TENNESSEE MANEUVERS SELF-GUIDED TOURS
Self-Guided Driving Tour Before they went to war “over there…. they went to war “over here”.
And the “over here” was in our backyard!
The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as The Ghost Army, was activated in January of 1944 at Camp Forrest, TN.
The unit of 1,100 soldiers was the first mobile, multi-media, tactical deception unit in US Army history. They used sound effects, inflatable tanks and trucks and their imagination to fool the Germans. They staged 20 battlefield missions, many of which were close to the front lines. In January 2022, the soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service.
In late 1942, The US Army created a Ranger School at Camp Forrest, TN. The purpose was to train soldiers in “rough and tumble fighting and special techniques.” The training included: sniping, ambush, infiltration, making booby traps and sabotage. The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were among the first soldiers to land at Normandy on D-day. Their job was to scale the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, France, then go inland and destroy the German bunkers and machine gun posts.
The Army established the 758th Tank Battalion in Fort Knox, KY in January 1941. They were the Army’s first all-African American armored unit. The 758th trained in the Tennessee Maneuvers in June 1942. Because of segregation, African American soldiers had to be transported, fed and housed separately. To note which units were African American, an asterisk was placed on instruction sheets. This included the 758th Tank Battalion and the 76th and 77th Light Pontoon Engineer Companies. The 758th saw combat in northern Italy and assisted in that country’s liberation. In July 1948, President Truman signed executive order number 9981 which began the de-segregation of the Armed Forces.
STORY: overview of the maneuvers
PHOTOS: soldiers at train, inside Cumberland gym, paratroopers in field
SOUND: Elizabeth Taylor, PhD (historian) explaining the importance of maneuvers
BJ Reich – witness
STORY: how pontoon bridges were used
PHOTOS: soldiers on pontoon bridge near Cordell Hull Bridge
SOUND: Walter Glen Birdwell – witness
STORY: soldiers eat in field kitchen
PHOTOS: Ronnie Bussell mother’s photos – soldiers at the store
SOUND: Florence Hall – witness
STORY: plane crash killed pilot
PHOTOS: pilot, crash scene & military papers related to the crash
STORY: how residents used pontoon bridge
PHOTOS: people on pontoon bridge and soldiers eat watermelon at store
SOUND: Geraldine Reich – witness
Jack Cato – witness
STORY: soldiers gathering with locals at store
PHOTOS: soldiers/vehicles in Dixon Springs Odell Garrett’s mother’s photos
SOUND: Jack Cato – witness
STORY: soldiers in tanks
PHOTOS: men in tanks in field
SOUNDS: Pete Holman/soldier – tank driver
STORY: barrage balloons sighting
PHOTOS: archive – from other locations of balloons in the air
SOUND: Jim Beasley – witness