rcocean wrote: ↑
06 Nov 2021 18:35
The 827th however, performed so poorly it pulled out of combat.
The account of the 827th Tank Destroyer's experience in Lee's The Employment of Negro Troops
is interesting and raises some questions. While you would expect that Ulysses Grant Lee Jr., a black Army officer and graduate of Howard University, to be unprejudiced, so much of the account of the 827th appears based upon hearsay and rumors rather than facts, when compared to various unit records.
"The S-3, an officer of longer service with the unit, shared this opinion. The commander, a field artillery Reserve officer generally assigned to staff duties before coming to the 827th, was convinced upon receiving his assignment and checking into the training history and qualifications of the battalion that he had been given a mission that would lead to the conversion or inactivation of his unit.
The battalion, whose training career had been analyzed and found wanting by previous commanders, had had about two and a half years of training in the United States, but under unusual circumstances. By the time it moved overseas, it had had eight different commanders, more than one of whom had recommended that the battalion be made a service unit. It had been organized and reorganized under four different tables of organization and equipment. It was re-equipped with primary weapons four times. Starting its career with towed 75-mm. tank destroyers, it changed successively to self-propelled M-10's, then to towed 3-inch destroyers, and finally to self-propelled M18's. These changes, normal as tank destroyer theories and weapons changed and improved, involved the disbandment and reconstitution of the battalion reconnaissance company, a unit which, in its final form, was looked upon by the battalion's officers as especially inefficient. It went through the experience of having its original white junior officers replaced by Negro officers who, upon the arrival of one of the unit's commanders, were blamed for most of the battalion's difficulties. The Negro officers were later removed and replaced by a new staff of white junior officers, many of whom came from other inactivated Negro tank destroyer units and who were therefore already predisposed to a jaundiced view of their new unit's future. The new white officers were no more successful, whereupon it was determined that the enlisted men; with their extremely low AGCT scores, and not their officers, were primarily at fault." (pp. 679-680)
The battalion was actually constituted as a Tank Destroyer Battalion 15 March 1942, with a cadre of 16 white officers and 77 black EM from the 4th Cavalry and the 4th Cavalry Brigade. It was activated as a Heavy, Self-propelled, Tank Destroyer Battalion (a mixed organization of Heavy M3 and Light M6 GMC) on 24 April 1942. It spent the period until 22 August 1942 conducting basic training of incoming EM and then left for Camp Hood for TD training 2-4 September 1942, arriving with a strength of 25 officers and 653 EM. At Hood, it went through the 12-week introductory tactical and administration course, followed by range training, completing its initial training cycle in December, when it was notified it would be assigned as "School Troops" at Hood. During its training, the battalion was recognized as completing the range course "creditably" and established the record among units at the time for .30 caliber MG score. The battalion also received a commendation from the CO of the Advanced Unit Training Center for its overall record on the range, which was "unquestionably good", especially its performance on the Tank Hunting Range.
In January 1943, the battalion completed its initial and advanced training and in February was formally assigned as part of the Tank Destroyer Center School Troops Brigade. At the same time, it gave up a cadre of 5 officers and 83 EM to activate the 649th TD Battalion. The battalion was also notified to prepare for conversion to a Towed Gun Battalion. In March 1943, the battalion furnished a further 6 officers and 90 EM to the 649th TD Battalion and took in its first 23 black officers, all 1st and 2d lieutenants, who were assigned mostly as Platoon Leaders.
On 4 June 1943, the battalion was reorganized as a Towed TD Battalion, which resulted in the inactivation of the Reconnaissance Company. However, on 20 July 1943, it was reorganized again, as a Self-Propelled TD Battalion (M10), was relieved from its duties as School Troops, and was assigned to the Advanced Unit Training Center for six weeks of refresher TD training on the M10 that extended into September. At the conclusion, it was rated by the IG as "generally unsatisfactory", which was the first downgrade recorded for the unit.
The battalion then made a PCS to Fort Huachuca, where it joined the 93d Infantry Division in maneuvers and continued training, through 31 December 1943, when it was notified to Prepare for Overseas Movement (POM). During December 1943 and January 1944, POM activities continued, and the battalion conducted schools of indirect fire for the month of January, concluding with all officers and Platoon Sergeants firing all three indirect fire problems. During the period, officers and enlisted men were transferred out and replaced by others, which was a normal part of the POM.
However, in February, the POM was cancelled and the battalion returned to Fort Huachuca, arriving there 29 February. While there, it exchanged its M10 for the brand new M18. It remained Huachuca, training, until notified of POM and movement to the NYPOE in October 1944, followed by movement to Europe 3 November 1944 and its arrival on 13 November 1944.
Fundamentally, NONE of any of that was really "unusual", as Lee expressed it, for any Tank Destroyer units organized prior to 1943. All of them went through numerous changes of organization as the TD doctrine and equipment changed. As a SP unit it had 36 officers, while as a Towed unit it had 32, its accession of 23 black officers in March 1943, brought it up to strength in junior officers after 11 officers had been transferred to other units, but it did not represent "having its original white junior officers replaced by Negro officers". Nor is there any evidence that the black officers "were later removed and replaced by a new staff of white junior officers" from any source.
The account of its combat service also appears exaggerated for effect. There is no mention in any of the battalion records of sergeants shooting officers or vice versa or of drunkenness or wandering about - there is no record of an officer or EM casualty of any type on 6 January. Its initial entry into combat does not appear any different from that of any other green unit, especially during the chaotic battles around Hatten in January during NORDWIND. However, it did receive a strong commendation from the XXI Corps for its role in the Colmar Pocket during February.
Overall, I have the suspicion that much of Lee's account was prejudiced by the opinions of officers at the time...I would be very interested in seeing the actual 15-19 January "Report of Investigation by VI Corps.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018