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Welcome to ww2il.com, the official website of the World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial located in Springfield, Illinois. Here you will find information about the memorial and stories submitted by some of Illinois veterans of World War II.

The Memorial Association was founded in 1999 and in 2000 was chartered as a not-for-profit organization (501C3). The Memorial was constructed to honor the 987,000 men and women from the State of Illinois who served our country during World War II. 22,000 Illinois citizens gave their lives in pursuit of liberty. The Memorial was officially dedicated on December 4, 2004. The Memorial Association also extends an open invitation to Illinois veterans of World War II to write about their wartime experiences and have them included on the WW II Illinois Veterans Memorial archives here at ww2il.com.


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William P. Canavan, U.S. Navy

November 13th, 2013

William P. CanavanWilliam P. Canavan was born in Cowenbeath Fife Scotland on September 25, 1919.  He is the oldest of four sons of Thomas and Susan (Clusker) Canavan.  His father, Thomas traveled to Springfield, Illinois in 1922 for work and get established before he sent for his wife Susan and their two sons.  William “Bill” came to America at the age of 4 and grew up in Springfield attending St. Patrick Grade School and Feitschen High School.  He joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 20 and was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago, Illinois.   William was a Recruit Officer and then became a Warrant Officer.    He was honored for his heroism back in 1944 during WWII when he received  the Navy and Marine Corp Medal of Honor for a British rescue that took place on December 11, 1943.  An article and photo was published in the State Journal Register Newspaper on July 1, 1944 to honor him.  William Canavan married on July 13, 1946 and now resides with his wife Nan of 67 years in the state of Connecticut, they have three children, Cynthia, Thomas and Scott, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.  

Canavan Brothers, Bill, Joe, Tom & John WWII & Korean WarWilliam sailed on the U.S.S. Niblack DD 424 which was built as a naval destroyer and was commissioned in September 1940 from the Boston Harbor. The Niblack’s shakedown cruise was along the East coast to the South Atlantic area. The Niblack was then assigned to sail to Iceland to establish an U.S. naval port.  While sailing to Iceland the Niblack came upon a Norwegian vessel that had been torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat submarine. While assisting in the rescue of 60 Norwegian sailors the Niblack’s sonar detected the U-boat approaching them. At that point, the Niblack dropped 3 depth charges and then departed. William Canavan indicated that on April 10, 1941 these were the first shots fired in the unlisted Battle of the North Atlantic by a United States warship.  He was the only man from Springfield, Illinois on the Niblack the day the first shots were fired in the unlisted North Atlantic Battle.

During December 1943, the U.S.S. Niblack sailed the West Mediterranean Sea when a German U-Boat torpedoed several freighters off Bizerte, Tunisia located just west of Sicily. On the afternoon of December 11th the U.S.S. Niblack joined with the British HMS Holcombe Escort Destroyer in search for the German U-Boat later identified as U-593. During this search the Holcombe was torpedoed and sank. William Canavan then assisted with the rescue of Holcombe’s sailors. William was the motorman of a whale boat used for the rescue. The sea had a heavy covering of oil from the Holcombe’s sinking. Mixed in under the oil were sailors clothing that entangled the propeller and shut down the motor preventing the whale boat to pick up survivors. William made repeated dives with his knife to cut free the clothing around the propeller. He said the Mediterranean Sea was calm  on December 11th 1943 which helped in his continued dives below the boat. After numerous dives through the oily water the debris was removed and rescue operations were able to continue. The Niblack’s crew were able to help save 90 men’s lives and transported them to an Army hospital ship that same night. During the transport, the U.S.S. Niblack spotted anti-aircraft fire from the submarine against a British Patrol Plane and directed the U.S.S. Wainwright (DD419) and HMS Calpe to the scene where they sank the German U-593.

The U.S.S. Niblack DD 424 earned five Battle Stars for service in all Mediterranean and Italian campaigns. The ships first star was awarded for its service protecting convoys in the North Atlantic from April 10,1941 till the Pearl Harbor attack which officially started our World War II involvement. The Niblack made numerous North Atlantic convoy crossings to the United Kingdom. The Niblack was also honored for the rescue attempts to survivors of the first US naval ship sunk in the North Atlantic prior to our official war declaration. This vessel was the Reuben James DD-245 sunk by a German submarine on October 31,1941.

The Niblack was decommissioned by a directive in June 1946 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Charleston, South Carolina where she was subsequently transferred to Philadelphia where she remained until struck on July 31, 1968 and sold on August 16, 1973 and broken up for scrap.

