Foley, Jack, CPT

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Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1945-1946, 1542, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
Previously Held MOS
1193-Field Artillery Unit Commander
Service Years
1943 - 1946



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Two Overseas Service Bars

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Belgian Fourragere Netherlands Orange Lanyard Honorably Discharged WW II Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961

French Fourragere

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What are you doing now:
Easy Company, 506th Infantry Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Jack E. Foley came out of a solid middle class family and was one of three boys (the middle one) He was born on August 18, 1922. Neither one of his parents attended college. His mother, Viola Gertrude MEAHL, completed Catholic schooling, learned to play the piano and was an accompanist in one of the Pittsburgh's silent movie theatres. His father, a real Irishman, enjoyed singing, and Jack always remembers the baby grand piano in their living room. Mother playing and father's baritone voice. His father was a super salesman, working originally with the U.S. Steel Company, in their Universal Atlas Cement division. In the early 30's he was recruited by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG) and took over their Columbia Portland Cement Division. He traveled quite a bit (automobile) and was relocated many times - from Eastern Ohio to Western Pennsylvania, and back to central Ohio during WWII.
All three children graduated from the university - Jim as a Veterinarian from Ohio State University, Dick from Fresno, California and Jack from University of Pittsburgh in September 1946 (Majored in Political Science & Economics)
Jim was drafted right after graduating from Ohio State University, but he did have time to take the State Boards in Ohio and Virginia before being called up. By September 1942 his commission as a 1st Lt in the Veterinary Corps came through. After WWII he remained in the Officers reserve Corps, went on Active Duty and then completed his time in the Reserves, discharged as a full Colonel.

In the fall of 1939 JACK was a senior in South Hills High School and his first class was French, taught by Ms.White. He was responsible for providing an "update"on the war each morning. He was well aware of the German blitz-krieg, from Poland to the sea, then west through Denmark, then Belgium, Holland and France. During that year (1939) the US initiated a universal draft system and it was defined by age. In the Fall of 1941 a number of those "draftees", having completed their term were being discharged. But then, December 7, 1941 PEARL HARBOR changed all of that. A revised draft system was inaugurated but since, at that time, Jack was only 19 years old and he did not have to register. But May 18, 1942, when he learned of the fall of the Corregidor and the fall of the Philippines (and Gen.Mc Arthur's"I shall return") he joined the Enlisted Army Reserve. He thought that if he speeded up his courses at the University of Pittsburgh he could be graduated before going to Active Duty. However by June 1943 the war still had not changed for better (?), with the opportunity to go on Active Duty, even with only "summer school" remaining for graduation, he left for the Army at age 20!

He quickly made Corporal and became eligible (non-commisioned-officer) for Officer Candidate School (OCS). By November 1943 he was a 2nd Lt. in the Coast Artillery Corps in charge of a 1918 three inch gun, guarding part of the Puget Sound at Ft. Worden WN., the most northern military post in the continental United States. However by the Spring of 1944, the military was becoming aggressive rather than defensive, and his unit was transferred to Texas where all Lieutenants were transferred and detached to the Infantry. By late May 1944, he was being trained in Infantry Tactics and became enamored with those C-47s flying overhead everyday discharging paratroopers into the blue sky. This was at Ft. Benning, GA. He immediately, upon graduation from the Infantry School applied and was accepted into the Parachute School. Eight weeks later he completed training. (7 sky drops, 7 night, 1 with full combat pack) He was ready for oversea shipment but he was hoping that shipment would be to the ETO rather than to the Pacific. As Jack told me: "Lucky me!, It was the ETO! with the full knowledge that all combat would be committed by General Ike and not, typically, by just an Army general!"

The best Jack liked about his training at the Parachute School was the rigorous physical training, administrated by the Sergeants. They were respected even though a slight so called"misdemeanor" would result in "take 25 push-ups". Or with a Jump called off because of sudden high winds and with "chutes still on, those Sergeants (knowing that they wanted that extra exercise!) would have them jog around Lawson Field (the Airport at Ft.Benning), a one hour run. They had a Captain in charge of their group. He was a veteran of the Aleutian Islands (Kiska & Attu) and already had been Purple Hearted via a Japanese bayonet. He was the leader on all their "runs", he never fell out, for when he drifted to the rear, there were always two men at the end who caught him and assisted him in completing that run. Even then there was strong camaraderie among the troops!

