The 54th Replacement BN was activated 25 May 1943 at Camp Sutton, North Carolina, which is located about one mile from Monroe, North Carolina, in compliance with General Orders No. 11, Headquarters, Camp Sutton, North Carolina, dated 13 April 1943. Activation based on War Department letter, file AG 320.2 (3-23-43) OB-I-SPOPU-M, subject, “Constitution and Activation of Replacement Units in May, 1943,” dated 27 March 1943, and letter, Headquarters, Fourth Service Command, file AG 320.2 Camp Sutton, subject, “Constitution and Activation of Replacement Units in May, 1943,” dated 9 April 1943.
The Battalion, commanded by Major John R. Tindall, Infantry, was assigned to the 4th Service Command and attached to the 12th Replacement Depot. The 12th was activated on the same date, under the same authority and was commanded by George A. Moore, Cavalry.
The Battalion, consisting of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and Companies A, B, and C, was organized under Table of Organization 20-45, 1 April 1942 as amended, to have a strength of seven officers and 18 enlisted men in Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and four officers and 33 enlisted men in each company.
At the time of activation the battalion had cadre strength of:
HQ A B C total
Officers 6 3 4 4 17
Enlisted 4 7 7 7 25
These enlisted men had arrived prior to activation on 21 May 1943, from Quartermaster Replacement Training Center, Camp Lee, Virginia. Officers arrived at various times during the week preceding activation. Ten of the officers were from Officers Candidate School No. 2, Army Administration Schools, Grinnell Iowa, on their initial assignment following graduation. One of these officers was newly commissioned William Oliver McLain, SN 01897515. McLain had been an enlisted soldier with the 348th Military Police Escort Guard Co at Fort Wadsworth, NY, before attending Officers Candidate School. He was assigned to the 54th on 10 May, with 10 days travel authorized. His first assignment was as Platoon Leader, Co A.McLain
During the days immediately following activation various classes were held for officers and enlisted men to integrate the group and to aid in organization of the unit. Lieutenant Delbert E. Williamson, Assistant Adjutant and Adjutant, wrote the original BN history from which much of the information for the battalion was taken. The battalion was working under the handicap of limited personnel and the fact that such personnel were frequently taken from administrative duties for details and for training. The companies faced similar problems. It was not uncommon to see high-ranking non-commissioned officers working as kitchen police during the first days.
The first fillers were received about 10 June and were attached to the various battalions and subsequently to companies by the battalions. Following classification procedures by
Headquarters, 12th Replacement Depot, a re-shuffle was made and on 22 June the first group of 84 fillers were assigned to the 54th Replacement Battalion. The battalion was to only receive 11 fillers directly assigned. These 11 were from the Reception Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. The rest of the fillers received by the battalion had been assigned to other battalions or to Headquarters Company, 12th Replacement Depot, and were reassigned by the Depot.
Robert Stamm Butcher married Fay Rozelle Bradfield on 16 August 1942 in St. Marys West Virginia. Sometime in May 1943 Bob received his draft notice. Bob was Classified A-1 On May 28, 1943 he was appointed leader of a group of selectees for the train trip from St. Marys to Columbus, Ohio on 6 June 1943.
According to Bob’s Induction Report he had been working as an annealer for Crucible Steel Corporation in Midland PA for 4 months. His discharge records list his time as 6 months, annealing coil springs. He had also worked on and off in his father’s garage from 1935 to 1943, repairing automobiles.
On June 4th Bob Butcher and 43 other men boarded train #9 in Clarksburg West Virginia and headed to training. The New York Central System Conductor’s Report shows that they joined 2654 other passengers and continued on through Charleston WV and Athens Ohio before arriving at the Fort Hayes Reception Center Columbus Ohio. Here he was in-processed and sent on to Camp Sutton. He was at Camp Sutton by June 8th and received a physical exam at the Hq Company, 12th Replacement Depot.
Training began on 14 June 1943, even though the men were, in effect, on a casual basis. The training was coordinated by the Depot. The actual training was performed on a battalion basis, except for road marches, which were at first conducted by the Depot. At a later date the road marches were turned over to the battalions. Men who joined the battalion at a later date were given special concentrated instruction to bring them up to the training level of the men who had started earlier.
This war bond form is almost certainly part of a war bond drive held at Camp Sutton. The Charlotte Observer (August 10, 1943) reported that “At Camp Sutton some time ago the 12th Replacement Depot at Camp Sutton qualified for the Treasury Minute Man Flag by signing up more than 90% of its personnel for the payroll deduction plan for the purchase of war bonds. The Monroe Lions Club purchased 12 flags for the Battalions and these flags were presented with colorful ceremonies.”Clay
During the week of 4 July the Battalion was on the range at Pageland, South Carolina, where all but about 6% of the men fired and qualified. The remaining men fired and qualified at a later date, so the final result was 100% qualification. The battalion breakdown on scores was:
Marksman Sharpshooter Expert
Officers 11 6 2
Enlisted 79 23 3
We know from Bob’s letter to his mother on 10 July 43 that from the 5th to the 10th the unit was camped at the rifle range. He told her that he scored 167 and 169 out of a possible 200 points and that the only guy to beat him shot 170. He also said that the first time he shot the rifle issued to him “It just kicked the hell out me and hit me in the lip at the same time. My lip swelled up twice as big as it should be”. On a more positive note he said that the food was good. William McLain, Pt. Ldr of Co A, qualified marksman on course 3.McLain
The 12th Replacement Depot announced eight awards for marksmanship, the prizes to consist of five dollars cash and a furlough. The battalion took four of these awards:
1st Sgt whose company made highest average score: 1st Sgt William C. Magner, Co. A, 158.9
1st Sgt whose company qualified the most experts: 1st Sgt Charles J. Paxton, Co. B, 1 man .034% of Co.
Platoon Sgt whose men made highest average score: Sgt Lee E. Hadley, Co. A 158.9
High score among Cadre men: Sgt Clyde W. Pitts, Co. B 181
One of the highlights of the eighth week of training was a “battle course” on the post, which was designed to present situations, which might be encountered in a tactical situation. The training was aimed at increasing the ability of the men to grasp a situation, to think and to act. Beginning with the ninth week, specialized training was emphasized, groundwork having been laid in introductory special courses in the previous weeks.
A good portion of the time was devoted to physical hardening through road marching two or three times a week.
On 13 August a 20-mile (24 according to Bob’s pictures) road march was undertaken, with all but three battalion personnel completing the march. The infiltration course was run the following day. At intervals during the next week stragglers or newcomers that had missed these events were put through the courses.
This photo above from Bob was captioned “Soon after the 24 mile hike.” The man on the right is Harry Boughner, also of St. Marys, West Virginia.
This photo has the caption “After the 24 mile hike, same day. I could still stand on my feet, tho it was hell.”
Bob captioned this photo, “Sutton, any day.”
The situation at Camp Sutton was not too good. Quarters for enlisted men and officers were in tents. The mess hall and the latrine were the only buildings in the battalion area. During the early period rains were heavy. All during the Sutton period showers were frequent, often soaking clothes and records. During the latter weeks the heat was intense and was felt particularly on the sun-baked, treeless clay upon which the battalion and depot were located.
Unfortunately, no morning reports were found in the National Archives for the period of time the unit spent at Camp Sutton.