Sigh! I was out celebrating my birthday, when news arrived from "Jimbeau", one of Jim's sons, that Jim had passed away. Oh, what a shock! It was unexpected and sudden. I had just responded to one of his emails, the day before. While I was very sad and broke out into tears, I couldn't help to think about Jim's great sense of humor, and looked up to the sky, saying, "Nice going Jim, you passed away on my birthday, just to ensure that I would never forget you!" Trust me, he was looking down at me with that big grin on his face. That was who he was.
Words cannot express my sense of loss, for we were very close and wrote to each other all the time. He would send me pics of himself, enjoying simple, everyday moments like eating pizza. Cute!
My life will be a lonelier place without you my friend, but it was also a richer one, because of you. Love ya forever! M
While going through the guestbook yesterday, I noticed an entry from a WWII vet.
Jim was a member of Co. E-345th-Regt-87th (Golden Acorn) Inf. Div. As you can imagine, it is always a thrill for me to have a veteran visit my site and then take the time to write. I replied immediately and thanked him for signing the guestbook. I asked him if he would be interested in contributing any stories and sure enough he wrote back and gave me some links. He has given me permission to share the following with all of you. I think you'll love one story in particular and if it doesn't make you grin, laugh aloud and shake your head, then you're not alive. It's one of those precious moments from the war.
Note: August 2011 - Jim asked if I could imbed the Lilly Marlene song in his page. I was happy to do so.
Jim was born November 24, 1925 in Bayonne, NJ. His father died in 1930, leaving his mother to raise him, his three brothers, and six sisters.
He attended local schools, received his high school diploma, and entered the Army in March 1944. He had IRTC (Infantry Replacement Training Center) training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, SC, then proceeded to Ft. Jackson where he was assigned to the 87th.
The 87th passed through his hometown when they were shipping out via Camp Kilmer. On Feb 26, 1945, Jim was wounded near Neuenstein, Germany. He was sent to a hospital in Paris, but says:
"It was rough on a 19 year old who didn't smoke or drink and not
too fond of chocolate ... don't know how I was able to recuperate."
Jim was discharged from the Army on December 15, 1945 at Camp Upton, Patchogue, Long Island. He married his wife, the former Dolly Tagliareni, in 1949. They have two sons, and two grandsons. He retired in 1982 after working for 35 years as a mailman for the Bayonne Post Office. Says Jim:
"It seems the Acorn patch on my shoulder ended up in
my heart, for I feel blessed to have friends in the 87th.''
What's the password?
I was a member of a small night patrol out on reconnaissance in the Ardennes in Belgium after a brief skirmish with a German machine gun outpost we headed back towards our lines. On the way back we were challenged by an American machine gun outpost. In the confusion of the battle none of our patrol members knew the password. Knowing German soldiers were using captured American uniforms the right password meant life or death I had to think fast. Whatever made me answer this way, I will never know, I yelled out, ''We are Americans. We don't know the password. But if you are a GI, we'll kiss your f--k--g a-s''. The sentry knew no German could curse like that, we were allowed to enter our lines.
The irony of this incident fell into place 40 years later at our annual division reunion. While chit-chatting with my buddies from "E" Company. This incident came up. I never knew the G. I. sentry who challenged our patrol that night. To my amazement, Bud Black from Kokomo, Indiana told me he was that sentry. His finger was ready to squeeze the trigger on his machine gun, when he heard my reply to his challenge. The language convinced him we were American G. I.'s. I hesitated to tell this story because of the language. In reality I thought it saved our lives.
The Second Battalion Jumped off at 1500
On February 26th, 1945, Company E led the way followed by F and G. Their supporting tanks and tank destroyers moved up behind, utilizing an alternate route. An hour and a half later E Company was held up in a draw one kilometer east of the jump off point. Snipers opened fire, and soon mortar shells began dropping all over the area inflicting numerous casualties.
Lt John Ford, Gatonia, North Carolina, Tech Sergeant Vernon E Howe, Muscatine, Iowa, and one squad of men pushed across a creek and an open field to the next patch of woods. The Germans let the one squad cross, then opened fire with mortars and machine guns. The opening later proved to be the Germans final protective line with crossfire where E Company was attempting to cross.
