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Russell C. Eustice Recalls the Troop Train 2980 Tragedy at St. Valery-en-Caux During World War II

Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: June 12, 2006 
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For 56 years I have been haunted by the memory of a human leg, torn off at the knee, sticking out of a soldier's combat boot. The grisly limb was on a pile of bloody GI field jackets, trousers, helmet liners and boots at a French village in Normandy on January 17, 1945. Near the pile of debris lay two long rows of bodies — one row for the dead, one for the injured. The able-bodied scurried about and searched frantically for blankets and first-aid kits. It was, no doubt, a sight commonplace on the battlefield, but this was not a scene of combat. This scene of death and destruction was a train wreck, and these were the bodies of men who had been on the Continent for only about six hours.

By late December 1944, the initial success of Adolf Hitler's Ardennes offensive spurred the Americans to ship all available reinforcements to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Army units of all descriptions hastened to complete their training in the United States and were ordered to Europe instead of their original destinations in the Pacific. The first convoy to proceed directly to France from the United States cast off from New York on January 1, 1945.

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Among the ships carrying personnel and war material in that first convoy was Henry Gibbons. She had been built in 1943 as a troop transport, and New Year's Day saw her loaded with armor, medical, engineer and quartermaster units. Sleeping arrangements belowdecks were cramped and uncomfortable, and meals were served only twice a day. Most soldiers, having trained together as a unit, stuck with their group during the voyage. Cards and gambling brought some of the men together, but the real social catalysts were the 40 nurses who were also on board. The nurses helped to forge friendships across unit lines and danced with the men to all the music played by impromptu bands formed during the voyage.

The largest outfit on board was the 782nd Tank Battalion. Sporting a reputation as the best-trained group of tankers in the Army, it was made up of 695 enlisted men and 42 officers. Next in size was my own unit, the 134th Evacuation Hospital, numbering 388: 40 nurses, 35 doctors, a warrant officer, 305 enlisted men and seven medical administrative officers — of which I was one. The 1471st Engineer Maintenance Company and the 565th Quartermaster Railhead Company followed us in size. Finally there was the 553rd Ambulance Company, consisting of 80 men and three officers.

By the time Henry Gibbons came into Le Havre, France, on January 16, there was an atmosphere of friendly familiarity aboard. However, the discomfort of a lengthy voyage in stormy seas made the troops anxious to disembark and get on with their wartime responsibilities.

My unit was called first. Once down the gangplank, we were loaded onto waiting trucks. We understood that being the first to get off and loaded onto trucks was special treatment due to the presence of the nurses in our ranks. Nevertheless, it was not an easy trip. We sat on hard wooden benches in the back of open trucks with only a canvas covering overhead as we rode through darkened villages in a freezing wind. We were en route to a newly activated staging camp named, as they all were, for a popular American cigarette brand.

We arrived at Camp Lucky Strike at 2 a.m. and were assigned to tents pitched on the frozen ground. Miserable and complaining, we bedded down as best we could. Our bedrolls were back with the rest of the troops, but we opened up the musette bags we carried, which contained extra socks and underwear, toilet kits, a blanket and half a canvas pup tent. We officers chivalrously gave our blankets to the nurses and wrapped ourselves in the thin shelter halves, which did little to help us through the cold night.

Back in Le Havre, Henry Gibbons was relieved of the rest of her cargo of men and materiel. The troops came down the gangplank into a grim and silent port. Quietly, unit by unit, they trudged from the dock in biting cold to the railroad station through streets strewn with rubble of the war-damaged port city.

It was 11 p.m. when Lieutenant Reed Morse of Company C, 782nd, marched his platoon away from Henry Gibbons. At the station they were loaded into 'Forty and Eights,' French boxcars built to carry 40 men or eight horses. The forward 24 cars of the train were wood, with sliding side doors and single pairs of wheels at either end. Simple couplings linked the cars, which were fitted with rounded steel bumpers to absorb the force of stops. As uncomfortable as these unheated railroad cars were, they were welcome refuge from the wind and rain. Lieutenant Morse and 20 of his men climbed into one of the boxcars toward the front of the train. Other units from Henry Gibbons loaded in turn as they arrived at the station.

Trained in the repair and maintenance of heavy rolling stock, Lieutenant David Matteson and the members of the 1471st were not impressed by the French boxcars. The 1471st's Sergeant Lowell Sell vividly remembered the events of that night: 'The 4th Squad of the 2nd Maintenance Platoon was given an empty car, Number 13. Thinking we had plenty of room, this seemed lucky, so we spread out over the floor. Suddenly, the door slid open and two groups from the tank outfit filled our car. Fortunately, our squad decided to stay in a group. We moved in tight, sitting with our backs against the front of the car. Stafford was on my right, while Schonce was in the corner and on my left. Our 4th Squad and the tankers were jammed in tight. I remember a major in their group at the left side sliding door.'

Meanwhile, the 553rd Ambulance Company climbed onto the train. The four officers and 170 men of the 656th Quartermaster Railhead Company were among the last to arrive. Activated in March 1944, they were well prepared for their mission to distribute rations to units operating on the front lines. Sergeant Horace Wesche recalled, 'We boarded the train near midnight in cold rain turning to snow.' Arriving at the station after most of the other units, they were allotted the metal cars at the rear of the train.

After what seemed like a wait of hours, around 2 a.m. the engine jerked the cars into motion and Troop Train 2980 began to roll. The men removed their steel helmets and used their field packs as back cushions. The cold, the train's uneven motion and the hard floor guaranteed a sleepless ride.

They did not know that their impatience to get underway was matched by that of the officials who were responsible for the train's schedule. The pressure was on. During January 1945, Le Havre had become the principal debarkation point in the ETO. Within a two-week period, the capacity of the port was almost doubled. Not far away, Camp Lucky Strike was designated the largest staging camp in Western Europe, with room for 66,000 military personnel. The plan was to move GIs by truck or rail from the port to the camp, where they were to remain about six weeks to assemble equipment and prepare for movement to the front.

Hard-driving Maj. Gen. Frank S. Ross, the ETO's chief of transportation, demanded that the troop trains move quickly. Any delay had to be explained in detail to transportation officials.

Troop Train 2980 was no exception. To assure continuous operation along the train's route, a second engineer and fireman rested behind the coal car in a passenger car equipped with a small stove and bunks. The train's two French crews rotated duty under the direction of a U.S. Army transportation officer. An English locomotive powered number 2980, drawing 45 Forty and Eight boxcars — 24 wooden cars with well-worn mechanical brakes and 21 steel cars in better mechanical shape. In the face of wartime demands, the British engine had been placed in service without a speedometer or speed-recorder.

