Peter Johnson

Eau Claire Man Among Engineers at English Post
Corporal John Gorton, son of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie E. Gorton, Route 3, was among the 31 men from the Badger state in the Army Engineers Corps who had a new role in the assault on Europe, a dispatch from the headquarters of European Theater of Operations revealed.

Corporal Gorton entered the service on September 9, 1942 and received his training at Fort Sheridan, IL; Camp McClellan, AL; and Camp Claiborne, LA. He went to England in June 1943.

The Engineer Corps, of which he was a member, provided "hotel service" for the thousands of tactical troops massed in the marshalling areas before the take-off for the invasion.

Up a gently curving drive, bordered by flowering rhododendrons, the officers and enlisted men of the base section headquarters caught their breath. In their Nissen huts, close by the white columns, of what was formerly a country squire's abode, they glowed over the fact that the engineers did it again. 

Used to doing all sorts of odd jobs, Colonel C. R. Shaw, Base Section Engineer, said, "We claim to be versatile, but this was something new even for us."

In their peaceful garden retreat, the headquarters personnel seemed to be very far from war. But they had been furiously busy for weeks, making all the plans for taking care of the troops while they waited, at alert stations, for D-Day. Since all of the housekeeping equipment of the invading units had been fully packed, someone had to give them food, beds, sanitary facilities, and other necessities for living.

Most of the camps had to be enlarged.  In most cases, their capacity was increased. They had to be camouflaged, as there was to be no chance of the camps being spotted from the air. All this was straight engineer work, and it was done with usual speed and thoroughness.

It was later that the engineers took over as cooks, MPs, supply men, etc. Naturally; there was some grumbling about "the dirty old engineers having to do the job nobody else wanted to" but, before long, they got the spirit of the thing and actually had fun. Additional personnel came in to relieve them, making them bosses.

Often there would be a lieutenant of the engineers as camp commander. It mattered not a bit that a general of the field forces was present. The lieutenant was in charge. If he wanted to make a general do some extra policing, theoretically, he could have done so.

Besides the engineer general service, there were expert engineer companies for waterproofing, fire fighting, etc. They were there in case of emergency.

And, after the soldiers had gone, the engineers still had work to do. They had to clean up and make the camps ready for new occupants. A major problem was disposing of the enormous stocks of clothing and equipment the troops left behind. There were mountains of blouses, caps, overshoes; boots.

That the engineers did a fine job was attested by several high-ranking officers.

Other engineers from this area are Private Norbert Bruechert of Withee and Private First Class Peter Johnson, Route 2, Prentice.