(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Medals and Badges Cpl. Raftery probably earned

John Edward Raftery Jr. was born in 1922 in Indiana. His father, John Raftery Sr. (1896), was a disabled WWI veteran. During his life John Sr. served as commander of the American Legion Burdette Post and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7. He also belonged to the VFW Evansville Post 1114 and the Vanderburgh County Retired Veterans Memorial Club.

John Raftery Jr. grew up in (Evansville) Vanderburgh County, Indiana. He attended Highland Elementary School and went through one year of college education and later on worked as an unskilled laborer in the automobiles manufacture industry. Then he moved to Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

On August 11, 1942, John Raftery Jr. enlisted in Philadelphia, PA (Branch: Cavalry, Grade: Private, Component of Army: Reserves - exclusive of Regular Army Reserve and Officers of the Officers Reserve Corps on active duty under the Thomason Act (Officers and Enlisted Men -- O.R.C. and E.R.C., and Nurses-Reserve Status)). After his enlistment, but before going overseas, he married Juanita P. Before going overseas Raftery was promoted to Corporal. I don't know when Cpl. Raftery went overseas, but he became part of the 26st Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and certainly took part in the Battle for the German city Aachen in the autumn of 1944.

Left: John Jr. and Juanita Raftery
Right: Corporal John Raftery Jr.
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Aachen was an armament and coal-producing center and a key point in the Siegfried Line defenses. Its defenders had been ordered by the commander of the German Seventh Army to hold to the last man. Even after October 1, 1944, when the city had been contained on the west, south, and east and division patrols were probing the inner defenses, the Germans maintained strong positions in the south, counter-attacking mostly only to prevent complete encirclement. But the plan came apart at the seams. On October 3, a German counter-assault preceded by 3500 rounds of heavy artillery hit the 16th Infantry Regiment from the east. When the bitter close-in fighting was over, half the attacking force were casualties and half the big guns were knocked out.

On October 8, the 18th Infantry Regiment launched a ferocious assault on Crucifix Hill, commanding ground northeast of the city. Each pillbox was taken separately after its defenders had been flushed with flame or by direct artillery fire. At the same time, Cpl. Raftery's 26th Infantry Regiment moved into Forst and Beverau Wood. With these and the Verlautenheide ridge securely held, the last escape road to the north was brought under fire. Again a savage counterattack was launched from the east. The ferocity of the fighting can be judged from the fact that after Company I, 16th Infantry Regiment, had beaten off an assault with bayonets, more than 250 dead Germans lay in front of the company positions.

The city surrounded, even more bitter fighting for its rubble-strewn streets was in prospect. On October 10, an ultimatum for its surrender was carried into Aachen by the S-2, 26th Infantry Regiment. No answer signaled the beginning of the main attack. Fighter-bombers hammered defensive positions and artillery pumped 5000 rounds into the eastern end of the city. For the next three days the men ground slowly forward, street by street, house by house. Meanwhile, counter-attacks continued. Miserable weather prevented use of air support and limited artillery shoots, but close-in fighting with bayonet and hand grenade finally beat the Germans down.

While the division parried with one fist it socked hard with the other. From October 16 on, the Germans were reduced to parachuting supplies to its garrison defenders. By October 20, remaining resistance centered around Technical High School on the western edge of Aachen. On that 20th October 1944 Cpl. Raftery got Wounded in Action and was transported to a Belgium hospital. On October 21, Colonel Gerhard M. Wilck, the German commanding officer, surrendered unconditionally. On November 2, 1944, Cp. John E. Raftery Jr. Died of Wounds in a Belgium hospital at age 21. Cpl. Raftery's wife, Juanita, had a memorial service arranged for her husband in the Belgium hospital where he died.

Cpl. John E. Raftery Jr.
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Hospital Service Certificate of Cpl. John E. Raftery (inside)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

On December 3, 1944, memorial services for Cpl. Raftery were held in the St. Peter's Church, Darmstadt Road, Evansville, IN. In 1945 John Raftery Sr. remarried and died on August 23, 1974, at 2.50 Hours, St. Mary's Hospital (age 78). He left two stepsons, Earl and Walter Sturtevant and a sister Anna Stallings Sr.

Corporal John E. Raftery Jr.'s final resting place is, together with 7,989 brothers in arms, the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium, Plot F, Row 10, Grave 27.

Rick Demas next to Cpl. Raftery's grave
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Flag presented to Juanita P. Raftery and the Hospital Service Certificate
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

If anyone has information about Corporal John E. Raftery Jr. that may be of assistance to me, please contact me at rickmommers@msn.com

The First! The Story of the 1st Infantry Division