Cecil F. Haines
Biography: Cecil Franklin Haines was born in the early 1920s, in Brantford, Ontario Canada. In 1923, while Cecil was still an infant, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan.
Service Time: Cecil entered the service at Fort Custer, Michigan, and was sent to Camp Bowie, Texas, for basic training in early 1943. It was at Camp Bowie that Cecil was probably assigned to Company A of the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion. By March, his initial training was complete and he and the rest of the unit marched to Camp Hood, Texas, for more specialized instruction. The 820th was initially a self-propelled battalion, trained on the M3, but at Camp Hood they were converted to a towed battalion, utilizing the 3″ gun and halftrack. From there they moved to Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky.
Group Photo – Fort Custer, Michigan 1943 (Cecil is shown just right of the telephone pole)
Cecil and the unit shipped from the Boston port on October 7, 1944, aboard the USS Mount Vernon. They arrived in Liverpool, England, on the 15th and then landed on Omaha Beach in France 2 days later. In December, the unit moved to the Ardennes sector and was deployed with the 106th Infantry Division in the path of the German offensive.
Cecil recalled that during the Battle of the Bulge, his crew was holed up in an old barn or farmhouse. The Germans shelled the area most of the night with artillery. There was snow on the ground and by the next morning, the fields looked like a checkerboard from all the shell craters. When the Germans did attack, his crew took their first shot and hit an approaching Tiger tank. All the shell did was ricochet off its thick armor. The Tiger then started to fire and he and his crew were forced to retreat. Cecil was captured and his boots were taken, which led to him getting frostbite in his feet. He was able to escape some time later during the Allied counterattack. The 820th converted to M18’s immediately after their actions in the Ardennes and supported operations in the Ruhr Pocket in April.
Cecil served as a TD driver and later shared with his family that one time a fire broke out inside their TD. With the turret rotated and the gun over his hatch, everyone was able to exit the vehicle, except him. When his family asked him what he did, he said “I put out the fire.
In early May, 1945, they had crossed Germany to the Mesto Touskov area in Czechoslovakia. By mid-June, the unit had moved to Camp Lucky Strike, near Le Harve, France, awaiting orders for shipment to the Pacific Theater. They shipped back to the U.S., arriving at the Hampton Roads, Virginia, port on July 10th. Cecil was ordered to report to the Fort Knox, Kentucky, Army base and was thankfully not sent to the Pacific but was separated from the military on July 1st, at the rank of Technician 5th Grade. He received credit for each of the unit’s three campaigns; Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.
Cecil returned to Michigan and in 1946, he married Christaine and together they had two sons and one daughter. In the early 1950’s, the family moved to Southern California. Starting in the late 1960s, Cecil worked for the U.S. Navy, at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, until he retired in the early 80s.
I want to wish Cecil long life and happiness and thank his son for providing the photos and information for this tribute.