PHOTO PAGE 21
In Memory of
WILLARD R. JACKSON, Cpl.
117th, Co. H
By Sammie Carter // Staff Writer
Sometimes sad, virtually to the point of tears, and at other times laughing, also to the point of tears, Willard Jackson of Duplin County has a wealth of stores stemming from his experiences as an American soldier during World War II.
At 74 years of age, Jackson is retired and resides quietly in Rose Hill. One of his favorite things to do is riding and looking around…and another is chatting with friends that meet at Hardees.
After his stint in the military—he says “Somehow I came out of the war alive” – he worked for years in the grocery business.
His mobile home is near the home of his sister, Mrs. Herbert (Adelle Jackson) Cottle, 83. They enjoy the times when their 90 year old sister, Mrs. Hallie (Macy Jackson) Moore of Bowden, and their brother Carl Jackson of Colerain can join them. Carl is 81.
Willard Jackson and his siblings reminisce about their childhood years growing up in the “Jacksons Crossroads” area between Chinquapin and Beulaville.
“Our parents, Robert Andrew and Katherine Sandlin Jackson, ran a country store at Jackson’s Crossroad, “ Willard Jackson explained. “ They were ‘ Uncle Robert’ and ‘ Aunt Kate’ to just about everyone who came in. My father had a keen sense of humor and one day when one of us (ten children) asked him if we were really related to so many people, he answered, ‘Yeah, I reckon we are.’
“Papa never learned to drive and one of the boys was always called on to do the honors. One day he told the boy doing the driving, “Now son, don’t try to catch up with tomorrow!” We were always listening for Papa’s jokes and were glad he could look on life with good humor.”
Willard’s inherited “ good sense of humor” was possibly a strong point in helping him make it through the war. “That and a lot of luck,” he added.
Willard Jackson, at age 21 entered the service for what he thought would be one year’s training, but Pearl harbor was bombed about the time he was supposed to get out, and he ended up serving four more years receiving his honorable discharge as a corporal with the 417th infantry on September 30, 1945 at Fort Bragg.
“I thought I was all grown up when I went in service, but I quickly learned I was only a baby…but I came out a man!” Jackson declares. “What I saw and went through made me grow up fast.”
Jackson tried to use common sense, keep himself and as many of those around him alive…and survive. He was termed “a good soldier” as he carried out his duties to the best of his ability.
His story goes something like this:
“I was in the 30th Division “Old Hickory” 117 Regiment. I was in Company “H” which had machine guns and mortars. I left the states in 1943, spent four months in England…training…training…training! We landed in LeHarve, France, on D-Day, pushed forward over an area two miles wide and one mile deep and held there until the heavy artillery, tanks and supplies caught up.
Dug a “Hotel”
“If being in the war taught me anything, it was how to dig a hole. In fact, we boys could dig better than a bulldozer. When I dug in when we hit that beach on D-Day I dug a hole so hard, so fast, so good and so deep…the other boys called it a ‘hotel!’ We put brush on top and hay on top of the brush. We stayed there for two weeks. We hadn’t been told until the day before it would be D-Day…and it was emphasized that if they had to, they would kick us on our butts to make us go…but we WOULD GO and we would go forward!” And we did.
The first two major battles were shortly after this—first at St. Lo and Salome. Here we lost so many men we did not have enough to carry ammunition.
“After these two battles, replacement started arriving. We were moving up and fighting every step of the way!
“We did not have a change of clothes, a bath or a shave for about four weeks. The entire company had body lice and our uniforms were so stiff with clay they were hard to remove. We came to a creek, stopped to take a bath and shave. The supplies caught up and we were issued new clean clothes. What a feeling! While we were bathing in the creek German strafing planes came over and peppered us good. We were all as naked as when we came into the world…but we jumped onto the banks which we found covered with briars and stinging nettles. What a noise we did make!
“After this, some days we didn’t move a hundred yards. The germans were well prepared. They would not move…neither did we. This type battle lasted for what seemed like a long time. We lost a lot of men when we didn’t move fast.
“As we moved up, we crossed the Siegfried line and then had to participate in the Belgium breakthrough. The Germans waited for the entire battalion as we entered a field. We had traveled all night. We were going to set up camp in this field. The attempt failed. The Germans zeroed in on us. We jumped in the holes the German guns had made because we figured they would not shell the same place twice. We lost a lot of boys…a lot of boys.
“Somewhere in France we were at a standstill and I fired 500 rounds on a mortar gun without moving. It was firing so fast the gun melted down. They issued me a new gun and I received the Bronze Star for this battle.
