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West Virginia Mountain Maneuvers - 1944

This training was held at one of the Army's newest maneuver areas headquartered in Elkins, West Virginia spanning an area of over 2,000,000 acres in and around Monongahela National Forest.


PFC Keith N. Bullock, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 137 Infantry Regiment participated in these mountain maneuvers during March 1944.

Personal Memories of the West Virginia Mountain Maneuvers

by Keith Bullock - written June 2009

We had come from Texas where it was hot - into these West Virginia mountains where there was snow. It was 'cooler' to say the least!

Damn tents - two-man types - in which it rained all night. Herb Walls and I met there. Herb Walls, 35/137/HQ 2 Bn - laid wire all through World War Two. Keith visited Herb in Fairbanks, Alaska (his home) in 1999: we talked frequently on the phone. He and I are friends to the end.

Pushing around through or over mountain laurel - or maybe rhododendrons - big ones.

Put a jar with money in it on a certain stump; come back in an hour or two. Pick it up full of liquid fire.

Got some pies and home-made bread from a family down the slope. Traded for some packs of cigarettes.

Crossed the river after a couple guys fell off the so-called 'bridge.' They drowned. They were found later a ways down-stream.

Had some fun rappelling down a cliff with a full pack, etc. Descended by sliding down a rope passed under one thigh, across the body, and over the opposite shoulder.

Almost forgot. There was a rather small barn not far away from our camp. It seems that the barn was occupied by two young women who were busily entertaining anyone interested - for a nominal fee. There was a line outside that looked like the line into a mess hall.


Letterhead: Camp Butner, North Carolina

March 11, 1944; Mountains; 12:45am

Dear Folks,

You'll have to excuse many things about penmanship, etc. as I'm writing this on my side in a smaller than usual two-man tent.

We left Friday about 6:00 am and drove all day. Lynchburg, VA was the big town of the day and then we stopped in Lexington over-night.

Got passes. I walked the 1-1/2 miles to town. Got a big steak for dinner and walked around the town just looking.

About 9:30 pm we happened upon a cemetery and going in, found the grave of Stonewall Jackson.

Got up about 4 am the next morn and went to breakfast.

Finally moved out at 6am; drove until about 3:30 pm at which time we got here.

I don't know where 'here' is, but we're here anyhow.

We were issued our new mountain equipment and soon had our tent up and got dressed ourselves. We've smuggled a camera with us and we'll get some pictures in full regalia.

Our tent is a Master-piece. It looks like this (diagram).

It's made out of rubber; thus is waterproof and windproof. (end)


The Fall 2019 issue of Army History Magazine includes an article about the West Virginia Mountain Training titled: "The Best Substitute", U.S. Army Low-Mountain Training in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, 1943 - 1944 by Nathan A. Marzoli. The following are a few excerpts from that article:


"During the exercises of the 35th Infantry Division, for example, the 2d Platoon, Company F, 134th Infantry, was ordered to cross an icy stream during a hill attack. Although the men waded through the frigid water with little complaint, platoon leaders positioned insufficient men on the opposite bank to protect the crossing of the rest of the unit. Groups of between fifteen and twenty men also clustered together dangerously while preparing to cross."


"In March 1944, a soldier from the 35th Infantry Division floundered while trying to cross the swollen Blackwater River, just south of the town of Davis. A captain, with a rope tied around his waist, plunged into the frigid waters to try and rescue him, but the raging current swept both of them down Blackwater Canyon. A third man tried to rescue the two stricken soldiers farther downstream, but he too lost his balance in the freshet and splashed into the roaring waters. All three soldiers drowned, and only one man's body was recovered."


"The combat teams also found that simply moving from Point A to B sometimes presented a herculean challenge, as the few roads in the maneuver area were winding and narrow and easily jammed with vehicles. The road network was so bad during the maneuvers of the 35th Infantry Division that Battery C, 161st Field Artillery Battalion, had to winch their trucks and guns into position, slowing them down to a rate of one mile every three hours. Given these transportation challenges, many officers requested additional driver training that covered correct transmission usage on steep grades, precaution against straining motors, the value of chains and winches, and the unusual hazards encountered in blackout driving."


". ...it is hard to consider the maneuvers conducted near Buena Vista and Elkins anything but a success. The Army proved it could identify a problem area and quickly scrape together an effective training program to increase the potency of its soldiers, even if the instruction was brief and only directly involved a limited number of units. This entrepreneurial and adaptive spirit, showcased by the brief but invaluable training program conducted in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, ultimately helped the U.S. Army fight and win battles of the Second World War."


Read the full article in the Fall 2019 issue of Army History Magazine


Read more about Keith Bullock's service with the 137th Infantry Regiment


Thanks to Keith Bullock's wife Marge for this information


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