Charles M. Thirlkeld, Jr.
Biography: Charles Marion Thirlkeld, Jr., “Chuck”, was born on July 17, 1921, to Charles M. Thirlkeld Sr. and Mary T. Cole. The senior Thirlkeld was a military officer and the family lived in a number of locations during Chuck’s childhood. He graduated from Columbia High School in South Carolina and continued his education at the Citadel (Military College of South Carolina). In January, 1942, after three semesters at the Citadel, he transferred to Louisiana State University where his father was an Artillery Instructor.
Service Time: Chuck enlisted in the Army at Baton Rouge and was chosen for the 32nd Officer Training Class at Camp Hood, Texas, where his father was now the Post Commander. He graduated and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, receiving additional training at Fort Jackson, SC, and Fort Knox, Kentucky, before going overseas in the summer of 1944. He assigned to the 648th Tank Destroyer Battalion while at Fort Jackson. He was then assigned to the 672nd while at Fort Hood, TX.
When he was transferred to Europe, Chuck served at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) in England, planning for the D-Day invasion. He then volunteered for front-line service and became a replacement soldier, joining Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, right after Operation Market Garden. The unit was part of the 101st Airborne Division. It is believed that Chuck was reassigned on December 19, 1944, to E Company, which was the unit made famous in the book and movie “Band of Brothers”. Chuck was leading an anti-tank platoon, dug in, near the Bois Jacques Forest. He had moved up to the front to learn of the battalion’s actions during the clearing operations east of Foy, Belgium.
On January 3, 1945, between 4:00 and 5:00 pm, the area was hit with an artillery and rocket barrage and Chuck received a direct hit, killing him instantly. He was initially buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery Grand Failly, north of Verdun, France, but was later cremated and moved to the Luxembourg American Cemetery at the request of his father. His remains are located at Plot D, Row 5, Grave 7.
I want to thank Mark Dworschak for supplying information and materials for this tribute.