After departing Le Havre, the train crawled the 32 miles east to Motteville. It took five hours to cover the distance. A rest stop at Motteville allowed the engine crews to rotate duties. Some soldiers warmed themselves by exercising along the tracks while cocoa and doughnuts were served to the engine's crew. During the pause, one engineer took a moment to protest about what he considered the engine's poor brakes, but he was reassured by his superior that there was nothing to worry about and sent on his way to St. Vaast. The stop at St. Vaast brought additional queries from the concerned engineer about brake safety, but he was again ignored and told to head for St. Valery.

Sergeant Sell remembered: 'The night was long and cold. It seemed like most of the night the train moved very slowly or was stopped a lot. I supposed the devastated rail yards we crossed made movement difficult. It appeared that after daybreak we did move a little faster and more steadily, perhaps 10-15 miles an hour.'

The train stopped and started, swayed and creaked through the early morning. Twice it stopped in villages and soldiers climbed on board, yelling to nearby buddies and smoking. Dawn broke while they were at one stop. The engine was uncoupled and sent to the rear of the train. It now took off in another direction, with the engine leading what had been the rear. The engine was later returned to its previous position.

Toward the front of the train, Sergeant Julius Farney asked Lieutenant Morse, 'Lieutenant, how long will we be in this cattle car?' 'Sergeant,' responded the lieutenant, 'your guess is as good as mine. But if you think about it we'll have to stop somewhere to get our tanks and equipment, so relax.'

A few minutes after resuming the trip, the train seemed to pick up speed. The men of the tank battalion agreed that things were finally progressing. Troops in the other cars opened the sliding doors and sat with their legs dangling out. Lieutenant Morse's men worked to open their door, but it was stuck tight, so they settled back to await the end of the ride.

The six miles of track from St. Vaast sloped unforgivingly to St. Valery and the English Channel. Although the engineer appreciated the need to limit his speed, his brakes did not respond adequately, and the train gradually gained momentum. The cars with air brakes slowed, but the rest gained speed and neutralized the engineer's efforts. The engine and trailing cars soon began to weave and sway. With brakes on, sparks flew from the wheels and tracks. The engineer blasted his whistle, but the troops on the train, joyful to finally be moving, ignored the warning.

In car 13, Sergeant Sell's platoon noticed: 'After one stop, perhaps this is when the train relief crew took over, we did finally move faster, maybe 20-25 mph. We all commented that it would not be long now. Soon we began to move much faster and we were pleased.' Sergeant Wesche in the quartermaster company recalled, 'The train moved slowly most of the night, but about 10 a.m. on the 17th it picked up speed.'

The acceleration, however, soon began to seem excessive. The cars started to rock and the snowbound countryside flew by. Gaining speed on the downhill grade, the whole train pitched and rocked, building momentum every minute. The relief crew in their rest car realized the rate of speed and motion was dangerous. In preparation for an impeding crash they wrapped themselves in their bedrolls and lay against the wall of their car. Horrified at the sound and sight of the train hurtling toward their town, the villagers in St. Valery crossed themselves and watched the troops sitting happily in some of the boxcar doors, legs and feet hanging out.

As the train picked up even more speed, Sell realized 'the car was skipping on the tracks. Then there was this jerking and lunging. Then the sense of being airborne.' There was a squeal of metal on metal, and sparks were now flying from around the wheels. The men in Sell's car could see other men jumping. When Lieutenant Morse's car began to pitch and rock, he tried again to open the sliding door, but it would not budge and he shouted to his tankers, 'You men put on your helmets!' Suddenly, the screech of metal on metal pierced the car. There was a scramble — and then a crash.

At 10:35 a.m. the engine blasted into the cul-de-sac at the end of the line at St. Valery at about 60 miles an hour. It tore through the metal guardrail and crossed the sidewalk into the brick station. Shattering the near wall, it hurtled through the empty waiting room and poked 4 feet of its boiler through the opposite wall. The coal car fell into the station basement, and the whole train came to a sudden halt.

The force of the crash caused wooden boxcars to splinter and pile up on each other, hurling wheels and couplings about randomly. Sliding doors slammed shut on soldiers' legs; cars accordioned into one another behind the coal car, crushing men and pinning them in the wreckage. One bumper tore loose and flew into a mass of injured men at the bottom of one car. The relief crew, still wrapped in their bedrolls, was thrown 30 feet clear as their car crashed.

For Sergeant Sell, the airborne sensation came to an abrupt stop. 'I sat stunned for a moment, not knowing what happened,' he recalled. 'A large chunk of iron had come through the front end of our car, right between Stafford and me. It was either the coupling or a buffer from another car in front of us. Stafford and I had both been hit on our shoulders, but we both said we were OK. I saw French people running toward the train, most of them with wine bottles. I could not see down the right-hand side of the pile, but I could see to the left. We were high up on the top of six or seven cars. As I climbed down, I saw bodies and much blood. But I kept on climbing down. I felt helpless!'

At Camp Lucky Strike, muffled shouts and the thud of running feet woke me. My shelter half, thin as a sheet, had worked its way from under me, and I felt the frozen ground chilling every joint. The sun was beginning to warm the tent. I was alone. As the adjutant, I knew the colonel would expect me to know what the commotion was about, so I struggled up, scrambled to my feet and went outside.

As one of the doctors, Captain Edward Boone, rushed by, I asked, 'What's going on, Ed?'

'There's been a train wreck in the town,' he said, 'and they've called for a bunch of doctors and nurses to help with the casualties. Our equipment is still on the ship, so it will be rough trying to treat them. Someone said they were troops from our transport. Maybe we weren't so unlucky to be brought out here on those trucks after all. See you later. They're ready to go.'

I hurried on to the headquarters tent, where Sergeant Nester was cutting temporary orders for all 35 doctors and 40 nurses. The authorization was from the Base Section commander, so I signed the orders and made it official. When the colonel came into the tent, I tried to learn more about what had happened.

'We don't know,' he told me, 'but they've told us that 45 French boxcars filled with troops from our ship jumped the track and went through the station. It is the end of the line in a village called St. Valery-en-Caux. They say it's not far from here on the English Channel.'

When we reached St. Valery, the scene we encountered was one of chaos and horror. Pinned men crawled from the debris as they gradually freed themselves. Ten cars were piled as high as the station roof, while wreckage to the rear formed an even higher pyramid. Some unfortunate men dangled from splintered cars by their damaged legs, while others had suffered spontaneous amputations and crushing injuries. Eight men in a forward car were dead of no visible injuries.

The engineer and fireman, though injured, were saved by the bulk and weight of the engine. The stunned relief crew survived with mild concussions. Some men were untouched, but were stunned to find neighbors on either side dead or dying.

The French villagers did what they could. Monsieur Cherfils, the mayor, and Monsieur Brouard, the head of the local police, rushed to organize local assistance. Fortunately, the station had been empty. Even the stationmaster's wife was on an errand in the downtown area of St. Valery. So there were no civilian casualties. Military police were dispatched from nearby camps, and a cordon of security surrounded the accident scene.

