Sergeant Donald H. Rubery
- Unit: 29th Infantry Division, 175th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company F
- Service Number: 31119339
- Date of Birth: April 23, 1918
- Entered the Military: May 13, 1942
- Date of Death: July 15, 1944
- Hometown: Warwick, Rhode Island
- Place of Death: Sainte-Lô, France
- Award(s): Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot G, Row 7, Grave 25. Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Mentored by Dr. Thalia Wood
Toll Gate High School, Rhode Island
Donald H. Rubery was born on April 23, 1918, in Warwick, Rhode Island to Edith and Harry Rubery. He grew up with two sisters, Beverley, his twin, and Myrtle, who was eight years his senior. Donald felt at home in the close-knit Norwood section of Warwick. Attending Norwood School, he played on the football team, the Norwood Knights.
As in other manufacturing communities around the nation during the Great Depression, families struggled to make ends meet. Consequently, at the age of 16, Donald completed his sophomore year at Lockwood High School and joined the workforce to aid his family. He began working at the Universal Winding Company as a tool attendant, alongside his father and uncle. During this time he joined the Norwood Volunteer Fire Department.
Warwick in the Twentieth Century
By the early twentieth century, Warwick evolved from a town of 21,000 residents to the second largest city in Rhode Island, with a population of 85,000.
In 1913, the primary industry in Warwick was textile manufacturing in the numerous mills located on the west side of the Pawtuxet River. As local politicians sought to secure their power, a movement emerged to separate the western portion of the city and form a new town. The movement was successful, establishing the town of West Warwick. As a result, Warwick retained the eastern agricultural portion of the city for its farmers, but lost almost all of its industrial base, half its population, and 8.3 acres of territory. Fortunately, the town’s valuable assets of Elizabeth Mill in Hillsgrove, the Apponaug Company, and the Pontiac Mill, all remained in Warwick and continued to employ many local residents.
The Universal Winding Company
The textile industry in the United States had its beginnings in Rhode Island in the City of Pawtucket along the Blackstone River. The textile industry spread rapidly to the other communities in Rhode Island, including Warwick. By the early 1900s, much of the textile industry moved to the Southern states. However, some textile mills remained into the 1930s, including the Universal Winding Company. In 1839, John Lesson founded the Company along the Pawtuxet River. Rubery, his father, and his uncle all worked at the company.
In 1914, Universal Winding moved to Cranston, within walking distance of Rubery’s home in Warwick. Like many other manufacturing companies, Universal Winding Company retooled its equipment in order to support the war effort. During World War II, the company produced a variety of war-related products, including the hulls for hand grenades, as well as parts for rifles and machine guns.
Early Military Career
On May 13, 1942, Donald was drafted and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, 175th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company F, leaving behind his family and friends in Warwick. Sergeant Rubery underwent his basic training at Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida. He endured rigorous physical and weapons training, and perhaps even learned how to lead other men. In September 1942, Rubery and many members of the 29th Infantry Division made their way across the Atlantic Ocean on the RMS Queen Mary to begin training for Operation Overlord on the Southwest coast of England.
Operation Overlord and Movement Toward Sainte-Lô
On D-Day plus one, June 7, 1944, the 175th Infantry Regiment landed on Omaha Beach, beginning at 12:30 a.m. The landing craft of many companies, including that of Rubery’s Company F, were destroyed by water mines and guns. Rubery’s battalion, the second battalion, landed one mile east of Vierville-sur-Mer. Despite encountering resistance from German machine guns and small arms, Rubery’s battalion proceeded inland.
At 10:00 a.m. on June 9, the Regiment marched southeast to Lison in an effort to support the capture of strategic positions from the Germans. For the nights of June 11 and 12, Major Anthony J. Miller, Jr. Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, assumed command of a task force to cross the Vire River, attacking Montmartin-en-Graignes, and securing the Vire et Taute canal against use by panzer units moving against the right. The morning of June 13, a battalion of paratroopers relieved the pressure on the right. Later in the day, the paratroopers were forced to withdraw, leaving Rubery and the other members of the task forces to face the enemy alone.
Towards the end of the month, the 175th Infantry Regiment suffered a terrible loss of 600 men in the Battle of Hill 108. Nevertheless, the men continued in their fight, and proceeded towards the vital crossroad city of Sainte-Lô.
Battle of Sainte-Lô
At 1:30 p.m. on July 11, the Germans surprised the 1st Battalion of the 115th Infantry Regiment on the outskirts of Sainte-Lô, with an attack before the 29th Infantry Division’s offensive was to begin. It was very difficult to see and most of the soldiers hid in their foxholes and did not shoot. By 5:00 p.m. the 1st Battalion suffered 150 casualties, about 25 percent of its total strength. The 116th Infantry Regiment attacked at 6:00 p.m., breaking the German front wide open. It was the 29th Infantry Division’s greatest success in the campaign so far. Over the course of the next few days, the 175th Infantry Regiment continued to move southward, assisting the 116th and the 115th Infantry Regiments on the south end of Martinville Ridge.
Rubery’s company fought under the direction of Captain Bob Miller. As the Battle for Sainte-Lô stalled in the face of the fierce German resistance and difficult bocage terrain, the men of the 29th Infantry Division began to distrust their commanding officer, General Charles H. Gerhardt. Many men had died and the survivors began to fear they would face the same fate.
On July 15, the 1st Battalion of the 115th Infantry Regiment launched an attack at 6:00 p.m., with the 2nd Battalion following a few hours later. Nearby on the Martinville Ridge, both the 116th and the 175th Infantry Regiments made several assaults that same day, creating only a dent in the German line. Yet just before dusk that night, the German line at Martinville Ridge broke. That day proved to be a key turning point in the Battle for Sainte-Lô.
