The 396th Quartermaster Battalion (Battalion) was constituted on 1 May 1936 and was activated at Fort Hamilton, New York on 1 October 1941. The battalion was initially deployed to England’s staging area, but was diverted to North Africa. The battalion was converted and redesignated on 17 September 1942 as the 396th Port Battalion, Transportation Corps. The battalion took part in the spearhead assault on Sicily in 1943. On 23 March 1944 the battalion was broken up and elements reorganized as the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD) as HHD, 396th Port Battalion (Companies A, B, C, D as the 692nd, 693rd, 694th, 695th Port Companies, respectively—each with their own separate lineages). The battalion received campaign credit for Sicily (with Arrowhead), Rome-Arno, Southern France, and the Rhineland campaigns. The battalion was inactivated on 13 March 1946 in Marseille, France.
The 11th Battalion was redesignated 29 September 1948 as HHD, 11th Transportation Port Battalion. The battalion was reactivated on 4 October 1948 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. On 27 December 1950, the unit was redesignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Service Company, 11th Port Battalion. On 1 November 1952, the battalion was redesignated Headquarters, 11th Transportation Port Battalion, to be redesignated back again to Headquarters and Headquarters Service Company, 11th Transportation Port Battalion on 1 December 1953. On 2 October 1954, the battalion was redesignated as HHD, 11th Transportation Port Battalion.
The Soviet Union tested their first nuclear device in 1949, which heightened the fear of a war. The shortest distance for Soviet long-range bombers to attack the United States with nuclear bombs was across the Arctic Circle. The US Air Force established a line of Distant Early Warning (DEW) stations from Thule, Greenland to the tip of Alaska in 1952. In spring of 1951, landing craft were attached to the 373rd Transportation Major Port (TMP) to Thule, Greenland as part of Operation BLUEJAY. In February 1952, the 373rd TMP conducted Operation Support of North Atlantic Construction (SUNAC) 52. LCMs and LCUs discharged cargo and equipment for the construction of the radar stations along the DEW Line. In 1958 and 1961, the 11th Battalion carried out SUNEC (Supply Unit North East Command) the North Resupply Mission. In the 1958 mission, parts of the unit deployed to Argentina, New Foundland, and Thule, Greenland. In the 1961 mission, parts of the unit deployed to Goose Bay, Labrador and Thule and Soderstrum, Greenland.
In June 1961, two thousand men from reserve units were called to active duty, making up six companies assigned to the 11th Battalion. They participated in an Intensified Combat Training Program for STRAC units in order to be brought to top proficiency in the shortest possible time. In August 1961, the 105th, 117th, 123rd, 124th, and 264th Terminal Companies participated in Exercise DARK SKY, a month-long training operation emphasizing night beach landings with infra-red equipment.
In September 1961, the Soviet Union shipped nuclear missiles to Cuba. President John F. Kennedy responded by a naval blockade of the island and threat of an invasion. Several Transportation Corps units to include the 105th Terminal Service Company deployed from Forts Eustis and Story to Florida in October 1962 during the Cuban Crisis. Premier Khrushchev agreed to pull the missiles out and the units redeployed in December.
As of 5 April 1963, the battalion, whose unit motto was “Preparedness-Dependability,” was comprised of the following companies:
In 1962, communist insurgents launched a guerrilla war to usurp the unification elections in the Republic of South Vietnam. The United States then sent advisors and helicopter companies to South Vietnam to stabilize the government. In 1965, it became clear that South Vietnam would fall without greater assistance from the United States. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, (MACV) called for an increase in the number of US troops to serve in the combat role against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.
The battalion headquarters deployed to Vietnam during the first buildup of American troops in August 1965. The 11th Battalion was known as the “Beavers.” The unit initially performed port clearance in the commercial port of Saigon. There the battalion staged two infantry divisions and an armored cavalry regiment, operated as a truck battalion, transported livestock and farm products in support of civic action programs and delivered vitally needed supplies to Special Forces camps deep in the Mekong Delta, in addition to discharging ammunition from deep draft vessels for all Free World Armed Forces in the II and IV Corps Tactical Zones. The battalion received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the period from August 1965 to May 1966.
