Private John A. Ware (1925–1944)

John A. Ware (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareFarmhand
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32959485
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “I,” 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
Military Occupational SpecialtyCampaigns/Battles
745 (rifleman)Normandy (Battle of Saint-Lô)

Early Life & Family

John Albert Ware was born in Felton, Delaware, on the morning of April 26, 1925. He was the third child of John Thomas Ware (a farmer, 1896–1974) and Elizabeth Lillian Ware (née Vincent, 1897–1969). He had two older sisters, three younger sisters, and a younger brother.

The Ware family was recorded on the census on April 23, 1930, living on the family farm off Lincoln Highway in Kent County, Delaware. At the time of the 1940 census, Ware was listed as having completed the 8th grade. His enlistment data card stated that he completed three years of high school by the time he entered the service in 1943. The Wilmington Morning News reported that Ware attended Felton High School. Ware was a farmhand before entering the military.

When Ware registered for the draft on April 26, 1943, he was living with and working for his father on R.F.D. 2 in Felton. The registrar described him as standing five feet, seven inches tall and weighing 130 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes.


Military Career

After Ware was drafted, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey, on October 21, 1943. A statement by his father for the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission indicated that Ware went on active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on November 11, 1943. According to Ware’s father, Private Ware went to basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and was briefly stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, from April 1–29, 1944, before going overseas from the New York Port of Embarkation the following month. He was in England a short time before moving to France after the Normandy invasion.

On June 22, 1944, at 0900 hours, Private Ware and 32 other men joined Company “I,” 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, transferring in from the 92nd Replacement Battalion. Per the company morning report that day, Company “I” was in “Defensive position southwest of Couvains” at the time.

A 29th Infantry Division soldier during hedgerow fighting in Normandy on August 7, 1944 (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-273234-1, National Archives)

The 29th Infantry Division had originally been composed entirely of men from National Guard units (primarily those from Maryland and Virginia), with Ware’s company based in Winchester, Virginia. However, the 29th Division was federalized on February 3, 1941, and personnel subsequently transferred into the division from other parts of the country. Though some guardsmen remained, the grind of combat in Normandy meant that they were increasingly supplanted by replacements like Private Ware. After landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, the 29th Infantry Division had been moving generally southward.

Ware’s Military Occupational Specialty (M.O.S.) was 745 (rifleman). In his book, Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy, Joseph Balkoski wrote:

Combat was hardest on the riflemen. Although members of 29th Division rifle companies amounted to only 5,211 men—37 percent of the division’s manpower—they suffered over 90 percent of the division’s casualties. Most 29th Division rifle companies that landed on D-Day had a near-complete turnover in personnel by mid-July.

29th Infantry Division soldiers marching through Saint-Lô (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 111-SC-191719, courtesy of the Maryland Museum of Military History)

Normandy was an unforgiving place to enter combat for the first time and replacements had to quickly acclimate to both their new units and battle. Balkoski explained:

Replacements were the army’s homeless. After a hasty separation from the units with which they had trained or fought, the lonely replacements found themselves in an unfamiliar repple depple [replacement depot], where they lost all sense of belonging to a cohesive military unit. Even new friendships made within the replacement depots were generally fleeting since it was unlikely that two buddies would be assigned to the same squad, or even the same platoon. Many replacements thought of themselves as nameless pieces of army equipment, like crates of ammunition, sent to the front and promptly consumed. […] “Being a replacement is just like being an orphan,” a rifleman recalled.

Inexperienced replacements often became casualties very quickly. Balkoski quoted another member of Ware’s regiment:

“There was plenty of fear all around,” recalled Pvt. John Robertson of Company F, 116th Infantry. “What affected us more than anything would be to look around us early in the morning and see someone sprawled across a hedgerow, lying there dead; or half in and half out of his foxhole, killed by a shell that landed during the night. Often, it was a replacement who had just come in, maybe the day before, and there he was dead. It gave you a very sickening feeling.”

