fg_tank_ngSergeant Frederick G. Easley served as a Tank Commander in the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company A. This photo was taken September 15, 1944, as the 134th Infantry Regiment and the 654th TDB liberated Nancy France. It appeared in a March, 1945, National Geographic Magazine article about the liberation of Nancy entitled ‘A City Learns to Smile Again’. The picture shows Sergeant Easley standing in the tank with his hand over a .50 caliber machine gun. Sergeant Easley was killed in action three weeks after this picture was taken.

In April 2001, I was researching the history of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion in hopes of finding out information about my uncle, Sergeant Frederick G. Easley, who served in that unit. I contacted Captain Ruggles Baker, who formerly served in the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, for possible information. He sent to me a photograph of a tank rolling through the streets of Nancy, France, taken September 15, 1944, the day of liberation for that city. There in this 57-year-old photograph, which no one in my family had ever seen, was my uncle standing in a tank with his hand above a .50 caliber machine gun.

My uncle was raised in the state of Mississippi and came from a poor farming family who struggled to survive during the Great Depression of the era. He entered the service before the War began and was assigned to the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion where he served as a Tank Commander. This unit was later attached to the 134th Infantry Regiment which was
part of the 35th Division of the United States 3rd Army.

The 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion entered France at Omaha Beach on July 12, 1944. They moved on St. Lo where fighting was intense and the Regiment encountered many casualties. Sergeant Easley received the Bronze Star for his service at St. Lo. The citation reads as follows: ‘For meritorious service during military operations against an armed enemy of the United States on 14 July 1944, near St. Lo, Normandy, France. Sergeant Easley’s platoon supported an infantry company in attack. After having fired upon an enemy strong point, one of the tank destroyers was being moved to a supplementary firing position when it slipped into a ditch, throwing a track. The crews of two destroyers combined to extricate the destroyer from the ditch and replace the track. Replacing the track was an extremely difficult operation because of the lack of tools, necessitating the resort to the field expedient of using a towing cable, with power from a second destroyer, to make the repair. The task required an hour and twenty minutes, during which time Sergeant Easley and the other members of the two crews worked under heavy enemy fire. The endeavors of Sergeant Easley, who worked coolly and without regard for his personal safety for a long period of time, resulted in the saving of the tank destroyer from destruction by the enemy and its return to service, and contributed materially to the success of the military operation. Signed: Paul W. Baade, Major General, USA, Commanding’.

The Battalion moved across France through Torigni Sur Vire, Amebacq, Louvigue, Le Mans, Chateau De Dierville, Montargis, Joigny, Toul, and many other towns. On September 15, 1944, they liberated the town of Nancy, France, where the photograph was taken. Sergeant Easley received the Oak Leaf Cluster for his service after the liberation of Nancy. The citation reads: ‘For heroic service in connection with military  operations against an enemy of the United States at Pulnoy, Selchamps, Pain de Sucre and Agincourt, France, 18 to 20 September 1944. In the operations that resulted in the capture of these towns, Sergeant Easley, serving as gun commander of a tank destroyer, employed his vehicle as an assault gun when reconnaissance proved impracticable. On many occasions, he voluntarily exposed himself to enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire in order to select routes for his tank destroyer and more effectively to direct its fire. Sergeant Easley’s intrepid leadership materially facilitated the success of the battalion mission during this period. Signed: Paul W. Baade, Major General, USA, Commanding.’

My uncle was killed in action on October 10, 1944. According to reports, a German tank waiting in ambush scored a direct hit on his tank killing most on board. As my uncle climbed over the turret to escape the burning tank, he was gunned down by a German soldier with a burp-gun. The German soldier and the German tank were subsequently killed and destroyed by other tanks of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

On his last leave at home before entering battle, my uncle told his brother that he knew where he was going, he knew the job that needed to be done, and he did not believe he would return home. The mission was simply too dangerous to survive. He told his family if he was killed in battle, he wanted to be buried with his men. Sergeant Easley is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, Plot C, Row 8, Grave 30, alongside his fellow soldiers.

Andy Graves
Nephew of Sergeant Easley

17 thoughts on “Home

  1. My name is Brian Pollard, I have been doing some research for my Dad on his Uncle Oscar Pollard who it appears was killed in the tank your uncle was in Command of. Would love to talk more sometime if possible.


  2. My Dad Pfc. Carl E Connor also served in the 654th. During all of these battles. I thank God every day he made it home. And I an so thankful for this Great generation


  3. Hello. In your research have you ever uncovered anything about my grandfather, Nelson P Doble? I believe he was present in this battalion from Dec 1944 until July 1945. Thank you – please email me!


  4. Hello! My grandfather Halbert Williams served in this battalion. He mention being in Ireland and some point. Do you know which town?


  5. Carla, Thanks for your post! Click on Overview on the 654th website. The document will go into where the battalion stayed while in Ireland. They spent time in Derrygally and The Argory in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Also some time at Gosford Castle and near Trew-and-Moy Station.

    Andy & Rose Marie


  6. My father was with the 654th thru this also. He talked about Easley. They were both from Mississippi poor farming families


  7. My Uncle John “Jack“ Spring was a gunner on a scout car in the 654th. He landed at Omaha Beach & survived the war, he passed in 1958. I would love to know more about the units history and accomplishments.


  8. Andy, Thank you for this site! My grandfather was in the 654th and was wounded in France, but later re-joined the unit and was a company commander until a month or so after V-E day. I have used your site to coordinate some research, as he never spoke of the war and I’ve been re-constructing his military history.

    I have some photos and documents similar and related to those you’ve posted. Please contact me as I’d like to further coordinate my research with you. Cheers!


  9. My family own derrygally house in tyrone, Northern Ireland where the regiment were once stationed. There are a few remnants of their stay still there to this day.


  10. Andy, didn’t you once identify Earl Cabaniss as the soldier who gave you the Daily Reports? My Uncle Earl died in 2012.

    Are you in touch with his children, Susan and Elizabeth?

    Thank you for creating this blog!

    Bill Perkins
    Raleigh, NC


  11. My mother was a very young girl born in Nancy just before the start of the war. One of her earliest memories is of the Americans rolling through the streets of Nancy throwing candies to the children. Perhaps one of those men was your uncle. Thanks is for posting your research. I’ve been curious to know what her family’s war experience like but all but one family member has passed on and she has never talked about it. Thanks to your uncle, the 654th and the 3rd Army for the liberating my family.


  12. How do you post photos, I have a photo of my Uncle with one of the units vehicles and where and when it was taken written on the back. I also have a news article that he commented on about his unit and sent home. I thought it would be of interest.


  13. Andy, I once read some history of the 654th TD Battalion that detailed their departure from New York and time in Ireland. I lost track of that history. Can you direct me to how to find it again. My father, Charles Roach, was in Company “A” and was wounded on October 8, 1944, along with Lieutenant Michaels, the Company Commander. Thanks.


  14. Hi Andy,

    My father was in td 654, company B. His name is Isadore Benison.
    My father was very proud in being this tank battalion.
    I received his medals that he earned during his duty with the 654.
    He was awarded the presidential unit citation .
    Do you know which battle this was earned?


  15. Andy, my father in law Roscoe Fred Reeves was injured in St. Lo and received the same letter Sargent Easley received from Major General Baade. He was shot through the jaw, but survived thankfully or my beautiful wife would not be here today. He died of a heart attack. I am sure they served together.


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