Bruno Caneva
By Elizabeth Megerian

bruno1

Bruno Caneva


Introduction:

In 1940, a year after World War II began, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law establishing the draft of eligible males to serve in the armed forces.  My grandfather’s number was one of the first ones called.  In 1941, Bruno Caneva was drafted into the Army of the United States and he later became a Topographic Engineer during World War II.     

Training:
 

Bruno was first assigned to Camp Dix in New Jersey.  He said that it was very disorganized because it was only the second draft call.  “We were issued uniforms and they were quite ludicrous.”  The overcoats and wrap leggings of the uniforms were left overs from World War I.  My grandfather and the other men were given many tests.  One of these was an aptitude test of which my grandfather thinks he scored a 136, which was a very good score.  Instead of assigning Bruno to a unit right away, the army officials had trouble deciding where he should go because of his strong test performance.  He stayed at Camp Dix for another two weeks.

While my grandfather was at Camp Dix, he got his first job.  It was ironic because they didn’t know what to do with him and they gave him the title of KP Pusher.  KP stands for Kitchen Police, and they work in the Army kitchens, clean the floors, peel potatoes, and perform other odd jobs in the kitchens. 

Soon enough, Bruno was shipped off to Fort Hancock on the northern tip of New Jersey where he was assigned to Battery D of the 52nd Coast Artillery Battalion.  Fort Hancock’s primary task was to protect the New York Harbor.  Battery D started with about twelve men and in a short time, one hundred newly recruited men joined them.  They lived in tents for about three months while getting basic army instruction.  This included a basic drill for the use of the eight inch gun. 

The eight inch gun was really a cannon with an eight inch diameter.  It could send a heavy shell as far as fifteen miles across the ocean.  It would take two men to carry the gun powder and two more men to carry the shell.  The aiming of these guns was done from a control room.  My grandfather was given the task of doing all the surveying to ensure accuracy for the firing charts.  This was a pretty busy job surveying and looking at the firing charts to make adjustments to the range and altitude for actual gun firings.

In late April 1941, before Pearl Harbor, my grandfather left Fort Hancock and sailed on an Army Transport ship.  At the time, he did not know where they were headed.  After about four days, they landed in St. Johns, Newfoundland.  Bruno says that they lived in squad tents in the middle of a muddy field, but he says that it wasn’t too bad because it was May and June and not too cold.  After a while, they moved up to Signal HIll where they lived in one level army barracks.  My grandfather and the other men had to take turns going to the mess hall or the bathrooms because there had to be a group of men to operate the plotting room at all times. 

Bruno Becomes an Officer:  

In June of 1942, after the United States entered the war, my grandfather went back to the States to attend Officers Training School at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.  This Fort was right outside of Washington D.C.  In September 1942, Bruno graduated and received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.  He was assigned to the 667th Engineering Topographic Company. 

The jobs of the Topographic Engineers were to make surveys for maps and/or construction, or to provide ground control for field artillery.  They also had to draw new maps and/or revise old ones based on aerial photography, surveys, and/or observations.  They printed the maps with a lithographic press. 

lithographic press

This is a picture of the reproduction of the maps that my grandfather found while looking though the 667th Yearbook.  To the left is a lithographic press and to the right is a man studying the maps and surveys.  



The 667th:   

The 667th was a new organization that was being assembled at Camp Maxey, located in Paris, Texas, in the northeastern part of Texas.  Camp Maxey was a newly constructed camp and my grandfather’s organization was one of the first ones to occupy the camp.  My grandfather says living there was pretty comfortable.  There were recreation halls with indoor games, bowling lanes, and dance halls.  There were 16,500 people living in Paris, Texas, with another 18,000 officers and enlisted men on top of that.  My grandfather says that on Saturday nights it was a very congested town. 

While at Camp Maxey, my grandfather and other officers were taking new men out of the general training and giving them the instruction and training that was necessary for the 667th to perform their jobs correctly.  He did this from September 1942 to April 1944.  Then, they were transferred to Fort Ord in California.  They thought were were going to be assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations and my grandfather did not like that at all.  He thought that if he were to go anywhere, he would rather have it be Europe because the conditions in the Pacific Theater were very bad. 

My grandfather recalls that was one of his biggest fears during the war would to be stationed in the Pacific Theater.  If they went to the Pacific Theater, there was a huge change in the climate, there were swamps, mosquitoes, snakes, and a chance of getting malaria.  Another one of his fears was while attending the Officer Training School in Virginia, was flunking out.  If that happened, you were sent as a Non Commissioned Officer to serve in the Combat Engineers.  “Combat Engineers did all the dirty work,” my grandfather said. 
   
Victory in Europe:

After a short time in Fort Ord, his Company was sent to Europe.  My grandfather says that they were never in combat while overseas.  During the Battle of the Bulge, they pulled back from Holland into Belgium, where they were protected by the Albert Canal. 

On New Year’s Day in 1945, the Corps Headquarters called on the 667th to do some surveying work to rebuild the highway bridge of the Albert Canal.  My grandfather says that he can still remember “the bright, crisp day” when a German fighter plane came from the East.  The German plane spotted them working on the highway bridge and started toward them.  Bruno and the rest of the men ran for protection by hiding in the sides of the canal which was about thirty feet deep.  The German plane fired bullets to no specific target and then finally went away.  That was the first and last time my grandfather was ever under any kind of fire.

The 667th had performed their mission admirably by VE-Day.  They had printed over eight million maps in eight months which was a huge success.  My grandfather believes that he made a huge contribution to this effort because in December 1944 he was given the rank of Captain and took control of the Company. 

