George Jackson, 326th Airborne Engineering Battalion
#1

UPDATE: 6 part interview with George: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BC2738D08E1055C7

 

Thank you for creating this forum. I found it when I was searching for more information the 326th. This came about after I shared a long conversation about WWII with a man who I had known for the past 2 years, George Jackson from Landingville, PA. George started going to my dad's church back then and we shared a nice handshake and greeting when I'd be there on a visit from out of town. However, it wasn't until the day after Thanksgiving, 2010, that George's visit with my dad resulted in me learning more about his time in the war. George was talking about the post war, and I thought he was referring to a time after Korea, but when he corrected me and said he was one of the Battered Bastards, my jaw hit the floor.

 

George told me he was drafted to be an engineer. He went through basic training and then on to school where he built and the disassembled bridges. He said that aggravated him, tearing down what he just built, so he volunteered to go Airborne. He was accepted and made it through with no problems. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne, 326th AEB and sent to England. While in England, he trained to make combat jumps into Europe. However, he ended up as a replacement, rather than a 1st wave soldier. He was slated to enter the war in Holland. Instead of jumping out of a C47, he and his buddies were assigned to a glider. He hated the gliders as they were fabric lined and he wouldn't get to actually jump.

 

When I asked him if he landed during Operation Market Garden, he didn't know what I was talking about. They never told him what operation he was in, only that he would land and secure a bridge. He explained that his unit landed in gliders very close to an undamaged bridge and that they were supposed to defend it, but also rig it for explosion, in case the Germans attacked. He remembers seeing British Armor and working with the Brits, but his unit disliked them with their aloof nature and their "mandatory" tea times. They didn't seem like real soldiers to his group but they were told by superiors to keep negative comments about the Brits to themselves, as they were all in the war together, so he did. When the Germans were closing in, he remembers digging a fox-hole just as fast as he could with his bare hands. During his time there, he got his first shots off at the Germans with his M1 Garand. He stated that the M1 Carbine was only used by officers is his unit the whole time during the war. After explaining Market Garden to him and showing him maps, he realized I knew more about the missions than he did but he reiterated, they just told him where to go and what to do and he did it.

 

After Market Garden, his unit transitioned back to France, although he doesn't recall what they did. He does remember partying in Paris, drinking way more than he should have been, when the word came in that they had to leave immediately. His unit was trucked to Bastogne where they were situated on the south side of the city and told to defend the area.

 

He remembers southern Bastogne being flat with German pill boxes but they just dug fox-holes next to the road and told to take out anything that attacked. They each were given 8 rounds (1 clip) of ammunition for their Garand's and 4 grenades. After the weather cleared and the resupply drops started coming in, which were very welcome, his unit was able to get machine guns and bazookas. He recalls helping carry bazooka ammunition between the resupply and their outfit, but when they got to their destination, the guy with the bazooka tossed it aside along the road march, since it was too heavy for him to carry. So, there he was with all this ammo and no bazooka, and ticked off! Anyway, there were other Bazookas. His unit was dug in when the Germans started shelling the center of the city of Bastogne, since they had it dialed in on their artillery. His unit was also shelled but many survived it. However, during the early morning on Dec 25, 1944, a Tiger Tank had made its way between his unit and Bastogne. He recalls being told to man a machine gun, while another man in his unit prepared a Bazooka. The bazooka round bounced off the Tiger, and as the main gun swung in his direction, they ducked and watched as it passed just overhead. Upon impact, shrapnel hit him in the back of the shoulder and medics were immediately on top of him. He said something else took out that tank and he was evacuated away from his unit. The next day, Patton's Army reached his unit first and he was then evacuated back to England. He said that protocol was to carry him on a stretcher, although he was able to walk.

 

During his time back in England, he recuperated and was sent back with his unit that was in mid-Germany by this time. He traveled with them to Berchtesgaden and eventually Austria. It was pretty uneventful during these times and he cannot recall traveling through any specific towns. He does remember seeing Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and also catching fish at a lake very easily as it was stocked well for the Nazi's. He spent some time there training before they were finally told they were being shipped back to America.

 

After the war, he worked in the gas business, eventually owning 3 gas stations and raising his family. His wife wanted a farm, so they moved from NJ to PA where she eventually passed away. I had known George for about 2 years, a frequent visitor to the church where I grew up in Landingville, PA. He started going there after his wife passed away and met a widow who was a friend of my family for decades. I’ve spent about 3 hours talking to George, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in between those visits, I printed out information from the web for him. He told me I knew more about the war than he did, but that’s understandable. We have access to much more information now than he didn't during the war. He's very surprised that we have the history we do and is even more amazed that someone wants to hear an old man's stories. He doesn't realize the awe we have for vets like himself.

 

He said he enjoyed the time he spent in the war, unlike many others. His small group of friends survived it and made the best of it when they were there. He is very animated when he talks about his time there and doesn’t hesitate when asked questions. He’s such a great guy!

 

I plan on visiting him again soon. I want to take a video camera and record him, if he would allow me, and am planning on devising some questions for him. If anyone wants me to ask him any questions, please let me know. I’d be happy to ask. I think I have hit saturation, however, with his memory. I had hoped to learn more about his exact location during Market Garden and post-Bastogne, but to no avail. However, I’m happy to learn what I have learned!