The creek afforded protection for several of E Company's wounded until they were able to be evacuated. Lt Ford and his squad stayed in the booby trapped woods until evening when he could safely infiltrate his men back. An attempt to move to another area was thwarted by a booby-trapped field. Company F moved up to reinforce Company E's lines and protect their flank.
James Hennessey recalls... I was part of the squad that crossed the creek. I was wounded there by a sniper in the early afternoon, and didn't get out until late that night.
Solemn Remembrance: Vet Returns to Pay Respects to Former Lieutenant
By ANDREW LERSTEN / H-P South Haven Bureau
SOUTH HAVEN - Kneeling beside Henry Compton's grave at Casco Township's McDowell Cemetery one recent afternoon, Jim Hennessey of Bayonne, N.J., had a flash of insight.
"It's ironic," he said, nodding to the beautiful fall foliage. "The trees were just like this in the Ardennes" at the start of what would become the brutal Battle of the Bulge in late 1944.
He should know.
Compton and Hennessey were both part of Company E, which was part of the 345th Regiment of the 87th "Golden Acorn" Infantry Division, one of several to fight in the historic World War II battle. Compton, who died in 1984 after operating his thriving construction business in South Haven for nearly 40 years after the war, was the platoon commander.
After all these years, Hennessey still visits his commander's grave out of respect whenever he and his wife, Dolly, are near South Haven. They've been back close to a dozen times since 1982, and always stay with Compton's widow, Marty, when they're in town.
It's a bond between soldiers that has lasted decades, through the trials and joys of life to the solemn remembrance of death.
"We come up here and pay respects," said Hennessey, who calls Compton "Hank." "He was a wonderful man and a wonderful soldier. I will always remember him."
The E Company was delivered into the jaws of battle one chilly night in December 1944 shortly after the Germans punched through the Allied Forces in the Adrienne forest region of Belgium, severing the allies into a northern and southern front. The E company was brought in as reinforcements following massive allied casualties in the first few days of the Battle of the Bulge.
"They brought us up in open trucks," Hennessey remembers. "And boy, was it cold!"
After hunkering down for an extended battle, allied forces eventually evened the score and were able to form another united front that began the final push into Germany. The end of the Battle of the Bulge marked the start of Hitler's Final 100 Days.
But the danger and the intense fighting was far from over, as both Hennessey and Compton would soon find out.
Not long after that, in February 1945, Compton was injured and Hennessey would not see him again for another 28 years after that.
Two weeks after Compton was injured, Hennessey was also injured in combat. He still has shrapnel in his skull today from that wound.
Henry Compton earned many awards during his years of military service, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
It wasn't until 1973 that he and Hennessey would be reunited, far from the battlefield at a Golden Acorn reunion in Valley Forge, Pa.
"It was instant recognition," Hennessey said. "Hank said, 'Hey I know you!'"
The Hennesseys first visited the Comptons in South Haven in 1981. Three years later, Compton died at the age of 64.
But the Hennesseys have kept coming back.
Why have the bonds between soldier and commander stayed so strong, for so many years, even after one man's death? It may be something only a soldier can know, Hennessey said.
"You lived together, and you could have died together," Hennessey said. "It was a buddy system. See (the film) 'Saving Private Ryan' and you'll see what I mean."
1973 Reunion at Valley Forge, PA
Clockwise, starting at 6 o'clock:
Sgt. Harold Craven (HQ2-345), T/Sgt. Reese Brantner, Pfc. Jim Hennessey, Ruth Brantner, Vi Berquest, Dolly Hennessey, Marty Compton,
Capt. Ed Bergquest (HQ2-345), Lt. Henry Compton
Jim with his extensive collection in his rec room.
Jim & Dolly Hennessey
55th Annual 87th-Reunion-Valley Forge, Pa-September -2004.
The 87th gets recognition abroad!
And at home! I-390 Hwy-South of Rochester, New York
Need info on The Battle of the Bulge and receiving your certificate? Click here.
Marion's note: I found this on the 87th Division's home site
Jim sent me this photo of his brother. In WWII he was stationed at the 8th AAF Field in Framingham, England. He was with the 390th Bomber Group, 568th Bombardment Squadron. His plane was the B-17 and was named THE VULTURE. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Air Medal with 3 clusters. After WWII he lived and worked in Chicago, IL. He is buried alongside his wife Loretta, in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC.
