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Unit History

519th Transportation Battalion

The following history of the 519th Port Battalion during World War II was summarized from Andrew J. Brozyna, Longshore Soldiers, Longmont, Colorado: Apidae Press, 2010.

The 519th Port Battalion was activated on 23 June 1943 at Fort Indiantown Gap. Pennsylvania with the 302nd, 303rd, 304th, and 305th Port Companies. On 19 July, the first group of 500 recruits arrived at Indiantown Gap. The second group arrived on 2 August and brought the battalion up to strength. Training began on 20 July. They learned to operate winches and other equipment, rigging, stowing, and warehousing. They were divided into hatch and deck crews to work aboard the ships and wharf crew to work on the dock. Indiantown Gap build land ships and docks to train loading and unloading cargo. The goal was efficiency and speed in loading and unloading ships.

On 17 October, the battalion left for Boston to train on an actual port. They lived at Camp Miles Standish and trained on actual equipment at the port every day. One of the conflicts between union longshoremen and military stevedores was speed. The civilian labor did not like working during inclement weather and encouraged the soldiers to work at a slower pace.

On 23 March 1944, the battalion crowded aboard SS Edmund B. Alexander at Boston and sailed the next day. Their ship was a former German passenger liner captured during WWI. It arrived at Liverpool on 5 April. After a short stay in transit camps, they moved to Camp Sea Mills in Shirehampton, Bristol on 11 April. Many of the men were billeted with locals due to the shortage of billeting on base. They began working at the Avonmouth docks on April 13 loading ships for the upcoming Normandy invasion.

The men assumed they would continue loading cargo at Bristol until they were attached to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade along with the 490th and 518th Port Battalions in May. The Army was segregated at the time and the 490th was an African American battalion. The battalion also picked up the 279th and 280th Port Companies attached from the 505th Port Battalion in early May. On 31 May, the battalion left Bristol by train to US Army Marshalling Area 139 at Bridgend, Wales where they drew chemically impregnated clothing, French francs, three days of K-rations and waited for the invasion of Normandy. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade would land at Utah Beach. On 2 June, the men left their marshalling area for the embarkation areas at Newport. The 303rd left the battalion and embarked its transport at Bristol and Southampton. The battalion was divided up among several vessels. The original invasion plan was to land on 5 June, but bad weather delayed the landings until the next day. So, the men waited aboard their ships.

At 0230 hours on 6 June, the convoy went underway across the English Channel. The 4th and 90th Infantry Divisions landed that day, and the 519th went ashore over the next four days. Upon arrival, each company immediately went to work unloading ships anchored offshore. Amphibious trucks (DUKWs) hauled the crews to the vessels where they worked 12-hour shifts. The ship crews slept aboard the ships until they were unloaded, and the shore crews dug foxholes about 300 yards inland from the sea wall to sleep in. Liberty ships had five hatches each with a separate crew. The hatch crews loaded either pallets or break bulk into cargo nets that the deck crews hoisted over the side with cranes and lowered into an awaiting DUKW, landing craft or Rhino barge for transport to land. A stevedore guided the cargo into place. Two technical 5s kept track of what left the whole operation under the supervision of a sergeant. Once full, the lighterage left for shore.

The shore party unloaded the cargo from the landing craft and barges to the awaiting trucks. Once ashore, the beach dispatch directed the DUKW to the appropriate supply dump inland. This trip inland reduced the availability to shuttle cargo back and forth from ship to the shore. As more cargo trucks arrived, they could haul the cargo inland. The vessels were to arrive with the necessary cargo nets, hooks, cables and slings, but not all did. So, the 519th borrowed the gear from the Brits and set up a shop to fabricate their own.

German aircraft and artillery were a constant threat to the beach. Germany aircraft generally strafed the area at night and in the early hours of 10 June, a dive bomber hit the SS Charles Morgan, which the 304th was unloading. The sinking of the Liberty ship resulted in four men of the 304th killed and six wounded. The worst air raid on the beach took place when the Germans dropped five bombs in the battalion area on 15 June resulting in several more killed. During that first week, the battalion suffered a total of 10 killed and 12 wounded.

A major storm brought beach operations to a halt from 19 to 22 June. This provided the stevedores much needed rest. Crews trapped aboard ships soon ran out of food, and African American DUKW drivers risked their lives to deliver rations to the ships during the rough seas. Starting 24 June, the battalion moved further inland and off the beach. The battalion discharged cargo over Utah Beach for five months.

