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2nd Naval Beach Battalion KIA - Utah Beach June 6, 1944


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#1 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:08 PM

On this 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, I wanted to share a poignant group that I am the caretaker of.  I'll apologize in advance for the photo-heavy posting, but they tell his story, which is one of the many sacrifices from that and subsequent days.

 

William Raymond B A X T E R of Farmington, PA reported for duty in the U.S. Navy in Pittsburgh, PA on December 14, 1942 at the age of 17 years, 11 months.  After making the landings at Algeria and Sicily with the 2nd Naval Beach Battalion (NBB), he rose to the rating of Motor Machinist's Mate Second Class.  His letters home described these landings, as well as the glide bombings that his convoy experienced at the Straight of Gibraltar.

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Edited by crotalus358, 06 June 2019 - 06:12 PM.


#2 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:12 PM

After the Mediterranean landings, William and the rest of the 2nd moved onto England and prepared for the next landing.  His company took this photo on May 16, 1944, on the reverse, he penned their official designation of 'Commando Platoon B-4'

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#3 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:21 PM

On June 6, 1944, William's company was given the task of  evacuating wounded from Utah beach, which was heavily-mined and zeroed by small arms and artillery fire up to 88 mm.  William was operating a jeep and assisting with the evacuation of wounded from the front to the beachhead, until he went missing.   On June 22, 1944, the U.S. Navy issued a telegram to his parents indicating his official status of 'Missing in Action'.

 



#4 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:21 PM

On June 6, 1944, William's company was given the task of  evacuating wounded from Utah beach, which was heavily-mined and zeroed by small arms and artillery fire up to 88 mm.  William was operating a jeep and assisting with the evacuation of wounded from the front to the beachhead, until he went missing.   On June 22, 1944, the U.S. Navy issued a telegram to his parents indicating his official status of 'Missing in Action'.

 

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#5 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:21 PM

From the receipt of the telegram through early 1945, his parents and sister continued to write letters  and send cards, holding out hope that William would eventually be found and receive them.  This group includes many pieces of correspondence, such as the attached, that were returned to the family as unclaimed.

 

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Edited by crotalus358, 06 June 2019 - 06:22 PM.


#6 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:24 PM

Also during this time, William was recommended for the silver star, which also described his actions on Utah Beach on D-Day.  Unfortunately, he was never awarded the Silver Star.

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#7 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:24 PM

Last page of the Silver Star recommendation.

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#8 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:32 PM

The results of the investigation of the whereabouts of William were provided by U.S. Navy to William's parents on March 10, 1945, which cites how disorienting and chaotic the beachhead was at that time.  This investigation recommended that William's status be changed from 'Missing in Action' to 'Killed in Action', but the official policy was to allow for the lapse of one calendar year plus one day prior to making the official determination.

 

In the meantime, William was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic actions on June 6, 1944, which was presented to his parents.

 

 

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#9 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:33 PM

The Bronze Star citation, as well as the local newspaper clipping on the award to William.

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#10 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:38 PM

On July 23, 1945, William's parents were provided the official status change to 'Killed in Action'.  During the time since, his initial listing as 'Missing in Action', his family and friends wrote numerous letters to the U.S. Navy, and to the President, requesting any available information on the status of William.

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#11 crotalus358

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 06:43 PM

On February 6, 1946, William was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, which was presented to his parents.  Neither medal is engraved, indicating that his parents never remitted them for engraving.

 

This posting doesn't come close to doing justice to the poignancy and emotion that is contained within the letters contained therein; however, I wanted to put William's story forth, so that his and his family's sacrifice will be remembered this 75 years later.

 

RIP sailor...fair winds and following seas.

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#12 Simon Lerenfort

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 01:53 AM

No words can add to this tragic story, least of all that it is not unique. But for his family to be told he was wounded in action and then this later changes to MIA, then KIA... 

 

Sad, so sad.



#13 Glidertrooper

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 01:53 AM

crotalus358 thank you for telling William's story and honouring his memory.

 

 

Cheers......John



#14 crotalus358

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 03:55 AM

Thanks to those who have looked and commented.

 

As a final note, William's name was added to the Tablets of the Missing in the Normandy American Memorial Colleville-sur-Mer in Basse-Normandie, France, as shown on Findagrave.

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#15 Pegasus6

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 05:28 AM

Wow... Powerful, and sad. Cant imagine how his parents friends and family felt. Its amazing the times and access to information has changed.. with modern tracking and accountability.

 

VR
Peg6



#16 katieony

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 10:30 AM

A very historic group...thank you for sharing his story.



#17 KASTAUFFER

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 12:32 PM

Outstanding job telling this sailors story!

