SECOND LIEUTENANT DOWLING B. DEACON was born in 1916 to Clifford K. Deacon Jr. and his wife Ada. In 1930 Clifford Deacon Jr. was an assistant bank manager, and the family lived at 6120 Walnut Avenue in Pennsauken NJ. The Deacon family later moved to 127 Woodlawn Avenue, in the adjacent town of Merchantville NJ. Besides Dowling B. Deacon, the family included his twin sister, Margaret L, older brother Clifford K. III, and older sister Elizabeth. His grandfather, Clifford K. Deacon Sr., had been in the express business in Philadelphia in the late 1880s, living in Camden NJ at 134 North 11th Street. By 1890 Clifford Deacon Sr. had gone into the loan business, and was living at 733 South 10th Street in Camden. He later purchased a house at 618 State Street in Camden NJ, where in 1920 he had held the position of sergeant-at-arms in district court.
Dowling K. Deacon was a graduate of Merchantville High School. The November 24, 1942 evening edition of the Camden Courier-Post reported that he had recently been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army after graduating from Officer's Candidate School at Fort Benning GA. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1432d Infantry Regiment, a component of the 36th Infantry Division.
After crossing the Atlantic to North Africa, in August 1943 the 143rd Infantry Regiment was reassembled in Algeria and again commenced amphibious training. On September 9, 1943, the Regiment participated in the first invasion of the Europe mainland. It went ashore near Salerno at a small town called Paestum. The Regimental Cannon Company, now the Mortar Company, destroyed the first German Tanks by the American forces on the European continent. As historical records indicate, one of the bloodiest of battles was fought on the sands of Salerno Bay.
Two days after landing in Italy, on September 11, the First Battalion, then Division Reserve, was dispatched to assist the US Rangers in the Amalfi area. This battalion remained with the Rangers until the first week in October. As part of the Ranger force, the battalion was the first American force to enter the City of Naples. In the meanwhile, the balance of the Regiment fought savagely in the Altavilla area, but suffered severe losses. A German counterattack resulted in the loss the Sele and Calore River "anchor", the Second Battalion was severely mauled by overwhelming German Forces.
The Third Battalion had moved into the village of Altavilla, but were driven out on September 13. There was failure at Altavilla, but in the Sele-Calore corridor the situation came close to disaster. Here the 2d Battalion, 143d Infantry, had arrived during the night of September 12 and relieved the 179th Infantry. Assuming defensive positions two and a half miles northeast of Persano, the battalion set up antitank guns and laid a few hasty mine fields.
Any uneasy feelings the men on the low ground of the Sele-Calore flood plain might have had were heightened when reconnaissance patrols reported no contact with friendly units on either flank. On the right the nearest American units were three miles away and engaged at Altavilla. On the left the 157th Infantry on the north bank of the Sele was protecting the Persano crossing two and a half miles to the rear. Though 45th Infantry Division commander Major General Troy H. Middleton had informed VI Corps Commander Major General Ernest Dawley that the 157th Infantry covered the positions in the Sele-Calore corridor, he was mistaken, and 36th Infantry Division commander Major General Fred Walker had accepted Middleton's word without checking. But during the morning of September 13 and through most of the afternoon nothing happened in the corridor except the arrival of an occasional incoming round of artillery.
Around 3:30 PM more than twenty German tanks, a battalion of infantry, and several towed artillery pieces moved from the Eboli area toward the tobacco factory just north of the Sele River, where the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, occupied defensive positions. As artillery shells began to fall in ever-increasing numbers among the Americans, about half a dozen German tanks struck the American left flank and some fifteen hit the right.
Counteraction was immediate. Tanks and tank destroyers, Cannon Company howitzers and 37-mm. antitank guns rushed forward and opened fire. Division artillery, directed not only by forward observers but by two aerial observers, fired almost continuously.
The German attack rolled on. When two Mark IV tanks and several scout cars suddenly appeared within 150 yards of the battalion positions, some American infantrymen gave way. Not long afterward, when German tanks temporarily encircled the battalion headquarters, control vanished. As men of the 1st Battalion straggled back into the positions of the 2d Battalion, 157th, which by then was also engaged, the Germans pushed to the Persano crossing and drove the 1st Battalion from the tobacco factory.
