Archive for the ‘45th Infantry Division’ Category

70 Years Ago Felix and the 45th Signal Company Cross the Rhine

March 24, 2015


DUKW (amphibious 2½ ton truck) transporting a 105mm howitzer and men of the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry Division over the Rhine. (See glossary below for meaning of DUKW.)

This may have been about the same place where the 45th Signal Company crossed and some of the DUKWs that transported them

No photos have been found of the 45th Signal Company crossing the Rhine.

Fair use of photo from the collection of Edwin Gorak

On March 25, 1945 the 45th Signal Company received a DUKW to use in the laying of communication cables across the Rhine.

Early on the morning of March 26 the construction section laid two cables across the Rhine. The telephone section crossed and established switching central on the east bank of the Rhine.

The conditions under which the men of the 45th Signal Company laid those cables were life threatening.

While the ground fighting had moved east, the Nazis were still firing artillery and rockets and launching air attacks at the Rhine crossings.

Along with the risk of drowning they also risked hypothermia, frostbite, or immersion (trench) foot. The water temperature was probably 32° F (0° C) and the March air temperature averaged about 41° F (5° C).  My late father Felix A. Cizewski would have been very aware of that as he had just returned to duty after recovering from severe frostbite 3 months earlier.

On March 27, the rest of the 45th Signal Company crossed the Rhine and set up the normal Command Post communications systems in Zwingenberg.

Several Nazi soldiers surrendered to members of the company.

The company reported that their trucks and other vehicles were in bad shape because of constant use. A jeep threw a rod.

I do not know in which section of the 45th Signal Company my late father Felix A. Cizewski served so I do not know if he crossed the Rhine on March 26 or 27.


What does DUKW mean?

D = built in 1942

U = amphibious 2½  ton truck

K = front wheel drive

W = rear wheel drive


The detailed information about the 45th Signal Company’s crossing of the Rhine is from the March, 1945 Company History which Dave Kerr obtained from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

A discussion with free lance writer Anne Gafiuk resulted in the addition of details of the life threatening conditions under which the 45th Signal Company worked.

The details with links about DUKWs was in response to a question from Jeff Spitzer-Resnick.

Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski and the Central Europe Campaign

Revised: March 26, 2015



70 Years Ago: Felix Assigned to the 45th Signal Company

January 25, 2015

70 years ago on January 16, 1945 my late father Felix A. Cizewski had recovered from frostbite to his hands and feet.

During WWII, while recovering from wounds, injuries, or illnesses, soldiers were removed from their units so replacement could be assigned to fill their place.

After recovery they were not returned to their units and instead reassigned to other units.

After Felix was discharged from an Army hospital in the Paris area he was reassigned to the 3rd Reinforcement Battalion, 16th Reinforcement Depot.

In late January, 1945, the 45th Infantry Division was taken off the front line.

1,000 replacements were assigned to the 45th.

Among them was Felix who on January 29th was transferred from the 3d Replacement Battalion to the 45th Signal Company in bivouac at  Petersbach, France.

“Petersbach, France”
in Felix’s handwriting
on the back.

GIs in the background.

From the collection of Felix A. Cizewski
© Leonard H. Cizewski

The 45th Signal Company was responsible for connecting 45th with its Corps and connections between Division Command Post and all of the support units that were part of the division headquarters such as medical, engineers, and quartermaster.

Links, sources, and more information:

Felix A. Cizewski & the WWII Rhineland Campaign


Christmas 1944: Felix Cizewski hospitalized in Paris with cold injuries

December 25, 2013

Diorama in the Truschbaum Museum, Camp Elsenborn, Belgium of a medic treating GI with trench foot and cold injuries to his hands and face. This illustrates what Felix A. Cizewski suffered.
(Photo Truschbaum Museum, used by permission.)

On Christmas sixty-nine years ago my late father, Felix A. Cizewski, was in an Army hospital in Paris with severe cold injuries, probably frostbite, to his hands and feet.

He was in a the Open Wire Repair Section of an Army Service Forces Signal Corps company based in Paris.

That meant he was working outside during one of Europe’s harshest winters in decades.

What Signalmen did that put them at risk of cold injury

At night a captured German doctor working in the American hospital massaged Felix’s hands and feet with a salve. Eventually Dad healed enough to avoid amputations and return to duty.

He was sent to a Replacement Depot then assigned to the Thunderbirds’ 45th Signal Company for the rest of the war.

Dad suffered for the rest of his life with what may have been Raynaud’s Syndrome. Every winter his circulation would mostly shut down in his hands and his hands would be very pale and cold.

My father obviously suffered  lifelong disability from his cold injuries. Along with the effects of tuberculosis he may have contracted while in the Army and the traumatic effects of arriving at Dachau about one day after its liberation and possibly helping to care for the survivors while stationed on occupation near Dachau, my late father may have been an
unrecognized and uncompensated disabled veteran.

For more information:

Felix A. Cizewski in the Army Service Forces Communications Zone, Paris, September 15, 1944 to January 16, 1945

An Unrecognized and Uncompensated Disabled Veteran?


Radio News: special 1942 and 1944 Signal Corps issues

June 12, 2013
Radio News

Covers of November, 1942 and February 1944 special Signal Corps issues of Radio News

Pat Nagel, the daughter of the late Camp Crowder trainee John Moriarty shared with me the two special editions of Radio News that her father had saved.

American Radio History site is in the process uploading all issues of Radio News.

February, 1944, Special 1944 U.S. Army Signal Corps Issue has been uploaded. (The link is to the full 437 page Adobe PDF file).

