th Harbor Craft Company
352nd Harbor Craft Company
105th Port Marine Maintenance Company
HQ and HQ Detachment 517th Port Battalion
Medical Detachment 517th Port Battalion
797th Port Company
798th Port Company
799th Port Company
800th Port Company
284th Port Company
285th Port Company
HQ and HQ Detachment 519th Port Battalion
302nd Port Company
303rd Port Company
304th Port Company
305th Port Company
280th Port Company
281st Port Company
3883rd Quartermaster Truck Company
3583rd Quartermaster Truck Company
4261th Quartermaster Truck Company
3611th Quartermaster Truck Company
3610th Quartermaster Truck Company
4262nd Quartermaster Truck Company
3601st Quartermaster Truck Company
Medical Detachment 793rd Military Police Battalion

Note: although it was not in Antwerp long enough to be recognized in the above list, the 109th Port Marine Maintenance Company was in Antwerp from March 25 to mid-June 1945. They were housed in the Luchtbal Barracks.

51 comments:

  1. my father was Robert C. Cantrell. He was in the 799th Port Company, 517th Port Battalion. He passed away when I was five years old, and I just found his Discharge Papers yesterday in an old box! Is there anyone out there who knew him and remembers him? I would love to know more about my father. I know the war was very hard on him, but I'm sure that is no exception.
    Any information anyone can give me would be most appreciated.

    My email address is: teresacantrell59@yahoo.com
    Thank you so much!

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    Replies
    1. My grandfather passed away today (last night) and was in the 105th PMM and housed at the Luchthal Barracks. Anyone who may know others alive from this company. His name was Chester Kay and was from Housatonic, MA. RIP grandpa kay

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  2. From the records of the 1218th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon; "On 16 February, at 0845 hours, a fire occured in the town of Ouderen, northeast of the US Docks area. It was caused by a V-2 bomb, which had started a fire in a British shop and barracks building. The shop was completely destroyed; but the barracks was saved. The unit received poor cooperation from the Belguim Fire Bragade. The Belgium and British firefighters did very little toward extinguishing the fire. Upon arrival of this unit, a water source had to be searched for and found. The fire was fianlly extinuished by this unit at 0945 hours."

    Ted Heinbuch
    Army Fire Service Historian
    firetrucks-atwar.com

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  3. Thanks for the comment, Ted.

    I see from your site that the 217th and 1218th firefighting units were at Utah Beach with my grandfather.

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  4. my father was with the 267 port company.name was bartolomeo anselmi,

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  5. Hi Mr/Ms. Anselmi. Do you happen to have any photos of Antwerp from your dad's time there? I'd love to see them.

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  6. Joell (Saunders) McGeeJune 10, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    My father (still alive and will be 85 in July) was at Omaha beach on D-Day. Due to the fact that he now suffers from Alzheimer's, it is hard to get much information to help me learn more about his time in the Army. He said he was in the 517th battalion, 285th company (I don't know if it was Port battalion or not). Also, he was assigned to a unit in which they built anything necessary (bridges, places to store equipment, etc). Maybe this could have been with the Army Corps of Engineers, but I'm not sure. He said after Omaha beach had been secured, he and several other men stayed there for about 4 weeks bringing supplies and equipment from the ships to the shore. His name is Joseph Henry Saunders. He was about 19 years old at the time and was from Miami, Florida. If anyone might be able to fill in some of the missing information, or steer me in a direction to get further information, please let me know. My e-mail address is joellsmcgee@msn.com Any help will be appreciated.

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  7. I'm James Doran
    My father was Peter Doran of the 358th Engineering General Service Regiment. He joined in 1943 from Chicago, Il. Trying to find anyone he served with. please contact me at jdoran65@hotmail.com

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  8. Hi James. Good luck on your research. I wish I had some info for you.

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  9. Boston, Avonmouth, Omaha Beach, Antwerp, Bremen.
    I have the Company Roster If you need a name.


