1LT John Silas Sheffield Peirson
75th Infantry Division, 290th Regiment
Killed in Action 25 December, 1944
at La Roumiere in the Battle of the Bulge
-- Richard Frost Peirson --
John Peirson was a proud American, raised in a banking family in upsate New York. After graduation
from Yale, he decided to teach, and returned to his prep school, The Mercersburg Academy, in central
Pennsylvania, where for several years he taught English and was head of Public Relations.
My Mother, Elizabeth Frost, was a writer for Parents Magazine in New York, and though she
couldn't have known it, she was on a collision course with Mercersburg, and my Dad. She would
review Summer camps in the Summer and prep schools in the Winter. So one day, in his PR capacity,
Dad found himself showing my Mother around the campus, and the match was immediate. So immediate
that Dad began spending his weekends in New York, and at the end of the school year, he took a job
on the editorial staff of Fortune Magazine. Then he and my Mother were married in Pittsburgh
in September of 1942.
When the war came, Dad tried to enlist, but was turned away because of his eyesight. Not to be
deterred, he memorized the eyechart, and tried again, this time successfully. He got his commission
through OCS, and joined the 75th Infantry Division at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, where he was later
promoted to 1LT.
I came along in August of '44. Dad was there when I was born, I'm told, but shipped out from
New York in October with the rest of the 75th, bound for La Havre, France, on the USAT Brazil.
The Bulge began on 16 December, and after several weeks of training in Wales, the 75th, originally
bound for Aachen, was diverted. They were rushed to a hill called La Roumiere, on the Northern
Shoulder of the Bulge.
Nearly 400 men from Task Force Hogan (later called Hogan's Heroes by some) were trapped in the Bulge,
some 10 miles to the South. In a Christmas Eve attempt to reach the safety of allied lines, they had
destroyed their vehicles and were moving North, as La Roumiere was their only possible route of escape.
So the order came quickly, and in the moonlight-on-snow conditions of Christmas Eve,'44, without winter
uniforms, without briefings or proper maps, without air support, with less than a normal combat load of
ammunition, and with NO combat experience, two companies of the 75th, including my Dad's Company "L,"
were ordered to take La Roumiere -- no matter the cost -- from combat-experienced Panzer units and
Volksgrenadiers who were well-dug-in at the top. And the cost would be high.
It took three frontal attacks on La Roumiere to win the hill from the Germans -- one on Christmas Eve,
and two more on Christmas morning. By the time the 75th watched Hogan's men tramp safely through their
positions late on Christmas Day, the 75th had lost more than 250 officers and men, my Dad among them.
Many more were wounded, including my Mom, who got The Telegram a few days later in Pittsburgh, when I
was four months old. Dad was buried with his buddies and still remains at Henri-Chapelle, in Belgium,
where the Jacobs family, of Heerlen (in the Netherlands), has adopted his grave, with heartfelt thanks.
The 75th went on to distinguish itself in the Colmar Pocket, and in the Ruhr Valley. But La Roumiere
was not, and will not be forgotten. CPT David Claggett, West Point Officer and Company Commander of
Dad's Company "L" wrote the grim lessons of La Roumiere as a training case for the Infantry School at
Fort Benning, Georgia. When I found AWON in '95, and started poking around, I "found" CPT Claggett . . .
but it was sadly nine months after he had passed away. He could have told me so much.
My Mother was a one-man woman, she always said, and that was that. She never remarried, and was more
than glad, I know, to join my Dad in '81. She would never hesitate to tell me all she could about him,
the kind of man he was, his sense of humor, his sense of fun, and his sense of duty to his country.
No wonder he was always my hero.
I went to Mercersburg myself, at least in part to know my roots. I must have had a continuing need
to do as he had done, as I got my own commission, became an Intelligence Officer, and was proud to
take Infantry training at Fort Benning in the Spring of '68. That training got me through Vietnam,
where I was undoubtedly chasing the tiger that Dad had found, in a barely conscious effort, I can see
now, to know him in the only way I could.
It was a satisfaction to me when I found out what he really "did" in the war, as I had only known him as
an Infantry Officer, as afterall, he'd served and died in the 75th Infantry Division. I've known nothing
more than that since childhood. But from records and orders that surfaced in 1998, I smiled to learn that
he had been on the staff of his Battalion -- and had been its S-2, Intelligence Officer -- long before I
followed close, and even longer before I ever knew I had.
AWON has lifted the cone of silence from around us. Now we can ask questions without apology, and we
can honor these men to whom we owe so much. We can talk, and share stories about our Fathers, the War,
and what it was like growing up without a Dad in a place where Victory was everywhere, it seemed . . .
though it never came to our house.
But those days are over, as through AWON, and through each other, we've found ways to understand and in
some ways reconcile what happened -- so much of what we never knew, and were once too cowed to ask --
about who our Fathers really were as men and how we came to be.
So on this page, and on all of the pages both before and after, our Fathers now proudly stand, shoulder
to shoulder, wingtip to wingtip, and port to starboard bow, in a long, proud line, though row on row,
to represent the human cost of freedom.
Now we can more openly celebrate the men they were -- and recognize the incredible price they paid.
As each of these men, in one shining moment in history, when they still had the choice, made it right,
without question or pause, and on behalf of all of us, stepped up to change the world.
Thanks Dad. And thanks to all our Fathers. We miss you deeply, even now, especially now. We'll
always be proud to be your sons and daughters.