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BECKER, Fred H., Lt. 1896-1918


Posted By: Joe Conroy (email)
Date: 5/31/2010 at 13:05:52

Waterloo Times-Tribune
Waterloo, Iowa
8 Aug 1918
Page 1

Lt. Fred Becker Killed In Action

Died On French Front in Drive of 3 Weeks Ago

Among First Waterloo Men to Secure Commission at Beginning of the War -- He Was a Member of All American Football Team In the Year 1916.

Lieut. Fred H. Becker, of Waterloo, was killed in action in France on July 21, according to an official message received from the government by his mother, Mrs. J. B. Becker, last evening. No details of the death were given.

Lieut. Becker was one of the best known men enlisting in the service from Waterloo. Just previous to his enlistment he had been attending the Iowa state university, where he had taken part in athletics. He was considered one of the greatest football stars developed at the Iowa school and was placed on the All-American football team in 1916.

He was a graduate of East Waterloo High, where he also won fame as an athlete. He was very popular in school and college circles.

When the call came for volunteers for the first officers training camp at Fort Snelling, Fred Becker was among the first to make application. He was accepted and at the conclusion of the training was given a commission of lieutenant. He was among the first men selected for overseas duty and left shortly after receiving his commission for France. He arrived in France on Oct. 1, 1917, and was sent immediately to an officers' school. He passed the examination and was given a commission in the regular army. Three days later he was transferred to the marines.

Performed Heroic Deed.

In this branch of service he covered himself with glory and was given special mention for his heroic work while in charge of a number of men on scouting duty. His party was attacked by a large detachment of Germans, but he returned safely to the Allied lines without losing a man.

Lieut. Becker was injured on June 3, having been hit by shrapnel. He was in a base hospital for a month but was released on July 3, and returned to active duty on July 9.

The Waterloo soldier has been in action practically all year and has participated in nearly all the important drives made by the Allies.

Reported Injured

Fred Becker was reported injured early in the spring, but it later developed that this was not the local man.

During his course of training at Fort Snelling and since his transfer to active duty in France he has won the praise of the officers with whom he was associated. He was absolutely fearless on the football field and carried the same spirit into his duties on the battlefield.

Lieut. Becker is the second Waterloo officer to make the supreme sacrifice: Lieut. Chapman having been killed in an aeroplane accident in France early in the year. Lieut. Chapman was a prominent member of the West High alumni, while Lieut. Becker was a leading member of the East High alumni.

Fred Becker is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Becker, and two sisters, Mrs. Hilda Poettinger, Philidelphia, and Mrs. Harry Pashby, Waterloo.

Waterloo Evening Courier
Waterloo, Iowa
8 Aug 1918
Page 1

Lieut. Becker Is Second Waterloo Officer Slain

Killed in Action July 21, is War Department's Word to Family, Without Giving any Details of Manner of Death.

Young Man Often Rival of Chapman

City's First Officer to Fall Before Foe Opposed Other on Gridiron in Many Games Between High Schools

Another star in the service flag in a Waterloo home has turned to gold. Lieut. Fred H. Becker, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Becker, 224 Newell street, has fallen amid the poppies in France, the second officer from this city to make the supreme sacrifice upon the altar of democracy. A message from the war department, stating that Lieut. Becker was killed in action July 21, was received by his parents last night. No details were given.

Queer Coincidence

The death of Lieut. Becker, following that of Lieut. Carl Chapman, killed in an aeroplane fight with German machines, contains a queer twist of fate. Lieut. Chapman, the first Waterloo officer to be killed in action, was a prominent west high school student and a star football player. Lieut. Becker was a graduate of east high, where he was not only prominent in all scholastic activities but developed into one of the greatest gridiron performers in the history of the orange and black institution. He and Chapman were opponents in many a hard fought game between elevens representing east and west high. After graduating from east high, Becker entered the University of Iowa. He made the football team in his sophomore year and played such a sensational game at tackle that he was placed on the All-American mythical eleven by critics all over the country. So far as is known, Lieut. Becker was the first Waterloo man and one of the few from Iowa ever accorded such an honor. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and popular among the students.

Won Commission

Lieut. Becker won his commission at the first officers' training camp conducted at Fort Snelling, Minn. He was among the first men selected for duty overseas and arrived in France in October, 1917. Shortly after his arrival he was transferred from the regular army to the marine corps because of a shortage of experienced officers in that branch of service.

Lieut. Becker's company was engaged in active service almost from the time it was sent to the front. Several months ago, while in charge of a scouting party, Lieut. Becker's men were attacked by a superior force of Germans. After a fierce combat they fought their way back to safety without losing a man. For this action, Lieut. Becker was favorably mentioned in dispatches from the front.

