Segment 3


The 20th Engineers was the first unit to go into Bizerte. George Griffenhagen and his fellow engineers spent the first 10 days after the capture of the city building stockades for the German prisoners. The Germans were big and husky compared to the teen aged Americans. As the Germans left, those that could speak English told the GIs that they were going to America to make love to their girls. After a week or 10 days of building prisoner cages they left and began training for the Sicily invasion. They were under Patton at that time. Griffenhagen only saw Patton in person one time. The 20th Engineers landed at Licata, Sicily on D Day. Patton’s plan for Sicily was to cut the island in half in the hopes of trapping a lot of the Germans on the west end of the island. When Patton’s tanks ran into a minefield he called for the engineers and it was Griffenhagen’s unit that got the call. They made their way to the area where the tanks were and arrived at a crossroads where they saw a guy standing on a jeep. The man was wearing two pearl handled revolvers and was cussing up a storm. The captain of Griffenhagen’s unit tried to tell the man who they were but he did not care. He just yelled at them to get their trucks out of the way. Griffenhagan’s captain told Patton’s assistant who they were and that they had to get through if Patton wanted the mines cleared. They were then able to get through. At the time Griffenhagen was in Company E of the 20th Engineers. In England they split the regiment in two and created the 1340th and 20th [Annotators Note: 1340th and 20th Engineer Combat Battalions].There were no troops on the ground to oppose them when they landed in Sicily but the Luftwaffe [Annotators Note: the German Air Force] was pretty strong. The German fighters would fly out of the sun and drop their bomb or bombs on the ships in the harbor then they would turn for home and would strafe the Allied troops on the ground on the way. Griffenhagen could actually see the pilot of one of the planes that strafed them. One thing that is little known about Sicily was that early in the evening on the second night there was a large German bombing raid. As soon as the Germans left, aircraft of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived. Nobody on the ground knew that the 82nd was coming and every gun available opened fire. Griffenhagen was up in the mountains manning a 50 caliber machine gun and firing right into the planes as they passed. After all action ceased they were told to stop firing and that they may have made a mistake. The following morning they saw what they had done. Fortunately they did not kill too many paratroopers but they did destroy a lot of planes. The figures are in Atkinson's book [Annotators Note: Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson]. Things happened so fast that they did not have a chance to think on what happened yesterday. They were too concerned with what was going to happen tomorrow.


All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at