Jim’s story marks the third installment in the continuation of a personal project I am working on called People of Intrigue. Blog followers may remember Premila’s story and her work with Mother Theresa. She was our first People of Intrigue story. John’s story as a WWII vet followed that. Jim was referred to me because he is a WWII and Korean War veteran. Most often, People of Intrigues featured are people I have met in my travels, but my two WWII vets were sent to me after some searching. Enjoy this next installment of People of Intrigue.
As a little boy, during the 1930s, Jim and his mom moved around a lot. His father was killed when he was just 4 years old while at work as an electrician. Jim and his mom received assistance to help make ends meets. That meant dinner was sometimes cans of horse meat while his mom worked to keep their little family afloat. Jim decided to lighter her load and joined the army, the 5th regiment, on his 17th birthday, in 1941.
He first went away to Camp McCaul in North Carolina. “’Camp’ was generous as it was really just tar paper shacks in the woods, but the 17th airborne, which had a claw as its insignia, was formed from this back woods training. They trained in gliders that were so thin you could put your finger through them. The Germans put stakes in the ground to try and prevent the gliders from landing successfully and hoping to wreck them,” Jim shared.
Next Jim went to Tennessee for parachute training. This was his last stop in the US and then he boarded a train to NY to ship out to England. There he was to be retrained in basic military maneuvers while he awaited the pending invasion of France.
When the D-Day invasion did happen, much to the delight of the anxiously waiting soldiers, Jim was ready. “We got France, Belgium and Holland back. All was good while in France and Belgium. But later I was shot in the hand and it went through my wrist. Docs warned they my hand may have to come off,” Jim shared.
Jim recuperated in a hospital in Paris before he was moved to London. There was no chance of him returning to active duty because all the tendons in his hand were severed. He was shipped back to the States where he credits Army docs with doing a great job of sewing his tendons back together so he could move his fingers again.
“They couldn’t do anything else for me. I received my $21 a month, didn’t get the 50 cents extra because I couldn’t jump anymore,” Jim lamented.
Jim was sent to Oakland, CA to guard ships. “Marines would return to the ship after too much whiskey and women, it was my job to take their drink and stop the women from boarding. No easy task going head to head with drunk Marines! I would wait by the ship in my station, which was a little shack, and there were times those liquored up guys would pick up the shack and throw it right into the water!”
When his enlistment ran out, since he was disabled, he was told he couldn’t re-enlist. However, he went back to Baltimore, to the recruiter’s office and did just that! He was sent to Fort Bragg, the same unit he’d been in before. He ran into his colonel who was also from Baltimore and he put him in charge of the mail room. Next he served as a file clerk before lastly running the print shop.
Jim also served in the Korean War. He was a member of the 7th division and served “in the mountains where Chinese and Americans didn’t like each other. We’d take the mountain in the day and they’d take them back at night. I’d take supplies up and down the mountain. We slept in trenches at night. We’d shoot out the window of our shacks all the while grenades flying in the window. This is how I got wounded, got shrapnel in my shoulder. They had to cut off my wedding band and they bandaged up my hand. They didn’t know what to do with me then because I couldn’t carry a gun or go out to war. So I ended up in Japan working with military Far East intelligence. We would print leaflets that were dropped out of planes.”
This print shop experience would serve Jim well in his post-military career with the State Police where he worked in their print shop till he retired after 32 years of service. His retirement years started wonderfully in FL but after his wife died he moved into a senior independent living facility in converted schoolhouse in 2007 and had a lot of independence and a car for 10 years. He loved his time there.
Currently Jim is in a new assisted living and would prefer to rent a room in a home where he can have more independence again. If anyone reading this knows of someone looking to rent a room, feel free to reach out via the contact form on my website. Jim is surprisingly spry for the years he’s logged on this planet and having fought in two wars! As he moved through my studio he picked up his walker to carry it at one point and said, “Oh I don’t need this thing, but it’s a rule that I have to use it where I live.”
Thank you for sharing your story of service as one of the Greatest Generation Jim! We appreciate your service to protect our freedoms!