Branch: U. S. Army

   Rank:  Private First Class

   Status: Killed in action

   Date of Service: WWII

   Home Town: Denver,                       Colorado

Thomas Hastie’s headstone in Netherlands American Cemetery

Thomas Allen Hastie was born to Thomas Earl and Leola Mae Hastie in Centerville, Iowa on July 18, 1921. Leola was a Mississippi native. Two children were born to them in Centerville – Thomas Allen in 1921 and Helen Louise two years later. Thomas Earl’s dad was a coal miner and Thomas Earl began working in a coal mine in Colorado before 1920. The family ended up moving there permanently after the children were born and Thomas Earl worked his way to becoming a superintendent at the Steelworks mine. The family lived on the outskirts of Denver.

Thomas Allen was 20 years old when he registered for the draft in Denver on February 16, 1942. He had a high school education and was employed by Colorado Building Supply Company, Pueblo. He was 6’ tall, 150 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.

The date Thomas joined the Army is unknown, but it is known that he became a part of the 342nd Infantry Regiment, 86th Infantry Division. Before being sent overseas Thomas married his sweetheart, a girl from Bagley, Minnesota named Helen Catherine Benson in 1943. Helen was the daughter of Tollef and Rosetta Aaberg Benson. Tollef, a Norwegian immigrant, was one of the pioneer settlers of the Bagley area and had a farm a half mile east of Bagley. Tollef had attended Concordia College and had taught in several schools.

The 86th was activated on December 15, 1942 at Camp Howze, Texas.  It was known as the Blackhawk Division, in honor of a Sauk Indian warrior who led the Sauk tribes in their war with the Osages. The 86th was composed of men from every state in the union and they began arriving during January and February 1943. Basic training was commenced on March 1, 1943 and completed in November of 1943. The Division was ordered to the Louisiana Maneuver Area to participate in the vast mid-winter Third Army Maneuvers.  The Black Hawk GIs lived in the field for weeks, often staying in fox holes for days at a time with water constantly filling the bottom of the hole. After the maneuvers, Camp Livingston, Louisiana was designated as the new home of the 86th Division.

In February of 1944, all privates and PFCs were transferred to an overseas replacement depot and “fillers” began to arrive. This required a new phase of training, and more Louisiana Maneuvers that summer featuring Combat Team Exercises and Battalion Firing Tests. That completed, the Division was on the move to Camp Cooke, California in September for extensive amphibious training. It culminated at Camp Callen in November with three mock landings on San Clemente Island and a grand assault on Pendleton Island.

At last the order came to prepare for overseas duty and the Division began to leave California on February 2, 1945. They sailed out of Boston in a convoy of 20 ships, escorted by several destroyers and land-based patrol planes.  When they neared the English Channel several submarine wolfpacks came near the convoy but were driven away by depth charges. The convoy pulled into La Harve de Grace, France on March 2, 1945 and trucked out to a camp near Yvetot, France.  They were able to explore the French countryside for a few days before they were ordered to join the Fifteenth Army in the northern sector of the front.  They were moved by train through the beautiful Meuse Valley into Holland at Maastrict.

On March 27, the Black Hawk Division was ordered to relieve the 8th Infantry Division on the line near Cologne. The relief took place during the night and by daylight the entire 86th Division was committed to combat. Their assigned sector was 26 miles long so they were stretched out very thinly. The 342nd was assigned to the northern suburbs of Cologne.

This period of time was called “The Watch on the Rhine” by the Black Hawk doughboys. They were opposed by three German divisions which were well dug in along the east bank and well supplied with ammunition. The Black Hawks underwent unceasing shelling from the 88 batteries across the river. On the night of April 1, 37 German prisoners were taken at scattered points along the Division front.

The 86th Division continued to hold this sector of the front until April 4 when the entire Division was relieved by the 82nd Airborne Division.  They were immediately sent over treacherous mountain trails to Dillenburg where the XVIII Airborne Corps was set up. The 86th was given orders to attack in a general offensive to close the “Ruhr Pocket” by driving from the south north toward the Ruhr River. The 86th captured several Ruhr towns with heavy opposition. The night of April 10 was an uneasy one for all Black Hawk units on the line as the Germans kept up a constant artillery barrage all night with several tank and infantry led counter attacks.

Pfc. Thomas Hastie was not there the next day when his unit helped to liberate a large slave labor camp at Attendorn. He had been killed in action on April 11.

Thomas’s body was buried in Grave 24, Row 8, Plot B of the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. President Truman awarded the Bronze Star Medal to all combat infantrymen in the 86th Division shortly after the war’s end.