His name was Frank Lee Ream Jr., and he was born on October 29, 1914. He was one of fifteen children in the Ream family. Frank was never able to go beyond the tenth grade in school, because helping his Father support the massive Ream family took up most of his time. He worked for until the Government announced their new program for dealing with the millions of young men hard set by the great Depression. This new program was to be called the Civilian Conservation Corps.
On November 3, 1933, at the age of 19. Frank signed on for a one year stint at Camp Reform F-22, Arkansas, as a part of a road and bridge construction gang. Frank was 5 ft. 6 in. tall, 115 lbs., with blue eyes, and brown hair. He requested that the Government take out $25.00 from each check and send it to his hungry family, and that he spend an extra two months at Camp F-5, in Greenville, Missouri.
Frank chronically suffered from a sinus condition. While sleeping in a feverish state, deep in the Arkansas swampland, a botfly entered his nose, and deposited its eggs. The mucus which clogged his sinuses provided the ideal nesting area for the resulting maggots. Frank reported his problem to the government doctors. The maggots had to be surgically removed. From that day until the day he died, Frank would suffer from horrendous headaches. No one was ever able to tell if the headaches were caused from damage caused by the maggots, or the surgery. Frank really didn't care what caused it. What concerned him, was the excruciating pain that resulted. Frank's experiences in the C.C.C. were best summed up by the poem entitled “Hitch In Hell” he typed out and sent to his family.
Frank left the C.C.C. on December 31, 1934, and according to the records, had performed satisfactorily. Frank went back home to Independence, Missouri, and resumed his hand-to-mouth existence. He got a job at the Independence Laundry, as a Security Guard.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Adolf Hitler had begun re-arming Germany. In 1935-36, Benito Mussolini sent his facist armies to conquer the African Nation of Ethiopia, despite vehement protests by the League of Nations. In 1936, Mussolini and Hitler signed a pact of mutual aid, so their armies might work together, to subjugate their neighbors. Shortly thereafter, Italy and Germany signed a treaty with the expansionist Japanese, creating the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. Also in 1936, Germany re-occupied the Sudetenland. 1937 found Britain and France increasing their defense budgets, and Hitler declaring that Germany was the strongest nation in Europe. In 1938, German armies marched into Austria, and into Czechoslovakia in the following year.
1 September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. All five German armies attacking Poland, had by September 5th, smashed her front-line defenses. General Walther von Reichenau's tanks had reached the outskirts of Warsaw, by September 8th, and were attempting to enter the Capital city. Britain and France had formally declared war on Germany, on September 3rd, but neither was prepared to fight. On November 30th, Stalin invaded Finland with five Russian armies. The valiant Finns held the Russian hordes from their tiny country until March 13 of 1940, when they finally capitulated. April 9, 1940, Germany attacked Norway and Denmark.
Denmark fell in one day. Norway fought bravely until June 9th when they finally succumbed to the voracious Nazis. May 10th, Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. Para Assault Detachment Koch consisting of eighty-five elite troops, had captured the cornerstone of the Liege defense system, the fortress of Eben Emael on May 11th, and with it the hopes of Belgium.
May 12, 1940, General Gerd von Rundstedt's German armoured and infantry divisions had crossed the French border and had established several River-crossings at Sedan and Mezieres. May 13, Rundstedt's leading infantry divisions had crossed the Meuse on pontoon bridges. The Dutch Army surrendered Holland to the Nazis on May 14, 1940. By the following evening, Rundstedt's armoured spearheads had blasted a fifty-mile wide gap in the French line. By May 21, General Erwin Rommel's 7th Panzer Division reached the English Channel near Abbevilles. May 28, the debacle at Dunkirk began. June 2, the last of the 225,000 British and 112,000 French servicemen are evacuated from Dunkirk, with relatively few losses.
On May 10, Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain. June 12, the Nazis break the French lines east of Reims. Paris is evacuated on June 13, 1940. June 17, Panzers reach the Loire River at Orleans. To add to France's troubles, Mussolini declared war on her June 10th. In the same railroad car that the Germans had surrendered their Armies (W.W.I), the French sign an armistice with the Nazis on June 21st. June 25, midnight, the fighting stops and the Vichy French Government begins.
The day before Frank Lee Ream Jr.'s 26th birthday, an Italian Army of 162,000 soldiers advanced from Albania into Greece under the command of General Visconti-Prasca. General Alexander Papagos' poorly equipped 150,000 man Greek Army stops the Italian invasion within three weeks. In November 1940, Frank writes his first letter home as a green recruit of the United States Quartermaster Corps, Troop "A", Fort Riley, Kansas. He wrote:
"Dear Dad and all:
I guess you are beginning to wonder what has happened to me, but this is the first time I could get paper and stamps. I am stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. The captain who swore us in received word Monday morning that all new men had to be cleared by midnight that night, so we were sent right to our post, instead of going to headquarters.
