The 44th Engineer Battalion [Construction] came alive again following its post WWII deactivation, in December 1948, at Fort Bragg, NC. After basic training at Fort Jackson SC, throughout 1949 specialized training was conducted at The US Army Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, VA. When the 44th had about 80% of its T/O&E and equipment, the Battalion was ready for its first major assignment. In February 1950 the Battalion convoyed to Fort McClellan near Anniston, Alabama, to rebuild the post and prepare the facility for the 31" Infantry National Guard Division’s annual training.
The city of Anniston had not seen military units for some time. Crowds of citizens lined the streets cheering and welcoming the convoy. One would have thought the 44th was liberating the city from the grasp of the State of Alabama. Morale was at an unbelievable high as the city of Anniston blended well with the Battalion by providing community sponsored dances and social events while the battalion constructed first class engineering projects at the Fort. When the 44th arrived, they found the only remaining WW II building was the Post Headquarters. All others had been destroyed or sold as part WW II’s inactivation. For additional information – http://www.mcclellan.army.mil/info.asp
At the end of June 1950 the post restoration was nearing completion. On 25-28 June the North Korean Army surprised the world with a well-planned attack using tanks and artillery crossing the 38th Parallel into South Korea. The 44th’s destiny was about to change. All leaves, furloughs, transfers and discharges were canceled. Members of the Battalion had to divest themselves of personal belongings, cars, bikes, motorcycles, clothes and, believe it or not, family's including wives, kids and girlfriends. Each soldier was allowed to keep two pairs of combat boots, fatigues and some underwear. In addition, packing the Battalion for overseas movement was required. This was accomplished in a amazingly short period of two weeks. In mid-July the Battalion left via troop train for a reactivated Camp Stoneham, Pittsburg, [East Bay] CA. [Interestingly, there was a POW camp at this Camp during WW II. Then it also provided major final training for embarkation and debarkation. It boasted the largest telephone exchange in the US and a major, very well stocked PX. Five days later it was hurry up and wait as the Medics turned the mighty Engineers into pin cushions, bringing shot records up to date.
At 9 PM 5 August 1950 the 44th boarded the SS General Gordon in San Francisco, passed under a foggy Golden Gate Bridge, sailed for 10 days across the Pacific to Yokohama, Japan and then moved via wooden benched Japanese trains to Camp Fuchinobe, Japan. Training and preparation for Korea lasted a month. During this period some of the unit’s better/newer equipment was exchanged by higher headquarters order with other units for older well used WW II equipment. It was during this time that unit identification was removed from all equipment to prepare tactically for the lnchon Invasion. About this time the Anniston Star newspaper arrived with the headline, "The 44th Engineers Left a Trail of Broken Hearts". WW II vets in the unit knew that a beach landing was often chaotic; with units’ equipment and personnel mixed together; requiring valuable time to reorganize, reclaim and return to the original landing and operations plan. Needing some form of identification to mark all the units’ equipment, the Battalion Operations Officer jokingly mentioned a stencil with a broken heart blackened, would work. The unit did it. It worked! Thus, was born the Broken Heart. In the beach area the battalion quickly sorted out its equipment from other units and started working toward Seoul and the Han River, then moved south to Taegu and Pusan opening a main supply route thru mountains on a road which was not wide enough for two trucks to pass. Late October saw the 44th loading on LST's and heading north for Wonsan, North Korea and subsequently the “Frozen Chosin”. The Battalion’s Command Post was in Hungnam. Baker Company went north to Koto-Ri at the south end of the Chosin Reservoir. Thanksgiving was a wonderful celebration. General MacArthur advised the troops would be home by Christmas. Even with the extreme cold, the Battalion was warm and excited. Thanksgiving night all Hell broke loose with bugles and noise from the Chinese crossing the Yalu River. During the Famous Advance to the Sea Baker Company rigged a bridge that saved many lives and thousands of Marines and Army soldiers many hours of circling mountain passes. Baker Company got them out in time and then destroyed the bridge. About 15 December the unit moved back to the port of Hungnam to board LSTs now owned by Japanese fisherman. [Due to WWII most Japanese fishing boats had been destroyed but were replaced during The Occupation via surplus US LSTs. In this manner the fishing fleet was redeveloped and badly need food provided to the country.] Thanks to the reciprocation of the Japanese, the unit returned to Pusan in very rough and sickening seas. From Pusan the 44th moved north by way of Chung ju to celebrate Christmas; then to a battered school house on outskirts of Seoul. Many projects were constructed and/or rebuilt by the Broken Heart -- bridges, railroads, water towers, hospitals, an orphanage, and school houses; on every project the red Broken Heart mysteriously appeared. Notable was the construction of the curved Chung ju Bridge over the Han River. The 44th earned 9 Campaign Streamers, 3 Meritorious Unit Commendations and 3 Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations.
