Private 1st Class Ralph E. Adams (1925–1944)

Ralph E. Adams (Courtesy of the Newark History Museum, enhanced with MyHeritage)
ResidencesCivilian Occupation
Pennsylvania, DelawareMill worker (likely for Continental Diamond Fibre)
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32956435
TheaterUnit
EuropeanAntitank Company, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartNormandy

Early Life & Family

Ralph Everett Adams was born in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, on May 19, 1925. He was the son of Lawrence (1895–1938) and Lillian Adams (née Buckingham, later Carmine, 1903–1976).  He had two younger sisters, Elizabeth V. Adams (later Walker, 1927–2010) and Cora Adams (who died as an infant in 1930).  According to his military paperwork, he was Protestant.  As of April 11, 1930, the family was living in Upper Chichester Township, Pennsylvania.  Adams’s father was working as a carpenter in a factory at the time, though he was described as a laborer eight years later, when the family was living on Garfield Avenue in Milmont Park, Pennsylvania.

Adams’s father was killed at work when a wall collapsed on him at the corner of Front and Jeffrey Streets in Chester, Pennsylvania, on December 20, 1938.  The Adams family subsequently moved to Delaware, where Lillian Adams was born and still had family.  When he was recorded in the census on April 18, 1940, Adams was living in White Clay Hundred in New Castle County, Delaware (on “Road #18 Christiana–Newark,” today’s Route 273).  At the time, Adams, his mother, and younger sister were staying at the house where his uncle and aunt (Charles and Lorraine Buckingham) and his three cousins lived.

According to his enlistment data card, Adams completed two years of high school.  When he registered for the draft on May 19, 1943, the registrar described him as standing about five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 210 lbs., with blond hair and blue eyes.  His address was initially listed as 121 Wollaston Street in Newark.  He moved to 95 South Chapel Street before entering the service.  Adams was a mill worker before he was drafted—probably at Continental Diamond Fibre, located across the street from his residence.


Military Career

Adams was inducted into the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey on August 19, 1943.  The State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record—presumably filled out by his mother or sister—stated that he went on active duty on September 10, 1943, at Fort Dix, New Jersey.  She wrote that he began training at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, on September 18, 1943.  Adams was promoted to private 1st class at some point.  An August 3, 1944, article in The Newark Post reported that Adams “volunteered for overseas duty.”  According to the Individual Military Service Record, he left Camp Van Dorn around March 5, 1944.  

It appears that same month, Adams joined Antitank Company, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, at either Fort Dix or Camp Kilmer, both in New Jersey.  It is unknown if Adams was assigned to company headquarters, one of the company’s three antitank platoons (each platoon armed with three 57 mm antitank guns), or the antitank mine platoon.  He went overseas from the New York Port of Embarkation on March 23, 1944.

Elements of the 90th Infantry Division arrived at Utah Beach on the afternoon of D-Day in Normandy, June 6, 1944, with the rest of the division landing two days later.  The division was soon bloodied during tough fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy.  The primary objective of the U.S. VII Corps (including Private 1st Class Adams’s division) was to secure the Contentin Peninsula, capturing the port of Cherbourg in the process. 

9th Infantry Division soldiers advance “through [a] breach in hedgerow made by bulldozer” in this photo from the Normandy campaign (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives)

In his book The Americans at Normandy: The Summer of 1944—The American War from the Normandy Beaches to Falaise, John C. McManus wrote that the 90th Infantry Division had considerable difficulties upon entering combat that

boiled down to two major problems: poor preparation and poor senior leadership. The soldiers of the 90th Division were well trained, well equipped, and more than willing to fight, but they had not been properly prepared for the challenging hedgerow terrain. This was the single greatest failing of the pre-invasion planning. The Allies, especially the Americans, thought too much about how to get ashore and not enough about how to deal with the unique Norman terrain.

The 90th Infantry Division after action report that month reported that on June 23, 1944, “The 358th and 359th Infantries relieved the 507th Parachute [Infantry] Regiment in the areas South of the Douve River.”  During the next few days were relatively quiet, aside from patrolling—and fending off German patrols. 

Although there are discrepancies in various documents, Private 1st Class Adams was most likely hit by artillery fire in the early morning hours of June 26, 1944.  Rushed to an aid station, by 0250 hours, he had succumbed to “multiple shrapnel wounds.”  The only effects found on his body were an Orvin wristwatch, his wallet, his Social Security card, and one mechanical pencil.

