Earl L. Urban
Biography: Earl Leonard Urban was born on April 13, 1918, in Ashland, Ohio. He was the son of Elton Urban and Lelia Mae Jackson and attended Ashland City Schools, graduating in 1937. During his time in school, he was one of the most popular athletes in his community and was known as “Hubbell” to his fans. He was a varsity baseball and basketball player and was a member of championship softball and basketball teams. After school, he found work at the A.L. Garber Company which was a paper box manufacturer. In addition to sports, Earl’s interests included collecting coins and stamps. He was also an active member of the Emanuel Methodist Church, serving as a Sunday School teacher.
Service Time: Earl entered the service on October 8, 1941, at Cleveland, Ohio, and was assigned to Company C of the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion. After their training in the U.S., the unit shipped out from the New York port on May 31, 1942. They arrived at Belfast, Northern Ireland, on June 11, 1942, and portions of the unit, Companies B and C, along with one platoon of Recon Company, participated in the Operation Torch landings on November 8th, near Oran, Algeria. They advanced toward Tunisia beginning on November 16th and the rest of battalion reached North Africa on December 10th. During actions in Tunisia, the 701st was usually attached to the 1st Armored or 1st Infantry Divisions, and saw action in El Guettar, Faid Pass, Sidi Bou Zid, Sbeitla, Hill 609, and Mateur.
They shipped to Italy in October, 1943, and entered the line in the Pagnataro area. Their TDs operated largely as artillery and for much of early 1944, the battalion was attached to II or VI Corps in Cassino sector. They then shipped to the Anzio beachhead in February, 1944, and supported the 1st Armored Division during the breakout in late May. On General Order No. 71 of the First Armored Division, SSgt. Earl L. Urban, Sgt. Ralph B. Laney, Cpl. Allen E. Knohr and T/5 Leonard L Jokerst were all cited for Gallantry in Action on May 30, 1944. Earl would also receive a Purple Heart for wounds he received sometime in July of 1944.
The unit entered Rome on June 4th and then pushed north to the Arno River, crossing on September 1st. They reached the Florence area and spent the winter training and firing artillery missions.
In the photo at left, you can see Earl being congratulated by Major General Vernon E. Prichard, who was the Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division. Earl was captain of the winning basketball team who had just won a tournament held by the 1st Armored Division. They held the event during their down-time in the Fifth Army’s rear area, near Lucca, Italy. The team was probably made up of other members of the 701st, since at least one of them has the TD logo on his jacket.
Earl had been promoted to First Sergeant and after only a few months, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in February, 1945. The 701st supported the 10th Mountain Division’s drive into the Po River Valley in April, 1945. On the 22nd, C Company was supporting the 87th Infantry Regiment and had just reached the town on San Benedetto Po. A and C Companies set up road blocks while enemy resistance in the area was mopped up. Infantry units from the 10th crossed the Po River while A and C Companies supported with direct fire.
Although the details are unknown, 2nd Lt. Earl L. Urban was killed in action on April 23rd. In an article in the family’s local newspaper, the date of his death is identified as being just nine days before fighting ceased in Italy. Earl had been in combat for more than 500 days with the 701st. He was ultimately brought home and buried in the Ashland Cemetery in Ashland, Ohio.
I want to thank Earl’s brother, Carl, for providing the information and materials for this tribute. Carl also served in WWII and was with the Marines in Guam, at the time of Earl’s death. I also want to thank Jerry Imperio and Ingrid Holzwarth for working with Carl to memorialize his brother.