Uninjured medics from the units on the train used their aid kits and syringes of morphine to help the injured. Military doctors and nurses rushed in from the 134th Evacuation Hospital and went right to work. Captain S.J. Beale, one of our doctors, later recorded his impressions of what he found: 'News of a wreck. They need help. Stirred to go to help. Horror! Brain churned with disbelief. Clumsy boxcars piled in a tangle of wood and wheels three tiers high. A poor GI starting to jump from the top car — left arm, left leg and head outside — middle of him crushed as doors closed on him, staring through sightless eyes. A small fire between ties and a rail of the railroad under a helmet with boiling water. Nobody else near it. Who to help? Crawling under the wreckage and over a crushed body dressed in GI twill.

'A voice, `Jim, you're here to help!' A guy from the tank battalion with whom we had played cards on the ship. His legs were pinned in wreckage — fully alert and mindful of his situation. A useful corpsman had started an IV. Another voice from behind, `We'll be getting him out soon.' `So long.' `So long, Jim.'

'Outside, utter dismay at the helplessness. A journey to the local hospital, to follow French doctors and some of our senior medical officers observing injured personnel who survived. I couldn't do a damn thing to help anybody!'

Sergeant Albert Lufburrow of the 1471st Engineers escaped without injury. In his efforts to give help, he cradled a GI with head injuries. The man looked away and said, 'It's getting dark. I want to go home.' Then he died. Eight or 10 men from the 1471st supported the side of a demolished car while Captain Boone crawled underneath and finished a partial leg amputation with his penknife.

Remembering the contents of my own bedroll, I searched frantically for it. I wanted blankets, whiskey, a first-aid kit — anything to relieve the suffering that lay all around me. Most of the bedrolls had been torn open and ransacked as villagers and soldiers tried to help the wounded. During the frenzied search, I came across that dismembered leg still shod in its boot.

Sergeant Sell remembered Captain Brown getting the 1471st together. I started hunting for Bob Luginbill of the 565th Quartermaster Railhead Company, and finally we found each other. Fortunately, his company had been riding close to the rear of the train, where most of the cars were still upright. Some had slipped off the tracks but were otherwise all right. I finally got back in formation with the 1471st.

When the noise, dust and confusion died down around the railyard, Lieutenant Morse discovered he was 'hanging upside down by one leg and unable to reach the ground.' He later recalled: 'Blood was running down my leg to my belt, and a long sliver of wood was through my upper leg just above the knee. I reached up and pulled it out. During the hour I was hanging, I talked with one of my brother officers who was pinned but otherwise uninjured, and one of my 17-year-old soldiers whose chest was crushed and who kept asking me to help him. I reassured him as much as I could, but he died in the hospital two days later. I hung there for over an hour, feeling no pain and in such intense shock that one of our medics I met some years later told me he thought I had died.

'It was a scene of complete horror, a total shambles. There was just about every conceivable injury among the men who died and the injured: heads snapped off, single and double amputees, much crushing of heads and bodies.'

Nurses from the 134th followed the injured to a local hospital. Despite language difficulties, they worked alongside the French staff to aid and comfort the injured.

Brief news articles about the disaster appeared in the Herald Tribune's European edition, The New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune and the French Normandie on January 18 and 19. The French newspaper's description of the accident incorrectly indicated that an American engineer had been at the controls and that the brakes locked the wheels of train. In fact, it had been the 580 tons of men and equipment that overrode all efforts to slow or stop the train.

French rail authorities held an immediate investigation and delivered their findings on February 21, 1945. They concluded that the brakes were inadequate and that the absence of a speedometer had hindered the engineer. The investigators also determined that the crew operating the engine was relatively inexperienced on the St. Vaast-to-St. Valery grade and that there was no cause for further inquiry.

In his summary report to French rail headquarters and the U.S. Army years later, Lucien Maffiers, representative to the French Railway System, stated: 'A lack of judgment and evaluation of speed would never have existed on a locomotive provided with a speedometer; it was a convoy unfit for transporting men, but we were at war.'

Eighty-nine soldiers had been killed, and 152 were injured. The 85-man ambulance company in the first four cars lost 33 dead and 28 injured. Despite their losses, all the units were filled with replacements and sent into action. It took the 782nd Tank Battalion until April 23, just weeks before the German surrender, to move to the front. The 553rd Ambulance Company was outfitted with 10 ambulances and put to work within one week of the disaster. The 1471st Engineers and the 565th Quartermaster Company were operational by mid-March.

Although the French had conducted an inquiry after the accident, the U.S. Army did little to investigate the tragedy. The Transportation Corps' meeting minutes of that time only mention the wreck at St. Valery twice in passing.

Minutes of the Transportation Corps meeting held in the office of the chief of Transportation of the ETO on January 18, 1945, under the Military Railways classification, read: 'Twelve ammunition trains (5,500 tons) were moved out of Le Havre yesterday. The discharge of ammunition is around 2,600 tons, resulting in a decrease in the backlog of approximately 2,000 tons. Military Railways reported on the train accident at St. Valery yesterday.' Minutes of the meeting for January 19, 1945, discuss the weak points in the supply plan, namely barge loadings at Antivey and rail movement out of Le Havre. This sentence is in the middle of a lengthy paragraph: 'Military Railways reported that the French at Le Havre sent all of their mechanics to the scene of the accident at St. Valery and were therefore unable to operate the freight trains out of that port.'

The logistical history of the Normandy Base Section, dated June 12, 1945, gives the only concrete reference to the tragedy: 'A troop train wreck occurred at St. Valery in District `A' on 17 January 1945, at 10:30 hours in which 89 were killed and 152 injured.'

It is evident that the train was overloaded for its braking capacity and was driven by a relatively inexperienced engineer without the benefit of a speedometer. Despite two protests, the engineer was ordered to continue his trip by U.S. Army Transportation Corps officials under pressure from higher authority. It was a tragedy based on ignorance and poor judgment, for which there was no alternative or satisfactory outcome.

On January 17, 1945, 10-year-old Jean Claude Vigreux watched in horror as the train tore through his town. Years later, as mayor of St. Valery, he headed the effort by townspeople to memorialize the 89 Americans killed in the wreck. On September 11, 1994, the citizens of St. Valery gathered at the rebuilt railroad station and dedicated a plaque that reads: 'To the memory of the American soldiers come to free the soil of France who were killed accidentally at St. Valery-en-Caux. The 17th of January, 1945.'

While those killed at St. Valery have been remembered in France, there has not been any recognition of the incident by the U.S. government to this date. Some survivors of the wreck have even been refused treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals in recent years on the basis that there was no train wreck involving U.S. soldiers at St. Valery. It never happened.


 

This article was written by Russell C. Eustice and originally appeared in World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!


81 Responses to “Russell C. Eustice Recalls the Troop Train 2980 Tragedy at St. Valery-en-Caux During World War II”


  1. 1
    Stephanie says:

    My grandfather used to talk about a train wreck where some of his buddies died. He was in the 782d. Does anyone have any pictures of the plaque?

