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Harding, Charles A. (612th)

 Charles A. Harding

Biography:  Charles A. Harding was born on June 24, 1915, in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. He was the middle of three children born to Harry Lay Harding and Josephine Clara DeRoy and graduated from Olmsted Falls High School, where he participated in both track and football. He continued his education and athletic pursuits at Baldwin-Wallace College as indicated in his 1936 college yearbook, which has him as serving as Sophomore Vice-President and lists his other activities as member of the band and jazz orchestra.  He was also a member of the Olmsted Community church, an Eagle Scout and active in the local community. As of the 1940 census, he was working as a bank teller and his draft card lists his place of work as the Berea Bank Co. He had completed three years of college.

Service Time:  Charles was drafted and entered the service on January 31, 1941. After his basic training as an infantry soldier, it is believed that he was chosen for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and would have graduated as a second Lieutenant approximately three months later. He was ultimately assigned to the 612th Tank Destroyer Battalion and moved up the ranks, becoming a Captain in 1943, and was given command of Company A, some time later.

The 612th shipped out from the New York port on April 7, 1944, and arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on the 15th. They boarded transports and landed in France with 3″ towed guns, beginning on June 14th, and were committed to action in the vicinity of Cerisy, fighting at Vire during the breakout in July and early August. The Vire Offensive was from the 26th of July through the 7th of August and was the beginning of the unit’s combat with the First Army of the U.S. 12th Army Group. The gun companies were teamed with Infantry Regiments with A Company attached to the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division. On August 1st Company A was furnishing close in anti-mechanical support and protection to the Division right front for the 9th Inf. Regt. Information from the Official Unit History identifies:

On 2 August 1944, the first Recon platoon was attached to Company A and the second Recon platoon was detached from Co. C and attached to Co. B. On 2 August 1944 at about 2030 hours Captain Charles A. Harding, commanding Co. A, and Private John J. Arvin, CO “A”, were reported as missing in action. Captain Harding, together with his company officers and enlisted personnel of his company, were on a reconnaissance for gun positions in the vicinity of coordinates 599420, Private Arvin was wounded by enemy fire and Captain Harding remained with the wounded man after all small arms ammunition had been expended. As a result of this action Captain Harding and Private Arvin were in all probability, captured by the enemy and were reported as missing in action. Staff Sgt. Maynard C. Taylor, of Co. A was also wounded in action in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Captain Harding and Private Arvin. 1st Lt. William S. Groff then assumed command of Co. A.”

We do not have detailed information but POW (Prisoner of War) records indicate that Cpt. Charles A. Harding died as a prisoner of war on August 3, 1944, in an unidentified German hospital. We believe he was injured during the actions of the 2nd, either protecting Private Arvin or during his own capture. His body would have been given to Allied troops and he was placed in a temporary grave. He was later brought home to North Olmsted and buried in the Sunset Memorial Park in North Olmsted, OH.

Many years later, in 1998, an iron bridge which stood across the Plum Creek in Olmsted since 1909, was removed and replaced with an Amish-built wooden covered bridge in honor of Captain Harding and the sacrifice he made for his country. Both Charles’ sisters, R. (Ruth) Amelia and Clara, were able to attend the dedication of the bridge. The new bridge measures 108 feet long and is pictured in the 2019 photo below taken by David Pride. A special thank you to David for allowing us to post his beautiful photo. A plaque on the bridge states that the bridge was a tribute to the memory of Charles A. Harding for his valor, dedication and courage. We sincerely second those statements! Thank you also to Find A Grave contributor Mary, for the use of the grave marker photo.