I have been here two days now and haven't done a thing. I got my clothes this afternoon and they actually fit. They gave me more clothes than I ever saw. It will take me two hours to get them straightened out and put away. Fort Riley is an awfully big place. There are three thousand men here and we have the largest cavalry post in the world. The Fort, I guess, is one of the finest in the country. All the buildings are of stone and steam heated. It is just like living in a nice hotel. We have a large recreation room that is really something, nice big easy chairs and plenty of light for reading, checker tables and a big pool table.
I haven't had a chance to look over the rolling stock yet, but from a distance it all looks pretty big. They are all at least four wheel drive, and some six and eight wheels. I hear that we are going to have a big dinner tomorrow. I guess we'll have turkey and all the trimmings. I hope you can afford a good dinner at home. It has started raining and is getting colder fast! I expect we will have some snow or ice before morning. Well I am running out of anything to say so I guess I'll sign off for this time.
Lots of Love, from your Loving Son, Frank.
PS Tell everyone on the route [Frank Sr.'s laundry delivery route] hello for me, and say, address me Pvt. Frank Ream Q.M.C. Troupe A Fort Scott Kansas."
Frank Ream & friends pose nude in gear as a prank.
In the coming year, Pvt. Frank Ream would work as a truck driver. On April 1, 1941, the U.S. Second Cavalry Division came into being. June 12, 1941, Maj. General John Millikin assumes 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. 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, Fort Knox, Kentucky. On August 11, 1942, he wrote:
"Dear Dad & Mom:
Hello everybody. I just received your letter and was certainly glad to hear from you. Dad, your letter seemed rather odd. Are you mad at me about something? Your letter seemed so cold. Have I done or said something I shouldn't? I know I haven't been writing as often as I should but I have to work pretty hard all day and then study half the night. I don't have any time for myself at all. I have to give a lecture every day and it keeps me studying until midnight preparing them. Dad, I hate to ask for my money every month but I would like to have a little money to spend. They take all my money for allotments and bonds. I only had six dollars coming this month. That won't hardly buy soap and shaving materials. Will you send it to me please? Dad, are you mad at me for asking for my money last month? If you are, please keep this month's.
I can get along without it and I would rather do without money from now on than have you feeling hard at me about anything. We have a field problem tomorrow night, so I suppose I should get to bed and get all the sleep I can tonight. I won't get any tomorrow night. I hope you can read my letters. It seems to me my writing gets worse all the time, but I am usually so shaky by the time we get in, in the evening I can hardly hold a pencil. I am beginning to reap the rewards now of not smoking or drinking; when the rest of the men are on the verge of exhaustion, I am still breathing easy. I can out walk or out run any twenty-year-old man in the outfit. You can't really appreciate that unless you know what we go through. These young punks are always making fun of the older men, but there isn't one of them who can stay beside me; they all drop out sooner or later. This business is awfully hard on the nerves. The nervous tension of our life of training is so great that we all come in at night shaking like a leaf. I have lost twenty pounds since we came down here. I think that when we have finished giving these recruits their basic training this nervous tension will ease up a little. I hope so; some of these fellows won't be able to take it. Well I have bored you about long enough for one time, so I guess I'll say Bye Bye for now.
Your Loving Son.
It was about this time that while on leave in Louisville, Ky. 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, Medium, on the War Department rolls, for future combat units.
In January 1943, all Frank could think of was his new bride and his dream of a career as a military officer. But somewhere in the back of his mind was the news that he was hearing on the radio and in the newspapers and all of it was bad. Hitler had begun his invasion of Russia and by the end of his summer offensive, German forces had laid siege to Leningrad, were within miles of Moscow, and not far from Rostov in the Ukraine. On December 6, 1941, the Russians began driving the Germans back.
Summer of 1942 put the Russians on the defensive again. Although they had regained Northern ground during the winter the Russians lost ground to the German Army in the South during the summer of 1942. Hitler's war machine was now laying siege to Stalingrad and spearheading a drive to Baku and its oil on the coast of the Caspian Sea. November and the Russian Army ended the German hopes. December 7, 1941 had spelled disaster for the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.
There was an air of both dread and expectancy in the news. It seemed as though the Axis was going to conquer the world. Fear is a strong motivator. In January of 1943, Sgt. Frank Ream heard of a tank battalion that was being formed and that was in need of platoon sergeants. The transfer carried with it a promotion to the grade of staff sergeant. The extra pay would certainly help a newly married man. Many of the men of the 8th Armored were going to be cadre for the new 702nd Tank Battalion, Medium. At this time, all that Frank could see of this new opportunity was a chance to see his dreams come true. Little did he know that it would be his dream and his nightmare at the same time.
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