Kunz, Russell L. (607th)

Russell L. Kunz 1Russell L. Kunz

Biography: Russell Lewis Kunz, “Russ”, was born on September 15, 1919, in Leland, Washington. He was one of three sons and two daughters born to William Joseph Kunz and Almyra Lucinda Currier. His father died in 1926, and after completing eighth grade, Russ went to work as a logger. He became a skilled logger but mostly worked with his brother as he was too young to be hired for woods work.

In January, 1940, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Quilcene, WA. Late in the year, he left the CCC to go back to working with his brother but was soon drafted into military service.

Service Time: Russ was inducted into the Army on January 21, 1941, at Fort Lewis, WA. We don’t have any solid information on his early military time, but it is likely he was part of the 7th Infantry Division Provisional Anti-tank Battalion which eventually became the 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion. On December 15th, Private Kunz was transferred from the Headquarters Battery, 76th Field Artillery Battalion (part of the 7th ID PATB), into Third Platoon, Company B of the 607th which was formed on that day. By January 1, 1942, he is listed as a Private First Class. On March 11th, he was transferred to Company A. The unit continued training at various locations in California and on May 1st, he was transferred back to Company B. A promotion to Corporal came on June 3rd.

The unit continued training at various locations in the U.S. and they left the Port of Boston on April 13, 1944, aboard the U.S.S. Wakefield, landing in Liverpool, England on the 21st. More training followed before Company B landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 23, 1944.

Russell L. Kunz 4The 607th supported the advance on Cherbourg and fought along the Seves River in July. Participating in the drive to Le Mans and envelopment of the Falaise Pocket in August, the gun crew that Russ was serving with was involved in heavy action. The unit history indicates on August 19th, in the vicinity of Ste. Eugenie, their gun was located in an orchard when they began receiving direct enemy small arms and artillery fire. Unable to return fire from their concealed position, the men moved the gun, by hand, to an exposed location and by their return fire, destroyed one enemy tank, four other vehicles and a large self-propelled gun which was holding up the advance of U.S. troops. Russ was lightly wounded during this incident. All members of the crew were awarded the Silver Star Medal.

The photo at left shows Russell as commander of a 3″ gun crew near Metz, France, October, 1944.

The unit advanced to the Moselle River in September (Russ was wounded again on Sept 8th) and supported operations against Metz, France, through November. On Nov 14th, third platoon converted from the towed 3” anti-tank guns to the self-propelled M36 tank destroyers in time for the final assault on Metz. Joining the drive toward the Saar River, they supported the capture of Saarlautern, Germany, and the subsequent fight against the Siegfried Line in December. Russ was promoted to Sergeant and gun commander on December 7, 1944. The unit was deployed to the Ardennes sector in January, 1945 and again committed against the Siegfried Line in February in the Schnee Eifel. Supporting the capture of Koblenz, Germany in mid-March, they crossed the Rhine River at Boppard on March 25.

The 607th continued to drive east through Hessen and Thüringen during April and reached the Czechoslovak border near Plauen by mid-April. Thereafter, they remained in defensive positions until VE Day. On June 29, 1945, he was transferred to the 6th Armored Division. Russ earned the Silver Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct, WWII Victory, Occupation of Germany and the EAME medals with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. Russ returned to the U.S. on September 1, 1945 and left the service at the rank of Sergeant.

Three days after returning to Port Townsend, WA, he got a job at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill, loading paper rolls onto railroad boxcars. He worked there for 36 years. At some point, he married the former Dorothy Bertha Britschgi who was born Orting, WA, and was the daughter of Johann Britschgi and Dora Engfer. They had three children, Russ, Mike and Sandy.

We would like to thank Russell for his service to the country and wish him continued good health.