William Frazier Furr
1921-1945

 

 

William Frazier Furr II & William Frazier Furr III Margraten Cemetery, May 26, 2023

 

Wilma Linders Blom & Wim Linders, Dutch adopters of Frazier’s grave, May 26, 2023

 

William Frazier Furr, the first born son of Dr. Esta Furr, DDS and Lottie Winnafred Hansell, was born at 12:10 a.m. on July 10, 1921 in Acker-Boyd Hospital, Aberdeen, Mississippi. He weighed in at a respectable 8 pounds. His mother recorded, "Many, many congratulations especially from those we love best. Some from Tennessee, Florida and this book [his Baby's Record] came from California. Robert, little Corrinne, Virginia Hale, Mary Virginia were my little, little visitors. Everyone said I was going to be exactly like my daddy."

Brother Lewis christened Frazier at Pontotoc, Mississippi, on October 11, 1921. His first tooth appeared at 4½ months. He began to creep at 6 months, stood at 7 months, and walked at 13 months. His favorite toys were "Jim-dandy and Bob." His first word was "Dad-dee." Frazier's first trip out of town was a visit to his mother's home in Nettleton on Tuesday, July 9, 1921. They traveled on the "motor" with Mr. Griffin as the conductor and Frazier slept all the way.

Frazier was an only child for 14 months until the first of his three brothers, Esta Stanley, was born. He was 2½ when Marion Hansell was born and 9 when Richard Theron was born. The family lived at 401 Canal Street, Aberdeen, Mississippi. Frazier's father was a dentist, having graduated from Atlanta Southern Dental College in 1917. His mother was a homemaker and former teacher, having graduated from Mississippi Normal College, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1918.

Frazier enjoyed an active childhood, participating in a wide variety of school, work, social, and recreational activities. In 1923, his mother and father enrolled him in the local chapter of the Children of the Confederacy based on the service of his great granduncle, William Berry Hansell, who served with Company E, 9th Mississippi Infantry. In August 1938, he participated in the Annual Reunion, United Confederate Veterans, Mississippi Division and the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Amory and Aberdeen. With E.S. and Hansell, he delivered the Memphis Commercial Appeal and Evening Appeal newspaper to customers in Aberdeen. He was also a member of the Aberdeen Junior Chamber of Commerce and a leader in his church youth group. On Sunday February 26, 1939, he was Master of Ceremonies in a Young People's Service, held instead of the regular church service, so that the youth could present their Youth Crusade. He wore a new suit and shoes he had purchased the previous Friday at Webb's in Amory.

Frazier joined Troop 33, Boy Scouts of America, in December 1934. He earned 27 merit badges on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout on March 20, 1939. As scouts, Frazier and his brother, Hansell, shared many adventures. In June 1938, they, along with other members of their troop, helped Dr. W. A. Evans complete a register of the Odd Fellows Rest cemetery in Aberdeen (see The Journal of Mississippi History, July 1939). In 1939, this same group helped Dr. Evans mark the route of the old Gaines Trace through Monroe and Clay counties (see The Journal of Mississippi History, April 1939). [The public library in Aberdeen is named after Dr. Evans, whom Frazier admired very much.] In 1940, Frazier was on the staff of the Pushmataha Area Boy Scout Camp and was inducted into the Order of the Arrow.

Frazier was a good student, graduating as salutatorian of his high school class (94.75 average; the valedictorian had a 94.8 average). He played coronet in the band with his brothers E.S. on trombone and Hansell on piccolo. He was editor of the school newspaper, treasurer of the senior class, and played Lorin Gilbert in the senior play ("Marrying Margaret" by Charles George). He was voted Mr. Aberdeen High School and most intellectual boy. Frazier graduated from high school at age 17 on May 29, 1939. Less than a month later, his father died on June 22.

As the question of college loomed, Frazier considered a number of different schools. He set up a rating system for his final three choices giving Emory and Henry 226 points, Millsaps 233 points, and Ole Miss 360 points. On September 18, 1939, Frazier began his freshman days at the University of Mississippi. He roomed in the home of James Curtis Hartsfield, his first cousin, in Oxford that first year. Frazier prepared an "Inventory of My First Semester at Ole Miss":

If I am going to make an inventory, first I must know what an inventory is. According to Mr. Webster an inventory is "a catalog or list of goods or furniture." I have accumulated quite a collection of letters, test papers, themes, and souvenirs, a list of which would probably cover a dozen pages. An inventory of material things such as those, however, is not what I want to make. I want to search out that which has added to my broader views of life and helped in general to improve me.

