Martin W. Collmer
Biography: Martin William Collmer was born on March 25, 1911, in Utica, New York. He was the son of Francis J. and Aloysia Dehm Collmer and graduated from Clinton High School. He then worked as a Linotype operator for the Clinton Courier, which was a weekly publication.
Service Time: Martin entered the service on February 24, 1942, at Utica, New York. He was chosen for Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery.
He was ultimately assigned to the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion and took command of First Platoon of B Company. Since Martin was somewhat older then the the other men, he was respectfully called “Pops” and “Old Man” by many he served with.
The 820th arrived in Liverpool, England, on October 15, 1944, and two days later landed at Normandy, France, with towed 3″ anit-tank guns. They quickly moved to the Ardennes sector in early December, where they were deployed with the 106th Infantry Division in the path of the German Ardennes offensive. On December 17th, near Bracht, Germany, 1st platoon was left with only one 3″ gun, which was moved to a position on the road overlooking the town. As the enemy rushed toward their position, Lt. Martin W. Collmer personally directed the firing of 20 rounds of HE (High Explosive) shells into the Germans. The assault became a stalemate with over 100 enemy casualties. Against overwhelming odds, Martin was able to thwart the enemy with a 4-man crew from 3rd platoon, including Cpl. Omer Schulz, Pvt. Jose Lopez, Cpl. Robert Taylor and Pfc. George Fojtik.
The next day, while positioned to defend St. Vith, Martin again directed fire on the enemy, this time with First Platoon personnel, and inflicted 150 casualties. They held their position until the 23rd when the the town was surrounded and the unit was withdrawn.
The unit converted to M18’s in early 1945 and then supported operations in the Ruhr Pocket in April, 1945. They crossed Germany, ending up in the Mesto Touskov area of Czechoslovakia by early May.
At some point, Martin transferred into the HQ Company of the 692nd and is listed as being with them in December of 1945, at Camp Swift, Texas. Martin received the Bronze Star for his actions and left active service but remained in the Army Reserves. He received credit for each of the unit’s campaigns of the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. He left the service at the rank of Captain.
In the photo above left, Martin is seen sometime in December of 1944. The photo on the right shows him, on the left, while in the Army Reserves at Pine Camp, NY (now Fort Drum). He served with the 414th Military Government Company, which later became the 414th Civil Affairs Company. He remained in the Reserves until the early 1960’s. The photo below is Martin at one of the 820th reunions held in Dearborn, Michigan. The vintage sign he is holding shows Company B’s code name during the war…”Clambake Baker”.
Martin returned to the U.S. and worked at the Utica Typesetting Company through the early 1950’s but left the company in about 1953 to return to the Clinton Courier. He later left that position to work for the Mid-York Press in Hamilton, New York, from 1969 until 1972. In 1948, he married the former Patricia Bradley. She was born in Utica and was the daughter of John Thomas Bradley and Loretta Darby. The couple had two sons, Martin Jr., born in 1949 and John in 1950. In his spare time, Martin enjoyed collecting and dealing in antiques. He was a member of the St. Mary’s Church in Clinton, NY, and attended reunions of the 820th during the early 1970’s.
Martin passed away on December 22, 1972, and was buried in Clinton, New York. I want to thank Martin’s son, John, for providing the photos and information for this tribute. John also spent some time in the Army, retiring after 22 years at the rank of Captain.