    • 1.1
      VICKI SANCHEZ says:

      I have several pics if you want to contact me at moooowithme@yahoo.com. My fater was in the 782nd unit.

      • 1.1.1
        Jesse Kline says:

        Vicki,

        Your father was an amazing man. My grandfather Jack told me many great stories involving your father. I was very sorry to hear about his passing recently but was very lucky to have met and spoke with him several times here in Alva when he visited. I would be very interested in any photos you have as my grandfather spoke of this wreck numerous times.

        Jesse Kline, grandson of Nevin R. "Jack" Graham of the 782d

      • 1.1.2
        Kim Norman says:

        I would like to have a copy of the pics. My father ,Delbert D. Parrish was on the train also. I have heard about this wreck for years. Only recently has he been sharing the details (age 86 and doing well) I know he would like to see the pictures. Please contact me at jewelrylady47@yahoo.com

    • 1.2
      Frank Winford says:

      Hello Stephanie. I was also in the wreck. What was your Grandfathers name?

      • 1.2.1
        Terry Blake says:

        Hello Frank,
        My Dad, Capt Dennis "Denny" M Blake was in the 782 Tk Bn and was in the train wreck. He surviveb but injured his back. Do you remember him?

    • 1.3
      Philippe says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      You will find a photo of the plaque here:

      http://www.xn--armes-dsa.com/ossian-seipel-en-07.htm

      (You will have to scroll down to find the photo)

      You will also find a photo of the rebuilt railway station

      Philippe

  2. 2
    bill abbott says:

    who was in the in all of their names ,please.
    was julian brazear?
    brazier?

  3. 3
    neil morse says:

    My grandfather was Reed Morse. I have a booklet put out on the crash. There are some great photos in it.

    • 3.1
      Randolph White says:

      My uncle, Wayne Allen, was killed in this train wreck. This article is the first time I have ever known the details of an event that changed the life of my family forever. I would very much love to see the pictures. My e-mail i dukewhite777@yahoo.com.

    • 3.2
      VICKI SANCHEZ says:

      My father was in the 782nd, Lawrence Sanchez. I would love to get a copy or see photos that you have. my email is moooowithme@yahoo.com

    • 3.3
      Ricky Fulks says:

      My grandfather's cousin, Donald Fulks, was killed in the crash. I would love to have a copy of the booklet you have. Please contact me at genealogy@rdfulks.com.

      Thank You,
      Ricky Fulks

    • 3.4
      Robert J. Martin says:

      Mr. Morse: My best Regards to you. Do you know of any outlet for obtaining the booklet you mentioned above. My brother , David, and I have begun a search for as much information regarding the train wreck as possible. Mom and Dad both served in the war and in face met as each awaited their discharge at the end of WWII. My father had a case of malaria from New Guinea service and was in a VA hospital near Washington DC. Our mother was also awaiting her discharge and was assigned nursing duties at the same VA hospital. There they met, and here we are, my brother David and I. As for the train…Mom was a Nurse, one of the '40' assigned to the 134th EVAC Hospital Unit and as such was aboard The SS Henry Gibbons and ALMOST on "THE TRAIN". AS you may know, The CO of That Medical Unit, Colonel KIDDER, refused to allow his Nurses to board that train. Once the disaster took place the 40 Nurses were transported to Camp Lucky Strike via troop trucks but subsequently taken to the site of the train wreck which they HAD heard take place from the camp. Mom only told us about not being permitted to board a specific train and that it DID wreck and that the Nurse's were taken there to help with the wounded. She kept the details 'close to the vest' not to upset her two little fellas! We found the details just 4-5 years ago thanks to Mr. Eustice. We are now 63 and 65 years old. Mom AND Dad are now gone and missed tremendously each day. Should you have any information regarding the booklet please do let us know. As for our Mother's identification…2nd LT. Kathleen R. DOUGHERTY from Philadelphia, PA.
      I thank you very sincerely should you receive this message considering the years that have gone by. MY email: NovaGrad89@aol.com.

      Take Care Sir

      Robert J. Martin

  4. 4
    Lisa says:

    My Uncle Otis Sebren was on the train. He was injured (both legs were broken. They were pinned by wreckage.) I wonder if he is the one mentioned on page 2. He still is a card player. Thank you Mr. Eustice, for the story and for your service to our country!

  5. 5
    Donna Weatherford Mora says:

    My father was on the train and was killed. His name was Walter "Red" Weatherford. I had always been told that the wreck was as a result of some type of derailing. I never knew any more than this. I had never seen photographs or knew any more until today as I decided to do a little research to see what I could find out since the anniversary of his death was last week.

  6. 6
    Kay Weatherford Schanzer says:

    My father was on this train and was killed. Above is my sister's posting. I visited my father's grave at Normandie Beach and even now there is no record of how he died. He was in the 782 Tank Batallion. His name was Weldon W. Weatherford better known as Red. If anyone reads this that was on the ship going over to France, I wonder if you remember a man in one of the bands that played the "fiddle". He was half Irish and had a band in Texas before joining the Army. My sister and I have tried throughout the years to find out anything we can about him as our mother would not talk about him nor were our questions ever answered by her or his family. He came from a large family in West Texas and was the baby in a fatherless family. We were told the family was devastated at his death. He was the favorite. Please contact me at drkayschanzer@sbcglobal.net if you know anything about my father and/or how he died in the wreck. Thank you Mr. Eustice for making this information known. You have done a great service to us all.

  7. 7
    Bill Alsobrook says:

    My granddad was a medic in the 782nd Tank BN and was in this wreck.

  8. 8
    Joel F Hanson Jr says:

    My father was a tank commander in the 782d. He told me about the train wreck. He was one of two men in the box car to survive the carsh. He was taken to a French hospital about six miles from Camp Lucky Strike. He told me that the only food they could get there was saur kraut. He had both legs broken, but after two weeks, he could no longer stand the food and walked the six miles back to Camp Lucky Strike on Crutchs. My Dad passed away in 2002 and I still miss him but am thankful for the sacrifice that he and the others on this train for the freedom that we enjoy today. God bless the families of all of the men and women on this train.

    • 8.1
      Hudson says:

      First I would like to thank History .Net for publishing this story and to the late Mr. Eustice for telling about it.
      I recall my Uncle J.W Hudson who was a Staff Sgt. with the 782nd Tank Battalion under Gen. Patton telling about a Troop train he was on that wrecked and that he and one more were the only survivers. Could it be your Father was the one he was refering to ? I wish I had known about this wreck before he told it and the mysteries about how it happened for I would have asked more about it . He has now gone to be with the Lord as of Oct. 18, 2006. Obituary can be found at http://www.paulkfuneralhome.com or google Paulk Funeral in Fitzgerald Ga. then search Hudson. Your Father and my Father and Uncles were of the Greatest Generation . This post is in reply to Joel F. Hanson Comment # 8

  9. 9
    Richard Harris says:

    Marion Beavers was my Uncle and recently passed away he was on the train and part of the 782nd Battalion.

