Army Fire Fighting Platoons
|Firefighters from the 2024th Engneer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
stand by at all times to rescue crew members from burning planes.
Bassingbourne Airbase, England
“To understand fully the reason for the activation of this and other similar units, we will have to go back to the
fall of 1942. At that time the Tunisian Campaign was in its beginning and from experience the allied commanders,
General Eisenhoer found the fires, caused from ground and air attacks, were losing supplies and equipment at an
alarming rate. As an example, seventy five percent of all planes of two air groups were destroyed at the airfield at
Oran from one bombing attack. This single attack gave the Germans air superiority until replacements were
rushed to Oran. Thus, because of this and similar incidents, which definitely impaired our fighting efficiency,
General Eisenhower requested the activation of Fire Fighting Platoons for both air and ground forces. The ground
force units were activated at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana. The Air Force units were activated at Bradley Field,
2nd Lt. Herbert W. Blanchard
2063rd Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
On 4 December 1941 the responsibility for Fire Protection within the Army passed from the Quartermaster
Corps to the Corps of Engineers. (COE) On 7 December Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States found
itself at war. One of the many problems now facing the COE was the need to provide fire protection in overseas
theaters of operations. After 6 months of planning, 1 July 1943 saw the formation of the Engineer Fire Fighting
Detachments 1 thru 10 at Camp Clairborne, near Alexandria, Louisiana. The initial staffing for the detachments
brought men from other Army units, some with a background in firefighting who would become the cadre for the new
units. The Commanding Officer (CO) of each detachment held the rank of Lieutenant and most were recent
graduates of the COE Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and would become the Fire Marshall for
each detachment. The COs attended a week course in the “Methods of Fire Fighting” held at the Central Fire
Station in Alexandria, Louisiana. The school was sponsored by the Division of Trade and Industrial Education of
the Louisiana State Department of Education. A senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) from each detachment
was designated Fire Chief and attended a special two week school in firefighting held at the District of Columbia
Fire Training Center in Washington, DC. Colonel R. Lewis, COE Fire Protection Specialist was Commandant of the
school which lasted from the 14th thru 26th September 1942.
By mid October recruits from reception centers had arrived and basic training began. Preliminary fire fighting
instruction was started in November 1942, but although the Camp Clairborne Fire Department was most co-
operative, facilities were lacking for proper training. The camp fire department could not allow its trucks to be taken
out of service to train with so the training consisted of lectures by the camp firefighters on fire equipment, fire
prevention and methods of handling fire hose.
With basic training completed the ten detachments departed Camp Clairborne by motor convoy and arrived at
Camp Harahan at New Orleans Staging Area (NOSA) 30 December 1942. During the next 2 ½ months excellent
training in fire fighting was received under the direction of Major Eugene A. Wink, head of the training section
NOSA. Much assistance was received from Chief Evans and Assistant Chief Burke from the New Orleans Fire
Department. Training was conducted in fire fighting methods at the City of New Orleans Fire School. Numerous
field trips to port areas, industrial plants and a trip on the New Orleans fire boat were also conducted. Probably the
most valuable training of all was received from 1st Lt. David F. Glines, an especiallywell trained instructor in fire
fighting, sent to the NOSA by the Chief Engineers Office. Lt. Glines brought with him Class 325 fire trucks and
Class 1000 fire trailers, the type of fire apparatus the detachment would be using so that the men could get hands
on training. The Lt. also gave thorough training in all phases of fire fighting and fire fighting equipment.
On 15 March 1944, Detachment 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 departed the NOSA by rail for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The
units assembled at the New York Port of Embarkation, (NYPE) Staten Island, NY where they sailed for North Africa
on 2 April 1943. On 17 March 1943, Detachments 6 and 7 departed the NOSA by train for Camp Kilmer and sailed
from the NYPE on 29 April 1943 also for North Africa. On 11 May 1943, Detachments 8, 9 and 10 left the NOSA for
Camp Kilmer sailing from the NYPE on 23 May 1943 bound for England. On 15 August 1943 these 10 detachments
were renamed “Engineer Fire Fighting Platoons.”
