King, Robert E. (774th)

Robert E.King 5Robert E. King

Biography:  Robert E. King was born on November 17, 1921, in Orangeburg, South Carolina.  He was the son of James Arthur King and Beuna Vista Payne and attended local schools, through the 11th grade. Robert left school to find work and help his familiy financially.  He was hired at the Inman Rail Yards in Atlanta, Georgia, as an electric crane operator. He loaded blocks of ice into box cars.

Service Time:  Robert enlisted in the service on October 1, 1940, at Atlanta. He was probably assigned to one of the field artillery batteries that would become the 774th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  He served in the Headquarters Section of Company B and recalled the unit’s forming at Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida, and their training at Camp Hood, TX, in March of 1943. They were also trained at Fort Benning, GA and Camp Forrest, TN, before shipping out.  The unit converted from the self-propelled M10 to the towed 3″ gun while at Camp Gordon, GA. Robert’s service specialty is listed as radio repairman.  He also qualified as an expert, with the Thompson sub-machine gun.

It would be on September 3, 1942, that Robert married the former Nina Bernice Williamson, who was the daughter of Thomas W. and Terressa Williamson. Just prior to him shipping out, Robert’s father, James passed away. On June 2, 1944, the 774th left the New York port, arriving in Scotland, on the 12th.

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The unit remained in England until they boarded LSTs and landed on Utah Beach, on August 7, 1944.  They joined fighting near Argentan and then ran eastward across France to Lorraine as part of a cavalry screen of the 7th Armored Division. Starting in September, they participated in fighting around Metz and fought along the Saar in December.  It was also in December that they joined the move north to the Ardennes. The 774th converted to the M36, in late February 1945, before driving to the Rhine in March where they held position, west of the Ruhr Pocket, throughout April.  The unit then took on occupational duties.

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In the photo directly above, you can see Robert sitting on one of the unit’s M36 TDs.  At the time, the unit was attached to the 15th Army.  The photo with him kneeling at the jeep shows the nickname “Tillie”, which was a reference to his wife.  Robert received credit for participation in four of the unit’s campaigns, including Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe.  He earned the EAME medal, the American Defense medal and the Good Conduct medal.  He left the service on October 20, 1945, at Camp Gordon, GA, at the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Honorable Discharge

Robert returned home to Smyrna, Georgia, and initially worked at Rich’s Department Store as a delivery man.  He then went back to school, receiving his GED and then went onto Heating and Air Conditioning school, later working for Sands and Company, a vending business in Atlanta. He worked there until he retired in 1981, due to health reasons.  Robert and his wife would have two daughters, Deborah, born in 1955 and Patricia born in 1960.  

In his spare time, Robert enjoyed camping in the family’s RV.  He was also part of the 774th Reunion Group, which was very important to him.  He was elected President for a number of years in the early 1980s. He was also a member of the American Legion in Smyrna.  Robert passed away on December 1, 1989, and was buried in the Crestlawn Cemetery, in Atlanta.

I want to thank Robert’s daughter Patricia for providing the photos and information for this tribute.  Pat’s oldest daughter Victoria was only two when her grandfather passed away.  She was the “apple of his eye” then and now that she’s a Captain in the Air Force, I’m sure he would be very proud.