Unfortunately, many individuals perished on July 15, including Sergeant Donald H. Rubery, 29th Infantry Division, 175th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company F.
When studying World War II, people rarely consider the stories of the average man who fought and lost his life. Sergeant Donald H. Rubery was one of those brave young men.
Like many young men, on May 13, 1942, Donald was drafted and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, 175th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company F, leaving behind his family and friends in Warwick, Rhode Island. Sergeant Rubery then travelled to Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida, where he underwent his basic training. Over the course of his training and service, Sgt. Rubery continually corresponded with his family, especially with his older sister Myrtle, whom he fondly called “Mern.” In one of his letters to her, he admitted one of his regrets, not marrying his fiance Annie before he was drafted, “… I wish I had gotten married before I left the States I know I’ve got the right girl.” Sadly, Sergeant Rubery would never return home to marry his love.
In September 1942, Rubery and many members of the 29th Infantry Division made their way across the Atlantic Ocean on the RMS Queen Mary to begin training for Operation Overlord on the Southwest coast of England. On June 7, 1944, the second day of the invasion, Sergeant Rubery landed on Omaha Beach. His battalion landed one mile east of Vierville sur Mer, encountering accidental fire from the British. Nevertheless, the men continued to persevere in their fight to end the war.
In early July, the 29th Infantry Division’s regiments fought their way toward the key crossroad city of Sainte-Lô, including Rubery’s 175th Infantry Regiment. Despite the difficult bocage terrain, he and his regiment persevered in support of the 115th and 116th Infantry Regiments. On July 15, 1944 Sergeant Rubery died in the Battle of Sainte-Lô from the blast effects of an artillery shell along the Bayeux Highway, a major artery into Sainte-Lô.
Although Sergeant Rubery died at the young age of 26, we honor him for his contributions to the war effort and the Allied victory. Sergeant Rubery made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure America’s freedom and democracy. Sergeant Rubery, your sacrifice will never be forgotten, and we thank you for your service.
The Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom® Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute provided me with a life-changing experience in more ways than I could have possibly imagined. For six months, I was enrolled in an online class with fourteen other student and teacher teams. In this class, we discussed a variety of World War II related readings and sources. As part of the program, I was required to research a Silent Hero, someone from my community who fought in World War II and was buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. I had the privilege of researching Sergeant Donald H. Rubery, from my city of Warwick, Rhode Island. It was so exciting to discover new information regarding his life and military career, as well as having the ultimate privilege of meeting his niece, Marilyn Fraser, and her family. She provided an abundance of personal information making Sergeant Rubery and his story, truly come to life.
While in Normandy, I stood on Omaha Beach where seventy three years ago Sergeant Rubery landed on D-Day +1. As I stood on the beach, I imagined what it was like for so many men to have lost their lives in the fight for freedom. Some, like Sergeant Rubery would survive the beach landing, only to lose their lives in later battles. The fresh morning air, the sun creeping in through the clouds, as the tide was rapidly coming in towards the shore, was indescribable. Thanks to Sergeant Rubery and so many others, we could enjoy this peace.
On our final day in Normandy, I had the privilege of a lifetime, standing at his resting place and delivering a eulogy to my Silent Hero, Sergeant Rubery, at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer. As I rubbed the sand on the white cross so his name could proudly shine through, the impact of his sacrifice seemed more real than ever. As I delivered my eulogy, it was as if he was standing there right next to me, ready to shake my hand. Sergeant Rubery’s sacrifice for our freedom and democracy on July 15, 1944, in the Battle of Sainte-Lô, is something that I will never forget, and I will make it my duty to ensure that his story is told.
“175th Regiment – After Action Report – June 1944.” 29th Infantry Division Historical Society. February 28, 2017. www.29infantrydivision.org/WWII-Documents/29th_Division-175th_Regiment-After_Action_report-44-June.html.
The 175th Infantry Regiment dig in behind a hedgerow, getting ready for a new offensive near St. Lo, France. Photograph. July 15, 1944. National Archives and Records Administration (332054). Image.
29th Infantry Division, 1940-48; World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 7542); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
29th Infantry Division, 1940-48; World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 7483); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
29th Infantry Division, 1940-48; World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 7480); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
29th Infantry Division, 1940-48; World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 7544); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
“7-19 July 1944 – St Lô.” 29th Infantry Division Historical Society. March 15, 2017. www.29infantrydivision.org/WWII-Battles/St-Lo/index.html
Combat Interviews, 1941-48; World War II Operations Reports, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, Record Group 407 (Box 19039); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Donald Rubery, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.
Donald Rubery, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Army, RG 319, National Archives and Records Administration – St. Louis.
Fraser, Marilyn. In-person interview by the author. March 2, 2017.
Letter from Donald H. Rubery to Myrtle Olson, 1943. Courtesy of Marilyn Fraser.
Records for Donald Rubery; World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [Electronic File], Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD [retrieved from the Access to Archival Databases at aad.archives.gov/aad/fielded-search.jsp?dt=466, January 30, 2017].
Rubery Family Photographs. 1942-1944. Courtesy of Marilyn Fraser.
Balkoski, Joseph. Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2005.
Balkoski, Joseph. Telephone interview by the author. May 17, 2017.
Balkoski, Joseph. “Hardened In Two World Wars, 29th Infantry Division Faces Bright Future As ‘Light’ Force.” The Freestate Guardian, June 1991. mdmhs.org/29div/articles.
D’Amato, Donald A. Warwick: A City at the Crossroads. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.
“Donald H. Rubery.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed February 26, 2017. www.abmc.gov/node/413214#.WV59l4jyvIU
“The Universal Windings Company.” Johnson Automatics. Accessed May 5, 2017. www.johnsonautomatics.com/plant.htm.