    Don Hemphill

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    1. I am trying to find out what happened to 1st Lt Donald C. Grant, 0-1107445, of the 1st Btn 358th Engineers. My mother (in England) lost contact with him in 1944, and we don’t know if he was killed, or if he just never returned to her. Have you any idea how I might find out what happened to him? jillsalt@hotmail.co.uk

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    2. Jill, If he was a US soldier and you're a blood relative, you can write the National Archive in DC and order his military records, (if he is deceased.) That would give you his former address. and will probably mention a next of kin, for a possible location of relatives in the US. You could also check the 1940 US Census available online for free through Ancestry.com, If you know how old he was and where he hailed from prior to the war. I'd be happy to look at the earlier Ancestry records for you to see if I can find him in the 1920/1930 US Census and WW2 draft cards. The genealogy site, Fold3 also has military records, but I'm not a member there. You could post a message on the Roots Genealogy board for free, and see if anyone who belongs to Fold3 would be willing to do a look up for you, and see if they could find him in any records over there. Or post a general message there, giving as much info as you can on him, and hope that someone related to him stumbles across it. Some other places you can look are the sites Find A Grave, and Family Search, both are free, or just by Googling his name and the word obituary, or "social security death index" and his name, and see if anything pops up that way.

      Ann Forster

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  10. Hi Don, I'd love photocopies of your roster. Several sons & daughters of servicemen have found their dad's names on the rosters I put up on this blog. I'd love to do the same for other port companies. Could you email me and I'll give you my mailing address?

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  11. My Grandmother had a bro name John Murray who died in Antwerp in 1944 by a V-1 & he was in the Navy, was off duty along with many from the ship he was with & they were in a theather when the V-1 hit that building. I'm trying find out more info & what boat he was assigned to. Can anyone help me out?

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    Replies
    1. The name of the theatre was Cinema Rex and it was located at the de Keyserlei 15 in Antwerp. There is a Quick burgerrestaurant now. Most of the military victims are buried at the American Cemetery of Henri Chapelle in Belgium. There are also Navymen that lay there.

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  12. The theater was The Rex and the movie was "The Plainsman with Gary Cooper. I was in the theater across the street and the doors were blown in.
    We had been exposed to so many V-i ans V-2 bombs that we saw the rest of the movie before we went outside to find The Rex was no more

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    1. Don, do you know what division the fire boats were in? My father, Joseph J. Forster was a specialist Navy firefighter on the Drew Four, a fire boat stationed in Antwerp Harbor. They were part of the division in charge of putting out ship fires in the harbor after bombings etc. I can't find a stitch of information on the boat, or a picture of itt on line. We have some snaps of sections of it in our family album. I'm trying to locate the name of a massive ship fire that occurred during the wa,r that he received a commendation for, and can't find a thing on the Drew four or the ship that caught fire. All I recall is that it had horrible massive clouds of billowing smoke coming from it like and atomic bomb had gone off.

      Thanks, Ann Forster

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  13. My father was with the 352 Harbor Craft Co US Army - we have the citation that was presented by the City of Antwerp - "for his work in the Port of Antwerp during the 175 days of continuous enemy air and V-weapon attacks between Oct 7, 1944 and March 30, 1945" The citation is dated Antwerp, 4th Sept 1945.

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    Replies
    1. My great uncle was in the 352nd harbor craft company as well. He recently passed away and I have slowly been going through some of his things that he brought back from the war, and that citation is one of them.

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    2. My father, Dixie McDaniels, was also in the 352nd Harbor Craft Co. in Antwerp during the V2 bombings. They rescued children from a burning school building and built pontoon bridges to get supplies and armor across the river. They would build a bridge, get some vehicles across it before it would be bombed, then they would rebuild it.

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    3. My uncle James Davis also served in Antwerp as a member of the 352nd Harbor Craft Co. He told a story of standing guard duty over trains. His records show that he trained at Camp Gordon Johnson Fla. His Antwerp Citation clearly shows 352nd Harbor Craft Co. on it. Anyone have a suggestion for getting more detail on the history of the unit/and a timeline of deployments/assignments.

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    4. My father James L Davis also served in 352nd harbor craft co. I have that document it reads like this. To all to whom these presents shall come, greetings. This certificate is awarded to TEC 5 JAMES L. DAVIS 352nd HARBOR CRAFT CO, U.S.ARMY in appreciation of, and as a token of gratitude for his work in the Port of Antwerp during the one hundred seventy five days of continuous enemy air and V-weapon attacks between October 7,1944 and March 30, 1945. Antwerp,4th. September 1945. on behalf of the board of burgomaster and alderman:

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    5. Does anyone have roster records or any further information about the 352nd Harbor Craft Co. ? My Grandfather was also in this group (Trained at Camp Gordon Johnson - Clarabelle, FL). He had a book about the bombings which included several photos describing the destruction. He also had carved "Buzz Bombs" as he called them.

