Subject: 727th ROB's Induction Into the TC Hall of Fame


Originally established by the War Department as the 594th Engineer Battalion (Railway Operating) on January 29, 1923, the 727th Railway Operating Battalion (ROB) was affiliated with the Southern Railway System.  Based on the National Defense Act of 1916, individual railroads were encouraged to sponsor Organized Reserve Units as a means of providing a cadre of trained rail management and operating personnel to meet military requirements.  Typically the sponsoring railroad not only provided personnel, but also served as the unit training area.  On February 21, 1941, the 594th was redesignated as the 727th Engineer Battalion (Railway Operating).  With the United States' entry into WWII, the 727th became the first Reserve ROB to be activated on March 15, 1942.  The designation as the 727th Railway Operating Battalion, Transportation Corps, became effective on November 16, 1942, with a total authorized strength of 31 officers and 759 enlisted Soldiers.

The 727th ROB's mobilization station was Camp Shelby, MS.  Company "B" conducted their rail technical training at the Southern Railway System's roundhouse and car shops in Meridian, MS.  After staging at Fort Dix, the unit departed for the New York POE (Brooklyn) on December 11. 1942, to board vessels bound for North Africa.  Arriving at Mers El Kebir (Oran), Algeria, on December 26, 1942, they established their headquarters at Tebessa, Algeria, where the battalion assumed responsibility for operating 350 miles of meter-gauge lines in eastern Algeria and Tunisia.

The 727th ROB's operations in North Africa were conducted using motive power, rolling stock, and maintenance equipment found in place.  Most of the equipment was in poor condition and required repairs to keep it in operating condition.  On June 21, 1943, the battalion retired to Tabarka to prepare for operations being planned in Sicily.  In Sicily, the 727th ROB operated within earshot of artillery firing ammunition they had just brought forward.  The unit's bravery and accomplishments in Sicily were recognized by General George Patton and the Seventh Army in a commendation ceremony on September 12, 1943.

The 727th ROB arrived in Naples, Italy, on October 13, 1943.  The unit's first Italian operating mission was to provide support to the U.S. Fifth Army and part of the British Eighth Army with over 300 plus miles of rail line from the Salerno Beaches and the Naples Port.  Turning the Naples area of operations over to Italian civilians, in June 1944, the 727th moved north to Rome, where by the end of the month they were operating lines from the vicinity of Anzio through Rome, 150 miles north, to Grosseto.  On September 27, 1944, the 727th departed for Marseille, France.  By October 2, 1944, the 727th began operating rail lines from Valence, in the south, to Epinal, in the north, in support of the Seventh Army.  At its peak responsibility, they operated or supervised over 600 miles of rail line  On April 18, 1945, the 727th headed for its new headquarters across the Rhine River from Mannheim to Ludwigshafen, GE, where they were ultimatrly responsible for 225 miles of railroad ranging from Frankfurt, on the north, through Stuttgart, to Esslingen, on the south.  The 727th was deactivated under orders on October 6, 1945.

In the nearly three years in WWII, the 727th ROB operated or was responsible for over 2,400 miles of railroad in five theaters.  Members of the 727th took their civilian rail skills and adapted them to support military operations.  This was not only an individual and Army effort, but also included the involvement of a major industry.  The 727th ROB's contribution to military operations was tabulated in tons moved, and they were recognized and commended by the commands they supported.