745th RAILWAY OPERATING BATTALION



Courtesy of Mr. William McManus, Co. C, 745th ROB

(Document written in 1958)

HISTORY OF THE BATTALION

Fifteen years ago, this coming May 19, 1958 the 745th R.O.B.(Railway Operating Battalion) of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps was activated at the Army Service Forces Unit Training Center at Canp Harrahan (later Camp Plauche) New Orleans, Louisiana with Colonel William P. Wilson as Commanding Officer. Railway Operating Battalions were known as "sponsored units" and the various large railroads of which the C.B. and Q.R.R. was one, they were the sponsors of the 745th. Sponsorship by the Railroad Company included a commitment by the company to provide the technically trained officer personnel required. The enlisted personnel were mainly young railroaders from all sections of the country and various railroads, who were assembled at Camp Harrahan. Together the officers and men represented forty-two States and sixty-three railroads. That is a record for a Railway Outfit.

After completion of basic training the 745th moved to Camp Scott, Fort Wayne, Indiana on a cold day in June 1943, to receive technical training in all phases of railway operation, the maintenance of track and equipment including locomotives and cars. This technical training was possible through the cooperation of the Pennsylvania and Wabash Railroads superimposing in every phase of operation.

In August the 745th joined with Baer Field in presenting a musical "On The Beam" starring Claude Stroud, Wally King, Freddie Busch and a sixteen man "Beef Trust" chorus, the chorus was all from the 745th.

Following completion of technical training in November 1943 orders were received for overseas shipment to India, via Australia, Bombay and Calcutta. There the 745th with four other operating battalions and one railway shop battalion and a headquarters unit, composed the "Military Railway Service" (MRS) which was assigned to operate the 804 miles of meter gauge lines of the Bengal and Assam Railway, in Assam. The 745th operated a Division and sub-division of the B and A Railroad between Lumding and Marianne, Assam. The mission - to expedite an ever increasing supply of the necessary materials for the successful prosecution of Allied plans in the (C.B.I.) China-Burma-India Theatre. We were asked to speed up the movement of all types of supplies and equipment for use by troops in construction of the "Ledo Road" as well as supplies and equipment to maintain the Army Air Transport Command and the materials which the ATC was flying "over the Hump" to Chinese Troops.

The assignment of the 745th was extremely difficult since this particular portion of the railroad we operated extended through a mountainous Jungle where civilization barely had a foothold. This was one of Frank Buck's favorite hunting grounds.

Safety appliances and methods were unknown there and they still used the old "hook and eye" couplers which were outlawed in this country before most of the present railroads started. The trains, both passenger and freight were operated without air brakes which made our job very hazardous. There was too much business to be handled by the American troops alone which made it necessary to use native railroaders as well as British and Indian troops. In spite of the conglomeration of races and tongues, we all worked together with very little difficulty. The heayy rainfall, the heat during the summer and the monsoon season, made working conditions almost unbearable. There was an abundance of wild elephants, Bengal tigers, leopards and other wild animals as well as a great variety of poisonous snakes. During the early part of the campaign there was a high rate of casualties from numerous diseases common in that country, and almost everyone in the 745th has had malaria or similar diseases.

The results of the operation of the B and A meter gauge lines by the U.S. forces, which continued from March 1944 through September 1945 was highly successful, and was attested to by their receipt of the Meritorious Service award by United States and Citations from Lord Mountbatten, Southeast Asia Commander, with headquarters in Ceylon - also Generals Sultan, Wedemeyer, Wheeler and Yount.

The 745th had a real great baseball team and won the M.R.S. trophy and Championship. Our team took on all comers and proved to be the better team. Joe Dallas from Durand, Mich. was our star player and batted .826 during the tournament for twelve games. Most of these fellows played on the team in Fort Wayne where they had similar success.

So, the 745th will celebrate our 15th Anniversary in Fort Wayne. at our 12th Convention which will be a "Homecoming Reunion" as every man in the organization really enjoyed his Army duty in "Dear ole Hoosier-land".

Our group has become a fine large family get together. Conventions have been held three times in Chicago, twice in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., once in Denver, Estes Park, Cleveland, Knoxville, Tenn. and Casper, Wyoming. The Convention will be held June 19th thru 21st with headquarters at the Van Orman Hotel. Present plans are for a "Salaam Sahib Party" at the David Parrish Post #296 of the American Legion. Picnic outing at Pokagagon State Park near Angola, tour of the Falstaff Brewery followed by a luncheon, the highlight to be a banquet at the Elks Club.

Colonel William P. Wilton, deceased, conceived the idea of our Association on our first anniversary in Marianni, India. He asked Major Bob Walker, Supt. of Employment for the Burlington Lines, to draw up a Constitution and get all personal of the 745th to join, after he was elected President for the first Convention to be held in Chicago, Ill in May 1947.



Note from Mr. McManus with additional information from Mr. Mark Shaughnessy:

The last reunion of the 745th Rwy. Opn. Bn. was held September 17-21, 2001 in St. Louis, Mo. It was several days after the 9/11 attacks and some people couldn't make it due to flight cancellations and restrictions. There were only 12 original members at this reunion. We then disbanded. We now are only a memory similar to the CBIVA which ended in 2005 in Washington, D.C.




Milwaukee, WI newspaper article, Summer of 1944.
(courtesy of Mr. Brian McManus)


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