 

During my most recent visit and 2nd interview with him, he brought some pictures taken of him while he was deployed. I forgot to get a picture of them and will ask him to bring them again. However, I am a WWII firearm collector and made sure to bring my Garand for him to see when I was up there. Prior to showing him the Garand, I asked him when was the last time he handled one, and he said right after the war. He and a group of buddies were able to get permission to do some shooting in NJ as they were still owned by the gov’t. His eyes lit up when he saw mine, battle scars included, dated from 1945. He said it was so heavy and said he obviously didn't think so when he was 20 years old. He handled it for about 5 minutes saying how nice it was. When I asked if I could get his picture after that, he said sure! He told me he wanted it taken just like this:

 

Edited to add... George brought some photos for me to scan in, and this is the same pose from back in the war. I couldn't believe it!

 

Geo_before_after.jpg

 

Before he left, he told me that when he was going through his pictures, he found the belt buckle he wore during the war. He gave me the buckle, which was unique. The airborne wings are soldered to the buckle. He said that even though this was not regulation, it was permitted. US soldiers in the states did this work when they were prisoners. He didn’t say exactly where, but I’ll try to find out which fort.

 

buckle.jpg

 

The rest of the uniforms, metals and trophies he brought back went to his kids. It's an honor to meet him and to have this buckle!

 

Edited to add: I am excited to report that I have successfully uploaded the video interview with George to Youtube. The playlist, separated into six, 15 minute parts, can be viewed by visiting this link:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BC2738D08E1055C7

 

Pat Freeman

Eldersburg, MD

ex-SPC, Morse Interceptor, Military Intelligence, US Army, 1992-1996

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#2

Awesome story Pat. I really enjoyed reading it and sure appreciate your efforts to keep his history alive and share it with us. I also enjoyed chatting with you via email this morning.

 

Yes, you are right; the soldier was only aware of HIS (squad/company/battalion's) role in the war, and was not privy to the larger picture; the grand scheme/campaign. We as historians/interested readers, now have knowledge of the entire war and how each battalion/regiment/division contributed and changed the course of war. It's great to be able to put the whole thing together, and tie it in with each individual veteran's perspective, to get the WHOLE PICTURE.

 

I look forward to hearing more. Maybe we could create a page for him on the main site, once you interview him again with camera and pencil! :clappin2:

 

I hope you've had the chance to check out my buddy Doug's site. His father was a member of the 326th. Doug is no longer with us (sure do miss him), but his site and all the info he's compiled, will live on forever.

 

http://thewoundingofcharliewilber.com/index.html

 

All the best. Please send my love and admiration to George!

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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#3

Thank you Marion. I feel so lucky to meet him and that he wants to share his story. I appreciate you starting this site and it's definitely an honor to your father!

 

I had read a little from Doug's site but hadn't had the time to print some of the information from it for George. I will send up some information in the coming days to see if this is familiar to him prior to me visiting him next time. Thank you!

Reply
#4

WOW, I just found George on the roster on Doug's page! His full name is George V. Jackson.

 

http://thewoundingofcharliewilber.com/roster_large.html

Reply
#5

YEAH!!! One big happy family!! You'll find that more and more as you continue your search. :14_2_107:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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#6

I mailed George his picture (printed out), the company roster and some other information printed for B Co, 326 AEB. He was amazed with what he saw. He agreed to sit for a recorded interview. I will be interviewing him this weekend, if our plans hold, and hope to edit the week after. I want to get this wrapped up before the end of January and share it here.

 

Marion, thank you for publishing the interview questions as a sticky. I took a copy and edited it to fit what would be appropriate for George. He is pretty excited to do the interview.

Reply
#7
I am honored to have played a role in this. I am excited too and can't wait for your post. Please send my love and respect to George, and let him know how wonderful it was to spend a weekend with many of the 326th, a few years ago.
Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#8

I must have missed this post during the Christmas-New Year's break. Great story and even greater picture. Hopefully you can explain to him that we do hold these men in awe - even though most don't really want to hear it. Just make sure he knows we remember and are thankful. (Same to all you guys on the forum!)

 

Perhaps the way to go with an interview is with his strengths. We know the history (as you pointed out, better than he) - I would ask him about the things he felt and did. I think some of the more mundane things might be interesting - How many pairs of clothes did he jump with? What was the discipline in the ranks like? (e.g. What happened to the guy who discarded the Bazooka - that's not like throwing away some useless piece of personal gear.) Did the rank and file take discipline into their own hands in some cases? Was there a great deal of hazing? etc.

 

 

Just some thoughts.

Maj Todd O. USMC, Retired
Grandson of LTC John O'Brien
Reply
#9

Yes, my questions will help to get it started, but do go for the "mundane" too. The little things turn into great stories. Talk about sex, drinking, food, mail from home, the weather, etc. If he jumps into something (so to speak), let him take off on that. Tangents turn into wonderful moments.

 

Thanks for your thoughts, Todd. :armata_PDT_37:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#10

Thanks so much!! I will definitely be adding such questions to the list. I let him know that I'd burn DVDs for him to give to the family, so, I'm not quite sure how much he'll hold back. I'll tell him I'd be happy to edit that stuff out for them if he prefers, so he will be more open. ;-)

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