Furst, Ellwood H. (773rd)

Ellwood H. Furst 3Ellwood H. Furst

Biography:  Ellwood Harrar Furst, “Woody”, was born on February 10, 1917, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He was the son of James Chamberlain Furst and Mary Adele Harrar and graduated from local schools. He continued his education at Princeton University where his brother Austin was already attending. Ellwood participated in a number of groups including Campus Club and the Glee club, singing first bass. He graduated in 1939. 

Service Time: Elwood entered the service on August 11, 1941, and although we have only limited information regarding his early time in the military, we do know that he served in the Headquarters staff of the Second Battalion of the 166th Field Artillery (a former Pennsylvania National Guard unit). At the time, he held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Elements of the 166th were used to form the 73rd Provisional Antitank Battalion, which would eventually become the 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. 

As a Captain, Ellwood continued to serve in Headquarters Company and functioned as the unit’s S-2, Intelligence Officer, who was responsible for the unit’s physical security as well as provide terrain, light and weather data that could impact training in any way. In preparation for action and once in action, his duties would expand to include collecting and analyzing enemy intelligence information, which included maps and geographical information.

Ellwood H. Furst 1In early 1942, the unit moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for four months of training followed by a move to Indio, California and the Desert Training Center. After an eight month training period, including the Desert Maneuvers of September and October of 1942, a toughened 773rd departed for Camp Hood, Texas, the home of the Tank Destroyers. This course extended from December 1942 to April of 1943.

Again on the move, this time to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, they were later ordered to Tennessee, in June, for their fourth large scale Army Maneuvers, this time with the Second Army. The unit returned to Camp Atterbury, and on the 15th of January, 1944, they moved to New York. A short but busy stay at the P.O.E., Camp Shanks, NY, preceded embarkation on the British liner “Acquitania”. A copy of the unit’s newsletter “The Jerk” identifies that Ellwood was also the Staff Advisor for the paper.

The 773rd arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on February 7, 1944. They later landed at Utah and Omaha beaches, Normandy, France, on August 8th. Their first real action was at Le Bourg St. Leonard, supporting the 90th Infantry Division, beginning August 17th during envelopment of the Falaise Pocket. Advancing to the Moselle River sector via Paris, they later fought at Luneville and the Foret de Parroy. They supported the capture of Metz, France, in November and joined operations against the Siegfried Line along the Saar River in December and were ordered to the Ardennes on January 6, 1945.

They fought through the Siegfried Line in February and reached the Rhine River at Koblenz on March 16th. Crossing the Rhine March 23rd and 24th at Oppenheim, they helped capture Darmstadt and Frankfurt before driving across Germany to Czechoslovakia, beginning April 1st. The unit cleared the Czechoslovak-German border area southward and ended the war near Petrovice. Ellwood remained in the Army during the occupational period and was discharged on January 14, 1946.

The 773rd received credit for campaigns including Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. Ellwood was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for “Meritorious Operations” and shared in the unit’s Distinguished Unit Citation.

Once back in the U.S., in 1947, Ellwood found work with the Pennsylvania Railroad as a salesman and later a sales manager in their coal department, dealing with companies that shipped coal by rail. On October 30, 1959, in Pittsburgh, PA, he married the former Elinor Lee Fay. The new couple would have four children, sons James, Andrew and Major and a daughter Kathy. In his spare time, Ellwood enjoyed golf and was a member of the Springhaven Gold Club as well as the Masons and the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church. He retired from the railroad in 1979, after 32 years, but remained busy as the photographer for the Swarthmorean, which was a local weekly newspaper. Ellwood had his own darkroom and developed his photos.

Ellwood H. Furst 2Ellwood passed away on June 30, 2002, and was buried in the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church Memorial Garden in Swarthmore, PA.

The photo at left was a large porcelain mug we believe was purchased as part of one of the 773rd’s reunions and included the unit’s Distinctive Unit Insignia as well as a listing of each of the unit’s campaigns. The mugs were also personalized with the individual men’s names.