Spiess, Frank G. (773rd)

Photo-Not-Available-ImageFrank G. Spiess

Biography:  Frank George Spiess was born on March 17, 1907, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the son of Edward Alfred Spiess and Marie Clotilde Herrie and attended local schools in New Orleans.

After graduating from high school, he continued his education at the University of Louisiana. He also joined the Louisiana National Guard on April 14, 1924 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on June 22, 1929.

On August 9, 1932, Frank married the former Leonora Blau who was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lorenz Gustave Blau. In addition to his military service, Frank also became a prominent businessman in the New Orleans area. The couple would have a daughter, Leonora Ann, born in 1934 and a son, Frank Jr., in 1937.

During his time with the National Guard, Frank served with the 156th Infantry Regiment and then transferred to the 141st Field Artillery Regiment (Washington Artillery) in 1939. Spiess initially served as the S3 of 2nd Battalion and then Commander of Battery A. In 1940, they participated in maneuvers as a Regiment, in South Louisiana, with the Third Army.

Frank G. Spiess 2The 73rd Field Artillery Brigade was formed in September of 1940, consisting of the HQ Battery, 73rd FA Brigade, the 141st FA, 166th FA and the 190th FA. On January 6th, 1941, Frank became commander of Battery H and on the 13th, the 73rd was inducted into Federal service and would make their home at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, which was newly opened as a federal installation.

In July, the 73rd Provisional anti-tank battalion was formed taking 40 men from Batteries G & H of the 141st along with additional personnel from the 166th and 190th Field Artilleries. Captain Spiess was appointed to command the unit and did so that summer when they participated in the Louisiana maneuvers as part of the 2nd Provisional Anti-tank Group at the newly Camp Shelby on October 9th. 

Service Time: The 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion was activated on December 15, 1941, from the 73rd Provisional Anti-tank battalion with now Lt. Colonel Frank G. Spiess commanding. In early 1942, the unit moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for four months of training followed by a move to Indio, California and the Desert Training Center. After an eight month training period, including the Desert Maneuvers of September and October of 1942, the 773rd departed for Camp Hood. Texas, the home of the Tank Destroyers. This course extended from December 1942 to April of 1943.

Again on the move, this time to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, they later were ordered to Tennessee, in June, for their fourth large scale Army Maneuvers, this time with the Second Army. The unit returned to Camp Atterbury, and on the 15th of January 1944, they moved to New York. A short but busy stay at the P.O.E., Camp Shanks, NY, preceded embarkation on the British liner “Acquitania”.

The 773rd arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on February 7, 1944. They later landed at Utah and Omaha beaches, Normandy, France, on August 8, seeing their first real action at Le Bourg, St. Leonard, beginning August 17th during the envelopment of Falaise Pocket. They advanced to the Moselle River sector via Paris and fought at Luneville and the Foret de Parroy. Supporting the capture of Metz, France in November, they joined operations against the Siegfried Line along the Saar River in December and were ordered to the Ardennes on January 6, 1945. Fighting through the Siegfried Line again, in February, they reached the Rhine River at Koblenz, Germany on March 16th. The 773rd crossed the Rhine on March 23rd and 24th at Oppenheim and helped capture Darmstadt and Frankfurt before driving across Germany to Czechoslovakia, beginning on April 1st. The unit cleared the Czechoslovak-German border area southward and ended war near Petrovice.

Frank G. Spiess 4Of particular interest was his leadership as part of Tank Force Spiess, which included components of the 90th Infantry Division and the 773rd TD Bn, spearheading the 90th IDs drive. During the six stages of their mission, they captured 783 prisoners, and destroyed or disabled a steamboat, 2 trucks, 16 general purpose vehicles, 1 other vehicle, 2 machine guns and 2 anti-aircraft guns. The 773rd received credit for the campaigns of Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. They also received the Distinguished Unit Citation and additional citations from the 5th TD Group and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Lt. Col. Spiess personally received the Legion of Merit, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters for Valor and the Medal of Metz.

After the war he returned to the Louisiana National Guard and helped Major General Raymond Fleming re-organize it. He served as Assistant Adjutant General of the Louisiana Military Department under Fleming and then MG Raymond Hufft and then as the Executive Army Division National Guard Bureau of the Pentagon from 1956 through 1960. From 1961 to 1972, he served as Deputy Director and then Director of the Louisiana Civil Defense Agency. He had been promoted to Colonel (temporary) of the Army U.S. on December 20, 1945, but received his regular promotion to Colonel on September 13, 1948.

At some point in his career, he attended the Infantry, Machine Gun, Howitzer, Field Artillery, Gunnery, Chemical Warfare, Guided Missile and the Command and General Staff schools. He also took the Battalion Commanders and Staff Officers courses. He was a former President of the New Orleans and Louisiana State High 12 Clubs, Past Master of the Louisiana Lodge No. 902, a member of the Free and Accepted Masons and was a 32nd Degree Mason in the New Orleans Scottish Rite bodies. He was also inducted into the Louisiana National Guard Hall of Fame after 43 years of service and was very active in the veterans associations connected to both his state and federal service.

Frank G. Spiess 3Frank passed away on August 30, 1991, and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery No. 2, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The main photo is from the Louisiana National Guard Museum website, which can be found here. The photo of him with the garrison hat was from the 73rd Field Artillery Brigade Pictorial of 1941, and the photo of his grave marker is provided courtesy of Find A Grave contributor, NolaGirl. The photo of him behind the desk is from a private collection.