For Memorial Day, in memory of the three relatives I know who died in war: John Brooks (War of 1812), Wallace Rosa (Civil War POW) and Raymond Hamm (WWII).
I will have to confess that it really annoyed me that I couldn’t find anything regarding Raymond Hamm’s military record during WWII. But when I kept hitting brick walls, I had to shelve that particular research for later. Which means that I moved on to my next question, “Where was Raymond buried?” I didn’t think it likely that his body had been shipped home, so, wouldn’t that mean he was still in North Africa? If so, where were the men who died in the Tunisia campaign buried?
The answer is the American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia, North Africa.
The answer, of course, didn’t just magically appear when I started my search, although finding the cemetery itself was a pretty easy keyword search. However, when I first checked the cemetery’s online database I was unable to find Raymond. I did see that they provided a link to findagrave‘s database for the cemetery, so I checked their listing too. Still no Hamm. Hmmm, lets try just his first name ‘Raymond’. Whew! Sure enough, there he was, listed under Raymond F. Humm (no that’s not a typo, that is the name he is listed under.)
I went back to the cemetery’s official website and found him using ‘Humm’, along with the bonus, previously elusive, reference of his service number and unit. So cool! Now I had two questions answered. Also included in his entry are any medals he received, in his case he had received a purple heart, something that I didn’t know before either, although that should have been a given.
The cemetery is set on 27 acres in Tunisia. There are just over 2800 burials of the military dead from the United States. There is also a chapel and a memorial court where one can find mosaic maps showing images of the military activities that occurred during the US military’s movements across the continent.
THE GO DEVIL’S
Raymond was assigned with the 9th Infantry Regiment, 60th Infantry Division aka ‘The Go Devil’s’. (There was no entry for what company he was in but I am not complaining, as this is way more information than I had before.)
So armed with this information I now have a clearer picture of Raymond’s movements and activities from when he left Fort Bragg, North Carolina in November of 1942 until his death in April of 1943 around El Guettar Pass in Tunisia.
When Operation Torch went into action Raymond and his fellow soldiers in the 60th landed on the beaches of Port Lyautey, Morocco. Their job was to seize the ‘Citadel’ known as the ‘Kasba’, and they did.
In March of 1943 Major General Patton assumed command of II Corps. He was making plans to secure Maknassy Pass and get to the Tunisian plains through the El Guettar pass. The hope was that Rommel would retreat or be cut off.
The 60th which was now motorized and attached to the 1st Armored Division, advanced through the 21st German panzer division and took the hill called Djebel Goussa. Several days later they captured the town. But they still hadn’t gotten through the pass.
At El Guettar, the 9th Infantry Division was now under the command of Major General Eddy, who had been involved in a car accident and was now leading the troops on crutches. To complicate matters, the enemy possessed air superiority and were very well entrenched in the surrounding hills and gorges that provided a natural defense.
The 9th and 1st Divisions’ objective was to seize opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass, thus enabling the 1st Armored Division to roll through without being fired on. At 6 A.M. on March 28th 1943, the 47th Infantry Regiment was in position to take Hill 369. Although the objective area was reached quickly, darkness and poor maps had led them astray to El Hamra Ridge.
There was no need to worry the commanders thought: 2nd Battalion of the same Regiment had been sent on a flanking movement and would get the job done. However, 2nd Battalion was caught in a murderous crossfire and 1st Battalion of the 39th Infanry Regiment became lost in the maze of hills.
So Hill 369 was still in German hands and the attack bogged down. American troops had previously been occupying Hill 772, but moved off when the offensive began, so the German’s decided to take it back. General Eddy soon realized that Hill 369 could only be taken by getting Hill 772 back.
For five days the battle raged in an attempt to break through the El Guettar Pass. Each attack was a coordinated push of an Armored Task Force and the 3rd Battalion of the 39th Infantry Regiment. When it seemed that the Germans were going to mount a major mechanized counterattack on April 4th, the 15th Engineers were sent to occupy defensive positions as Infantry.
However, two days later [April 6] it became apparent that the enemy was going to withdraw to head north for a last stand in Tunisia. The 9th Infantry Division attacked to seize Hills 772 and 369. “Benson’s Force” moved through the Pass and met the Eighth Army coming up from the South. Finally, the El Guettar Pass was taken!
After this battle, the men of the Ninth Division were given a two day rest period. A nice surprise came from General Patton who wanted to show his appreciation: Steak dinner for the Ninth men!1
It was in the final day of this battle, April 6th, that Raymond was injured, badly enough that he died the next day. Unfortunately, I don’t think he was able to partake of his steak dinner. But he could be proud that he was part of a major victory for the Allies in the North Africa campaign.
If interested here are two documents that I found online related to the 60th: one is a gathering of maps and the other is a, now unclassified, regimental history of the 60th covering 1940-1942 (I will need to find the rest of this history that covers 1943 to see if there is reference to Raymond, it might include his company assignment too).
1. Battle of Tunisia – https://9thinfantrydivision.net/battle-history/tunisia-battle/
2. American troops leap forward to storm a North African beach during final amphibious maneuvers.” James D. Rose, Jr., ca. 1944. 26-G-2326. National Archives Identifier: 513171