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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From Utah Beach to VE Day: The Path of Basil Kimball

Shirl's late father, Basil Kimball, grew up on the Kimball Farm in then-rural Westborough, Maswsachusetts. During the 1930s, he earned a degree in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  Before Pearl Harbor, but when he knew he'd likely soon be drafted, Basil volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. After basic training and Officer's Candidate School, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army.

You'd think that such a man would be placed in the Army Engineers, but since Basil's records showed that he was familiar with horses, he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, and sent to train in the mountains of North Carolina in charge of a team of Army mules.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Basil and his beloved girlfriend from home, Barbara Landon, got married, guessing that Basil would soon be sent overseas.  As it happened, that event had to wait a couple of years.  During those years, the Army finally recognized Basil's engineering talents, and transferred him into the 13th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, where he led a unit that operated sound-ranging equipment to pinpoint the location of enemy artillery pieces.

The 13th Field Artillery fought in the Pacific, in several campaigns, including the reconquest of The Philippines.  But Basil was not there with them, because his group within their Observation Battalion was detached, and sent to England to take part in Operation Overlord (the code name of the invasion of Normandy that was to establish a Western Front in the war against Hitler's Nazi Germany).  Thus it was that my father-in-law landed on Utah Beach on D-Day +1, at about 2:00 in the afternoon.

I only talked with Basil once about the war.  But, born in 1943, I have always been fascinated by WWII history, so I listened intently that day.

Basil said that at that afternoon hour on June 7th, 1944, they did not have to fight their way ashore. He later stayed in Europe, as he put it, "with Ike, but Ike was usually 20 miles behind us," until the end of the war in Europe, VE Day, 8 May, 1945.

My wife Shirley Kimball McDougall, our son Alex, and I are presently planning to go to Utah Beach in May, before  the area becomes overcrowded with 70th Anniversary visitors in early June.  We then hope to trace as much of the path across France of the 13th Field Artillery Observation Battalion as we can.  It is our way of honoring her dad, and his service to our country.  Hence, I am presently trying to learn as much as I can about that path.  Any leads you can give me will be much appreciated.  Please e-mail your suggestions to

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