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1943 Office Of Defense Transportation Poster

Many thousands of soldiers were in the area of Tullahoma, Tennessee, about 80 miles NNW of Chattanooga, as America conducted a full dress rehearsal for the coming invasion in Europe

Over twenty counties in Middle Tennessee were utilized for the Tennessee Maneuvers, which were headquartered at Cumberland University in Lebanon and officially referred to as "somewhere in Tennessee." Middle Tennessee was chosen for these war games because of its proximity to railroads and federal highways and the similarity between its terrain and that of western Europe. Red and Blue "armies" faced each other in training exercises. More than 800,000 men and women participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers.


Tennessee Maneuvers
Taken from various sources & compiled by Steve
Credit given to each author and source

There have been numerous submissions about the Tennessee Maneuvers but some a mere mention or another
a paragraph only. I've taken all that I can find and compiled them here on this page. All of these will continue
to be located on the individual submitters page for you to also search.

Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee

In the autumn of 1942, the War Department decided to resume field maneuvers in Middle Tennessee. Large-scale war games had been conducted in an area around Camp Forrest, near Tullahoma, the previous summer, and General George S. Patton had perfected the armored tactics that were to bring him fame and his divisions victory in Europe. Between the wars Erwin Rommel, as a young military attaché, had visited Nashville and Middle Tennessee to study and follow the cavalry campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to help him develop a pattern for the use of tank units as cavalry. The army, perceiving in the Cumberland River and the hilly country to the south and north a similarity to the Rhine and Western Europe, decided to send divisions into the state for their last preparation before actual combat. Between September 1942 and March 1944 nearly one million soldiers passed through the Tennessee Maneuvers area.

Lebanon was chosen as headquarters and Nashville as the principal railhead. Over the hills and valleys of twenty-one counties "Blue" and "Red" armies engaged in weekly strategic "problems," with troops moved in and out according to a calendar of "phases" that lasted about four weeks apiece. In the military's scenario Nashville was Cherbourg, without the bombing. The first and second problems usually took place east of Davidson County, but the third in each phase would poise attacking Blue troops against Red troops in defense around Donelson in Davidson County and Couchville in Wilson County. This force would advance to the east toward hilly terrain. In one instance at least a problem involved the defense of Berry Field in Nashville against Blue airborne troops.

Maneuvers paused at noon on Thursday or Friday, when a light plane would fly over the mock battle lines, sounding a siren. Then thousands of soldiers would seek recreation in Nashville and the county seat towns. Facilities were limited, despite the best efforts of the U.S.O. and the American Red Cross; movie theaters and cafes were packed; drug store soda fountains were forced to shut down twice a day for cleanup. Each army PX was strained to the limit. Churches opened their doors and set up lounges; schools opened their gyms for weekend dances. The Grand Ole Opry had never drawn such crowds than during these months when Middle Tennessee hosted the army's preparations for the eventual invasion of Normandy in 1944
Interview with the late Harry Carnevale (1997 interview) eMailCall
We went on maneuvers in Tennessee. January, February, and March. Down there it gets pretty cold. It was pretty rough. All buildings were off limits. We had to stay in the field. This was worse than combat. At least in combat you could get into a building. The water would freeze in your canteen -- it was that cold. The last day, we had to make a march from five in the morning till midnight. Marched all day. Temperature was about 35, and it had been raining all day. We still had these big coats, and the raincoats over the overcoats. By midnight, everybody was totally exhausted. We were at the river's edge, the Cumberland River. We had to make a river crossing. When I got there, there was the colonel, and there was an engineer major. The river was at flood stage. Now it's midnight. When the moon would break through, you could see the logs and trees and debris coming down. They had tried all day to get a bridge across, but they'd get part way over, and it would be wiped out. So when we got there, there was no bridge. We had a meeting on the riverbank. The major said, "Colonel, I recommend you don't make the river crossing." The three-month maneuver was going to end at four o'clock that morning. I get in the act. I say, "Colonel, it isn't worth it. It's dangerous. The maneuver's over in four hours." So he's walking up and down the bank. He raises his stick and says, "We cross."

So they had these little pontoon boats that they use for bridges. Somewhere they'd gotten these little three horsepower outboard motors. Okay, I got in the first boat . . . with 20, 21 men. We started across the river, and the motor conked out. We're in the middle going round and round with the trees coming at us. We finally made it across the river. The second boatload came over . . . 22 men. I'm standing on the riverbank. When the moon would break through, I could see they were very close to the edge. Suddenly they went down. Never heard a cry. These men went down like a rock. They had big coats on, with the raincoats, with their field packs. Down they went. I had to stay there for two months while they recovered the bodies.

Those were experiences we had here, in the States. It was rough as hell. Then we finally got it all together and went overseas.


Somewhere in Tennessee eMailCall
July 4th, 1943  
I expect to be in Tennessee till some time in September. These maneuvers are pretty tough. In fact it's about the toughest thing I ever had in the Army. Yesterday we were camping in some woods and got an idea to go to one of the farm houses and ask them if they could fry us some chickens. The lady said she would. We told her to fry six. We came back at night and had the swellest feed I've had in a long time. Fried chicken, hot biscuits, milk, and raspberry pie. The whole works cost us $8.00 but it was sure worth it. If we ever come back, we are going to have her roast us some ducks. The way they live in the shacks around here is a crime. They are nothing but rough boards with clay pasted between the boards. I wouldn't live here for anything. But the people here seem to be very accommodating.

Somewhere in Tennessee
Aug. 19, 1943
It's the same old stuff around here rumors and more rumors. Now we are going to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky. Looks like they want to make a hillbilly out of me the way they keep shoving me from one hill to another hill. That's about all these states around here are, hills + more hills. I'm still counting the days and they seem to be rolling much faster now that this is coming to an end. Boy, it sure will be good to sleep in a bed again. Then, too, I don't know. Maybe I'll have to put rocks in the mattress to make me feel at home, I'm so used to sleeping on the ground. We got a day off here today to celebrate the 1st year of 83rd Division's organization. I would like you to see what a sight it is to see tents lined up by the thousands out here. Just like a gypsy camp.

Last Letter on Tennessee Maneuvers - 3 miles from Shelbyville
Aug. 26 - 43
There are so many rumors around here that I just don't know what to write about. After this letter reaches you, I will no longer be in Tennessee . . . I may go to Camp Breckinridge and then I may go back to dear old Atterbury. Then too I may go somewhere else. We are going to run our last problem this coming week, and it looks like after it's over we will go to Camp Forrest and catch trains for one of the two camps I mentioned before. Right now we are in Shelbyville about 16 miles from Camp Forrest. Last night we were at Statesville, about 60 miles from here. At Statesville, we had the swellest time after we captured it from the reds. The company commander told us we could go to a Negro church. We all laughed all through the service. They were singing a song that had a verse, "We are packing up and getting ready to go." Right now it's getting dark and the southern Tennessee moon is coming up over these darn hills . . .


Tennessee Maneuvers 1st. Lt. Jack Cunningham - C Bty, 29th FA Bn, WW2 eMailCall
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 accommodate 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.