2LT George Riley Francis
1st BN HQ Co., 104th Regiment, 26th ID (Yankee Division), 3rd Army
Killed in Action 17 November 1944
near Benestroff, France
-- Barbara Francis Kelly --
2Lt. George Riley Francis, was born on January 12, 1917, in Lovington, Illinois, and completed 13 years of education. He attended the University
of Illinois and played one year of football for the school. He worked as a Farm Bureau tester for the state of Illinois and married Margaret Zehner
Francis Kenter on September 21, 1943, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Bob, as he was called, enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 20, 1941, and served in the Airborne Infantry until being accepted to Officers Candidate
School (OCS). Upon commissioning as a Second Lieutenant he was assigned to several stateside training camps before he was ordered overseas. He was
proudly assigned to General Patton's 3rd Army in the 26th Division (Yankee Division), 104th Infantry, and 1st Battalion Headquarters Company. The
Yankee Division left Camp Shanks, New York, on August 26th, aboard the Queen Mary, and landed at Cherbourg and Utah beach on September 7th.
During the first week in October, the 26th Infantry Division was ordered from Normandy to the 3rd Army front in Lorraine. The 26th Division went
into the line on the right flank of XII Corps, Third Army and Twelfth Army Group, relieving the 4th Armored Division which has spearheaded General
Patton's drive across France. There in the hills and forests of Lorraine between Nancy and the German border, the Division took up the fight, just
east of the Toulon sector where it had fought in 1918.
During the month of October 1944, the 26th Infantry Division underwent its baptism of fire as it pushed towards Germany. On the 3rd of November,
General Patton ordered all units to be in a state of readiness to strike fiercely at the German positions, penetrate the German lines and continue
the attack. On the 17th of November, Lt Francis, anti-tank platoon leader, with his Sergeant moved forward from the Dordal farm just west of
Benestroff , France, to reconnoiter targets for the coming attack. Lt. Francis and his Sergeant came under attack and dove for a culvert under a
train track. When his Sergeant looked towards his Lieutenant he saw he had been hit. Lt. Francis was killed in action on November 17, 1944, though
the records reflect the 18th, at Benestroff, France just two months and eleven days after he had arrived with thousands of other G.I.s on the Queen
Mary. He is buried at the Lorraine American Military Cemetery in St. Avold, France.
Lt. Francis was awarded the Combat Infantrymans Badge, an Honorable Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a WWII Victory Medal, a European-African-Middle
Eastern Campaign Medal, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Letters and Vmail letters from Lt. Francis reveal a soldier who had received the news of his impending fatherhood. "I'll be happy if it's a boy," he
wrote, "but I'll be tickled pink if it's a girl!" Although, he did not come home, his daughter has visited him on several occasions. During her last
visit on Memorial Day, 2005 she also had the opportunity to go to the site where he fell. With the help of the cemetery administrator and a local
French Mayor, military veteran, and historian, Barbara visited the farm and site where her dad died in combat. After placing flowers and posting the
American flag, given to her by the French Mayor, she took a picture with a simple throw away camera. Of all the pictures taken that day, many with
digital cameras, the one she treasures the most is the only one developed showing the sun's rays penetrating the spot where her father fell. He was
saying, "I am here, thanks for coming." "I love you."