by PFC James Hennessey
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. Entering the Army in March 1944, he had infantry replacement training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, SC, then proceeded to Ft. Jackson where he was assigned to the 87th. On Feb 26, 1945, Jim was wounded near Neuenstein, Germany. He was sent to a hospital in Paris, but remembers that "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." Discharged from the Army on December 15, 1945 at Camp Upton, Patchogue, Long Island, Jim 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. Jim fondly reflects, "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.
Crossing the Creek
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.
"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." ~ PFC James Hennessey
Jim and PFC Ernest A Deubel of Newark, NJ KIA Dec 1944 in Saar Basin, Germany
Jim and Sgt William H Rollins, San Francisco, CA, died of Wounds received Feb 26, 1945 on March 5th, 1945, wounded near Neunensten-Germany
James and fellow wounded GIs on tour as guests of the Mayor of Paris in September 1945. Jim is bottom row, third from left
Jim delivering the mail
Saar Basin 17, December 1944 - Front: PFC James Hennessey, Middle: PFC Lewis Lospilluto
PFC James Hennessey
87th Infantry Division Route Map