Kemper, Charles H. (774th)

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Biography:  Charles “Charlie” Henry Kemper was born on December 23, 1918, in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He was the son of Louis H. Kemper and Catherine Ann Thomas. He attended Elder High School, graduating in 1938. Charlie found work as a printer with the Gibson Greeting Card Company also in Cincinnati.

Service Time:  Charlie entered the service on March 26, 1943, at Fort Thomas in Newport, Kentucky. He was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 774th Tank Destroyer Battalion. 

In July of 1943, Charlie married the former Helen Lee Wallingford, who was born in Crescent Springs, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Eugene Wallingford and Eunice Beckley.

The 774th shipped out from New York on June 3, 1944, arriving in Gourock, Scotland, on the 12th. They had converted to a towed battalion before arriving in the United Kingdom. On August 7th, they disembarked at Utah Beach and joined the fighting around Argentan. From there they moved eastward across France to Lorraine as part of a cavalry screen and the 7th Armored Division.

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The photo above left was taken during Charlie’s training within the U.S. The photo on right and the main photo were taken after the war, at the site of the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremburg, Germany. You can see the grandstand of Zepplinfeld (Zeppelin Field) in the background. In the main photo, you can see a large “A” in the background, which is the symbol of the 3rd Army. The 3rd Army was in control of the area during the occupation period.

Charles H. Kemper 5Charlie was specifically part of the S-4 group of the Staff Platoon, which was in charge of keeping the unit supplied with rations, clothing, replacement parts, vehicles and ammunition.  He was known for his scavenging capabilities and on one occasion, Charlie and his team were tasked to pick up some ammo that had been left in Wawern, Germany. When they arrived, the Burgermeister thought that Charlie, William LaRusso Jr. and Chester H. Thomas, were important inspectors. They were immediately shown all the stray ammo and when Sgt. Charlie Kemper mentioned he had a sore throat, the Burgermeister gave him a special gargling compound, he called “Primavino”.  Although the men didn’t know what the word meant, it sure worked and after the men had delivered the ammo, they had the happiest day of their lives.

The The 774th then participated in fighting around Metz in September and fought along the Saar in December. They joined the rush north to the Ardennes, converting to the M36 tank destroyer in late February, 1945.  In March, they drove to the Rhine and held the Rhine west of the Ruhr Pocket in April before taking on military government duties.

Charlie received credit for the unit’s campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.  He received the EAME Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. He left the service at the rank of Staff Sergeant.

When Charlie returned to Cincinnati and his wife Helen, he also returned to his job at Gibson Greeting Cards.  He retired as the Die Department Manager after 44 years with the company.  In his spare time, he enjoyed fishing, boating, travel and rebuilding small motors.  He was also a member of the American Legion and the Eagles.

The couple had one son, Dale, born in 1956. On October 3, 1981, Charlie passed away and was buried in the St. Joseph Cemetery, Price Hill, Cincinnati.  I want to thank Charlie’s son, Dale, for providing the photo and information for this tribute. Thank you also to the Hamilton County (Ohio) Genealogical Society, for the use of the grave marker image.

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