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Northrop, William E. (626th, 806th, 14th Grp)

William E. Northrop

Biography:  William Edward Northrop “Bill” was born on March 7, 1921, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was the son of William E. Northrop and Mary E. Traver and attended Barnum Elementary School and Warren Harding High School through the 10th grade. His discharge documents indicate he was working as a “collector” of jukebox and pinball machine cash receipts prior to the war.

Service Time:  Bill entered the service on October 6, 1942 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. As part of his basic training, he was assigned to the 3rd Field Artillery Training Battalion. He was transferred to Company B of the 626th Tank Destroyer battalion on January 23, 1943, and was soon promoted to Private First Class on April 8th. He was then sent to radio operator school at Camp Hood, Texas, and when it was completed, his specialty was changed to radio operator – high speed. In addition to being fully competent on all the various radio equipment, he also was highly efficient in sending and receiving morse code.

The unit participated in the Tennessee maneuvers in June through August and returned to Camp Gordon on September 8th. Bill was promoted to Technician 4th Grade on December 15th, but five days later on the 20th, the unit was deactivated and its personnel sent to at least seven other TD units.  Per Special Order #185, actually dated two days before the unit was deactivated, Bill was assigned to the 806th Tank Destroyer Battalion. His time with the unit was short-lived as on May 21, 1944, he was reassigned to the 14th Tank Destroyer Group while at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. His radio skills would have been highly desired since part of the 14th’s mission was to assure good communications with all the units under their command. Nineteen days later on June 9th, he was transferred once again to the Service Battery of the 898th FA Battalion. The unit shipped overseas in January 1945, arriving on the 15th in the United Kingdom with Bill being prepared to serve as a replacement for a needy unit.

The 18th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) had suffered heavy loses during the Battle of the Bulge with many casualties and many of their members taken prisoner.  Bill was assigned to the unit as a replacement for Troop B. His time in the tank destroyers would have certainly helped with his new role since the 18th utilized some of the same equipment, including the M-8 Armored Car. The 18th would go on to be the first cavalry squadron to cross the Rhine and captured the first town east of the Rhine, Rheinbrohl. The 18th moved into a forward position, joining the Third Army with the III Corps to drive from Urnberg crossing the Danube and Isar rivers to then the Inn river when the war ended. They were able to liberate almost all their own soldiers who had previously been taken captive.

Bill shipped home on July 1st, arriving back in the U.S. on the 10th. He was discharged on October 21st at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. He held the rank of Technician 5th Grade and received credit for campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe and was awarded the American Theater Ribbon, the WWII Victory Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal. The next day on the 22nd, he re-enlisted at Camp Gruber and remained in the service for just over a year, until December of 1946, serving with the 15th Army Signal Detachment. Bill left the military at Fort Rosecrans, California, at the rank of Technician 3rd Grade.

Honorable Discharge

Now back home in Bridgeport, he found a job with the Public Works Department for the City of Bridgeport, He continued to work for the city until retiring in 1980, as Supervisor. In August of 1960, he had married the former Martha Perry who was born in Logan, West Virginia, and was the daughter of John Perry. The new couple would have two sons, Louis, born in 1961, and James in 1962. In his spare time, Bill enjoyed baseball and was a life-long Yankees fan. He also liked mathematics, playing cards, reading, writing and researching history.

Bill passed away on November 28, 1981, and was buried in the Lakeview Cemetery in Bridgeport, CT. I want to thank Bill’s son, Lou, for providing the information and photos used in this tribute.