In honor of Memorial Day, I am posting on my grandfather. A World War II veteran killed in Germany 18 days after Victory in Europe.
Joseph Lucas was born 13 December 1907 in Northbridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Polish immigrants, Roman Luksys and Catherine Paskruba. Joe (as he was called by friends and family) was the second oldest of their six children. They resided in Massachusetts until they moved to Michigan about 1911. Roman and Catherine changed their last name from Luksys to Lucas sometime between 1913 and 1920, more than likely to make it more “American”. Roman died sometime between 1920 and 1924.
Joe, along with his brothers, probably helped out on the family farm so they probably didn’t finish any schooling past the 6th grade.. Joe also worked as a riveter for Ford Motor Company and this is probably where he was working when he met his future wife, Teresa Pakledinaz. They were married on 14 Sept 1935 in Carleton, Michigan. Joe and Teresa had four children throughout their marriage: Elizabeth (1936), Joseph (1937), John (1939), and Nancy (1941).
Joe and Teresa had a falling out sometime at the end of 1942 that led to a divorce on 5 May 1943. The reason for the divorce was probably Joe’s second wife, Thelma Sabol. They were married a little over a month later on 21 June 1943. It was later this year, October 15 to be exact, that Joe entered the US Army. It is not known whether Joe enlisted voluntarily or he was drafted. Most men of his age and his number of children were not drafted, but he may have been. There are many indications that Joe regretted his divorce from Teresa and his marriage to Thelma. First was that in Aug of 1944, Joe removed Thelma as his Beneficiary; he put just his kids names. In addition, in a letter to Teresa, dated 8 Jan 1945 Joe stated that he did not have much use for Thelma anymore. The army may have been Joe’s answer to get away from his problems.
Joe’s indoctrination to the army took place at Camp Grant, Illinois. After that, he was transferred to his permanent unit, the 70th Infantry Division, The Trailblazers. They were located at Camp Adair, Oregon. He was first with L Company, 275th Infantry Regiment but was later assigned to Battery B, 882nd Field Artillery Battalion. It is not known why he was transferred between units of the 70th. With the 882nd is where Joe would spend his combat time through Europe.
Joe’s unit sailed from Boston on 8 Jan 1945 aboard the USS Mariposa and arrived in Marseilles, France on 18 Jan. From there Joe traveled with his unit through France until they were reunited with the infantry regiments of the 70th ID, 7th US Army. Their first taste of combat was at Diebling, France. The 882nd Field Artillery mainly fired in support of the 274th Infantry Regiment. The 70th ID major battles were fought through Spicheren Heights, Forbach, Stiring-Wendel, and finally crossing the Saar River and taking Saarbruecken thus cracking the Siegfried line and entering Germany. After the battle for Saarbruecken was over, the 70th was put in reserve and their basic duties consisted of mopping up and policing duties. The 882nd Field Artillery was located near Neuhoff, Germany when they celebrated Victory in Europe day on 8 May 1945. The battalion was still on the move and by 11 May, they were moved to Hanau. Battery B, Joe’s unit, was assigned to the village Bischofsheim and then on the 25th moved to the village of Bruchkoebel. Their job was to evacuate that portion of the Hanau Kreis as it was declared a part of the SHAEF (Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Forces) security area.
On 26 May, Joe was assigned to guard a food warehouse near Hanau. At approximately 1400hrs, German civilians raided the warehouse compound. Joe’s partner, Pfc John Morris, (according to a predetermined plan) went to the third floor of the warehouse, thinking Joe was right behind him, and started shooting towards the civilians. After most of the civilians had left the area, PFC Morris headed back to the ground floor to round up what civilians were left. He found PFC Lucas laying in a train boxcar, dead. The investigation of the incident found that PFC Lucas was shot through the neck by a round fired by PFC Morris, who was firing in the line of duty. The investigating officer found that there was no fault and the incident was just a misfortunate accident. This all took place 18 days after the war in Europe was over.
Joe’s body was first buried at Margraten on 31 May 1945 at 1640hrs; he was buried in grave 260, row 11, plot DD. His brother, Edward, made the decision that Joe’s final resting place should be overseas. Joe’s final burial would take place on 25 April 1949, where he was laid to rest in plot O, row 6, grave 12 of the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.
Joe was neither the perfect soldier nor the perfect husband, who is? However, one thing is for certain, Joe loved his children. Elizabeth is the only one that has faint memories of her dad; she was 9 yrs old when he died. Nancy, who was only 3 yrs old when Joe died, has no memory of her dad at all. Back in 1999, when the family finally learned of Joe’s final resting place and the circumstances of his death, a letter was found written by Joe back in January 1945. This was probably the last letter Joe wrote to Teresa and his kids before he died. After Nancy read the letter, she said that at least now she knows her dad loved her. The first line in that letter read “...here’s a big kiss and hug for the children with their daddy’s love.” Moreover, the last line of that letter read, “...with all my love to the kids from their daddy.” Joe loved his kids.
My deepest appreciate goes out to all those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and to their families who must now go through life without them.
Chris – Proud grandson of Pfc Joseph Lucas!