Robert F. Stratton
Biography: Robert F. Stratton, “Bob”, was born on September 1, 1922, in Bangor, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Frank Stratton and Elsie M. Repsher and graduated from local schools. His enlistment records indicates that prior to the war, he had experience in a semi-skilled machine shop occupation. Bob had one brother and a sister, Arlene.
Service Time: Robert enlisted in the army on October 20, 1942, in Allentown, PA. After his basic training, he was assigned to B Company of the 638th Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with the unit at a number of military facilities. The unit spent time at Camp Hood, Camp Howze and Camp Swift in Texas, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the 1942 Louisiana Maneuvers, Camp Claiborne, LA, Camp Carabelle, Florida, Camp Livingston, LA, a 2nd set of maneuvers in Louisiana, the Desert Training Center, California, where they trained on the new M18 tank destroyers and Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.
The photo above left shows Bob posing with his sister Arlene. Both photos would have been taken while on leave from his unit.
Before going overseas, they moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, for final preparations. On August 30, 1944, they shipped out and arrived at Cherbourg, France, September 7, 1944, equipped with M18 tank destroyers. Entering the line near Prummern, Germany, on November 20, they supported operations against the Westwall (Siegfried Line). Shifting to the Ardennes sector around Rochefort, Belgium, on December 22nd, the unit’s M18 “Hellcat” tank destroyers, helped to halt the German offensive in and around Hotton, Belgium (while attached to the 84th Infantry Division). Bob’s B Company took out several Panther tanks trying to reach the bridge at Hotton.
After fighting to reduce the Bulge during January 1945, the 638th supported the Roer River crossing in February. The unit then crossed the Rhine River on April 1st, and advanced across German, reaching the Elbe River, near Wittenberg, on April 24th.
The unit received credit for the campaigns of Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. Bob left the service at the rank of Sergeant.
Now back in the U.S., Bob found work at the Metropolitan Edison Company where he would remain for 24 years. The last two years of his employment, he was a right-of-way agent for the company. In 1946, Bob married the former Harvenia “Becky” Becklin. Bob was a member of the Pen Argyl School Board for 16 years, from 1963 to 1979, serving as board Vice President from 1971 to 1975. He was also a Freemason and past Master of the Pen Argyl Lodge 594 F&AM.
Bob died on January 5, 1989, in the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia where he had been transferred from St. Luke’s Hospital. He was laid to rest in Section E of the Plainfield Cemetery in Northampton County, PA.
I want to thank Erwin Verholen for providing information and photos for this tribute. I also want to thank Find A Grave contributor Ellen Myers for the use of the photo of Bob with the flag. The grave marker photo is provided courtesy of Carol & David.
In addition to Bob’s service, his brother Arthur R. Stratton also served during WWII but with the 97th Infantry Division.