One of its companies, the 402nd Transportation Company (Terminal Transfer), commonly referred to as the “Deuce”, operated barge discharge sites at Buu Long, Binh Trieu, Thanh Tuy Ha, and Dong Nai. The company assumed responsibility for the control and operation of the Ho Nai Railhead. The company moved from TC Hill to Camp Camelot, Long Binh in April 1968. It opened a new general cargo discharge site at Dong Nai on 16 May 1968. On 15 June 1968, the 402nd Company transferred to the 71st Transportation Battalion Terminal. With this move, operational control of the Buu Long, Codigo and Dong Nai Barge Discharge Sites, and Ho Nai Railhead were also transferred to the 71st Battalion.
On 31 March 1967, the 11th Battalion moved to Cat Lai to open up a mid-stream ammunition discharge facility to augment the Saigon port. Cat Lai was then an undeveloped area that appeared to be almost inhabitable. With ingenuity and perseverance, a Base Development Plan for the Cat Lai Compound was contrived and implemented. The soldiers constructed Operational centers, as well as troop billets and recreational facilities. Challenged with self-sustainment, the battalion became a model among Free World units within the Republic of Vietnam. The battalion’s mission became the operation of the Cat Lai Ammunition Terminal and cargo line haul operations on waterways in the Mekong Delta. It had one stevedore company along with tug boats and LCMs to haul the ammunition up river.
The 124th Transportation Company (Terminal Service), commonly referred to as the “Red Barons,” was assigned to the 11th Battalion and provided personnel and equipment to operate the three deep draft berths in Cat Lai Harbor. The 124th Transportation Company (Terminal Service) has discharge more than one million short tons of ammunition during the past two years. The 124th provided movement of lighterage to discharge sites at Than Tuy Ha and Ben Trieu, and operated drum POL discharge sites at Nha Be. The 124th operated three deep draft berths and discharged over one million short tons of ammunition during March 1967 and March 1969—the company came to average 50,000 short tons per month. The 124th assumed responsibility of the Than Tuy Ha discharge site on 1 July 1967 and relinquished responsibility on 9 July 1967 for operating the K-12, Area IV at the Saigon Port.
Detachment #3, TD Augmentation Unit, US Army Harbor Craft Company (Provisional), commonly referred to as the “River Runners,” combined 33 floating craft (tugs, cranes and barges) and other detachments. The company’s tugboats shuttled cargo barges and made ammunition tows throughout the waterways of III and IV Corps Tactical Zones and provided Y Tanker support for the Saigon support POL system from Nha Be and Vung Tau to various Mekong Delta fixed and floating sites. Det #3 delivered almost all of POL shipments in the III and IV Corps Tactical Zones. The 11th Battalion lost eight ammunition barges near VC Island to an enemy rocket attack on 22 February 1968. On 16 May 1968 the company gained nine transportation detachments, six liquid barges, and three J-boats. An enemy rocket near “VC Island” near Ben Hoa hit a #3 Detachment tugboat on 16 November 1968 while towing ammunition from Cat Lai to Codigo; WO2 Gordon L. Patterson and SP4 Russell A. Hodge were killed in action. WO2 Patterson was a USMC veteran of the Korean War and had arrived in country on 9 September 1968. Tugboats were often under hostile fire during these missions. Additionally, the 60-ton and 100-ton cranes in discharging and loading heavy lift cargo in the Saigon–Newport Port Complex.