Having uncovered the crossing over the Sele River, the Germans entered the Sele-Calore corridor and struck the left rear of the 2nd Battalion, 143d Infantry. Other German tanks and infantry had by this time come into the corridor near Ponte Sele and cut around the battalion right. Both German thrusts outflanked the battalion. Improperly deployed, holding poor positions on the low ground, told by the battalion commander to remain under cover, the men stayed hidden while requests went out for artillery fire. Because calls were coming in from Altavilla at the same time and because the artillery was not altogether sure of the battalion's location, the volume of fire did not arrive in the amount necessary to break up the attack. Nor was there much, if any, small arms fire from the men of the battalion.
Continuing to push from both flanks, the Germans overran the American positions. More than 500 officers and men were lost, most of them captured. Only 9 officers and 325 men eventually made their way back to American lines.
Dowling Deacon was taken prisoner during this action, on September 14, 1943. He was taken to Germany and sent to Stalag XV111 A at Wolfsburg, in what is now Austria. He subsequently was sent to a branch camp at the nearby town of Spittal an der Drau. This camp was later designated Oflag XVIII C, and held only officers, while the nearby Stalag XVIII AZ held enlisted men. On October 16, 1943 he was shot by a German sentry guarding the prisoners. Shot through the arm and lungs, he was taken to a hospital in Draudling where he died from internal bleeding. Although the shooting apparently was unprovoked, the guard was not disciplined.
Dowling Deacon was re-interred permanently at the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold, France.
The text of this newspaper article was forwarded to this website from Congressman James Saxton's office. The staffer who sent it was not aware of what newspaper it was published in or when. I'm fairly certain that it was from a spring 1944 edition of the Camden Courier-Post
S. Jersey Officer Slain in Camps
A letter from an American soldier formerly held prisoner by the Germans disclosed yesterday that a German sentry shot and killed another prisoner, Lieutenant Dowling B. Deacon, 27, of Merchantville, N.J. on October 16, 1943. The officer was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Clifford K. Deacon, of 127 Woodlawn Ave.
This letter from Sergeant F.
Seymour, dated from Brussels May 18, was written to his brother, George Seymour, of Bayonne,
N.J. It stated that "young Dowling was murdered by a Hun sentry from a range of about
20 yards. The sentry was not punished but merely transferred
to another prisoner camp, the letter said."
November 6, 1943
Lt. Col. Charles H. Jones submitted his report to Col. Drake on the recent murder of Lt. Dowling B. Deacon by a German sentry at Lager XVIII AZ, Spittel, Germany, Austria.
The report was typed and posted on the bulletin board for every American officer to read. Extract follows:
On October 10, 1943, Lt. Deacon and Lt. McGaffin, South African Army, were taking their daily exercise by strolling up and down the camp promenade. For some unknown reason, a crazy sentry on duty ordered everyone to go inside the building, threatening the group with his poised rifle. Through curiosity, Lt. Deacon and Lt. McGaffin halted at the fence to ask the sentry what the excitement was all about. The sentry wheeled about, threw his gun on Lt. McGaffin, who immediately threw up his hands in defense. The German, jabbering something about his folks at home having been bombed, threw the rifle on Lt. Deacon, leveled it and cold-bloodedly shot him. The bullet entered his chest, penetrating one of his identification tags, which is in my possession. The next day Lt. Deacon died.
A copy of this was mailed to the Germans, but I am not sure that anything can be done about it.
Source: Colonel Doyle R.Yardley, Home was Never Like This: The Yardley Diaries, a World War II American POW Perspective, edited by Charles A. Turnbo (Evergreen, CO: Yardley Enterprises, 2002), pages 90-91
of War - Adjutant General
According death certificate died in hospital at Drauedling from internal hemorrhage after shot in lungs and arm over a month after capture by the German Government.
The individual named on the obverse side of this report is shown by the records of the War Department to have been captured by the German Government on 14 September 1943 and remained in that status until the receipt in the War Department of evidence of death transmitted by the German Government through the International Red Cross, date of said termination being 6 January 1944. He was never reported as a prisoner of war."
RETURN TO CAMDEN COUNTY WAR DEAD INDEX
RETURN TO MERCHANTVILLE NJ WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL PAGE
RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE