The Slack Site

A look at the life of Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack

My Great Uncle

“General Patton, Corps and Division Commanders. 4th Armored Division C.P., England, June 1944”

This photo was taken just prior to the landing at Utah Beach on July 11, 1944. Julius is peeking out from behind, second from the right.

From Julius Easton Slack’s personal photo album

Julius Easton Slack’s Amazing Life

Julius was my great uncle on my dad’s side, the brother of my paternal grandfather. I used to rummage through his things in the attic while staying with my grandparents in Lansing, Michigan back in 1964. I asked a lot of questions, but both my father and my grandfather didn’t seem to want to talk about him.

Maybe it was because I was a little girl.

But then again, I never heard either of them mention him … to anyone.

Makes me wonder …

My uncle died in 1968. My dad never told me.

And then a few years ago, I took possession of Julius’s personal belongings.

Oh

My

Gosh!

 

I never met my uncle, which makes me a little sad. He and I would have gotten along very well.

I’m left with hundreds of photographs, some about which I’ve discovered a backstory through reading cryptic scrawls on the back of the photo, or pouring through military records (I have them all). Most of the  images have left me floating in a never to be solved mystery, a story to be discovered, and a tale that will one day be told.

Fictitious license will be in full effect.

I’m sharing the images here.

Each section below may have a link that will take you to more images from that particular season of Julius’s life and military career. It’s not done … I will be adding more over time.

If you see anything that looks familiar, please send a note using the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Julius Arrives on the Scene in 1898

Julius Easton Slack was born November 21, 1898 in Hermansville, Meyer Township, Menominee Michigan. He was the oldest of five children born to Walter Bingham Slack and Ann Marie Harris.

My grandfather, Palmer Harris Slack was born four years later.

This is Julius as a little tyke, and this is the house he was born in.

Westpoint

Julius entered West Point on June 14, 1917, graduating November 1, 1918 before entering the Regular Army as a Second Lieutenant Field Artillery.

From the yearbook …

“Slack has had the misfortune of coming in contact too often with our Engineers and has himself been carried into the maelstrom of tenthdom. Everything he has done has been founded on the idea of theoretical background. When a man bones cavalry riding from Jeb Stuart and Stonewall Jackson and goes down to the riding hall and meets Reid and is thrown into space; when a man red as Von Moltie and Napoleon gets out into hills and loses a squad of cadets–it’s high time to change tactics. Let’s go out, Julius, and try our hand at nothing and see, also, how the masters performed it. You cawn’t gum something no one has ever done.”

Entering the Regular Army

Julius’s life seems to have been thrown into a whirlwind of travel, training, and fun assignments. After his October 1918 Cadet graduation from West Point, he was recalled with the rest of his class to serve as Student Officers, graduating from post-graduate work in September 1919.

Julius then attended Field Artillery School at Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky from October 1919 to July 31, 1920. He completed the Basic Course in October 1920 before taking his new assignment with the 6th Field Artillery group.

Julius Finds Love

He met and married Marie Sinclair Watson on April 2, 1923 in San Francisco, which seems like a good half way point between Honolulu and New York, the two places where Julius held residences at the time.

This is Marie having a little fun on the deck of the SS Lapland in South Hampton, England. It was 1922.

Julius with Chico at Hillcrest, California in 1920

Jules and Marie loved their many dogs. Here’s Jules with Chico at his quarters in Hillcrest, California in November 1920.

Jules and Marie with friends Polly Glover, Trixie Dean, and Duke Carlson at Camp Dix, New Jersey in 1922.

1928

Julius with Blondie

February 22, 1928

Battery A, 4th Field Artillery

Julius leading the procession in Laredo, Texas

Going Hollywood

1930’s

On the Road with Marie

Julius and Marie traveled quite a bit during the early 1930’s. Here they walk at the World Fair in Chicago in 1934.

They also spent plenty of time in Southern California, apparently living large at the Dessert Inn in 1937. Marie has obviously “Gone Hollywood!”

Comparing heights with a Giant Cactus in Yuma, Arizona, September 1934.

Julius at Yosemite, November 6, 1934

The First Lady of Hollywood

Here’s Shirley Temple by the pool at the Dessert Inn, Palm Springs, Ca on November 21, 1937. This is one of three photos of Miss Temple in Julius’s photo album.

Hollywood Elite of the 30’s

Imagine my surprise as I flipped through the photo album, astonished by the descriptions by each photograph. Here we have Helen Hayes, Charles MacArther, and Jack Neal in Balboa CZ, in 1933.

Fine Dining with the Stars

Julius and Marie at the Panama Golf Club, Panama City, for a luncheon in honor of Constance Bennett on February 13, 1933. Constance Bennett was a major Hollywood star during the 1920s and 1930s and for a time during the early 1930s, she was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, as well as one of the most popular. 

The man nearest to the camera is Constance Bennett’s husband, Henri de la Falaise, a former spouse of Gloria Swanson.

It looks like Julius and Marie enjoyed several days of rubbing elbows with Hollywood’s elite.

