Sergeant Charles N. Donoghue (1916–1944)

Charles N. Donoghue (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareTruck driver for Galloway Brothers Transportation Company
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32167295
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “B,” 745th Tank Battalion
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartNormandy

Early Life & Family

Charles Norris Donoghue was born in Wilmington, Delaware on March 22, 1916.  He was the son of A. Norris Donoghue (a home painter, 1894–1964) and Mary A. Donoghue (née Green, 1893–1972).  Census records and his draft card indicate he went by C. Norris or Norris Donoghue.  He had two younger sisters. 

The family was recorded on the census on January 3, 1920 living at 1107 Columbia Avenue in Wilmington.  By April 1930, the family had moved to 706 South Franklin Street in Wilmington, where Donoghue lived until he joined the military.

A July 28, 1944 article printed in Journal-Every Evening reported that Donoghue “attended St. Elizabeth’s School and Wilmington Trade School.  At the time of his induction he was employed as an over-the-road driver by Gallaway [sic] Brothers Transportation Company.”  Indeed, census records state that as of April 2, 1940, Donoghue was working as a truck driver and when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940 (under the name C. Norris Donoghue), he listed his employer as Galloway Bros.  Donoghue was described as standing five feet, nine inches tall and weighing 165 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes.


Stateside Training

Donoghue was drafted before the U.S. entered World War II, joining the U.S. Army in Trenton, New Jersey on August 7, 1941.  According to the State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record filled out by his father, Donoghue began his training as an infantryman at Camp Croft, South Carolina.

In January 1942, after completing basic training, Private Donoghue was transferred to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland and assigned to Company “B,” 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.  He subsequently transferred to Company “D,” 191st Tank Battalion, also stationed at Fort Meade.  A June 12, 1942 article in Journal-Every Evening reported Donoghue’s promotion to sergeant.  That summer, he moved to Camp Bowie, Texas, where he joined the 745th Tank Battalion.

According to a unit history published shortly after the war, History of the 745th Tank Battalion August 1942 to June 1945:

The 745th Tank Battalion was activated at Camp Bowie, Texas on August 15, 1942, under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas B. Evans.  Under Lt. Col. Evans and a cadre originating from the 191st Tank Battalion, the 745th was molded from a mere group of untrained men into a cool, determined, highly efficient fighting unit […]  The great majority of the original cadre came from Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and was made up of men from National Guard tank companies from Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.  These well-trained men, taking the raw recruits which arrived from Camp Grant, Illinois, on October 14, immediately undertook a comprehensive training program consisting of calisthenics, infantry drill, obstacle courses, tank driving, and firing.

The 745th was one of a group of separate tank battalions which were assigned to support infantry divisions rather than as part of an armored division.  From 33 officers and 132 enlisted men at activation, the battalion quickly expanded to over 700 men.  A roster entitled “The Original Cadre of the 745th Tank Battalion” printed in the company history stated that Sergeant Donoghue was originally a member of Headquarters Company, but he transferred to Company “B” before the unit entered combat.  The 745th was primarily equipped with the M4 medium tank (more popularly known as the Sherman).  The battalion went on maneuvers in Louisiana in the spring of 1943 before returning to Camp Bowie. 


A member of Sergeant Donoghue’s tank crew, Private 1st Class Delbert Bumpus (left) with two men. The sergeant at right does resemble Donoghue but that identification is not confirmed. (Courtesy of the Bumpus family)

Overseas Service & D-Day in Normandy

On August 17, 1943, the 745th Tank Battalion arrived by train at Camp Shanks, New York.  Three days later, the 745th shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation aboard the ocean liner turned transport R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, arriving in Greenock, Scotland on August 26.  During most of the remainder of 1943, the battalion was stationed at Camp Ogbourne St George in Wiltshire, England, though it moved temporarily to a variety of other locations in England for brief periods during the training prior to the invasion of Normandy. 

Beginning in December 1943 and finishing in January 1944, the battalion moved to Marston Bigot, in Somerset, England.  On March 5, 1944, the 745th Tank Battalion was attached to the U.S. First Army.  On April 3, 1944 the battalion arrived at Parnam Tent Camp in Dorset.  Later that month, on April 21, 1944, the 745th was attached to the 1st Infantry Division.  Though separate tank battalions could be attached to different divisions as needed, the 745th ended up supporting the 1st Infantry Division in combat all the way through the end of the war in Europe.  Based on the table of organization for a tank company, Sergeant Donoghue was probably a tank commander.

With the invasion coming up, the 745th moved to Marshalling Area “D” around April 24, 1944.  In early May 1944, the battalion participated in Exercise Fabius I, a rehearsal in England for units earmarked for Omaha Beach.  The following month, the battalion embarked aboard ships part of the massive fleet that the Allies assembled for the invasion of Normandy.  Originally scheduled for June 5, 1944, D-Day was postponed to the morning of June 6, 1944 due to weather.