The USS Niblack had 16 officers and 260 enlisted men. Many of the crew would gather every two years for a reunion taking turns in each others home states. One of the reunions was held in Chicago in 1994 at the Palmer House Hotel. John Shedd Reed who was one of the captains of the ship and hosted the dinner gathering at his family’s famous Chicago Shedd Aquarium.

William Canavan retired from an engineering company in Connecticut where he designed submarine panels for the Navy until his retirement in 2007 at the age of 88.  He has one surviving brother, Thomas and has several nieces and nephews that reside in Springfield, Illinois.

Adkins, David C., Army Infantry 3rd Division

January 7th, 2013

I went into the Army Infantry on July 26th, 1940 and was stationed at Fort Ord, California as a member of the 7th Infantry Division, which was being re-activated.When the first group of draftees came, in about the month of November, several of us who had our basic training, were transferred to the 3rd Division to bring it to full fighting strength.We joined the 30th Infantry that was stationed at Presidio of San Francisco, which was located near the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. The rest of our Division, the 7th and 15th Infantry was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, near Seattle. Over the next year and a half, we made 3 trips to Fort Lewis to train with the rest of the division. During the summer of 1941, we spent about 6 weeks at San Diego making beach landings and also desert training.

On December 7th 1941, 2 buddies and I were on a weekend pass in Seattle. In the lobby of the hotel we stayed, just before noon, we heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. We ate lunch and had dates to go to an early movie. They also made an announcement at the movie about the bombing. When the movie was over and we were outside, there were army vehicles driving around the streets with loud speakers telling all military personnel to report back immediately to their unit. After walking a block or two, we were offered a ride back to Fort Lewis.

A couple of days later, we shipped out and did guard duty along Puget Sound. They thought there was a possibility the Japanese might try to make a landing on the West Coast. We were housed in a high school gym in Sequim, Washington, population about 200.

The first pass I received after Pearl Harbor was St. Patrick’s Day in 1942. I went to Bremerton, Washington on an overnight pass. I remember a couple of our ships that were hit at Pearl Harbor were there being repaired.

During the spring of 1942, our division was sent to Ford Ord, California where we went through some very vigorous training. Then in late July, we boarded a troop train in San Francisco, and six days later we arrived at a camp near Blackstone, Virginia. We spent much of our time on the rifle range and also taking hikes of 20 or more miles with full field packs.

On October 23rd, we boarded a troop ship (USS Joseph Hewes AP50) at Newport News, Virginia and were told that it was a practice landing maneuver. After 2 days at sea, we were told that we were making a landing near Casablanca, Morocco.

We had an escort of several Battleships, destroyers, and destroyer escorts, also a couple of aircraft carriers. We took a course in case we were spotted to make the enemy believe we were landing near Dakar, which was the central part of Africa.

Early on the morning of November 8, 1942, we climbed down the rope nets into small Higgins boats in preparation to making a landing at Fedala, Morocco near Casablanca.

On the way to shore, which was about 3 miles from where the ship was anchored, we began taking on water because of the high waves. We hit a huge wave, and the front half of the boat went under, but righted itself because of a center partition that kept water out of the back portion of the boat. The navy man who was driving, jumped overboard, but got back in when the boat righted itself. We bailed out the water with our helmets and continued with the landing shortly after daybreak.

About 300 or 400 yards before we hit shore, we began to draw artillery fire from a battery about a mile downshore. We had 3 casualties, one killed and 2 wounded (before we hit shore).

Our platoon had just landed and I was about 30 feet from the water, when I was hit by shrapnel from an 88 artillery shell. I was hit in my upper thigh, shoulder and head which was slowed by my helmet.

I spent the day just off the beach and was attended by a medic. That evening, I was taken back to the ship that I had just left that morning. A navy doctor operated on me that night and removed the shrapnel that was deep in my thigh. He said it would have been better if the shrapnel had gone through, as it would have eliminated the cutting to get to the shrapnel.

We were told that the wounded would be going back to the U.S. after the ship was unloaded. They couldn’t get into the harbor to unload because of the enemy ships that were sunk in the harbor by our battleships.

Just before dark on November 11th, several enemy submarines floated in with the tide and opened fire. 3 ships were hit, including the one I was on. Our ship was hit near the tail and also near the center. The wounded were loaded into a landing boat.   I was wearing only thin pajamas and no shoes and had to climb down a rope net into the landing boat, having just been operated on a few days before. While we were being loaded, we were strafed by a couple of German fighters. The navy personnel had to jump overboard and were picked up by boats shortly after. Our ship sank in only 42 minutes after it was hit. One ship that carried oil and ammunitions burned and explosives went off for several hours.

