CONNEAUT — In the days before one of the world’s greatest battles Nicholas Colby was preparing to rebuild Europe one mile at a time.

Seventy years ago Colby was getting ready to follow General George Patton and his troops through France and into Germany.

As thousands of Allied troops were preparing to cross from England into France; Colby and his unit were training to build pipelines, fix bridges and conduct other engineering challenges the devastation of Europe necessitated.

Colby said he got drafted in October of 1942 and went from Conneaut to Arizona for training, followed by a short stint in Louisiana and then it was off to the Big Apple. He was a cook with his unit serving 200 men a day.

“That’s where we shipped out of, New York. We went on the Queen Elizabeth with 17,000 troops and went to Glascow,” he said.

“We kept going circling around away from the Germans,” Colby said. He said there weren’t any close calls with German ships.

“We had to build quonset huts for the Air Corps. We were there almost two full years before D-Day,” he said.

When the big day came Colby and his unit were patiently waiting their turn.

“We were in a boat waiting. We landed about four days later. We just dug in and waited,” Colby said.

He said there were long lines of troops waiting.

“We had to wait till they captured Cherbourg. The Germans left their big tanks behind,” he said.

Colby said it took a year and a half to get to Frankfurt.

“We were right behind (General) Patton,” he said. Colby estimated they were 10 miles behind the front lines. He said they built three pipelines along the way and fixed bridges and made other infrastructure improvements as needed.

“It started snowing and the German broke through. We lost a lot of men,” he said of the Battle of the Bulge.

Again the unit was just behind the front and at one time had the enemy almost surrounding them. He said they were in Antwerp, Belgium for a portion of the battle.

After the battle ended and the European part of World War II had concluded there was one task left.

“They had to get us back to Cherbourge. We were lined up waiting to go home,” he said.

He said it took 15 days to get home on a “victory ship.”

The victory ships were cargo vessels produced in large numbers during the war to replace ships sunk by German submarines. He said it was a pretty tough crossing.

The soldiers, however, were excited the war was finally over. “We were happy,” he said.