Lt. Col. William Street, led unit that tracked Patton

May 11, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Lt. Col. William Alpheus Street, a 22-year Army veteran who saw the liberation of Paris and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow veterans in the years since, died of cancer Wednesday at Fallston General Hospital. He was 81 and lived in Bel Air.

One of six children of a Richmond, Va., cemetery manager, HTC Colonel Street was known for having the manners of a Southern gentleman and a mischievous smile. As a young man, he wore his hair slicked back like Rudolph Valentino's.

After cancer forced doctors to remove his larynx in 1984, he retained his good graces as he relearned to talk through a mechanical device that he placed to his throat, according to family and friends.

"He was a gentleman and a fighter, and he kept fighting until the very end," said his son, William Alton Street, 50, of Fallston.

Colonel Street graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond and worked briefly for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad before joining the Army at the outbreak of World War II.

He led the Fourth Machine Records Unit, about 40 military record-keepers who traveled with troops commanded by Gen. George S. Patton and other units, tracking which soldiers were killed, injured or transferred.

Although his unit never saw combat, it landed on Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day and was in the outskirts of Paris when the Allies freed the city from German occupation. Colonel Street was in Paris on the day French Gen. Charles de Gaulle formally accepted the liberated city, his son said.

"It was something we never forgot," recalled Sid Frank, 81, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., a fellow veteran of the Fourth Machine Records Unit. "The French were willing to treat all of the American soldiers as liberators if they came through on tanks, or even if they came in a little while later like us."

Later in the war, Colonel Street and other members of the unit were disturbed for the rest of their lives when they heard about the discovery of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany not far from where they were encamped.

"We just drove past the area, but I still remember smelling burning bodies in the air," said George Coull, 80, another veteran the unit from Florham Park, N.J. "We saw these tremendous trenches along the right-hand side of the road, which the Germans dug because they were in a rush to get rid of the evidence."

After the war, members of the records unit continued to support one another by holding reunions every other year.

Colonel Street served in the Army until 1962, with assignments in Germany and Korea.

From 1963 until 1984, he was a civilian in the Army Inspector

General's office at Aberdeen Proving Ground, overseeing the testing of military equipment.

Services will be held at 8 p.m. today at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1515 Emmorton Road in Bel Air.

In addition to his son William, he is survived by his wife of 52 years, Virginia Gowan Street, and two daughters, Merrie Ann Yosua (who uses the name Merrie Street as a morning radio host on WLIF-FM) and Sherilyn Lea Keck, all of Bel Air; a sister, Martha Street Ferneyhough of Lewes, Del.; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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