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    6. my late dad trained at camp gordon he was in352nd hc I have pictures from Antwerp with members who were unidentified he also received many medals most proud CROIX de GUERRE OF ANTWERP and spoke highly of the Belgian people who he worked with in the warehouses and on the docks?

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    7. Roger, My father was in the 358th Engineer General Services Regiment and was in Antwerp as well. He once talked about rescuing/recovering children from a school hit by a V2. Didn't talk about it often. He said it was one of the worst parts of his entire service in WW2.

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  14. That certificate from the City of Antwerp is perhaps the most cherished recognition the port veterans received. Nearly all the men I interviewed have it framed on their wall. Many of the port company veterans were transferred to harbor craft companies in Antwerp at the end of the war. With so many Belgian civilian workers, the US troops were all doing the same basic duties: mostly guard duty and overseeing civilian work.

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    Replies
    1. Andrew,
      Is there a way to get any further info on the 352nd Harbor Craft Co.? My Grandfather, A.M. Eiland (Mac) was in this group. I have his certificate of recognition.

      Brett Baker

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    2. I have the records from the Military archives in St Louis, I traced the 352 harbor craft from the time my father left Camp Gordon Johnson until his return. I also have pictures when he was in Antwerp. I would be willing to exchange information with anyone.

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    3. My Father Edward Di Gioia served in the 352nd Harbor Craft and was discharged on April 16, 1946 in Fort Dix, New Jersey.

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  15. My father in law, George W. Floyd,is listed in his discharge papers as being in the 285th port co.,517th battalion.I know he participated in the Normandy invasion and I believe it was at Omaha Beach.I would like to see a roster of the men in the 285th.He was from Ft.Lauderdale,Fl.I saw a copy of the roster of the 284th,and there is a George W. Floyd listed from Florida. It seems like either and error or a very rare coincidence. Thanks for any help or background you can give me. Ed

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  16. Hi Ed, unless a veteran comes forward with company documents he's been saving, I won't be able to get a roster for the 285th Port Company. The official records were lost in a 1973 National Archives fire. At the end of the war men were shuffled around to different units before being shipped back to the States. It may be that your dad started in the 284th and was shifted to the 285th just before he received his discharge papers. The unit appearing on the discharge papers of several of the veterans I talk to is a unit that they were in for only a couple months. In either case the 284th and 285th were both in the same apartment building in Antwerp, doing the same work. They were both in Normandy doing the same kind of work there too.

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  17. P.S. I ordered copies of the 517th Port Battalion's historic report held at the National Archives just a week ago. I should more detailed info about the 517th to share soon.

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  18. Ed,

    I am in touch with a veteran who knew your dad. He'd like to speak to you. Please email me so I can out you two in touch.

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  19. My father, James G Vanderet from Brooklyn, NY, werved with the 517th Port Battalion in Normandy and Antwerp. His father had been born in Lochristi, Belgium, outside of Ghent, a short distance away. While serving in Antwerp, he tracked down some cousins who were living there, and recently I had the pleasure of finding them and visiting with them. They remembered seeing my father during the war. bob.vanderet@yahoo.com

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  20. My father was in the Army 1218th engineer fire fighting platoon. His service dates were 1943-146. Normandy Northern France Rhineland.
    Sadly, my Dad has passed away and didn't talk much about the war. I have alot of photos of him in Antwerp with Victory newspapers and his platoon, with tanks etc. I would love to try to get in touch with anyone who served with my Dad to obtain as much information as possible. Ernest Garrett from Maryland

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    Replies
    1. See Fire Fighters in Fatigues at http://www.firefighters.mil-fire.net and World War II Army
      Engineer Fire Truck Identification at
      http://www.firetrucks.mil-fire.net.
      Can tell you a bit about the 1218th EFFP.
      James G. Davis, Member and Historian
      1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon - WW II
      Questions welcome at r11@hawaiiantel.net

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    2. Contact me at r11@hawaiiantel.net for info.
      James G. Davis, Member and Historian
      1204th Army Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
      North Africa - Italy - France - Germany
      World War II

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  21. Hi Ernest,

    Have you seen the website Fire Trucks At War? There's some general info on WWII fire fighting units. Have you tried requesting the 1218th's historic report from the National Archives?

