In Memory of
Private First Class
Roland D. Becker
Marion, South Dakota
Turner County
June 19, 1921 – September 17, 1944
Died of Wounds Received in Battle near Brest, France

Roland D. Becker

Roland D. Becker was born June 19, 1921 on a homestead near Chinook, Montana.  Roland was the second son born to David and Marie Becker.  When Roland was one year old his family moved back to South Dakota, and they lived in the Marion, Freeman, and Parker area.  Roland graduated from the eighth grade, which was held in a one-room country school six miles north of Freeman. When his family moved to the Marion area, Roland enrolled himself in the Marion High School because an education was important to him.  While attending high school, Roland participated in boys’ basketball.  He was also chosen as bass singer in the high school quartet.  He graduated as a member of the Marion High School Class of 1939.  During his time in school he worked as a stock boy in Temple’s Variety Store in Marion.  He used his money for graduation expenses like senior pictures, a class ring, and a new graduation suit.

After graduation Roland, along with his older brother Alvin, went to Chicago to find work.  While there Roland met a girl from Virginia whom he married on October 17, 1942.  Her name was Beulah Harrison and they had six wonderful months together before he was drafted into the U.S. Army on February 5, 1943.  Private Becker took his basic training in Fort Hood, Texas, and throughout his time in the army Private Becker communicated with his wife only by letter and phone.

Almost his entire company came down with spinal meningitis.  Out of the entire company only three men were considered fit for combat and Private Becker was one of them.  He used sick leave in the summer of 1943 to go home to his wife Beulah.  They then traveled to Marion to visit Private Becker’s family.  It was the last time they would see him. Private Becker then went back to his home in Chicago and went on to finish his basic training in Louisiana.  After basic training he was shipped out to England, where along with many others trained for the D-Day Invasion.   Private Becker participated in the Normandy Beach Invasion.  This invasion took place on June 6, 1944.  Private Becker went ashore at Omaha Beach on the second day of the invasion, which was on the morning of June 7.  He was wounded on June 8.  Private Becker was shipped back to England where he recuperated and then rejoined his company on June 20.  In the days he was gone there was almost a 100 percent turnover in his company.  The men he had trained with and had become friends with had been wounded, killed in action, or taken prisoner.

When Private Becker came back from England his unit was in the battle of St. Lo.  When this battle was won, allied troops had an open path to Paris; however, Private Becker and his company had a different mission.   They were sent to Brest France to drive the Germans out of their submarine pens.  Brest is on the northern coast of France where the German submarines were creating too many problems for allied shipping.  It was here that Private Becker was wounded a second time.  The date was September 14, 1944.  He died three days later on September 17, 1944 as a result of his wounds.  His family was notified by telegram about a month later of his death. 

Private Becker received the following awards and citations from the U.S. Army: Combat Infantryman Badge, Two Purple Hearts, Two Bronze Stars for gallantry in Action, EAME (Europe-Africa-Middle-East), Medal with Arrowhead for landing on Omaha Beach, Bronze Battle Star – Northern France, World War II Victory Medal. Private Becker also received the following awards and citations from the government of France: Croix de Guerre with Palm, 29th Battalion, 175th Infantry – for operations September 12 – 16, including the capture of Fort Keranoux near Brest, France.

His sister Irene vividly remembers the time that Roland was going to put up a really good tire swing with chains for all of them.  The only problem was when he tested it the whole thing came crashing down.   This was such a blow to his ego that he refused to come into the house for lunch. Doloris, another sister, recalls the time that Roland and his older brother Alvin went to Sioux Falls to see a movie.   This was an activity that had not been approved by the church leaders.  Neither one of the brothers disposed of the ticket stubs and the stubs were found by their mom.  She in turn consulted dad.  The result was a severe reprimand and a promise never to repeat this activity.  Doloris overheard Roland tell their mother that he would not have to read a book for his book report because he had just seen the story in a mere two hours. Harley, the youngest brother, recalls the time he was four years old on a family fishing trip.  They went to the James River Dam on the Fourth of July.  They had cane poles, tackle, and worms for bait.  At some point in the trip, Harley discovered that he ranked pretty low in the family pecking order – no tackle for him!   He whined long enough that big brother Roland cut a willow twig and tied a piece of store string with a safety pin to it.  He then put a worm on it and sat him in a safe place to fish.  This was the best fishing pole ever because when he pulled it out of the water, a nice Bluegill was on the end. 

Thomas B. Larkin, The Quartermaster General, notified the father of Private Becker by letter dated March 11, 1949, that the remains of his son were permanently interred side by side with comrades who also gave their lives for their country.  Private Becker’s gravesite marker shows him to be Private First Class Roland D. Becker.  Roland is buried in Normandy near St. James, France.  Only one of Private Becker’s nephews, Richard Becker from Canistota, has had the honor of visiting his gravesite.  

Private Becker was survived by his wife Beulah, who is now deceased, his parents David and Marie Becker, who are now deceased, his brother Alvin, who is now deceased, his sisters Irene, who lives in Sparta, Wisconsin, Dolores, who lives in Downers Grove, Illinois, and his brother Harley, who lives in Topeka, KS. 

Roland Becker is remembered fondly by those who knew and loved him. He was a wonderful son, brother, and husband. It is the unselfishness of individuals like Roland D. Becker who have helped preserve the freedom that Americans will forever enjoy. 

This entry was respectfully submitted by Roland Becker’s great-great niece Erin M. Smith, 11th Grade, Parker High School, Parker, South Dakota, April 30, 2002.  Information for this entry was provided by Harley Becker, Topeka, KS, brother of Private First Class Roland Becker.