A Tribute to Our Living History
D-Day “Operation Overlord” began on June 6, 1944, where some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces stormed five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. By late August, nearly 1 million men came ashore and all of northern France liberated. The Normandy landings marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and this is where our story begins.
After extensive training, the 104th Infantry Division departed American soil in late August 1944. It arrived in northern France weeks later on September 7th, 1944. The division did not immediately engage the enemy in major combat operations. Rather, many Timberwolves helped in the “Red Ball Express”, ferrying gasoline from the coast, to the front lines.
Others guarded the French coast, against German raiding parties from the Atlantic. The wait to engage the enemy in combat ended on October 23rd, 1944 when the Division moved to the front lines. Within days the mighty Timberwolves engaged German forces in the Netherlands.
Following the dissolution of Germany forces in the Netherlands, the Timberwolves headed eastward, into the motherland. Although they made many daylight assaults, the Division’s Commander, MG Terry Allen, ordered his soldiers to conduct night attacks, a tactic he employed with great success when he commanded the First Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily. The Timberwolves made several night attacks, as they crossed the Siegfried Line. Elements of the 2nd Battalion, 415th Infantry Regiment, gained notoriety when they conducted a night attack near Lucherberg, Germany in early December 1944. Each Soldier was armed only with a handful of grenades, and an empty rifle with a fixed bayonet. The Timberwolves were so fierce and successful that German propaganda radio broadcast called the tactic unfair. Decades later, these tactics would be echoed in the Timberwolf motto, “Night Fighters!”
On December 16th, 1944, the now famed Night Fighters dug in on the West Bank of the Roer River and participated in the infamous Battle of the Bulge. Despite being cold, wet, and hungry and battling thick mud and low visibility, the Timberwolves crossed the Roer River and continued to engage the enemy forces. The war raged on and many Timberwolves were lost on the way. By March 8th, the Night Fighters captured and briefly garrisoned the city of Cologne. But the rest was short, the Timberwolves soon crossed the Rhine, and advanced eastward in a 350 mile sweep that took them to the Mulde River. Along the way, they liberated the concentration camp of Dora Mittelbau, where slave laborers produced the dreaded V-2 rocket. The Division continued on their eastward march and soon linked up with the Red Army on April 26th. In the end, the mighty Timberwolves engaged in 195 days of continuous fighting playing a significant role leading to the German surrender on the 7th of May 1945.
Today, 73 years after the end of WWII, two of our beloved Night Fighters continue to march on as our living history. Recently, MG Mark McQueen had a unique opportunity to link up with these heroes who, as Tom Brokaw referred to, are part of our “Greatest Generation”. Dr. Charlie Humphries (celebrating his 94th Birthday), served as a PFC in the 104th Division. Assigned as a machine gunner, he was injured with a collapsed lung during training prior to deploying overseas to Europe. While recovering, he supported the Division in personnel. He later rejoined his outfit and came ashore in France with the Division where he continued to serve as a machine gunner. During his combat tour against Nazi Germany, the fighter was wounded by enemy fire and subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. Amazingly, he is able to fit into his uniform that he wore while serving with the Timberwolves and he can still sing the Division’s song. The other gentleman in the picture is Morgan Donato who recently turned 93. Mr Donato served as a SSG and earned his CIB and received two Purple Hearts while fighting in Europe. He initially came ashore to France at Normandy on D-Day and was wounded while fighting in the battle of Hurtgen Forest. This hard core warrior was wounded a second time in March 1945 while engaging in combat operations in Germany. Both men reside in Panama City, FL. We salute you!
The above article was largely extracted from: https://www.thegriffon108.com/Articles/Article-Detail/ArticleId/704/A-brief-history-of-the-104th-Training-Division-Timberwolves-704 and