1LT Joseph Jerome Thier
1st Infantry Regiment, M Co. 3rd Btn,
6th Infantry Division
Killed in Action 1/17/45
Urdaneta, Luzon, Philippine Islands
-- Mary Ruth Thier Klimow --
December 7, 1941 - "the day that will live in infamy", the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,
the event that changed the course of my father's life.
Joseph Jerome Thier was born April 26, 1911 in Brooklyn, New York. His paternal great grandparents had
emigrated in 1848 from the Rhine region of Alsace Lorraine, which has been part of Germany and France at
different times in history. His father, grandfather, and uncles were in business as house painters.
His mother's family came from Ireland.
My father had an older sister, Ruth, my namesake, who died in the influenza epidemic of 1919. After his
mother died, his father left for Florida, but my father remained in Brooklyn to finish high school and be
near his grandfather.
On his own he struggled through the Depression, at times driving a taxi, and playing semi-pro baseball while
attending business college. He was an advertising manager when he volunteered for the service in 1940 after
Congress passed an emergency enlistment act to prepare for the country's possible entry into the war.
He was full of patriotism and sense of duty, but he also hoped for a better job when he got out. He was
scheduled for discharge on December 10, 1941. He was not discharged, instead, he was ordered to Officer's
Training. I have never known the story of how my parents met, but it was in Brooklyn and before his
enlistment. After Pearl Harbor, they went ahead with their plans and were married on December 21, 1941.
Leaving immediately afterward for Officer's Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. In late July 1943, he
shipped out from Washington for Hawaii. My mother traveled with him to the West Coast and then needed an
emergency travel voucher to get back to New York, as she was soon to give birth to me.
Requesting combat duty, he was assigned to the 1st Infantry Regiment, a unit already in jungle training on
Oahu. One of the oldest and most distinguished units in the United States Army, created during the
Revolutionary War and now included in the 6th Infantry Division under the command of General MacArthur.
Using maps, diagrams, official reports and historical accounts, I traced my father's steps through the
Pacific battles. He survived the horrific battles at Lone Tree Hill and Maffin Bay, New Guinea for which
the 1st Infantry Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The official records mentioned only
the number of casualties, no names, and no details. I decided to try and find surviving members of his unit.
As the World War II anniversaries came around the veterans were finally speaking of those left behind, I hoped
they would talk to me, but first I had to find them. I found their names in the archives at the Military
Institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, when I discovered information on the 6th Division Association and a list
of 19 men who had served in M-Co. Within a few weeks of writing them I received letters and phone calls.
We shared a special bond. Graphically and explicitly, they described the attack that killed him. They admired
and respected him and said he was a fine officer and a good man, he took care of his men, and that's why he died.
The 1st Infantry went ashore in the Linguyen Gulf off northwest Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands
on January 9, 1945. After MacArthur's Leyte landing, in October 1944, failed to overtake the Japanese. The
landing was three pronged, with units going north to take on General Yamashita hiding in the mountains with
20,000 troops; others would go inland and then turn south toward Manila; the third group, included my father's
unit, was headed directly south toward Clark Field.
M Company met no opposition until they approached the Cabaruan Hills near the town of Urdaneta in the early hours
of January 17th. M Company was in the forward position because it had machine guns. But, their guns were no match
for the heavily armored tanks that surprised them. The Japanese took out the three officers first: my father,
another Lieutenant, and the Captain. They all died instantly.
His medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantry Badge, arrived in the mail a week
after my mother died in 1995. She died on the day before his birthday; fifty years earlier, my father had been
killed on the day before her birthday.
As a child I knew I was different because I never met anyone else who lost a father in the war. He had shipped out
just a few weeks before I was born, I never felt him near me, nor did I ever see his face.
In 1949, I attended his funeral and I still remember it, but it meant nothing to me then. When I was young,
I did not feel the need to know about him. That changed as I approached midlife and realized I must understand
what made me different. Although told he was a hero, I had to know why and how he died. I always wished he didn't
have to be a hero for everyone, I just wanted him to be my Dad.
In AWON, I am not different. It is the details of each story that makes us individuals, but the same details also
make each of our fathers our own special hero.