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.
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
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.”
12/21 August – Battle of the Falaise Pocket
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.”
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”
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.
8 May 1945 – VE Day, T.J. and the 8th FAOB are on an Autobahn travelling from the Elbe River to Butzbach in Germany.
10 June 1945 – T.J. and the 8th FAOB are in Butzbach, Germany
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.
What do they do? The 8th Field Artillery Observation Battalion in WW2:
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.”
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