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Tennesse Maneuvers
Jack Cunningham
1st. Lt. Jack Cunningham

C Bty, 29th FA Bn, WW2

I saw a great deal of combat in WWII as an artillery forward observer with the infantry of the 4th Infantry Division while serving in the 29th FA Battalion. But, rather than write about combat all the time I like to tell stories about other aspects of army life in training and in the field in Europe.

Many stories have been told about how tough the large-scale war game maneuvers conducted in Tennessee in 1942 were. I was on the Tennessee maneuvers and I also experienced similar training in the Borrego Desert in California, and in the Arizona desert. I found the desert maneuvers to be much more difficult than those in Tennessee. It is likely that more complaints were heard about the Tennessee war games because so many troops were involved, estimated to have been more than 200,000, and fewer troops may have had the desert training. Another factor which tended to create stories about the Tennessee maneuvers was the fact that the soldiers interacted with the many local residents on the farms they fought over in their games, and the animals, wild and domestic, which they encountered.

In a letter to my mother in October 1942, I wrote:

    We are still on maneuvers, but have been given a rest period between phases. The phases last for three or four days and in this time they give us certain missions to fulfill. In the first phase, the Red forces had to defend the Cumberland River against any Blue attempts to cross. As a forward observer for the battery, I had the opportunity to see plenty of action. I was captured by the Blues the first day out, but managed to escape by telling my guard I was going down to a farmhouse to get a drink of water. I think that guard is still awaiting my return.

    On the second phase I was again captured, but was not so fortunate to escape. The Blues took us back of the lines about 50 miles and fed us, but none too well. They issued blankets, as we had none of our own with us. Lady Luck must have been with us for another fellow from our outfit was captured and got no blankets nor food for two days. For the next two or three phases I managed to stay out of the enemies' way, but on the phase just ended I was again captured. The First Sergeant and I were stationed on a hill overlooking the Cumberland. The enemy was expected to attempt a crossing by ferry at this point. The first night was not exactly peaceful for us, partly because of the hogs that abounded thereabouts and partly because of the enemy. A small party of Blues made a crossing and cut our telephone wires - - as soon as they were repaired one of those damned hogs chewed a piece out of it.

    Those hogs: It got so I could tell time by them. At dusk they marched east over our observation post and at dawn they marched west. I certainly did tire of kicking hogs in the you-know-what.

    The next morning a battalion of Blues came in behind us and captured all the infantry and our O.P. We had too much equipment so they left us were we were. And the hogs marched east. We went to bed. The hogs marched west. We got out of our beds and the old man who lived down the hill brought us coffee morning and night. Did I say coffee? It was more like lye. We sat around all day and told filthy jokes with the Blue infantry. The hogs marched east. We went to bed. The hogs marched west. We got up. By noon of this day the phase was over. And that, my dear Mother, is how I spent my time during the last phase.

In a 1994 letter I said:

    From this letter it appears that I was a prisoner most of the time. Before these maneuvers I was assigned a mission to recon the back roads and bridges to determine if they could accomodate the tanks and other heavy vehicles. It seemed that these remote areas had a cemetery at every crossroad and all of the families had at least six kids and ten dogs. We were headed for a small town but could see from the map that the road ended at a small river. We passed an elderly lady on the road and asked her for directions and the size of the town. She told us that there was a small ferry on the river but she hadn't been to town for twelve years and did not know the size of the town. All of these people were very hospitable.

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