Introduction to the U.S. Fifth Army, 63rd Signal Battalion
During World War II, the 63rd Signal Battalion was assigned to the U.S. Fifth Army. The 63rd was activated in June, 1941 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Lt. Col. John C. Green was the original commanding officer assigned to activate the unit. The enlisted men were from some of the established army units. They represented a broad selection of men mostly from the South, Northeast, and Midwest. They have been described as a group of well-trained men.
The 63rd SB shipped overseas to Carrickfergus, North Ireland in January, 1942. Their training continued in North Ireland, England, and Scotland until they disembarked for North Africa (Operation Torch) in October, 1942 and invaded various parts of North Africa in November, 1942. They served in WWII beginning with Operation Torch and the invasion of North Africa. They fought across North Africa through Sicily and Italy. They were in the Po Valley around Lake Garda in northern Italy when the war ended. The men who were in the 63rd from North Africa to the Po Valley in northern Italy earned 6 battle stars and received the Meritorious Unit Commendation in Italy.
Throughout this war these men fought in some of the toughest battles in the European Theater. The challenges they faced and overcame forged some lifelong relationships for many of them. No matter what role they played as a soldier, they learned to rely on and protect one another. Their courage and determination were critical factors in defeating the Germans and the Italian Fascists throughout their campaigns. Let it be said, they rose to the occasion!
In the mid-1960’s several of the men from the 63rdSB decided to form an association, hold reunions, and send newsletters to its members. Their first reunion was July, 1966, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was attended by 68 veterans from 16 states. Their third reunion was held in Houston, Texas. I have included an article below from the Fall 1968 edition of “The 63rd Messenger” that gives you a sense of what this reunion was about. In September, 1997, my 8th grade son and I were fortunate to attend one of their last reunions. It was attended by 8 of the veterans, their wives, some of the widows of the departed veterans and a few grown children. I was impressed with their bonds of friendship, camaraderie, sense of humor, and patriotism.
The 63rd Messenger, Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1968
“BIG BATTLE AT BUFFALO BAYOU”
“Although the 63rd Sig. Bn. Had been scheduled to start the invasion of Houston on Friday, July 26th, advance elements of the battalion began to quietly infiltrate the city early Thursday. By Friday morning the main body of troops began to arrive and the 63rd banner waved proudly above the entrance to the Continental Motor Hotel, which had been requisitioned as headquarters. A command post and check point was set up in the lobby as the action increased.
Pitched battles were fought in the cocktail lounge and various other areas, and did not begin to subside until well after midnight.
Early Saturday morning, reinforcements began arriving and continued to do so until noon. They eagerly joined the fray which increased in intensity as the day wore on, until it reached a crescendo late Saturday night.
Casualties from Friday night’s skirmishes were heavy and many were out of action until late the next day, when they joined the reinforcements in the Saturday engagements.
Action was lively in the motor pool area during the afternoon and the detachment led by Sgt. Wooley was joined from time to time by wandering squads and patrols attracted by the din of the battle.
This eventually subsided and the troops withdrew temporarily to regroup. Shortly thereafter action flared again in the Bonaparte’s Lounge area, at which time the entire Battalion was committed including the support and reserve elements.
About 11 p.m., this reporter, overcome by exhaustion requested evacuation by airport limousine in lieu of ambulance, and was rushed to the landing area where he was put aboard a hospital plane and returned to his home base for R and R.
Withdrawal was to begin Sunday morning and it is to be hoped that the retreat was orderly and did not become a rout.”
• “The 63rd Messenger, Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1968
• Minutes of the 63 SB Association business meeting on July 30, 1966
• “The 63rd Signal Battalion Genesis and Exodus Through WWII”, a pamphlet published by Lt. Col. John Leech
March 31, 2022
Donald Jefferies, M.A.