Pvt. Richard W. Graff
| Pvt. Richard
W. Graff was born on February 17, 1913, to Frank
Graff and Frances Prusvoscky-Graff.
With his two brothers and sister, he grew up in
Chicago at 4354 South Princeton Avenue. He
left high school after one year and was employed
by the Chicago Tribune as an advertising
order clerk for eleven years. He was known
as "Rick" to his family.
Richard was married to Cecelia Fleischer. On January 21, 1941, knowing that it was just a matter of time until he was drafted, Richard enlisted in the United States Army. He had always had a desire to serve his country. At the time, he had no idea how fateful this decision would be for him.
After enlistment, Richard was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. His drill sergeant was Ben Morin. At the same time, Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion was formed creating vacancies in the rosters of the tank companies. Since B Company had been an Illinois National Guard Company and Richard was from Illinois, he was assigned to B Company as a radio man, but he was also qualified as a tank driver.
During this training, Richard and the other new members of the 192nd were housed in tents. Being it was late winter, the heaters did not always keep them warm. It was while living in the tent that Richard became friends with Ed DeGroot who had been assigned to A Company.
Richard finished his training as a radio
operator and with Company B and was assigned to
In the late summer of 1941, Frank took
part in maneuvers in Louisiana.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was
ordered to remain behind at Camp
Polk. None of the members of the
battalion had any idea why they were
there. On the side of a hill, the
members learned they were being sent
overseas as part of Operation
PLUM. Within hours, many men had
figured out they were being sent to the
During the trip to the Philippines, Rick wrote to
his wife, "Our letters will take
longer to reach each other from now on because
of the distance. I'll bet it is
10,000 miles. Don't worry. I don't believe
I would want a furlough after all. It
costs too much from where we are going, and I
don't like the idea of traveling too much. If I
do go home, I want it to be for
For the next two months, he would fight the Japanese as they advanced in the Philippines. During the Battle of Bataan, Richard and the other tank battalion members, were assigned to guard the eastern beaches of Bataan at Limay, that faced Manila, against a possible Japanese landing. It was during this duty, that the tanks of B Company were engaged in a "fire" fight with Japanese ships.
To prevent the Japanese from locating the tanks and half-tracks assigned to guarding the beaches, the tankers would move their tanks out onto the beaches at night and into the jungle during the early morning. Every morning a Japanese reconnaissance plane known to the Bataan defenders as "Recon Joe" would fly over the jungle trying to locate the tanks. Since the jungle canopy was so thick, the Japanese had no idea where the tanks were or how many tanks the Americans had.
One morning, an attempt was made by a Sgt. Walter Cigoi to end the daily flyovers of Recon Joe. Sgt. Cigoi pulled his halftrack out from under the jungle canopy onto the beach and started shooting at the reconnaissance plane. His attempt to shoot down the plane failed. As a result of this decision, the Japanese now had a good idea where the tanks were located. Twenty minutes later, four Japanese dive bombers flew to the location and pasted the tanks and half-tracks.
According to Frank Goldstein, when the bombs began exploding, Richard and him were about five feet apart. To hide from the bombs, Frank dove into a hole, while Richard attempted to hide beside his tank. Unfortunately, his tank provided very little protection. The falling bombs were exploding upon contact with the tree canopy high above the tanks. This situation resulted in shrapnel flying in every direction.
When the bombing ceased, Richard was found, by Frank and other member of B Company, crouching beside the side of his tank with his hands on the shielding the sides of his head. Frank recalled that Richard had a "peaceful" look on his face. Since they did not see any wounds at the time, they did not know that Richard had been hit in the back of the head by a small piece of shrapnel . Richard was 28 years old when he died. It should be mentioned that Richard was also the first former employee of the Chicago Tribune to die in WWII. The flag on top of the Tribune Tower was flown at half-staff in his honor.
Pvt. Richard W. Graff was reported Killed In Action on Tuesday, February 3, 1942. He was buried in the Cabcaban Army Airfield Cemetery in Plot B, Row 1, Grave 8 . His mother received word of his death on February 7, 1942. When his wife, Cecilia, learned of his death the same day, she told a reporter of the Chicago Tribune, "Rick wanted to go last January and be a radio operator with the army. I was proud at the time and am prouder now." A memorial service was held at Saint Cecilia's Church was held on February 11, 1942. On April 11th, the Chicago Tribune dedicated an employee service flag. Richard's wife and mother were present at the ceremony.
On November 15, 1942, a service flag was dedicated in his neighborhood on Chicago's Southside. Over 1000 people were present for the ceremony. The flag had 194 blue Stars and two Gold Stars to indicate the two men from the neighborhood who had died in service.
After the war, in 1946, his remains were recovered at Cabcaben Army Airfield Cemetery. His family had his remains returned to Chicago. He was buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery on October 19, 1948. Today, he lies next to his mother and father at the cemetery on the southwest side of Chicago .