United States Army
534th Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Company A
Attached to the Fourth Marine Division
World War II
World War II
Date of birth 1/13/23
Dick Geiger grew up in Philadelphia and entered the U.S. Army in April 1943. He mustered into the service in Pennsylvania. He trained at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, where he was issued his equipment and assigned to the 5th Armored Group.
Dick became a boxer at Camp Chaffee. He became the Base Welterwight Champion, fighting at 142 lbs. His brother Joe Geiger was the Base Heavyweight Champion.
Dick used his boxing skills in one real fight in the Army. One night in the barracks the troops were listening to Big Band music. At 9:00 pm the Mess Sergeant from Texas told the troops to shut off the music. Dick and the other troops told him that they did not have to shut off the music until lights out, at 10:00 pm. The Sergeant threw Dick down. The Mess Sergeant was about 6' 4" inches tall and weighed 200 lbs. The troops got out the gloves and Dick and the Mess Sergeant fought it out with the troops from two barracks surrounding them. Dick proceeded to beat the guy badly.
Dick was then assigned to Fort Ord, California, where he joined A Company of the newly created 534th Battalion. The Unit was trained on Amphibious Tractors (AMTRACs). AMTRACs are large amphibious vehicles with treads used for ship to shore invasions. They carry from ten to twenty five soldiers and equipment.
The 534th was then transferred to Oahu, Hawaii, for additional training. They were stationed on the beach. The Captain of Dick's oufit was a heavyweight boxer from Chicago. He challenged Dick to a boxing match. Dick did well and after that the Captain took good care of Dick.
Throughout the war the 534th was attached to the United States Marine Corps, 4th Marine Division. They were thus in the somewhat unique situation of being an Army unit serving on Navy ships responsible for getting the Marines to shore in amphibious vehicles.
In 1944 they went into combat for the first time, attached to the 4th Marine Division. The 534th was in reserve at Kwajalein. They subsequently were part of the invasion of Saipan and then Tinian. They brought numerous units and supplies to shore, including a Marine Antitank unit using 35 mm guns.
The crew of the AMTRAK was composed of three men. The first time under fire on the hostile beach the Sergeant in Charge panicked. He left the AMTRAK and ran away down the beach, and was never seen again.
The AMTRAC was used in a variety of ways, including bringing units to shore, and for resupply. Mortar and artillery fire were a constant threat during landings. Dick and his AMTRAC also were called on to bring ammunition forward to Marine units inland.
They were always on board ships called LST's (Landing Ship,Tank). These ships were used to transport troops and equipment to shore. The bow of the LST could be let down and boats and AMTRAC could leave the ship and float directly into the ocean.
Most of the officers of the 534th stayed on ship during the invasions. At Saipan the Marine General in Charge, Lieutenant General Geiger (no known relation to Dick) asked Dick and several other men during an island invasion where were their officers? The men replied that their officers were on the boat. LtGen Geiger stormed off, and soon thereafter many of the 534th officers came on shore. These officers were soon replaced by other officers.
The 534th also participated in operations in the Philippines near Leyte. They also operated at Okinawa.
Fellow servicemen included Lt Murphy from Chicago, Sgt Drum, Paul Calvo, Ed Geist, Joe Shramm, and Joe Dietrich. Joe served on the AMTRAK crew with Dick, and suffered from Malaria.