    In Memoriam of William Marion Beavers

    Facts
    Born: November 4, 1922

    Place of Birth: Kay County, Oklahoma

    Death: May 31, 2009

    Place of Death: Ponca City, Oklahoma

    Memorial donations can be made to:
    Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, 1904 N. Union, Ste. 103, Ponca City, Oklahoma 74601

    William Marion Beavers
    November 4, 1922 – May 31, 2009

    William “Marion” Beavers, Ponca City resident, died on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at the Ponca City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was 86.

    Marion was born the son of William Steven Beavers and Ruth Ellen (Manahan) Beavers on November 4, 1922 in Kay County. He enlisted in the United States Army on January 19, 1943 and served in Europe with the 782nd Tank Battalion, Patton’s third army during World War II. Marion also served with Patton at the Battle of The Bulge. He survived the train wreck at St. Valery in France on January 17, 1945. Although 89 soldiers died and 152 were injured, the U.S. government did not recognize this incident. He was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and honorably discharged on February 7, 1946, at Camp Chafee, Arkansas. Shortly after returning from Europe, Marion married Una Marie Jones on July 23, 1945, in Newkirk, Oklahoma. The couple made their first home in Blackwell, Oklahoma and moved to Ponca City in 1950. To this union, three children were born.

    Marion was employed with Continental Oil Company for 17 years and then went to work for American General Life Insurance Company, retiring in 1985. Marion was a longtime member of Sunset Baptist Church, a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1201, American Legion, Masonic Lodge and the Shriners. Marion had several enjoyments which included collecting coins, fishing and camping in Broken Bow at Beavers Bend. Marion took pride in maintaining the memory board that he designed and built. He created this board to honor members of the 782nd Battalion who passed away. Marion also loved country western music and loved to dance.

    He is survived by his loving wife, Marie of 63 years; son, Ronald Kent Beavers Sr. and his wife, Nora of Port Arthur, Texas; grandchildren, Ronald Kent Beavers Jr., and wife, Rene of Khema, Texas, William Troy Beavers and wife, Coretta of Groves, Texas and Stephen Marcus Beavers and wife, Kathryn of Houston, Texas; great grandchildren, Tiffany Beavers, Christina Beavers, Candace Beavers of Bridge City, Texas, Tori Caylen and Jacob Ryan Beavers, Christian Bryce Beavers, Autumn Hazel Beavers, Alyssa Denise Beavers and Ashley Beavers of Groves, Texas; one great great grandchild, Jazymn Beavers; sister, Genevere Lois Clements and husband, Louis of Edmond, Oklahoma; nieces and nephews as well as many dear friends.

    He is preceded in death by his parents; son, Donald Marion Beavers and daughter, Brenda Leigh Beavers; one brother and two sisters.

    Casket bearers for the service will be the Amen Sunday School Class.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Marion’s honor to Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, 1904 N. Union, Ste. 103, Ponca City, Oklahoma 74601.

    A funeral service will be held at 3:00p.m., Thursday, June 4, 2009 at Grace Memorial Chapel with Chaplain Mike Sweetman officiating. Burial will follow at I.O.O.F. Cemetery under the direction of Grace Memorial Chapel.

    Funeral Service
    Thursday June 4, 2009, 3:00 p.m.

    • 9.1
      VICKI SANCHEZ says:

      Hi Richard. My name is Vicki Sanchez and I had the Great priviliege of knowing Marion Beavers. He was such an amazing man. My father Lawrence Sanchez served with him in the 782nd and they remained greta friends to the end.

  10. 10
    Chris Hager says:

    The Transportation Corps, then and now, have had some of the biggest REMFs, panzies and wussies the US Army has ever entertained. The article makes it plain: moving freight was the priority; moving soldiers was an afterthought. Railroad management is an oxymoron of the first order!!!!!!!!! If it is true that those injured in this incident were never able to prove Service Connection for VA benefits, it is a travesty!!!!

  11. 11
    Mike Oliver says:

    I got to meet Marion Beavers in 2004 when I took my father to a 782nd reunion in OK City. He was an engaging man with a good memory of the war. My father was a replacement tank driver for the 782nd; he joined the unit after the train wreck. I have a photo of my dad and Marion at the reunion; it is a special memory.

  12. 12
    Jon Mercy says:

    My father was in this unit and I never got a chance to talk to him about WWII if anyone remembers him I would love to hear more about him his name was Raymond William Mercy

  13. 13
    David Stout says:

    My grandfather, Budd Stout, was part of the 782nd (headquarters company),and was a survivor, in fact uninjured, in the train wreck. He took photos after things had calmed down. I have only seen a few of them but it appeared like the tragedy he had described. He often mentioned he thought there could have been some type of sabatoge, although unsure, he commented on how the french tried to help the best they could under language barriers and other obstacles.

    • 13.1
      Frank Winford says:

      Yes, I knew your grandfather. I think he was once our supply Sgt. Bud had a car and some of us would ride into town with him.

      • 13.1.1
        Pam Johnson Gerdes says:

        Mr Winford, My father was in the 782nd and on the train that wrecked in France. His name was "J.O" or Otto Johnson. He was a quiet man, but remembered the train wreck with great sadness at the loss of lives. He was unable to speak of it for many years, as it affected him greatly. If anyone has any pictures or any information about my father. I would love to hear from you. With deepest thanks

  14. 14
    Rod Greene says:

    My late father, Lt. Philip C. Greene, was platoon commander in the 3rd platoon of Co. B, 782nd Tank Battalion. He spoke sparingly of that morning, as the memories of the human carnage were unforgettable, except to say it was a horrible. The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. Energies were spent trying to make the wounded and those in shock more comfortable with morphine, bandages, and blankets. It is incredible that any service member wounded on that train has ever been denied any medical benefits. And none have ever been able to receive the purple heart for their sacrifice, because in was not in combat. The US Army has something to be accountable for! It is an abominable travesty to little recognize the sacrifices of so many that cold morning in St. Valerie.

    • 14.1
      Frank Winford says:

      Hello: Rod: I knew your father Lt. Greene. He was one of only a few officers that I had any respect for.

  15. 15
    william jordan says:

    Mr Anderson, the Deputy Superintendent of the Normandy American Cemetery, told me of this tragedy, showing me how the graves are grouped together in some cases. I have passed on your excellent account to him and his staff at the Normandy Cemetery where so many involved in the accident are buried – and where the guides there ensure this tragedy is not forgotten – even if the survivors' entitlements have been!

