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Niles, Donald E. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Volume 48, Number 3 (November 1943)

Wegener, Karl
Engineers behind the guns,   pp. 16-[17]


Page 16


        ENGINEERS BEHIND THE GUNS
                                       by P. F. C. Karl Wegener, m'44
                                              Corps of Engineers
  Previous wars have proven that well-equipped men, thoroughly trained, will
win the fight even when faced with
superior numbers. We are now engaged in a modern war which has become so
technical that in order to win, our en-
gineers must not only develop the best "tools" of war, but they
must shoulder a gun and with superior skill and train-
ing defeat the enemy in the field.
  To our fighting engineers falls not only the job of leading the battle
by clearing and paving the way for the other
troops to follow, but they must take over all maintenance and reconstruction
in occupied countries, and, should we be
forced to retreat, stay behind and with mines and demolitions slow up the
enemy's advance.
  Ever since the Revolutionary War, the Corps of Engineers has been an integral
part of our Army. West Point has
always sent its highest ranking men to the Engineers-a good example of this
is General Douglas MacArthur.
  Until the last war, the Engineers were trained only in the performance
of their technical duties. And, not being
able to defend themselves, they suffered over 80% casualties. Today, the
Engineer trainee finds that he must not only
learn his technical duties, but he must master a tactical training and become
proficient with weapons as well.
  Nearly all of this construction taught the trainee is of the expedient
or temporary nature. Bridges are sometimes
constructed from local materials, while others are of the portable type.
The portable bridges are built in a manner
which closely resembles a toy Erector Set and can be put up in an incredibly
short time. A new type of Bailey bridge,
for example, can be put up in less than a day, and when reinforced will carry
a load of over 70 tons on an unsupport-
ed length of over 100 feet. Roads of better than gravel surface are rarely
built in the battle theater, but gravel, dirt
and other expedient roads must be mastered by these soldier-workers to the
extent that they can lay them out, build
and grade them at night, while working with rifles slung over their shoulders
and wearing gas masks.
  Since demolitions are one of the most important duties of the engineers,
trainees must learn to calculate, place and
set off charges where they will do the most good. Placing of land mines and
anti-personnel or "booby trap" mines
must be mastered, and a knowledge of enemy mines also gained in order to
fit them as sappers.
  Because the engineers often find it necessary to defend themselves and
their installations, they are given extensive
training in the use and care of arms. Throughout his training, the engineer
carries his rifle with which he must quali-
fy in marksmanship. He also learns to use the bayonet, carbine, Thompson
sub-machine gun, heavy caliber machine
gun, rocket or bazooka gun, and the rifle and hand-grenades.
  In operation the Army Engineers have repeatedly proven their worth. The
Alcan Highway, laid out and built al-
most entirely by United States Army Engineers, was cut through the wilds
of western Canada and Alaska at a rate
which broke all construction records. In North Africa, they were much used
as mine field sappers. In Sicily and Italy
today, they are speeding up our Army's advance by quickly repairing roads,
bridges and other structures which are so
methodically destroyed by our enemies as they retreat.
  The Navy's equivalent to the Corps of Engineers are the Seabees or Construction
Battalions. The officers belong
to the Navy's Civil Engineers Corps, an organization which was begun in 1775.
  The Seabees were made necessary due to the damage done by the Japs at Pearl
Harbor, and other naval bases. A
tremendous amount of construction work was necessary, and because in many
cases it was within range of the enemy,
civilian personnel could not do the work.
  Thus the Seabees were born, with their symbol of a bee carrying a hammer,
monkey wrench and Tommygun and
their motto, "We defend what we build."
  Other military organizations using the engineer are the Signal Corps, Airborne
Engineers, Ordnance, and the en-
gineering maintenance officers in the army and navy air forces.
                                  To the right ... A German Sub crash diving
a bit late. This pic was taken from the rear
                                  pit of a divebomber pulling out after releasing
its depth charges. Note the circles around
                                  the bombs.                            
             -Courtesy Douglas Airview
THE WISCONSIN ENGINEER
1 6


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