Jerry was born in San Francisco California, USA, in September 1923, the son of a Career Naval Officer. His mother who was born in Surrey, Great Britain was a naturalised American. Jerry spent six years at the Castle Heights Military Academy
(which was the educational equivalent to Harrow or Eton in the UK). Part of the curriculum involved ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and, as a result, when America entered the War in December 1941 Jerry received a letter from the US War Department stating that as he was eighteen he was eligible to become a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. He immediately agreed and subsequently entered the Service in March 1942. Jerry learned, decades later, that at eighteen years six months, he was, for a short time, the youngest Officer in the entire US Army.
In 1942, Jerry applied for Pilot Training and was accepted as (still a rarity then) an 'Officer/Cadet' in the Air Corps. In his class of some two hundred, there were but five other Officers. Being Lieutenants already, they had none of the duties that represented 'hard slogging' to their classmates. As a result, the six were easy targets for the Instructors and one by one most were dropped out for, in Jerry's opinion, relatively minor reasons. He was second from last to go when, just two weeks before his graduation he ground looped an AT-6 (Harvard) and this finished his flying career. The final Officer of the six graduated and survived the war as a P51 Mustang Pilot in the 9th Air Force in England.
Upon losing out on his pilot wings, he was offered a transfer to Bombardier School, which did not interest him. He could not be considered for Navigator as being so young he had not completed the two years of college which was a prerequisite for this duty.
He transferred back to the Infantry and early in March 1944 arrived in the UK as a member of the 90th Infantry Division. They landed in Liverpool from New York aboard the Athlone Castle, (one of the ships that plied the South African routes in pre war times). The first encampment was between Ludlow and Leominster in Shropshire, on the Estate of Lord Leverhume. They were then transferred to Abergevenny, Wales some four weeks before D-Day. At this point, Jerry was the Commander of the Pioneer Security/ Platoon of the 2nd Battalion HQ Company of the 359th Infantry Regiment, which was destined to land in Normandy as part of an augmented Regimental Combat Team in support of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Red Beach.
The Battalion S-2 (Intelligence) and Jerry were sent in to the 90th landing sector after the beach was secured. Happily, unlike Omaha, there were little problems on Utah, so it was easy for them to go in and ’lay tapes’ for the Battalion's arrival in support of the Regiment’s other two Battalions (which landed earlier). The tapes indicated landing and assembly positions prior to moving inland to where the other Division Troops were fighting in the hedgerows and awaiting reserves.
Out of the thousands who were part of D-Day Operations, there were only about a dozen whose duties led them to land twice; Jerry was one of those. Because of the success of the first landings, the Battalion was not sent ashore in reserve on June 6th as originally planned, therefore they were still on board the USS Susan B Anthony (named after the famous America Suffragette) at dawn on June 7th. Many years later Jerry learned, there had been Command discussions going on for having the ship diverted to Omaha Beach where a full Battalion was certainly more needed as there was still a hellacious battle going on. For better or worse, at this point the Troop Ship hit a mine and rapidly sank (45 minutes). Amazingly, every GI got off safely by going over onto the nets already in place at the side of the ship. They then jumped onto the deck of a British Destroyer which had immediately lashed alongside, and then straight across on to an American Destroyer lashed in turn to the British vessel. Finally, on to LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) to take them in to shore.
Ironically, Jerry’s father survived two wars in the US Navy without 'getting his feet wet' while his Son was sunk within three days of stepping aboard his first Naval craft!
It was not until 10th January 1945 near Wiltz, Luxembourg, that he was wounded during one of the last operations clearing up the last of the German troops in the Battle of the Bulge. After three short weeks of recovery he was back with his Unit and ended the war near Pilsen, Czechezlovakia, where the 90th met up with the Russians.
Jerry states: "One of my major operations was during the famous Battle of the Falaise Gap, near Montaine, France. I was one of three French speaking Officers assigned as liaison with the Second French Armoured Division on our flank. For some two weeks, I did little but employ my 'relatively poor' use of French, which still was better than none I suppose. In spite of doing little I was awarded the Croix de Guerre. This, I feel was not for any bravery but for happily not getting anyone killed in either Division by some error of translation".
By the end of the conflict in Europe, Jerry had been awarded a Bronze Star with the V (Valour) Clasp, the Purple Heart, the ETO Medal (European Theatre of Operations) with Five Battle Stars and the much treasured Arrowhead signifying the taking part in the D Day invasion.
After a brief period, the Unit was transferred to an area around Beyreuth, Germany. They were sent there as the first Army of Occupation Troops in that Sector. It was during this period that events took place that coloured the rest of Jerry’s life. He was transferred to duties with the Entertainment Units that were keeping the American Forces reasonably content prior to being transferred onto ships in Southern France to be returned to the US before going on to the Pacific for the eventual invasion of Japan.
This was a very difficult time for the American Combat Forces who had survived the German war, as they were all convinced that they would not survive the Japanese one. However, the A- Bomb took care of that. Visiting the ruins of Hiroshima in the mid-fifties did not change his feelings about the necessity of it's use, he notes.
Jerry returned to the United States in October 1945 and was soon thereafter released from Service. He remained in the Reserves until 1957 when he resigned as a Captain of Infantry. He was fortunate not to be called back during the Korean conflict as he had just started work at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and was becoming more involved in his career.
The rest of his fascinating life is a no less exciting story and he is currently writing his memoirs of working in the film industry throughout the world. We will relate some of the high points of that phase of his life in Part Two of this profile.
Legend for Photograph: Taken in the American Sector of Southern Germany whilst serving in the Army of Occupation in July 1945, aged 21.