Louis A. Bolton - LST 531

Sgt Louis A. Bolton LST531

Sgt. Louis A. Bolton - U. S. Army
 607th Graves Registration Company, 1st Platoon
Name on the Wall of the Missing
Cambridge American Cemetery, England


Brief History of Louis Archer Bolton by Laurie Bolton, Niece

     Louis Archer Bolton was born in Walker, Iowa, on September 17, 1924, to Perry Mearl and Sarah Mabel Bolton, the third of three children at that time.  In 1929, the family relocated to Gardena, California, where three more children were born.  He was part of a close knit immediate family of six and along with other relatives who settled in the area. 

     He attended local grammar schools and graduated from Gardena High School in 1942.  After high school he was employed by the Ashbrook Furniture Company in Gardena, California. In August 1942, he married the love of his life, Wilma Jackson, and they made their home in Gardena.  In May 1943, he enlisted in the U. S. Army.  He was transferred to an Army Camp in Salem, Oregon, and from there to Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois, in May 25, 1943.  In September 1943, right after he turned 19 years old, he was transferred to Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he was assigned to the 607th Graves Registration Company.   He received field training and specialized training from September 1943 to early March 1944, when he returned home on leave before his company was shipped overseas. (See the photo below).

     The company left from Fort Warren, Wyoming,  by train to  Boston, Massachusetts, where they sailed to England on  board the Edmund B. Alexander U. S. Army  troop transport  ship,  leaving  port  on March 23, 1944 .  The company arrived in Liverpool, England, on April 3, 1944.  From there the company traveled to Oxford, where they lived in private homes temporarily.  On April 15, 1944, the 607th Graves Registration Company was divided into four platoons.  He was assigned to the 1st Platoon, which departed for Truro, England.  The 1st Platoon was  assigned to the 1st Engineering Special Brigade, 3206th Quartermaster Company, which was to be part of the Utah Beach landings.  His platoon was going to be in charge of taking care of the dead on Utah Beach, as well as on the battle fields during the Liberation of the countries occupied by the Germans.  On the afternoon of April 27, 1944, his platoon boarded LST 531 at the Plymouth naval yard, which was to be part of a convoy taking part in a D-Day full dress rehearsal scheduled for the early morning hours of April 28, 1944.  There was a convoy of  8 LSTs, some leaving from Plymouth and others from Brixham, and they were to merge in Lyme Bay, and make their way back to Slapton Sands for live fire and landings on the beach.  The convoy was attacked at 0200 hours by 4 German Torpedo   E-Boats.  LST 507 took a direct hit, followed by LST 531, where he was on board in the tank deck, along with all the other Army personnel and equipment.   LST 531 sank within 6 minutes.  Of the 496 military personnel on board , 324 soldiers and sailors died.  The total killed in Exercise Tiger in Lyme Bay was 749 servicemen.  His body was never recovered.  His wife received an initial telegram on May 6, 1944, reporting him Missing in Action.  On August 10, 1944, she received a telegram reporting him officially Killed in Action, "during operations in the English Channel."   Because his body was never recovered, his mother held out hope that he had been captured by the Germans and would be coming home after the war was over.  Sadly, that hope never came to pass. 

     His name is on the Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery.  He was greatly loved by his wife, parents, brothers and sisters, all who grieved for him until their dying day.

Louis Archer Bolton, and his wife, Wilma Jackson Bolton,
when he was on leave just prior to shipping overseas in March 1944

His Sister's Story

I am the younger sister of Louis Archer Bolton, who was killed in WWII in a dress rehearsal for D-Day, called Exercise Tiger.  He died in the English Channel on April 28, 1944, and was 19 years old.  The family called him by his middle name, “Archer”.  I was 13 years old. 

I remember my brother coming home on leave before he was sent overseas, along with his wife, Wilma.  He spent as many days as possible with the family.  He looked so handsome in his Army uniform and we were so proud of him.  We took a lot of pictures with him and enjoyed the time we had visiting before he left.  He was a fun loving, wonderful guy.  We weren’t too worried about his safety, as he had been assigned to a graves registration company, so he wouldn’t be on the front lines.  He was shipped overseas in March 1944, to England.  He wrote letters to my mother and father, but couldn’t say much, because the mail was censored.  He did talk about being in England and living with a local family, along with a few other soldiers.

In May that year, my mother became worried, as she had not heard from Archer for quite a while.  Then we received the news from his wife, Wilma, that she had been notified he was Missing in Action.  My mother became very distraught and began praying that he was still alive somewhere.

Agonizing months passed without any news.  Then, as I was walking home on an August day in 1944, I passed by my neighbor who was watering her yard.  She told me that Archer had been killed.  I began to scream the words "No! No!" as I ran home.  All the blinds were pulled down.  I ran into the house and saw my mother weeping, then I knew it was true.  I began to cry, too, along with my older sister and younger brother.  My father usually never showed his emotions, but I could tell he was devastated.

During the days and weeks following the news, everyone was quiet and sad, and there was mostly silence in the house.  We were also thinking about my other older brother, Eldon, who was in the Navy, stationed in Brazil, who was away from the family when he received the sad news.  We had no memorial service as Archer’s body was never found, and my mother would say that he was a good swimmer, so maybe he made it to shore, had been captured by the Germans, and he would be coming home after the war ended.  She held out hope until the war was over and then finally accepted he was gone.  Our sadness was lifted somewhat when Eldon came home from the war safe and sound.  My mother mourned the son she lost until the day she died at 89 years old.

In 1994, I was watching a special news program.  They were interviewing WWII veterans that had survived a German E-Boat attack in the English Channel, called “Exercise Tiger”.  When I heard the date, April 28, 1944, I realized it was the same day my brother died.  At the time of his death, the only details we were told was the date and where he died.  I quickly called my niece, Laurie Bolton, and she turned on the program.  She wrote down the name of one of the veterans and called him the next day.  He confirmed what we suspected, that this was the event that took Archer’s life.  My niece then attended the 50th Reunion of Exercise Tiger survivors and began gathering information about his last weeks and days.  She then traveled to England in 1994, to visit a memorial site in Slapton Sands, England, that paid tribute to those Americans who died on that day.  Over the years she has returned many times with survivors, and represented our family in finally paying tribute to the beloved son, brother, and uncle our family lost.  His name is forever engraved on the Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery and he is forever in my heart.

Shirley Bolton Budd