  16. 16
    Dave Martin says:

    Hello, As the sons of two of the greatest generation my brother and I are overwhelmed at the finding of this story of a train wreck as told by Mr. Eustice. Growing up our mother would occasionaly tell us about a train wreck that she narrowly escaped being on because her unit was put on trucks instead for transportation. Our mother was a nurse with the 134th Evac Hospital and as the article states "nurses from the 134th" were sent to the scene to help and to help staff in local hospitals. Her name was Kathleen Regina Dougherty, she passed away in Dec/88 and is painfully missed, I would give anything to turn back the clock and talk to her about her time in Europe, she was an angel of mercy. If anyone has photos or documents of anything related to the wreck we would be greatful for and even pay the cost of sharing them with us, our families share a unique bond in this. e-mail-davemartinelectric@gmail.com Phone-215-262-3349

  17. 17
    Dave Martin says:

    P.S. Our father was a staff sergant on troop transports and spent two and a half years at sea in the Atlantic and Pacific, he also passed away in Dec/01and is painfully missed.

  18. 18
    Joyce Jones says:

    In searching for TV coverage of D Day, I came upon this. My uncle, Pvt. Ernest M. Montgomery was one of the soilders killed in this train wreck. I was a child but so clearly remember the telegram my Mother received with the dreaded words: We regret to inform you. . .

    Thank you to all who posted the information regarding the train wreck. jj

    • 18.1
      Frank Winford says:

      Hello Joyce: I too was in the wreck. Your uncle Ernest was in the 782nd Tank Battalion. The rest of us went on through France, Belgium, Germany and met the Russians in Czechoslovakia. Sorry about your uncle.

  19. 19
    Graham Johnson says:

    I live near Falmouth in Cornwall, England. Some U.S.
    Troops left for the D-Day beaches from several locations around here. My 8 year old son was doing a school project about it and i suggested we visit the American Cemetery in Normandy. He said could we take a stone from the local area and place it on a grave in Normandy. Obviously i said yes. As we walked through the memorial hall at the cemetery we talked about which grave to put them on and we said any grave, not pick a name i.e. Smith, Jones etc but the one we feel is right. My 8 year old son William Johnson walked up behind a grave and put his hand on it and said "this one". As we turned to face the written side of the grave he looked at me and said i don't believe it. The name on the grave was Everett E Johnson. Not a known relation to us. May not even be but from 9,837 headstones he chooses his surname by pure chance. So i am trying to find out more about Everett E Johnson. It said on the headstone that he died on 17th January 1945. He was in 782nd Tank Regiment from Iowa. Does anyone have any information regarding this gentleman? I am assuming that he was a victim of the train accident but am not really sure. Any help would be really appreciated. my email is graham_karen1@hotmail.com Many Thanks. graham

    • 19.1
      Frank Winford says:

      Yes T/Sgt Everett E. Johnson was in the 782nd Tank Battalion and was killed in the train wreck at St. Valery, France on 17 Jan,1945

      • 19.1.1
        Graham Johnson says:

        Hi Frank. I received Everett E Johnson IDPF through the post and it did comfirm his loss of life through this accident. I am trying to find out more about his family. His sister was called Helen M Wilson at the time of the accident and the next of kin was Clarence E Johnson, His father.
        If anyone has any information of how i trace them we would be very grateful.
        Thanks for your help
        Graham

  20. 20
    VICKI SANCHEZ says:

    My father Lawrence Sanchez was a member of the 782nd Tank Battalion. He was in France in 1945 and was in the train wreck at St Valery en caux. If anyone would like any copies of pics or has ny pics or information regarding this unit or train wreck, please contatct Vicki Sanchez at moooowithme@yahoo.com.

  21. 21
    Charles Dorff says:

    Hi everyone,
    My Great Uncle Johnny Vrana '782nd Tank BN' was also killed in this train wreck. It would be amazing to find someone who may have known him, even better if i could find pictures of him. Any info would be great. Please feel free to email me directly @ cjd_43@surewest.net

  22. 22
    Jann Crain Anguish says:

    My tather, James H. Crain, was in the 782nd Tank Bn. He never mentioned a train wreck, but I thought someone from the 782nd might have known him. He was a tank mechanic. janguish@yahoo.com

  23. 23
    Scott Morris says:

    My Grandmother's Brother, Elden Gribbos, was killed in the train wreck. They lived in North Central, OK and if anyone has any information I would like to have it to share with her. About all I know is that he was a Tanker.

  24. 24
    Ryan L says:

    My grandfather was in the 1471st Engineer Maintenance Company. I am very interested in their travels and experiences. Does anyone have any more info on them. Pictures or where they went after? shredder246@gmail.com

  25. 25
    Pat Christensen says:

    My uncle was on the Henry Gibbons and survived the train wreck and drove a tank for Commanding Officer Major Ivan N. Woodard.
    He is still living – anyone remember him?

  26. 26
    Pat Christensen says:

    Sorry, I forgot to mention his name.
    Ralph Elmore

    • 26.1
      Tim Purviance says:

      Hi Pat. We were sitting here with my father in law looking at a few pictures taken after the wreck. All he could remember was that it happened in '45. He thought maybe Jan or Feb. I decided to google it and found this article. Going through the names of people responding I was reading them out seeing if any were familiar. He remembered Woodard because he actually drove him around in his jeep. He also remembers your uncle, he thinks. He said he was a big guy? You might ask if he remembers him. His name is Ray Byram. He said many people called him "Smilin' Jack." You can respond to my wife's e-mail because she knows more than I do! Her name is Marcie ad mossy066@sbcglobal.net.

      • 26.1.1
        Pat Christensen says:

        Yes, my uncle Ralph Elmore does remember Ray Byram "Smilin Jack' – he was glad to hear that he was also remembered. Yes, he was the big guy that drove the command tank for Woodard.

        So good of you to reply, it made my uncle happy.

  27. 27
    Randolph White says:

    My uncle, Wayne Allen was killed in the train wreck. I have a number of photos of him but none of his unit. It was a terrible tragedy with great carnage and suffering. Those who gave the ultimate gift to the rest of us will remain " forever young" but I have trouble understanding the government's refusal to more fully recognize their sacrifice. After 70 years, it seems to me that someone should act to award them purple hearts or something. Were their lives less valuable than those who died in battle? It is now too late for most of the people effected – those loved ones whose lives have been scarred forever by the wreck, but something to recognize them would be nice. I deeply appreciate history.com and Mr. Eustice for giving me the opportunity to see how deeply so many people were effected. Anyone who wishes to do so may contact me at dukewhite777@yahoo.com.

  28. 28
    Bruce Yetman says:

    My father was in the 782 tank battalion also and survived the train wreck at St. Valery. I believe that he has a few photos of the wreck. I'm going to go talk to him today and see if we can find them. One of the weird things he told me about the accident was that his best friend was in another car and also survived and when they found each other, the only real injuries that they each had was a small cut on their cheek. He also told me that his buddy visited St. Valery after the war and saw a picture of the wreck hanging on a wall in a restaurant and asked the owner if he could buy the picture or make a copy of it but the owner refused! I'd love to get copies of any photos that you have. Thanks.