After the cease fire during the “warm” Cold War period the Broken heart continued to rebuild Korea, participating in self-help/ heal programs, supporting/ building orphanages, schools, local churches, villages, tank walls, relocatable buildings, storage and maintenance facilities, missile battery positions, forward artillery positions, tank farms, an ammunition port, airfields, heliports, reinforced fighting positions, pipelines, assisting in locating the North Korean invasion tunnels under the DMZ, ROKA & USA divisional units, the United Nations Command, Eighth US Army & Corps HQ & Support units and Commands from Pusan, Chinhae, Pohang, Waegwan to the DMZ. The Broken heart paved many roads including those in the DMZ; was in direct support during Operation Paul Bunyan, the reaction to the 1976 ax handle murders at Panmunjom; and the infamous tree trimming incident in the DMZ. An occasional Military Engineering Training Team was deployed TDY to other Asian countries. Often Broken heart soldiers lived in conditions considerably less appealing and older than those units supported. Often the unit was undermanned, under resourced, under-NCO’d, under officered and over committed. That an individual soldier replacement policy was the norm, a relearning of the same lessons was a continuing challenge for the 44th an as well as other units in Korea. This was somewhat offset by an extremely loyal, hardworking, gifted group of KATUSA’s, KSC’s, and “civilian” employees; many of whom had joined the unit as laborers during the “hot” Korean war. During this time as well as in Vietnam, the Broken heart found a way to be permanently marked on the project despite continuing orders to the contrary.
Vietnam: The 44th is a Vietnam War veteran. Following a two week vague Warning Order, a composite platoon, led by then Lt Harvey J Walker Jr., from C Company augmented by some B Company personnel and two water purification specialists, were ordered to a 90 day TDY in Saigon beginning 2 March, 1964. We believe this was the first numbered line Engineer unit deployed to Vietnam. Its mission was to move from a cold, snowy Pohang to the 45th Engineer Group Depot, ASCOM City near Kimpo, obtain water purification erdilator, load it into a C130 and fly to tropical Ton son Nhut Airfield, Saigon; construct 2 each 10,000 barrel water storage tanks, make the erdilator operational, supervise the drilling of on post wells and produce and store potable water. At the time the American involvement was beginning to escalate. Saigon was experiencing unrest and car bombings. The 44th addressed a serious concern that the existing MACV water supply would be contaminated. The platoon found its work of interest to several high ranking officials, including BG “Cider” Joe Stillwell. The General took the platoon under his wing, finding several additional projects in need of their attention.
In 1976-78 national leaders considered reducing the American presence in South Korea. Among the approximately 40,000 soldiers considered for return to the states or deactivation, was the Broken heart, then designated as a Combat Engineer Heavy Battalion. However, though minor realignments occurred, Korean national leadership and US Army leadership prevailed. The 44th remained in South Korea. During this period elements of HQ, A, and all of B and D companies were deployed in support of the 2nd Infantry Division, and X Corps. Remaining Broken heart elements were located south of the Han supporting EUSA organizations.
As the Army realigned itself to meet new world challenges so did the 44th. In 1990 it was reorganized as a Corps Combat Engineer Battalion [Wheeled]. In 1992 an Army wide reorganization required the 44th to convert to a Divisional Combat Engineer Battalion [Mechanized], headquartered at Camp Howze. 17 Feb 1992 the Broken heart was reassigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, normally supporting the 2nd Brigade. [Our Korean War vets have indicated they remember Camp Howze as the USMC HQ]
Many 44th alumni felt the unit would never leave South Korea. However, once again international considerations required a response to rapidly developing new world conditions and an intervention in the 44th’s destiny.
IRAQ: 8 August 2004 the newly challenged 44th, led by then Lt Col Tom Mize, augmented by 3rd Platoon, 82nd Combat Support Equipment Company and B Company, 122nd Signal Battalion deployed from an Asian Theater of Operations directly to a Middle East Theater of Operations, initially to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. There it rejoined its equipment, acclimatized and trained in a new environment. The 44th then performed a tactical 650 mile road march into IRAQ. The 44th was part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division package led by then Col Gary S. Patton. The 44th’s deployment did not include its loyal KATUSA, KSC and civilian employees. That loss of significant operational assets was of considerable concern. Engineering soldiers from the 2nd Engineer Battalion were directed to join the 44th. In Iraq, the 44th served with the 1st and 2nd USMC Divisions, vicinity of Ar Ramadi, securing the area, providing an opportunity for voting, training Iraqi security forces, performing “normal” Engineer missions – combat support, force protection, main supply routes maintenance, sweeping for ordinance and weapons caches and, when required, performing as Infantry for missions such as raids and ambushes.
The 44'" Broken Heart landed in Inchon in September 1950 and departed August 2004 for Iraq, then returned to USA in the fall of 2005 to Fort Carson, CO. Ironically on December 2005 [7 December – “A day that will live in infamy!”] the Battalion colors were retired at a ceremony on an appropriately snowy morning. The unit deactivated and so remains. The 44th remnants became part of the 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, commanded by the Lt Col James Wolak.
When the 44th departed South Korea it was the longest continuously serving unit of its size on the peninsula. It had provided the basis for the creation of a world class Korean construction industry and, for most of its alumni, whether from the Draftee Army or the All-Volunteer Army, the basis for a rewarding career in the Construction Industry. Its contribution to the rebuilding of South Korea and the relatively staple Peninsula was immeasurable.
The 44th Engineer Battalion Association, mindful of the spotty and sometimes unappreciative reception of our returning Korean and Vietnam Veterans decided not to allow the same to happen to the Iraqi veterans. To that end, the Association was represented at the Republic of Korea Departure Ceremony, the funeral services of Iraq KIAs and the undesired Carson Deactivation Ceremony. We await the opportunity to participate in the 44th’s future Reactivation Ceremony, wherever it maybe.
In summary, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, SIR! …..AND STANDING BY FOR ORDERS!”