Harry S. Tripp, One of Rochester’s Fallen Heroes, is Remembered

In Mount Avon Cemetery, an easily overlooked marker is tucked in front of the graves of Gold Star parents Harry and Fael Tripp. The small tablet memorializes the sacrifice of the Tripps’ son and Rochester native, Harry S. Tripp, whose remains lie in an American battlefield cemetery near Liege, Belgium.

Tripp grave stone
A small sign nestled in front of the gravestone of Harry and Fael Tripp at Mount Avon Cemetery memorializes the service and sacrifice of their son, Harry, in World War II.

Harry and Fael Tripp lived on North Main Street in Rochester as World War I was drawing to a close in 1918. In that year, their third child and only son, Harry, was born in the same house where his mother, the former Fael Springsted, had been born in 1892. Young Harry attended the village schools and graduated from Rochester High School in the class of 1937. He was working as a drill press operator at an auto parts factory in Ann Arbor in October 1940, when he decided to enlist in the National Guard.

Tripp stands next to his two sisters. He wears overalls and collared shirt. The older sisters wear dresses.
Ten-year-old Harry S. Tripp with his sisters, Virginia and Priscilla, in 1928.

Tripp received his initial military training at Camp Livingston and Camp Beauregard, both located in Louisiana. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was sent to California to serve with a unit defending the west coast of the U.S. After attending Officers’ Training School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 1942, Tripp was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

A few months later, while still stationed in California, Tripp met and married Grace Eide, who moved to Rochester to live with her new husband’s parents on Ludlow Street after Tripp was sent overseas.

In Europe, Harry S. Tripp was a member of the U.S. Army’s 16th Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the famed 1st Infantry Division, popularly known as “The Big Red One.” Tripp and his regiment participated in the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and one month after the invasion, Tripp was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel during the Allied drive to liberate France. He spent six weeks recovering from his injuries at an English hospital and rejoined his unit in the fall of 1944.

A man in uniform squats down next to a cross-shaped grave marker. Small US and Belgium flags are planted at the base of the cross. More crosses are in the background, all in rows.
John Dewasme poses in the uniform of Harry Tripp’s unit beside Tripp’s grave in the American cemetery in Belgium. Dewasme has tended Tripp’s grave for the past seven years. (Courtesy of John Dewasme)

After the successful D-Day invasion, Allied forces planned to push through the industrial heart of Germany toward the Rhine River. Standing in the way of this advance was the ancient German city of Aachen, which is situated near the point where the national borders of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany converge. The Aachen area was protected by heavy fortifications that the Germans called the Westwall, but Allied forces called the Siegfried Line. According to newspaper accounts published in the Rochester Era and the Rochester Clarion, Harry Tripp’s patrol was the first to breach the Siegfried Line.

The battle for control of Aachen, and the rugged Hürtgen Forest that lay to the east of the city, raged on for weeks across the closing months of 1944. Although the Allied troops had an estimated five-to-one numerical advantage, the Germans had sown the dense woods with anti-personnel mines, barbed wire, booby traps, and well-camouflaged machine gun nests. Cold and rainy autumn weather denied the Allies air support and created muddy conditions that impeded their advance.

On November 16, 1944, while leading his squad in a battle for the town of Hamich in the Hürtgen Forest, Harry S. Tripp was killed by German artillery fire. He and his comrades had been met with a withering counteroffensive by enemy forces intent on defending a hill overlooking the town.

Two Army men are nestled in and around a barn-like building.
Allied soldiers during the battle for Hamich, where 2nd Lt. Harry Tripp was killed. (Courtesy U.S. Army)

Harry S. Tripp was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, conferred for valor in the face of the enemy, and a Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, signifying that he had been wounded in action twice. He was laid to rest among his fallen brothers at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.

Head Shot of Tripp in uniform wearing a hat.
2nd Lt. Harry S. Tripp of Rochester, Michigan.

Meanwhile, in Rochester, his family held a public memorial service at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, where Tripp had been a member, and placed a small marker at Mount Avon Cemetery to remember his sacrifice. As the Tripp family mourned Harry’s loss, they also feared for the safety of his sister, Priscilla Tripp, who was serving with the U.S. Army nursing corps in Italy, and had been present on the beachhead at Anzio. Priscilla returned safely to Rochester a few months after her brother’s death.

Today, more than three-quarters of a century after the battles of Aachen and Hürtgen Forest, Belgian citizens adopt the graves of the American liberators who lie in the Henri-Chapelle cemetery. Belgian John Dewasme has personally tended the grave of Rochester’s Harry S. Tripp for the past seven years, and considers it an honor to do so. May those of us in Rochester follow his example this Memorial Day.

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. mary howarth says

    Great article, Deborah. And the information about John Dewasme tending the grave reminds us that those who lived with WWII and the aftermath still remember the people who gave their lives on foreign soil.

    • Deborah J. Larsen says

      Thanks, Mary. I agree—the fact that people from the Netherlands and Belgium queue up on a waiting list for the opportunity to tend the grave of a fallen American soldier demonstrates that they have not forgotten, even though the generation that fought the war has largely passed now. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Memorial Day in the United States involved a little more remembrance and a little less partying?

      • Ann L Faulkner says

        I enjoyed reading about Harry S Tripp and his service. When I was young Memorial Day and the days leading up to it was just about sprucing up the family gravesites, remembering and honoring those who served, as well as our relatives who passed before us. Right at the beginning of the article, I assumed that you had written it, as you are so talented and have such a way with words.

        • Deborah J. Larsen says

          Thanks, Ann! I hope a few more people will be convinced to observe Memorial Day instead of just celebrating it.

  2. Rosemary Reid says

    What an interesting article. Thank you for bringing history alive again to remember the fallen heros. It certainly is a good reminder of what the Memorial holiday is really all about.

Speak Your Mind

*