The 1099th Transportation Company (Medium Boat), commonly referred to as the “River Rats”, was stationed at Cat Lai and operating LCM-8 landing craft. The 1099th disembarked and staged division size combat forces, transported refugees from the war-torn Iron Triangle to refugee centers, conducted Logistics-Over-The-Shore (LOTS) operations, provided direct combat support of combat forces in the Mekong Delta, and experimented with barge mounted artillery. For some of these missions, elements of the 1099th were attached to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in July 1968. The company began operations with the 1st Infantry Division on riverine operations in operational areas south of Saigon in November 1968. The 1099th supported the 82nd Airborne Division in riverine operations in the Capital Military District of Saigon beginning December 1968. The 1099th repeatedly came under hostile fire and was one of the most decorated transportation units in Vietnam.
In 1969, the 5th Heavy Boat Company headquarters moved to Cat Lai where it took up the mission of uploading ammunition and hauling it upriver to destinations in III and IV Corps Tactical Zone. In 1970, the 5th Heavy Boat merged with the US Army Harborcraft Company (Provisional) and retained the name of the 5th Heavy Boat Company until its inactivation at Newport on 29 April 1972. The 11th Terminal Battalion was inactivated in Vietnam on 12 February 1970 after having earned three Meritorious Unit Commendations.
With the inactivation of the 11th Battalion in Vietnam, the mission to supply Thanh Tuy Ha, Ben Trieu and Nha Be ended and the 124th Terminal Service Company went back to operating the three bouy discharge sites at Cat Lai, supplying ammunition to the units in the III and IV Corps Area. The 124th Company was inactivated on 15 March 1971.
In the order of activations, units with the most battle honors get activated first. The battalion headquarters that deployed to Vietnam had extensive battle honors from previous wars and were replaced by units with less distinguished records. These deployed battalions earned even more battle honors in Vietnam; however, they were inactivated as the war came to an end. In order to preserve these battle honors, the stay behind battalions at Forts Eustis and Story were reflagged to the colors of units inactivated in Vietnam. The 11th Battalion colors returned to Fort Eustis and in the 92nd Transportation Battalion (Terminal) was reflagged as HHD, 11th Transportation Battalion (Terminal) on 3 April 1972. The 11th Battalions was one of the few battalion headquarters to remain a terminal battalion throughout its entire history. LTC H. K. Stevenson replaced LTC G. M. Daniels as the battalion commander on 14 July 1972. The 11th Battalion assumed command of the following companies:
The 11th Battalion inherited some unusual companies. The 73rd Floating Craft Company was activated at Fort Eustis under the 4th Transportation Command on 1 September 1959 from an amphibious truck (DUKW) company that had earned the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation and Distinguished Unit Citation in the South Pacific during World War II and served from the beginning to the end of the Korean War. Its new mission was to provide maintenance for Army floating craft. After the Soviet Union blocked the supply line leading into Berlin on 31 August 1961, the 73rd was sent to La Rochelle, France to participate in the Berlin Buildup. There it was divided along the various ports along the coast of northern France to assist in cargo operations until the crisis ended in July 1962. Shortly after its return, the advance party of the company deployed to Kings Bay, Georgia on 26 October in response to the Cuba Missile Crisis. Then the entire company deployed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where they waited for the planned amphibious invasion until the crisis averted and the units redeployed on 10 December 1962.
The company ended up training and processing detachments for deployment to Vietnam during the three years of troop buildups, 1965-1968. This was a period of tremendous personnel transition and stress. In the midst of that, the company still had to conduct its annual Command Inspections and Operational Readiness Tests. It was bounced around from one battalion to another as each received orders to deploy overseas until it fell under the 80th Terminal Battalion that was activated in August 1967. By 1968, the deployments ended and the tug boats of the company fell into a routine of towing missions up and down the coast. On 15 August 1968, the 73rd Floating Craft Company was attached to the 92nd Battalion where it remained when the battalion it was reflagged the 11th. The 73rd Floating Craft Company was the only tug boat company at Fort Eustis.
