Staff Sergeant Claude L. Romack

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Grouping: Staff Sergeant Claude L. Romack (ASN: 38103246)

Claude Lincoln “Link” Romack was born on July 7, 1909. He enlisted on march 13, 1942, and was inducted at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. There he stayed in tents for 8 days, before being transferred to Camp Roberts in California, for basic training. This camp was the home of both the Infantry and Field Artillery Replacement Training Centers. During World War II, 436.000 Infantry and Field Artillery troops passed through an intensive training cycle. Besides the two Training Centers, Camp Roberts also had a 750-bed hospital complex (also supplemented with tent cities), and internment compounds for Italian and German prisoners of war.[1] According to his diary he spent much time on the firing range, firing with the 37mm anti-tank gun, the 75 and 105mm howitzers and qualifying with various other weapons like the browning automatic rifle. They also did a lot of marching, from 15 to 30 miles each trip. On May 23, 1942 Claude completed basic training at the field artillery replacement training center at Camp Roberts. At that time he was with Battery C, of the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion.

Then on July 27, 1942 Claude was promoted to the rank of Corporal. At this point already serving in the Reconnaissance Company (first platoon) of the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion, in Camp Cooke, California. This meant that Claude became a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCOs, or non-coms). NCOs oversaw or “supervised” the enlisted men, and controlled their day-to-day activities. One of the benefits of being an NCO was the ability to avoid guard duty or fatigue details, such as working in the kitchen (KP, or Kitchen Police) or policing the area (cleaning up the grounds and picking up trash). Claude also describes this in his diary; “I don’t have to walk guard now, and no more KP”. According to a time-honored tradition, promotion to an NCO rank was officially performed at the regimental level after the recommendation of a company commander.[2] A couple months later, on September 23, 1942 Claude Romack was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

About 2 months later, on November 24, 1942 Claude became a Staff Sergeant while in Camp Hood, Texas. It meant he got an $ 18,- raise on his paycheck per month. He had been in the army for 8,5 months now. On February 5, 1943 Claude left Camp hood and went to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma by convoy.

During the first years in the Army, Claude kept a diary of his time stateside. His diary starts in March 13, 1942 and the last story was written on April 28, 1944. The diary is filled with stories about his training, and with names of people he knew. He also wrote about his time in basic training, his travels and basically the time before he went overseas. In training they also practiced street fighting with loaded guns and shot at anything that moved. He believed it was the most dangerous thing they went through. He was also a very good marksman, scoring high on the shooting range. Claude also went to many camps in the United States. Including Camp Roberts, Camp Hood, Camp Gruber, Camp Young (desert training center), and Camp Polk.

A week from the diary, December 1942;
– On Monday December 21, 1942 Claude writes; “Rain today and we go over the obstacle course. We gave it up at noon. Rain got so hard now couldn’t see over 100 feet. Classes in the day room after noon”.
– December 22: “Firing on the 1000 range today and close order drill. Drill is about the most tiresome of any of my duties. We only averaged 66 percent on the range today. Too windy to shoot good.”
– December 23: “Sugarloaf range today firing the 37mm and 50 Cal MG. Today the platoon made 96% hits and that’s some shooting. One man put 59 out of 60 shots through the center of the target at 700 yards. I believe for an average we can beat any platoon in camp hood.”
– December 24: “Close order drill and clean guns till 1200. Afternoon off got looped”
– December 25: “Nothing but maneuvers for the next month. I am getting damn tired but getting in better shape than most of the men”

When Claude went overseas, he send a letter to his parents about once a month. In almost all the letters, Claude wrote that he was doing fine, and talked about how he felt and the weather. Of course he couldn’t write about any of his unit activities, since all the mail was passed by a censor.

Claude arrived in Liverpool, England on August 23, 1944, and at Utah Beach on September 18. The first round fired by the Reconnaissance Platoons in combat sounded off on September 29, 1944. From that time on, Recon was to establish a record of perseverance and fighting fortitude that will long be remembered. Things were pretty quiet for a few days after their combat debut until, on the 11th of October a 60-man enemy patrol was encountered and they had the first direct contact with the enemy. The unit was with the advance elements of Task Force Polk at the time, attached to the 43rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop in the Moselle River town of Cattenom, about 40 km north of the town Metz, France. From the vicinity of Cattenom the two platoons proceeded to Thionville to be attached to the 95th Infantry Division with Task Force Bacon.