  29. 29
    Bruce Yetman says:

    Anyone can contact me at annhyet@comcast.net

    • 29.1
      Tim Purviance says:

      My father in law survived the wreck. The pictures he has are after a lot of clean up had already been done. He had talked about this wreck to my wife several years ago. We were sitting with him today again and I decided to look it up and see if there was any info. I was actually surprised to find so much material.
      His name is Ray Byram, but he said most people called him "Smilin Jack." He was a private and drove jeeps for the officers.

      • 29.1.1
        VICKI SANCHEZ says:

        My name is Vicki D Sanchez and my father Lawrence "Larry" Sanchez was also in this wreck. I would love to get any copies of the pics you have. I also have some pics from wreck that I could email to you. I know of a couple of tankers still alive that may remember your father in law. I will forward info on to them.

  30. 30
    Judith Richards Shubert says:

    This is an invaluable description of the tragedy at St. Valery-en-Caux. Thank you so much for writing it.

    My uncle, Raymond R. Stone, was also on the train with Co. A., 782nd Tank Battalion. He was a SSgt. He wrote in a short memoir the following:

    “D” Company suffered the most. Their cars were next to the engine, the “C” Company, “A” Company (my Company), “B” Company and then Headquarters. I came out fine, just got a small cut on my head and was pretty shook up. My Company, “A”, only had four men killed — one officer and my Company Clerk. I don’t remember the others. The entire battalion had a bunch of men injured. They were sent all over to different hospitals, some were even sent back to the USA. As First Sergeant I had a difficult time learning where all of “A” Company’s men were. This took our battalion out of action and we didn’t go to the Belgium Bulge where we were headed.

    They had to replace about 200 men in our battalion, so they sent us infantry soldiers. We trained them on the tanks for about a month, and finally we were ready to go again. Our Army had already pushed the Germans back across the Rhine River. They sent our battalion up. “A” Company was sent up by train. All the other companies “roaded” their tanks and equipment. We stopped at the Rhine River where combat was still happening. We crossed the river at Cologne on a pontoon bridge that the engineers had built. Since we were a small battalion of tanks, we were mostly assigned to Infantry divisions. It was hard to know who we were assigned to. It seemed like we spent most of our time chasing after Patton’s Third Army. He was going through Germany like a storm. But sometimes we would be assigned to the Ninth Army which was in the northern part of Germany. When the war ended in 1945, we were assigned to the Second Infantry which was a part of Patton’s Third Army. We ended up in Checozlavakia in Sudaten Land which was the first place Germany invaded when the war began. We were there doing occupation duties for about a month or two. We would send a tank and crew to the little villages. These people in the villages were glad to see us and treated us all real nice. Soon we were on a train on our way back to France and from there, on our way home. We crossed the Danube River on our way to Frankfurt, Germany, and then we went on to LaHarve, France.

    If you would like to read the rest of Raymonds "Memories" you can find them on my blog: http://genealogytraces.blogspot.com

    If anyone remembers him, I would love to hear from you. He was born in Hastings, Oklahoma, and died in 2002 in Mineral Wells, Texas.
    Judy Richards Shubert
    Fort Worth, Texas

  31. 31
    Judith Richards Shubert says:

    The direct link to my uncle's story is http://genealogytraces.blogspot.com/2009/04/as-i-remember-it-by-raymond-r-stone.html

    I would love to have you read it and leave a comment.
    My email is bscrooge@charter.net

  32. 32
    Judith Richards Shubert says:

    Does anyone have any pictures of the patches worn by Company A, 782nd Tank Battalion?

  33. 33
    Ed Clore says:

    Hi,

    My grandfather Ellsworth "Buck"Amend was a tank driver in the 782nd Tank Battalion, Company A. I am trying to locate anyone who might have known him. I am also trying to find photos of the patch or insignia for the battalion.

    Thanks!
    Ed Clore
    859-441-3892
    Edclore@mac.com

  34. 34
    Terry Blake says:

    My Dad, Capt Dennis M Blake, was in the 782 Tk Bn and survived the train wreck but injured his back. Any information would be appreciated.
    Contact me at hq99@att.net

  35. 35
    Kim Canine says:

    My Grandpa is a survivor of the wreck. His name is Lonzo (L.Z.) Scoggins and he was in the 782nd Battalion Company C. I was honored to attend a reunion in OKC in 1997 and interested in any info regarding the wreck or my Grandpa : )

    ckzacl@gmail.com

  36. 36
    Ronnie Marek says:

    I was wondering if there might be anyone left who remembers my
    father? His name was Jerry Marek, he was a sgt. in company B, 782 tank battalion.

  37. 37
    Jerry C. Baker says:

    My father Ivory Carl Baker was killed in the wreck. He was a member of the 553rd Ambalance Company. They lost a lot of their men. 33 died of 80 + assigned. I was able to locate my dads Commander some time back. I got to meet him and talk about the wreck. He didn't remember my dad. I have a letter he sent to my mom after the wreck. I was also able to meet Russell Eustice several time at some of the reunions for the 782nd and the 1472st. Several of the 1471st men are still around,but are up in the years.I have e-mail address for some of them.
    I tried to get a Purple Heart for my dad but was turned down. I plan on sending another letter showing the wreck COULD have not been an accident. Not sure it will help but do want to try. Its funny that no accident Report was ever found by RussellEustice. He spent many years searching. I have a complete set of his findings about the wreck.
    I spoke with ussell on 5 April 2005 and found out later he died on the 16th of April 2005. His wife called to let me know. He was indeed a wonderful man who did so much to find out what happened at St. ValeryEn Caux,France
    Thanks for your time….Jerry C. baker

    • 37.1
      Randolph White says:

      Dear Jerry:

      I too would like to see purple hearts awarded. The Army does not admit mistakes easily. They would have been very reluctant to say so if the train was sabatoged ( which could have been done by intentional overloading.) It seems clear that the aftermath of such a massive wreck would be really chaotic. It is no surprise that a "modern" accident investigation was not conducted especially with the need to repair the tracks to continue troop transport.

      It would also be no surprise to find out that the reports were classified. If so – surely the events of that day are no longer related to national security and it might be possible to see if there are classified records of the wreck and if so to petition for them to be opened.

      My family too believed that the train wreck was an act of sabatoge. Perhaps the newspapers of the time left that impression. What ever the case – it seems like a reasonable thing for the Army to give these long dead soldiers the honor of a pruple heart. Give them the benefit opf the doubt that the carnage of that terriblke day. The wrecked bodys and the ruined hopes that lay dead and dying along the rails in a far away land should earn them at least that much. My uncle's brother was also killed in WWII and his medal hangs on the living room wall to this day. It should no longer be alone.

      • 37.1.1
        Jerry C. Baker says:

        Thanks for the reply. My dad had 4 brothers and a brother-in-law in WW II. He was the only one who didn't make it back. This past August they put up a memorial in his home town to all who served in WW II. Took a lot of years to get it done. One women pushed for years to get it. My dad and his brothers are all on it
        I have been reading some books and other data to see how many folks think the wreck was an act of war. So for many seem to think so. I plan to write a letter to the dept of Army to see if I can get them to change their minds. If that fails I'll send every thing to my Senator. Maybe he can do something.

