Phillip Crowe
By James Crowe

Phillip Crowe

Life before the War and Training:

My grandfather, Philip Crowe, was a junior at the American International College and an auto mechanic when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and decimated many American ships and killed hundreds of soldiers.  The Japanese felt that the United States involvement in the war was inevitable so they decided to make the first strike.  This attack aroused patriotic feelings in many Americans. Gliders
Philip did not want to go to war, but he knew that he would inevitably be drafted so he volunteered.  He enlisted on June 24th, 1942 as a corporal in the Signal Corps and took a six month class in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Signal Corps is the branch of the military that trains officers.  He was then transferred to Joplin, Missouri, to take a six month Officer Candidates School (OCS) class.  Then he was transferred to Monmouth, New Jersey to take another OCS class.  Later, at Fort Devens, he was inducted into the army on November 28, 1942.  He continued to take OCS courses in the Signal Corps for another year.  On the same day that he graduated the OCS in 1943, he married Florence Savior who he is still with today.   

The Corps of Engineers:

The Army realized that they had a surplus of Signal Corps officers, so they transferred Philip to the Corps of Engineers in Fort Belvore, VA.  He took more courses on how to become an officer in the Corps of Engineering.  Philip said that the training he received there was pretty similar to his previous training in the OCS. Cartography

Life in Europe:

Philip was transferred to England in late 1943 and assigned to the First Allied Airborne Army.  He was assigned to a combat engineering group.  His job was to map Europe and be prepared to paratroop or ride a glider to survey areas.  Philip was the administrator of his company and had to travel all around England collecting supplies and gear for his group such as trucks.  His group consisted of three platoons.  One platoon surveyed, another made the maps, and the other was the administrative platoon.  Philip was now a Lieutenant of the administrative platoon.

Mainland Europe:

Philip was transferred to France on August 11th, 1944, and from there traveled all around the country.  Later, he was sent to towns in Belgium and even Germany.  He remembers being stationed in Hagenow near the Elbe River where they met the Russian soldiers on their way to Berlin. Europe MAp

His role:

Philip’s role was mainly administrative.  Every day he would make sure all of the equipment was ready to go.  Also, he would make sure that the food was delivered to the cook for the day.  Whenever they transferred to a new town, he would make sure that all of the equipment was present and in good shape, then he would find a place to store the equipment and billet the men.

Corps of Engineering Symbol

His discharge papers summarize his role as such: “Was responsible for the keeping of all personnel and supply records, procuring of supplies and maintenance of equipment in a Separate Engineer Topographic Company.”

His company followed Commander Ridgeway of the 18th Airborne through Europe and was therefore always very close to the fighting.  Commander Ridgeway led the XVII Airborne Corps through Europe into Germany and fought many battles with them.  Philip could always hear gunfire and bombs going off.  Philip’s company made many maps for General Patten.  Patten never used them, though, because he knew Europe very well and had no patience to wait for the maps to be made.

Philip also took glider lessons because he was part of an airborne group.  He had to ride them four times a year.  Although he never used a glider outside of training, he got an extra $100 per month just for being trained as airborne. 

The Battle of the Bulge:

On December 16th, 1944, the Nazis began the Ardennes Offensive.  Their goal was to trap four allied divisions and use them as hostages to use to negotiate with the Allies.  During the first three days, the Germans were able to devastate the thin allied front, creating a large bulge in the line, hence the name “Battle of the Bulge”.  After four weeks of bloody battles, the Allies were able to push the Germans back to where they started.  Overall, the Germans suffered 100,000 casualties.  The allies suffered too, as 19,000 of them were killed and 60,000 were wounded or missing.  1600 total tanks were destroyed.  More US soldiers died in the Battle of the Bulge than in any other battle of World War II.

Philip was in Belgium, very close to the Battle.  He remembers hearing gunfire and bombs going off.  Also, he remembers seeing many American bombers fly over his camp.  This was important because the control of the skies that the allies possessed was a key to victory.  One German general quoted in the book World War II in the Air said “We failed primarily because your airpower robbed our skies of protective wings, our armies of mobility, our tanks of oil, and our factories of raw materials” (Sunderman vii).

Philip remembers when the US army met the Russian army.  He saw thousands of German prisoners who turned themselves over to the Americans because they knew they would be treated better by the Americans.  The Russians were Germany’s arch-enemies so the Germans knew that they would be treated very poorly in Russian hands.  Also, Germans despised the Russians because the Russians were Communists.  The Americans were glad to see the German prisoners march and they knew that the war would be over soon.

Concentration Camps:

Philip’s company uncovered numerous concentration camps where Jewish prisoners were evacuated from other camps such as Auschwitz so that the Allies would not find them.  Concentration camps were the “Final solution the Jewish question” proposed by Hitler.  They were designed to slowly kill off the Jews of Europe while exploiting their labor.  The prisoners would go for days without eating, and when they did get food it was usually a stale bread crust or old soup.  The prisoners who were still alive late into the war were forced to march for days across Europe into concentration camps in Germany.  A total of six million Jews died in the Holocaust. 

As Allied troops advanced through Europe, the Germans evacuated their concentration camps in order to hide them from the allies.  The prisoners were grouped into new concentration camps closer to the heart of Germany.  One of these concentration camps, Wobbelin, was liberated in part by Philip’s company.  He recalls it as “Heartbreaking, seeing these people crawling around, mostly half-dead.  But it put a smile on their face when they saw the American soldiers.”  Public burials were held in Hagenow on May 8th-9th for victims of the concentration camps.

The End of the War:

On May 7th, 1945, Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command Alfred Jodl surrendered to the allies.  This day is known as “Victory in Europe”, or VE day.
Philip was delighted when the war ended because he knew he was going to be going home.  He had his wife and a baby boy waiting for him in the US.  He remembers getting a telegram from his wife that just said “Big son born.”  He later learned that the army had censored the telegram from its original 16 paragraphs to this short sentence.


I am glad that my grandfather took the initiative to enlist before he could be drafted.  Otherwise, he may have been drafted into the infantry and there would have been a good chance he would not have survived.  It is a shame that the maps his company made were rarely put to use.  I am sure, however, that the leadership skills that he picked up as a Lieutenant in the administrative platoon have been useful.  Also, the history that has been preserved through him is priceless.  I am proud of my grandfather’s service in the military.


Works Cited

Ambrose, Stephen E. Citizen Soldiers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Crowe, Phillip J. Personal interview. 9 Dec. 2006.

Kline, John. BATTLE of the BULGE.  20 Nov. 2006 <‌user/‌jpk/‌battle.htm>.

O’Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond Valor: World War II’s Ranger and Airborne Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat. New

York: Simon and Shuster, 2001.

Sunderman, James F. World War II in the Air: Europe. New York: Franklin Watts, 1963.

Trueman, Chris. “Paratroopers and World War Two.” History Learning Site.  20 Nov. 2006


United States Military. 3060 Engineer Topographic Co. Corps. Graphic History.

USMLMA. Meeting of Russian-US Troops.  20 Nov. 2006 <‌home/‌russians/‌wwii-torgau.htm>.