Before going to Europe Jack only knew geographically about Holland. Only later he understood that it was The Netherlands. He was aware of the lowlands but the dikes, names, locations of the cities told him nothing. Jack did not fight in Holland but he wrote me: "It was only later (still during WWII) that I learned about the deep seated love and generosity of your fellow countrymen." They had been attached to Dog connecting unit to the 502d Regiment on their left. When Jack's 1st. Platoon was returning to the Company CP in Bois Jacques near Bastogne Belgium they came under fire. The German artillery was overhead and in the direction they were headed. They continued and as the shelling ceased, momentarily, they came upon their CP that had taken many hits. Unfortunately, several of the previous evenings their food was trucked up to their location and they filed out into the open for their hot chow. Of course Bed Check Charlie was flying over the area and Jack always felt that he was aware of their troops in the open. Their location was spotted for that shelling. Jack's platoon was the last platoon to arrive at the defilade where the Company was waiting to attack the village of Foy. Jack was discouraged to learn that neither Lt. Dike, 1st Sergeant C. Carwood Lipton nor Lt. Shames (the other Platoon Leaders) were simply waiting around, even though Jack's 60 mm Mortar and 30 cal. machine gun were taken away to be put in Battery when the unit took off. Hearing no instructions, Jack advised both Dike and Lipton that his 1st Platoon would move off on the right flank and move forward and then, with supporting cover, they would take Foy. First of all, they had poor radio contact, secondly: they had two snipers in nearby hay stacks that gave them difficulty. They had one or two men shot (Smitty was the nearest to Jack and as he went down to him Jack was shot in the boot (between heel and sole) but he was still able to give him assistance. Spotting the snipers they fired WP grenades into the hay stacks and terminated the two Germans as they escaped the flames. In the meantime Winters came up to the Company, seeing no action, replaced Dike with Lt. Speirs from Dog Company and began to attack Foy. The 1st Platoon joined in when they saw others moving forward. They had NOT been radioed!

After the War Jack came home with the 506th P.I.R. on the Queen Mary, and Capt. Ronald Speirs was the CO of the 1st Battalion Headquarters Company. He marched down 5t Avenue, New York City, January 12, 1946, the only Victory Parade the USA ever had!

After his 30 days leave Jack reported to Speirs in February at Ft.Bragg, NC. There he learned that the next morning he was to make his final Pay Jump in the Army. All his luggage was still at the train in Fayetteville, NC.... General Gavin, commander of the 82d AA, told all Officers at one of his meetings that they either had to sign up for an Indefinite Stay in the Army, or, they would be discharged as quickly as possible, according to their total points accumulated. Although Jack preferred to remain on duty until the end of May, Gavin's decree had him mustered out by mid-April 1946.

While he was in Pittsburgh he met a former girl friend from several years back and they married on Thanksgiving Day 1947. He went to work in the Fall of '46 with the Aluminum Cooking Utensil Company (subsidiary of Alcoa).He worked as a Sales Correspondent, Editor of a Company magazine, Sales Promotion Manager for Westmorland Sterling Silver as well as Sales Promotion Manager for Alcoa Wrap, household aluminum foil. From there he was transferred to the parent company, Alcoa, where he was Advertising manager of aluminum closures (caps for soft drink bottles as well as the snap-open cans for beer and beverage).Jack sometimes thinks back on the Army days, especially when viewing some of today's movies. In all the films, including Band of Brothers, according to his opinion the concentration camps are to artificial. He took a 35 mm film in a Concentration Camp at the end of April 1945. He turned it in during early June of '45 and all 36 color exposures were never returned to him by the Photography Section set up the 560th Regiment. In that Concentration Camp he saw three barrels in the middle of that camp. Each about 4 feet high and approximately 18 to 20 inches wide. One barrel contained spectacles (eyeglasses), another barrel contained teeth, natural or artificial, especially those with metal fillings. The third barrel was filled with hair. Jack: "Those three ugly containers will never be forgotten."

Jack thinks it's great that Eindhoven and countries such as France, commemorate D-Day and their liberation annually. He said he was fortunate to be in Normandy on June 6, 2001, together with his wife and son David, to celebrate the honoring of D-Day with them. He thinks it is to bad a country like the USA has not seen to fit to honor those who died and/or fought in those wars and that the only great War Holidays are Memorial Day (May 30) and the Fourth of July. He thinks that unfortunately they all became too political. According to his opinion authors like Stephen Ambrose and Tom Brokaw have done much to glorify the soldier, regardless of rank. He thinks without those two primary writers many of their children, grandchildren and even their peers would be uninformed of the deeds, performed by what is now called the "Greatest Generation".

