Historic Markers Across Alabama

World War II - European Theater of Operations (ETO) 1939-1945

Marker ID:  
Location: 200 Monroe Street Northwest, Huntsville AL
County: Madison
Coordinates: N 34° 44.11    W 086° 35.322
  34.73516666    -86.5887
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


I am Corporal Leroy Hoekenschnieder serving with D"Dog” Battery, 5th Artillery Battalion. Our battalion was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division and support the 26th Infantry Regiment. The Depression had caused my dad's business to fail so I enlisted in the Army. In 1940 and 1941, we Regular Army units trained, but we never thought the United States would go to war. Me and my buddies who joined the Army didn't realize the significance of Japan's invasion of China in 1937 or Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939. But, everything changed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Philippines on 7 December 1941. Our Division Commander, Major General Terry Allen, told us we would be shipped out. Little did I think we would go to North Africa! We made the second US amphibious landing of WW II. I was surprised that the landing craft were crewed by Coast Guardsmen. We were landed; we had to fight the Vichy French government troops who were collaborating with the Germans. The French had once been our ally, so we were told not to fire unless fired on. Well, the French quickly removed that prohibition and we blasted away! Thankfully, our new semi-automatic M1 rifles, called Garands, were superior to both the French and German rifles. From our beachhead, we pushed east and fought the elite armored and infantry troops of German Field Marshall Edwin Rommel's Afrika Corps. These mobile combat operations required American field artillery to develop new tactics. We responded quickly to calls for artillery support and to mass fire on the enemy. With motorized artillery, we were able to move quickly and always be in range of the troops. As a Forward Observer (FO), I went with the infantry and directed my battery's fire to aid the front line troops. Good as we were, when the Afrika Corps counter-attacked us in the Kasserine Pass we were badly whipped! I was captured and spent over two years in Nazi POW camps. This is a story for later. Like Americans always have we licked our wounds, got smarter, and in the next battles we showed them a thing or two. In fact, we eventually kicked the Germans out of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and finally pushed them across France into Germany.

I am Staff Sergeant Homer H. McCraw, Sr. assigned to the 3393rd Quartermaster Truck Company. In June 1944, the Allied Forces and US stormed the beaches of Normandy. Our troops fought through stiff German resistance and sustained a huge toll of lives. Despite the bitter fighting and loss of life, we established a beachhead with artificial docks. From here, we could supply the troops with the"beans and bullets” needed for victory. We were able to quickly breakout and begin our offensive across the French countryside. General Patton's Third Army cleared the Cherbourg Peninsula and started to push the Nazi forces back to the Fatherland. Our troops needed tons of supplies. For instance, a M4 Sherman tank used over 140 gallons of fuel a day. Normal resupply methods, which were developed for a three to five mile a day advance, were not working. We adapted. Trucks were pulled from many organizations to form provisional units. Supplies were rushed from the beachheads and liberated ports directly to frontline troops. This elaborate plan, called the"Red Ball Express,” took its name from the railroad phrase"to Red Ball” meaning express delivery. Over 140 trucks companies were assigned. About three out of four drivers were black. Military Police (MPs) were stationed all along the route to help the drivers keep from getting lost and to secure the routes. Convoy rolled 24 hours a day swapping drivers even on the run. In the first month, the Express delivered 290,000 tons of supplies to the front. At the peak of our operations, we were operating 6,000 vehicles and carried an average of 12,500 tons of supplies daily regardless of the weather. Trucks that broke down were shoved to the side of the road, repaired in place by roving repair teams and put back into service as soon as possible. Soon,"Push'em up there!” became the Red Ball slogan. The effort continued for nearly three months. I am very proud of my unit and my men who gave all they had and I feel we were a major factor in the destruction of the Nazis, who looked down on us as inferior. We proved ourselves in this war and are accepted as soldiers, although we may not necessarily be accepted when we return home. But this will change.

Erected 2013.

End of World War II - European Theater of Operations (ETO) 1939-1945