September 27, 2009

109th Brief History

The 109th Combat Engineers were a National Guard Unit, with most members from South Dakota. We were part of the 34th Infantry Division.
We were mobilized soon after Pearl Harbor. We got into the “Ground Floor” of the war, and were among the first into Europe. We spent more days in combat as we worked our way through Africa and Italy than any other American Division. 

Our Division casualties at the close of WWII were officially counted at: 3,737 killed, 14,165 wounded and 3,460 missing in action - a total of 21,362 battle casualties for a Division that started the war with about 14,000 men. ly use that term, but our children do, so we gratefully if reluctantly accept it.

The information on this blog was provided by numerous individuals.  Please email us any more information that you may have about the 109th. 

Clifford Harlan Hullinger

Craig Harlan Hullinger

News Articles About the 109th Engineers
Click to Make Them Larger

South Dakotans Put Ruse Over on Nazis

Don't Fence Me In

Theses sketches were made for the Stars and Stripes in Italy in 1944  by Austrian born soldier-of-fortune, artist Rudoph Charles von Ripper.  The sketch shows Sgt Harding of my platoon laying barb wire concertina at Anzio. Von Ripper drew this because the squad "fenced" in a German outpost before identifying them and capturing them.  The wire took a sharp job at that point!

Our Ship Survives Torpedo Attack

From the August 1992 Edition of the Minnesota Legionnaire

We were on this ship when it broke down in the Atlantic, traveling from the US to Ireland.  We heard the explosions from the depth charges but didn't know about the three torpedoes that missed us or that the German sub had been sunk until 1998 when we saw this 1992 article from the Minnesota Legionnaire.

We wouldn't have known the difference between a sub-chaser and a destroyer and I didn't realize or had forgotten that we were towed back to Halifax.   What I did know was that the North Atlantic in February is bitter cold and that we wouldn't last over 15 minutes if we had to go into the water. It was a dark night and convoy had left and there would have been no rescue. 

Monte Cassino - The Hardest-Fought Battle

September 26, 2009

Leo J. Comeau Honored

Here’s a brief follow-up to the excellent, detailed memoir by Lyle Haug, a Staff Sergeant with Co. A. 109th Engr, 34th Division in WWII, posted Monday, February 11, 2008, which mentions Private First Class Leo J. Comeau of  the109th who died in action at Anzio, Italy.

In May 2008, Leo J. Comeau of the 109th was honored, along with his brother, at the dedication of the newly built Joseph C. Comeau Bridge in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Joe Comeau, Leo’s older brother, served in the182nd Infantry Americal Division, leading his anti-tank unit in the legendary and bloody battles of Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the Philippine Islands and earning the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge. In 1969 Joe Comeau died of a heart attack while pitching to the youth league baseball players he was coaching. He was 58.

Leo, 28, was killed in action in Anzio, Italy, May 22, 1944. Joe and Leo were among eight children raised in Haverhill. Their only surviving sibling, Evelyn Connolly, was at the dedication. A granite memorial at the flag pole at the bridge is “Dedicated to the memory of those who served Haverhill in the 182nd Infantry of the Americal Division,  Dec. 23, 1940–Dec. 2, 1945.” Marilyn Comeau, Joe’s daughter, has donated Joe and Leo’s medals to the City of Haverhill.

In 1972 the Legislature christened the bridge that spanned the Merrimack River from Haverhill to Bradford the Joseph C. Comeau Bridge. However, that bridge was razed in 2002. When the replacement bridge was built, a small faction of Haverhill residents wanted to name it after the poet John Greenleaf Whittier who had been born in Haverhill. Veterans and the Comeau family wanted to retain the name. Among those supporting them was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry who expressed “outrage” at the possible name change.

Wreaths for both Joe and Leo were laid at the bridge dedication.

Submitted by

Maureen Ann Connolly

Cumberland Foreside, ME