Engineer Combat Battalion

An Engineer Combat Battalion (ECB) was a designation for a battalion-strength combat engineering unit in the U.S. Army, most prevalent during World War II. They are a component of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

World War II recruiting poster for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Also known as "Combat Engineer Battalions", they were typically divided into four companies: A, B, C, and Headquarters and Service (H&S).[1]

Best known for pontoon bridge construction and clearing hazards in amphibious landings, their duties also included serving as sappers deploying and deactivating explosive charges and unexploded munitions, mapmaking, camouflage, and a wide variety of construction services supporting frontline troops. They also fielded defensive .30 cal. and .50 cal. machine gun squads, anti-tank rocket and grenade launchers, and were required to fight as infantry when needed.[2]

Combat engineers played important roles in numerous World War II battles, especially breaching the heavily fortified Siegfried Line protecting the German border and numerous defensive lines established by the Wehrmacht in Italy, including the Gustav Line. Among the most familiar for their heroism and contributions to establishing key bridgeheads in the European Theater was at the Ludendorff Bridge at the Battle of Remagen.

Combat engineers also played roles in several unconventional operations, including the securing of elements of the German nuclear weapons program in Operation Big[3] and recovery of stolen art and treasure subsequently returned to its original owners by the Monuments Men.[3]

In the Pacific Theater the U S Army 42nd Combat Engineers took part in the hard-fought high casualty Battle of Attu Aleutian Islands (1943) and the Battle of Manila, Luzon Philippines (1945), earning 2 Battle Stars.

In the early morning of 29 May 1943, the 50th Combat Engineers were the first U S Army unit encountered by the last Japanese troops on the island, making a suicide charge toward artillery atop Engineer Hill. 50th Engineers fought back immediately and kept fighting while nearby combat units arrived.[4][5]

CapabilitiesEdit

 
Combat Engineers ferried infantry and special forces troops in craft such as this M2 assault boat in Europe in World War II
 
Infantry support bridge over the Saar River erected by 289th Combat Engineers at Volklingen, Germany

A World War II era combat engineer battalion possessed both combat and combat support capabilities. These included, but were not limited to:[2][6]

  • Laying roads and unloading/loading supplies, vehicles & personnel from transport and cargo ships

US unitsEdit

 
Pontoon bridge built by the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion[7] across the Rhine, upstream from the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen
 
1269th engineers attached to the technology-capturing T-Force of the Alsos Mission dismantle a nuclear pile built by German scientists in Haigerloch, Germany, April 1945[3]

Combat Engineer Battalions in the U.S. military include:

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Summary information on Engineer Combat Battalions
  2. ^ a b United States Government War Department Engineer Field Manual FM-5-5, Engineer Troops, 11 October 1943
  3. ^ a b c "1269th Engineer Combat Battalion - History". psu.edu.
  4. ^ "History of the 50th Engineer Combat Battalion" (PDF). nps.gov.
  5. ^ Obmascik, Mark (9 April 2019). The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II. Mark Obmascik, 2019. ISBN 978-1451678376.
  6. ^ What Did Combat Engineers Do? 327th Engineer Combat Battalion list
  7. ^ http://www.51st-engineers.com
  8. ^ 50th Engineer Combat Battalion History
  9. ^ 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion History
  10. ^ Bridge to Berlin
  11. ^ https://history.army.mil/html/reference/Normandy/TS/COE/COE15.htm

External linksEdit