Chester A. Lane
704th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Before the War
Chester Lane was born on February 3, 1924, in the small, rural farming community of Ogilville, Indiana. He was the oldest son of Marion and Carrie Lane. He was later joined by siblings Charles, Dorothy, Albert, Margarie, and Bettie. The family rented a small farm where they grew tomatoes, potatoes and corn primarily for their own use.
Marion Lane worked at Noblitt-Sparks, a manufacturer of radios and radio tubes. Unfortunately he fell down an elevator shaft, was seriously injured, and went on disability. Needing to feed their growing family, Carrie Lane went to work at Noblitt-Sparks in 1939.
Chester and his siblings attended the Kobbe School, a small one-room school in Ogilville. He attended this school through eighth grade.
Chester helped raise his younger brothers and sisters. His younger brother, Albert, recalls Chester putting him on his lap so he could help him learn to drive. Chester let his sister, Dorothy, tag along with him as well. She would sit in the backseat of Chester’s car while he took dates to the drive-in theater, often to the consternation of the girl he was dating.
The start of World War II in Europe meant better job opportunities for the Lanes. Wartime manufacturing boomed in nearby Columbus, Indiana. Chester dropped out of Columbus High School and began working at Noblitt-Sparks to help support the family.
On March 18, 1943, Chester was drafted in Bartholomew County, Indiana. He was 19 years old when he reported to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence, Indiana.
Chester initially trained with the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion, but he broke his arm playing football, interrupting his training for several months. Later he was attached to an infantry unit at Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi.
While in the Army, Chester continued to show concern for his family back home. He sent money to help care for his parents and siblings. In early 1944, Chester's family visited him at Camp Van Dorn. Chester seemed to be in good spirits but was worried about his upcoming deployment to Europe.
Chester's brother, Albert, recalled a conversation Chester had with their father right before leaving. In this exchange, Chester doubted that he would be coming home, because the Army training had not been sufficient to keep him alive. Earlier in the year, when his younger brother, Charles, was old enough to enlist into the military, Chester advised Charles to join the Navy. Chester felt that this was a safer route for Charles to take during the war. Charles heeded his brother’s advice, joined the Navy, served as a quartermaster in the Pacific Theater, and survived the war.
In August 1944, Chester was deployed to Europe as an infantry replacement in General George Patton’s 3rd Army. He was assigned to the First Platoon of Company C. Chester’s platoon was shifted around as needed as part of Operation Cobra under the codename “Harpoon.”
On November 8, 1944, Company C was assigned to the 37th Tank Battalion as they moved in and around the French city of Lenoncourt. The goal of this campaign was to control the strategically important city of Metz, France.
On November 11, 1944, Chester’s company was moving toward Oberek when they took mortar fire. The attack instantly killed seven members of his unit. Chester’s leg was severely injured. Chester survived the initial attack and the wound earned him a Purple Heart. However, Chester succumbed to his wounds and died three days later on November 14, 1944.
In late November 1944 the Lane family received a letter from General Hugh J. Gaffey and Lieutenant Colonel James W. Bidwell, commander of the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion. In notifying them of Chester’s death they wrote, “In losing him we feel that we have not only lost an excellent soldier and man but also a friend who can never be replaced.”
Many months after Chester’s memorial service at the Ogilsville Church of the Brotherhood, the family received his Purple Heart and memorial flag. They still cherish them.
Marion Lane decided that his son’s final resting place should be alongside his fellow soldiers. On April 26, 1949, the Lane family received confirmation of Chester’s final resting place. He is forever interred in the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France.
Arthur E. Caperhart to Carrie Lane. April 4, 1945. Courtesy of Dorothy Lane.
Ben Kobbe and the Kobbe School. Photograph. Courtesy of Jean Myer.
Birkemeier, Alan. Albert Lane with Purple Heart. Photograph. January 20, 2015.
Birkemeier, Alan. Purple Heart of Chester Lane. Photograph. January 20, 2015
Boyle, Joe. The Grave of Chester Lane. Photograph. July 20, 2015
“Chester Lane.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed November 2, 2014. http://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_45552#.VceOwPlViko.
Charles Lane. c. 1943. Photograph. Courtesy of Catherine Lane.
Charles Lane. c. 1944. Photograph. Courtesy of Catherine Lane.
Chester Lane, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.
Chester Lane, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Army, RG 319, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.
Chester and Charles Lane. c. 1944. Photograph. Courtesy of Catherine Lane.
Evening Republican. “Chester Lane Dies of Wounds; Hamilton Lost.” December 22, 1944. Bartholomew Public Library.
Evening Republican. “Memorial To Be Held Sunday.” January 16, 1945. Bartholomew Public Library.
H. Feldman to Marion Lane. April 26, 1949. Courtesy of Catherine Lane.
Indiana. Bartholomew County. 1940 U.S. census. Digital images. http://ancestry.com.
Lane, Albert. Personal interview. January 20, 2015.
Lane, Catherine and Jana E. Kae. Personal interview. January 13, 2015.
McMillan, Dorothy and Paula Turnbow. Personal interview. January 31, 2015.
Records for Chester Lane; World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [Electronic File], Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD [retrieved from the Access to Archival Databases at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-description.jsp?s=3360&cat=WR26&bc=,sl, December 1, 2014].
Tank Destroyer; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, World War II Combat Operations Report 1941-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 18624); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.