|MENU SELECTION:||The Italian Campaign||At The Front||Books||Armies||Maps||85th Division||GI Biographies||Websites|
Private James W. Thompson
Company F, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment
1st "Ole Ironsides" Armored Division
Private James Thompson served in Company F of the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment of the 1st Armored Division. He entered the war early and saw combat in North Africa and in Italy. He was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Due to his longetivity in combat and the points system, he was discharged and allowed to return home 9 months before the end of the war.
The 1st Armored Division served in North Africa and then became the main armor division of the 5th Army in Italy and served throughout the Italian Campaign. The 6th Armored Infantry Regiment was a motorized infantry regiment that was very mobile unit and they fought as infantrymen. The other regiments of this division fought with tanks. Note: the 1st Armored Division was not used in Sicily. The only armor on Sicily was a British division.
James Thompson was drafted in 1941 and was sent to Camp Shelby, MS. He said he trained at Camp Wheeler, GA, but this does not agree with the history of the 1st Armored Division. It's possible that many of the "armored infantry" came from other units that had trained with infantry divisions. Private Thompson was assigned to Company F of the 6th Armored Infantry. The "armored infantry" was a mechanized infantry unit that rode into battle on armored half-tracks. The 1st Armored participated in maneuvers in Louisanna and North Carolina. They deported from Fort Dix, NJ on 10 May 1942 on the Queen Mary. They arrived in Ireland where they were re-supplied with Sherman tanks and participated in more training.
The 1st Armored Division was sent to North Africa. The 6th Armored Infantry was landed at Oran, Algiers and went directly into heavy fighting. James Thompson doesn't recall much about the North Africa Campaign. The Germans surrendered their forces in North Africa in May 1943.
The 1st Armored Division waited in North Africa during the campaign in Sicily during July and August 1943. However, James Thompson said his unit did go to Sicily.
The 1st Armored went into Italy at Salerno and fought up to the Cassino front. Then they were moved to the Anzio beachhead, where they stayed from January to May 1944. Since the tanks were conspicious on the flat Anzio beach, the 1st Armored biviouaced in the only woods around, which they called "The Pines". The GI's even wrote a song called "In the Pines".
Private Thompson had many close calls on Anzio. During one shelling, he hit the ground with his M-1 laying next to his leg. A piece of shrapnell struck the stock of his M-1, shattering the stock but saving his leg. On another occasion, a piece of shrapnell pierced the sole of his boot.
One day Private Thompson and his buddies say an American tank near the German lines. It looked like the tank may be in trouble. His buddies wanted to go out to the tank and see if there were any wounded GI's. Private Thompson did not think it was a good idea, so he stayed. When his buddies got out to the tank, the Germans popped up and ambused them and captured the survivors. Private Thompson never saw his buddies again.
Private Thompson was wounded in the right arm while at Anzio. He was taken to an Evacuation Hospital for treatment. They moved him to another location and soon after that the Hospital was bombed. There was a famous incident of the bombing of U.S. 95th Evacuation Hospital on February 8, 1944. If this was the same event, then that would pinpoint the date of Private Thompson's injury. He still has a 6-inch scar that extends from top of his right arm.
Back in the States
Private Thompson was sent home and arrived on October 5, 1944 for a 15-day leave. He was probably sent home based on his time in combat and campaigns and not because of his wound. On 9 October, he married Eddie Cummings, the girl he met at a dance in 1934. They had been dating for 10 years. He was stationed at Fort Knox, KY and went to see his wife in Mississippi every 6 weeks. He was honorably discharged when the war ended.
After the War
James Thompson settled in east Mississippi with his wife, Eddie. They had 3 children and 8 grandchildren before passing away.
Medal Group of Private James Thompson
This is a collection of patches and medals brought home by Private Thompson and framed by his family. The Combat Infantrymen's Badge is on the upper left, as he was classified an infantrymen and not a tanker. Below it are two Purple Heart ribbons (the medal was displayed in another case). The three ribbons joined together on the right are the (a) Good Conduct Medal, (b) American Defense Service Medal and (c) European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign. Below the ribbons are three "Ruptured Duck" pins for discharged soldiers. The Good Conduct Medal is to left of photo. His dog tag is at the bottom right and his enlisted man's cap badge has fallen to the bottom left, out of the picture. The patches at the bottom are two of the 1st Armored Division and one of the 5th Army. The two tiny pins to the left were from some organization he joined after he returned home, possibly veteran's groups or pins for war bonds.
The three blue patches across the top are Army Air Corps patches. His family put those in the frame because they thought Private Thompson was located on a base with this unit. I don't think he had anything to do with the Air Corps but maybe the tank unit did share a base at one time. There were rainy seasons in Italy when tanks were useless, so maybe the 1st Armored Division was moved back to an airfield for safety and rest.
Return to The Greatest Generation biographies main menu.
Return to Photos from Italy top menu.
Return to CusterMen top menu.