I sent you this e-mail to show you that the men who you had to leave behind in Europe during World War II are in good hands ... I attached pictures to this e-mail to give you an idea how the graves are attended during Christmas. Picture 07 shows the flowers which all four men got plus the card with your Divisions insignia and a little Christmas tree ... These are four graves I attend ... graves of your brothers in arms ... Captain Howard J Wall ... S Sgt John H Doxey ... PFC Francis L Riggins and PFC James B Hicks ... these four men received flowers on their graves from my family and me, but please don't think the other ones are forgotten, they will never be forgotten ! There are thousands of people like me over here in Europe who take care of the graves, thousands of people who visit the graves and place flowers on your brothers graves ... and there are people who make this all possible, people that run and work in the organization that takes care of the American War Cemetery at Margraten in the Netherlands ... I'm referring to Mister Jo Purnot whom I wish to thank and honor also via this e-mail ! Before I forget ... Francis Riggins and James B Hicks are buried at Margraten, Howard Wall and John Doxey at Henri-Chapelle (Belgium). I wish you all and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ... I hope this e-mail and pictures sheds some light on the losses you suffered back in those dark days ... your losses ... your brothers in arms !
Best wishes, Peter Heckmanns
Kerkrade (The Netherlands)
Here's something that Jim and I would like to share with everyone regarding the great 87th. This quote is from a manuscript written by the commander of the Wehrmacht Fuehrer-Begleit-Brigade General Ernst Remer about the Battle of the Bulge and the actions of 5 January 1945:
"....In this connection, it must be said that the enemy forces (in this case, the 87 Inf Div (US) fought very skillfully, as far as infantry was concerned. It was the only force for which we had respect, even during the night."
I received this newspaper article today:
Doria Issues Proclamation for 60th Anniversary of Battle of the Bulge
Mayor Joseph V. Doria, Jr. has issued a proclamation commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Doria said, "The period of the Battle of the Bulge was an extremely difficult time for Allied troops. Fighting in the midst of winter, they struggled valiantly to maintain Allied positions on the Western Front. Thanks to the heroism of such American soldiers as Jim Hennessey of Bayonne, the Allies were able to turn back the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge."
That battle began as a German counteroffensive on December 16, 1944. As German forces advanced against the Allied troops in Belgium and Luxembourg, their movement created a bulge in Allied lines on the Western Front. In late December 1944, Allied troops halted the German advance. The Germans withdrew eastwards in January 1945, paving the way for the eventual Allied victory in Europe in May 1945.
A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, Jim Hennessey, 79, served in Company E, 345th Regiment, 87th Infantry Division. According to Hennessey, the 87th Infantry Division was part of the Third Army, which was under the command of General George Patton. Hennessey entered the U.S. Army in March 1944 and served until December 1945. He was wounded in action in Germany in February 1945.
The article is from the Jersey Journal and was submitted to me by Jim. It was based on an interview that was conducted by Ronald Leir. Please note that Jim has stated that three clarifications needed to made for the record and they have been corrected in the article.
-I was 18 when taken out of school for Army.
-Dec 14, 1944 should refer to the Saar Basin not Bastogne.
-3rd Army Division should just state 3rd Army.
Soldiers traveling down the Vith Road
Depicts soldiers in the chow line during the Battle of the Bulge
Hear vets combat memories in Bayonne
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
By Ronald Leir
Journal staff writer
Bayonne's Jim Hennessey had just turned 18 and was a couple of months from graduation when Uncle Sam plucked him out of Bayonne Technical High School, trained him for combat and sent him and thousands more like him to the front lines in Europe.
"We were all 19-and 20-year-olds," he said recently.
After seeing action with the Third Army in the Saar Basin, Hennessey and other members of Company E, 345th Regiment, 87th Golden Acorn Infantry Division, were sent to relieve the beleaguered 101st Airborne as they were being pounded by the Germans in the Ardennes in December 1944.
That piece of the war - seen by some as its turning point - became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Hitler sent his Panzer tank divisions to crash through the Allied supply lines and take Antwerp but, ultimately, by late January 1945, the Americans and British had held their ground. Both sides suffered horrendous casualties in the process.
Today, even at age 79, Hennessey talks about the campaign as if it happened yesterday.