An old hotel in Fedala was set up as a hospital. Many of the patients were burn victims from the oil tanker that caught fire after being torpedoed.

While recovering from wounds, six or seven of us were sitting on the front porch of this old hotel when George Patton drove up in his jeep. Two ambulance drivers really got chewed out for not saluting, but he couldn’t have been nicer to us. He shook hands with each of us and seemed real concerned about our welfare.

After about a month, I was reunited with my company.

In January of 1943, our company was picked to guard the leaders of the U.S., England, and France at the “Casablanca Conference”. I had the opportunity to see Roosevelt, Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery, De Gualle, and many other Generals and Secretaries of State. I was on guard duty immediately in front of where they were lined up on the hotel patio to have pictures taken. Later, Roosevelt rode through our ranks in a jeep, for a Saturday morning inspection.

Shortly after, we moved to Oran, Algeria by cattle cars to be back up to the fighting in Tunisia. Later, we moved to Tunisia as the Germans surrendered. About 200,000 German solders were taken prisoner. This was in May 1943.

On July 9th, we boarded landing craft near Tunis for a landing the next morning near Licata, Sicily. The British also landed on the southeast coast. We had very few casualties on the initial landing. We headed across the island and ended up in Palermo about a week later after a few skirmishes along the way. We then headed toward Messina and ran into much more resistance.

On August 6th, 1943 while on a scouting patrol, my partner tripped on a wire setting off a land mine and we were both hit by shrapnel, his in the thigh and mine in the elbow.

We were shipped back to Oran in North Africa to a convalescent hospital. My arm was in a cast for a couple of months and then a couple of more months to get the full use of it. They did not remove the shrapnel so as not to do more harm to the elbow. I had a chance to see Bob Hope while there.

I had my tonsils removed while at the hospital and a week later I came down with a fever of 106 and pneumonia. After recovering from that, I was ready to rejoin my unit.

In February 1944, we loaded on an L.C.T. and headed for Naples, Italy where I was supplied with equipment to return to Anzio, where our division had landed just the month before. While at Naples, we were privileged to see the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the first eruption in many years.

In Anzio, we were joined with our division down just a few miles from shore. While there, we went on several night patrols, usually a squad or platoon strength. We were outnumbered 10 German divisions to our two. We had a lot of artillery support from our Battleships offshore. We had a lot of casualties from their constant artillery barrage.

On March 8th, 1944, we went on a night patrol. Our mission was to seize a large stucco farmhouse about 1/2 mile in front of our lines. We had platoon strength, and we were to take prisoners and booby trap the house and then withdraw.

As we got to within 300 or 400 yards, we were fired upon by rifle and machine gun fire, and shortly after, by artillery fire. Two of the squads had orders to withdraw, but the order never got to us. We were the forward squad and were pinned down. Before we realized what had happened, the enemy moved around behind us. When we ran out of ammunition, most of the squad was either killed or wounded. I received a wound to the forehead from a machine gun blast. My friend, who was 3 or 4 feet away, was hit from the same blast and was killed instantly. My helmet saved my life, as it caused the bullet to ricochet. A piece of the helmet is what gave me the cut on my forehead.

The three of us that were taken prisoners were taken to a prison camp near Rome. They treated our wounds there. We spent about 1 month there and were fed one bowl of soup and one piece of bread a day. We slept on the floor where they had dumped straw which was lice infected.

After a month in Italy, we were loaded into cattle cars and shipped by train to a prison camp near Munich (Stalag 7A). The guards took all of our shoes before we were loaded and after we got to the prison camp, they dumped all the shoes in a big pile and the prisoners had to scramble to find shoes that fit. I doubt if anyone ever got back his old shoes.

The conditions in Germany were much better. We had double bunk beds and we received Red Cross Parcels from the U.S. every week. About 200 of us were sent to Munich on a work detail where they had us clearing the streets after American and British air raids.

During that summer of 1944, Munich was almost leveled by air raids. The Americans bombed during the day and the British bombed at night. We had several close calls, but we were glad when the planes came. One 500-pound bomb landed within a block of where we were housed and I completely lost my hearing for almost an hour from the concussion.