April 1943 saw the activation of additional Engineer Fire Fighting Platoons at Camp Clairborne and in May 1943
the first Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoons, (EAFFP) 1980th thru 2009th were activated at Bradley Field,
Connecticut. In June 1943 EAFFPs were activated at Harding Field, Louisiana where they underwent engineer
basic training, moving to Camp Pontchartrain, Louisiana to learn fire fighting skills. At Bradley Field platoons were
under going basic engineer training when they learned, after a day of training at the rifle range, that their training
battalion had been disbanded and they were to become Aviation Fire Fighters. Firefighting training for the Bradley
platoons was conducted at Bradley Field by instructors obtained from civilian fire departments.
May 1944 saw the activation of additional Engineer Fire Fighting Platoons, 1241st thru 1246th at Assi-Ben-
Okba, Algeria. In June, the1247th thru 1250th and 1700 thru 1708th at Aversa, Italy. Engineer Fire Fighting
Platoons in the 3100 series, were activated Fort Lewis, Washington in October 1944. In addition, Engineer Fire
Fighting Platoons, 2791 thru 2797 were activated at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, April 1944 with fire training taking
place at Camp Picket, Virginia. At Dale Marbry Field, Florida, January 1944, ten Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting
Platoons, 2085th thru 2094th were activated traveling to Camp Pontchartrain for fire training. In England, fifty-eight
Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoons were activated in April 1944. This was accomplished by transferring
firefighters from excising platoons in England to the newly activated units and obtaining firefighters from the Station
Complement or Air Service Group at the airfield. In most cases, Station Complement personnel provided fire
protection before the arrival of the EAFFPs in the UK using Royal Air Force (RAF) crash tenders and fire trailers.
Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon: The Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon consisted of a headquarters section and
three fire fighting sections. Besides functioning as a normal headquarters, headquarters section had personnel and
equipment for fire fighting. Included in its personnel was the platoon CO holding the rank of Lieutenant, who would
be designated the Fire Marshall, a fire chief, a section chief, clerk, truck mechanic, pump operators, drivers and
firefighters. The mission of the EFFP was fire protection and fire prevention at Army depots, hospitals, wharves and
docks, bases and cantonments. The headquarters section had one Class 325 fire truck, when first deployed these
were 4x2 vehicles built on American commercial chassis. In 1944 the military Chevrolet 4x4 chassis, Class 325
appeared in the theater. Both versions of the Class 325 were equipped with a front mounted 300 gpm. centrifugal
pump and 300 gallon water tank. Other equipment included two booster reels each equipped with 150 feet of ¾ in.
hose, various firefighting tools, 12 foot roof and 24 foot extension ladders. The hose bed had a capacity of 600 feet
of 2 ½ in. and 600 feet of 1 ½ in. hose. Each firefighting section was equipped with one Class 1000 firefighting
trailer which was towed by a 1 ½ or ¾ ton support vehicle. The Class 1000 trailer consisted of a gasoline engine
driven centrifugal pump capable of delivering 500 gpm. at 120 psi., mounted on a standard 1 ½ ton cargo trailer.
The hose bed had a capacity of 700 feet of 2 ½ in. and 300 feet of 1 1/2 in. hose. Additional hose and firefighting
equipment was carried in a weapons carrier which towed the Class 1000. Many EFFPs were reorganized in 1944
as Engineer Composite Platoons, FAFC. This allowed for an increase in Class 325 fire trucks from 1 to 4 and an
increase in personnel. In addition, the Army 700 gal. water tanker, mounted on the 2 1/2 ton, 6x6 chassis was
authorized for use.
Normally the EFFP was dispersed, each section operating as a fire station and responsible for a particular part
of the total territory covered and assisting other sections as needed. The platoons were assigned to other Army
units for rations and administration. Reports of fire were received at the headquarters section via telephone and the
proper station or stations were dispatched over direct line telephone. Of course, many calls were reported directly
to the nearest fire station by personnel discovering the blaze or emergency. In many cases, the sections operated a
great distance from one another and each operated as an independent fire department only requesting assistance
from another section upon reaching the scene and locating a telephone to make the call. When EFFPs reached
their assigned locations they were faced with many challenges. The first, locating adequate quarters in which the
platoon would live and house the fire equipment, if possible. Fire sections set up shop in former civilian fire stations,
garages, schools and industrial buildings. The next mission of the platoon was to survey its area of responsibility
locating sources of water for firefighting, fire hazards and routes of travel to reach all portions of the area. Rivers
and ponds normally served as water sources but sometimes fire hydrants were located. Army hose fittings would
not mate with these water systems and adapters were machined at Engineer Depots for the platoons use. Hose
adapters were also made to allow American hose to be joined to British and other foreign manufactured hose.