Private Ware joined the 29th Infantry Division during a relative lull in the Normandy campaign. Four days before Private Ware joined his company, the U.S. First Army commanding officer, Major General Omar Bradley (1893–1981), temporarily halted a costly drive on the strategic crossroads of Saint-Lô. For the next few weeks, the men of Company “I” patrolled the front but neither they nor the Germans facing them launched any significant attacks.

Ruins of Saint-Lô (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, courtesy of the Maryland Museum of Military History)

On the morning of July 11, 1944, 19 days after Private Ware joined his company, the offensive resumed with an assault spearheaded by 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry, and supported by artillery as well as tanks. Balkoski wrote that “The 116th’s well-planned assault proved to be the 29th Division’s greatest success in the campaign so far […] and broke the German front wide open.” 1st Battalion and Ware’s 3rd Battalion joined the attack that afternoon.

Balkoski wrote that General Charles “Gerhardt’s plan—on paper at least—was brilliant. The general hoped to take St. Lô in a lightning stroke from the east,” and either encircling German forces on the heavily-fortified Hill 122 or forcing them to withdraw. The second day of the assault, July 12, 1944, did not go as well as the first had. German artillery stymied the 116th Infantry’s advance on Martinville Ridge, just outside Saint-Lô, and hindered the rest of the 29th Infantry Division from moving to assist them. Balkoski wrote:

At dusk on July 12, the 116th held an L-shaped line. The 1st and 2nd Battalions formed the spine of the “L” facing west, only two miles from St. Lô; the 3rd Battalion held the base, facing south. All three outfits were under constant bombardment since they were still in full view of German forward observers.

Private Ware was killed in action on the third day of the Battle of Saint-Lô, July 13, 1944. A company morning report that day recorded “Heavy fighting […] Advance bitterly contested by enemy.” Indeed, the American assault that day was costly and made little headway.

With the chaos of the battle, Private Ware was reported missing in action on a morning report only on July 16, 1944. Another, dated August 14, 1944, stated that he had in fact been killed in action on July 13, 1944. The unit was near Saint-André-de-l’Épine at that time. His burial report stated that Ware died of “Shrapnel” (shell fragment) wounds.

Balkoski wrote that the 29th Infantry Division lost more men in the Battle of Saint-Lô than in the assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Journal-Every Evening reported on March 8, 1946, that Private Ware, Technician 5th Grade Loran C. Adams and Corporal Caleb O. Simpler were being honored in Felton:

Three Delaware men who died in World War II will be perpetuated in the memory of their home town and their schoolday friends when the Adams-Simpler-Ware Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars is formally dedicated in Felton Sunday afternoon [March 10] at 2:30 o’clock.

Ceremony dedicating the cemetery at La Cambe (Courtesy of the Maryland Museum of Military History)

Private Ware was initially buried at the 29th Division’s temporary cemetery in Normandy at La Cambe on July 19, 1944. After the war, Ware’s family requested that his body be repatriated to the United States. In May 1948, he was buried at Barratts Chapel Cemetery in Frederica, Delaware. His parents and three of his sisters were also buried there after their deaths.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo.


Bibliography

“3 State Soldiers Killed in France; Two Are Missing.” Wilmington Morning News, September 4, 1944. Pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/94597583/ware-kia/

Applications for Headstones, compiled 1/1/1925–6/30/1970, documenting the period c. 1776–1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_1521003240_0423-02443

Balkoski, Joseph. Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy. Revised ed. Stackpole Books, 2005.

John A. Ware Individual Deceased Personnel File. Courtesy of U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

John Albert Ware birth certificate. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YQM-Q4MQ

Morning reports for Company “I,” 116th Infantry Regiment. June–August 1944. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

“New V.F.W. Post at Felton Will Bear Names of Three Dead.” Journal-Every Evening, March 8, 1946. Pg. 23. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/94602491/felton-vfw/

“Pvt John Albert Ware.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36082668/john-albert-ware

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00526

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00544-00810

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704944430/ware-john-a-us-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954

Ware, John T. John Albert Ware Individual Military Service Record, c. 1946. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/21267/rec/2

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=32959485&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=3455022  

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_13_00008-00451


Last updated on September 19, 2022

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