Malcolm "Buck" Marsh, Jr.
Malcolm “Buck” Marsh Jr. was born May 16, 1923, to Malcom Marsh Senior and Louise Bell Marsh. Buck was born in Florence, Alabama, and was the oldest of three boys, all of whom would go on to serve in the military.
Buck’s father, Malcom Senior, worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority as a concrete engineer, working on several dams along the Tennessee River. The family moved from Florence to Rockwood, Tennessee in 1939 where Malcom Senior worked on the Watts Bar Dam. Buck graduated high school in Rockwood and began pursuing a degree in electrical engineering at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute—now Tennessee Tech—in 1941.
During his sophomore year, Buck was recruited by the Army Engineers into the Army Specialized Training Program, a new accelerated program to becoming an Army engineer. Buck then went to basic infantry training at Fort Benning then started at St. Johns University in Brooklyn, New York. The program was then eliminated because of the large amount of unexpected casualties in Europe during World War II. All members of the Army Specialized Training Program were placed in the infantry. After a few months of training, Buck was shipped out to the European Theater of Operations as a replacement joining the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. The regiment was an integral part of the 3rd Armored Division, arriving just as the Battle of the Bulge began in 1944.
Buck and the rest of the division suffered through the bitter cold winter with temperatures hovering around zero degrees. The 18 inches of snow made fox hole living an act of survival, Buck remembered. The sunshine brought on their ability to counterattack, and the division began pushing the German soldiers out of the Bulge and back into their original position.
From there, Buck and the 36th Armored Infantry attacked the large city of Cologne in March 1945 where two of the squad were killed by sniper fire. They secured the city and pushed on to Paderborn, Germany, in April 1945, suffering horrific casualties. Nevertheless, they persisted through to the Elbe River where they met the Russians, ending combat for their division and taking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe.
Buck remained in Europe until January 1946 when he finally made it back to the U.S. for discharge. Buck received three battle stars for his time in the Army, the Bulge Ruhr and Central Germany. He also received a Purple Heart and the Coveted Combat Infantryman Badge, among other various medals. Buck entered the 36th Armored Infantry as a Private First Class. He rose to squad leader during combat and later became First Sergeant. More than 50 years later, Buck was called back to Freiburg, Germany, where he was made Honorary Sergeant Major of the 36th Regiment in 1999.
After discharge, Buck returned to Florence, Alabama, and met the love of his life, the beautiful Wanda Mitchell. The two fell in love almost immediately and moved to Auburn to attend the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Buck began pursuing a degree in building science in fall 1946, and graduated in March 1949. Wanda graduated in June 1949, and the two were married in August 1949. They will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this fall. After building their careers and family elsewhere, the couple returned to Auburn in 1970 where they have lived ever sense. The two have three children, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. Several of them have attended Auburn University over the years, making a total of 15 from the Marsh clan to graduate from Auburn University.
Over the years, Buck has shared his stories in Alabama Public Television’s documentary “Alabama Remembers WWII,” and he published a memoir titled “Reflections of a World War II Infantryman” in 2011. Most recently, Buck was prominently featured in Adam Makos’ book, “Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy and a Collision of Lives in World War II.”