Mr. Compton fought in some of the war’s fiercest battles as a first lieutenant with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The soldiers, collectively known as Easy Company, participated in the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy, parachuted into Holland for the disastrous Operation Market Garden, and fought through frostbite and German artillery in the Battle of the Bulge.
At 6 feet, 220 pounds, he had been a two-sport varsity athlete for the University of California at Los Angeles before he became an Army officer in 1943. He was a catcher alongside future major leaguer Jackie Robinson and played guard on the Bruins’ line in the 1943 Rose Bowl. (UCLA lost 9-0 to the University of Georgia.)
In his 2008 memoir, “Call of Duty” (written with Marcus Brotherton), Mr. Compton recalled leaning out of a C-47 transport plane about 1 a.m. on D-Day.
“In the moonlight, I could see the Normandy coastline in the distance,” he wrote. “It looked surprisingly peaceful in spite of what I could only imagine lay ahead. Tracer bullets and antiaircraft started to appear, red, blue and green tracers, spectacular and deadly against the night sky.”
After regrouping on the ground, Mr. Compton and 1st Lt. Richard “Dick” Winters led an assault on a German artillery emplacement near Brecourt Manor.
The battery was heavily fortified and protected by 50 German sentries. Entering a trench, Mr. Compton’s baseball instincts took over when he saw German soldiers retreating.
“The distance to the fleeing enemy was about the same as from home plate to second base,” historian Stephen Ambrose wrote in the 1992 book “Band of Brothers.” Mr. Compton “threw his grenade on a straight line — no arch — and it hit a German in the head as it exploded.”
For capturing the position and saving countless Allied lives, Mr. Compton received the Silver Star — the military’s third-highest medal for valor in combat.
During Operation Market Garden, Mr. Compton was directing his men in battle when he was shot in the buttocks. He received the Purple Heart.
Upon recovering from his wounds, Mr. Compton rejoined Easy Company for the worst fighting the unit encountered in the war. Holed up in a forest near Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, the soldiers endured below-freezing temperatures and heavy snow while German forces splintered the trees with artillery fire.
“I had seen men die before. I had seen men get wounded before,” Mr. Compton wrote in “Call of Duty.” “But this was different. This was unprecedented gore.”
After one battle, Mr. Compton emerged from his foxhole to find the mangled bodies of a dozen of his men, their blood staining the snow. He ran to find medical treatment for the wounded before sitting down on a fallen tree and sobbing over the loss of his friends.