"They put us in open trucks to get to the front and this was during one of the worst winters in decades - I'd never seen grown men crying before, it was so cold," Hennessey said.
"Then they threw us into battle, just west of the Saar Basin, and in our first engagement with the enemy - Dec. 14, 1944 - we had 60 percent casualties," Hennessey said. "I saw my first lieutenant die 10 feet in front of me after stepping on a land mine as we were slogging through the woods."
On New Year's Eve, Hennessey had a very close call when "an 88 shell landed between me and my buddy but, thankfully, it was a dud," he said. "I was scared - we took a shellacking."
During the battle, it is estimated that about 19,000 Americans were killed and about 61,000 wounded or captured.
On the German side, 30,000 died, 40,000 were wounded and 30,000 taken prisoner.
In the end, though, American and British forces - with the aid of air attacks on the Panzers - stymied Hitler's plans.
"It's a credit to those guys with the 101st Division who caught the initial onslaught while they were surrounded and outgunned," Hennessey said. "They gave time for the Third Army to get up there and help out."
On Feb. 26, 1945, Hennessey said his outfit was in an attack near Neuenstein, Germany, "when we were caught in the middle of an open field and I got hit in the neck by a sniper."
Several hours after being shot, Hennessey remembers praying while holding onto a scapular, a small sacramental cloth.
Neuenstein - photo courtesy of Peter Heckmanns
"It's been in my wallet ever since," he said.
Awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Medal and Presidential Citation, Hennessey says it's important for today's generation "to realize what a past generation went through to give them what they have today."
In some European countries, "people today are still grateful for what the Americans did for them," Hennessey said. A group of American World War II veterans who visited Belgium recently were asked for autographs by schoolchildren, he said.
Hennessey is one of 42 Bayonne veterans who've recorded their memories of combat on audio cassettes through a project sponsored by the Bayonne Public Library, which set up an exhibit marking the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
Reference Librarian Depali Sen, who arranged for the taped interviews in 2002, said that members of the public are invited to come in and listen to the recordings. Each cassette on file has a photo of the uniformed veteran.
"These tapes are living history of the period - mostly World War II, but some from the Korean War," Sen said. "For much of history, you can only read what's written in books, but here you have a chance to hear firsthand accounts of what happened."
One of the recordings is from former Mayor Dennis P. Collins, a World War II veteran who talks about his experiences in the Pacific theater.
"He also sings an Irish tune," Sen said.
Photos of the wreath laying ceremony in the morning of December 16, 2004 at the Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne.
02-09-05 Moircy-Belgium - Battle of the Bulge - 1944-45
Jim sent the two photos below of very dear friends, PFC Ernest A Deubel and Sgt William H Rollins, and says he'll never forget them. Here is what he wrote:
Photos were taken in 1944 - Columbia S.C. while statoned at Fort Jackson S.C. Both were good buddies of mine KIA. The one with cap on is P.F.C. Ernest A Deubel-Newark N.J.- KIA late Dec 1944 in Saar Basin, Germany. Other with crew cut is Sgt.William H Rollins - San Francisco, California. Died of Wounds received Feb 26, 1945 on March 5th, 1945 - Wounded vicinity of Neunensten-Germany. Both members Co.E.-345th-Regt-87th- Inf.Div. Makes you think (There But The Grace Of God).
Jim wanted me to add this to his page. Am happy to comply.
Mary (Dolly) Tagliareni, wed to James Hennessey, April 24, 1949, Assumption R.C Church, Bayonne, NJ
Updated with story - 03-11-10
Members of E Company
Top - PFC James Hennessey, Bayonne, NJ
Middle - PFC Lewis Lospilluto, Jersey City, NJ
Bottom - Soldier Unknown
A little after midday Dec 17, 1944, Company E advanced combat-ready into the woods. I heard an explosion in front of me. Lt. Thomas of Madison, Wisconsin had stepped on a mine which threw him into the air. Company Commander Lt. J Lennon of New York City yelled out "he is dead, keep advancing."
Soon we came to a small road and all hell let loose. German and American artillery were shelling us. German snipers and machine guns raked the area. Many brave and good men gave their all that Sunday. This gave us the resolve to fight for victory.
A day or two later we left the woods, vowing to remember our comrades who died in the Saar Basin.
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