The November, 1942 Special U.S. Army Signal Corps Issue will be available soon.

The originals of both issues along with other Signal Corps related artifacts will be donated to an archive, museum, library, or historical society. An announcement of which institution accepts the donation will be posted on this blog.

The February, 1944 issue contained the following photo of what may be the 45th Signal Company constructing communications wire in Sicily

Signal Corps men of the 45th

“Signal Corps men of the 45th Division” (possible the 45th Signal Company) setting up wire in Caltanissetta, Sicily. Undated.

This was about 17 months before Felix A. Cizewski was transferred to the 45th Signal Company in France in January, 1945.

While my late father is not in this photo, in my nine years of research this is the first photo I have found that illustrates in detail the type of work my late father did in France and Germany while serving in the 45th Signal Company in 1945

Among the reason Ms. Nagel shared these magazines is her hope that families of  WWII Signal Corps veterans would find insight into their relative’s service or photos of their relatives. 

I turn out to be one of those relatives who so far has found this photo and articles in the November, 1942 issue on the Signal Corps’ Camp Crowder, Missouri where my late father trained for about 19 months.

A Radio News page has been added to my Unofficial Informal Archive of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Northwest Europe in WWII to make this great resource available to other WWII family history researchers.

For more information:

Radio News

Signal Corps training at Camp Crowder, Missouri.

45th Infantry Division

Unofficial Informal Archive of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Northwest Europe in WWII


Paris in the winter of 1944: Felix A. Cizewski suffers frostbite

March 11, 2013
Paris in the winter of 1944 by Lee Miller

Lee Miller photo of Paris, winter 1944.
Fair use of photo © Lee Miller Archives 2013. All rights reserved

During the winter of  1944 my late father, Felix A. Cizewski served in Paris. He was in Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion, Army Service Forces.  Company C was the battalion’s Open Wire Repair Section with pole and wire responsibilities including construction and maintenance.

That meant my father was working outside in the harsh 1944 winter. Lee Miller’s photo above illustrates the conditions in which Felix worked.

By December 10, 1944, Felix had suffered severe frostbite to his hands and feet and was hospitalized in Paris.

My father told my sister that when he was in the hospital among those whose care prevented amputation was a POW German doctor.

My father recovered enough that in January, 1945 he was reassigned to the 45th Signal Company, 45th Infantry Division for the rest of the war.

My father never fully recovered. He suffered for the rest of his life from the frostbite, possibly Raynaud’s Syndrome. He was never formally diagnosed and was discouraged from pursuing a disability claim for that and other lingering health problems that may also have been service related.

Author Alex Kershaw recently shared this photo on his Facebook Page. Alex Kershaw most recent work, The Liberator, is about Col. Felix Sparks of the 45th Infantry Division, the division in which my late father served. Alex Kershaw’s next book will be about Paris in WWII.

For more information:

Felix A. Cizewski & World War II (Signal Corps, Europe, 1942 to 1945

Private Robert J. Rankl’s Individual Deceased Personnel File

November 17, 2012

I am a member of the 45th Infantry Division (Thunderbirds) Group. We research the history of the 45th and share what we find on the group’s site.

We also assist families in researching their ancestors’ service in the 45th.

In January, 1944 while serving in Italy as a member of the 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, Private Robert J. Rankl was captured by the Germans.

He escaped and sought refuge near Monte Buono, Umbria, Italy.

On April 13, 1944, Private Rankl along with seven other soldiers were recaptured and executed by the Nazis in the San Benedetto churchyard near Monte Buono.

Because four of the victims were members of the 45th, our 45th group is researching all eight of the victims. I was assigned to make the Freedom of Information Act request for Private Rankl’s Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF).

I just received Private Rankl’s IDPF and have made it available on Scribd.

The file reports on the investigation of his murder, the location and identification of his remains, and in 1948 the return of his remains for burial in Saint Peter’s Cemetery in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

View this document on Scribd

The murder of prisoners of war (POWs) in WWII:

On the Eastern Front, the Nazi murder of POWs was routine and a matter of policy. While some of the regular German army units did not execute prisoners, they were aware that the prisoners they took were often later executed by the SS units. At times regular Germany army units provided the SS units with armed escorts while the SS units executed POWs. Rarely if ever did regular German army units do anything to stop or even protest the murder of POWs.

Starting with the first moments of WWII in Poland, the Nazis executed Polish Jewish officer and enlisted POWs. Slavic Polish officer POWs were mostly executed as part of the Nazi policy to decapitate Polish leadership in order to more easily enslave the surviving Slavic Poles including enlisted Slavic Polish POWs.

As the Soviet Union was militarily allied with the Nazis at that time, the Soviets joined in the attack on Poland. The Soviets executed thousands of Slavic Polish POW officers and hundreds of Polish Jewish POW officers because they were suspected of being potential opponents to Soviet occupation of Poland and rule of Poland by the Soviet controlled Polish Communist Party.

The Nazis continued to execute the Soviet Jewish POWs while starving or working to death at least 50% of the Slavic Soviet POWs.

On the Western Front including Italy, execution by Allied POWs was done more frequently by SS units. In retaliation, Allied units became increasingly reluctant to take prisoners of SS troops. Regular German army units were more likely to attempt to follow the international rules of war on the treatment of POWs.

The German unit that executed Private Rankl and the other GIs is not identified in the documents.

Felix A. Cizewski, my late father, served in the 45th which is why I am a member of the group.

At the time of this atrocity he was serving in southern England as a member of Company C, 3110th Signal Service Battalion helping to prepare for the Normandy landings.

He was transferred to the 45th about nine months later in January, 1945.

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