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Remembering World War II
Name: Raymond Curtis Balser Rank: Staff Sergeant Service Number: 31117013 Service: Company C, 1st Battalion, 39th Engineer Combat Regiment, US Army Awards: Purple Heart Date of Birth: July 14, 1913 Place of Birth: Grafton, Kings County, Nova Scotia Date of Enlistment: June 19, 1942 Place of Enlistment: Portland, Cumberland County, Maine Address at Enlistment: Farmington, Franklyn County, Maine Age at Enlistment: 28 Height: 5 feet, 10 inches Occupation: Farm hand Marital Status: Single Next of Kin: Frederick N Balser, father Date of Death: February 18, 1944 Age: 30 Cemetery: Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Italy Grave: Section H, Row 9, Grave 4 Raymond Curtis Balser was the son of Frederick Noble Baltzer (1887–1970) and Rebecca Mary (Brewster) Baltzer (1891–1976). His parents were both born in Kings Co., Nova Scotia as well. His father, in Pereaux and his mother in Billtown. He had four brothers, Ralph Balser, George, Richard and John; and three sisters Hazel, Ethel and Arliss. His brother George Alfred also served in the US Army in WWII (Service No. 11016751). Raymond and his family immigrated to the United States on April 16, 1916, travelling by ferry from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Boston, Massachusetts. The family lived at Wellesley Avenue in Burlington, Middlesex Co., Mass. prior to 1920 and lived there throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. In 1937 he worked at the Akeson Fuel Company in Woburn, Mass. In 1940, Raymond was working as a lumber handler in cabinet making. Before enlistment in June of 1942, he was living in Farmington in Franklyn County, Maine and working as a farm hand. After enlistment, Raymond was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 39th Engineers, which were constituted April 25, 1942, at Camp Bowie in Texas and redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 39th Combat Engineer Regiment on August 1, 1942. Raymond completed his Petition for Naturalization for US citizenship on June 3, 1943, while serving with the 39th Engineers in Canastel, Algeria. Once Sicily was secured in July and August of 1943, mainland Italy became the next goal with landings in September. Operation Shingle, landing at Anzio, had become necessary because the Allied drive up the Italian peninsula had ground to a halt in the autumn of 1943 some 100 miles south of Rome, in front of a series of heavily fortified positions that stretched the width of Italy. After the initial Allied amphibious landings at Anzio on January 22, 1944, Allied forces were still busy defending their beachhead in February. The 36th and 39th Engineer Combat Regiments, in addition to their engineer functions, assisted in defending the coastline against airborne and seaborne raids and were to be prepared to assemble on four hours' notice as Corps reserve. They were also tasked with improving defenses along the Mussolini canal which ran directly east of Anzio on the coast and north, inland. Staff Sergeant Raymond Curtis Balser was killed in action on February 18, 1944, during the major enemy offensive from February 16-20 attempting to destroy the Allied beachhead at Anzio. Raymond was interred at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy covers 77 acres, rising in a gentle slope from a broad pool with an island and cenotaph flanked by groups of Italian cypress trees. Beyond the pool is the immense field of headstones of 7,845 of American military war dead, arranged in gentle arcs on broad green lawns beneath rows of Roman pines. The majority of these individuals died in the liberation of Sicily (July 10 to August 17, 1943); in the landings in the Salerno Area (September 9, 1943) and the heavy fighting northward; in the landings at Anzio Beach and expansion of the beachhead (January 22, 1944 to May 1944); and in air and naval support in the regions. Sergeant Roderick Morgan MacDougall is one of these Air Force casualties lost flying air support in the Mediterranean Theatre. Raymond is also remembered on a memorial stone at the Webster Cemetery in Farmington, Franklyn Co., Maine.
Raymond Curtis Balser
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Pictured here, engineers bridge a stream on a road from Nettuno to the front. Frequent rains and enemy shell-fire damage made this a difficult task, but the roads had to be kept open to move armor against the enemy.