That afternoon, Private 1st Class Adams was buried at the U.S. military cemetery in Sainte-Mère-Église (Plot E, Row 4, Grave 61).  After the war, on July 20, 1947, Adams’s mother wrote a letter to the Quartermaster Corps Memorial Division requesting that her son be repatriated to the United States.  In accordance with her wishes, his body was disinterred on April 21, 1948, and transported from Cherbourg to the New York Port of Embarkation aboard the U.S.A.T. Greenville Victory.  Private 1st Class Adams’s body finally reached Newark on July 7, 1948.  After a service at the Robert T. Jones Funeral Home in Newark on July 11, 1948, Private 1st Class Adams was buried in the Newark Cemetery.


Notes

121 Wollaston Street

121 Wollaston Street is not currently a valid address in Newark.  There is a Wollaston Avenue, but that street has no 100 block, only a 400 and a 700 block. 

Date of Death

The August 3, 1944, article in The Newark Post stated that Adams “was killed in Normandy on June 26 in an anti-tank attack with the infantry.” The Individual Military Service Record gave a date of death of June 29, 1944, and his headstone and a July 8, 1948, Journal-Every Evening article has the date of June 24, 1944. 

After the war, the Army made an investigation due to contradictory reports concerning his date of death (most notably the burial record, which stated that he died on June 24, 1944).  In an October 24, 1947, memorandum, investigator Rolfe A. Sauls wrote in part:

3.  Entries appearing in this soldier’s Service Record, WD AGO Form No. 24, state that he died due to enemy action, at Cherbourg Peninsula, 26 June 1944.

4.  A carbon copy of a Medical Card, Form 52B, Medical Department, shows that the subject was tagged at a Dressing Station at 0250 hours, on 26 June 1944 as having been killed in action from multiple shrapnel wounds.  Disposition is shown as “Cemetery”, at 0500 hours on 26 June 1944.  Another Medical Card, Form No. 52B, Medical Department, signed by Sgt Frank Rinelda, MD, shows the subject person tagged at Seventh Corps Cemetery No 2, at 1300 hours on 26 June 1944, as killed in action.

5.  It is considered that information shown on the medical cards constitute sufficient evidence to conclude that the date of 26 June 1944, as originally reported, is the correct date of death of Pfc Adams, and it is recommended that no action be taken to change this date.

Photo Enhancement

The portrait on this page was digitally enhanced using tools on the genealogy website MyHeritage.  This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, because the original print was fuzzy and had to be photographed behind glass).  I believe this to be a generally accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph. For instance, the eyelash details were based on the software’s interpretations of a shadowy area with little detail. 

Comparison of the original (left) and the product of MyHeritage’s enhancements (right)

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Newark History Museum for the use of their photo and to Tyler Alberts (90th Division historian).


Bibliography

90th Infantry Division after action report for June 1944.  The 90th Division Association website. http://www.90thdivisionassoc.org/afteractionreports/Scans/junjul44/90th%20Div%20AAR%20June%2044%20pt%201.htm

McManus, John C.  The Americans at Normandy: The Summer of 1944—The American War from the Normandy Beaches to Falaise.  Tom Doherty Associates, 2004.

“Mrs. Lillian M. Carmine.” The Morning News, February 26, 1976. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/84581528/lillian-carmine-obituary/

New Castle County 1940 census map.  National Archives. https://1940census.archives.gov/search/?search.result_type=map&search.state=DE&search.county=New+Castle+County&search.city=&search.street=#searchby=location&searchmode=browse&year=1940

Pennsylvania Death certificates, 1906–1967.  Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5164/images/42342_645856_0580-02758, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5164/images/42342_647661_0647-03127

“Pfc. Adams’ Funeral Will Be Held Sunday.”  Journal-Every Evening, July 8, 1948.  Pg. 29. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/58380711/pfc-ralph-e-adams/

“PFC Ralph E. Adams.”  Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47702776/ralph-e_-adams

Ralph E. Adams Individual Deceased Personnel File.  National Archives.

Ralph E. Adams Individual Military Service Record, January 28, 1945.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17479/rec/1

“Ralph Adams is Killed in France.”  The Newark Post, August 3, 1944.  Pg. 1. https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/18940/np_035_26.pdf

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946.  Revised ed.  Stackpole Books, 2006.

“Table of Organization and Equipment No. 7-19: Infantry Antitank Company, 57-mm Gun.”  War Department, February 26, 1944.  Military Research Service website. http://www.militaryresearch.org/7-19%2026Feb44.pdf

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4639364_00577

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00327

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954.  Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704943107-adams-ralph-e

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_05_00001-00494


Last updated on September 3, 2021

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