WWII Soldier Killed Just 8 Days Before Germany Surrendered Featured in Education Program

Richard Padgett was born into a wealthy family in the town of Walterboro in Colleton County, South Carolina on 16th February 1923. Called Paul by his family and friends, Padgett was a leading student at Walterboro High School, and later became a distinguished cadet at the South Carolina Citadel Military College. Cadets at the College live and study in an atmosphere of classical military tradition, the aim of which is to develop character and leadership qualities, while providing a first-class education.

Towards the end of his final year at the college, Richard’s class was ordered to serve in the US army, and he was sent to Officer training school in Fort Benning in Georgia. It was at the end of his time there that he married his wife, Lavinia, in July 1944.

A brief posting to Fort Ord in California followed before Richard was sent to England before being assigned as a 2nd Lieutenant to combat with the US Army 97th Infantry Division.  Padgett was one of the 600 officers and 14,000 men that made up the division.

On April 23rd, 1945, elements of the 97th division, together with some of the 90th division liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Flossenburg in Bavaria.  The division then entered Czechoslovakia, and it was from there that Richard went to Germany as part of the occupying force. While in Tirschenreuth, in Bavaria, he was shot dead by a German sniper. It was 30th April, just eight days before the surrender of the Axis powers and the day Adolf Hitler committed suicide.

In an interview with the son, Paul Padgett, Jr. stated his grandparents, rather than Padgett’s wife, Anne, received a telegram on May 15 about the news of Padgett’s death on April 30. This was done because Anne was having difficulties with her pregnancy and the health of both mother and child was at stake. Padgett’s son, Richard Paul Padgett, Jr., was born on May 15, 1945.

Richard’s wife Lavinia – known as Annie – gave birth to his son seven days after his death.

On Veterans day, 1th November 2015, the American Battle Monuments Commission and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media announced a new, free resource for teachers.

The website (www.ABMCeducation.org) shows a series of lesson plans, covering 22 American Soldiers who were killed and buried on Europe. In the summer of 2015, Eighteen US teachers visited war cemeteries abroad and recorded tributes to individual veterans as part of the ‘Understanding sacrifice’ teaching program.

Richard Padgett was one of the veterans honored in this way.

His eulogy was recorded at Padgett’s graveside, Plot E, Row 37, Grave 37, in the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France by Pren Woods, a social studies teacher from Aston Middle School in Summerville, South Carolina.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE