Landmarks of Dekalb County, Alabama

World War II Veterans Book: Herbert Tate

An Excerpt

Herbert Glen Tate was born November 4, 1917.
He died December 5, 1991.
Father: Wallace Haralson Tate.
Mother: Maggie Viola (Shankles) Tate.
Wife: Sarah Grace (Lankford).
Date of marriage: July 5, 1941.
Children: Patrick Haralson Tate, Sarah Glynn Haase.
Brothers: John Bruce Tate, Charles Hobson Tate, Wallace Clayton Tate.

Herbert Tate

Herbert Glen Tate entered the US Army March 23, 1941 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He was honorably discharged June 20, 1945 from Fort McPherson, Georgia, having advanced from the rank of private to the rank of staff sergeant.

Tate completed his basic training, was classified as a special vehicle operator, and assigned to Company E, 38th Engineers General Service Regiment (combat). This regiment was activated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and participated in Carolina Maneuvers September, October and November 1941. The Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor was just days away.

Tate and his regiment received orders to be deployed to the European Theater, and arrived at the Charleston Port of Embarkation March 3, 1942. They arrived on Ascension Island March 30, and landed at Pointenoire West Africa August 23. The troops then moved to Dakar Africa in increments from December 30, 1942 through February 17, 1943. Tate and the 38th left Africa December 8, and while they were en route to England the regiment was redesignated as Engineer General Service Regiment. Herbert was about to have a firsthand encounter with war.

Before the US became involved in World War II, Germany had invaded Poland which caused France, Great Britain, and Canada to declare war on Germany. By the spring of 1940, The Nazi forces were prepared to invade France, which was defended by the French military and a sizable British force. After six weeks of battle, the Germans had defeated the French and British to seize control of France.

The Germans knew that the Allied forces, that now included the United States, would be invading France in an attempt to liberate Europe from Germany. They were right, and a huge Allied army was assembled at a place called Normandy Beach, which was located on the northwest coast of France. Code-named “Operation Overlord”, and commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allies landed on five beaches in the Normandy area, which also had code names: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. Prior to the actual amphibious invasion, Allied planes had pounded the Nazi positions with bombs, and had dropped thousands of paratroops behind the German lines. French resistance forces had been alerted to the imminent invasion, and supported the effort the best they could with behind-the-lines combat and sabotage efforts against the occupying Germans.

On June 6, 1944, Omaha was the bloodiest landing beach on D-Day. The Americans had a difficult time capturing the beachhead because it was the most heavily fortified by the Germans. The troops found underwater obstacles that had bottled up many of the amphibious landing tanks transporting them to the beach. This congestion provided easy targets for the German gunners, and the troops had to rely on destroyer ships, aerial bombardment, and infantry assaults to break the German defenses. It would be noon before the US Army crossed the beach line in force. About 1,000 American soldiers were killed taking Omaha Beach, most in the first few hours of the invasion.

In order to support the landing of hundreds of thousands of combat troops, tremendous logistical planning was required. Provisions had to be made for adequate food, water, ammunition, and fuel for the troops to be loaded, stored, and reloaded into trucks. Medical facilities had to be constructed and the wounded had to be evacuated. To provide this support for Omaha Beach, the army created the 1st Engineer Special Brigade (ESB). The army attached various specialized units to the 1st ESB, including Tate’s unit, the 38th Engineers General Service Regiment. Because of its previous service in Africa, it was one of the few engineering support units with experience.

The 38th Engineer General Service Regiment had completed its landing in France by June 9, 1944. Herbert told his family that what he observed as he left Omaha Beach was a scene that he would never forget. It was his first close-up observation of how horrendous war could be, and it was a vision that came back to his mind time and time again.

Tate continued in combat across northern France, beginning July 25, 1944. When the campaign ended on September 14 of that year, the young inductee had become a veteran combat soldier. Herbert left the European Theater on March 13, 1945, and arrived back in the United States on April 21 to be reunited with his family.

Medals awarded: Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Battle Stars (for Normandy and Northern France), World War II Victory Medal.

Tate left his hometown of Fort Payne to serve his country and returned there after discharge. He served as Circuit Clerk of DeKalb County for many years. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Fort Payne.