While we were there, the airport was hit heavily by an air raid. They took the 200 of us out to clean it up. We refused to work since it was a military installation. They threatened to shoot us if we didn’t do the work. They lined up a few machine guns on the perimeter and we weren’t sure what to expect. After an hour or so, and evidently after they called superior officers, they shipped us out and brought in Russian prisoners to get the work done.

We arrived in Munich in May, and shortly after the airport incident, which was in September, we were shipped to Stalag 2B, East of Berlin and near the Polish Border.

We spent about a month at Stalag 2B, then we were sent to Janikow on a work detail. About 30 of us were split into 3 groups. One group unloaded boxcars of potatoes. Another group worked in a mill where they made flour from the potatoes. Our group loaded the flour on boxcars to be shipped out.

About February 1945, we began to hear Russian artillery to the east. We were given a couple of days notice that we would be moving out.

They started moving us to the north and west, toward the Baltic Sea. We hiked on the average 20 or 25 miles a day. We were mostly on the back roads and passed through small towns. At night, we usually stayed in large barns and started getting only 1 piece of bread or thin soup a day since we were no longer getting Red Cross parcels.

Along the way, other prisoners joined us and we became a group of about 200. A few of the prisoners decided to hide out hoping to be liberated by the Russians as they overran the area. Sometimes we would stay in the same location for 3 or 4 days before moving on.

On April 12th, 1945, our guards told us about the death of President Roosevelt. It was about this time that we began to hear American artillery. We were now about 100 miles west of Berlin. We estimated that we had walked 500 miles since we started 2 months earlier.

On April 14th, 1945, Patton’s 3rd Army was on a drive toward Berlin and when the forward echelon of tanks began to be sighted, all the German guards took off and we were on our own until our troops appeared. After a few hours, we were taken by truck to the town of Salzwdel, where we spent the night at the hotel Deutcherhof.

The next day, we were transported by a C-47 transport plane to a camp near Le Havre, France (Camp Lucky Strike). We waited there about 2 weeks for a ship to transport us back to the U.S.   We boarded the USS General MC Meigs (AP-116) on April 28th in Le Havre and set sail for the U.S. via Southampton, England on April 30th, 1945.

We were on our way back when on May 8th, 1945 we heard word that the war was over in Europe. Our escort ships were still on the lookout for German subs, just in case they hadn’t gotten the word that the war was over. We landed at Newport News, Virginia on May 14th 1945, the same port that I had left 31 months earlier. From there, I went to Fort Sheridan by train where I was issued a 60-day furlough and was to report to Miami Beach for examination.

After about 30 days, I was transferred to a convalescent hospital at Daytona Beach, where we made roll call once a day and then we were on our own to go swimming, play golf or tennis, or whatever we chose to do. After 60 days at Welch Convalescent, I put on 12 or 15 pounds to the 40 that I lost while prisoner. I received an honorable discharge from the army on October 18, 1945.

Jeglinski, Joseph Stanley – 117th Infantry, Company K, US Army

November 29th, 2012

My Grandpa, Corporal Joseph Stanley Jeglinski was born in Rome, New York, but lived most of his life in Chicago near Midway Airport. He was drafted into the United States Army on April 4th 1944 at Fort Sheridan, located in Highland Park, Illinois. Joseph was sent to Camp Fannin for basic training for 4 and 1/2 months (he trained with the 63rd Infantry, Company B). Camp Fannin is a place where more than 200,000 young American Men became Army Infantry Replacements and is located in Tyler, Texas. After basic training, Joseph was shipped overseas to the European Theatre of Operations on September 20th, 1944 and arrived on September 26th, 1944. Upon arrival, he was placed with the 117th Infantry, Company K, 30th Division (Old Hickory) also known as the “Workhorse of the Western Front”. The 30th Division was well known by the Nazi’s as they wiped out most of Hitler’s SS Divisions. He served in two of the biggest battles in World War II, Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and Rhineland. During the Battle of the Bulge, Corporal Jeglinski and another soldier were in the process of capturing an American soldier, but were then captured by the Germans and imprisoned for 30 days. During his time as a Prisoner of War, he ate weeds and roots to stay alive and spent most of his time in a Rail Car. While Serving in the European Theatre of Operations, Joseph loaded, aimed and fired his gun (M1 Garand) at enemy personnel for fire power support in gaining territory. He received several medals including: Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, EAME Theatre Ribbon with 2 Bronze Stars and Prisoner of War Medal. His military occupation was Rifleman, 745 and wore his Combat Infantry Badge with Pride. Joseph departed Europe on May 6th, 1945 and arrived in the United States of America on May 19th, 1945. He was seperated/honorably discharged from the United States Army on December 3rd, 1945 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.  My Grandpa is my Hero!

