Biography: Jack Doherty was born on November 19, 1915, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He was the son of John Patrick Doherty and Mary Cesare and attended local schools. After graduation, he continued his education, completing two years of college as indicated by his enlistment record. He is also identified as working as an office clerk, prior to the war.
Service Time: Jack entered the service in May 5, 1941, at Pittsburgh, PA. At some point, he was chosen for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and would have graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was ultimately assigned to the 825th Tank Destroyer Battalion and would serve as a platoon commander.
The 825th sailed from the New York port on May 30th, 1944, aboard the Queen Elizabeth, arriving in Scotland on June 5th. After an additional 2 months of training, the men and equipment were loaded on LST’s and arrived on Utah Beach in Normandy, France. They were equipped with 3″ towed guns and were initially assigned to the Communications Zone where they performed 12th Army Group security duties between August and December, 1944.
The battalion entered combat near Malmedy, Belgium, on December, 17th. The next morning, Lt Jack Doherty, commanding the 1st Platoon of A Company, sent his first and second gun squads, commanded by Sergeants John G. Armstrong and Jonas Whaley, with their half-tracks and 3′ guns across the Amblève River bridge at Stavelot. The third and fourth squads, commanded by Sergeants Martin Hauser and Lou Celentano, stayed on the right bank of the river with the aim of protecting the two first squads going up the Old Castle Road. Also on the right bank was the Security Jeep driven by Sylvio Ferrigno, Staff Sergeant Vester O. Lowe in his Jeep, driven by Arthel Gibson, Jack’s Jeep, driven by Earl Shugart, and the GMC Ammunition truck.
Meanwhile, the Germans had pulled a tank in a curve and began to shoot, hitting Sgt Armstrong’s unit. Then, SS men used a burp gun to kill him and 5 other men of his crew who were trying to get out of the burning half-track. The armored spearhead of Kampgruppe SS Joachim Peiper came near their goal of establishing a bridgehead across the River Meuse during the Battle of the Bulge. The determined American resistance, among them Sgt. Celentano and Sgt. Hauser, disrupted the German timetable and cost Peiper’s tanks precious time.
Jack ordered the third and fourth squad’s 76mm guns moved into position at Allée Verte to fire on the German tanks, a distance of about 650 yards. From across the river Sgt. Celentano and Sgt. Hauser’s squads now aimed their guns at the tracks of the enemy tanks, disabling four of them. Sgt. Celentano decided to shoot down more of the buildings because they seemed to be hiding behind them. His gunner, Cpl Roy Ables and Hauser’s, Cpl. Paul Lenzo, managed to stop the first and the last tanks of the column almost immediately. The antitank gun crews continued to load and fire.
There were many shots fired and Sgt. Celentano’s gun hit the turret of a second tank that was pointing its gun towards them. As the enemy armor rolled into Stavelot, a German Tiger Tank, No. 105, belonging to Obersturmführer Jürgen Wessel appeared on the other end of the street from Sgt. Hauser’s gun. Both started firing their guns and the Tiger completely destroyed Jack’s Jeep, which was in the front position. Sgt. Hauser’s half-track, which was just behind the Jeep, was also hit. The half-track was disabled and on fire but at the same time Sgt. Hauser’s gun hit the Tiger in the turret and the tank then backed into a building, sending bricks crashing down on it.
Jack and his driver escaped from their Jeep just before it was set ablaze by the Tiger’s machine guns, however, Jack was groggy and slightly hurt, both his mouth and legs had been injured and he was temporarily unable to command. His driver, Earl Shugart, had right leg wounds and the driver of the Security Jeep, Sylvio Ferrigno, also received some shrapnel wounds to his chest. SSgt. Lowe took command and ordered his driver to put Jack on the hood of their Jeep. He also ordered Sgt. Hauser and Cpl. Lenzo to destroy their gun using a canister shell and for the rest of the third squad, to escape to Malmedy using the GMC ammunition truck. The Security Jeep led the column, followed by the GMC and SSgt. Lowe’s Jeep with Jack on the hood. Sgt. Hauser and Cpl. Lenzo escaped on foot, climbing the wall behind the Institute Saint Joseph school. Both men were picked up the next day.
As the result of this action, six men from First Section were killed and two were wounded. All the men of the Second Section sought refuge in nearby houses. Both Sgt. Celentano and Sgt. Hauser were awarded the Bronze Star for knocking out or disabling four German tanks.
The 825th returned to security duties on January, 16. 1945. They received credit for participation in the campaigns of Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Central Europe. Jack was awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart and associated theater medals. In the Spring of 1945, Jack returned to Stavelot and posed for a photo with one of the tanks (No. 105) that his unit had destroyed on that December day. The photo is shown above.
In May of 1944, Jack had signed up for additional time in the Army. He would leave active service on March 10, 1948, at Camp Stoneman, California. It is unclear why he left but his father had passed away that same year. In February of 1950, he still listed Latrobe, PA, as his home but he also identifies himself as on active duty and was stationed in Wetzlar, Germany. We believe he was serving with the 517th Field Artillery Battalion. Jack did ultimately retired from the military at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, so we believe he remained in the Army or Army Reserves for an extended period.
At some point he married the former Frances Wells and later moved to the Arlington, Virginia area. Jack passed away on July 22, 1975, and he was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Frances traveled to Stavelot, Belgium, in 1990, and met Marcel Ozer, one of the civilians, who had helped the soldiers in 1945. She gave him the first two photos shown in this tribute. Frances also attended at least one of the unit’s reunions in 2000.
I want to thank Serge Lemaire for providing information and photos for this tribute. I also want to thank Mary Hodson for her assistance and Anne Cady for the use of the grave marker photo.