In November 2003, Jack and his wife are married for 56 years. They are the proud parents 2 sons and three daughters. I asked Jack if his children were influenced (one way or another) because he fought in a War. Jack answered: "To one degree or another all of our children have been affected by my military service in the 101st Airborne Division, from explaining the various patches, pins and medals, mounted on my picture frame to even photographing the older boy in my summer uniform. Karen, our oldest, went overseas and visited battle sites in the Bastogne area. All have taken upon themselves to tape and/or buy Band of brothers and I have answered many of their questions concerning certain selections of the film. From examining the many captured pistols brought home, and with the exception of one taken from a German officer, all have been removed. They all were aware that on special commemorative days/holidays, our Flag would fly from the house."



Other Comments:
AWARDS: Theatre, European Theatre with 3 stars, Bastogne, Rhineland, Central Europe, The Purple Heart, The Bronze Star, Victory, Occupation Combat Infantry badge, Parachute Jump Wings, The Presidential Unit Citation and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

First Lt.
United States Army
This story was contributed by Jack E. Foley

By this time, many people were aware of the German concentration camps. We just "happened" upon it and "No" we were not the first unit to stumble upon it. We entered the camp through the usual teutonic type imposing gate! Massive stone pillars and, of course, the typical German black bird sat atop each pillar. There was not a crowd of these starved and emaciated Displaced Persons and there was still dead bodies on the gound.

I had an old Argus camera, vintage 1936, and I did have a roll of color film that I had brought with me from a previous post in the ZI. I shot the entire roll, 20 or 24 exposures. I photographed individuals, and the usual camp conditions. I did not wander through the camp, I was mesmerized by the conditions that I was witnessing. Probably the worst sight I saw was that of "barrels" filled with the"waste not" attitude of the so-called Master Race! Sure. they could always used Hair, it didn't matter whose or color. They could always use metal, gold, silver or? And doesn't matter where it comes from. Who will need glasses/spectacles. when no one is leaving here! And if they don't eat, and as long as they are to be, will be, executed, let's also collect teeth, which probably have inlays/fillings, etc.

That's the type of gore that was witnessed that afternoon. At 160 lbs. I know what it is to drop weight, for under seige of diabetes back in 1955, my weight plunged to 126 lbs. and the pictures of me taken that summer made me resemble one of those skin and bone survivors or one of their death mates. But resembling is not the same actually being one of those barely alive prisoners. Yes, I heard that nearby residents who had claimed ignorance were marched through the camp and were made to bare the ignomy of their closed minds. Amd my greatest regret is that this color roll of film turned into the Army Signal Corps in June '45, by our Red Cross representative. while stationed in Zell am See, Austria, was never returned to me! When Jack Foley decided to go on active military duty in his final semester at the University of Pittsburgh in 1943, he had no idea he would become a part of the famed "Band of Brothers."

Author Stephen Ambrose took the name from Shakespeare's play "Henry V" for his 1992 book documenting the tour of duty served by the men of "Easy Company" - the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Foley, a native of Brookline who moved his family to Penn Hills in 1951, appears in numerous passages in the book, which has since been made into the Home Box Office television series produced by Tom Hanks.

Foley said the nickname "Easy Company" is a bit of a misnomer. The unit was involved in heavy fighting and suffered a significant number of casualties from the time of the D-Day landing on June 6, 1944, through the Battle of the Bulge and on to the seizure of the Nazis' infamous Eagle's Nest in Germany in the spring of 1945.

Joining the battle in December 1944 as part of the liberation of Holland, Foley became a platoon leader in the famous unit, and today he is one of six surviving members of Easy Company living in Pennsylvania.

Getting into the Recruiting Officers' Training Corps at Pitt, Foley was initially commissioned in coast artillery. But that changed after D-Day, when Foley joined the ranks of parachutists.

"It was done very scientifically - they went right down the line and said, `You're in the 17th, you're in the 82nd, and you're in the 101st division' to each one of us," Foley recalled.

Foley and other replacements actually were deployed to Belgium by land.

"I can tell you about my only nighttime combat jump - it was off of the tailgate of a platoon truck, and it was an altitude of about 4 feet," Foley recalls with a grin.

He and his comrades were just in time for Hitler's final surge to the west, finding themselves surrounded in Bastogne for about a week until Gen. George Patton's troops broke through.

"We lost our medical unit at the same time, and we were camped out in the Ardennes woods," Foley said. "It was the worst winter they'd had in recent memory. The Germans needed the roads we were protecting, but they never got into Bastogne."

From there, the Battle of the Bulge moved eastward as the Nazis began a retreat, with Easy Company and the rest of the Allies in pursuit.

Foley still feels the most disturbing images he brought back from the war were those from a Jewish concentration camp.

"We weren't the first ones on the scene, but it was the sorriest thing I saw," Foley said of the camp, located about 60 miles west of Munich. "The people were emaciated. There were three bins: one bin had nothing but human hair, one had spectacles and one had nothing but teeth.

As for modern efforts to make period-piece movies about World War II, Foley remains skeptical.

"You can always accuse filmmakers of being too Hollywood," Foley said. "But you can't recreate something like that."

Foley keeps a copy of the edition of the U.S. Army's Stars and Stripes newspaper, announcing the end of the war in Europe, known as V-E Day.

"And on Jan. 12, 1946, I was in the only Victory Day parade that New York City had," Foley said.

Lately, Foley has been involved in a number of festivities. On Monday, he will receive a plaque from U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, a Swissvale Democrat, that was designed by the U.S. Postal Service, featuring reissued Normandy and veterans commemorative stamps.

In September, Foley missed a special screening of "Band of Brothers."

But in June, he attended the French government's D-Day celebration in Paris, which included a return to Utah beach for 43 Easy Company veterans and four soldiers' widows.

"The French are notorious for celebrating D-Day," Foley said, noting that he got to meet Hanks, as well as the grandson of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Ann Roosevelt, the granddaughter of President Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The son of a World War II veteran himself, Doyle is looking forward to presenting the plaque to Foley, who served as a lieutenant and retired as a captain in the reserves.

"We are facing a time in our history where we turn to the veterans of this nation who have fought for and defended our freedoms," Doyle said of Foley. "It's amazing to know that they've done this mini-series and here's one of the real-life guys."

Over the years, the members of Easy Company have kept in touch with each other through annual reunions. Just last weekend, Foley received a telephone call from former Platoon St. Bill Guarnere, who lost a leg in the seige of Bastogne.

"He informed me that one of our men had passed away up in Massachusetts," Foley said. "I've tried to get ahold of him since then, but I'll bet that he drove all the way up there from South Philadelphia to go to his funeral."

Jack E. Foley needed to finish just one more semester of political science and economics classes in 1943 when he turned his back on the University of Pittsburgh and reported for active duty with the Army.

Foley, then a skinny, 21-year-old kid from Brookline, and 36 of his buddies from Pitt's Army ROTC program could wait no longer to get into the war that raged around the globe. After a year of manning defensive posts and undergoing more training, he made another decision a week after D-Day that would put him into some of the war's fiercest fighting and earn him a place in Easy Company,' one of the Army's most celebrated units.

I didn't want to go [to Europe] as a green second lieutenant. I wanted to do something special," he said. "The paratroopers were daring, unique. They were tough. They wore boots. That was where I wanted to be."

More than a half-century later, Foley, 79, is a still-trim grandfather who lives in Penn Hills and has retired from a career in advertising and promotion. In recent weeks, he and other members of Easy Company have been lauded by millions who've read about their staggering casualties, bravery and camaraderie in historian Stephen Ambrose's book "Band of Brothers" or watched the 10-part HBO cable channel's miniseries based on it.

Yesterday, Foley was honored again during a ceremony in Penn Hills at which U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale, presented him with a plaque containing enlargements of U.S. Postal Service stamps -- one commemorating U.S. service veterans and the other marking the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion.

"[Sunday], we celebrated Veterans Day," said Doyle. "Here today, we celebrate one veteran and his sacrifices. We are here to say thank you to a hero."

The state House of Representatives plans another ceremony today to honor other Easy Company members from Pennsylvania.

Foley, who graduated in 1940 from South Hills High School, completed paratrooper training in 1944 at Fort Benning, Ga. Shipped to Holland, he was assigned as a replacement to Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Foley led a platoon as Easy Company fought to liberate Holland, held out through bitter cold and vicious shelling outside Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and captured Hitler's Eagle's Nest retreat before the war ended. He was shot in the wrist in the Alsatian town of Haguenau near the German border.

The HBO miniseries concluded Sunday with "We Stand Alone Together," a documentary featuring interviews with many of Easy's surviving members. Foley is not in that documentary, but he is briefly featured in the final four episodes of "Band of Brothers," played by British actor Jamie Bamber.

Foley's part wasn't bigger, he said, because "rightfully so" the series' producers chose to focus on Easy Company's original members who forged lifelong friendships while training together in Toccoa, Ga. His character is perhaps most visible in "The Breaking Point" episode, where he and Sgt. John Martin lead soldiers around the town of Foy after indecisive Lt. Norman Dyke freezes in terror behind a haystack.