Traveling to the platoons next assignment wasn’t always easy. On 18 October 1944 members of the 1225th
EFFP departed Base F, Finschafen, New Guinea and sailed for a secret location. Rough weather was encountered
a few days out and a monsoon struck just before midnight of the 28th. The ship rolled and pitched, finally coming to
rest upon a sandbar, where it remained for 3 days and nights. Underway once again land was sighted on 29
October, the Philippines. That evening Japanese planes were active attacking shore positions and for the next 5
days platoon members remained on the ship waiting to disembark. Then at midnight on 3 November enemy planes
appeared and ack-ack fire erupted from the mainland. At 0330 hrs that morning, one Japanese Zero being shot
from the air, crash dived into the ship in a suicide dive. A terrific explosion was felt and fire seemed to cover the
whole front of the ship. Men sleeping on the forward part of the ship were blown or jumped overboard. The
1225ths CO rounded up all the firefighters, except for 7 overboard, and laid attack lines to the fire and worked until it
was extinguished. The members overboard were able to board a raft, rescuing several members of the ships crew
before rebording the ship. While the fire and rescue were occurring, Japanese planes were bombing and strafing
overhead. Ack-ack and other gunfire from adjacent ships in the harbor were flying all around them. The ships
captain praised the members of the 1225th EFFP for their work and many would receive Soldiers Medals for their
actions that day.
Not all fire fighting platoons had the luxury of looking for buildings in which to quarter, some had to “dig in.”
Members of the 1217th and 1218th went ashore at Utah Beach on 13 June 1944 to provide fire protection at the
shore facilities. The 1217th set up headquarters at the Regimental Command Post and fire sections were dispersed
to each battalion area. There was an air raid about 0200 hrs on the 15th and bombs were dropped in the
regimental area, causing little damage and no causalities. Shortly after the raid the headquarters sections
responded to Sugar Red Beach for 3 amphibious vehicles ablaze, the probable cause being shrapnel from bombs.
Enemy planes returned while headquarters section was fighting the fire, several bombs dropped and there were no
casualties. During the 6th and 17th of June, the platoon conducted a fire inspection of the regimental area
informing Battalion Officers of the availability of their firefighting services. Mutual aid assistance was established
with the 128th and two navy firefighters were attached to each fire section to help in case of fire on beached craft.
The platoon responded to numerous fires, mostly in ammunition and trash before leaving the Utah Beachhead on 8
October and being assigned to the Utah Beach Command.
Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon: The Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon assigned to the Army Air
Corps (AAC) was identical to the EFFP, but differed from those platoons in equipment and training to meet the
specialized requirements of the AACThe headquarters section had on Class 135 Crash Truck which in early
deployment was of the 4x2 version and later the military Chevrolet 4x4. Both versions of the Class 135 were
equipped with a front mounted, semi-high pressure, centrifugal pump capable of pumping 60gpm. at 350 psi. Other
equipment on the truck included a 300 gallon water tank, two side mounted and one rear mounted booster hose
reels each carrying 100 feet of 1 in. heavy duty booster hose. 20 gallons of foam was carried in a tank mounted
atop the water tank. A 16 foot A-frame ladder, standard Army crash kit, fire extinguishers and small firefighting tools
were also carried. Two sections of the EAFFP were supplied with Class 1010 Crash Trailers. The Class 1010
trailer consisted of a high-pressure piston pump with a capacity of 35 gpm.
at 750 psi. mounted on a two-wheel trailer which was equipped with 150 gal. water tank, two bracket type hose
mounts with 100 feet of ¾. high pressure hose each, Army crash kit along with fog and foam nozzles. The bed of
the towing vehicle carried additional fire extinguishers, tools and hose. The third section of the EAFFP was
equipped with a Class 1000 pumping trailer. Headquarters and two sections were equipped primary for crash
incidents while the third section was equipped for structure fires.
