A Salute To Our Service, Fire & Police Personnel - August 2014

Thomas Carroll Tharpe was born on Nov. 1, 1920 in Charlotte County, VA., the son of Charles Tharpe and Mary Dee Lipscomb and died on August 23, 1972 in Richmond, Henrico Co., VA.  He is buried in the New Hope United Methodist Church Cemetery, Charlotte County, VA. Thomas enlisted in the U. S. Army on March 11, 1942, where after basic training, he was assigned to Company A, of the  17th. Armored Engineer Batallion where he was part of the invasions in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy and the Allied Fordrive to Berlin and the war's end.

For his efforts in this great war he was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart


17th. Armored Engineer Batallion

2nd. Armored Division, "Hell on Wheels"

The 17th Armored Engineer Batallion was founded on 1 October 1933 as part of the U.S. Army. It was first designated as the 17th Engineer Batallion (Heavy Ponton), Motorized. It was renamed on 10 July 1940 to the 17th Engineer Batallion (Armored). The 17th Armored Engineer Batallion was part of the 2nd Armored Division "Hell on Wheels", during World War II. They were active in the North African and Western Europe Campaigns. The unit became active and started training 15 July 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 17th was renamed once again on 8 January 1942 as the 17th  Armored Engineer Batallion. The Batallion motto is We Pave The Way. Tasks of the 17th included construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions, like constructing and breaching trenches, tank traps and other fortifications, bunker construction, as well as bridge and road construction. They also laid or cleared land mines. The 17th facilitated the movement and support of friendly forces while slowing the enemy's forces.

As part of the North African Campaign, and Operation Torch the 17th took part in landings in  French North Africa's Algeria and Morocco regions. The major tasks in the North African landings were mine clearing and removal. The 17th landings were in the early morning hours of  8 November 1942.

As part of  the Sicily Campaign, the 17th Armored Engineer Batallion with the 2nd Armor Division landed  in south-central Sicily, on July 11, 1943. Before the landing, the 17th  used M4 Sherman tanks with Scorpion Mine flail exploders to clear the way. The operation captured Butera and participated in the Battle of Mazzarino, then moved on to Palermo. After Sicily the 17th moved to England to train and prepare for D-Day.

 On June 9, 1944, D-day plus 3, along with other Batallions, the 17th Batallion landed on Utah Beach in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. They cleared lanes for landing craft by destroying the mine-bearing steel structures that the Germans had implanted in the intertidal zone and  bull-dozing roads up the narrow draws through the cliffs lining the beaches. The 17th Armored Engineer Batallion was issued camouflage uniforms for D-Day, the same ones used by U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific. To clear barricades, mine fields, fill in craters and break through thick hedgerows the 17th used M4 Sherman Tanks mounted with M1 bulldozers. Also used was Caterpillar D7 with armor plates added to the engine and cab. The 17th participated in many other operations up until the fall of Nazi Germany.