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From Utah Beach to the Battle of the Bulge – T.J.Whatley III & the 8th FAOB

VE-Day-on-the-Autobahn-on-our-way-from-the-Elbe-river-to-Butzbach-Germany---TJ-is-on-the-right

Betty Bartos is the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Whatley III. Betty has sent us her father’s collection of photographs from his time with the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, in WW2 Europe 1944 to 1945.

She says “He was born March 25, 1923 in Dothan, Alabama. He volunteered for active duty December 8, 1941”. 

T.J.Watley III’s WW2

From Betty’s notes and her father’s photographs we have plotted T.J likely journey from Normandy to Germany, in WW2. These photographs are a unique, but incomplete story of one man’s war. The gaps in his photographic account, as the Battalion slogged under unimaginable conditions, say even more than the images.  Thank you Betty for sharing this collection with us.

The original photographs are 2″ x 3″ so have been scanned and enlarged.

T.J.’s timeline

8 December 1941 – America joins the war, on the same day T.J.Whatley III age 18, volunteers for active duty.

Betty says “first stop – Basic Training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  He was trained to find enemy guns by their flash. Next, he went to the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion in North Oklahoma at Camp Gruber.”

2 February 1944 – T.J. and the Battalion leave for England on the HMS Duchess of Bedford, the journey takes 12 days. “They landed in Scotland. They trucked to Southampton to cross the channel on our LCVP [Higgins landing craft].”

T.J.s notes from the back of photos are in italics

Sailing to war 1944

 

‘Near Sandhill Camp, Warminster England’  

 

'Harbour at Southampton' 1944, evening
‘Harbour at Southampton’

6 June 1944 – D-Day

18 June 1944 – D-Day+12 T.J., with the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion lands in Normandy. “He drove his truck off the LCVP into 5ft of water on DDay+12. He said it was on Utah Beach that he learned he was being shot at.”

 Observation post 1944 Normandy
O.P.2 before St Lo’ – Observation post

 

near St Lo 1944 Normandy
‘Nr St Samson where we were after St Lo’

 

''Shot through az. instrument on flash O.P. near St Lo' 1944
”Shot through az. instrument on flash O.P. near St Lo’
''Crater made by Ju88 [German plane] when it was hit by A.A. [anti aircraft]and smashed with bomb head. St Samson France (after St Lo)'
”Crater made by Ju88 [German plane] when it was hit by A.A. [anti aircraft] and smashed with bomb head. St Samson France (after St Lo)’
'Flash O.P. over looking St Sever Calvados' 1944 Normandy
‘Flash O.P. over looking St Sever Calvados’

 

'Flash OP near St Sever, Calvados' 1944 Normandy
‘Flash OP near St Sever, Calvados’

 

'Triangulation station near Flash O.P. St Sev. Cal.' Normandy 1944
‘Triangulation station near Flash O.P. St Sev. Cal.’

 

'Norman Chateau near St Sev.  Cal.' - Chateau de Launay
‘Norman Chateau near St Sev.  Cal.’ – Chateau de Launay

 

 Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët ruins 1944
‘St Hilaire, France’ – Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

 

 Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët ruins 1944
‘St Hillaire, France’ – Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

12/21 August – Battle of the Falaise Pocket

France 1944
‘France’

 

Crashed Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber")
Crashed Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, “dive bomber”)

 

25 August 1944 – Liberation of Paris. A single photograph of the river Seine  revealed T.J. was briefly in the city.

“He was also in the Battle of the Bulge. His battalion moved thru France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany where they hit a snag; The German Ardennes Bulge. He went to the Hürtgen Forest.”

'These are the guys that lay the wire to our O.Ps. Don't have names. Belgium' WW2
‘These are the guys that lay the wire to our O.Ps. Don’t have names. Belgium’

19 September/16 December 1944 – T.J. and the 8th FAOB are in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the longest battle the Americans had ever fought in the history of the United States military. American forces suffered 33,000 casualties.

September/October 1944 – T.J. and the 8th FAOB are at Rimburg castle, on the front line. During this assault the castle was heavily defended by the Germans. Rimburg was liberated on 2 October 1944.

Betty tells us “Thanks to a concussion grenade at Rimburg Castle, T.J. was deaf”

'Flash C.P. near Rimburg' WW2
‘Flash C.P. near Rimburg’
'Pill Box on Sigfried Line. Flash C.P. when we were at Rimburg Castle' ww2
‘Pill Box on Sigfried Line. Flash C.P. when we were at Rimburg Castle’

16 December 1944/25 January 1945 – T.J. and the 8th FAOB are in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II in the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg. The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II.

'Near Ubach Ger.' Germany 1945
‘Near Ubach Ger.’

 

1945 'Near Ubach Germany'
‘Near Ubach Germany’

 

1945 'Bettendorf, Ger.
‘Bettendorf, Ger.’

 

8 May 1945 – VE Day, T.J. and the 8th FAOB are on an Autobahn travelling from the Elbe River to Butzbach in Germany.

 

'VE Day on the Autobahn on our way from the Elbe river to Butzbach Germany' T.J. is on the right
VE Day on the Autobahn on our way from the Elbe river to Butzbach Germany‘ T.J. is on the right

10 June 1945 – T.J. and the 8th FAOB are in Butzbach, Germany

T.J. Whatley III 1945 WW2
T.J. Whatley III

2 September 1945 – the war is over. T.J. and the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion head home.

2 December 1945 – T.J. is discharged at Ft. McPherson, Georgia.

T.J. Whatley III in Germany.  T.J. joined up when he was just 18 years old.  Four years later he is back home, age just 22 having been through some of the biggest battles in military history.
T.J. Whatley III in Germany.  T.J. joined up when he was just 18 years old.  Four years later he is back home, age just 22 having been through some of the biggest battles in military history.

 

What do they do? The 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion in WW2:

Cartoon depicting the accomplishments of the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, from the NAOO Photo Library.
Cartoon depicting the accomplishments of the 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, from the NAOO Photo Library.

 

See our google map of T.J.s WW2 journey through Europe

A final photo

Our final photograph of T.J. was taken just over ten years ago.  Betty tell us this picture “was taken on his 80th birthday! He climbed his ham radio tower with his helmet and army shirt on.”

T.J. Whatley on his 80th birthday
T.J. Whatley on his 80th birthday

A life after war

A memorial page tells us about life for Thomas Jefferson Whatley III (T-Bone) after the war:

After the war he graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Aeronautical Administration. T-Bone had many talents. He flew airplanes, built cars, businesses, and houses but his greatest achievements were the boats he constructed and sailed. T-Bone loved to sail. He was well known locally as an accomplished sailor logging countless miles. In the early 1960’s, he was one of the founders of the Caloosahatchee Marching and Chowder Society. Read the full tribute.

T.J.Whatley III died on 4 December 2017 at age 94.

See more of our Normandy picture posts here

Read about WW2 in Normandy

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