On 8 September, the British and Canadian forces liberated the Belgian port of Antwerp. In November, winter rendered discharging cargo over the beach ineffective. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade dispersed its battalions inland. The 518th Port Battalion moved to Gent, Belgium. The 519th released the 279th Port Company to work Le Havre. The rest of the 519th loaded up on trucks and then trains where they headed toward Antwerp on 14 November. The battalion picked up the up the 281st Port Company the next day. The battalion arrived at Antwerp four days later. The soldiers then spent the next four days cleaning out their barracks and preparing their equipment while the engineers cleared wreckage from the wharves. On 30 November, the first Liberty ships arrived at Antwerp.

The 13th Major Port had responsibility for the operations of Antwerp port. The stevedores of the 519th operated two docking areas just west of Tampico Flats. The 280th, 281st, 302nd and 305th Port Companies worked the docks to discharge cargo and store in warehouses where they then loaded the cargo on trucks and trains. By then, the truck companies had 10-ton tractors and trailers that ran cargo along the ABC (American-British-Canadian) Route. The 708th Railway Grand Division ran the trains out of Antwerp. The 303rd and 304th Port Companies performed guard duty. The soldiers of the 304th actually rode the trains to prevent pilferage.

Pilferage was a serious problem in the once Nazi occupied Belgium. The retreating Germans had stripped the country leaving the locals short of food. To provide employment, the US Army hired civilian longshoremen to work at the port. This freed the soldiers for other duties, especially guard duty. The civilian longshoremen were paid well but went on strike in January wanting better transportation and more courteous inspections, and another in February. Both times the soldiers of the 519th were ready to take over their duties, but the Army resolved the strikes. Working side-by-side with the civilians, the soldiers of the 519th set the pace and increased throughput.

The bounty at the port made pilferage tempting, and many soldiers cast a blind eye to locals taking food home to their families. Stealing goods, especially food and fuel and selling it on the black-market was a serious offense.

As the Allies drove the Germans further back into their homeland, Antwerp became a prime target for V-1 and V-2 rockets. As many as six thousand such rockets rained down on Antwerp. The worst damage was when a V-2 killed 567 soldiers and wounded 291 when it hit a movie theater on 16 December. The civilian longshoremen were paid an additional 30 Francs as hazardous duty pay for working under the risk rocket attacks, called "shiver pay."

The war ended in Europe on 10 May 1945, and the 519th began packing up supplies and equipment for the war in the Pacific Theater. They fortunately were no longer working under the threat of rocket attacks. The dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan forced the Japanese to formally surrender on 2 September. This did not end the need for the port battalion as it then had to begin shipping soldiers’ home. This period also allowed for much needed down time for furloughs and sports. The military stevedores would be among the last to leave Europe.

On 20 December 1945, the 519th relocated to Luchtbal Barracks and focused totally on guard duty. The 304th was inactivated in January 1946. As veterans with the required 85 points returned to the United States, soldiers from other port units and even infantry men who did not have enough points to go home early filled their ranks. The 280th and 305th Port Companies were inactivated in June, and the 519th organized two new companies, 265th and 285th, to absorb the remnants of the 517th Port Battalion. As the need for port guards reduced, the 519th was finally inactivated on 3 October 1946.

Campaign Participation Credit: World War II (embroidered Normandy) Streamers: Normandy (with arrowhead); Northern France; Rhineland.

Decorations: Meritorious Unit Commendation (embroidered European Theatre); French Croix de Guerra with Silver Palm; Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for action at Antwerp.

The following histories is summarized from official statements of services with narrative about these units during their tenure in Thailand, while assigned to the United States Army Support Command, Thailand (USARSUPTHAI). Documents and photos have been collected and placed online with The 519th Transportation Association, Thailand’s website by Joseph J. Wilson, Jr. Sergeant First Class, US Army (Retired).

Project 572-W Cold War

On 1 February 1956, the unit was reactivated as the 519th Transportation Battalion (Terminal Service) at Fort Eustis, Virginia. It was assigned the mission of preparing various boat companies and terminal service companies for participation in Project 572-W, the supply of material for the construction of the Defense Early Warning (DEW) line in the Arctic. Its mission completed, the unit was inactivated on 15 December 1957 at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Vietnam War

In 1959, North Vietnam decided to join forces with the guerrillas in South Vietnam. In response, the US Army deployed advisors and helicopter companies beginning in 1962 to assist the Army of Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) combat the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnam Army (NVA). Thailand shared a border with Laos and Cambodia, neighbors to North and South Vietnam. Logistics flowed from North Vietnam down the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos and Cambodia. As early as 1961, the US Command in Control Pacific (CINCPAC) rotated US Air Force units out of the Philippine Islands to Royal Air Force bases in Thailand. They received logistical support from their home bases.

