PFC James Hennessey Name : James Hennessey
Rank : Private First Class
Regiment : 345th Infantry Reg.
Division : 87th Infantry Division
Entered Service from : New Jersey
Date of Birth : 24 November 1925
Awards : Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Infantry Badge

Jim Hennessey's Story ...

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 Infantry Division

The barracks at Camp Croft SC, where Jim had his IRTC training

Jim recalls many stories, this is one of them ...

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."

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.

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, Jim 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,"

Masses of snow in St. Vith, Belgium

"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 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."

German Gun crew operating a 88mm Gun

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. "when we were caught in the middle of an open field and I got hit in the neck by a sniper."

Neuenstein ... Jim was wounded near this small village

Several hours after being shot, Hennessey remembers praying while holding onto a scapular, a small sacramental cloth. "It's been in my wallet ever since,". 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 Hennessey in Paris, 1945

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.''

Special thanks to Jim Hennessey