        Jerry C. Baker

  38. 38
    Jeff B says:

    I just read this story today 12/30/12. My Uncle Joseph Paslawski was killed 1/17/1945, he was in the 782nd Tank Batt. I was told the story that sabotage was the cause of the train accident. His brother Andrew (Air Force) is MIA. Shot down somewhere in Africa. I wish to find out more.

    • 38.1
      Randolph White says:

      Dear Jeff:

      My uncle Wayne R. Allen was killed in the wreck. His brother gave his all in North Africa. After all these years it is good to know that the events were remembered today. We owe a great deal to those who served their country then and now. We also owe a debt to Mr. Eustace for memorializing this event that so dramatically effected the families involved. Most of the people killed were just kids. Wayne was a young second lt. who was an agricultural graduate student when the war started. Like so many others, when their country called they responded and all those of us who benefited from their sacrefices and the sacrefices of their families can do is remember and honor the memory. Good Luck.

      Duke White

  39. 39
    bryan kennedy says:

    My grandfather, James Kennedy survived this wreck. If anyone has some pictures of the unit I would love to see them.
    Badkennedy308@yahoo.com

  40. 40
    Tom Slatton says:

    I have a picture or two also. My Dad was G.O. (Joe) \Slatts\ Slatton. He passed away January 2, 2012. If there are any surviving members of the 782nd and/or if you are still having reunions, please let me know, I would love to meet you guys. – Tom

    Tom Slatton
    4451 Highway 301 South
    Delight, AR 71940

    870-379-3049

  41. 41
    Sam Beale says:

    My Dad is the Dr. S. J. Beale mentioned in Dr. Eustice's article, who felt totally helpless without any medical supplies to aid the wounded and dying. I had just turned 3 years old at the time, and I never heard of the incident at St Valery until my Dad and I were visiting my son and new grandson, and he showed me Russel's (Eusto's) article from this magazine. To my knowledge, he has not spoken of it again. It is very difficult to imagine what these troops endured, and what our troops still endure, just different times and places. My Dad is still alive and well at 98 1/2.

  42. 42
    Sam Beale says:

    My Dad is the Dr. S. J. Beale, who was so frustrated at being unable to help much without any supplies, mentioned in the article by Dr. Eustice. I never heard him speak of it until he and I were visiting my son and new grandson, and he gave me a copy of Russel's (Eusto's) article from this magazine. I have never heard him speak of it since. He is still alive and well at 98 1/2, living in Florida.

    • 42.1
      Robert J. Martin says:

      Hello Sam. In that your father was a medical Doctor and involved with this incident, might he have been attached to The 134th EVAC Hospital Unit? My mother was a Nurse in The 134th EVAC Hospital Unit, as you probably know, not permitted to transport on the train to Camp Lucky Strike that day.

      Regardless…Take care Mr. Beale. Aren't we fortunate to have had the parents of that era? My brother Dave and I, both USN Veterans 1967 thru 1973 wish so much to be able to pick their brains even more than we did while they were still here. Mom in particular held most all of the details of that wreck from her two little boys back then. We only found out the details of that event thanks to Dr Eustice.

      Take Care Mr Beale,
      Best Regards,
      Robert J. Martin
      NovaGrad89@aol.com

  43. 43

    [...] Russell C. Eustice Recalls the Troop Train 2980 Tragedy at St. Valery-en-Caux During World War II [...]

  44. 44
    Becky Lamb says:

    My Uncle Ralph Jackson was killed in this train wreck. He is buried in the cemetery there. My Grandfather would only comment that they did not bring the body home because they were not sure it was him. It didn't make sense then and it doesn't make sense now. My father and another uncle also served in WW II. My father survived a plane crash in New Foundland. My Grandmother died while my father was in WW II and he was unable to come home for the funeral. Then, his brother died and he was critically injured in the plane crash. My father suffered his entire adult life from the physical and emotional results of the war. He and his brother were very close.

  45. 45
    Hudson says:

    First I would like to thank History .Net for publishing this story and to the late Mr. Eustice for telling about it.
    I recall my Uncle J.W Hudson who was a Staff Sgt. with the 782nd Tank Battalion under Gen. Patton telling about a Troop train he was on that wrecked and that he and one more were the only survivers. Could it be your Father was the one he was refering to ? I wish I had known about this wreck before he told it and the mysteries about how it happened for I would have asked more about it . He has now gone to be with the Lord as of Oct. 18, 2006. Obituary can be found at http://www.paulkfuneralhome.com or google Paulk Funeral in Fitzgerald Ga. Your Father and my Father and Uncles were of the Greatest Generation .

  46. 46
    Jonathan says:

    My great grandfather was Lt. Reed Morse of Company C 782 Bat.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    Derrick Becker says:

    My grandfathers brother died in this train crash he never told me how.
    PFC Joe Becker was with the 553.

  49. 49
    jerry baker says:

    Joe Becker and my father went on leave at the same time in Nov. 1944. I have a picture of the two of them together. It's posted on a website for New Jersey veterans. I also have a copy of the morning report with their names on it. I also have a picture of the whole unit. It was sent to me by the Commanding Officer of the 553rd. I had the pleasure of meeting him some years ago. He has since passed away.
    I have spent many hours looking into the wreck. I have tried to get my dad a Purple Heart but have had no luck as of now.

    • 49.1
      Derrick Becker says:

      Jerry Baker I saw the pictures, I was doing a family tree when I came across the articles about the accident. I tried contacting my Senator about looking into honoring these men with the purple heart. Hopefully in time they will get it right.

      • 49.1.1
        VICKI SANCHEZ says:

        Derrick, my dad, Lawrence Sanchez, was with Headquarters with the 782nd. He worked for years and years trying to get any acknowledgment of there even being a train accident. He contacted Senators, including Bob Dole (who was absolutely no help), Congressman, even tried Matt Lauer (also no help) to bring this light. He wanted no medals or monetary gain only the acknowledgment that this wreck occurred. He sent pics of the accident with written testimonies and the military said it could do nothing. They were sent a form to correct their service record, but it had to be submitted within 6 months of the incident. It broke his heart that the military he loved and served in seems to be turning a blind eye to these brave men and women.

        Vicki Sanchez
        782nd Legacy

  50. 50
    Jeff Baum says:

    Hope you all read the History of the 782nd on my response # 47 Reply.
    My uncle Tech/Sgt Joseph Paslawski was killed on that train. He was with the 782nd Tank Batt.

  51. 51
    Patricia Schmitt says:

    My uncle Paul W Hanson (age 19) was killed in that wreck. I was always told that the train was bombed. My daughter just found this and I was wondering if anyone was still alive who might have known my uncle.



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