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  22. My best friends' dad is Paul Lawless, still alive and well, who landed on Easy red /Fox Green with the 487th Port Battalion, 283rd Port company on D-Day. I am working with him on a memoir, but it is difficult for him. He drove a DUKW and made his first beach run mid-morning in the first group from his ship to shore. Lost several DUKWs swamped and also hit. Lost men on the beach that night from artillery fire.
    You may contact me at 931-252-1602 or easyred@frontiernet.net Thanks!

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  23. Maurice Lapointe Teck 5 with the 282 Port Bn at
    Omaha beach from 6/6/44 to 9/44 then Antwerp Docks 10/44 to 11/44 (unloading ships) V2 hit our barracks while we were at the docks.I'm
    86 yrs old,and this is mt first attempt. Any one
    else remember e-mailis( pepere1118@aol.com)

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    Replies
    1. My Dad was Buster Jones from Virginia. Tech 5, 282nd Port Co. Any information would be so welcome. Yrlawyr@aol.com

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  24. My dad is Frank E. Nay. He served in the Headquarters of the 13th port in Antwerp. Now 88 years old - he was so excited to see some of this information I printed for him. We'd love to hear from anyone in his unit.
    Dad has a pretty good booklet he put together about Antwerp and I think he still has a certificate from the City.
    jbridges@indy.rr.com

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  25. My Dad was Chester "Chet" Pike of the 4261 Quartermaster Truck Company.
    Dad passed away in 1983 at 69 years of age. For many years he operated an Atlantic later ARCO station in Avon, NY. During the 60's they came up with "Red Ball" Service! dad was tickled pink because he was a part of The "Red Ball Express" If the url thing works, anyone who can contact me through facebook about this is welcome to do so...

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  26. My Dad was Joe Mayer in the 105th Port Marine. He passed away in 2004 and I was finally sitting down to put together a scrapbook of his WWII days for my son. I have hundreds of pictures of his time in France and Germany and would be happy to share if anyone is looking for pictures and other memorbilia.
    JoAnne
    kiaigirl@gmail.com

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  27. Hi JoAnne, I'm a retired Army Engineer and worked underwater construction most of my career in Port Construction Units. I'm the secretary for the Army Diver's Association and I spend a lot of time locating and visiting our Army diver WW II veterans. I'm presently working on a diver from the 109th Port Marine Maintenance Company (sister company to your dads) and would like to receive information and pictures of the divers in your dad's unit. Please visit our Association's website (see below) and contact me if we can share information. Thanks!
    Jim Heimbach, MSG RET
    Secretary, U.S. Army Diver's Association
    supdiveone@yahoo.com

    www.usarmydeepseadivers.com

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  28. I found several documents in my father-in-laws papers:

    1. A Port of Antwerp Dock Pass, signed by what appears to be a CAPT T Co, P.I.O. H.Q. 13th Port U S Army.

    2. Luchtbal Barracks, Post E.M.'S Mess, attached to 4256 Q M TRK CO

    3. Certificate Captured enemy equipment signed by Russell P. Burchfield JR. 1st Lt., QMC, 133 Q M TRK CO (H) TC.

    I have tried to search for these units on the internet but found nothing other than the 13th Port. That was 13th Major Port Group.

    Looking for info on the QMC 4256th & 133 QM Trk CO.

    Any assistance would be helpful.

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  29. I am William O. Watts, I was in the 109th Port Marine Maintenance Co. that arrived in Antwerp on March 25th (Palm Sunday) 1945.I have a copy of the roster of that company as it was being broken up and would send a copy to any person who would like to see it. I was a deep sea diver.

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  30. Hi - i finally found out what "company" my grandpa was in tonight - he drove/fixed and worked with trucks in 3601st. I see many of you have said you requested docs from the national archives about particular units. how does one go about doing that? Can you send me a link? or post a link?

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  31. My father was in the 303rd port Co. Frederick J Renner. The certificate from the people of Antwerp hangs on my wall with great pride. Dad said that actually they were not bombed on St Patrick's day (March 17th) and the standing joke was that "der fuhrer" was Irish. Can anyone confirm or add to this.

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  32. My Father was Buster Jones from Virginia. 282nd Port Co. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you. Yrlawyr@aol.com

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  33. My grandfather Franklin Geise Carter was in the 186th port company attached to the 487th battalion. Stationed in IndianGap Town PA. Any information would be great especially when his service was over.

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