On June 6, 2019, we will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, known as the D-Day invasion. This campaign was to liberate France and Western Europe from German conquest and occupation. Great heroism was demonstrated on that and the following days.
In remembrance of the almost 2,500 American troops who would give their lives on that day, I'd like to take a little time to recognize the part that a little Tennessee town played in this famous day. So, what is the connection between Tullahoma, Coffee County, Tennessee, and D-Day?
Established in 1926 as a National Guard training facility and named for Governor Austin Peay, this camp covered 1,040 acres of land. When the United States became involved in World War II, a large training facility was needed. The Tennessee National Guard camp was chosen and re-named, Camp Forrest, for General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The facility became a Federal training area on January 10, 1941, and covered 85,000 acres, crisscrossed by 55 miles of roads.
Units training at this facility were 8th, 33rd, 79th and 60th Infantry Divisions. The 17th Airborne Division, 75th Field Artillery Brigade., and 107th Cavalry Regiment. The training camp was deactivated June 30, 1946.
The citizens of Tullahoma erected a monument dedicated August 16, 1986, to honor the men and women who trained and worked at Camp Forrest and contributed significantly to American victory in World War II. There is also a Camp Forrest Ranger Monument. The inscriptions are shared as they are written which does not completely agree with other sources. On January 8, 1943, the 2nd Army commenced an intensive training course to train Rangers at Camp Forrest. The 2nd Ranger Battalion was formed on April 1, 1943 by Lt. Col. W. C. Saffrans, and later training was under Major J. E. Rudder.
The 5th Ranger Battalion was activated September 1, 1943 under Lt Col. O. H. Carter, and later were led by Maj. Max Schneider. Both battalions were later trained at Ft. Pierce, Florida, in New Jersey and in Great Britain.
On June 6, 1944, the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions “Led the Way” at Omaha Beach, sealed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, and spearheaded the invasions across Europe.
These forces had been sent in advance of the forces coming by sea in troop carriers and saved the American Army from annihilation at Omaha Beach by finding a gully that went up the beach side and blew up the barbed wire and mines so that the men caught on the beach could go up the gully and get off the beaches where they were being slaughtered by enemy guns.
The “Saving Private Ryan” (movie based on 2nd Ranger Battalion) website reads, The 2nd Ranger Battalion was constituted on March 11th, 1943. On April 1, 1943, the 2nd Rangers were activated at Camp Forrest, Tennessee under the command of Major L. E. McDonald. This does not mention Lt. Col. Saffrans, but does mention Major. Rudder. This continues by saying, “Training for the new Ranger volunteers was intense and many of the men were eventually returned to their original units. Although the 2nd Rangers contained volunteer soldiers from many states, most of its ranks hailed from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”
Please take the time this week to look up information on the D-Day Invasion in which so many Americans participated, and many gave all for our freedoms.