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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Path is Found!

With the help of our good folks at the Research Desk in Lamson Learning Commons at Plymouth State University, I identified in January a book with a title that promised to deliver exactly the sort of information needed to carry out our planned mission in honor of my wife Shirley Kimball McDougall's late father.

That title was 13th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, April 1942 - March 1946.  Its author was listed as Larry Hough.

I ordered this book under the Inter-Library Loan (ILLiad) program, but found that the book exists in only three libraries, and is not circulated by them.  So, earlier this month, on our way to Florida, Shirl, son Alex and I drove to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, visited the U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center library, and found the book.

The book was written in 1979 by Cpl. Larry Hough based on the oral and documentary history provided to him by surviving members of the battalion.  It describes in considerable detail the unit's World War II activity.  It follows them from their founding as a unit and early training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and to Fort Dix, New Jersey, among other training camps.  It describes their crossing on a troopship to England.  It accounts their experiences in England, and with their English hosts, as they were preparing for the D-Day invasion, which turned out to be in Normandy.  It tells of their channel-crossing from Southampton, and their unopposed landing at Utah Beach on June 7, 1944.  It includes an account of all their attachments to infantry and field artillery units from the battles on the Cotentin Peninsula to the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, to their campaign across France and Belgium, and past the Siegfried line into Germany.  And then came the last great Nazi offensive, known as The Battle of the Bulge, which brought the unit back southwest and again into Belgium late in December or 1944.
American forces cross the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen (Wikipedia.)
Finally, the book tells of the unit's role in the Battle of Remagen in March, 1945, and of their rapid advance across Germnay in support of the 1st Infantry Division in VII Corps, following their crossing of the River Rhine on a pontoon bridge erected by the Army Engineers at Remagen, Germany.

In short, that book is exactly what we had hoped to find.  My eyes actually teared-up as I went through it at the Carlisle library.   I had hoped to be able to find such a detailed guide for our upcoming trip to honor my children's wonderful, gentle, soft-spoken, kind-hearted grandfather, who had served our country so faithfully in that terrible time, almost 70 years ago. 

For a substantial fee, the library has made us a copy of this book, which includes maps of all the unit's tactical campigns.  Alex, Shirl and I now know where we must go to visit the villages her father saw.  We have only to go and see, and if I have my way, seek out folks in their eighties, with whom to share a beer, or a glass of wine, and their memories of a time long ago, but still of profound importance.

RIP, 1st Lt. Basil Kimball.  Your family all love, remember, and respect you.