James A. Montgomery, Jr.
Biography: James Alexis Montomery, Jr., “Jim”, was born on November 13, 1916, in Monroe City, Missouri. He was the son of James Alexis Montgomery Sr. and Anna Lucinda “Anna Lou” Yates and attended Holy Rosary Grade school and High school, graduating in 1934.
He then worked at a number of jobs including the railroad, as a janitor at a high school and as an accountant.
Service Time: Jim entered the service on March 27, 1941, at the Jefferson Barracks, MO. He was sent for basic training and later assigned to Company B of the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Various components of the unit had begun assignments as coastal and installation guards in several locations in the Northwest. The unit received additional training at Camp Hood, Texas, and on January 14, 1943, they shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation.
The unit had been issued M10 tank destroyers while still in the U.S. They arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, on January 25, 1943, and while waiting to disembark from the transport ship at the Casablanca docks, Jim took some time to draw the dock and crane used to unload their cargo.
The unit would see action while in North Africa, fighting in the area of Maknassy and Ferryville, Tunisia. Additionally, from August 7, 1944 to September 16th, Jim received radio maintenance training from the Signal Training School located there.
Eighteen enlisted men participated in the Sicily campaign as radio operators and military police, debarking in the vicinity of Cappaci, Italy, beginning on September 19th. The main body of the unit was committed near Rotondi on October 10th, where it supported the Volturno River crossing and later the Rapido River crossing, fighting near Cassino from January through March, 1944.
They joined the breakthrough of the Hitler Line in May, 1944, entering Rome on June 4th and joining the drive to the Arno River. The 776th transferred to southern France in September and October, 1944, during which time they re-equipped with M36 tank destroyers. They moved into the line near Luneville on October 30th and supported the French 2nd Armored Division’s advance to Strasbourg in November.
They then battled the German Nordwind offensive around Rimling, France, in January of 1945, where they claimed the first Jagdtiger destroyed on Western front. Attacking the Siegfried Line near Omersheim, Germany, they crossed the Rhine River near Worms in March and aided in the capture of Mannheim, Heidelberg and Ulm, Germany, crossing the Danube in April. When the war ended, the 776th was stationed in Ehrwald, Austria.
Jim received credit for each of the unit’s campaigns, including Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Rhineland and Central Europe. He also received the EAME Ribbon, American Defense Ribbon, American Campaign Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal. He shipped home on September 20th, arriving on October 7th, and left the service on October 14th at the Jefferson Barracks, MO, Separation Center. At the time, he held the rank of Technician 5th Grade.
Now back home, Jim found work as an accountant and later worked as a lumberyard manager. On October 26, 1946, he married the former Catherine Elizabeth Theising who was born in St. Louis, MO, and was the daughter of Henry Aloysius Theising and Catherine Ida Weber. The new couple would make their home in St. Louis and have twins Thomas and Timothy, born in 1948, a daughter Ann in 1953 and another son, Paul, in 1960.
In his spare time, Jim enjoyed reading, camping, baseball and genealogy work. He was an officer in the local council of the Knights of Columbus and a sponsor and leader for the local St. Vincent DePaul Society. He attended many reunions of the 776th and in 1983, he released the book “B Company 776 Tank Destroyer Battalion in Combat” which was published by Gateway Press. The 138 page document, contains an amazing account of B Company’s actions during the war and includes not only the written events but also photos, artwork and diagrams from the period. The book was written from a diary Jim kept and contributions from some of Jim’s comrades in the unit. It’s an incredible work to preserve this unit’s history.
Jim passed away on October 5, 1995, and was buried in the Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in St. Louis, MO. I want to thank Jim’s son, Tom, for providing the information and materials used in this tribute. I want to especially thank him for sharing other 776th materials his father had saved. The scan of Jim’s book as well as other documents and photos on our 776th Unit Page were all provided by Tom.