Benjamin T. Oakley
Biography: Benjamin Thomas Oakley, “BT”, was born on November 2, 1918, in Clarksville, Tennessee. He was the son of Ben L. Oakley and Vera Gregory. Early in his life, BT had moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, attending school in Acton and Beech Grove.
His draft card, dated October 15, 1940, indicates he was employed at U.S. Rubber Company. His enlistment record shows he completed 4 years of high school. Prior to his entry into the military, he was employed by the International Harvester Company.
Service Time: BT entered the Army on December 16, 1942 at Indianapolis. Recruit Oakley was assigned to and joined Company C of the 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion on December 28th when the unit was stationed at Camp Hood, Texas. He trained with the unit at several locations including; Camp San Luis Obispo, Camp Young, the Desert Training Center and Camp Cooke, all in California. While they originally trained with M10 self-propelled tank destroyers, the unit was converted to a towed battalion, utilizing the M5 3” anti-tank gun, on December 15, 1943.
Arriving at Liverpool, England, on April 21, 1944, they continued training. Company C landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 24th and the 607th supported the advance on Cherbourg, fighting along the Seves River in July. They joined the drive to Le Mans and envelopment of the Falaise Pocket in August, advancing to the Moselle River in September and supporting operations against Metz through late November. The unit converted to a self-propelled battalion equipped with M36 tank destroyers in time for the final assault on Metz.
On November 28, 1944, four TD’s from 3rd Platoon, Company C, were to assist the 3rd Battalion, 378th Infantry (95th ID), in an attack against the town of Merten, France. Both units were to meet at a roadblock at the west edge of town. Unbeknownst to the TD personnel, the infantry met more resistance than expected and had not reached the roadblock, or cleared any enemy anti-tank guns in the vicinity. Two of the TD’s were hit by enemy anti-tank fire as they were approaching the town and several crew men were killed during the initial action and/or small arms fire as they exited the knocked-out vehicles.
Private First Class Benjamin T. Oakley was killed on November 28, the same day as the above reference action. An obituary for him states he was “shot by the Germans while returning to his headquarters with information concerning a “lost” platoon that had been trapped by a German advanced unit. He completed the mission, but died several hours later.” Unit records do not contain any information about the circumstances of his death. He may have been searching for the unit indicated in the above action.
PFC Oakley was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions this day and also a Purple Heart medal. He earned the Good Conduct, WWII Victory and the EAME medals with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France and Rhineland.
He was initially buried overseas but was reinterred in 1949 at the Washington Park East Cemetery, Section J, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana. We would like to thank PFC Oakley for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Thank you also to Find a Grave contributor TASM for use of the grave marker photo.