Canterberry, Bernie A. (607th)

Bernie A. Canterberry 1Bernie A. Canterberry

Biography: Bernie Asa Canterberry was born on October 23, 1914, in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. He was one of four sons and four daughters born to Asa Canterberry and Ida Simmons. His enlistment record indicates he completed grammar school. A 1935 Oklahoma City directory shows he was employed as a barber at the Art Johnson Barber and Beauty Shop. His draft card, dated October 16, 1942, shows he’s living in Planada, Merced, California and is employed at the Planada Dehydrator.

Service Time: Bernie entered the Army on November 23, 1940, at Sacramento, CA. At some point, he was assigned to Battery “D” of the 31st Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 7th Infantry Division Provisional Anti-Tank Battalion. On December 15, 1941, he, along with many other men from the same unit, was transferred to Company A of the 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion. These men were part of the original cadre that formed the 607th.

He trained with the unit at several locations including; Fort Ord, Camp San Luis Obispo, Hunter Liggett Military Reservation and the Desert Training Center, all in California, along with Camp Hood, Texas and Camp Cooke, CA. His MOS (Military Occupation Specialty-his job) was anti-tank gun crewman. On February 5, 1942, he married the former Jimmie Louise Coker in San Jose, CA. She was the daughter of Richard C. Coker and Jessie Ella Atkinson. At some point during the 2nd half of 1943, Bernie was transferred to Company B. While they originally trained with M10 self-propelled tank destroyers, the unit was converted to a towed battalion, utilizing the M5 3” anti-tank gun, on December 15, 1943.

Bernie A. Canterberry 2Arriving at Liverpool, England, on April 21, 1944, they continued training. Company B landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 24th and the 607th supported the advance on Cherbourg, fighting along the Seves River in July. Bernie was assigned to Company C on August 1, 1944. They joined the drive to Le Mans and envelopment of the Falaise Pocket in August, advancing to the Moselle River in September and supporting operations against Metz through late November. The unit converted to a self-propelled battalion equipped with M36 tank destroyers in time for the final assault on Metz.

The photo at left shows Bernie and Jimmy, probably shortly after their wedding.

On November 28th the 3rd platoon of Co. C, commanded by Lt. Leroy C. Baker, moved from a reserve position to relieve the 1st platoon, which was supporting the 1st Battalion of the 378th Infantry in Falck, France. The platoon leader was given the mission to proceed according to a time schedule up the main road from Falck to Merten, France and meet the Infantry on the edge of Merten. It was understood that the Infantry was to storm the town by flanking attacks from the north and the south prior to the platoon’s entrance into the town.

The platoon proceeded according to the time schedule towards the town through artillery fire which was falling along the road. The leading destroyer reached the west end of Merten where it was stopped by an anti-tank barrier. It fired several rounds into the town which was still occupied by the enemy. In an effort to by-pass the barrier, the destroyer became bogged in the mud and was fired upon and destroyed by an enemy anti­-tank gun. The second destroyer of the platoon, following the first, turned around and made its way back to Falck after the first was hit. The third destroyer received a hit from an AT gun, and, losing a track, it swerved off the road into a ditch where it was set afire by the enemy AT gun. The fourth destroyer had the mission of covering the advancing three.

Observing the flash of the AT gun, it attempted to return fire but the gun failed to function. Trying to turn the destroyer around ended with it also becoming bogged down in the mud. This destroyer was later recovered. The remnants of the platoon assembled in the vicinity of Falck and later returned to the Company CP. Two M36’s were destroyed in this incident.

The tank destroyer Bernie was serving in as the gunner was hit by an enemy anti-tank projectile and set afire. Two men were wounded, and the rest were dazed. After he recovered, Bernie assisted in evacuating the two wounded crew members. He then returned to the burning TD to save the driver and assistant driver. Under continuing enemy fire, he opened the hatches but found the two men had been killed. He was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievement.

Bronze Star Article

Continuing the drive toward the Saar River, they participated in the attack on Saarlautern, Germany, followed by the subsequent fight against the Siegfried Line in December.

Deployed to the Ardennes sector in January 1945, they were soon committed against the Siegfried Line again in early February in the Schnee Eifel area of Germany. On February 18th, Bernie is listed in the daily Morning Report (MR) as “Lost to 39th Evac Hosp” on Feb. 14th, due to Trench Foot. The MR of Feb. 24th amends the entry of the 18th to “SWA” (Serious Wound in Action), lost to the same Evacuation Hospital. He apparently died of his wounds the next day. In addition to the Bronze Star medal, Bernie was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, American Defense Service, EAME with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Ardennes-Alsace and the Good Conduct medals.

Unit records do not indicate any combat actions that caused casualties on Feb. 14th so at this time, we do not know how Sergeant Canterberry was wounded. We also have not been able to locate any burial information for him.

We would like to thank Sergeant Bernie A. Canterberry for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  Thank you to Ancestry member cjhoffy for allowing use of the photo showing Bernie and Jimmy.