 

As someone who has collected posthumous US Navy Medal groups for years, I can tell you that the process for engraving Navy Decorations is that Purple Hearts were always engraved prior to presentation to the family. The medal would have most likely been sent to them Registered Mail.   The USN would never have sent an unnamed Purple Heart to them as a posthumous award.  The USN did not have a process for families to send medals in for engraving during WWII.  Unless he had been wounded in the past before being killed and presented an earlier medal for that wound, I doubt this was his medal. There is a named Purple Heart somewhere out there for this veteran.

 

I have seen 2 Purple Hearts before in groups , one named , one unnamed,  in the situation described about. 

 

Kurt


Edited by KASTAUFFER, 07 June 2019 - 12:33 PM.


#18 Dave

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Posted 07 June 2019 - 12:43 PM

Outstanding job telling this sailors story!
 
As someone who has collected posthumous US Navy Medal groups for years, I can tell you that the process for engraving Navy Decorations is that Purple Hearts were always engraved prior to presentation to the family. The medal would have most likely been sent to them Registered Mail.   The USN would never have sent an unnamed Purple Heart to them as a posthumous award.  The USN did not have a process for families to send medals in for engraving during WWII.  Unless he had been wounded in the past before being killed and presented an earlier medal for that wound, I doubt this was his medal. There is a named Purple Heart somewhere out there for this veteran.
 
I have seen 2 Purple Hearts before in groups , one named , one unnamed,  in the situation described about. 
 
Kurt


I agree with Kurt - fantastic job retelling his story, but his actual medals are out there somewhere...

#19 crotalus358

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 04:48 AM

Kurt and Dave,

Thank you for your thoughts on this group. I bought this from a picker/friend that purchased it direct from the family (or what remained of the family at that time). It could very well be that there is a named purple heart somewhere out there, but the bronze star was issued prior to the conversion of his status from MIA to KIA. I'm aware of a few army medal groups that contained unengraved purple hearts that were attributed through the paperwork therein, and contained instructions for the remittance of the medal for government engraving, which is what my assumption was based on for this group. That, and the conditions of this sailors status and investigation, may have led to confusion. As a case in point, there is a listing of wounded in action Navy personnel from June 7, which lists William's name; unfortunately, I don't have any other documentation in the file that Geoff of Golden Arrow pulled for me to indicate that William was wounded elsewhere in prior operations. Regardless, until an officially-engraved medal surfaces, I am happy to keep these with the group, as this is how the it came into my possession.

As a question from a relatively new medal collector, is there a good reference on the process for issuance of posthumous medals for the Army and Navy available?

Again, thanks for sharing his story, and providing your input. Have a great rest of the weekend.

Steve

#20 KASTAUFFER

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 06:21 AM

Hi Steve

My observations come from reviewing hundreds of KIA Navy Purple Hearts over the years and the service records of the recipients as well. I wrote an article 20 years ago on this subject related to WWII Army Purple Hearts.

The transmittal letter pictured in post 11 is the indication a named Purple Heart was sent to the family.

Based on the Bronze Star document, it was for a June 6, 1944 action however he was MIA the following day. The document shown is the temporary citation. It has a processing date of Sept 1944 hand written on it. A permanent citation was issued in May 1945. All Bronze Star medals I have seen issued directly to the families of MIA Naval Personnel have been Navy contract wrap brooch Bronze Stars, especially one as early as Sept 1944-May 1945. Not all of them were named. This one however is an Army medal. I have seen Army Bronze Stars issued to Navy personnel, but only to those who were still alive.

There is a very slight chance these are re-issued medals from as late as the 1970s, but even those probably would have been named.

Dave Schwind is on the verge of getting published the very book you are looking for. There is nothing out there until this book goes to press that is in depth on this subject. He travelled all over the US to get examples for his book and personally took all the photos.

I hope this helps

Kurt

Edited by KASTAUFFER, 09 June 2019 - 07:08 AM.


#21 Dave

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 10:16 AM

I can't add much to what Kurt said, but after photographing 1,600 posthumous Purple Hearts in the last four years, I agree with his statements. 



#22 crotalus358

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 01:25 PM

Kurt,

Again, thanks for your input. And, yes, i am one of the folks that's anxiously-awaiting the release of Dave's book.

Steve

#23 vicjoy1945

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 05:00 AM

Excellent presentation and tribute to this gallant sailor.  His sacrifice should be remembered.  I agree with Kurt and Dave on the engraved medals.  I have several posthumous WWII D-Day Navy medals and all are engraved,  One is to a 6th Beach Battalion pharmacist's mate who was KIA aboard LCI-85.  




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