Ten Lessons I Learned from Dad’s War Service Part 4: “Post-war: A Reserve Captain”

1950 small from five officer picture

This short series provides glimpses into the war service of my father, 1st Lieutenant Robert J. DeGray, one of the 100 million soldiers who served (on both sides) during World War 2.

My father, Robert J. DeGray served in the Army of the United States from December 10, 1940 to January 24, 1946, with continuing service in the reserves until December 1953. During this time he rose in rank from Private to Captain, served in many roles including as a tank commander in Italy, and received a purple heart. This series of articles will document a few of the key moments in his service career, and attempt to document a few lessons we can learn from his experience.

9. A Captain in the Reserves

My father received an honorable discharge from active duty on January 24th, 1946. Prior to that, on December 1st, 1945 he had received notice of his appointment to the Officers Reserve Corps. He was still a 1st Lieutenant, but by the end of the month he had received notice of appointment to Captain. He served in the 76th Infantry Division in what was called the Connecticut Military Division, headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut. This service continued until December 1953, at which time he was honorably discharged (for the third time. See Part 1)

During this time my father continued to work for the same insurance company that had employed him before the war. There he met Paula Chase, and they were married on June 14, 1952. Eleven months later my twin older sisters were born, and not many months after that my father accepted the discharge from the Reserve. I’m not saying that family responsibilities took precedence, but that may be the explanation for his discharge after seven years of reserve service.

I have a few insignia from Dad’s war service, mostly I believe from this period. Note the three sets of Captain’s bars.

dads insignia

Lesson learned: Loyalty to your commitments is a good thing.

10. Don’t lose things
Perhaps my favorite story from Dad’s war (and post-war) service concerns the “Loss of Property” incident. On September 10th, 1946, ten months after his discharge, he received a letter claiming that he owed the Army $74.85 for “Lost, Damaged or Destroyed Property.” It may be that this “Property” was study material received from the Fort Knox Library. I believe my father ignored the letter. The next bit of correspondence I’ve found is dated nearly two years later, June 26th, 1948. In it my father explains:

1. Liability or accountability for indebtedness as indicated in basic letter is denied.

2. Attached is copy of letter from office of the Chief of Finance dated 10 September 1946 which was first notification of any charge on Report of Survey being levied against this officer. No action was taken on this letter for the following reasons:

a. Circumstances under which this indebtedness may have been incurred are unknown.
b. Letter was not received through Military channels.
c. Paragraph 3 seemed to indicate no action required.

3. The following information is submitted:

a. this officer was assigned as Supply Officer, Tactics Department, the Armored School, from April 1943 to 15 April 1944. Upon relief as Supply Officer, attended course in Tactics Department as student for three months, graduating in July 1944. Officer was transferred and left Fort Knox after obtaining proper clearances from all Post installations which was in accordance with Post regulation at that time. It is believed that Major V. F. Eichholts was Library Officer of the Armored School at that time.
b. This officer departed the continental United States on 21 October 1944 and served in the European Theater of Operations until 26 November 1945.

4. This officer respectfully submits that the above charge would prejudice his record of military service and earnestly desires that necessary action be taken to clear and rescind this charge.

Almost another year passed before my father received a letter requesting the status of the situation. There is apparently some correspondence missing from the file, but here is my father’s reply, dated 11 April, 1949. He wasn’t happy:

1. Reply to 4th indorsement has been delayed due to inability of this officer to determine what was required in view of previous statements submitted.

2. This officer is still of the opinion that no responsibility exists for the property listed on Report of Survey. See 3rd indorsement, dated 28 April, 1948.

3. Further information is submitted as follows:

a. The procedure for signing for property at the Armored School, Fort Knox, Ky, during my tenure as supply officer was: property was received and signed for on M/R. These were returned to the supply officer who periodically cancelled them by a consolidation memorandum. These CM/Rs specifically stated “All Memorandum Receipts for property listed heron are cancelled and superceded by this Consolidated Memorandum Receipt. In view of this statement, the individual M/Rs were not returned to the responsible officer.
c. Efficiency rating during assignment as supply officer, Tactics Department, The Armored School, Colonel Charles P. Sommerall, Commanding, was superior.
d. The entire personal property of this officer was destroyed in a tank which burned while engaged in action against the enemy at Vergato, Italy about 5 April, 1945. For verification see records of 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armored Division.

4. In consideration of the continued harassment of this officer and associates by this subject matter, it is urgently requested that action be taken to clear and rescind this charge.

This is the last piece of correspondence I have. I have no idea how it worked out. But the moral of this story is, don’t lose stuff – even in a burning tank.

In closing, I’d like to compare two pictures of my father. The first is from his time as an enlisted man, probably 1941. The second is as a captain in the reserves. It is clear to me, that my father grew up during his service in World War 2. Do you agree?


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