Private 1st Class George S. Dill (1923–1944)

George S. Dill (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
ResidencesCivilian Occupation
Born in Maryland, moved to Delaware as an adultWorker for National Fireworks
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32752117
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “C,” 146th Engineer Combat Battalion
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartNormandy

Author’s note: This article incorporates some text from my article about Private Walter J. Dobek, another Delaware man in Company “C,” 146th Engineer Combat Battalion.

Early Life & Family

George Samuel Dill was born on July 23, 1923 in Galena, in Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  He was the son of James Martin Dill, Sr. (a farmer, 1890–1958) and Katie Dill (née Moore, 1892–1967).  He had nine siblings (four older sisters, an older brother, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters).

The Dill family was recorded on the census on April 26, 1930 living on Fox Hole Road in Galena, Maryland.  By the time of the next census on April 24, 1940, Dill, his parents, and five of his siblings were living in Cecil County, Maryland.  He was working as farmhand.

When Dill registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, he was living in or near Middletown, Delaware and working for National Fireworks in nearby Elkton, Maryland.  He was described as standing five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 160 lbs., with blond hair and blue eyes. 


Military Career

Dill was drafted.  He went on active duty in the U.S. Army on March 2, 1943 at Fort Dix, New Jersey.  According to the Individual Military Service Record form filled out by his mother for the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Private Dill trained at Camp McCain, Mississippi from March 1943 through August 1943.  He moved to Camp Swift, Texas in August 1943 and joined Company “C,” 146th Engineer Combat Battalion (in September according to his mother’s statement).  The battalion (previously 1st Battalion, 146th Engineer Regiment prior to reorganization) had been activated at Camp Swift on April 1, 1943.

According to his mother’s statement, Private Dill moved to New York in September 1943, shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation on October 7, 1943, and arrived in England on October 20.  However, battalion records indicate that the unit arrived at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on September 28, 1943 and shipped out of the Boston Port of Embarkation the following month.  Discrepancies like this are not uncommon with family supplied information.  Some possible explanations include that possibility that his mother was incorrect about the details of the journey, that Private Dill’s transatlantic crossing was made separately from the rest of his battalion or less likely, that his mother was incorrect about when he joined the 146th Engineer Combat Battalion.

From November 1943 through April 1944, the battalion was stationed at the U.S. Assault Training Center in Devon, England.  The unit built the simulated fortifications used to train the soldiers scheduled to land on the beaches of Normandy.

Katie Dill wrote that her son was promoted to private 1st class on February 15, 1944.

Wesley R. Ross—a 146th Engineer Combat Battalion officer—wrote in his memoir Essayons: Journey with the Combat Engineers in WWII that the battalion was a relatively late addition to the list of units earmarked to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy.  Ross stated that Major General Leonard T. Gerow, commanding officer of V Corps

became concerned that 290 men in 21 Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs)–who had been programmed for the beach obstacle demolition mission–were too few for the task. […] The revised plans called for demolitioneers from the 146th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions to form twenty-four, 28-man Gap Assault Teams (sixteen Primary and eight Support GATs) to which the NCDUs would now be attached. This combined force was to blow sixteen fifty-yard-gaps through the wood and steel obstacles, located below the high tide line.

Soon after its departure from the Assault Training Center, the men of the 146th Engineer Combat Battalion found themselves back there, this time as trainees.  Ross recalled that:

Our Primary GATs were to clear eight 50 yard paths through the obstacles for the Battalion Landing Teams of the 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division and our four support GATs were to be directed to their landing sites by the radio in Lt Colonel Isley’s command boat.


D-Day in Normandy

The engineers began landing on Omaha Beach within minutes of H-Hour.  Many of them fell victim to the fusillade of German machine gun, rifle, and artillery fire that also devastated the first wave of infantry.  Unlike other soldiers on the beach, their mission meant they could not push forward to find cover.  Complicating matters was the fact that other soldiers sought shelter behind the obstacles that the engineers were affixing explosives to.

