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Jul 03

Put Your “Jack” Hancock There

Written by:  Linda A. Jaussi.

 

The Patriotic Hancock lineage has defended The United States of America from its earliest days.  Bostonian, John Hancock, was President of the Continental Congress when he signed The Declaration of Independence.  William Hancock died when Loyalist soldiers opened fire on his home in Alloways Creek, NJ.  Jack Hancock is a World War II purple heart honoree.  From the outside, Jack looks like a kind grandpa with a jolly attitude, but his life is filled with wisdom and experience.

 

Jack Hancock grew up in Arkansas where his father operated a dry cleaning business.  When clients could not afford to pay, his father accepted barter.   As a result, Jack took piano lessons and tapped danced in recitals.  When his parents divorced, he moved to Portland, Oregon where his mother remarried.  At age 17, Jack dropped out of high school.  He fibbed about his age and joined The U.S. Army.  He served his first tour in the Pacific stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington where his regiment constructed barracks.  At Fort Richardson, in Alaska, Jack remembered going to Anchorage to march in a parade.  When he returned to Fort Richardson, he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.  Immediately, the army went on the offensive.  On June 3rd, 1942, a Japanese aircraft carrier strikeforce attacked Dutch Harbor on Unalaska.  Then, Japanese forces invaded the Aleutian  Islands and occupied Attu and Kiska.

After the troubles in Alaska, Jack returned to the U.S. interior and entered Cadet School.  Jack was a sharp young man.  The U.S. Army Air Force only took cadets with IQ scores over 127.  In December 1943, the military closed all the cadet schools and reassigned  its students.  Believing he would not go to battle, Jack married his high school sweetheart, who had moved to Whittier, California.  A week later, he boarded a ship leaving Mississippi for Marcelles, France.  He fought with the 254th Infantry in the U.S. 3rd Army as a heavy arms specialist.

 

Jack participated in the battle over the Colmar pocket.  Colmar had been a manufacturing center for mustard gas during World War I.  Old, unstable tanks were still stored inside the city.  Careful assault plans were drawn up avoiding the tanks.   Chemical burns from mustard gas created lesions within twenty-four hours after exposure, and later lead to cancer.  On  January 1st, 1945, Nazi troops had a strong hold in Colmar.  They mocked the rag-tattered  US Army that huddled on a hill in freezing cold and snow.

At twilight, the 63rd Division began  its march toward the front.  In the distance, reddish flames burst into the air as big guns fired several hundreds of pounds filled with phosphorous explosives.  Artillery shells followed.  Some guns had lines and grooves inside the barrel that kept shells rotating as they shot out.  The Germans were notorious for throwing artillery.   American soldiers became accustomed to the distinctive hissing, whining sound, the screech of the “Screeming Meemies.”  Read More….