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Griffith, James M. (820th, 18th Grp)

James M. Griffith

Biography:  James MacVean Griffith was born on May 18, 1913, in Leavittsburg, Ohio. He was the son of Howard Levi Griffith and Marion MacVean and attended school in both Warren and Cortland, Ohio. After graduating in 1931, he continued his education at Hiram College in Hiram, OH, studying Machine Design, Engineering Drawing and Shop Math for 12 months.

He then found work with the Republic Steel Corporation in their foundry at Warren, OH. Shortly thereafter, he began applying his education in the company’s machine shop as a machinist apprentice. He seems to have also had experience as an electric truck driver as indicated by his enlistment record. He had spent seven months serving in a National Guard infantry unit prior to the war.

Service Time:  James entered the Army on May 13, 1942, and was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, where he was assigned to Company D of the 52nd Infantry Training Battalion at the rank of Private. While there, he applied for glider pilot training but we have no evidence that h ewas accepted. James was chosen to be part of a cadre of men used to form the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion on June 25, 1942, at Camp Swift, also located in Texas. He was assigned to Company C at the rank of Technician 5th Grade and he continued to train with the unit at various facilities within the U.S.

On March 16, 1943, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and in April, he was transferred to the 18th Tank Destroyer Group as part of a cadre of men to form the unit . He was assigned to their Intelligence Unit. On May 7, 1943, the 18th TD Group moved to Camp Hood, TX , and on July 4, 1943, James qualified as a sharpshooter with the rifle. He also participated in Weapons Training School for 8 weeks at the camp. It was while at Camp Hood that James was chosen to attend Ordnance Officer Candidate School at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. He graduated on August 13, 1943, and was discharged from the Army so that he could accept a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was then sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, from September 6, 1943, through October 16, 1943, for Engineering Training School.

James was then assigned to the 612th Engineer LE (Light Equipment) Company and beginning on December 1, 1943, he served as a platoon commander. We don’t have much detailed information on the 612th but we do know that the unit shipped out on December 23, 1943 and arrived in England on the 30th. By the end of his service with the unit in late 1945, he was serving as a Combat Engineer Unit Commander. He was responsible for the unit’s administration, training and tactical employment, which consisted of constructing and maintaining roads, buildings and all types of construction jobs, which required earth moving equipment. Many of these jobs were happening at or very near front line areas.  While serving with the unit, James was evaluated by his superior officer and it was noted that he:

“not only gets the job done but takes excellent care of his men”

The 612th was credited with the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Central Europe as part of the VII Corps. The VII Corps took part in the D-Day amphibious landings with First Army during Operation Overlord landings on Utah Beach. James was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in support of active combat operations during the period June 6, 1944 (D-Day) to April 1945, while in France, Belgium and Germany. They also took part in Operation Cobra and over their entire time overseas are credited with capturing over 377,000 enemy soldiers with the vast majority from operations in the Ruhr Pocket in Germany. James was also awarded the EAME Ribbon, the WWII Victory medal and the American Campaign Service Medal. He shipped home on September 2nd, arriving on the 12th. James was honorably discharged on February 23, 1946, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, at the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

Honorable Discharge

We have very little information on James’ military service after the war but it seems he served on a short tour at Fort Belvoir, VA, with the 929th Engineer Construction Battalion for Active Duty training. His duties included serving as B Company commander as an instructor and general training supervisor. This particular service seems to have only lasted for 15 days and covered the period August 12, to the 26th of 1951.

On October 10, 1952, James married the former Helen Marie Ellis. She was born in Ellis, OH and was the daughter of Elias Henry Ellis and Gladys Baldwin. The new couple would make their home in Cortland, OH and have two children, a son Howard in 1953 and a daughter Jane in 1956. James had gone back to work at Republic Steel but in his spare time, he enjoyed hunting, sailing, woodworking and gardening. He also served his community as part of the Masons, the Lions Club and the Cortland Conservation Club. He also was a Boy Scout Leader.

James passed away on August 20, 1997, and was buried in Cortland, OH. I want to thank James’ nephew James, his daughter Jane and his son Howard for contributing materials for this tribute.