Our veterans who served our country: James “Jim” Chapman Jackson

Published 12:04 am Friday, May 8, 2015

By Robin A. Edgar

James “Jim” Chapman Jackson grew up in Tyron, N.C., the youngest of three children of Nelson and Laura Jackson. In 1941 at age 17, he enrolled at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. Although he had no desire for a military career, he joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps in order to finish his second year at the Citadel before being called up in the summer of 1943.

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“I was about the most unmilitary person you’d ever meet, so I was delighted that the government decided to give some of the younger men an education before sending them overseas. After basic training at Fort Fannin in Tyler, Texas, I went to an Army Specialized Training Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. After three months, I was transferred to Rhode Island State. Another three months later, they decided they needed me to fight in the war after all and I was assigned as a Private First Class in the 78th Division Infantry.


“We went to Fort Pickett, Va. in April 1944 and shipped out to England that October. We went to France and then to the Huertgen Forest in Belgium, about 20 miles north of the Battle of the Bulge. For 40 days, we waited in foxholes in the snow in the woods where I became close buddies with Tommy Taylor from Saint Josephs, Mo. and Bob O’Dell from Omaha, Neb. As long as three out of the five-man squad per foxhole stayed to man the guns, the other two would take turns going to town for a hot meal, a shower, and a movie. Tommy and I also collected things to decorate our foxhole with on those outings. We found rugs, housewares, and pictures in houses that were abandoned after being destroyed.


“By January 30, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge subsided and we had an order to attack Huppenbroink, a town a few miles down the hill. I carried 42 pounds of mortar on my back as we marched. When they called for mortar I ran to the bottom of the hill but got stuck in a creek. We didn’t have any shelter for two nights and ice formed around my foot. Since it was turning pink, I went to the aid station, but felt other wounded soldiers needed help more than me, so I returned to my squad and saw more action for two more weeks.


“On our way to Harscheid, Germany, the five of us got separated from the rest of the company. Our squad leader asked us to set up the mortar and fire at a machine gun nest on the next hill. As we fired, someone shot at us from a house behind. Fortunately, the shots went between O’Dell and I and only hit the gun. The shooter surrendered and, a little while later, dozens of well-armed German soldiers came out of the forest to surrender, too. Afterwards, I was in the basement of one of the houses when O’Dell told me he just met someone from Polk County. I went upstairs and met Jack Jolley from Mill Spring for the first time. We became good friends ever since.


“Meanwhile, my foot was turning black, so I went back to the aid station and they said I had frost bite and sent me to the hospital in Kidderminister, England in February 1945. I was still there that April when we heard FDR was dead. We were all was devastated. He had been president since I was eight years old!


“On May 8, I heard the war was over while I was touring London. Since I knew how to type, they assigned me to the war crimes division in Paris, France. For two weeks, nine of us reported every morning but the colonel said he didn’t have anything for us to do so we took the time to enjoy Paris. Then they moved our office to Wiesbaden, Germany and, for eight months, we gathered information for the Nuremburg trials.”


After Jackson was discharged in March 1946, he attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and worked as a salesman for the family business, Cloth of Gold. He then became a minister and pastored several churches before moving to Pottstown, Pa. to work at the Volunteer Service Center, where he met his future wife Sheila Bernard. The couple married in 1967 and they had a daughter, Amy and two sons, Kevin and David. Jackson and his wife currently live in Tryon where he is active in the community and enjoys staying in touch with his old army buddies.


If you are a veteran and would you like to share about your experience in the US military, please contact Robin Edgar at 2robinedgar@gmail.com or call The Tryon Daily Bulletin at 828-859-9151.


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PHOTO: James “Jim” Chapman Jackson while a student at The Citadel.