From top brass to enlisted, Norwich
the U.S. forces of WWII © July 20, 2012, Norwich University Office of Communications
Editor’s note: Andrew Liptak and Megan Charles, a married couple who are both employees and alumni of Norwich University, have been researching the private military college’s participation in World War II. They have learned Norwich alumni were present in every major effort of the massive conflict.
Here are a few of the stories.
Gen. Edward Brooks
One of Norwich University’s most notable graduates, Gen. Edward Brooks led the 2nd Armored Division through some of the toughest battles of the war.
Brooks was transferred to the famed “Hell on Wheels,” 2nd Armored Division in March 1944, where he prepared troops to take on the German military in the hedgerows of France as part of the invasion of Normandy. They landed on June 8, two days after the operation began.
On Sept. 2, 1944, he was in Marchiennes, France, accompanied by a small group of six enlisted men and four officers, when local residents notified them a German column was making its way into town. Marchiennes had recently been cleared by the 2nd Armored Division, but Brooks and his tiny force were virtually alone. Brooks took stock of what they had at their disposal: a single armored car with a machine gun, one quarter-ton truck with a light machine gun, one submachine gun and several carbines for the men.
Forced to cover three roads at once, Brooks directed his soldiers to open fire on the German column as it approached, while calling in for support. Outgunned, Brooks and company held off the column for 10 minutes while a tank platoon rushed to back them up. Running out of ammunition, the soldiers pulled back, luring the Germans to newly arrived armored reinforcements, which set about virtually destroying the column.
Enemy losses were overwhelming: 300 enemy soldiers were killed and 60 captured.
Two days later, Brooks was awarded the Silver Star medal with an oak leaf cluster for his courage during the attack.
He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant after graduating Norwich in 1916. He served in the U.S. Army in France in 1918, where he earned the Distinguished Service Cross.
Capt. George A. Lucey
Capt. George Lucey, Class of 1938, experienced the Second World War in a remarkable way. Deployed with the 1st Armored Division, he was captured in North Africa and held as a prisoner of war in Germany until liberated by advancing Soviet forces.
During the 1943 invasion of North Africa, Lucey participated in the Battle of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia. Unaware of an enemy presence nearby, Lucey took a half-track out to reconnoiter the area, and suddenly came under fire from German forces that cut off his escape.
He was ordered to destroy classified documents and boobytrap the vehicle. As he left the half-track, a German 88 mm artillery round passed through the driver’s compartment, killing his driver instantly. With no other means of transport, Lucey hid in a ditch until uncovered by forces under the command of Field Marshal Irwin Rommel.
He and other prisoners were turned over to the Italian military to be quarantined. Following the war, Lucey described the Italian camp as disorganized with little food, harsh treatment and no regard for the Geneva conventions. After two weeks, prisoners were shipped off to a British officer’s camp where Lucey remained for two months. From there, he was sent to OFLAG 64 in Poland, where he was a prisoner for two years. There, he built a radio out of smuggled parts, and helped dig three escape tunnels.
As the war ground to an end, Soviet forces approached the camp. After escaping, Lucey was picked up by the Russians who brought him to Moscow. There, he was reunited with his mother and returned home in 1945.
For his actions during the war, Lucey was decorated with the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and would later retire as a U.S. Army colonel.
Lucey graduated from Norwich in 1938, where he was an active member of the basketball and baseball teams, and worked on the War Whoop yearbook and Guidon newspaper.
Corporal James Logan
A corporal in the 17th Airborne Division, James Logan fought in the Battle of the Bulge during the winter of 1944/45, and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Logan, who attended Norwich with the Class of 1945 and presumably never graduated, volunteered for a new style of warfare. The Army had started parachuting soldiers into combat zones, incorporating lessons learned from the invasion of Sicily.
On Dec. 29, 1944, just days after the German military broke through allied lines in Belgium, Logan’s division was flown to France. They entered combat on Jan. 1, heading to the crossroads at Bastogne.
On Jan. 7, the 17th was engaged near Flamierge, Belgium, later known as The Battle for Dead Man’s Ridge, where they would come up against a German counterattack that would push the division out of the town. During this attack, Logan manned a machine gun. At one point during the battle, he helped a wounded comrade back into his foxhole, only to lose his life when their position was hit by an enemy tank’s artillery barrage.
Logan was buried at the United States Military Cemetery at Grand Failly, just north of Verdun, France.