One time when it was heavily snowing, we were pushing the Germans real hard and saw up ahead some of Hitler’s SS troops with a group of American prisoners marching them along. We pushed on hard and fast. And overtook them, but found the Americans dead. They had been lined up and gunned down with a machine gun…everyone of them dead, dead, dead, laying there in a row. When we saw what had happened no one could hold us back.
Willard Jackson received the Purple Heart “when one shell got five of us…one boy’s legs were torn off…the captain was hit and had to go back…and orders were issued for me (Jackson) to take charge. I told every man to SAVE HIMSELF IF HE COULD. I received, the Purple Heart for this battle. I did not want to take any promotions which were offered several times because the CO’s got killed so fast. I did not want to order the young men into what I knew was death or worse. The commanding officers who came in with just three months of training were to take orders from me for two weeks in view of my age and experience before they took charge because they had no battle training.
“On one occasion we reached a fork in the road, and a newly arrived and overly brash lieutenant asked me which road to take. I told him but he took the other one and had not gone ten feet before he was blown to kingdom come. The last I saw of him his helmet was going up in the air. The general asked why I let him take the wrong road. I explained that he had said he knew best. All my boys backed me because I always tried to take care of my boys…and when another company asked for them, they would beg me to keep them with me and I did my best. I looked after them…they looked after me!
Walking across Europe, Willard Jackson as an American soldier was in all five major battles and all put together, had 119 points that made him eligible to fly home.
There were only five men that started out with Willard Jackson who survived. Two were drivers and three picked up the dead and wounded. “I was the only one of the group that survived the front line fighting, which was almost hand-to-hand at some points.
“Either side could call a truce for two or three hours to give time to pick up the dead and wounded. One time at truce time I walked over and talked to one of their (the Germans’) men and he had been to the United States two years before. He was real nice and thought the war was useless.
“We called the boys that came in as replacements and had only 90 days training…”90 Day wonders.” We wondered how they had gotten that far. There were some bad times…like when any of these boys went berserk, and we had to literally knock some sense into them and tell them they were in WAR and the quicker they accepted it and tried to learn how to stay alive, the better off they would be. Sometimes a boy like this would turn out to be a good soldier if he could manage to stay alive long enough.
Willard Jackson got trapped behind enemy lines once and stayed alive by thinking fast. He pulled a dead soldier in on top of him. “The Germans came by and poked his gun in the dead boy and seeing no sign of life, moved on. Death was always very close, Jackson asserted.
I knew at the end of the war—not at the beginning…about concentration camps. Seeing the concentration camps was something that became seared in my memory.
“When I got hit while firing those 500 rounds of ammunition, I didn’t even know it until someone called my attention to the blood pouring from the wound…my head was hurting a lot worse from smelling the smoke coming off the shells… “I fired that gun all day and night. The Germans were counter attacking. A boy behind me was blown up by a shell, blown over my head… and as I fired and fired and fired that gun I had to look at that half body there on the ground…
“France was bombed the most…I’ll never forget looking down on Paris when we surrounded the city…and the 48-hour leave I spent there…
“I almost froze to death one time. It was like heaven to see a cow barn and we took shelter there close to the cows to warm ourselves in the warmth of their bodies and warm breath…
Of his many memories of that was so long ago, the memory that will probably stay with Willard Jackson as long as he lives is the memory of the little girl that rode the bicycle.
“This little German girl with whom I had struck up a friendship had a bicycle and followed me every time my company moved. Every time we’d stop and set up camp, a few days later here she’d come on her bicycle!”
“One time we moved an unusually long ways and I told my buddies I’d bet she wouldn’t find me this time.
“After about a week of being there, my commander came in and said, “Jackson, there’s somebody here to see you.’ I went out and sure enough it was my little German girl on her bicycle.”
Willard Jackson will never know how his little friend found his company, she couldn’t speak English!
But he knows surely that he will see her again…if only in his dreams.
Link to newly added photos of Malmedy bombings!!!
Lt. Col. Samuel T. McDowell, CO of 117th 3rd Battalion, had his OP in this school house in Alsdorf when it was attacked on Oct. 8th, 1944.
The school in Alsdorf which could be that one is on the attached photo. It is situated close to the water tower and faces the open area in direction of Mariadorf. It was my school and reopened in 1946. But I do not remember any signs of shootings on or around that building. ( The school was very nearly hit by German artillery but shells just went over roof into cemetery across street. Col. McDowell stated the German infantry never did discover they were being fired upon by his command in the upper stories of the school house. Thus no damage to building. )
The X marks the position where a young US soldier on guard was killed by stones when a US tank on the main road passed by and throw down part of a wall. There were a lot of wires partly at ground and around the wall, and these were pulled down by the tank.
