LETTER TO THE EDITOR The Napa Valley Register May 2002
John was 'just doing his job'
I met our family's hero in May 1944 when his outfit had just been withdrawn from Italy from the Anzio Beach. The 82nd had been sent into relieve allied troops; the fighting was so fierce that his outfit went down to quarter strength before needing relief itself. England was where rest and recuperation was to take place and where I met him.
On D-day June 6, 1944 his unit was still not at full strength, so he was spared that encounter.
His heroic effort continued however, on September 17, 1944, when he parachuted behind enemy lines in Holland. There was no contact with his family for six weeks, as he fought to successfully take the "Grave" bridge and the "Nijmegen" bridge; the third and fourth of five bridges across the Rhine. His comment on this inch-by-inch last-ditch struggle by German forces was that he was "just doing his job." The 82nd succeeded; the British lost the "Arnhem," fifth bridge with devastating casualties. Without complaint he fought on through until Berlin was occupied; through rain, mud, snow and ice; cold rations; restricted drinking water, no showers or even water to wash at all - just doing his job. World War II ended just as he was getting ready to be sent to Japan.
The next time he "did his job" was in June 1950. He was part of the U.S. forces sent into the Korean conflicts. While there, from June 1950 to July 1951, he became commanding officer of a heavy mortar company. In Spring 1951 his company was overrun by Chinese and North Korean forces who captured all the equipment and trucks - but not the men. Miraculously, he and his men hid unobserved for several days, watching and waiting their chance to retake their equipment. One night, as the Chinese and Koreans had refueled the trucks and were all quietly sleeping, his company retook their equipment and drove furiously back to U.S.-held territory, losing no men and no equipment. His comment again on receiving the Silver Star for this heroic action was as usual, "Just doing my job" and "a mortar company without trucks would be useless, so there was no other choice."
He continued to serve, completing 25 years until retirement in Napa in 1963.
Finally he got to do what he always wanted to do, that is, grow roses and more roses, peacefully communicating with nature, up at 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. to do it while it was, "cool outside." This hero, of course, Napans know as John, of John's Rose Garden.
Gladys E. Dallas
Page created: JUNE 2002 ~ Updated: Saturday, January 4, 2003