Research of EAFFP records and photographs from the era show that some of the platoons were equipped with
Class 110 and Class 125 Crash Trucks, previously thought not to been used in the theater of operations.
While a few of the EAFFPs served in Africa and then into Italy, the majority of them were stationed in England.
Living conditions in England were much better then for their brothers serving with EFFPs in Europe and other
locations. For the most part, they arrived at established airfields, with adequate living quarters, mess halls and
entertainment facilities. The platoons found that fire protection was being carried out by Station Complement and
Air Service Group personnel using Royal Air Force fire apparatus. The EAFFPs assumed fire protection duties
using RAF crash tenders and fire trailers, since their American fire equipment had not arrived and the station
personnel returned to their units.
“This organization came into being as the 2113th Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon on the 11 April 1944
at Army Air Force Station174. However, its origin dates back to November 1943 upon the arrival at this station of
the 76th Station Complement Squadron, Major Radar, Commanding, Lieutenant Vokal assigned to that
organization as Fire Marshall. His crew consisted of six men in the Station Complement Fire Fighting Section.
They immediately set about organizing a Fire Department with the aid of RAF fire equipment with which the
station is basically stocked, fire extinguishers, two British Crash Tenders, and two British Trailer Fire
Pumps……Special Order No. 57, Headquarters AAF Station 174, dated 11 April, activated the 2113th Engineer
Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon.”
2113th Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
While many of the RAF crash tenders were found to be in good operating condition, many reports of
unserviceable or tenders in poor operating condition are found in platoon monthly reports.
“The base was assigned 2 Crossley and 1 Fordson crash tender. The Fordson was deadlined awaiting a new
steering gear box and one of the Crossleys was deadlined for engine trouble. The one good Crossley in good
condition was stationed at the tower. We had 2 trailer pumps here, 1 Bedford Stork and 1 Sigma. Neither of these
was in running condition. Prior to the arrival of the American equipment we had to use what we had. We put 6
men to workas mechanics, and the rest of the alternated at line duty and alert. We got the 2 trailer pumps working
and they were dependable, the only disadvantage, being that they have no self starter, and must be cranked. We
repaired the other Crossley, but neither of the Crossleys were any good. Their top speed was 15 MPH and they
were never dependable. They failed to start, failed to go into gear, and gave us trouble every day. The Fordson,
which has a V-8 engine, was the best vehicle we had, but we didn’ t get the needed steering box until January.”
2113th Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
Providing fire protection at the many airfields in England could also prove dangerous. On the evening of 4 June
1944, a B-24 Liberator bomber of the 856th Bomb Group piloted by Second Lieutenant Raymond J. Sachtleben
crashed into an unoccupied house at approximately 17:30 at Hardingham, near Garveston, Norfolk, killing all ten
men in the crew. Private Ted Bunalski and Sergeant Monroe A. Atchley, members of the 2033rd EAFFP, were
eating dinner when they heard a man yelling that a plane had crashed. They left their meals, ran out to the road,
and jumped on the first fire truck going to the fire. Joined by other members of the platoon, led by Staff Sergeant
Charles Provenzano, upon arrival at the crash site they immediately went to the burning plane and proceeded to
extinguish the flames, disregarding the danger of bombs and a gas tank which was burning and full of gasoline.
The plane was loaded with Model 201b fragmentation bombs, and while the fire was being combated, a bomb
exploded. Sergeant Atchley was killed instantly. Private Bunalski received multiple shrapnel wounds, and a severe
wound to the left side of his neck, which caused him to bleed to death. The other members of the platoon continued
to attempt to fight the fire until ordered away from the crash. Private Bunalski and Sgt. Atchley were posthumously
awarded the Soldiers Medal for heroism. Staff Sergeant Provenzano was awarded the Bronze Star along with four
other members of the 2033rd EAFFP, Sergeant Antonio M. Suplrizio, Private First Class Anton Bauo, Michael
Lararowica, and John J. Schrack.