There was/is another school in the center of old Alsdorf, just outside the photo at the left upper edge.
But no fighting had been in that part of Alsdorf.
So waiting from news from you when you are returned home.
We confirmed that this was DEFINITELY the school house of Col. McDowell!!!!
After much research we concluded with 90% accuracy that this tank destroyer was from the 803rd TD Battalion attached to the 119th IR, 30th Division when on Oct. 15th it was
destroyed with two of the four man crew KIA and two WIA. See two links below for information:
Added January 15th, 2014....from expert of the fighting in Wurselen:
I, at this time, CAN NOT verify with any accuracy information on this tank. Any help appreciated!!!!
2nd Battalion, 120th Inf.Reg. moving into the town of Krauthausen after crossing the Roer River, Feb. 23rd, '45.
Mortar Battery of the 30th supporting the assault on Magdeburg, '45.
119th Inf. Reg., Co. E, 4th Platoon...thanks to Vincent Heggen:
Hi I finally found the time to scan my famous picture and to
send it to
you . For the story , Francis Edwards slept in my father's barn
.Holycross was his commanding officer . The Co E rested in my father's
farm and the HQ was established in the Castle of Altembrouck, a
hamlet of Fouron -le -Comte where i'm living now ; Fouron -le Comte is
located East in Belgium on the Dutch border. Hope you will enjoy the
picture .More later ....
Great link with many Old Hickory photos:
Hello Warren, I hope all is well with you and I hope you had a
I would like to share this link with you. It's a very interesting website with lots of pictures including a lot of Old Hickory pictures. I did some research about Valkenburg and I noticed that a lot of pictures on this website are not on your website:
Lately I took some people to the spot in Moerslag, The Netherlands were the picture of your father was taken on September 13th. They were surprised that I could tell his name. It is a famous picture in this area.
I would like to wish you a happy and healthy 2012!
I am looking for anyone who can give me more information on a heavy bombardment in or near Hebecrevon on July 26, 1944, that took the life of my great Uncle.
Fantastic, Warren. Thank you. I am going to send you some PDF’d files later today with some information that I have. You may want to add it to your site – that’s your choice. Meantime, in a letter from Leland Hobbs to Major General RW Crawford (no relation to our uncle) states that Lt. Crawford’s coordinates of death were:
“46246943, St.Lo Sheet, 34/16 NW, 1/25,000”
Please open the documents below that tell some TREMENDOUS history of the 197th FA!!!!!
The tree and sign are standing in the Botanical Garden
in Kerkrade, The
Netherlands. Old Hickory tree that was planted in 1989.
They address is: St.Hubertuslaan 74, 4767 CK Kerkrade, The Netherlands,
Thanks to Ben Savelkoul
Company C soldiers of the 117th peer toward Maastricht from the
outskirts of Cadier-en-Keer, Holland.
Found of Page 163 of Curlew History and Page 40 of the 117th History.
LINKS to Fabulous 30th photos!!!! Thanks to Helmut Menzel
Link to site with many 30th Division photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/JoepNuthvanToen/NuthVanToenWOII
More photos from Dec/Jan, 1944 fighting around Malmedy, Belgium:
US ARMY SIGNAL CORPS PHOTOG ... TEC/3 JACK KITZEROW 165 PRISONERS TAKEN IN BELGIUM BY 30 TH DIVISION ARE MARCHED TO ENCLOSURE. GEROMONT, BELG. 30TH DIV. F USA.
Bridge of Outrelepont (over the river WARCHE”, to the old way to Liège. In back ground the two towers of the cathedral. Outrelepont is a the city's Malmedy neighborhood.
Just after the bridge, you’ll find a crossroad : to left side direction East, EUPEN (Belgium) and Germany ; to right side direction West to Liège, Stavelot, Stoumont, Bastogne ; in the middle SW direction the center of Malmedy, to the cathedral.
Cathedral : (roman catholic) Malmedy was, for a short time, a cathedral city ( 1919-1920 after WWI ), and before, from 780 to 1796 Abbey (Princedom of Stavelot-Malmedy) and from 1797 to 1815, a simple abbey ; from 1815 (Waterloo) to 1919 cathedral report to bishopric of Cologne, Germany) .
Just wanted to save some Civil War Photos:
Link to photos: