Biography: Rainer Griswold was born on February 15, 1919, in Tennille, Alabama. He was the son of Martin Van Buren “Babe” Griswold and Sarah Jane Shiver and attended local schools through the grammar level and beginning in 1936, he worked on the family’s 500 acre farm. The farm grew cotton, peanuts, and vegetables and would later provide produce and livestock for the war effort.
Prior to the war, Rainer married Norma Dismukes, who was his childhood sweetheart.
Service Time: Rainer entered the service on December 18, 1942, at Fort McClellan, AL. After his basic training, he was assigned to the 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with them at a number of military facilities.
During his early training, he qualified as an Expert with the machine gun. A write-up on Rainer by Operation America says, “he received intensive training as a Light Machine Gunner. As a member of a machine gun crew, he was responsible for the cleaning, care and accurate firing of his weapon.” It goes on the say his training “included making estimates on distances to targets as well as the use of terrain for concealment. He was indoctrinated in the realities of war through the use of “live” fire exercises which taught him to estimate elevation, and how to provide covering fire for cannons.”
The unit ultimately shipped out from the New York port on April 7, 1944, and arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on the 15th. After two months of additional training and preparations, they boarded transports and landed in France with 3″ towed anti-tank guns, beginning on June 14, and were committed in the vicinity of Cerisy, fighting at Vire during the breakout in July and early August.
The 612th moved to Brittany and supported the siege and capture of Brest in late August and September and then shifted to Belgium in October and supported operations against the Siegfried Line until December. At the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge, the unit engaged the Germans in the area of Honsfeld, Belgium.
The unit converted to a self-propelled battalion using M18 tank destroyers, beginning on December 29, 1944, and then joined the attack through the Monschau Forest in February, 1945, crossing the Rhine River in March, participating in the race through central Germany to Leipzig in April. The unit crossed the Czechoslovakian border on May 6th and took up occupational duties.
Rainer received credit for each of the unit’s five campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. He was awarded the EAME, American Campaign, WWII Victory, Army of Occupation and the Good Conduct medals and was authorized to wear the Fourragere in recognition of the unit’s award of the Croix De Guerre. Rainer returned to the U.S. on November 29th and left the service on December 5th at Fort McPherson, Georgia at the rank of Private First Class.
Rainer returned to his home and to Norma with whom he had continued to correspond throughout the war. They farmed portions of his father’s farm the rest of his life but also owned and operated a general store in Andalusia AL. Rainer passed away on June 20, 1970, and was buried in the New Hope Cemetery in Coffee County, AL.
I want to thank Rainer’s great, great-nephew Tyler for providing the information and photos for this tribute. I also want to thank Find A Grave contributor, Donell Mills, for the use of the grave marker photo. It is interesting to note that Rainer’s grandfather served in the Confederate Army with E Company of the the Alabama 1st Volunteer Regiment.