Just a few days after I came to Ole Miss and after I had all my classes and schedules straightened out, I started working for Dr. Silver as a N.Y.A. helper. I soon saw that I was getting very little benefit from being general flunky for him; so as soon as I got an offer to work in the News Bureau I immediately took it. I have been working hard there both to improve my skills so that I will be better able to sometimes take a better position and to make enough money with which to pay expenses to go to school. I think that working in the News Bureau has given me not only a better insight into the complications of our University but also social and business connections with people whom I enjoy and who can help me.

Being a member of the Ole Miss Band has added much to my broader knowledge and enjoyment of life. It has helped develop further my appreciation of good music and increased my knowledge of playing. The trips that I have made with the band have added much to my store of knowledge and have taken me to places that I would have probably not seen for a long time. In connection with my music the Lyceum Artists Series also helped as well as did the Band Clinic that was held here. The Artists Series has also given a delightful comedy to add to the more serious matters that confront me.

From the Reserve Officers Training Corps I have gained much in both pleasure and understanding. I have a better understanding of our national defense problems and of life in the United States Army. Under the head of pleasure comes the enjoyment every boy gets from shooting a good gun and being a part of a military organization.

It will seem to the reader that all I think of is pleasure and so-called outside activities. The reason is that the immediate effect of most extra-curricula activities is more noticeable than most of regular courses studied at any school. The difficulty of seeing exactly and definitely what I have been getting out of my other studies is to (sic) great for me. I know, however, that there are benefits even just in knowing more; also if they had no benefits they would not be a part of the school.

A very vital point in my inventory is "did I get all I could have out of the first semester?" Since I am very much like the average person, I fear that the answer will be that fatal "No." I just haven't put the time on most of my studies that I should have. In high school I got out of the habit of concentrating, and now I am suffering for it. Neither do I budget my time so as to get as much done as possible. Usually because of my habit of not concentrating, I struggle half-heartedly with a subject until late, and make myself unfit for school the next day. In general I have more or less coasted and not done all I should or could have. All that can be said is that I will try harder next semester.

Frazier's grades that first semester were History--B, English--B, Military Science--A, Math--A, Geology--A, and German--A.

As in high school, Frazier was very active throughout his college career. He was a member of Phi Eta Sigma Freshman Scholarship Fraternity, Freshman Career Conference, Freshman YMCA Cabinet, the University Band, Faculty-Student Registration Days Committee, M Book staff, News Bureau staff, Managing Editor of the Mississippian, NYA scholarship, dormitory monitor, Senior YMCA Cabinet, Religious Emphasis Committee of 100, President of the Wesley Foundation and was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership fraternity. He was the outstanding ROTC cadet his freshman year and was appointed cadet captain in command of the band company his senior year. He graduated on May 31, 1943 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. On June 5, 1943, he was awarded a Secondary Permanent Professional License to "teach for life in the Public High Schools of the State" of Mississippi.

However, instead of answering the call to teach, Frazier answered the call of his country and enlisted in the United States Army. His brothers, Esta Stanly (ES) Furr and Marion Hansell Furr, also served in World War II.  Frazier wrote his mother almost every day while he was in the Army.  His first letter was dated August 6, 1943 from Fort McClelland, Alabama.  He described his experiences at the Induction Center and stated, “I think I am going to like the Army all right.”  On August 7, he wrote from Fort McPherson, Georgia, where he began processing for Officer Candidate School (OCS).  On August 14, he wrote from Fort Benning, Georgia, where he began OCS.  On March 4, 1944, Frazier “washed out” of OCS.  He was given a certificate for completing the Special Course in Infantry Weapons and Minor Tactics.  On March 8, he wrote his brother ES with advice about OCS including, “don’t be conversational, be commanding.”  On March 18, he was at the 2nd Army Replacement Depot, Camp Forrest, Tennessee.  On March 25, Frazier was assigned to the heavy weapons Company D, 1st Battalion, 309th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division based at Camp

 Pickett, Virginia.  At this time, the 78th was a training division and as a Corporal Frazier participated in and supervised lots of different training including "mule handler" training in Front Royal, Virginia, which Frazier called “shoe school.”  On June 9, he wrote, “The invasion [D-Day] caught us flat-footed.”  On June 10, he surprised his brother, Hansell, in his room at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and they spent the weekend there and in Washington, D.C.   He returned to Camp Pickett on June 19.  On August 9, 1944, elements of the 309th were deployed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in response to a transit strike.  Frazier rode the “Elevated-Subway” for the first time.  The unit returned to Camp Pickett on August 18.  On September 25, Frazier reunited with his brothers, ES and Hansell, in Baltimore.  They had individual photos and a group photo made.  On October 3, Frazier wrote he was “somewhere on the East Coast.”  On October 6, he wrote a letter from “At Sea” where he described the conditions on board ship and stated, “… although the ole ocean hasn’t been too rough, I couldn’t contain my first breakfast.”  In his first letter from England dated October 26, he described the arrival in port and the unit being billeted in a “’otel” in disrepair but better than a tent.  Frazier’s last letter to his mother from England was dated November 17, 1944. 

The 78th Infantry Division, composed of the 309th, 310th, and 311th Regimental Combat Teams, arrived on the continent of Europe on or about November 22, 1944.  His first letter “On the Continent” was dated November 28, 1944.  His next letter was dated Belgium, December 4, 1944.  The 309th first saw combat on December 13, 1944 as part of a major offensive, the Battle of the Hüertgen Forest, to capture the Roer River dams near Schmidt, Germany. The unit’s first attack, north and east of Monschau, Germany, quickly resulted in a stalemate on December 15th. They held the village of Simmerath for the next month, during which time the Germans launched their Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge). The 309th's position lay close to the main supply route for the northern end of the German offensive.  Frazier’s next letter to his mother was dated Germany, Christmas 1944.  “I am still well and feeling fine.  I have been in battle but can not tell any experiences until later when they won’t be of any value to the enemy, if any.  We are very fortunate to be spending Christmas in a quiet place where we are hungrily anticipating turkey for dinner.”  On December 31, Frazier was promoted to Staff Sergeant and was appointed squad leader.  On January 5, 1945 he received the Combat Infantryman Badge.  Sometime between January 6 and 9, “me and a booby trap, anti-personnel mine (whatever you want to call it), has a little run-in.  I think I won although it left little hunks of shrapnel in my right cheek.”  He was treated in the field and remained with his unit.  On January 17 he received the Purple Heart for this wound.  On January 19 and 20, he was “on a 48-hour pass” somewhere in Holland, “living like civilized folks again for a while.”

The 309th resumed the offensive in late January 1945.  On February 1, Frazier wrote his mother declining her offer for underclothes ("not yet anyway"), inquiring about the activities of his brothers, and describing each member of his squad. Frazier’s last letter to his mother was dated February 3.  He asked about his brother, Hansell, and said, “There is very little news.  Things are still pretty quiet on our front.”  On February 7th the 309th Infantry attacked through the woods to Kommerscheidt, just north of Schmidt.  They met little opposition until they reached Kommerscheidt.  There a heavy concentration of mortar fire sent the men diving into water-filled shell holes and foxholes, relics of the November fighting.  On February 9th, the 309th was moved into a recently abandoned German labor force camp at the edge of the great Schwammenauel Dam, and a member of Frazier’s mortar squad, PFC Anthony Carmine Fattoruso, was killed.  It was 1800--after nightfall in this period of short winter days--when the leading 1st Battalion, 309th, passed through the 311th Infantry and headed for the dam.  Groping through the darkness, the 1st Battalion upon approaching the dam split into two groups, one to gain the top of the dam and cross over, the other to reach the lower level and take the power house.  As they advanced on the dam, their position was subjected to intense artillery and mortar fire.  On February 10th, Frazier was hit in the shoulder by a piece of shrapnel.  He was treated by a medic but died on the way to an aid station.  The 1st Battalion, 309th Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their action during the Schwammenauel Dam battle.

At 1:45 p.m. on February 11, 1945 Staff Sergeant William Frazier Furr was buried in grave #35, row 2, plot K, American Military Cemetery, Margraten, Holland.  On February 24, 1945, his mother was notified of his death by Western Union telegram with a letter arriving from the unit chaplain soon thereafter.  On August 24, 1945, Frazier's high school classmate and fellow soldier in the 309th Infantry, Thomas Holmes Love, wrote to Frazier's mother from Germany.  In a thank you note Frazier's mother sent to those who helped console her, she included the following excerpt from Frazier's letter to her of January 3, 1945.

I went to church Sunday out in the snow. The chaplain talked on "Watch Ye Therefore"--Words, Actions Thoughts, Companions, and Heart. He had some good thoughts and a poem about looking upward--not backward because of failures and past worries, not forward because you see only uncertainty, not inward because of a feeling of smallness to the job but upward into the shining face of God for guidance and strength.



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