Floyd's Box

William Wayne Weems

© 2007 by William Wayne Weems


Photo of Floyd and Inez.
My wife's Aunt Melissa found a cardboard box in a closet at their family home in the Pyburn Community of Hardin County, Tennessee.  It contained those personal items recovered from the body of her father, Private Floyd Harvey Cooper, US Army 34904328.  Floyd had been killed in France on September 8th, 1944, during World War II.  We carefully examined the items within the box.  There was a wristwatch with a broken metal band, but nothing else showed any signs of violence.  There was a box of single edged safety razor blades without a razor.  A black plastic comb, a soap dish and a brush case with no brush.  And a wallet with a Masonic crest, which contained an old and faded French bank note and several crisp "liberation" notes.  I at once recognized the design of the French flag on the new paper money as being copied from one of a series of US Postage stamps commemorating the liberation of nations overrun by Axis armies early in that war (the "Poland" stamp is pictured below).

Photo of a Poland commerative U. S. stamp.

This was therefore money printed for the Free French government by the US authorities.  There was also an insert containing identification cards, photos of unknown military people and more than one photo of my wife Sue and her late Mother Inez.

Photo of Sue and her mother, Inez.

All Sue had been told of her father was that he had been drafted, trained, sent to Europe as a replacement soldier and was killed shortly after his arrival there.  I resolved to find out more.
By all accounts Floyd was a hard worker with a wonderfully cheerful disposition.  He was very proud of his beauty queen wife and their new family.

Photo of Floyd and Inez.

When drafted Floyd seemed to feel nothing untoward would happen to him, but he told Inez she could rely on his Masonic brothers and her Eastern Star sisters if she needed assistance before his return.  Upon his arrival in Europe he was assigned to the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion of the Seventh Armored Division, part of General George S. Patton's Third Army.  That force was then storming across France.

Photo of a poster with a map of the route of Third Army.

Shortly after Floyd was assimilated into "A" company his command attempted a surprise crossing of the Moselle River at Dornot, south of Metz in the Lorraine region of France (the double wall icon in the above map).  An assault unit crossed by boat but encountered a greatly superior German force. There followed a violent two day long battle, but the troops across the river could neither maintain their position or be properly reinforced due to the hail of German shellfire that fell on both sides of the river. When dark fell on the second day the assault force had to be withdrawn back across the river. Our forces suffered very heavy causalities and Floyd was reported as missing.  Later it was determined he was among the dead.
After the war a French lady wrote Inez that she had been the grateful recipient of assistance by the crew of an American "tank".  She inquired after another of the armored vehicle's soldiers only to learn the entire crew had perished together in the battle referenced above.  She obtained the names of the men she had known from the local military cemetery (Inez had Floyd's remains removed to the States as soon as she could arrange to do so) and their addresses from a friendly grave registration trooper.  As a gesture of her gratitude this lady even sent Sue a handmade toy from France.

Photo of a French handmade toy.

Since Floyd's company didn't seem to have any real "tanks" it was likely the French lady was referring to another kind of armored vehicle, like this 23rd Armored infantry "half track" pictured after a fatal shell hit a month earlier.

Photo of a U. S. Army Half-Track.

The American "Sherman" tanks usually burned after suffering a hit sufficient to kill the entire crew, but Floyd's belongings were not singed, which further increased the likelihood he was riding in another kind of armored vehicle as pictured above. Gazing at a pristine photo of Sue and her Mother that had been removed for scanning (and is reproduced above) you could easily see how one might be moved to send a toy to the cute little girl in that picture.  Sue quietly returned the photo to the wallet, and the wallet to the box.
The French lady kept corresponding with the familles of the dead crew until the Mother of the man she had first inquired about bought her a ticket to the United States.  Alas, they did not get along well, and the bereaved Mother lost so much money in assisting the French girl that she was compelled to move into a "barracks" her State maintained for indigent "Gold Star Mothers".  After that development Inez was careful to avoid the French lady, and never learned what more that woman might have told her about her husband's last days.
Sources: MIA letter, KIA letter from Inez's papers; from the Internet, post war "battle diary" of the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion. Link to website with latter file available for download in Microsoft Word/WordPad format upon request.

Contact William

(Messages are forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)

William's Story List and Biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher