Baseball in Wartime - Buck Compton

Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Buck Compton

 

Date and Place of Birth: December 31, 1921, Los Angeles, California 
Baseball Experience: College

Position: Catcher

Rank: Lieutenant
Military Unit: 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Buck ComptonLynn "Buck" Compton was an All-American catcher at UCLA and played football in the 1943 Rose Bowl. His wartime exploits have recently been depicted in the "Band of Brothers" television series.

At the end of 1943 his college athletic days were over as military service beckoned and the big, slow-talking Californian attended Officer Candidate's School. He graduated as a 2nd lieutenant, and then trained as a paratrooper at Fort Benning, Alabama. In December 1943, Compton joined the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 101st Airborne Division based at Aldbourne, England.

At around 1am on June 6, 1944, Compton and the 506th PIR were over Utah Beach, Normandy. In a hail of enemy gunfire and in a state of almost total disarray, the paratroopers landed on French soil. Six hours after landing, Compton led an assault against a four-gun battery of 105mm cannon that was defended by a platoon of German infantry and was firing on Utah Beach where American troops were coming ashore in their hundreds. Compton was awarded the Silver Star for his part.

He was back in England by July and remained there until September. Then, during the afternoon of the 17th, the 506th parachuted into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. During a battle in which Compton's company was attacked by infantry and tanks he was severely wounded. Compton was such a big man that he could not be carried, so a door was pulled off a nearby farm building, Compton was rolled onto it and skidded down the road and into a ditch and out of immediate danger. He was hospitalized for more than two months but returned to combat in December 1944 - in time for the defence of Bastogne.

The 506th suffered heavy losses during the Battle of Bulge. Weather conditions were treacherous and, in the heavy snow, Compton suffered a severe case of trenchfoot. He was evacuated and his combat days were over.

Recuperating in France, Compton met Charles Eisenmann, player-manager of the Seine Base Clowns baseball team in Paris. "Buck was one of my best friends," remembers Eisenmann. "I was going on a train - out to the coast - and Buck came up to me and said 'I'm Lieutenant Compton, I'd like to join your team.'" Eisenmann was in need of a catcher and had military orders made up that allowed Compton to play with the Clowns, one of the best teams in the European Theater, until the end of the war.

 

Seine Section Clowns
Seine Section Clowns in France, 1945.
Buck Compton is front row, third from left. Chuck Eisenmann is front, center.


When Compton returned to the US he spent five years as a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1952 he began 20 years as a prosecutor for the district attorney's office. In 1968, he was responsible for the investigation of Robert F Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. He was later appointed an associate judge in the California Court of Appeals.

 

Author, Marcus Brotherton, is currently collaborating with Buck Compton on a book. It will be on stands July 2008, published by Penguin.

 

 

 

Created January 20, 2007. Updated July 21, 2007.

 

Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.