Louis J. Koch, Jr.
Biography: Louis Joseph Koch, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1923. He was the son of Louis J Koch and Hallie Inge Koch and both of his parents were World War One veterans. His father was an Infantry Company Commander in the 80th Division and his mother was a combat surgical nurse serving with Base Hospital #45 in France.
Service Time: In March of 1942, like so many of his friends in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Joe, as he was known by family and friends, cut short his studies at Cornell University and at the age of 19, enlisted in the Army. On July 20th he reported to Company A, 127th Training Battalion, stationed at Camp Hood, Texas. Upon completion of Officer Candidate Course #1, Joe Koch was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. Along with his fellow graduates, 2nd Lieutenants Sodaitis, Rusokovitch, Schaich and Silkowski, he received orders on November 3rd to proceed immediately from Camp Hood to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His new assignment was with Company A of the 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion which was attached to the 2nd Armored Division.
Through his many letters to his mother and sister Judith, Joe relates the enthusiasm of his generation with his descriptions of the days at Camp Hood, Camp Gruber, the Louisiana maneuvers and subsequently, his adventures during his off duty time in the English countryside.
The battalion deployed into France on June 11, through Omaha Beach in three LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) from Southampton, England. In July, Company A, 702nd TD Bn, under the command of Captain Gabriel Mauro, was task organized to CCA (Combat Command A), 2nd Armored Division, which was ordered to defend the division flank during the battles to seize Saint Lo and the subsequent fighting as part of the "Cobra breakout". Based on a letter sent to his family after the war in Europe ended, his friend, Cpt. Bernard J. Morris, stated that 1st Lt. Koch's platoon was the first of the battalion to get into direct fire action with German armored forces. At the time, they were near the village of Villebaudon and this action was credited with destroying two Mark IV German tanks.
Shortly thereafter, on August 14th, as the 2nd Armored Division was driving to close the "Falaise Gap", Lt. Koch was killed in action by a mine blast while driving a wheeled vehicle across a bridge over a river near the village of Lonlay-L'Abbaye. Joe's last letter to his sister and mother was written in late July and related the joy of his first shower in over a month. It also included descriptions of the French countryside and a request for a care package of Nescafe instant coffee.
Soon after the war in Europe had ended, Joe's mother received a letter from the War Department requesting instructions for disposition of his remains. She was asked to select from one of the following two options regarding Joe's remains - interment in a military cemetery in France or return him to the United Sates for burial at the site of the family's choice. His mother elected that her son remain with his comrades and be buried in France. 1st Lt. Koch was permanently interred at the Brittany American Cemetery in St James, France, along with 4409 fellow American service members who died during the fighting in battles from Normandy and Brittany after D-Day. Joe is buried in Plot A, Row 17, Grave 6. He was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster for giving the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
I want to thank Joe's nephew, U.S. Army Colonel (Retired) Joseph Koch Wallace, for providing the text and materials on his uncle.