Paul F. Lerch
Biography: Paul F. Lerch was born on November 16, 1917, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Paul and Lucinda Lerch and attended John Harris High School. After high school, Paul worked as an Assistant Manager of a Giant Foods grocery store.
Service Time: Paul entered the service on February 6, 1942, at the New Cumberland Army Depot. He was sent for basic training and chosen to attend Officer Candidates School, traveling to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for this advanced training. Upon his graduation he was discharged from the Army on November 20th and Commissioned in the as a 2nd Lieutenant on the 21st. Paul was then assigned to C Company of the 803rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and became a platoon commander for the unit.
Paul recalled that while traveling to Europe aboard the troop ship Andes, they sailed through the icy North Atlantic. The Captain of the ship collected all the passengers together for a talk. Among other topics he addressed the men’s concerns regarding the possibility of being attacked by German U-boats…”I know some of you are worried about whether we are potentially vulnerable to attack,” he said. “Well, you needn’t worry about that. If we are hit and you are not killed immediately by the blast/explosion, then know that at these water temperatures, you will only live about three minutes before you will succumb to hypothermia.”
Another interesting situation happened while traveling across the English Channel. The captain of the amphibious landing craft asked if he would “authorize the use of the TD’s cannon, should a U-boat be sighted in the channel. To his knowledge, not all of our Army officers had consented to use of ‘ground’ attack weaponry to fight a sea battle.” Paul felt it was more important to try to fight back and promised that he would be willing to give the order…should such an occasion arise. Paul left the service on February 4, 1945, as a First Lieutenant.
After returning from the war, Paul continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania. He met his future wife Dorothy at the Hershey Creamery in Harrisburg, PA. She was from Bristol, PA and worked as an Executive Secretary. The two were married and have one daughter, Leslie. In 1969, Paul was transferred to Roanoke, Virginia, where he worked as an Accounting Manager for the General Motors Acceptance Corporation.
On Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, Paul was awarded the Jubilee de Liberte Medal as part of Bedford, Virginia’s D-Day Memorial festivities. He received the award in recognition of his service during the WWII Normandy campaign. The photo on left shows Paul just after receiving the award.
Paul passed away on May 5, 2012, at the age of 94. He was buried in the Rolling Green Memorial Park in Camp Hill, PA. I want to thank Paul’s daughter Leslie for supplying the information and photos of her father. Thank you to Robert Viguers for the grave marker photo.