On November 15, 1944 the first reconnaissance platoon was assigned a mission of accompanying an Infantry column into the town of Bertrange, about 3 kilometers away. This town was known to have been occupied by friendly troops 2 days prior, but all contact had been lost and the true condition within the town was not known. This platoon with Infantry riding on the vehicles moved toward the town where the column came under heavy small arms and mortar fire. The Infantry dismounted, dispersed and opened fire. The 37mm and machine guns of the Reconnaissance platoon were put in action from their position in column on the road firing directly into the house at the edge of the village. There was a heavy exchange of fire which continued until the enemy emerged with hands up and flying a white flag. The infantry moved into the village while the reconnaissance platoon vehicles escorted a column of 39 prisoners to the rear. Both 37mm guns and machine guns were out of ammunition.[3]

From Bertrange they pushed across the Moselle river and then south, and were among the first units to enter Metz. After a three-day rest during the Thanksgiving holidays (around November 23, 1944), the platoons moved on to Saarlautern and took up a holding action until sometime in January. Lt. Toole (Commanding Officer, 1st Reconnaissance Platoon) described Christmas Eve as being “pretty hot,” even if it was wintertime. He continued, “We spent the night in what was left of a tobacco factory, drinking coffee and trying not to think about the Kraut shells coming in. We sure could have used some good cellars that night! New Year’s Eve it was a lot more quiet than the week before.” The Haguenau sector was the next scene of action. The 807th took part in Operation Nordwind, which was the last major German offensive of World War II on the Western Front. It began on December 31, 1944 in Alsace and Lorraine in northeastern France, and it ended on January 25, 1945.From that time on, and after joining the 9th Army in the north, the drive to the Rhine was steady and uneventful.

The 807th TD Battalion defended Rhine River bridges in April 1945, and converted to the M-18 “Hellcat” (76 mm Gun Motor Carriage) in time to join the drive through Bavaria late in the month. With the conversion from towed guns to the M-18’s in the gun companies, the present Reconnaissance Company was formed on April 5, 1945. A few days later, Lt. Toole and the men in his vehicle suddenly came upon several German foot troops one afternoon. Platoon Sergeant Claude Romack tells the story:
“In the excitement that followed this unexpected encounter with the Germans, Lt. Toole started firing away with the 37mm. He had plenty of small arms ammunition and high explosive shells but for some reason, he grabbed all the armor piercing rounds. The Germans scrambled back behind a low embankment and began to wave both arms and legs in an attempt to surrender. The lieutenant had them pinned down so completely, they couldn’t do anything else. In the meantime, Jim Dillingham was pleading with me to let him fire his carbine. Finally, we let up long enough for those Krauts to come out with their hands over their heads.” Incidentally, Romack says that his first platoon captured over 750 prisoners during the final drive.

In Altmühlhof a funny incident happened–rather it wasn’t so humorous at the time, but later on the men concerned had a laugh over it. Sergeant Romack had five men with him and was scouting around in the town looking for German stragglers and expecting to find “maybe half a dozen or so,” he explained. They came up to a fortification and saw a couple of Krauts inside, cautiously looking out. Sgt. Romack called to them to come out and surrender. Then the procession started! When it ended at last, the six dumbfounded men had 341 prisoners on their hands. But that wasn’t all. It turned out that the Germans had been guarding an Allied PW enclosure in the vicinity and the record later showed that their capture resulted in the liberation of over 9,000 Allied Prisoners of War.[4] Then in early May, the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion reached the vicinity of Salzburg, Austria. During the period of May 8 to May 13, 1945 the battalion was engaged in setting up and administering military government in the Burghausen area in central southeastern Germany. From May 15 to June 20, the battalion was engaged in preparation for redeployment at hockenheim, Germany. Later in June the battalion moved to Camp Miami, and later Camp Lucky Strike, France. The Battalion sailed aboard the U.S.S. Marine Robin departing Le Havre, France on July 7, 1945. They arrived 9 days later in Virginia, and from there on personnel of the unit were sent to their respective separation centers. The Battalion was inactivated at Camp Hood, Texas on September 22, 1945.

During the 8 months of active combat in the ETO the battalion fired the staggering figure of 63.625 rounds of 37mm service ammunition and 811 rounds of 76mm service ammunition. They captured over 3100 German prisoners, or about 6 prisoners of war for each man in the battalion. During the fighting the battalion was fortunate in sustaining relative light losses, 20 men were killed and 80 were wounded. In all, over 2500 miles (more than 4000 kilometers) of European soil was ground under the wheels and tracks of the rapidly moving 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion.[5]

The attachments and assignments in the ETO were many; 1st, 3rd, 7th and 9th Army. Also the XX, XV, VI, XVI, III and XXI Corps. The 83rd, 95th, 5th, 90th, 35th, 100th, 75th, 30th and 86th Infantry Division. Also the 101st and 17th Airborne Division. They were also attached at some point to the 3rd Cavalry Group, and the 4th, 12th and 16th Tank Destroyer Groups.[5]

Claude Romack was awarded the Good Conduct medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with 2 campaign stars), and the Bronze Star for actions with the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion. He passed away on September 28, 1990 at age 81.

[1] Camp Roberts, http://www.militarymuseum.org/campbob.html
[2] Jonathan Gawne, Finding your father’s war (p. 47)
[3] Lt. Col Carlton K. Smith, report ‘publicity for tank destroyer units’, December 10, 1944
[4] 807th TD Battalion unit history, reunion booklet, mid 1980’s (p. 10)
[5] 807th TD Battalion history, march 13, 1945 (p. 14)