Continuous Fighting

Letters received by his parents during June and July indicated that Lieut. Becker was still in the center of fighting. A letter received late in June contained the information that Lieut. Becker had been wounded June 3. A high explosive shell sent him to the hospital with a wound in his right shoulder. He was out of service for a month. When he wrote and told of being wounded, Lieut. Becker also said he was "one of a few lucky fellows who escaped in the engagement." His company at that time was fighting on the banks of the River Marne. The last letter from Lieut. Becker was received July 16.

He is survived by the parents and two sisters, Mrs. Hilda Poettinger, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Harry Pashby, Waterloo.

Mrs. Becker was born in Germany and lived there until she was 20 years old.

Waterloo Evening Courier
Waterloo, Iowa
9 Aug 1918
Page 10

There's a green hill somewhere amid the blood red poppies of France where Lieut. Fred H. Becker, Waterloo boy, sleeps peacefully while giant cannons hurl high explosive shells about the spot that marks his final resting place. Lieut. Becker has made the supreme sacrifice, but his death is a hard blow to those who knew this splendid youth. It seems hard to believe that death on the field of honor has stilled that active form that helped make football history in this country, and whose name is written in enduring letters in athletic circles of the University of Iowa.

Lieut. Becker represented the highest type of American soldier. A high school graduate and college man, he heard the call of duty soon after the declaration of war upon Germany and was one of the first men from his university to enter the training camp at Fort Snelling, Minn., where he won his commission. Arriving in France and assigned to active service with the fighting marines, Lieut. Becker continued to uphold the best traditions of his country. He figured in many fierce engagements and letters received by his parents indicate that his company was at one time practically annihilated, but the Waterloo boy fought on and altho wounded, he went back on the firing line as soon as he was released from the hospital. He was favorably mentioned in dispatches for conduct while he was in charge of a raiding party and had Lieut. Becker been permitted to have gone on, there is no doubt but that he would have won additional laurels.

We can close our eyes and look back again upon a white barred football field in Ames where, in the fall of 1916, Iowa and Ames clashed in their annual gridiron classic. Ames was doped to win the game because it had a team of veterans, while Iowa's lineup included several new men. But Iowa had Becker at tackle and a few more lion hearted, brilliant performers. We will never forget how Becker played that day; how he charged here and there, breaking up plays before they were started and always finding time to encourage his mates. It is football history now how Iowa came back and won that game, but Becker's play, together with his performances in other games of the season, won him a place on the great All-American football team of 1916, an honor that can be appreciated only by close followers of the sport. But it suffices to say that when such a team is picked by critics, every college and university player in the United States is taken into consideration. Becker was one of 11 men thus honored.

But Becker was more than a football star -- he was a true American boy and gentleman. He was a son that any mother would have been proud of. Would that we could see flashed on a motion picture screen the manner in which he met his death. But we know that if it was during a hand-to-hand fight that he went down only after he had fought to the limit of his ability and probably with a smile on his face. In such a manner do all real Americans die.

The star in the service flag in the house over on Newell street has turned to gold. People who pass by there daily, people who knew Fred Becker from boyhood, will pass with a feeling of reverence in their hearts. There will be something almost sacred about the gold star as it gleams by day and shines by night.

What more can we say of Lieut. Fred H. Becker, deceased, than that he fought a good fight and died to make the world a place for men and not for slaves.
A. L. C.

Waterloo Times-Tribune
Waterloo, Iowa
10 Aug 1918
Page 4

Lieut. Fred Becker - Fighter.

Lieut. Fred Becker has closed his career of wonderful adventures. He has capped his rise to glory and fame by the greatest of all sacrifices -- the supreme one. He was killed in action upon the battlefield of France. "Killed in action" -- the thot thrills and saddens. Those who knew him well, knew him as a fighter, not the bullying kind, but of the stripe which makes good soldiers. And tho we have not the facts, we know that Freddy Becker died leading his men forward. For was he not always in the vanguard on the football field? We remember the fame he won as a football star at Iowa University, even tho the glory he gained there is insignificant when compared to the honor which will be his now that he has "gone west." But in his achievements on the gridirons in the middle west we can point to a real fighter, who we know made a splendid soldier and to whom we shall always pay reverence.

Fred Becker -- fighter and hero -- will never thrill us again as a football player, but the memory even tho it saddens, that Lieut. Becker -- soldier and superhero -- leaves with us, will always thrill. It cannot help but do that. Lieut. Fred Becker, dead upon the battlefield of France, is by far a greater hero than he ever was on a gridiron winning the merited plaudits of many thousands while performing in a suit of pigskin. We are brightened a bit by the fact that we know Lieut. Becker would rather be a dead hero in France than a live idol in America. He has fought the good fight -- that will suffice.


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