James E. Byrd
Biography: James Edward Byrd was born on July 30, 1915, in Molene, Arkansas. He was the son of Ernest M. Byrd and Bertha Potts and attended local schools through the 10th grade. His enlistment record identifies that he worked as a truck, taxi or tractor driver prior to the war and also served in the National Guard.
In December of 1935, he married the former Frances Edith Clements, who was born in Okmalgee, Oklahoma, and was the daughter of Elmer Clements and Ada R. Bailey. The new couple made their home in Ada, Oklahoma. James and Frances had one daughter, Shirley, born in 1936.
James enjoyed riding motorcycle in his spare time.
Service Time: James entered the service on September 16, 1940, and in April of 1943, he was assigned to the Student Enlisted Battalion of the Student Regiment at the Tank Destroyer School of Camp Hood, Texas. At the time, he held the rank of Technician 4th grade.
He was initially assigned to the 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion but on April 10, 1942, he was one of 81 personnel chosen for the cadre to form the 610th tank Destroyer Battalion. At the time, they were stationed at Camp Barkeley, Texas. He was assigned to C Company and continued to train with them but did take time to visit home in 1943, while on leave. He shipped out with the unit from the New York port on June 3, 1944, arriving at Greenock, Scotland, on the 11th. They would land at Utah Beach just over a month later on July 31st.
The 610th committed to action on August 10th near Craon, France, and participated in elimination of the Falaise Pocket. Raced east to the Moselle River by September and converted to the M36 in September and October. They were the first unit to receive them. They then helped clear the Maginot Line fortifications in November and were ordered to the Ardennes on December 21st, helping to eliminate the Bulge in January 1945.
The unit battled through the Siegfried Line in February, near Brandscheid and then transferred back south in March. They crossed the Rhine at Worms on March 29th and raced through central and southern Germany in April, reaching the vicinity of Munich by month’s end. They finally ended the war in Ingolstadt.
The 610th received credit for campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. James received the Purple Heart and was discharged in August of 1945, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the rank of Sergeant.
In the photo at left, you can see James standing second from the left with the other members of his crew and their M36. This photo was probably taken after the war had ended but as mentioned earlier, the 610th was the first to be equipped with M36 Tank Destroyers.
After returning home, James underwent surgery to repair his soft palate. He was born with the problem, which effected his speech. Something went wrong during the procedure, causing a muscle disorder, which left him totally disabled. Even with his severe physical limitations, he still worked at his father’s architectural firm, handling the accounting and bookkeeping. He was also a member of the DAV (Disabled Veterans Association).
James passed away on November 15, 1969, and was buried in Oklahoma. I want to thank James’ daughter, Shirley, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.