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Dated:  September 15, 2009

Tech-5 Raymond Abbey
Tech-5  Raymond W. Abbey
  Medical Detachment & HQ Divisional Artillery
85th Infantry Division

Tech-5 Raymond Abbey served as an ambulance driver assigned to the HeadQuarters Company of the 85th Division's Artillery.   He was a member of the Medical Detachment but reported to the Divisional Artillery.  He was not in the 310th Medical Battalion.

      Raymond Abbey was born in Hawarden, Iowa in 1919 and the family soon moved to Tripp County, South Dakota.  When the war started, Raymond was drafted and was ordered to report for induction into the Army on May 19, 1942.  On the day he was to report, the weather turned from a rain to a heavy snow storm that dropped 16 inches.  Needless to say, no one reported to the Draft Board.  The next day he was able to make the trip while the roads were flooded with water from the melted snow.  After his induction, he traveled by bus from Winner, SD, to Fort Crook, Nebraska.  There he boarded a train for Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

     When T-5 Abbey arrived for basic training, he was assigned to the 910th Field Artillery Battalion of the 85th Division.  However, the HeadQuarters of the Divisional Artillery sent a request to each of the field artillery battalions asking for anyone who could pass the driver's test.  Abbey went to HQ and waited for further instructions.  He waited and waited, a common activity in the Army.  Assuming that HQ was not interested in using him, he returned back to the 910th Artillery Battalion.  They told him that his transfer has been approved and he was now a member of the HQ Company of the Divisional Artillery of the 85th Infantry Division.
    The 85th Infantry Division was an infantry fighting unit that had 4 artillery battalions assigned to it.  There were three medium battalions that fired the 105mm Howitzers and one heavy battalion that fired the 155mm Howitzer.  These four battalion were commanded by General Pierre Mallet and his staff and a company of officers and enlisted men.
For a group photo of the 85th Division Artillery HQ taken at Camp Shelby, click Divisional Artillery.

    Abbey took his driver's certificate test.  He had many men from New York City in his unit and they had never driven a truck.  They couldn't back up a truck hauling a trailer.  Since Raymond was from a farm, this was easy for him.  Naturally he passed the test and was assigned as a ambulance driver.  He was sent to Springfield, Missouri for 2 months of Medical School.  He was classified as a Medic Technician and a Surgical Technician. 
Raymond Abbey was technically assigned to the Medical Detachment of the 85th Infantry Division.  The division had a 310th Medical Battalion but this detachment was separate and performed a different role.  His detachment included dentists and a doctor and ambulance drivers.  Three or four men of this Medical Detachment were assigned to each of the artillery battalions.  It seems complicated as T-5 Abbey reported to both the commander of the Medical Detachment and the commander of the HQ Divisional Artillery.

    While at Camp Shelby, Raymond recalls the surprise visit by President Roosevelt.  T-5 Abbey completed basic training and the division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers.  The division then went to the Desert Training Center in southern California during the peak of the summer of 1943.  DTC was ideal for not only training for desert warfare but it allowed for large-scale movement of troops on the simulated battlefield.  There were different ranges for firing live ammo and grenades and practicing mine detection.  The division was then shipped by train back across the US to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where they filled out their ranks prior to deployment to Europe.  While waiting to leave, many troops were given leave to go home and visit their families.  Raymond was married and had one child at this time.

Tech-5 Abbey with two of his buddies during training. 
Georeg Littlefield, Bob Bjur and Raymond Abbey.
Photo probably taken at Springfiled during training for a Medic.
Camp Shelby did not have this nice of buildings.


    On 24 December, 1943, the 85th Division left Newport News, Virginia on the USS General Mann and 9 days later they arrived in Casablanca, North Africa. They spent some days recovering from the trip and began training for amphibious landing, which was additional training that was never fully utilized.  By April, the 85th Division was placed in the front lines south of Rome, near the town of Minturno.  Tech-5 Abbey served with the 85th Division through three major campaigns in Italy.  He remained during their advance north to the Alps by the time the war ended on May 2, 1945.

War in Italy
    Tech-5 Abbey's duty was an ambulance driver.  However, his unit did not get the nice ambulances.  Instead they were given the M-37 3/4-Ton Weapons Carrier.  The closest thing to this in civilian life is a pick-up truck.  He would drive to any of the artillery battalions to pick up wounded soldiers.  He was trained to give first aid and bandage wounds. 

     While in the area of Minturno, Abbey recalls a driver who was hauling gasoline.  He had picked up a hitch-hiker who road on top of the gas tank.  While passing through the crowded roads around the town, the Germans shelled it.  A shell exploded the gas truck and threw the hitch-hiker 100 feet into a ditch.  The medics rushed to treat his burns.  He had no wounds except he was blinded by the explosion; either permanently or maybe temporarily.  There was a lot to learn during the early days of combat.  HIs headquarters company set-up their aid station near the central square of a little town.  The Germans shelled the town and leveled a building only 3 down from theirs.  The Germans were good at registering their artillery on central locations they had occupied.  Then as the Americans arrived, their guns could zero in on these targets. 

     Abbey recalls seeing the waves of as many as 60 American bombers fly over the front lines.  You could follow their movement by the clouds of dust from their exploding bombs.   The Germans surrendered Rome on 4 June 1944 and declared it an open city.  However there was fighting right up to the out-skirts of city.  Abbey remembers driving into Rome and past the ruins of the Coliseum. 

German POWs
   Tech-5 Abbey observed these German POW's being escorted to the rear by the 85th Infantry Division.  Photo taken during the last months of the war.
   The German POW's are marching in a column and wearing their M-43 Caps.  The Americans are wearing helmets and riding in the Jeep.  Italian Civilians watch from the right side of the road. Photo probably taken somewhere between Bologna and Verona, Italy.

    The Army Censors discouraged cameras at the front lines and they confiscated any photos of Prisoners of War.  It was against the Geneva Convention to take photos of prisoners for they could be used as propagander. So, except for newspapers, these photos are rare.

War Ends
   The war ended on 2 May 1945.  Raymond did not have the 85 points needed to ship home.  So he was transferred to the 380th Medical Collection Company, which were responsible for collecting wounded men on the battlefield.  For the first time, he was issued a side-arm as the Japanese did not recognize medics and would shoot them.  They were preparing to ship to the Pacific Theater when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the war was over.  He returned to the US on the Merchant Marine ship General Solomon and landed in New York in September.  Tech-5 Abbey arrived at Camp McClay, Wisconsin, where his wife met him.  He was discharged on September 25, 1945.  Together, they caught a train to Fargo, ND, where he returned to civilian life.

Raymond and Wife & daughter
Raymond and his wife and first daughter Rae Brent taken after the war.

  The compilation of the material contain on this page is the property of www.custermen.com.  Any use of this matierial without prior written consent is not authorized.

Special thanks to Donna Tyburec, daughter of Raymond Abbey, for the photos and story contributed for this biography.  Some information was obtained from an interview with Mr. Abbey.

Send any inquiries to Steve Cole.

For a group photo of the 85th Division Artillery HQ taken at Camp Shelby, click Divisional Artillery.

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