Many of the EAFFPs in England served their entire tour of duty there until they were inactivated. While others
where deployed from England to the continent serving at airfields, (ALG- Advance Landing Ground) in France,
Belgium and Germany moving from ALG to ALG as the American Army moved towards Germany.
Fire Prevention measures were an important part of the fire platoons responsibility for both EFFP and EAFFPs.
Inspecting military occupied buildings looking for unsafe conditions, missing or discharged fire extinguishers and
hazards took much of the platoon’s time. They set up Fire Points” throughout the camp/airfield which contained first
aid firefighting tools including shovels, pails, sand and 5 gallon hand pump fire extinguishers for use in combating
fire before the arrival of the fire department. Refilling fire extinguishers used by Army units at the camp was also
one of the duties preformed by the platoons. Fire training on the use of fire extinguishers was given to all base
Several EAFFPs in England engaged in “Firefighter Olympic” contests with British National Fire Service
Personnel. (NFS) The two units met on the field of battle to match their firefighting skills against one another with
ladder, hose and pumping evolutions. EAFFPs came out on top in several of these events. Since many of the
EAFFPs were stationed in England, with easy access to English towns, many platoon members found girlfriends,
dated and then married. As seen in the 1949 movie "12 O'Clock High" with Gregory Peck, several of the station
personnel managed to board aircraft and participate in a bombing mission over Germany. Several EAFFP
Commanding Officers, wanting some "Combat Experience" also managed to get themselfs onboard aircraft heading
to Germany for a bombing mission, ...... all returned unharmed.
Adapt and Improvise: Local conditions and hazards dectated that the platoons modify some of their fire
equipment to meet the demands associated with combat firefighting. Foam tanks were mounted on Class 325 fire
trucks as well as the M3A1 Decontaminating truck, and the foam tanks enlarged on the Class 135. Several EAFFPs
in England mounted CO2 systems on their vehicles.
"A twenty gallon tank is being made for foam on the Class 135 crash truck. This will save a great deal of time
and will eliminate the job of one man who at the present time has to carry two gallon cans of foam up to the hose
nozzle. A shut off valve will be put on the foam tank. This will enable the use of either water or foam. Foam
tanks are also going to be mounted on the 1020 crash trailer. Another addition to the 135 crash truck are four 60
lb. CO2 tanks with two 65 foot reels of hose. The tanks will be connected in pairs. Each pair of tanks will produce
120 lbs of CO2 and will last approximately two minutes apiece. The CO2 will be used mainly for rescue
2122nd Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
The pumps from fire trailers were often removed and mounted in the cargo bed of the platoon’s weapons
carrier and water tanks mounted on the trailer. EFFPs in some cases used German fire trucks acquired as the Army
moved through France. Since water supply was often a problem for the platoons, several made arraignments with
Engineer Water Purification Companies to truck water to the scene of fires. The 1209th EFFP acquired several
hundred feet of new hose and two firefighting trailers from the French Fire Service at Cherbourg, France. They also
discovered a large quantity of German firefighting foam which was put to good use by the platoon. The 1208th
EFFP acquired a 2 ½ ton Army cargo truck on which they mounted a 800 gallon water tank. Added where the
components from a Class 325 fire truck, including the pump, tools, ladders and hose, which made for a very
impressive fire truck. The platoons were often called to extinguish fires at ammunition dumps and depots, a very
dangerous operation. After consulting with Armor and Engineer commanders, they deployed tankdozers to assist
the firefighting operations. The tankdozers were able to move into the fire and separatethe burning material.
"The men were trained in the use of the M4A3 tank wiith bulldozer attachment and instructed in the operation
of the 75 mm. gun. The breech was held open in the lock position. A nozzle was screwed on the male end of the
hose. The hose ran out through the breech and out of the tank turret through the ventilation hole to the left rear of
the breech. This 1 1/2 in. hose was connected to several lengths of 2 1/2 in. hose by a wye connection. The 2 1/2
in. hose in turn with a Class 1000 trailer pump. Two men wee required to operate the tank. One man to operate
the tank and one man to operate the turret. This proved that in the case of an ammunition fire a tank could be
brought in to aid firefighting units with a minimun amount of equipment necessary for conversion."