The war in Vietnam increased the need to improve logistical infrastructure in Thailand, since it was a cosigner of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). With Bangkok as the primary commercial port in Thailand, different contingency plans identified the need for a second ground line of communication to northeastern Thailand. In 1962, the CINCPAC deployed troops and USAF units to Udon Air Base in Thailand, and in May, established the Military Assistance Command, Thailand to manage US forces in country.

As more US Air Force units deployed to air bases in Thailand, it placed an increasing demand on the limited port facilities in country for logistical support. So, on 19 March 1963, the United States and Thailand governments signed the Specific Logistics Action, Thailand (SLAT) Agreement for the completion of a number of projects funded under the Military Assistance Program (MAP). In June 1966, MAP completed the first pier for the Royal Thai Navy at the Sattahip Naval Facility in the Gulf of Thailand located 76 nautical miles southeast of Bangkok. This pier could berth one vessel. The Army engineers also established a Delong Pier south of the facility in August 1966, which could berth two ships simultaneously. To complete the new line of communication, Thailand needed a good all-weather road connecting it to the main highway.1

After the 809th Engineer Battalion (Construction) completed four-year construction of the Chachoengsao-Kabinburi Road (also known as the Freedom Highway or Bangkok Bypass Road) on 18 February 1966, it began construction of a paved road leading from the Freedom Highway to Sattahip and camp facilities on 3 January 1967.2

The completion of the new pier and Delong Pier came as the US Army’s involvement in the Vietnam War increased from an advisory role to the deployment of ground combat units during the summer of 1965. The second increment of troops began during the summer of 1966. That year the Port of Sattahip required a US Army transportation battalion to offload military cargo and conduct port clearance.

On 20 May 1966, the US Army activated the 519th Transportation Battalion (Motor Transport) at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland for deployment overseas. It initially only had the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and the 313th Transportation Company (Refrigerated). The majority of officers and NCOs who formed the cadre had returned from assignments in Europe. To fill the ranks, the nation had increased the draft and most of the enlisted personnel came straight out of basic training. By early June, the battalion was sufficient personnel on-hand to begin POR/POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement) training in preparation for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. During its own training phase, the battalion had the responsibility of supervising the training of various Engineer, Quartermaster, Signal, and Transportation units for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. When deployment orders arrived, the battalion had been diverted to the Kingdom of Thailand.

The 572nd Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo) was activated on 8 July 1966. After loading equipment at the port in Baltimore, Maryland personnel of the 572nd Transportation Company arrived at San Francisco, California where they boarded the USNS General Alexander M. Patch for the 24-day cruise to the Republic of Vietnam on 6 October 1966.

519th Crest

519th Transportation Battalion Crest

Personnel from the battalion participated in the design of the distinctive crest which was approved by the Institute of Heraldry on 31 August 1966. The insignia is a gold medal and enamel device, one and one eighth inches in height. It consists of a brick-red disk edged in gold with three battlements at the top. In the center is a - gold, black striped tiger's head in profile with jagged extremities.

The latter surmount a green wreath in base composed of laurel leaves on one side and palm in the other. On the base and sides of the gold rim is a tri-parted gold scroll inscribed the Latin words; "QUID," "QUANDO," "QUO." in black letters. The motto refers to the battalion's only query when assigned a mission:

What? Where? When?

On 10 December 1966, advance party of the battalion flew out of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland aboard C130s bound for the Kingdom of Thailand. The remainder of the battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Frederick Middleton and Sergeant Major James John Milele (both WWII and Korean War veterans) completed its deployment to Sattahip, Thailand on 17 December 1966. Shortly after its arrival, the 519th Transportation Battalion moved north to Camp Charn Sinthope near Phanom Sarakham, southeast of Bangkok. In Thailand it fell under the control of the recently activated US Army Support Command, Thailand located at Camp Friendship.

519th Unit Patch

519th Transportation Battalion Patch

In Thailand, the 519th Transportation Battalion adopted a tiger as its mascot, based on the dominant figure on its distinctive crest.

