Honor Roll - WWII, Military History

PFC Eugene Joseph Kellner, Service No. 36690379

Eugene Joseph Kellner was born around 1922/1923 to Josephine Halasiak (aka Hallas). As a toddler, Eugene most likely lived on the east side of LaSalle at 508 Blackstone with his mother and grandparents Martin and Maggie Halasiak. Eugene’s grandfather Martin supported the family by working as a coal miner. Martin and his wife had married in 1891 and left Poland for America in 1892. They had at least nine children including Eugene’s mother Josephine.

When Eugene was about three or four, his grandfather passed away in the summer of 1926. Around this same time, his mother Josephine married John V. Kallner, a man about her age who worked as a laborer at the zinc company. And by 1939 Eugene had eight siblings—five sisters and three brothers. In 1940, when Eugene was 17, the family lived at 1435 Fifth street, not far from where Eugene’s mother Josephine grew up.

A few years later, on 15 July 1943, Eugene registered for the draft at about age 20. His registration card noted he was five foot nine and a half feet tall and weighed 170 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. He also had a tattoo of a cross on his left arm.

WWII Draft Registration Card for Eugene Kellner
WWII Draft Registration Card for Eugene Kellner

About two months later, Eugene enlisted in the Army on 7 September 1943, and went through basic training at Camp Grant in Illinois. On 24 November 1943, he was promoted to Private First Class. He eventually transferred to Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi and then to Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky. During this time, he worked as a cook in the army. According to a news article published after his death, he asked to be transferred to the infantry and was assigned to Company K of the 331st Infantry Regiment in the 83rd Infantry Division. The regiment left Kentucky on 29 March 1944, and arrived in England on 19 April 1944. This was the same unit John W. Gorczynski, another soldier from LaSalle, had been assigned to although Gorczynski was in Company A.

During the months Eugene was in England, he trained and moved around the countryside by rail, motorcade, and by foot. Foot marches sometimes covered 15 to 20 miles. The troops spent their nights in “Niesen” huts or Pyramidal tents. On 17 June 1944, Eugene’s battalion moved by motor and rail from Tarporley, Cheshire, England, to Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, for the purpose of assembling “near Southampton for shipment across the channel to combat in France” to join the Normandy Campaign. Once the entire regiment was assembled, they again moved by motor and rail to Southampton so they could board the ship to cross the channel. They sailed for Omaha Beach in France on 18 June 1944—a warm and clear day. The crossing only took a day, but the troops could not land until 23 June 1944, due cool weather and a very rough sea.

After landing, the regiment marched to an area near Bricqueville, France. And after a few days moved onto an area east of Carentan arriving by 27 June 1944. On the fourth of July they participated in an attack through the area of Sainteny. They then continued their attack across the Taute River and along the St. Lo-Periers road to Camprond. During this drive, PFC Eugene Kellner was wounded on 4 July 1944, and on 8 July 1944, he died of his injuries. After the war his body was returned to his parents in LaSalle, and he was buried in 1949 in St. Hyacinth Cemetery in LaSalle.

PFC Eugene Kellner received the following awards for his service: Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, WW2 Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.

If you noticed anything erroneous in this profile or have additional information to contribute to it, please email feedback@storiesbehindthestars.org.

  • SBTSProject/Illinois/LaSalle
  • SBTS Historian Pam Broviak

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