In his book Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944, Joseph Balkoski wrote that:

The casualties among the demolition teams within the first thirty minutes of the invasion were so great that no historical account of their work can ever be complete. However, survivors’ narratives and unit reports agree that the combined army-navy teams managed to fulfill at least a small portion of their overall beach clearance mission. Of the sixteen fifty-yard breaches the mission called for, the demolitionists probably finished six and partially completed several more before the tide rose to a level at which work was impossible. […] Most of the gaps that were blown through the German obstacles on D-Day morning were on the eastern half of the beach, generally in the Easy Red sector between the St. Laurent and Colleville exits. Omaha’s western side, the 116th Infantry’s sector, probably had only two breaches, neither of which was anywhere near the western-most draw at Vierville—a failure that would later prevent landing craft from coming ashore in this sector.

According to the report “History of 146th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1 June 1944 to 30 June 1944,” the unit suffered D-Day casualties of 14 killed, 68 wounded, and 20 missing.  According to the 146th Engineer Combat Battalion plaque at Colleville-sur-Mer, 35 men from the unit died on June 6, 1944. 

Private 1st Class Dill was among the dead.  According to a digitized hospital admission card under his service number, Dill was struck in the face by a bullet or other projectile and killed.  He was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery St. Laurent. 

The 146th Engineer Combat Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the unit’s collective actions on June 6, 1944.  Private 1st Class Dill was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

After the war, his body was returned to the United States.  After his funeral in Middletown on May 7, 1948, Private 1st Class Dill was buried at the St. Clement’s Cemetery in Massey, Maryland.  His parents were also buried there after their deaths.


Notes

Enlistment and Hospital Card Data

Dill’s enlistment data card is among approximately 13% that could not be successfully digitized. 

Hospital admission cards were filled out even when the soldier died prior to reaching the hospital.  Since his status was listed as killed in action (rather than died of wounds) and the card does not record any treatment, he most likely died immediately after being hit.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo of Private 1st Class Dill.


Bibliography

Applications for Headstones, compiled 01/01/1925 – 06/30/1970, documenting the period ca. 1776 – 1970.  Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 –1985.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421401755_0400-01319

Dill, Katie.  George Samuel Dill Individual Military Service Record, April 23, 1945.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.  https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/18435/rec/2

“Fifth Engineer Special Brigade Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer.”  Normandy War Guide.  https://www.normandywarguide.com/place/fifth-engineer-special-brigade-memorial-colleville-sur-mer

“George S. Dill.”  Wilmington Morning News, May 6, 1948.  Pg. 4.

“History of 146th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1 June 1944 to 30 June 1944.” Originally posted on 146thecbwwii.org website in 2005 by Leonard Fox, copies provided courtesy of John D. Antkowiak.

“Invasion Hero Returned.”  Journal-Every Evening, March 31, 1948.  Pg. 24.    https://www.newspapers.com/clip/73518330/padley-return/

“Narrative History 1 April 1943 to 1 June 1944.” Headquarters, 146th Engineer Combat Battalion. From the papers of Steven Pipka, courtesy of John D. Antkowiak.

“Narrative History 1 June 1944 to 30 June 1944.” Headquarters, 146th Engineer Combat Battalion. July 1, 1944. From the papers of Steven Pipka, courtesy of John D. Antkowiak.

“PFC George Samuel Dill.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28655070/george-samuel-dill

Ross, Wesley R.  Essayons: Journey with the Combat Engineers in WWII.  Self-published book, date of publication unknown.  http://www.6thcorpscombatengineers.com/docs/Engineers/Wes%20Ross%20-%20146th%20ECB.pdf

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946.  Revised ed.  Stackpole Books, 2006.

Silverman, Lowell.  “Private Walter J. Dobek (1922–1944).” https://delawarewwiifallen.com/2021/05/24/private-walter-j-dobek/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4606973_00397      

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.   https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-01545-00041

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704875654/blank-u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri.    https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_09_00003-00063


Last updated on June 3, 2021

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