519th Transportation Battalion adopted a tiger as its mascot

519th Transportation Battalion adopted a tiger as its mascot

In Thailand the 519th Transportation Battalion provided operational control of the following companies:

  • Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment
  • 53rd Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo)
  • 260th Transportation Company (Petroleum)
  • 291st Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo)
  • 313th Transportation Company (Reefer)
  • 505th Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo)
  • 569th Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo)
  • 33rd Transportation Platoon (Reefer)
  • 254th Transportation Detachment (Trailer Transfer Point Operating)

The 260th Transportation Company (Petroleum) had been activated at Fort Riley, Kansas, on 1 June 1966. Based at Camp Samae San in Sattahip, the 260th Transportation Company (Petroleum) was initially issued M51 5-ton dump trucks and attached to the 44th Engineer Group where the drivers assisted with highway and road construction until their M52 5-ton truck tractors and M131 5,000-gallon fuel trailers arrived.

The 505th Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo) had been activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on 23 May 1957 and arrived in Thailand on 11 November 1966. Based at Camp Vayama in Sattahip, the 505th Transportation Company served as the initial line haul operational unit from Sattahip to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB), and Camp Friendship/Korat RTAFB. One platoon operated from a railhead at Udorn RTAFB, transporting construction and airfield supplies in the buildup of the Nakon Phanom RTAFB (NKP) near the Laotian border in early 1967.

The 291st Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo) was activated at Fort Meade on 1 October 1966. It was based at Camp Friendship in Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat) where the drivers transported cargo north to US bases. The unit also transported cargo from Camp Friendship to Ubon RTAFB.

The 313th Transportation Company (Refrigerated) was activated at Fort Meade on 20 May 1966 and based in Bangkok where they transported all refrigerated products throughout US military units in Thailand. This rounded out the battalion by the beginning of 1967.

In February 1967, the bulk fuel jetty (POL pier) went into operation which could pipe fuel from one tanker directly to storage tanks ashore at Sattahip.3

More companies arrived with the third incremental buildup in 1967. The 53rd Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo) was the oldest active company of the battalion. It had been activated at Camp Roberts, California on 25 October 1952 and was assigned to Okinawa on 24 September 1965. It was attached to the 519th Transportation Battalion on 10 April 1967 based at Camp Vayama in Sattahip where it conducted port clearance operations at Camp Samae San and the deep-water port at Camp Vayama.

The 569th Transportation Company (Medium Truck Cargo) was activated at Fort Meade on 1 May 1967 and based at Camp Khon Kaen where it replaced the platoon of the 291st Transportation Company in the delivery of cargo to Udorn RTAFB, Ubon RTAFB, NKP RTAFB, and Camp Rum Chit Chi in Sakon Nakon. It was the only class B unit in the 519th Transportation Battalion, with all US military drivers.

The 33rd Transportation Platoon (Reefer) was activated at Fort Lewis, Washington on 25 August 1967. Upon arrival, it was based at Camp Friendship in Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat) where the platoon augmented the 313th Transportation Company in the delivery of refrigerated cargo to all US military units throughout Thailand.

The 254th Transportation Detachment (Trailer Transfer) was activated at Fort Lewis on 30 November 1967. Upon arrival in Thailand, it was split into three teams one based at Camp Charn Sinthope near Phanom Sarakham, Camp Friendship in Korat where they were attached to the 291st Transportation Company, and Camp Khon Kaen where another was attached to the 569th Transportation Company. The 254th Transportation Detachment had responsibility for operating the Trailer Transfer Points along the 519th Transportation Battalions line haul operating area. This completed the arrival of all the subordinate units of the 519th.

519th Transportation Battalion adopted a tiger as its mascot

In April 1966, construction had begun on a military pier under the supervision of the United States Navy’s Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC). The project cost $40 million and was completed in 1968. The project dredged 3.5 million cubic meters of material to provide berthing for four capital ships with 36-foot draft. This included cruiser-size vessels, roll-on/roll-off vessels, container vessels and auxiliary naval craft. The northern part of the bay also offered anchorage for six more vessels. The one million square foot port contained a 134,000 cubic foot cold storage warehouse, four transit sheds, cargo staging areas and numerous other structures necessary for port operations. It had a fire station located at the main entrance and 11 tank farm storage with a capacity of 50,000 barrels of fuel with a projected capacity when completed of 260,000 barrels. The port dedication ceremony of the Sattahip Deep-Water Port Facility took place on 30 May 1968. The Ko Mu Breakwater was scheduled for completion by early next year.4

