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702nd Tank Battalion “Red Devils”

Rolling On


Bemedaled Tank Vet, 17, Goes Home, Lets Kids Finish Job


With the 80th Infantry Division, Jan. 31. -Battle-wise and scarred, Sgt. William D. Royce, of Chicago, the Third Army's youngest tank commander, is on his way home.


Now 17, Royce enlisted in the Army when he was 15.  It took him six months to get his parents' consent.  Then he convinced Chicago draft authorities he was old enough for the Army.



Shortly after his outfit, the 702nd Tank Battalion went into action last August, his first tank was hit by German artillery fire at Argentan.  Under heavy artillery and small-arms fire, Royce rescued one of his crewmembers from the blazing tank. For this, he received the first Bronze Star awarded in his unit.


He received another tank and a new crew.  The oldest man in the crew was 15 years his senior.


During the battle for the rich coal area around Faulquemont, his tank was hit twice, by both artillery and mortar fire, and Royce received shrapnel wounds.


In the hospital he decided to tell his commanding officer that he had misrepresented his age when he joined the Army.  The War Department directed that the youngster be discharged.


But the youthful veteran probably won’t reach home before his 18th birthday in March, which will make him of draft age.


“But I’m an old guy now.” Royce says.  “Let the kids finish the job.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: Sgt. Royce was not sent home.  Col. Talbot ordered that he be kept in “the rear with the gear” until his 18th birthday, at which time he was returned to duty on the front lines where he finished out the war.




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