Paul Kenneth King was born at Oneida, Tennessee, the son of Kirby Sherman King and Savannah Tennessee (Tennie) Smith.
He was initially buried at Fosse Cemetery at Namur, Belgium and reburied at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, H, 7, 31.
From the book ‘Blood and Fury” by Stephen L. Moore. The WW II Story of Tank Sergeant Lafayette “War Daddy” Pool:
Background: SSgt Lafayette ‘Wardaddy’ Pool, and the crew of ‘In the Mood’, were one of the most effective tank crews in the 3rd Armored Division. Their normal position was at the front of the assault. The rest of the crew consisted of Wilbert ‘Baby’ Richards the driver. Assistant Driver/Bow Gunner Bert Close. Loader Del Boggs. His cannon gunner, Corporal Willis ‘Groundhog’ Oller. The crew held a record, estimated by “conservatively’ of destroying 275 enemy vehicles. Two hundred and fifty enemy soldiers captured. And over 1000 enemy soldiers killed or wounded.
The crew of ‘In the Mood’ were being held back awaiting orders to go to the United States to be in a War Bond Tour. Del Boggs had been sent to the rear to a place of safety. His younger brother had recently been killed in combat. The CO of the division did not want both brothers lost in combat. As Stephen Moore wrote:
On the 19th of September 1944: The 3rd Platoon of tanks were held up by a gulley with steep banks. While they were waiting “an Item Company jeep came racing up from the rear procession. It screeched to a halt near Pool’s M4A1. As the dust settled, a young soldier hopped out and walked up to ‘In the Mood’.
Private First Class Paul Kenneth King, a twenty-year-old from Anderson County, Tennessee, told Pool, “I’m your loader for the day.”
Pool invited the young man to climb aboard and assume the position of Oller’s shell loader. Close was relieved to climb back into his usual assistant driver’s seat alongside Wilbert Richards. As King was introduced to the crew, Mangan received word from his scout team that a satisfactory crossing point had been located through the ravine.
As the leading elements of I Company advanced through the ravine, Pool’s platoon was taken under fire from their right side from a well-disguised enemy. German Panthers were roaming about Stolberg. One had been seen to move out as the Americans pushed forward, but another remained unaccounted for. In the heat of action, no one was certain whether the incoming shells had been fired by the missing Panther or from an 88mm anti-tank gun.
It didn’t matter. Pool’s tank and those ahead of him were caught without warning in the German gunners’ crosshairs. The first barrage hit a nearby H Company tank. Pool shouted at Oller to take a shot. ’In the Mood’s’ regular loader Del Boggs, had never missed a beat, but his replacement – who had joined the crew only minutes earlier- struggled to quickly load his next shell.
Pool sensed that his gunner was unable to fire as quickly as needed. He wasn’t about to wait for the Germans to unleash another round.
“Back her up Baby” he hollered.
But before Richards could get ‘In the Mood’ into reverse, the German anti-tank crew found its mark. Their second 88mm shell slammed into the side of the turret. To Pool it sounded like a cathedral bell as the round passed through the turret and out the other side of their tank as if it was constructed of tissue paper.
The shell’s path through ‘In the Mood’ was devastating. It hit the ammo rack full on. The shell or part of it, hit king in the head. The round also sliced through Oller’s left leg and through Pool’s leg behind him. The force of the explosion blew Pool right out of the hatch. He hit the ground, then tried to get to his feet, but his right leg was nearly severed. He collapsed as the maimed limb gave way under his weight.
When Oller came to, he was also on the ground about 20 yards behind the tank, having bailed out or been blown out of his hatch by the explosion. In the fog of pain and shock, the previous seconds had been little more than a blur. He felt warm blood on his leg and looked down. His left leg was shredded just above the knee, with bone and tissue exposed as blood spurted from the wound.
Two of his comrades were still alive inside ‘In the Mood’. Baby Richards and Bert Close slammed their hatches open, ready to evacuate if their Sherman went up in flames and threatened to detonate the ready 76mm ammunition. Close turned around and saw his new young loader slumped over on the floor. He wasn’t moving. The German round that had caught him in the head had killed him instantly.
Richard had already shifted his tank into reverse before the shell struck home. Without Pool’s or Oller’s vision above to guide him, he simply drove ‘In the Mood’ straight backward, hoping to escape the hellfire of the German gun crew that had locked onto them.
But ‘In the Mood’ made it back only thirty yards before another round rocked the Sherman. The second 88mm shell ripped through the M4 A1 in almost the same place. Once again the lives of Close and Richards were spared. Their tank was still not ablaze, so Richards simply kept moving swiftly in reverse to clear the range of the anti-tank gun. Oller, still recovering from shock, looked up to see his own tank surging backward towards him. He was unable to stand, but somehow managed to roll his body out of the path of the churning tank tracks.
Baby Richards’ blind retreat was short lived. As ‘In the Mood’ reached the edge of the ravine, the M4 lurched as its treads encountered a large crater. He and Close were slammed against the steel of the interior as the tank rolled onto its side and flipped upside down. It came to rest three-quarters over-turned. There were just enough space for Richards and Close to crawl out of their escape hatches. As the German gun continued to fire and other Shermans issued high explosives in return, the pair scurried underneath their shattered vehicle to take cover.
Earth and vegetation blasted skyward all around as a heavy German artillery barrage chewed up the area around three shattered American Tanks. In the midst of the pounding, Richards and Close crawled back into ‘In the Mood”. Together, they wrestled King’s body through one of the hatches and laid him on the ground underneath their Sherman.
PFC Paul King served aboard ‘In the Mood’ for less than hour.
- Rank: Private First Class
- Date of birth: 22 January 1924
- Date of death: 19 September 1944
- County: Anderson
- Hometown: Clinton
- Service Branch: Army/Army Air Forces
- Division/Assignment: 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division
- Theater: Europe
- Conflict: World War II
- Awards: Purple Heart
- Burial/Memorial Location: Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium
- Location In Memorial: Pillar VI, Top Panel
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