Ossining War Veterans — Corporal Nathan Bayden

As promised, here’s a post with information on Corporal Nathan Bayden, one of Ossining’s war veterans, honored at the intersection of Feeney Rd. and Bayden Rd.

While Private Benjamin Feeney lost his life in WWI (see full blog post here), Cpl. Nathan Bayden served in WWII and was killed in action in Algeria.

(I do rather wonder how these street names honoring our soldiers are chosen, as this seems a particularly random pairing.) 

Nathan Bayden was born in Ossining on July 21, 1918.  His parents, Benjamin and Fannie, were born in either Poland or Russia (hard to know back then as the borders kept shifting.) The family was Jewish.  

He graduated from Ossining High School in 1935 and immediately went to work, likely as a clerk in his parents’ antique store which they ran out of their house at 107 Spring Street.  

According to the 1940 census, he was a chauffeur, and worked 52 weeks a year, earning the princely salary of $700 a year.  (That works out to about $20,000/year today.)  

Not sure if Nathan was drafted or if he joined up voluntarily, but he officially enlisted on March 5, 1941.  His enlistment record notes that he was a “salesperson”, not a chauffeur, and at the time he enlisted, he wasn’t assigned to a particular service branch at the time.  

At some point, though, he became part of the US Army, 2nd Armored Division, 67th Armored Regiment.

The nickname for the 2nd Armored Division was “Hell on Wheels” and their shoulder patch looked like this:

If you look closely at Corporal Bayden’s picture above, you can see that same patch on his left shoulder, confirming his Division.

I can’t find out when he joined the 2nd, so I’m not sure which battles he fought in, except for his last.  Killed in Action on December 7, 1942 in Algeria, he was originally interred in a cemetery in Tunisia, but at some point his remains were transferred to Arlington cemetery, where he rests today.

So what was this Ossining boy doing in Africa in 1942?  

Frankly, I always forget that battles were raging in Africa during WWII. All I know is that General Erwin Rommel commanded the German Afrika Korps, it was hot and sandy, and the Kasserine Pass is somewhere there.  I believe these battles in Africa were a plot point in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the European and Pacific theaters generally seem to take up more space in the version of WWII I’m familiar with.

And I’m not going to lie, military history is far too numbers-oriented and remote for me to engage with too deeply, so I’m not going to get into the weeds on all this.  But I did learn that the famous General George S. Patton was in charge of the 2nd Armored Division in 1942.

And while I can’t pinpoint the battle in which Corporal Bayden lost his life, it was likely in the aftermath of Operation Torch – an Allied invasion of the French Colonies in northern Africa.

In reading about this battle, I’m surprised that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg haven’t done a feature film on it, because it’s just as dramatic and heroic as the Normandy invasion featured in Saving Private Ryan.

Operation Torch took place November 8 – 16, 1942.  As he would be for D-day on June 6, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of this operation. (No wonder the man smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day!) 

The invasion involved landing over 75,000 troops in Morocco and Algeria. Like D-Day, this operation involved US and British forces working in tandem.

Why was this invasion necessary?  

Why is war ever necessary, I reply.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I have a nuanced understanding as to the strategy at work here. But, a careful reading of Wikipedia (ahem!) and a brief conversation with my history guru Ken during a run, the ostensible goal was to liberate North Africa from the Vichy French and the Nazis, but Stalin was really keen on the Allies opening up a 2nd front for the Germans to contend with.

It seems that our Corporal Bayden’s Division was in the Western Task Force on the Casablanca side of things.  General George S. Patton was in direct command of this part of the invasion, and over 35,000 troops were secretly transported there in ships, nonstop from the United States.  Traveling through waters patrolled by U-boats, arriving right on time, at night, in unfriendly territory in bad weather – the logistical portion alone of this story is remarkable.

Here’s a map of the battle sites I downloaded from Wikipedia – it clarified a lot of this for me. (Cpl. Bayden’s Division is all the way on the left, or western side of French Morocco.)

How exactly did Corporal Bayden participate in this battle?  And how did he lose his life nearly one month afterwards?  Alas, I have not uncovered much detail here, except that a hospital admissions record states that that the Causative Agent of his death was “Boat, sinking, by mine or resulting from unspecified enemy action.”  

And then there’s the clipping (above) that I found in in the Ossining Historical Society’s 1983 Memorial Honor Roll – though Bayden’s death year is incorrect, perhaps the description of the cause is accurate?  Hard to know. If anyone reads this who knows more, please contact me!

Taking into account that Bayden enlisted in March of 1941, and knowing that the majority of the soldiers participating in this battle came straight over from the States, I believe this might have been Bayden’s first, and last, experience in battle.

So the next time you drive up Bayden Rd., take a moment to remember Corporal Nathan Bayden, who died far from home at the age of 26.