Dave Jeglinski

(Proud Grandson of Joseph Jeglinski)

Prouty, Ellsworth W. – Capt. Army Air Corps, Hell’s Angels

April 11th, 2012

Capt.Ellsworth ProutyCapt. Ellsworth W. Prouty
Army Air Corps
360th Transportation Personnel
Hell’s Angels 303rd Bomb Group (H)
The 8th Air Force

Place of Entry: Chicago, IL
Date of Departure: Sept. 5, 1942
Place of Separation: Ft. Sheridan, IL – July 25, 1945

Ellsworth was entitled to: Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign w/4 brass stars and the WWII Victory Medal. Ellsworth attained the the Rank of Corporal. He was Captain in the 360th Transportation Personnel.

Ellsworth married Marjorie Church from Northampton, England and they lived in Central Illinois area, and raised 4 children. Ellsworth was very proud to be a Veteran, and has passed that on to all of his children. Ellsworth passed away on Sept.25, 1990.

 Proud to be his daughter,
Barbara O’Grady.

Sewell, Russell E.–42nd Field Hospital 3rd Platoon

February 2nd, 2012


First Lieutenant Russell E. Sewell

First Lieutenant Russell E. Sewell

 

Photo: South Chicago Station

B & O Railroad – January 1944

 

Russell Earl Sewell (Brick #2286) was born in Jacksonville, Illinois April 29, 1913 to Cora May Olson Sewell and Earl Othello Sewell.  Russell attended grade school at Roach School in Decatur, Illinois and graduated from Calumet High School in Chicago. He entered the U.S. Army in 1942 when he was working for Oscar Mayer in Chicago.  Russell and Bernice Alvina Overgaard, who was also employed at Oscar Mayer in Chicago, were married in March 1943.

 

Russell attended basic training at Camp Robinson, Arkansas and from there went on to X-Ray school at O’Reilly General Hospital in Springfield, Missouri where he graduated as Technician 5th Grade. From there he went on to Camp Livingston, LA where he became Technician 4th Grade.  From there Russell went on to Camp Barkeley, Texas where he attended the medical administrative corps officer candidate school and he was commissioned Second Lieutenant. From there he went on to Camp Carson, Colorado where the 42d Field Hospital was activated. Then on to Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, Maxton, North Carolina and then to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and then on to Cp. Kilmer, Stelton, New Jersey and then on to Belfast, Northern Ireland, Gourock, Scotland, and finally to Bromyard, Herefordshire, England where they awaited D-Day and then on to Normandy and the European Theatre of Operations.  Russell was commissioned First Lieutenant while in Belgium Feb. 1945.

 

The whole history of Russell’s unit can be read on this website:  www.med-dept.com under unit histories, hospital units, 42nd Field Hospital. Russell was in the third platoon of the 42nd Field Hospital. This is the link directly to the unit’s history:

http://www.med-dept.com/unit_histories/42_fld_hosp.php

 

After WWII, Russell was in the Illinois Reserve Corps until Dec. 1952.

 

Russell and Bernice later moved to Wisconsin where Russell was a member of the American Legion, the VFW, The Masonic Lodge, the Eastern Star, Trinity United Methodist Church, Shriners, Scottish Rite and 40 et 8 and was a lifelong Cubs Fan.

 

Russell and Bernice had three children. Russell passed away on March 30, 2001 at the age of 87. 

 

Submitted by Russell’s daughter and her husband:

 

Susan Sewell King and David King

Estes Park, Colorado

dsk@q.com

Krohe, James – WO, 42nd Rainbow Division

October 13th, 2011

Jim Krohe, Basic Training July 1943 Jim Krohe and Bill Law, Germany 1944

The veteran I chose to interview for this assignment was my grandfather James Krohe, Sr., who served in World War II as well as the Korean War.  When he was only eighteen years old he was drafted into the army to serve in WWII in June of 1943.  He was attending Western Illinois University at the time.  His basic training took place at Fort McClary Alabama.  After completion of basic training, my grandfather was sent to North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., for special training called ASTP civil engineering.  When the army needed more infantry soldiers in Europe he and his fellow classmates were transferred to the 42nd Division in infantry at Camp Gruber, OK.  There he was trained to be a mortar gunner.