According to the book History of the 745th Tank Battalion August 1942 to June 1945:

Company ‘B’, commanded by Capt. Donald E. Honeman, was the first tank company of the Battalion to land.  The Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Wallace J. Nichols, also made the landing with Company ‘B’.  Each tank was loaded in an LCM, discharged from a Landing Ship Dock, and made its way through heavy seas to reach the beach safely at 1500 hours.  Upon landing they found no means of exit from the beach through the maze of minefields, tank traps and barbed wire. Enlisting the aid of the I and R [Intelligence & Reconnaissance] platoon of the Third Battalion of the 16th Infantry, Company ‘B’ inched its way precariously through the defenses, losing but three tanks by mines and making the first useable exit from the beach.

The unit’s tanks were equipped with wading trunks. Delbert N. Bumpus, then a private 1st class and a member of Sergeant Donoghue’s tank crew, recalled in an interview decades later:

First, we went on L.C.T.s—which is a Landing Craft, Tank—they dropped the ramp and we drove the tanks off into approximately 12 feet of water.  And then we drove on the bottom of the ocean, up onto and off of the beach.  But we couldn’t get out completely off the beach.  Because the point of landing where we were was a steep sand cliff.  So, all we could do is knock the cliff down with a small dozer blade on one of the tanks, and then by running the tanks by, the sand gradually would fall down off of the slope until we got enough slope that we could drive off on to the upper part of the beach.

Since the battalion landed in mid-afternoon, its D-Day casualties were light in comparison with units that landed earlier at Omaha Beach.  The beach remained under sniper fire.  Tank crews had limited visibility when “buttoned up,” so despite the risk, Donoghue exited his tank to scout ahead on foot.  He was hit in the head by enemy rifle fire and killed.  Bumpus didn’t see it happen, but another member of the crew reported that Donoghue was dead on the ground and Bumpus took over as tank commander.

History of the 745th Tank Battalion August 1942 to June 1945 was dedicated to his memory: “To Sgt. Charles N. Donoghue, the first member of the 745th Tank Battalion to lose his life in combat, this history is humbly dedicated.”

Sergeant Donoghue was posthumously decorated with the Purple Heart.  He was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery St. Laurent, now known as the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France (Plot I, Row 11, Grave 12).


Notes

Occupation in Enlistment Data

Some enlistment records on Fold3 have coding errors.  On Fold3’s version, Donoghue was a married man with one year of high school.  His occupation was described as “laboratory technicians and assistants”.  In contrast, the National Archives version described him as single, with one year of college, occupation “semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor”.  Based on census records and the Individual Military Service Record, the National Archives presents his occupation and marital status correctly.  Curiously, the 1940 census stated that Donoghue only completed 7th grade in school.  It’s unclear if one source is inaccurate or whether the data was digitized incorrectly.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Jason Laurence, who shared the documentary he made about his grandfather’s experiences which revealed an eyewitness account of Sergeant Donoghue’s death.  Thanks also go to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo of Sergeant Donoghue.


Bibliography

“745th Tk. Bn. (M).” https://www.scribd.com/document/105125904/WWII-745th-Tank-Battalion

“After Action Report 745th Tank Bn June – Dec 1944.”  Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library.  https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4013coll8/id/3814/rec/23

Donoghue, A. Norris. Charles Norris Donoghue Individual Military Service Record, November 16, 1944.  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/18485/rec/1

Headstone Inscription and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942–1949.  Record Group 117, Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission, 1918–ca. 1995.  The National Archives at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9170/images/42861_1521003239_0888-01698

Howenstine, Harold D. and George E. Troll, eds.  History of the 745th Tank Battalion August 1942 to June 1945https://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&httpsredir=1&article=1022&context=ww_reg_his

Laurence, Jason. “Easy Red Sector.” 2009 documentary. https://vimeo.com/6578270

“Promoted to Sergeant.”  Journal-Every Evening, June 12, 1942.  Pg. 11.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/69101090/charles-norris-donoghue-promoted-to-sgt/

“Sgt Charles Norris Donoghue.” Find a Grave.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56644018/charles-norris-donoghue

“Two Delaware Soldiers Give Lives Overseas.”  Journal-Every Evening, July 28, 1944.  Pg. 1–2.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/71953804/charles-donoghue-kia/, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/71953730/two-delaware-soldiers-give-lives/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.   https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295770-00954  

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/4531892_00382

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-t0627-00552-00345

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 112: Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  https://www.fold3.com/record/704709434/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-donoghue-charles-n

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=32167295&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=2813890

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_00003-01365

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland.  https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=8939&h=4634093&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=4283


Last updated on June 6, 2021

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