As the war ended in Europe, men in the army were given passes to rest areas in France.  My grandfather received a pass to Nice, which is on the French Riviera, where he was on VE-Day.  Bruno says that everyone was very happy.  The French owners of the hotels where they stayed were especially happy to be earning money.  A cocktail cost two dollars, which was a lot of money back then.

Now that the hostities had ended in Europe, Great Britain occupied northern Germany.  The 667th was ordered to Czechoslavakia and then later to Freising in Baveria, which is now part of Germany.  While stationed in these areas, Bruno had the opportunity to visit with two family members who had been fighting in Europe.

veday










This picture is taken from the U.S. National Archives.  It is a picture that was
taken at the Piccadilly Circus in London during VE-Day.  A soldier is a hugging an elderly woman, celebrating the end of the war in Europe.



After the victory in Europe, there was still the question if they would be going to the Pacific or back home, because there were still the Japanese to defeat.  The army came up with a point system and my grandfather had enough points to be released and he was sent back home to the United States. 

Life as a Topographic Engineer:


Life as a Topographic Engineer was not as life threatening as being in the front lines fighting the enemy.  They received their rations regularly with the occasional mix up.  Bruno learned to do with powdered eggs, powdered milk and army bread; the bread was very good.  Just like every other section of the army, they had their jobs to do.  The 667th received an official commendation after hostilities ceased and two of the Master Sergeants were awarded the Bronze Star.  Much of the work that they did was top secret and their compound was surrounded with many guards for security reasons.  If any word got out about the plans that were laid out in the maps, then Germany could have stopped the Allies plans. 

There were not many Topographic outfits during World War II.  For a period of five months, the 667th served the whole Ninth Army, which was a huge undertaking for them.  They worked three eight-hour shifts on the presses.  The Army relied heavily on the use of maps throughout the war, not just to find out where to go, but also for artillery purposes and for the planning of attacks.  My grandfather says that the Topographic Engineers had a lot to do with winning the war because of all the guidance and direction they provided for the front line troops.

The Personal Side:


My grandfather says that he missed spending time with his mother.  Because he was in the Army, he was not around to see her through the last four years of her life.  He feels that his mother was very concerned with his brother being in the Air Force and him in the Corps of Engineers.  This might have contributed to her failing health. 

In September 1943, both Bruno and his brother, Anthony, were stationed at different bases in Texas.  My grandfather, who had been separated from his family for a long time, jumped at the opportunity to see his brother and he traveled by bus to see him.  Anthony, whose nickname was Nino, was a pilot assigned to the Air Transport Command.  In Europe, they flew boxcars carrying supplies to the front line troops.  They also had a chance to see each other in September 1944 while Nino was in Paris and they spent two nights together.  Then again, Nino surprised my grandfather by coming to Sittard, in the Netherlands, when my grandfather was stationed there.  This was in March of 1945.  This was the last time that they would be able to spend time together.  Nino was killed while flying an Army Air Force plane in Africa.

                                                       bruno2

This picture is of Bruno and Anthony in Texas.

My grandfather says that one of his greatest achievements during the war was to get Florence, his wife for the past 61 years, to marry him.  Another achievement was when he was in Camp Maxey and took about thirty newly drafted men and trained them for three to four months to become Topographic Engineers.  It was just him and his Master Sergeant and my grandfather says that it was a very difficult task. 

On a positive side to the war, my grandfather says that it was great to meet so many people under so many different circumstances.  He wishes that he could have become closer with some of the men and gotten to know them at a more intimate level.  He believes serving in World War II, helped him to have a greater appreciation of the differences in the backgrounds of people and to respect their feelings. 

Bruno’s Lasting Impressions of the War:


As the German Army conquered country after country, the Nazis followed with their occupation troops.  The Nazis gathered thousands of men and women and sent them back to work under inhuman conditions in their war plants and mines.  As the Allied armies advanced, many of these people were able to escape.  My grandfather says that, “You could see them with their emaciated bodies and their tattered clothing in railroad marshaling yards waiting for shipment to their homeland.”  Sometimes you would see the displaced person walking along the highway making his way home on their own.  My grandfather and the other men in his Company gave leftovers of their food to these people who hadn’t eaten in a long time. 

At one point, Bruno was close to Dachau, near Munich, an infamous concentration camp.  He didn’t go to visit it because he was “too squeamish.”  He was very uncomfortable with the terrible events that went on at the camps.  But many of the other men did and they came back extremely moved by the sights.

Conclusion:

My grandfather was a very lucky man.  He was never in direct danger while in Europe, unlike millions of other soldiers.  I found it interesting to learn about how the many maps they printed out during that eight month period in Europe helped to fight the war.  Bruno is very proud that he was able to serve in World War II and is proud of his accomplishments during the War. 

Bibliography:

Primary Sources:

Sheffield, Gary.  "Victory in Europe." 19 May. 2004. World War Two. BBC News. 18 Nov. 2004
    <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/veday_germany_01.shtml>

Caneva, Bruno. (Interview was completed by mail during early December.)

Secondary Sources:

Camp Maxey. 15 Nov. 2004 <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/camp-maxey.htm>

Leckie, Robert. The Story of World War ii. New York: Random House Inc, 1964.

"VE-Day."  May 8, 1945.  USAF Musuem. 18 Nov. 2004
    <http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/history/wwii/veday.htm>


"World War II." Victory In Europe. World Book Online Reference Center.
    16 Nov. 2004 <http://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/PrintArticle?id=ar610460>

"WWII." The World at War Introduction. 15 Nov. 2004
    <http://www.euronet.n1/users/wilfried/ww2/foreword.htm#top>