                Private Krohe was then sent to Europe in December, 1944 with the entire 42nd Division.  He was there for 1.5 years and within that time he travelled through France and Germany in combat.  His rank was Private First Class, assigned to Company K, 242nd Infantry Regiment.  He was part of two large campaigns and awarded two Bronze Stars for serving in the Central Europe-Rhineland and the Alsace-Ardennes Campaigns, as well as being awarded a Combat Infantry Badge which he is most proud of.  When in combat they spent most of their time taking villages and digging foxholes.  While serving in Europe he was able to attend one of the USO Shows put on by Bob Hope.  My grandpa was discharged from the army in May, 1946, and returned to his hometown in Beardstown, Illinois.

                He joined the National Guard in 1947 after getting married and moving to Springfield, Illinois.  His rank was Warrant Officer and his job was director of the 44th Infantry Division Band.  During the Korean War the National Guard was called on for active duty in 1952-1953.  He was stationed in the state of California for 1 year then the state of Washington for 1 year.  His job also included helping decide what band members would go overseas as replacements but he mainly served as the band leader and conductor of the band.  They served primarily as entertainment for dignitaries and troops.  While he was in the capacity he was able to see Bob Hope again and this time he met him and played for him.

                Following his service in the Korean War he did not return to school and found employment with the state of Illinois.  He continued his career as a musician and band leader with the 33rd Infantry Division Band Illinois National Guard.

                The 42nd Rainbow Division of WWII has a reunion once every year that he attends when he can.

                When I asked my grandpa how his service impacted him, he said it didn’t impact him in any way after his service but he can still remember every detail of his time while in service, even 60 years later.  He could even recall walking through the forest and digging a foxhole and having to put branches over it so the enemy could not see the candle light.  He and his “foxhole buddy”, Bill Law, sat with the mortar gun right next to them as they wrote letters to their families.  He was lucky enough to return to his family uninjured after proudly serving his country.

Written by:  Kelsey Slaughter

For Mr. Lightfoot’s 6th Hour Class

Cagney, Joseph Phillip – Assault, Leyte Island, Philippines

September 28th, 2011

joseph_cagney011.jpgjoseph_cagney021.jpg

Joseph Philip Cagney was born on August 10, 1924, and lived in Oak Park, a suburb due west of Chicago’s loop. Since his father’s name was also Joseph he was known as “Phil” by his family and friends. He graduated from Ascension grade school in 1938, Fenwick High School in 1942 and that fall enrolled in Notre Dame’s school of engineering.  

 

Shortly after he completed his freshman year at Notre Dame, Phil received his order to report for induction and in July was transported to Camp Grant, near Rockport, Illinois. There he received his uniforms, including size 12 ½ B shoes, and his orders to report for basic training at the Army’s Camp Fannin, near Tyler, Texas. He was most proud of the 2 expert sharpshooter medals he received for his time on the firing range. During his tenure at Camp Fannin, “Joe,” as he was now called by his army buddies, took a battery of eligibility tests for the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). If accepted, applicants would be sent to a university to be enrolled in its engineering curriculum. Joe did well on the tests and after he completed his basic training he became a member of the University of Wisconsin’s ASTP program in November, 1943.

 

By the beginning of 1944 it became evident that the military needed all available troops for its later assault on Fortress Europe and the Japanese held Philippine Islands. As a result, the ASTP was cancelled for all enrolled except those in their final year. In March, 1944, Joe was reassigned to the 96th Infantry Division, 381st Regiment, Company K and boarded a troop train to Camp White, near Medford, Oregon. During the next few months, his unit went to Camp Luis Obispo and Camp Callan in California to receive special training in amphibious landings. Late in July the 96th Division arrived at San Francisco harbor and began boarding the 5 troop ships for Hawaii and eventually the Philippine Islands.

 

On October 20, 1944, American troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur began their assault on Leyte Island in the Philippines. During an engagement near Catmon Hill on October 29th, Joe was wounded while attacking a Japanese machine gun emplacement. Fellow combatants, under heavy fire, were able to remove him from the battlefield and he was transported to the army’s field hospital set up in the nearby Catholic cathedral. Although Joe was operated on successfully, his wounds were too serious and he died the next day, October 30, 1944.

 

Joe was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, posthumously, “For exemplary conduct in ground combat against the enemy on or about 20, October, 1944, in the Pacific Theater of Operations.”  An army buddy, Clay Bushnell, wrote a book, Centurion King, about his combat experiences and dedicated it to the memory of Joseph Philip Cagney, stating he wrote “this book as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of my best friend and buddy.” Joe also was the recipient of the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Philippine Liberation Medal and 6 additional medals. His 381st Infantry Regiment received the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation for gallantry in action.