La Venta, Panama May, 1933

 

I suspect you might recognize Oliver Hardy of the famous team Laurel and Hardy.

In La Venta, Panama 80 miles from Panama City Beach Resort on Pacific Ocean. Colonel Barrios of Panama, Jack Neal, Oliver Hardy, Myrtle Hardy, and Julius Easton Slack.

Hanging Out with Oliver and Myrtle Hardy

One Half of the Funniest Comedy Team of the Time

Julius is with Oliver and his wife Myrtle at the Lakeside Golf Club, Beverly Hills, CA. on October 7, 1934.

Fredric March and Sam Jaffe

Pedro Miguel Locks, Canal Zone, January 1934

And there’s more famous people!

Fredric March and his wife Florence Eldridge, Sam Jaffe and his wife, and John Haas.

Fredric March was an American actor, regarded as “one of Hollywood’s most celebrated, versatile stars of the 1930s and 1940s”. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), along with others.

Sam Jaffe was an American actor, teacher, musician, and engineer. In 1951, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) … and others.

Source: Wikipedia

World War II Heats Up for the U.S.

1940’s

Entering a New Phase

Leaving the apparently fabulous 1930’s into the growing intensity of the war years might have been lost on Marie, but not Julius. Marie always looks so happy in all of these photos. Here she is at the Dessert Inn in 1937.

Julius appears to understand what’s about to happen in his life while he participates in the Army Day Parade in San Antonio, Texas on April 7, 1940.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States (a neutral country at the time) against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in HonoluluTerritory of Hawaii, just before 08:00, on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States’ formal entry into World War II the next day. 

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): NevadaArizonaTennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California.  

On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender TangierRaleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.

Source: Wikipedia

The Surrender of Bataan

April 9, 1942

The American surrender at Bataan to the Japanese, with 76,000 soldiers surrendering in the Philippines altogether, was the largest in American and Filipino military histories, and was the largest United States surrender since the American Civil War‘s Battle of Harpers Ferry. Soon afterwards, U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war were forced into the Bataan Death March.

Source: Wikipedia

The Battle of Bataan ended on April 9, 1942, when Army Major General Edward P. King, accompanied by Colonel Williams, surrendered to Japanese General Masaharu Homma.

Generals Wainwright and Andrus

Following the evacuation of MacArthur to Australia in March 1942 to serve as Allied Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Area, Wainwright inherited the position of Allied commander in the Philippines. Also that March, Wainwright was promoted to lieutenant general (temporary).

On April 9, 1942 the 70,000 troops on Bataan surrendered under the command of Major General Edward P. King.

On May 5th, the Japanese attacked Corregidor. Due to lack of supplies (mainly food and ammunition) and in the interest of minimizing casualties, Wainwright notified Japanese General Masaharu Homma he was surrendering on May 6.

By June 9, Allied forces had completely surrendered. Wainwright was then held in prison camps in northern Luzon, Formosa, and Liaoyuan (then called Xi’an and a county within Manchukuo) until his liberation by the Red Army in August 1945.

Source: Wikipedia

General Wainwright Released and Received as a Hero

General Wainwright gave this signed portrait to Marie, whom I feel certain must have cherished it. I found it contained in a gold frame.

Wainwright was the highest-ranking American POW, and, despite his rank, his treatment at the hands of the Japanese was no less unpleasant than most of his men.  

Dubbed by his men a “fighting” general who was willing to get down in the foxholes, Wainwright won the respect of all who were imprisoned with him. 

He agonized over his decision to surrender Corregidor throughout his captivity, feeling that he had let his country down. Upon release, the first question he asked was how people back in the U.S. thought of him, and he was amazed when told he was considered a hero. 

Source: Wikipedia

Julius Prepares

April 26, 1942

Julius standing in front of his latest quarters in San Antonio, Texas preparing to leave for VIII Army Corps, Brownwood – after their move on April 21, 1942 from Fort Sam Houston.

Julius was to leave the following Tuesday for Commanding Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Activation of XX Corps Artillery

Photo taken October 1943 in Shelby, Miss.

69th Division Artillery

General Slack, Colonel Garick, Lt. Colonel Tryfus, Major Paemet, Captain Adjest

 

October 1943

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, XX Corps Artillery, is activated on 0401 Z, 21 October 1943, at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania.

Pursuant to authority contained in radio, Headquarters Army Ground Forces, dated 8  October, 1943, the undersigned hereby assumes command of the XX Corps Artillery.

J.E. Slack, Brigadier General, USA Commanding

Source:

Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe

XX Corps Artillery

Produced by:

Colonel Russell V. Eastman, 0-174251 … Editor

Major Robert E. Marble, 0-308123 … Asst. Editor

Captain Douglas R. Schoenfeld, 0-388032 … Asst. Editor

General Walton Harris Walker

Walton Harris Walker (December 3, 1889 – December 23, 1950) was a United States Army four-star general who served in World War IWorld War II, and the Korean War, where he commanded the Eighth United States Army before dying in a jeep accident. He received two Distinguished Service Crosses for extraordinary heroism in World War II and the Korean War.

