Richard V. Buck


August 13th marks 75 years since the first Mount Ephraim serviceman was killed during World War II. 
Buck Residence 359 Shedaker St. (left)
Richard Vincent Buck was born on October 31, 1915 in Philadelphia, PA to parents William Henry Buck III and Lydia Spencer Bowes. The family lived in the 359 Shedaker Street in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.  William was a tool maker and machinist for the Midvale Steel Company in Philadelphia while Lydia tended to her home and 4 boys.  William Henry IV, the eldest of the Buck children was born in 1909, Edward Norman born in 1913, Richard in 1915, and lastly, Victor Quinton was born in 1917.

In early February 1920, Richard's mother was not feeling well.   On the 10th of February, Doctor T. Carroll Davis came by the house to diagnose and treat her illness.  Lydia was suffering from influenza and her condition only worsened by contracting pneumonia.  Just one week later, she died at the age of 39.  A heartbroken William was now solely left to care for his 4 children.  Or at least, that is what he believed.  It is still unknown as of now the arrangement that was offered, but Lydia's sister, Elizabeth "Bessie" Denof and her husband, Joseph of Barrington, NJ took custody of brothers Edward and Victor shortly after the death of their mother while William and Richard continued to live with their father.
  
By 1924, Richard and brother William Jr. (IV) were attending the Paxson Public School at Sixth and Buttonwood Streets. Ever since their mother had died,  William Sr. (III) bestowed all his love upon his children.  He would bring books home for the boys to read. He wanted to give them the best education possible. Times had proven very tough for William Sr. though. He'd lost his employment with the Midvale Company after it was bought out by the Bethlehem Steel Company and had been searching for a job well into the month of July with no luck.
  
In the early evening of July 16th, William Sr. wearily returned to his residence at 520 North Fairmount Avenue in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia.  It was yet another fruitless day of finding work.  His son, William Jr. told his father that the constable had left a notice on the door.  William Sr. read the letter which stated in no uncertain terms, that a levy was placed on their furniture and would be sold off in the morning.  It further and more importantly stated that the constable was to return at that time to carry out the eviction of the family.  Feeling defeated, William Sr. put his hand on his son's shoulder and said, "Well boys, this is the end." 
William Sr. allowed the children to stay up late into the evening. The boys listened to a radio their father had purchased for them the prior winter.  William finally sent the boys off to bed upstairs on the third floor of the house.  Shortly after 9 the next morning, William Jr. came downstairs to his father's bedroom to find his limp body laying on the floor with a pistol clutched in his right hand.   He tried to wake his father but had no success in rousing him. Frantically, William rushed out the door and down the block to find help.  He found Patrolman Stulz, who was directing traffic at Fifth and Fairmount Aves.  Stulz called Dr. Richard Burke, a local physician and they repond to the scene to try and render assistance.  It was no use though.  William Sr. had shot himself through the heart.
Police discovered a note left by William which asked that custody of the boys be given to their Aunt Bessie Denof.  Along with the note, two insurance policies were found with the intention that they be collected by Mrs. Denof and used for raising and educating his children.  Fearing these insurance policies would lapse, and the fact that he could no longer provide for his children, William resorted to taking his own life.  Only 42 cents were found in the house.  The boys had not eaten since noon the day prior when their father bought a loaf of bread and divided it between them, eating nothing himself.
  
Richard and his brother, William.
Courtesy of Courier Post 7/18/1924
 The boys were taken to the police station at Third and Fairmount Avenues by Lieutenant Stickle, where the matron, Mary Gilman prepared breakfast for them.  Aunt Bessie Denof was notified of the situation and arrived later that afternoon to take custody of Willam and Richard.  Upon arrival, Bessie embraced the two Buck children saying, "My poor little boys.  No harm shall ever come to you.” 

By 1930, the Denofs and Buck brothers moved from Barrington to the 100 block of Bell Road in Mt. Ephraim, where Richard and his younger brother, Victor were attending grade school. According to the 1940 census, Richard was working at the Campbell Soup Company in Camden and living with his aunt and uncle who had now moved to 212 Fifth Avenue in Mt. Ephraim. 

816th Tank Destroyer Battalion Patch
On April 8, 1942 Richard entered in the army at Fort Dix, NJ. After completion of basic training, he was sent to Camp Cooke in Santa Barbara, California (now known as the Vandenberg Air Force Base) and assigned to Headquarters Company of the newly formed 816th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The tank destroyers were created to assist the infantry by taking out enemy armor units.   The 816th Tank Destroyers utilized the towed M5 3-inch gun. The M5 was developed in the United States as an anti-tank weapon. It combined a 3-inch (76.2 mm) barrel of the T9 anti-aircraft gun as well as elements of the M2 105 millimeter howitzer. The M5 was initially issued exclusively to US Army tank destroyer battalions.  The gun was usually towed by a M3 half-track personnel carrier.
M5 3" Anti-Tank Gun
M3 Half-Track Vehicle

It was 3:30 in the afternoon of August 13, 1942 and Richard had been into his second month of training at Camp Cooke. The truck he was driving suddenly overturned, crushing his spine, jaw and left arm. These horrific injuries killed Buck instantly.  Two days later, PFC Buck’s casket was loaded onto a rail car and transported back to New Jersey.  A representative from the 816th T.D.B., Corporal Krwawecz was detailed to escort his remains home.

Grave marker of Richard V. Buck
His body was returned to the area on August 20th and the funeral arrangements were carried out by his uncle, undertaker William M. Denof. On August 22, 1942, Private First Class Richard V. Buck was laid to rest at the New St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bellmawr, NJ. He was survived by older brothers William and Edward, younger brother Victor, and his foster parents Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Joseph Denof. You can find Richard’s name is inscribed on the memorial at Veterans Triangle on Davis Avenue. 

Just one more note about the 816th Tank Destroyer Battalion. It was one of only 6 that remained in the U.S. during World War II. By February 20, 1945, the battalion had disbanded and some 600 of their men had been shipped to the Philippines, serving as replacement infantry men for the the 112th Cavalry Regiment. 

May their sacrifice never be forgotten.

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