S/Sgt. Frank Lee "Pappy" Ream Jr.
3rd Platoon, Company B
702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils
Frank Lee Ream Jr. joined the Army in 1940. Prior to this, he had served in the Civilian Conservation Corps. His first US Army assignment was to the United States Quartermaster Corps, Troop "A", Fort Riley, Kansas. On April 1, 1941, the U.S. Second Cavalry Division came into being. June 12, 1941, Maj. General John Millikin assumed command of the 2nd Cavalry Division. Troop "A", Quartermaster Corps 17th Quartermaster Squadron was part of this Division. "Trainees were launched immediately upon the intensive 13-week training program and met this new rigorous life with high spirits and undaunted courage", according to the official history. At this point, the US Army still used horses in the cavalry, and was just beginning to make the transition from horses to tanks. His job was as a truck driver. Frank’s unit participated in the August - September 1941 Maneuvers, earning a letter of commendation for their performance. With this letter of commendation, came a promotion to Sergeant for Frank L. Ream, and a transfer to Headquarters Troop, 17th Quartermaster Squadron. By August of 1942, Sgt. Ream had wrangled his transfer to HQ. Co., 1st Bn. 80th Armored, 8th Armored Division, 9th Tank Group, Fort Knox, Kentucky.
It was about this time that while on leave in Louisville, Ky. that Frank met Miss Edna B. Lucian. A buddy of Frank's was dating a friend of Edna's, and arranged a date. It did not take long for true love to blossom. By December 31st , they were married by Clarence J. Steuerle, Justice of the Peace, for Jefferson County, Kentucky. Frank took his new bride home to Independence, Missouri to meet the Ream clan. What the happy newlyweds could not possibly know was that an event had taken place in a U.S. Government Office somewhere far away from their lives, long before they even met, that would bring tragic fate to their innocent young lives. That event was the constitution of the U.S. Army, Unit Designation number 702nd Tank Battalion, Heavy, on the War Department rolls, for future combat units.
At this time, the Army had plans to create an all-armored army using heavy tanks. The heavy tanks in development had many problems, and were soon cancelled. The idea of an all-armored army looked good on paper, but it soon became apparent that it was a totally impractical and too-cumbersome idea. The logistics alone were a nightmare, to supply and transport such an army. While that plan was still in the making, the Army created the "700" series tank battalions. The designation of the 702nd Tank Battalion was then changed from "Heavy" to "Medium". That change meant that instead of the now-discontinued heavy tanks, the 702nd Tank Battalion would be using the new Medium Sherman Tank. Frank learned of these new battalions, and got himself assigned to the 702nd Tank Battalion. Frank was promoted to Staff Sergeant just before his marriage, and became the first senior non-commissioned officer in the new battalion.
On February 9, 1943, the 702nd Medium Tank Battalion reached cadre strength activation. By March 1 it would become fully active. This battalion was part of the 9th Tank Group, stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The cadre came from the Armored Forces school, National Guard Units and Officers Candidate Schools, as well as the 8th Armored Division.
What happened eventually to Frank is well covered within the pages of my book, "Patton's Troubleshooters" and elsewhere on this website. In short, he was later killed in action just west of the Moselle River, in the forest above the town of Pompey, France on Sept. 7, 1944. Today, thanks to the kind people of that region, there is a memorial stone in Frank's name in the spot where he was killed, built to honor the thousands of casualties the 80th Division suffered during the two months they were fighting in the area. My book, and even this website all came about during my quest to learn the truth of what had happened to my uncle and his men. That evolved into my history project dedicated to helping other families like mine learn the truth about their family member. I'm proud to say that in the nearly three decades I have been working on this project, I have helped hundreds of families this way. My recent story about PFC Forrest Davies is a prime example.
While I have been helping others, someone recently took it upon themselves to help me. I wanted to share this wonderful gift with my readers, and give you some appreciation of what an fascinating shot out of the blue, or message from above, or however you interpret it. I leave that to you. I know what it meant to my family and me.
Not long ago, I was working my daily routine as I usually do, when an email appeared in my inbox. The writer was a lady who, with her husband had visited an antiques mall for some shopping. While there, she came across an old photo album at one of the dealers' stalls, and felt compelled to buy it. Inside, she found some old photos and personal items like letters, and greeting cards. Later, she went online, and typed in the names she found in the album, and Google showed her my website URL's. She read enough of my site to realize that I would be the person who very well might find the contents of that album of great interest. The purpose of the email I'd just received was indeed to see if I was interested in the album contents. This kind soul was offering me what was inside the album. I offered to pay a reasonable fee for the items, plus the cost of shipping them to me. These sweet people declined my offer, and a short time later I got a package in the mail. My hands shook as I opened the package.
What had happened to that album was as follows:
After my uncle was killed in the war, my Aunt Edna, Frank's wife, remarried. As time passed, her second husband died as well. Frank and Edna's Son, Stanley, whom the family called "Butch" had finished college, and got a pharmacy job in Greenfield, Indiana. Butch bought a house there, and Aunt Edna went to live with him. In the 1980's, when I first began researching my book, I needed to travel to Erie, Pa., to pick up some source documents from Retired Colonel William B. Miller at the Red Devils Reunion. On our way to Erie, my Wife Katy, and our children and I stopped in Greenfield to visit my Aunt Edna and cousin. We spent the night at Butch's house. While there, I explained in great detail what I had learned about Uncle Frank to Aunt Edna. Edna was deeply moved by what I told her, and by the fact that I was showing so much interest in my uncle. She had come to the conclusion that everyone had forgotten Frank, and her. She pulled out her photo album, and showed me her collection of photos and artifacts relating to Frank. The next day, after still more heart to heart talks, we left and finished our trip to Erie, and then Fort Knox, before finally going back home.
The years passed, and I stayed very busy on the history project. One day my mom called me, and said that Aunt Edna had died. I was saddened by that news. While I had never really known my aunt while growing up, I had really loved her after finally getting to know her. She was a simple country girl from Louisville, Kentucky, and even all those years and a good second marriage later, she was still madly in love with my uncle, who'd been dead for nearly half a century. Still more time passed, and my mom called to say that Butch too had died. Now, all of Frank's immediate family was gone, and only his extended family was left.
After Butch's death, I surmise that his house was auctioned off by the state since he had no children and no one from the extended family had claimed his estate. I further surmise, that a antiques dealer had attended the auction, and purchased my aunt's photo album. Yes, folks, the very same photo album my aunt once showed me, and which was now being so kindly given to me by these very sweet and generous folks from Greenfield, Indiana. From the time of Frank's death, that album had been carried across the country and cherished by Aunt Edna through all that time, and now, decades after her death, it had found it's way to me once more. Call it lucky coincidence, or divine providence, or the act of my aunt & uncle's spirits reaching out to me from beyond. All I can say is, it happened, and in the following pages, I will share with you what was inside that album; the treasures my aunt placed so much value on, and which I in turn value just as well. The strange course of events and facts involved here, is why my hands shook as I opened that package.
Without further ado, I give you, the Album:
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