Foley said he enjoyed Ambrose's book and, overall, approved of the portrayals of his friends in the miniseries. He spotted a few small inaccuracies, however, including one involving his own character in Bastogne.

"Within 24 hours of [Gen. George] Patton's breakthrough, the order came through that everybody had to be clean-shaven," he said. "There were a lot of helmets put to the heat to melt snow [for shaving water] that day. That fellow shouldn't have had a beard anymore."

The series also overemphasized Easy Company's role in liberating a Nazi concentration camp by showing its soldiers stumbling on the squalid camp's dead and dying Jewish inmates, Foley said. Easy's men were in the camp at Dachau, Germany, but were not first to enter it. Foley said he believed the series' producers tailored Easy's role to show the enormity of Nazi atrocities.

Foley said he's gratified that programming such as "Band of Brothers" has sparked interest in World War II, but he said he hopes that historical interest and the recent surge in patriotism following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not just passing fads.

"It's amazing how a lot of people are now learning about World War II," Foley said. "But they should learn about the Pacific war, about Guadalcanal, about the GI Bill, about all of our wars. It was bad in Korea. It was the same in every war.

"People should know about that and remember that. I hope [patriotism] stays, I hope it lingers," he said.

Foley shrugged off questions about horrors that were nearly beyond comprehension, about seeing his friends killed and maimed, about being hungry and frostbitten in foxholes outside Bastogne during the last winter of the war.

But he laughed as he recalled a story that he shared with Ambrose and that was mentioned in the book.

After the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, Allied troop commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered all U.S. unit commanders to gather their soldiers and say a few words to honor the dead president. Foley fished a St. Joseph missal from his gear, assembled his platoon and read aloud from the book of liturgy and prayer.

"It occurred to me later that I may have been the only person ever to bury [Episcopalian] Franklin Roosevelt as a Catholic," he said.

After the war, Foley finished his studies at Pitt, then worked in advertising or writing in-house newsletters for the Aluminum Cooking Utensil Co. in New Kensington, the Cutco Co. in Olean, N.Y., the Alcoa Wrap Co. in New Kensington and Alcoa in Pittsburgh before retiring in 1982. He and his wife, Mary Louise, have five children and three grandchildren.

Foley said he has returned to Europe since the war -- most recently in June with other Easy Company veterans on an HBO-sponsored tour -- and has attended many of the unit's annual reunions. He calls William "Wild Bill" Guarnere of Philadelphia -- a prominent character in the miniseries -- as being "the glue who holds us together" by organizing those reunions and keeping in touch with Easy's men.

"The reunions are fantastic," he said. "You get there and everyone is just like they used to be -- a bunch of kids. You go back automatically to the feelings you had years ago. That never ends."

  • Name: Jack E. Foley
  • Residence: Penn Hills
  • Age: 79
  • Family: wife of 54 years, Mary Louise; children, Karen of Minnesota, Barbara of Los Angeles, John of Export, David of New York and Nancy of Pittsburgh; seven grandchildren
  • Occupation: Retired in 1982 from advertising department at Alcoa Corp.
  • Education: A graduate of South Hills High School, Foley earned a degree in political science and economics from the University of Pittsburgh after the war.
  • Background: Foley is a veteran of the famed "Easy Company," the real-life military outfit that provided the basis for the book by Stephen Ambrose titled "Band of Brothers," which is now the acclaimed Home Box Office television series produced by Tom Hanks. He will be honored with a plaque tomorrow in Penn Hills council chambers by a host of local, state and federal dignitaries.
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    Combat Infantryman 1st Award
    Senior Parachutist (2 Combat Jumps)

     Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
      1943, Basic Training (Fort Benning, GA), B/1
      1943, 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry (OCS) (Fort Benning, GA), A/1
      1944, Basic Training (Camp Bowie, TX), A/3
      1944, Basic Training (Fort Benning, GA), A/2
     Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
    Coastal Artillery CorpsBasic Airborne Course (BAC) Airborne School1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
    1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
      1943-1943, 1193, Coastal Artillery Corps
      1944-1944, 1542, Basic Airborne Course (BAC) Airborne School
      1944-1944, 1542, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division
      1944-1945, 1542, HHC
      1945-1946, 1542, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
     Combat and Non-Combat Operations
      1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Northern France Campaign (1944)
      1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)
      1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)/Battle of the Bulge
      1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Siege of Bastogne
      1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)
      1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
      1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Central Europe Campaign (1945)/Victory in Europe Day (VE Day - 8May45)
     Colleges Attended 
    University of Pittsburgh
      1940-1946, University of Pittsburgh
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