1209th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
In 1943 the COE authorized for use as an auxiliary crash vehicle the M3A1 Decontaminating Truck. The unit
consisted of a 400 gal. wood tank mounted on the standard GM, 2 ½ ton, 6x6 chassis, with a high pressure, 400
psi. pump driven from the truck transmission. Many of the fire fighting platoons had realized the M3A1 made for a
reliable firefighting vehicle prior to the issuance of the directive andhad used them with great success. The COE
offered a conversion kit that provided additional firefighting capacity for the vehicles. The kit included two high
pressure pistol grip nozzles, additional high pressure hose, foam can sling and carrying basket, foam pick-up tube
and foam nozzle. Photographs from the era show 55 gal. foam tanks mounted on the vehicles.
"The use of the CWS Decontaminating truck is of great value in firefighting. These vehicles are valuable in
that carry an initial supply of water and are mobile. They are equipped to pump water up to 400 pounds, which is
impossible with ordinary firefighting equipment. They are also supplied with a water-fog type nozzle which breaks
the water down, due to the great pressure, into an extremely fine water fog. This fog has a tremendously high
cooling effect and can snuff out fires of considerable size with one or two blasts from the nozzle. Water fog is the
only means, other than the use of foam, to extinguish gasoline fires. These trucks were used on a recent
ammunition fire, due to their mobility, to ride around and extinguish small fires caused by hot flying shrapnel,
tracer bullets and burning phosphorous."
1218th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
By the end of 1944 the Class 150 Crash Truck was beginning to appear at Air Force Stations in England. COs
and NCOs from EAFFPs scheduled to receive them attended training sessions on the new truck. The Class 150s
were built on the Sterling and Kenworth 6x6 chassis with body work and fire equipment manufactured by Cardox.
The primary extinguishing agent on the vehicle was 6000 lbs. of CO2 and 300 gals. of foam premix expelled by
CO2. The units proved quite successful and provided additional firefighting capacity for the platoons. Research
indicates that some 30 of these units were deployed before wars end.
"3 April 1945 at 1735 hrs. call received over fire phone that an aircraft was on fire parked on the long runway.
Crews from both the Fire Station and Control Tower were dispatched to the scene, upon arrival found the #4
engine of aircraft #8-338365 of the Green Sqdn. was on fire. The Cardox Truck was put into operation, first using
the Bayonets and then the Front Boom. 1/8 tank of CO2 was used in extinguishing the fire. 1800 hrs. all crews
back in stations.
2115th Engineer Aviation Fire Fighting Platoon
The Jeep was authorized to the fire fighting platoons as part of their TO&E and in 1944 the COE authorized its
use as an auxiliary airfield crash truck. When used as such, it would be equipped with the standard Army crash kit,
fire extinguishers and other tools appropriate to local conditions. Normal crew would consist of two men assigned
from normal complement of crash firefighters.
"The use of such vehicles for crash firefighting as auxiliaries to regular apparatus has been reported with very
successful results. The advanages include, faster response and superior performance on terrain unsuited for
heavy equipment, rescue operations maybe initated sooner, special hazards could be protected leaving larger
trucks in service.
Corps of Engineers
Additional vehicles used by the platoons, in addition to the Jeep, the 1 1/2 ton, 6x6, Cargo and Personnel
Carrier and the 3/4 ton, 4x4, Weapons Carrier. In 1944 the 700 gallon water truck, mounted on the CCKW, 2 1/2
ton, 6x6 chassis was authorized for use to the EFFPs.
This is just a brief overview of the Army Fire Fighting Platoons and the soldiers that served with them. The
units are credited with saving countless lives both military and civilian during their years of deployment. Many
platoon members were injured and approximately 50 were killed in the performance of their duties. Millions of
dollars in government property was saved from fire by these brave firefighters and their contributions to the war
effort has been generally undocumented by historians. You will not see these unsung heroes of World War II on the
History Channel. Many platoon members went on to become civilian firefighters in cities and towns across the
United States and several attained high ranking positions in their respective fire departments.
All Material Copyrighted, March 2010