The History of  54th Replacement Battalion, ETO, 1943-1945.

Introduction

This project came about because I wanted to know more about what my grandfather, Robert S. Butcher, (for simplicity, hereafter listed as Butcher) did during World War II.  In the end it became a history of the 54th Replacement Battalion and Bob’s part in the unit.  It concludes with Bob’s short involvement with the 997th Field Artillery Battalion. This report is certainly not complete more will be added as information is discovered.

Like many veterans, he never really talked in detail about his experiences.  Different family members have heard a few different stories that I have tried to make sense of, and include in this report.  Given that he was an enlisted man in the motor pool area, he would probably have been sent on all kinds of errands and details that did not make it into official records. Some things that he told us about will probably never be documented with certainty, and the fog of time and memory have left some grey areas unexplained in this report.

I have worked as much as possible from original documents obtained from Bob’s estate, the National Archives, The Center for Military History, and online sources and individuals.  Some information has come from surviving veterans, descendants of deceased unit members and from our own family recollections.  Unless otherwise noted, all specific information was taken from original sources received from the National Archives. Thanks also to the staff at the National Archives Records office for their help in finding the unit history.

Two very important contributors to this project have been  Frank J. Baker and William Oliver McLain. Mr. Baker was the Chaplain’s Assistant for the 54th Repl BN from early 1944 through the end of the war. Mr. Mclain was a platoon leader for one of the replacement companies from the formation of the BN, up through April 1944, when he was transferred to the 71st Replacement Battalion.  Both veterans have added invaluable details that were not included in the official records.

 

 Initially I thought that Butcher was part of the 54th throughout the war.  But recent information has shown that he changed units at least 5 times. He is listed with the 54th up through 4 September 44. At that point he is transferred to a detachment of 180 truck drivers as part of the 12 Replacement Depot.  I do not know if he transferred back to the 54th or moved on to the Military Police battalions that he is found in after July 1945.  There is still a period of several months in late 44 and early 45 that we do not know for certain where he was.    I have photographs putting him in Marseille France in April of 1945, where the 54th was stationed. I do not know for sure that he stayed with the 54th at that time. We know that after the 388th and 794th MP units he was assigned to the 997th FA, which had become a gathering unit for men waiting to be shipped home.

Bob Butcher had this picture taken before shipping to England.

 Robert Stamm Butcher

35755447

July 1, 1923 – January 4, 2001

If you have any additional information, changes or comments, I would be glad to hear from you.

Rob Gorrell.

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9 thoughts on “The History of  54th Replacement Battalion, ETO, 1943-1945.

  1. During your research did you ever come across the name Albert Barnes, from Cedar Rapids Iowa,?
    He was my wifes Biological father whom she never met, I know he was at Camp Butner
    Early 1943, to at least July 1943… from there his unit was moved to Memphis Tn.. there is
    a possibility he was in the 54th, as he did go to the ETO probably early 1944, and was
    wounded.. little else is known..Thanks
    Gil Stafford
    USCG Retired
    Asheboro, N.C.

    • I have not come across that name so far. The 54th apparently did not arrive at Camp Butner until after August 1943. Maybe Mr Barnes’ unit passed through before the 54th. Due to the very transient nature of the replacement system, it is difficult to track down indivduals that were attached to the battalion beyond those in the initial deployment rosters. I will keep an eye out for that name. You never know when a tidbit of information will pop out of the records.

      Rob

  2. Our family is the owner of a former Army aircraft that was stationed at Camp Butner. It is a 1942 Piper L-4B. After the war it was converted to a civilian Piper J-3 Cub. We bought the plane in 2005 and enjoy flying it.

    Our interest is in converting it back to military configuration. Do you have any information on what the plane looked like or how it was used? Any info is helpful.

    Army L-4B 43-1066

    Many thanks.

    Gerald Oliver
    Plano, TX.
    Gerald.oliver@yahoo.com

  3. My father was also part of the 54th Replacement Battalion during WWII, Sgt. Charles Levitt, from NY, NY. He served from Feb 1943 to December 1945. He spoke very little about the war years and as you probably know the Army records which were kept in St. Louis were destroyed. I know he was In Marseille, France. He was in England when he first went overseas, then north Africa and then to Marseille, France. He was involved in the Battle of the Rhineland and when the war ended, whatever unit he was in (Part of the 7th Army), he was near Berchtesgaden, Germany. He was then returned to Marseille and came home by ship as part of artillery unit. Not sure if this helps, would be interested any sources you may have found to locate records.

    • Hi.I am very glad to hear from you concerning your father. I have him listed in a few places in the records for the 54th. I have him listed on rosters for the Hq and Hq Detachment, 54th replacement BN in August of 1943, which would put him training with the unit in North Carolina. I also see him on a roster in January of 1944 which is when the unit arrived in Glastonbury England. Unfortunately after that period I have no rosters.

      If you can send me is SN I might be able to find a little more about when and where he enlisted if you don’t already have that information. Was he part of the 997th FA when he was discharged? If so, that unit was used to gather up men from a number of different units and fold them into the 997th prior to shipping home. My grandfather was only listed with the Artillery unit for the last few weeks before he shipped.

      Please send me any details you have and I will dig through my files and see what else I can find.

      Exciting!

      Rob

      • Rob,

        Thanks for the info. My Dad’s ( Charles Levitt) Army SN was 32 788 936. His separation report lists 753rd FA BN with a date of separation 1 Dec 1945.

        Thanks again,

        Gerry

  4. Hi Rob…I’ve enjoyed reading on your site. My father was in the ETO and was at the Calas Staging area for a while…I have photographic evidence like you. Specifically, have you located the exact spot of the staging area? I would love to see this on google maps perhaps. Thank you for any help you can provide.

    • Hi. I thought I had the location listed on the website but see that it is not online. I have been trying to make some time to update the site. If you find Septemes France, you are in the general area. The location was huge.

      There is a new book out by Daniel Falgoux, “L’Amerique en Provance, Le camp de Calas 1944-1945”. Mr. Flagoux sent me a copy and I am working at translating the French. He covers the history, construction and operation of the Staging Area, and includes numerous photos. I am really enjoying working through the book.

      I will try to get the more precise location updated on the site soon.

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