This became the second major port facility in Thailand and could handle 98 percent of all military cargo arriving in country. It would also stimulate the local economy with employment opportunities. If needed, two amphibious companies could establish two additional berths at U-Tapao Bay. 5

The line of communication originated at the Port of Sattahip and covered a network of 1,070 miles. The battalion established trailer transfer points (TTP) at three locations along the line of communication with the southernmost at Sattahip (Vayama and Samae San). Two-lane paved roads stretched from Sattahip to Camp Friendship at Royal Thai Air Force Bases in Korat and Takhli in the north. The battalion headquarters was stationed at Camp Friendship along with the 291st Medium Truck and 313th Reefer Companies and the 33rd Reefer Platoon, which also doubled as a trailer transfer point. The roads continued north to Camp Khon Kaen, Udorn, Sakorn Nakhon, Nakhorn Phanom and west to Ubon on a mixture of hard surface and dirt roads. Udorn, Nakhorn Phanom and Ubon were Royal Thai Air Force Bases. The rough roads took a toll on the maintenance of the vehicles that drove them. Camp Khon Kaen ran the northernmost trailer transfer point with a platoon from the 291st and then the 569th Medium Truck Company.

Although the battalion headquarters relocated to Camp Friendship in 1968, it soon returned to Camp Charn Sinthope where it remained until 1970 and then moved to Camp Samae San in Sattahip.

Units of the 519th Transportation Battalion had the unique mission of transporting cargo classified as Project 972 from December 1966 until December 1969 in support of US air operations in Laos and Vietnam. Operation 972 was sensitive explosives and listening devices commonly referred to as Igloo White or known as the “McNamara Line of Defense” and was instrumental in detecting enemy troop movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and especially around the troops besieged at Kha Sanh.

Another unique mission of the 519th Transportation Battalion was the timely distribution of dairy products to US forces throughout Thailand. The 313th Transportation Company dubbed it “Red Ball Revived” thereby ensuring that sensitive dairy products were expedited and delivered fresh each day.

A special survey disclosed that the "Tiger Battalion" has the longest line of communication and largest mission of any battalion of its type in the world.

When Richard Nixon became the president in 1969, he ran on the campaign to end the war in Vietnam. The retrograde of units from Vietnam began in 1969. The inactivation involved casing the colors and sending them to Anniston Army Depot along with the unit history. The 569th Transportation Company and 33rdTransportation Platoon (Reefer) were inactivated in Thailand on 1 April 1970. The 53rd Transportation Company was inactivated in Thailand on 30 December that year. The majority of the battalion was inactivated in 1971. The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 519th Transportation Battalion was inactivated at Camp Samae San on 20 February 1971. The 291st Transportation Company was inactivated at Camp Samae San, Thailand on 30 June 1971. The 254th Trailer Transfer Detachment was likewise inactivated in Thailand the same day. The 505th Transportation Company was inactivated at Camp Vayama, Thailand on 30 December 1971. The 313th Transportation Company was inactivated at Camp Samae San, Thailand on 31 March 1972. The American involvement in the ground war in Vietnam ended in February 1973 and the North Vietnamese Army invaded in early 1975. Saigon fell on 30 April. With the war over, the 260th Transportation Company (Petroleum) was the last company inactivated at Camp Samae San, Thailand on 31 October 1975. Sattahip became the Sattahip Naval Base and evolved into a robust commercial port.

For service in Thailand, 519th Transportation Battalion and its subordinate units were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) 16 December 1966 – 31 December 1969 - GO 308 dated 14 July 1970, and although the documentation became lost over time, Department of the Army issued GO 29 on 30 December 2001 officially recognizing the accomplishments of this great transportation unit and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Contributing Authors:

Richard E. Killblane

Joseph J. Wilson, Jr. SFC, US Army (Retired)


1 Pamphlet: Port of Sattahip Dedicated by H.E. Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, the Prime Minister on 30 May 1966, US Army Transportation Museum Archives.

2 809th EN Bn History, USARSUPTHAI Association,

3 Pamphlet: Port of Sattahip Dedicated.

4 Pamphlet: Port of Sattahip Dedicated.

5 Pamphlet: Port of Sattahip Dedicated.