William R. Lally, Jr.
Biography: William Robert Lally, Jr., “Bob”, was born on September 17, 1916, in Union City, New Jersey. He was the son of William Robert Lally Sr. and Hazel Spencer and attended the Jefferson School and then graduated from Union City High School in 1936.
He would continue his education by attending a Commercial Art School before becoming a commercial artist. Just prior to the war, Bob was employed by the J. Stirling Gethchell Inc., Advertising Agency, of New York City. The J. Stirling Gethchell company was a leading advertising firm of the time and was credited with many industry changing techniques that are commonplace in ads today.
One of the company’s clients, Plymouth, had a great deal of success from the use of the agency’s ads. The add shown below was one that Bob worked on.
Service Time: Bob entered the service on October 7, 1941, at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He would have initially gone through basic training and probably been assigned to a one of the field artillery units of the 69th Field Artillery Brigade, stationed at Fort Dix. Portions of the 69th were being used as the nucleus of the 44th Antitank Battalion (Provisional) which was formed on July 2, 1941. The 44th would train at the A.P. Hill Military Reservation in Virginia, and then move back to Fort Dix, before moving to the First Army maneuver area located on the border of North and South Carolina. They would again return to Fort Dix where they were re-designated as the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, on December 15, 1941.
The unit received additional training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and then moved by rail to Fort Lewis, Washington, where they guarded the Pacific coastline. It was during this time that Bob distinguished himself in the job as Intelligence Clerk and was promoted to Technician 5th Grade on August 6, 1942.
Additional training would be provided at Camp Hood, Texas, Yakima, Washington, and then Fort Lewis as well as other locations in Oregon for large scale maneuvers in the high desert from July to November of 1943. On November 13th, Bob married the former Barbara Syble MacDougall, who was from Seattle and was the daughter of Duncan MacDougall and Anna M. Jensen. Bob’s best man was a friend from the 644th, Robert Gunther, who also served in HQ Company. While Bob was serving in the Army, Barbara stayed in the Tacoma, Washington area.
On December 22nd, the unit boarded trains and traveled cross-country to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey for final preparations for shipment overseas. The unit shipped out aboard the H.M.T. Aquitania, on January 2, 1944, arriving at Gourock, Scotland, in January 11th. After six months of additional training and preparations, the 644th boarded transports and landed at Utah Beach,Normandy, France on July 11th and 12th. They were equipped with M10 tank destroyers and were committed to battle, south of Le Haye Du Puits with the 8th Infantry Division, on July 15th.
The photo above left shows, Bob modelling a German uniform. The photo at right shows Bob atop with a knocked out German Tiger tank.
The 644th participated in the Cobra breakout beginning on the 26th, then advanced into Brittany in August and helped capture Brest in early September. Moving to Luxembourg in late September, they fought in the Hürtgen Forest in November. Companies A and C moved to the northern Ardennes sector by early December and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, with Company B arriving late in the game. They joined in the elimination of the Bulge in early 1945, and the Roer River offensive in February, reaching the Rhine River south of Cologne, Germany in March. They crossed the Rhine at Remagen and supported the reduction of the Ruhr Pocket in April. Swinging eastward to the Elbe River, they rolled toward the Baltic coast with the 82d Airborne Division, stopping in Schwerin.
The card provided above was sent home by Bob to his wife while the unit was attached or serving with the 8th Infantry Division. As you can see it is addressed to “Robin” which is Bob’s nickname for his wife. You will see it is signed “Mutt” which is one of a few nicknames he used in letters home.
After the war, personnel of the 644th, created their “Fortune Favors the Brave” unit history, which provides a very good overview of their activities and personnel. The history also includes a number of illustrations, one of which is a large rendition of the tank destroyer logo that includes a small set of initials, W.R.L. This is obviously Bob’s contribution to the project. His commercial artist skills are definitely shown in the logo. Whether he provided any of the other artwork is unknown but we would not be surprised if that was the case.
The 644th received credit for five campaigns, including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. Bob was awarded the EAME, American Defense and the Good Conduct Medals. He left the service at the rank of Technical Sergeant.
Now back in the U.S., Bob returned to Tacoma and Barbara. He would go to work for the Boeing company and became one of their top artists. One particular project was the Bomarc surface-to-air-missile system, which was used during the Cold War. Bob’s artwork is shown below.
In addition to his work, Bob and his wife would start a family. The couple would welcome a son, Brian, born in 1952.
Bob passed away on July 14, 1977, and was buried in the Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington. I want to thank Daron Fairfax for providing the photos and much of the information used for this tribute. Thank you also to Find A Grave contributor, Grave Tag’r, for the use of the grave marker photo.