Herbert L. Payne
Biography: Herbert Lee Payne was born on July 27, 1922, in Doniphan, Arkansas. He was the oldest of three children born to Cleburne and Adah Payne. As the depression began to have its effect on the nation, Herbert left school after the 8th grade to help his family by taking whatever work he could find.
Service Time: He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and, after completing boot camp at Camp Hood, Texas, was assigned to the 648th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 648th was stationed at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, from Sep. 1943 to Nov, 1944 and while there he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He then trained as a TD commander on an M-10 before the 648th converted to a towed battalion in March of 1944. He was then made a Gun Commander in B Company. During this period they trained in tank destroyer tactics and participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers in preparation for combat.
The 648th sailed on Dec 10, 1944, to Gourock, Scotland, on the Queen Mary. They arrived six days later on Dec 16, 1944. In England, they received new equipment and prepared it for combat. They landed in France on Jan 26, 1945, and were attached to the 70th Infantry Division on Feb 16, 1945, during the fight for Saarbruecken, Germany. While attached to the 70th, they provided direct and indirect artillery support for the infantry by knocking out pillboxes and armored vehicles. They also shelled areas of heavy enemy resistance as well as providing pre-attack barrages.
The 648th was detached from the 70th on March 30, 1945, and made their way north, crossing the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at Bingen, Germany. They arrived in the Ruhr region of Germany to relieve some of the units fighting in the Ruhr Pocket. Herbert’s unit relieved a squad of Airborne Troops in a town south of the pocket. There were only ten men in the Airborne Squad and a town full of German troops waiting to surrender. They were certainly glad to see the 648th arrive. On April 15, 1945, they started making their way toward southern Germany, going into towns and villages that the fighting had by-passed, disarming citizens, taking POWs, and arresting any Nazis they found. The war ended several weeks later.
Since he did not have enough points to return home, Herbert was assigned to Troop A, 42nd Mechanized Calvary Squadron, 2nd Calvary Division at Freising, Germany. The 2nd Calvary had sent many men back to the states on points so they were severely under-staffed. Herbert was placed in charge of a platoon and handled the duties of a Platoon Sergeant and a Lieutenant. He quickly began training new replacements that were arriving for deployment to the Pacific theater. After Japan surrendered, they began occupational duties. In December of 1945, his unit went into the mountains of southern Bavaria and captured Artur Axmann. He was the leader of the Hitler Youth who were trying to set up a resistance to the occupation. In March, 1946, Herbert returned to the U.S. on the USS George Washington.
After his discharge, he returned to Arkansas and went to an agriculture school to learn farming. He married Hazel and tried farming for several years. He then worked a few years with an engineering firm doing survey work in Montana and Kansas before moving to Michigan and settling down there to raise his family. Herbert and Hazel raised their six children while he was working at several different companies in the Holland, MI, area. He retired from Donnelly Mirrors in 1984 and later moved back to Arkansas in 1996. One of Herbert’s spare time activities was a large vegetable garden he kept. It was probably a small connection to his farming days.
Here you can see Herbert, at the far left with Milton Barr, center, and Russell Leonard on the right during the 1997 reunion of the 648th.
Herbert passed away on Veterans Day, Nov 11, 2008. He was very proud of his service to this country and talked about his experiences many times. I want to thank Herbert’s son, Gary, for the information and photos of his father.