Reactivated under the 71st Transportation Battalion (Terminal) at Fort Story on 10 September 1965, the 558th Transportation Company was the only amphibious general support maintenance company of its kind. The 82nd Transportation Company (Amphibious General Support) had a similar mission but deployed from Fort Story to Vietnam in 1965 to become the Marine Maintenance Activity (Vietnam). The 558th had the capability to remove, rebuild and replace 1800 pound diesel engines and hydraulic transmission among other maintenance jobs in the repair the fleet of amphibians: LARC V, XV and LXs. The company had a colorful history having served as an amphibious truck company (DUKW) during World War II from Normandy through Central Europe Campaigns. It then served during the Korean War with equal distinction, having earned the Presidential Unit Citation (Navy), Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations for 1950-1952 and 1952-1953.
On 8 July 1968, the 558th Transportation Company was reassigned from the 79th Transportation Battalion to the direct control of the US Army Support Element, Fort Story. On 15 May 1970, the 558th Transportation Company was released from the attachment to the US Army Support Element, Fort Story and reassigned to the 7th Transportation Command (Terminal B) and moved to Fort Eustis. On 4 August, the company assumed control of the maintenance shops at Fort Eustis and picked up the responsibility to overhaul and repair of Army watercraft as well as maintaining responsibility for amphibian maintenance at Fort Story. The company was also given the responsibility of centralizing supply management of watercraft and amphibian parts through the NCR 500 Automatic Data Processing (ADP) System which took over the record keeping for technical supply in early 1970. This ADP System was so large that it filled vans which were kept at the Seventh Terminal. On 13 September 1971, the Floating Maintenance Shop (FMS) 788 arrived from England and was berthed at Third Port. The enlisted personnel moved from their barracks into the FMS and their Orderly Room, Reenlistment Office and Day Rooms were moved to Bldg 416 at Third Port. The supply personnel remained in their original barracks since they would not deploy with the rest of the 558th if it was mobilized for a mission.
On 21 October 1972, Captain Charles E. Koonce and Sergeant First Class Lloyd G. Purvis as the acting first sergeant received the colors of the 329th Transportation Company which was reactivated at Fort Eustis. It fell under the control of the 11th Terminal Battalion. It received its first replacement 1466 series LCU, 1545, in November. The following story is of her shake down cruise as reported in the 1973 Annual Historical Report of the 329th. The company received LCU 1583 in February 1972. The company needed eight boats to be at full strength. In June it received three vessels from the 612th (Heavy Boat) Company after it stood down. By December, the company had picked up six LCUs (1540, 1545, 1560, 1583, 1587, and 1590) with the hope of picking up four more. They company picked up 1561 and 1575 the next year to give the company a full strength of eight LCUs. The company’s LCUs participated in local ship-to-shore training at Fort Story or were tasked to haul cargo and equipment for the Army along the Atlantic Coast. Sometimes the boats supported the emergency deployment readiness exercises (EDRE) of 7th Transportation Group battalions and elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
In January 1973, the 558th was placed on alert for possible riot control duty for the Presidential Inauguration of Richard Nixon in Washington, DC. From 7-11 July 1975, Computer System Command converted the company’s NCR 500 to the PUDN/DODAAC System. The 11th Battalion with the 329th Heavy Boat and 567th Cargo Transfer Company were involved in the joint operation with Amphibious Cargo Ship El Paso during the week of 4-8 June 1973. The post Vietnam War years were monetarily lean and the battalion only held a few local field training exercises.