Jackson, Earl L. – Capt. US Army & ARNG Officer, Leader, Hero

April 1st, 2011

Capt. Earl L. Jackson

The story of U.S. Army Capt. Earl L. Jackson and his family is one of sacrifice. A widowed mother who lost a beloved son during World War II; a 32-year-old father who paid the ultimate price to preserve a way of life for family and country; and three children whose memories of their dashing father provoke pride and not just a few tears.

Theirs is not perhaps a unique tale, but a tale that is uniquely American; that is a tale of a courageous father traveling to foreign lands, fighting the good fight, preparing to sacrifice his life so that his family need not sacrifice theirs and so that his countrymen not sacrifice their way of life in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

This tale begins back in 1913 in Makanda with the birth of baby boy Earl to Doss and Ida Tope Jackson. When Earl’s father died at a young age, Ida Jackson was left to raise six children on her own, adding a few stepchildren when she remarried. “She was just 5-feet tall and weighed about 95 pounds, but she was the strongest woman I ever saw in my life,” said Ida’s grandson Robert Earl Jackson, 71, of Energy.

She would need that strength as she sent her son Earl off to war, leaving behind his wife, Geneva and three children, Dorothy, almost 13, Robert Earl, then 11, and Shirley, 8. “She was our heroine,” said Shirley Jackson McKinney, now 67 of Little Rock, Ark. “She saved everything he sent home, every letter and every news clipping. We all have copies and they helped us to know our dad. They are our treasures.”

Jackson’s children got to know their father’s compassionate side in one of the letters he wrote to his mother that he signed “Your wandering son, Earl”:

“I had a small stock of candy when I arrived here, but I soon gave it away to the children here. Little girls and boys from two to 10-years-old ask every American soldier they see for candy. They don’t have candy here as sugar is too scarce. “The children look pale and undernourished and I couldn’t help but think of those healthy youngsters of mine living in a land of plenty. So, the candy I receive from rations go to the English kids – they need it worse than I do.”

Jackson was a full-time adjutant in the Illinois National Guard based at the Carbondale Armory before he entered the U.S. Army in 1941. McKinney remembers little about those days, but does recall Jackson’s leave at home before being shipped overseas.

“He visited school one entire day with each of his three children. Each of us had our own school day with our dad. I was in the first grade and recall how very proud I was of walking to school with my dad in his full military uniform. He sat in the back of the classroom the whole day observing my class work,” she wrote in a tribute to her father. “That day was probably my last memory of seeing my dad.”

The family kept up with Earl’s exploits in his messages to his family, especially his mother. “Nov. 25 1944 somewhere in Germany:

Dear Mom, Well, I’m still safe although I’m having some narrow escapes. My Jeep hit a mine a few days ago – threw me out of it – just shook me up a little – but injured my driver and my executive officer. Have been under constant shell fire for some time now.”

Dec. 11, 1944: “I guess you have been reading in the papers how my outfit crashed through the German defenses – we who had never been in combat before defeated Hitler’s best troops – his “supermen.” This outfit amazed everyone as we got tough and chased the Jerries (German soldiers). When our men attacked they either threw down their arms or ran and we had to chase them to capture them.”

Belgium Jan 5, 1945: “Having quite a lot of snow and cold weather here now, which makes going a bit tougher but we will come through. No one can beat the courage and determination of the American soldiers as we are again joining in this war.”

Belgium Jan 18, 1945: “Mom, I hear I’m to get a medal for my actions during the recent operations. I don’t know what I did other than get my company into the towns with few casualties and captured 37 German soldiers. Would have got more but they seemed to want to fight so we shot them. I could sure write lots of heroic things my men did but I’m not permitted to do so. I believe Company C is the fightingist outfit in the entire army and I’m still proud to be its captain. Well Mom, I’ll be glad when the war is over. I’ve seen everything. Death in its most horrible forms. And war is certainly not a pretty sight. No one can ever tell me anything about war! I know! Well, I’ll close for this time. Your son, Earl P.S. Would love some hot biscuits! You can sure make them.”

Belgium Jan 20, 1945 “Dear Mom, I received the cake and fountain pen today. The pen was okay and I’ll send you a money order for it. The cake was damaged in shipment. It had become wet. Weather is still cold, and the snow is really deep altho I am told that spring comes early here. I haven’t had much of a chance to send anything to Bobby yet but I intend to send him a German Bayonet and helmet. Well, I’ll close for this time. Earl”

A month later, U.S. Army Capt. Earl L. Jackson was killed in action.

