THE RARE BREED |
Recognizing Area Veterans Of World War II
John Pierce Was Set To Land On
Omaha Beach 58 Years Ago
Private John Pierce and canine friend.
John E. Pierce was 19, two years out of Palacios High School and aboard a landing craft in the English Channel, between England and the Normandy Coast 58 years ago this wee, ready to be among the early assault troops to hit Omaha Beach the next morning.
Today, he's a resident of Kenner, Louisiana, with a lot of memories from that D-Day landing and the next 11 months, until his outfit, Company A, 149th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 6th Engineer Special Brigade, finally stopped deep in Germany with the end of the war in Europe.
Back in Palacios last month for the 60th year reunion of classmates from the 1942 PHS senior class, Pierce said his outfit landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 at D-Day plus one hour.
"That was one of the bad ones," Pierce said about Omaha. All of the officers aboard his landing craft were lost before they could get off the craft. It took two days before his regrouped outfit could reach the top of the cliffs, under the heavy barrage from the Germans who were in pillboxes and other fortifications atop the cliffs.
"We took a terrible beating on that beach," he said.
Pierce, son of Abel and Stella Pierce, was born in Palacios on Jan. 28, 1925. On Sunday afternoon, local time, Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese plunged America into the war with their attack on Pearl Harbor, Pierce recalls he was playing baseball at his home on Cash's Creek.
He was drafted into the Army at Houston on June 29, 1943. After basic, he spent four months of training in Oregon, then on March 11, 1944 arrived in the European Theatre, first stationed in England for further training---then came D-Day.
With the Engineers, Pierce was a demolition specialist and had also qualified as a rifle sharpshooter.
From Normandy, Pierce was involved in the Battle of the Bulge, then the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion moved through the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.
"We weren't too far from Berlin when we had to stop and wait on the Russians," he said.
Pierce remained in Germany until December 1945, arriving back in the United States on Dec. 18. Six days later, on Christmas Eve, he received his discharge, with the rank of Private First Class, at Camp Fannin, Texas.
For his civilian soldier career, Pierce earned the European-African-Middle Eastern (EAME) Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars; one Bronze Arrowhead; Good Conduct Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge; and the World War II Victory Medal.
He and his wife, the former Elsie Brokmeyer, have had four children, Penny Neese, a housewife at Boerne, Texas; Nancie Dibler, a teacher at Richmond; Luke Pierce, a geophysist at Dallas; and John Pierce, Jr., deceased. There are also nine grandchildren.
Pierce keeps in touch with many of his fellow Engineers from the 149th by attending most of the reunions they have held throughout the country over the years. This year's reunion will be in Houston.
John and Elsie Pierce, when they visited Palacios last month
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