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Tracy Bernard Slack Jr.

PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D

ASN#11098956 Casualty: Wounded

Born 1917 in MA, Died 2013


County of residence at enlistment: Hampshire County, MA
Other residence(s): Boston, MA; Charlemont, MA; Amherst, MA; Bedford Village, NY; Southbury, CT
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: nursery and landscaping laborers
College education before the war: UMass Amherst  (then  Massachusetts State College)
Notes: Wounded as part of an advance group who arrived in France on D-Day (per Official History of the 23rd HQ Special Troops); that document gives his rank as SGT; after rehabilitation from injury served with the 298th Engineer Combat Battalion and was wounded  a second time in Germany on April 16, 1945; awarded Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster (per World War II Memorial Registry); final rank SGT
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; 603rd reunion mailing list; Bernie Mason Company D Roster; Official History of the 23rd HQ Special Troops; photo from World War II Memorial website

Tracy Slack was born on September 16, 1917 in Cambridge, MA, the oldest of four children. His mother had been born in Canada; his father was a state forestry surveyor. (Later his father became chief engineer of the Department of Conservation and the Division of Forestry in Massachusetts.)

The family moved from Boston to Charlemont (in northwestern Massachusetts) sometime prior to 1930. Tracy and his family were popular local singers during this period—he appeared with his siblings as a mixed quartet and he and his father both sang solos at church services, PTA events, women's clubs, etc.

Tracy graduated cum laude from Charlemont High School in 1935, achieving highest honors in the graduating class in Latin and Physics; at his graduation ceremony he delivered an essay on "The Power of Advertising." He took a year off between high school and college and then went on to study landscape architecture at Massachusetts State College in Amherst (now UMass Amherst). The whole family moved to North Amherst in 1936, when Tracy started college. (They also appeared to have another home in Boston during much of this period.) He sang in the college Glee Club and, in his senior year, had a leading role in the college's production of HMS Pinafore.

Photo from Ancestry® (and UMass Amherst 1941 yearbook)

Tracy registered for the draft on October 16, 1940 and graduated from college in 1941. He worked for a year or so as a "nursery and landscape laborer" before enlisting on September 30, 1942. He was assigned to the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion and went to Europe with the unit.

According to the Official History of the 23rd HQ Special Troops, Tracy was one of "four sergeants from the 603rd Engr Cam Bn Sp who left the unit at Bristol to go directly to an invasion staging area with the 602nd Engr Cam Bn. Their mission involved the use of phony 'Q lighting' during the first critical nights following D Day. They left from Plymouth on four different LSTs and began landing on D Day H-10. It was soon apparent that there were so many real Q lights – at so many points – that the small deceptive effort would be ridiculous, so it was not tried. Instead, the sergeants busied themselves with the camouflage of early beach installations and supply dumps. Two of the party were wounded. (S/Sgt Chester J. Piasecki and Sgt. Tracy B. Slack.)"

Tracy recuperated at a hospital in England; his wound involved a compound fracture of his upper arm from an artillery shell. He was "discharged to duty" in July, 1944, but appears to have been assigned to a different unit—the 298th Engineer Combat Battalion. Tracy was serving with the 298th in Germany on April 15, 1945, with the rank of SGT, when he was wounded a second time. According to the 298th official journal, "Sgt Slack, T/5 Albiero, & Pvt Patterson while on a road & bridge recon forward of our work area, encountered a group of German soldiers who fired on them. Sgt Slack & T/5 Albiero were wounded and evacuated to the hospital."

This time Tracy's injuries involved bullet wounds in his thigh and upper arm, and ended his World War II service. Once able to travel, he was invalided home. (Later he characterized the rest of his life by saying: "After surviving the war, all this is gravy!")

He was awarded the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf cluster (the equivalent of two Purple Hearts).

On September 8, 1945 he married Margaret E. Dreyman in Flushing, NY, whom he'd met at a USO dance. Tracy then began work as a landscape architect. The couple may have lived in Boston for a few years but by the 1950s the family—which included three children: Annabelle, Paul, and Tracy III—were firmly settled in Bedford Village, New York where they would remain until Tracy's retirement.

Tracy practiced landscape architecture in Bedford Village, and served as a member of the Bedford Planning Board from 1959-1985. In 1985 (most likely when he retired from his landscape architecture practice) he was appointed to a salaried town position as liaison to the Planning Board and the Department of Public Works, a position he held until at least 1991.

In 1993, Tracy and Margaret moved to Heritage Village, an active adult community in Southbury, CT. Margaret died in 2009, and Tracy died on August 30, 2013, just 17 days shy of his 96th birthday.

His obituary in Voices (Woodbury CT) says that: "His family asks those who ever sang with Tracy in a choir loft, at a table, or surrounding the pianist, or at an old upright, to sing a song for him today; those who heard him advocate for a town, a park, a walking path, a safer way for people to cross a busy street corner, or for the preservation of a heritage tree, to take up a civic cause in his memory; those who smiled at his use of a phrase he learned in German, French, Swedish, or Hungarian to find a new way to tell someone 'thank you' or 'that would be wonderful' and capture their smile for him."


1941 college yearbook (see link below)


1920 census

1930 census

1935 article in the North Adams Transcript (MA) about his high school graduation

1940 census

1940 draft card

1941 article in the North Adams Transcript (MA) about his family singing

1941 article in the North Adams Transcript (MA) about his performance in Pinafore

1941 college yearbook

1942 enlistment record

1944 World War II Hospital Admission Card File

1944 article in The Recorder (Greenfield MA) re his injury, Purple Heart, convalescence

1945 World War II Hospital Admission Card File

1945 wedding announcement in the North Adams Transcript (MA0,0.32374185,0.6110933,0.38797286&xid=3398&_gl=1*130cub6*_ga*MTcxMjk5NjA1MS4xNjgwMjIxOTQ5*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MGI0NTljZWUtODJkOS00ZjQ1LWEzMmYtMTUyM2JiNjEwZTY5LjIyLjEuMTY4MDk3NDgxNC4yMi4wLjA.&_ga=2.16106294.1888904535.1680732444-1712996051.1680221949

1946 Boston city directory

1957 article in the Quincy Patriot Ledger (MA) about his landscape architecture role

1965 article in the Reporter Dispatch (White Plains NY) re his work

1984 father's obituary in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA),0.07794062,0.19426523,0.2707279&xid=3355&_ga=2.251506310.1888904535.1680732444-1712996051.1680221949

1985 article in the Reporter Dispatch (White Plains, NY) re his work

2009 wife’s obituary

2013 Find a Grave record*1vox2p0*_ga*MTcxMjk5NjA1MS4xNjgwMjIxOTQ5*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MGI0NTljZWUtODJkOS00ZjQ1LWEzMmYtMTUyM2JiNjEwZTY5LjIwLjEuMTY4MDk2MjExNS4yOS4wLjA.

2013 obituary in Voices (Woodbury, CT)

2013 obituary on funeral home website (slight differences)

World War II Memorial Registry

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