Source: Wikipedia

General Walton was my uncle’s CO. The General wrote an inscription on his photo, but the years have made it indecipherable. Maybe I’ll find some forensics guru to help me lift the secret message.

There is some good news, however. I discovered a personal letter from General Walker to Julius written after the war; a letter that brought me to tears (and not only because it is the original, hand-signed). I will eventually add it to the content on this site … all things in due time and proper order. (I got that from my uncle)

Arch Bishop Francis Spellman

October 1944

Julius chats with the Arch Bishop of New York. Could he be submitting a few prayer requests for divine intervention in the coming weeks?

Francis Joseph Spellman was an American bishop and cardinal of the Catholic Church. From 1939 until his death in 1967, he served as the sixth Archbishop of New York; he had previously served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston from 1932 through 1939. He was created a cardinal in 1946.

Source: Wikipedia

The Allied Invasion

Metz

Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack at the bulging edge of the Moselle prior to the attack on Metz.

The Allied Drive

In 1944, nearing the close of the Allied drive which had liberated most of France, the Germans in the sector facing the Third United States Army fell back behind strong defensive positions stretching roughly from Luxembourg south to the foothills of  the Vosges mountains.

In the center of this defense system, serving as the pivot, was the city of Metz with its powerful ring of 43 inter-connecting forts, and the natural barriers of the swollen Moselle River and the high hills which cradled the Moselle Valley.

German-Held Metz

The XX Corps was assigned the primary mission of reducing the Metz fortifications and capturing the city.

Hitler had sent orders to the Metz commander to defend the stronghold at all cost.

General Walker struck his first blow for the military capital of Lorraine on September 7, 1944, with an assault crossing of the Moselle a few miles south of Metz in the vicinity of Pornot. For more than two weeks XX Corps armor and infantry pushed from the narrow bridgehead in the face of heavy artillery and machine-gun fire to inflict more than 10,000 casualties on the enemy and to smash the 17th SS Panzer-Grenadier Division.

The Assault on Metz

The assault on the fortress city was postponed due to heavy rains and a shortage of ammunition, yet XX Corps used the time to conduct a detailed study of the Metz defenses. They learned a great deal.

The fortifications of Metz were made up of an inner ring of fifteen forts and an outer perimeter of 28 bastions of steel and concrete. In 1941, the Germans had modernized the installations, reinforcing the forts with 210mm guns and 105mm guns placed in revolving steel turrets that could withstand fire from high velocity, direct-firing weapons.

The fortress was heavily fortified with 100mm guns, and fully manned. In addition, there were in the city and out-lying defense positions three infantry divisions and remnants of the 17th SS Panzer Division. And incorporated into one of the infantry divisions were the fanatical soldiers of the VI Officer Candidate School Regiment.

TO BE CONTINUED SOON

Check back frequently for updates.

This is a war reel released near the end of the war. The first minute shows footage from the XX Corps assault on Metz, including several shots of Field Artillery (no pun intended).

Much of the information about the build up is excerpted from:

The Ghost Corps thru Hell and High Water: A short history of the XX Corps, U.S. Army

The author is identified as XX Corps, U.S. Army, and the document is cataloged as part of The Command and General Staff School Library, Accession Number 67644

Presentation of Awards

Pierrepont, France November 2, 1944

Presentation of awards to the 5th Field Artillery Group November 2, 1944.

Julius presents the Silver Star Medal to Chaplain (Captain) Martin C. Hoken. There are many more award presentation photos like this one in the collection, and I will add them … in due time and proper order.

Presentation of Awards by French General Dody, the Military Governor of Metz

After the victory in reclaiming Metz from the Germans, General Dody presented the  French Legion of Honor Awards. The French Crois de Guerre to General Walton Walker, and the Chevalier to Julius and others involved in the attack and victory.

Walker’s XX Corps, the Field Artillery Group under the command of Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack, played a role in Patton’s dash across France in August and early September 1944, earning the sobriquet “Ghost Corps” for the speed of its advance.

Walker’s troops saw heavy fighting in France and Germany during the remainder of the war, especially at Metz, the Battle of the Bulge, and in the invasion of Germany.

Later, in the spring of 1945, XX Corps liberated Buchenwald concentration camp, then pushed south and east, eventually reaching LinzAustria by May. 

Source: Wikipedia

 

General Dody, Military Governor of Metz, presents the French Legion of Honor (Chevalier) to Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack at Metz, France, November 29, 1944.

For the Liberation of France

Major General Walton H. Walker, Commanding General, XX Corps presents the Silver Star to Brigadier General Julius Easton Slack at Thionville, France March 1945.

For period September 15, 1944 to December 20, 1944

If you have XX Corps stories, please send them to me if you’d like them included on this site, and if you think I might have some photos or information about someone you know, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I’ve already heard from the son of a Captain who served with XX Corps. He has shared some amazing tidbits about his father that will be added to a new section of this site.