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Jack at Saisies Pass, August 1944

Jack with his friends

Last Name: `
First Name Middle Initial:
Nick Name:
Street:  2841 S 104TH ST City & State: W ALLIS, WI E-Mail: 
Zip: 53227-3219 Phone:  (414) 543-2237 Spouse: N/A
Conflict: WW II Service Branch: Marines Unit: O.S.S. FRENCH UNDERGROUND PLATOON
Theater: ETO Where Captured: FRANCE Date Captured: 08/16/44
Camps Held In: MARLAG NORTH How Long Interned: 255 days
liberated / repatriated: liberated Date Liberated: 04/28/45 Age at Capture: 24
Military Job: SGT Company: CRANE ENG.
Occupation after War:  SALES

Military Bio:

Several months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jack was transferred to the Parachute Troops and later became a jump instructor at the Camp Lejeune Marine Parachute School. In the spring of 1943 he volunteered with 7 other Marine sergeant instructors for the O.S.S. and was sent to England to help set up a joint British SOE/American OSS Parachute School at Dunham House (a few miles outside of Manchester), to train agents. Parachuting was the easiest way to insert agents in occupied countries.

In July 1944 when the Allies started to breakout of the Normandy beachhead, action was going in favor of the occupation forces in southeast France. The 157th German Alpine division had crushed the Maquis (F.F.I. resistance) at the Glieres plateau and on July 25, 1944, German General Karl Plaum of the 157th reported that the Vercors resistance had been broken and the plateau in ruins.

At the time when the southern France landings (Operation Dragoon/Anvil) had been scheduled for August 15, 1944, the two large resistance groups – Glieres and Vercors had been destroyed. On August 1, 1944 the Allies decided on a mass daylight parachute supply drop of arms of more than 170 tons. 78 Boeing B-8’s of the 388th B.G. made it to the drop zone at Saisies Pass (near Albertville) enough to arm more than 3000 Maquis. This was called Mission UNION II (Marine Operational Group) and commanded by Major Peter Ortiz (USMC) and included Captain Coolidge, and Sergeants Robert LaSalle, John Bodnar, Charles Perry, Fred (Fritz) Brunner, and Jack Risler.

The area was important to the Germans for supplying their army in southern France – from northern Italy and could also be used later to retreat via the Tarentaise valley through the St. Bernard pass into Italy or the Maurienne valley through the Mt. Cenis pass or the Modane (railway) tunnel into Italy. We lost two members of our team on the parachute drop, Sergeant Charles Perry was killed and Gy. Sergeant Robert LaSalle injured, however, the next two weeks went well under the command of French Captain Jean Bulle and Major Peter Ortiz.

The action of August 14th in the small mountain village of Montgirod lasted all day. We were surrounded – however after dark managed to escape. The Germans destroyed the village by fire and shot hostages. On August 16th we were surrounded again in the town of Centron (the sister village of Montgirod). About noon, rather than having the village destroyed and innocent people killed or executed, Major Ortiz offered to surrender his team if the Germans would not harm the village or the people. That afternoon at the German HQ in Moutiers a junior officer gestured our fate – “KAPUT”, and we would be executed as a terrorist.

Much of our POW life was spent in solitary confinement at various prisons in France, Italy and Germany. Nine months later on April 28, 1945 the British liberated us from Marlag-Milag Nord.

Colonel Peter Ortiz died on May 16, 1988. He was a former member of the French Foreign Legion and the U.S. Marine Corps. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery May 23, 1988. Representatives of France and England attended his funeral. A sign on the Centron Town hall (Hotel de Ville) reads – Place Colonel Peter Ortiz.

On August 21, 1944 the Maquis liberated Albertville

My Message to Future Generations:

Message to come..

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