LaVern Fred Sackett
|Father||Fred Sackett (1882-1956)|
|Mother||Bessie Maud Olmstead (1886-1972)|
In 1930 LaVern was living at Alamo Avenue, Kalamazoo, MichiganG, in the household of his parents Fred and Bessie, and was recorded in the census as LaVern Sackett, aged eight and born in Montana.5
LaVern completed a World War II draft registration card on 30 June 1942. He was aged 19 and was employed at Welch Grape Juice. He was living in Mattawan, Van Buren County, MichiganG, and named his mother, of Gobles, Van Buren County, as next of kin.6
LaVern enlisted in the US Army at KalamazooG on 26 October 1942.7,8,9
LaVern Fred Sackett
He was the eighth child of Fred Sackett and his wife, Bessie M. Olmstead Sackett. He was born August 12, 1922. He married Mildred Marie Kimble on September 6, 1942. He died December 8, 1944, in combat as a Sergeant in the American Expeditionary Force in Germany.
The Kalamazoo Gazette issue of Thursday, January 25, 1945, published a dispatch by war correspondent Jack Bell who had spent the day on which LaVern was killed with the 115th Battalion. In that unit Sergeant Sackett was leader of the combat platoon which successfully spearheaded the assignment of that day, December 8, 1944, to smash all German resistance on the west bank of the Roer River just beyond the City of Koslar in West Germany. The writer pieced together a detailed account of LaVern's accomplishments, topped by the headline, "Heroic Last Day and Death of Sgt. LaVern Sackett, Local Soldier, Described by War Correspondent".
Jack Bell In Germany
Sgt. Sackett Dies But U.S. Victory Is a Little Nearer
By Jack Bell
Herald War Correspondent
With American forces in Germany (via Bomber Packet, Delayed)—Sgt. LaVern Sackett's day of drama written gloriously across the pages of American history, came to him just beyond the city of Koslar along the Roer river in western Germany.
The quiet, light-haired lad from Kalamazoo walked the battlefield with the fire and daring of Gen. Jackson himself, and tonight not a German gunner fires from the west bank of the river.
The 115th had the assignment to smash all resistance west of the river in this sector, a Jerry stronghold entrenched in a huge sports stadium and swimming pool.
Sgt. Sackett awoke at 3:30 a.m., assembled his platoon and they waited for orders to move. Soon they were in the open, moving across the large flat pasture toward the river.
Seven hundred yards from the arena they encountered a company from another regiment moving back. At just that moment the Jerries opened with burp guns. The men of the withdrawing company broke and ran, taking with them some of the fresh company, men who, in the confusion, thought a general retreat was on.
Sgt. Sackett ordered his men into trenches, left by the Germans. They were shallow and half-filled with water. The men dared not move, and at dawn a German self-propelled gun rolled down to the river and fired point blank at them.
Mortars rolled in, too, and after an hour a number of the men decided to make a break for the woods 300 yards to the rear. The sergeant ordered his men to stick with him. They obeyed, though the Jerries were giving them hell.
As morning advanced American planes came roaring low and the Jerry battery silenced, not wanting to show positions. The machine gunners and rifle men also dropped into their holes when the American planes strafed the whole area. Sgt. Sackett crawled forward, his men trailing.
Stroke of Genius
Many had been hit, a few killed. They couldn't evade a burp gunner set up in the corner of the swimming pool, so moved—not quite sure where they were going—between the arena and the pool, clear to the river.
Now, it developed that Sgt. Sackett's selection of position was a stroke of genius. It was so daring the Germans didn't dream he had done it. A Jerry stuck his head up over the river bank. An American gunner took good aim and knocked him dead.
Another German immediately came up to see what had happened, and he, too, was killed.
Sgt. Sackett deployed his men—he had but 14—so they could command a long stretch of the river bank, the near corner of the swimming pool on their right and a stone house on the left, and they were in a depression which hid them from all three positions.
No Right To Be There
These 15 men lay low and shot true from mid-morning until 3 in the afternoon. No Americans were near them. They knew nothing about the rest of the war. But every time a Jerry showed his head he was picked off.
The Jerries, unable to find where the bullets came from, kept coming toward that area, feeling sure no Americans would be so foolish as to be there. And none who came got away to report.
Sgt. Sackett left his men at 3 o'clock and worked his way back to the battalion command post. "We've got to get some information, sir," he reported. "We're 200 yards from the swimming pool but no Americans are near us."
"We'll soon fix that," said the colonel. "I want you, sergeant, to get in this tank and lead these two assault guns up to that pool. Can you get them close enough?"
'It'll Be Dangerous'
"If they don't get knocked out," replied the sergeant. "It's naked out there. If you'll knock out two pill boxes in there we'll take the pool. I've 14 damn good soldiers up there."
"Can you get back to them?"
"I got out. You never know. I'll try."
"Well, you stay with the tanks. We'll send a runner to your men and tell them to move soon as the tanks do their job."
"Are your tanks well armored?" he asked the tank officer.
"No," he replied. "They're really not tanks. They're mounts for assault guns and built for speed."
"It'll be dangerous then."
"Sure," he said. "Are you ready, sergeant?"
"Let's go," was Sgt. Sackett's quiet response. "Can you hit them corners?"
"You're damn right, we can. We'll show you."
Sort of 'Let Down'
An hour later, as I lay along an embankment up front looking at the arena and wreckage of the pool Sgt. Sackett came along. The runner sent to his gallant fourteen hadn't reached them. At least they hadn't moved into the pool. The doughty little soldier dropped beside me.
"I'm weak as a kitten," he said soberly. "When I get into a thing like this battle I'm mad as hell; want to go get the jerries, kill 'em all. And it was fun watching the tanks knock that pool down, after I knew we were out of that counter fire. Now, it's quiet for a minute or two and I'm sort of let down."
The lad seemed mystified at his condition, unaware that less courageous men would have folded. Not realizing that he had been under tremendous strain for 14 hours. I tried to talk quiet chatter to him, but 'twas not easy, lying out there under zooming planes, the thunder of guns, the deadly cracking machine gunners.
'We're Whittled Down'
"What now?" I asked finally.
"I'm trying to work my way back to the platoon—what's left of it," he said. "They're all right, those 14 men. I started this morning with 40. Now we're whittled down to 17, those 14, two radio men with a set that won't work, and me."
"You've had quite a day," I suggested.
"Yes," he said, slinging his carbine over his shoulder in preparation to move, "but a good day. We got a lot of them today, and every one we get brings the war nearer to the end. This is no place for Americans. I want to go home."
"Good luck to you," I said.
"I'll need it," he replied. "I've got to go across some open space, and jerry can look right down my throat. Good bye to you—and don't take too many chances."
I watched him slipping through the woods toward the open pasture. I turned back, for darkness was near, and worked toward the battalion C.P., thinking of the rare courage, the responsibility, the gigantic stature these lads attain under the thunders of war.
They got Sgt. Sackett late this afternoon. He never got across that open space. They brought him back to the company, still alive, but all knew . . .
"We got a lot of 'em," he said, "but they got me. I'd liked a crack at the Rhine, but . . ."
Then he died, and no one spoke in the crowded cellar . . . until the colonel said, "A real soldier just died, men."
—The Miami Herald, Florida, 17 Jan 1945, p. 13.
Notes & Citations
- Andrew P Sackett, Ancestors and Descendants of Frederick Plummer Sackett, published by the author (1983), 128.
- Website Find a Grave.
- "Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952", digital image, Ancestry.com, "5 Sep 1942, at Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, MI, LaVern Fred Sackett, 20, of Mattawan, MI, Welch Co employee, b. Sand Creek County, Montana, father Fred Sackett, mother Bessie Olmstead; to Mildred Marie Kimble, 19, of Mattawan, Welch Co employee, b. Lawton, MI, father Lowell Kimble, mother Ella Timm. By William C Perdew, Minister, First Methodist Church. Witnesses: Howard Quering, Eleanor Quering, both of Paw Paw, MI."
- 1930 US census, digital image, Ancestry.com, Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0022; FHL microfilm: 2340733
Alamo Ave, Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, 8 Apr 1930
Sackett, Fred, head, home rented $35 pm, 48, m. at 24, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. US, fireman?/foreman?, public school
Sackett, Bessie, wife, 43, m. at 20, b. MI, father b. NY, mother b. MI
Sackett, Wayne B, son, 22, single, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI, machinist, paper mill
Sackett, Beatrice A, dau, 20, single, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI, finisher, paper mill
Sackett, Kenneth, son, 18, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Frank, son, 17, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Ida, dau, 15, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Vivian, dau, 13, b. MT, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Herbert, son, 10, b. MT, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, LaVern, son, 8, b. MT, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Richard, son, 3, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI
Sackett, Bernard, son, 10/12, b. MI, father b. MI, mother b. MI.
- "U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940–1947", digital image, Ancestry.com, "Serial N150, LaVern Fred Sackett, Gen Del, Mattawan, Van Buren County, Michigan, age 19, b. Wolf Point, Montana, 12 Aug 1922, contact Mrs Fred Sackett, R2, Gobles, Van Buren County, emp Welch Grape Juice, Mattawan, race white, ht 5' 10", wt 160, eyes blue, hair brown, complexion light. Reg Paw Paw, Van Buren County, MI, 30 Jun 1942."
- "US World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938–1946", database, Ancestry.com, "Sackett, Lavern F, b. Montana, 1922, res. Van Buren County, Michigan, enlisted 26 Oct 1942 at Kalamazoo, MI, Private, educ 4 years high school, occ shipping and receiving clerk, married, ht 68, wt 140."
- "U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954", database, Ancestry.com, "Sackett, Lavern F, enlisted man, age 22, admitted Sep 1944, discharged Oct 1944, casualty, in line of duty, removal of foreign bodies, thorax, thigh, cause artillery shell, length of service 1y 6m, discharged for duty."
"Sackett, Lavern F, enlisted man, age 22, admitted Dec 1944, casualty, battle, in line of duty, died."
- "U.S. Rosters of World War II Dead, 1939–1945", digital image, Ancestry.com, "Sackett, La Vern F, Technical Sergeant, Protestant, cemetery Michigan, branch Army."
|See also||Andrew P Sackett, Ancestors and Descendants of Frederick Plummer Sackett|
|Appears in||Notable Sacketts|
Sacketts in the Military
|Sackett line||3rd great-grandson of Aaron Sackett|
|Charts||Line 3a (American)|
Descendants of Frederick Plummer Sackett
|Last Edited||26 Oct 2021|