|Maryland, Delaware||Auto mechanic|
|European||Company “C,” 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion|
|Purple heart with oak leaf cluster (presumed)||Northwest Europe (presumed), Battle of the Bulge|
Early Life & Family
George Gilbert Barnett was born in Pleasant Hill, Maryland on October 27, 1913, the son of Albert Stanley Barnett (1892–1969) and Myrtle S. Barnett (1896–1925). By June 5, 1917, the family had moved to Newark, Delaware. Census records provide regular glimpses into his life. By January 14, 1920, the family had moved to Cleveland Avenue in Newark, Delaware. His military records recorded his religion as Protestant.
George was only 11 years old when his mother died. He dropped out of school after completing eighth grade. As of April 2, 1930, he was living with his father and grandparents at 30 East Cleveland Avenue. Father and son were laborers in a fiber mill. (It may have been Continental Diamond Fibre, the vulcanized fiber factory where Albert was working when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 and again on April 27, 1942.) As of April 12, 1940, he and his father were lodgers living at 151 East Cleveland Avenue in Newark. At that time, the younger Barnett’s occupation was listed as auto mechanic.
When Barnett registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was working for the Fader Motor Company. He registrar described him as standing approximately five feet, five inches tall and weighing 180 lbs., with brown hair and gray eyes. An annotation to his draft card indicated that he subsequently moved to Elkton, Maryland before he was drafted.
Barnett married Frances Ann Hitchens (1919–1978) in Cecil County, Maryland, in November 1941. A notation in Private Barnett’s Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) indicated that the couple had one daughter, Barbara Ann Barnett. They family may have lived at 138 East High Street in Elkton, the address where his wife and daughter lived during the war.
Barnett was drafted and entered the U.S. Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey on June 18, 1942. His civilian occupation at the time of induction was recorded as filling station or parking lot attendant. By December 1944, Private Barnett was a member of Company “C” of the 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion, a unit equipped with M18 tank destroyers. During operations in Northwest Europe during the fall of 1944, Company “C” had been attached to Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division.
On December 18, 1944, two days after the Battle of the Bulge began, his company was assigned to the defense of Bastogne, Belgium. According to a battalion document (“Historical Record of 609 Tank Destroyer Battalion for Period 20 September  to 1 January 194”), Private George G. Barnett and Technician 5th Grade Harry D. Greene were “wounded 21 December but were killed by a direct bomb-hit on the aid station, 24 December.”
According to a summary of the case in a postwar document, GREE 293.9 (Headquarters 7887th Graves Registration Detachment Registration Division), “Information contained in a letter of the 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion indicated that; subject casualties were detained in the aid station, due to the combat situation which prevented their evacuation.” Indeed, Bastogne had been encircled by German forces.
The incident was mentioned on page 156 of S.L.A. Marshall’s book Bastogne: The First Eight Days:
That night the town was bombed twice. During the first raid, in the late evening, a bomb landed on the hospital of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion near the intersection of the main roads from ArIon and Neufchâteau. It caved in the roof, burying 20 patients and killing a Belgian woman [Renée Lemaire] who was serving as a nurse.
In an eyewitness account of the bombing, Dr. Jack T. Prior wrote:
At 8:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, I was in a building next to my hospital preparing to go next door and write a letter for a young lieutenant to his wife. The lieutenant was dying of a chest wound. As I was about to step out the door for the hospital one of me men asked if I knew what day it was, pointing out that on Christmas Eve we should open a Champagne bottle. As the two of us filled our cups, the room, which was well blackened out, became as bright as an arc welders torch. Within a second or two we heard the screeching sound of the first bomb we had ever heard.
Dr. Prior continued:
We hit the floor as a terrible explosion next door rocked our building. I ran outside to discover that the three-story apartment serving as my hospital was a flaming pile of debris about six feet high. The night was brighter than day from the magnesium flares the German bomber pilot had dropped. My men and I raced to the top of the debris and began flinging burning timber aside looking for the wounded, some of whom were shrieking for help. At this juncture the German bomber, seeing the action, dropped down to strafe us with his machine guns. We slid under some vehicles and he repeated this maneuver several times before leaving the area. Our team headquarters about a block away also received a direct hit and was soon in flames. A large number of men soon joined us and we located a cellar window (they were marked by white arrows on most European buildings). Some men volunteered to be lowered into the smoking cellar on a rope and two or three injured were pulled out before the entire building fell into the cellar. I estimated that about twenty injured were killed in this bombing along with Renee Lemaire.
According to his I.D.P.F., Private Barnett was listed as missing in action from December 24, 1944 until March 22, 1945, “when evidence considered sufficient to establish the fact of death was received by the Secretary of War from the Commanding General, European Area.”
In 1950, government officials determined that his remains were nonrecoverable. For that reason, Private Barnett was memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial near Liège, Belgium as well as on the Barnett headstone in Newark Cemetery. His widow did not remarry.
Men Killed in the Aid Station Bombing on December 24, 1944
The following nine men were among the approximately twenty people who died along with Private Barnett when the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion aid station was bombed. They were listed in a document in Barnett’s I.D.P.F. (GRRE 293.9, Headquarters 7887th Grave Registration Detachment Registration Division) and like him, their bodies were not recovered. Grade, name, service number, and unit are listed. I have corrected incomplete or inaccurate units. The only major correction is that Sergeant Houghton erroneously listed as a member of the 20th Armored Division on original document.
Staff Sergeant Paul F. Finnegan, 31248313 (Company “H,” 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division)
Sergeant Robert C. Brechko, 32476700 (Company “C,” 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division)
Sergeant Robert C. Houghton, 32553423 (20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division)
Technician 4th Grade John H. Schmitz, 36271547 (2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division)
Corporal Franklin O. Wallow, 36408717 (Company “B,” 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division)
Corporal Alexander M. Giles, 37236964 (Company “D,” 2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division)
Technician 5th Grade Harry D. Greene, 35381588 (Company “C,” 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion)
Private 1st Class Clarence C. Ochszner, 37317243 (Headquarters Company, 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division)
Private David Siegel, 32964764 (796th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion)
Click to any document to view a larger copy from Barnett’s Individual Deceased Personnel File (National Archives, courtesy of Geoffrey Roecker).
It is unclear if Barbara Ann was Barnett’s biological daughter or whether he adopted her after marrying Frances Ann Hitchens. Unfortunately, Maryland records from this time period appear to be incomplete. During my research, I contacted one of her cousins, R. Paige Stephens, who pointed out a fact that I’d overlooked: Barbara Ann Hitchens appeared on the 1940 census living with her mother and grandparents at 210 East High Street in Elkton, Maryland. The census recorded Barbara Ann as Frances Ann Hitchens’s sister rather than as her daughter, either due to an error by the census worker or because the family supplied inaccurate information, suggesting she was born out of wedlock.
According to Stephens, around 1956 or 1957, Barbara Ann married a Howard J. Greene in Elkton. Shortly thereafter, she was stricken with a sudden illness and died.
The photo at the top of the page was digitally enhanced using tools on MyHeritage, a genealogy website. This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, because the original was poor quality and had to be photographed rather than scanned). I believe this to be an accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph. A comparison of the original and enhanced versions of the photo can be viewed below.
Special thanks to Geoffrey Roecker, Webmaster & Lead Researcher at Missing Marines (www.missingmarines.com) for providing Private Barnett’s I.D.P.F. Thanks also to R. Paige Stephens for providing information about Barnett’s daughter, and the Newark History Museum for the use of their photograph.
“After Action Report for Period 1 to 31 Dec 1944 Inclusive.” Headquarters 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion, dated January 1, 1945. Tank Destroyer.net. http://tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/609th_AAR_Dec_44-14_pages_incl._S-3_Rpts.pdf
“Extracts of After Action Reports, World War II Company C, 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion.” Tank Destroyer.net. https://www.tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/609th_AAR_Extracts_Co._C_Oct_8_1944-May_8_1945-5_pages.pdf
General Index to Marriages Males A to Z Aug. 1, 1941 through Oct. 14, 1942, Cecil County, Maryland. Maryland Public Archives. https://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/coagserm/cm300/cm354/000000/000022/pdf/msa_cm354_000022.pdf
“George Gilbert Barnett.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/114440550/george-gilbert-barnett
“Historical Record of 609 Tank Destroyer Battalion for Period 20 September  to 1 January 194.” Tank Destroyer.net. http://tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ArticlePDFs/609th_Hist_Rcd_Dec_15_41-Jan_1_45-15_pages_incl._commanding_off.__casualties.pdf
Individual Deceased Personnel File for George G. Barnett. National Archives, courtesy of Geoffrey Roecker.
Marshall, S.L.A. Bastogne: The First Eight Days. Infantry Journal Press, Washington, D.C., 1946. https://history.army.mil/html/books/022/22-2-1/CMH_Pub_22-2-1.pdf
Prior, Jack T. “The Night Before Christmas – Bastogne, 1944.”
“Pvt George G. Barnett.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56356999/george-g.-barnett
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295771-01073
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00833
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00196, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/M-T0627-01545-00162
U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/46351771:60901?indiv=1&ssrc=pt&tid=106175629&pid=310050629049&usePUB=true
World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6482/images/005207029_00386
World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Delaware. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1002/images/DE-2240331-1195
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_10_00001-01982
Last updated on October 10, 2021
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