On 4 June 1974, the 97th Heavy Boat Company was reassigned from the 24th Battalion to the th Battalion. The company had the following five LCUs: 1504, 1507, 1524, 1550, and 1586. On 10 June 1974, the 5th Heavy Boat Company was reassigned from the 10th Battalion to the 11th Battalion, both at Fort Eustis. The company had four LCUs: 1516, 1543, 1547, and 1575, designed for conducting LOTS operations. As of January 1975, all the heavy boat companies were consolidated under the 10th Battalion that was by then almost entirely a boat battalion:
In 1976, the Army changed its policy and allowed female soldiers of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) to perform other duties than clerical and medical. The TOE of the 558th Transportation Company changed to allow up to 50 female personnel to fill duty positions. On 23 April 1976, the FMS 788 departed for cyclic drydocking in the New York shipyard. Meanwhile, the shops set up under canvas to continue providing support until it returned from the shipyard on 4 June. A few months later, the crew of the FMS was moved from the 1st Platoon to the 3rd Platoon. These 18 personnel ran the vessel and had no GS maintenance role. The idea was to provide singular control for billeting, messing and VSO operations under the headquarters platoon and an even distribution of personnel throughout the four platoons. In September 1975, the 5th Heavy Boat Company picked up LCUs 1519 and 1522 bringing the total LCUs to six. In the Spring of 1976, the 5th Heavy Boat received orders to deploy to Hawaii. It arrived in Hawaii in June 1976 and fell under the control of the 45th Support Group.
In 1977, the Auxiliary Floating Drydock Light (AFDL)-25 was towed from the Panama Canal to Fort Eustis for testing by the 558th as a potential addition to the maintenance mission. It provided drydocking and GS maintenance for underwater hull portions and appendages of watercraft. The test went six months. On 7 November 1978, the 547th Transportation Detachment (CS) was released from attachment to the 558th and attached to the 38th Transportation Battalion (Truck).
On 15 December 1976, the 97th Heavy Boat Company was transferred to the 10th Battalion. In 1977, the 329th Heavy Boat Company was also transferred to the 10th Battalion. The 11th Battalion was no longer the 7th Group’s boat battalion. As of March 1978, the battalion had the following:
The dive personnel of the 558th were transferred to a consolidated Dive Detachment (Provisional) within the 11th Battalion in early 1979. On 15 June 1979, the ASAV John U. D. Page was sent to Hawaii for assignment to the 5th Heavy Boat Company. Then on 17 August 1979, the 79th Transportation Battalion was inactivated and the 11th Transportation Battalion (Terminal) commander and colors was transferred to Fort Story, to replace it. The rest of the HHC personnel were either transferred to other posts or left the Army prior to this change. Essentially, the 79th Battalion was reflagged so its commander could command US Army Fort Story Command Element (Provisional) organized on 16 July. He had originally commanded both the post and terminal battalion. This change allowed him to focus on his post command duties and assigned the terminal battalion to answer directly to the 7th Group at Fort Eustis. The 73rd and 558th Transportation Companies, 497th Engineer Company and 469th Detachment were transferred to the 10th Transportation Battalion. The new 11th Battalion assumed control over the 79th Battalion units:
These companies had a busy year prior to the arrival of the 11th Battalion. From 23-25 October 1978, the 368th Terminal Service had participated in Exercise GARDEN PLOT at Camp Pendleton, Virginia. In 1978, the 331st LARC Company provided LARC XVs to Langley Air Force Base to test the capability to load and transport them in C5As. In May, two LARC XVs participated in Joint Exercise SOLID SHIELD at Camp LeJeune, NC.
The 11th Battalion provided the headquarters for an 892-man joint task force for joint training exercise LOG JAM held at Fort Eustis, Virginia from 22-26 April 1979.
As of July 1981, the battalion consisted of:
As of 24 March 1981, the mission of the 368th Transportation Company changed. The unit was no longer responsible for handling break-bulk cargo. The 368th Terminal Service Company’s new mission was to discharge, backload, and transship containerized cargo at water terminals located at beaches or fixed ports.
In September 1981, the 368th Terminal Service Company supported two military training exercises in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The group flew to Honolulu to outload the 25th Infantry Division in Exercise OPPORTUNE JOURNEY utilizing the USNS Comet. While there, they also loaded the SS Builder by break bulk method equipment for Operation KANGAROO in Australia. The equipment belonged to elements of the 25th Division and units of the 7th Infantry Division for their participation in the annual exercise with Aussie and New Zealand forces. While working at Pearl, the 368th Terminal Service troops stayed at a warehouse on Victory Piers, they call the “Pearl Harbor Hilton.”