“He got through the Battle of the Bulge and they were mopping up little towns in Germany,” said Robert Earl Jackson, who did receive the bayonet and helmet, albeit after his father’s death. “He and his executive officer were killed by 88 mm artillery on Feb. 23, 1945. They must have had the area in their sights because it was a direct hit on them.”

News of Jackson’s death came swiftly. “I was at school and a little girl came up to me and said, ‘Your daddy got killed in the war.’ When I got home, my mother wasn’t there, but I found the telegram on the cabinet. It didn’t soak in. It wasn’t traumatic but it became more so the older we got,” said Jackson’s eldest daughter, Dorothy Lively, 72, of Herrin. “Naturally we are proud, but we would much rather he came home. I can’t help but wonder where we would be, what he would have been doing, had he not been killed.”

Robert Earl Jackson was with his grandmother when he got the news of his father’s death. The remembered pain of that moment was evident on Jackson’s face on a recent visit to the Carbondale Armory where a plaque commemorating his father was placed in 1950, in remembrance of the only National Guard member from that Armory to die in World War II. “He was a great patriot. He loved the military and had he not been killed, he would have retired after a career in the military. He is the reason I went into the military,” said Jackson, a retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. E-8 who belonged to his father’s old unit.

McKinney said that although she was just eight when her father died, she has memories of her father she holds precious. “I do have memories. He had a love of his country, his children and family,” she said. “He paid the ultimate price and he was courageous in doing that.” Jackson said he thinks of his father when he hears of the casualties in Iraq. “At 32, my father was so young, but here again we are having 19 and 20-year-old kids dying and it just tears me up,” he said. And he always remembers one passage from a letter sent by his father: “If I come out of this thing alive I shall fight for anything that will prevent this country from ever getting started in a war again. I’ve seen war now and know what it is. We don’t ever want it to happen again.”

In Memory of CPT Earl L. Jackson, KIA 23 February 1945 near the Roer River, Germany

Duncan, James J. – PFC Combat Infantryman

March 17th, 2011

James J. Duncan - PFC Combat Infantryman

World War II Europe
(1943-1946)

James J. Duncan was born 12 Jan 1924 in Ilsley, KY. He was the son of Cal and Georgia Duncan. 13 Feb 1943 at age 19, he attended basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas and later Camp Carson, CO. He was transferred 15 June 1944 as a replacement soldier to the 29th Division, 116th Infantry-Co L, 3d BN, where he participated in the brutal Normandy campaign in France, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe as a combat infantryman.

On 30 July1944, he was reported MIA in France. Jim was in a military hospital, unable to identify himself with significant injuries. He recovered enough to be identified and was returned to combat duty on 24 Aug 1944.

Later, on 06 Oct 1944, Jim was listed as a battle casualty at Aachen, Germany. He was suffering from “battle exhaustion with injuries.” On 26 Oct, his mother received a telegram that he was “wounded in action.” On 03 Nov, she received a correction to a previous telegram, advising her that he was “more than slightly wounded.” He spent more than two months in the hospital recovering. He was returned to duty and his unit continued to battle it’s way through Germany and served as an occupational unit until returning to the U.S. from Bremen, Germany.

James had participated in four major European battles, earning him the following awards:

  • European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon
  • 4 Bronze Service (Battle) Stars for Combat Campaigns:
  • Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe
  • 3 Overseas Service Bars-one each six months overseas
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar M-1
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • Purple Heart Medal

On 22 Feb 1946 Jim was honorably discharged at the Camp Grant Separation Center in Illinois. He has served two years, 11 months and 10 days of active duty. After the war, Jim used his mechanical skills and military automotive training to pursue a career in auto mechanics. This training he passed on to his sons. Jim never spoke of the war except with close military brothers. He marched to a higher calling on 05 Jul 1994 and now rests at Live Oak, in Selma, AL.

Submitted by Penny Jasper, niece

Franco, Vincent P. – U.S. Army Air Forces

January 18th, 2011

Vincent P. FrancoVincent Franco entered active duty in the U.S. Army on October 12, 1942 at Fort Sheridan, Illinois and was reassigned to U.S. Army Air Corps. He completed his training as Radio Operator Aerial Gunner (B17) and was then reassigned as Aviation Cadet (Bombardier). Vincent was honorably discharged on November 7, 1945 at Scott Field in Illinois.