801st Engineers


Birth of a battalion - The 801st Engineers are formed

Americn Theater Ribbon

The 801st Engineer Aviation Battalion came into existence on 1 February 1943 at Davis Monthon Field near Tucson, Arizona. It was a small beginning: Second Lieutenant Arthur F. Paulsen, C.E. (Corps of Engineers) and 37 enlisted men. But it was to grow into a battalion eight hundred strong, with men from almost every state of the union and every walk of life, and it would travel halfway around the world across the greater part of both the Atlantic and Pacific.

On that first day of February the tide of battle in the great World War seemed to be beginning to turn in favor of the Allies. The day before, German General von Paulus had surrendered his Sixth Army at Stalingrad. In North Africa Rommel was on the run from Montgomery's Eighth Army in the east, and from the west Allied troops, including American forces under General Eisenhower, were about to push into Tunisia. In the Pacific the Japanese were evacuating their last starving and exhausted survivors from the bloody battleground of Guadalcanal, which within a week would be declared secure.

But in two weeks the Germans would crush American forces at Tunisia's Kasserine Pass. March would prove one of the deadliest months in the North Atlantic, with over 120 Allied ships sunk. The Germans and Italians still controlled every inch of continental Europe outside the struggling Soviet Union, with D-Day sixteen months in the future. In the Pacific thousands of miles of hostile ocean were filled with a skilled and powerful Japanese fleet and dotted with islands manned with defenders determined to die to the last man. There was still plenty of work to be done.

The seed of the engineer battalion quickly grew. On 11 February Captain Erland L. Curtis, C.E. took command, to be succeeded on 4 March by Major Ralph C. Brown, C.E. By this time they had grown to 28 officers and 63 enlisted men.

On 2 March 1943 the 801st, still a battalion only in name, entrained for Boise, Idaho.

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