Sergeant John Hugh Alexander
– Company A, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division –
John was born in 1918, and lived in New York.
He had 4 years of high school, and was working as a plumber (with gas and steam fitters).
John enlisted on the 17th of January, 1941 in Syracuse, New York and trained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Fort Bragg is a major United States Army installation Base in Cumberland and Hoke counties, North Carolina, situated mostly in Fayetteville but also partly in the town of Spring Lake. By 1940 the population of Fort Bragg had reached 5,400; However, in the following year that number ballooned at 67,000. Various units trained at Fort Bragg during World War II, including the 9th Infantry Division and various Field Artillery groups. The population reached a peak of 159,000 during the war years.
We can assume John participated in the North Africa, Tunisia and Sicily before going to Normandy.
Battle in Normandy:
Because the 9th Infantry Division went through several battles before, they did not land on the beaches during D-Day when the invasion of the French continent began in the early morning of June 6th, 1944. The 9th Infantry hit the Normandy beach on D plus 4, on June 10th, as one of the two U.S. Infantry Divisions on the beachhead with previous combat experience, a fact fully appreciated by higher commanders and military observers.
Unloading of men and equipment had hardly been completed when the 39th Combat Team, the “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime — Bar Nothing!” boys of Colonel “Paddy” Flint, were attached to the 4th Infantry Division to clean up the east coast of the peninsula. Following capture of Quineville, which at that time constituted the farthest Allied advance to the north, the 39th returned to Division control, and the 9th was ready to write one of the most glorious chapters in its history. The attack was swift and perfectly executed. Each time the enemy dropped back, the 9th Division hit him again. Having driven across the Douve River, and although north and south flanks were exposed, the 47th and the 60th Infantry Regiments reached the east coast near St. Lo, D’Ourville and Barneville early on June 17th 1944.
After the fighting that resulted in cutting off the Cotentin Peninsula and capturing Cherbourg and its port, the 9th Infantry Division was moved south into “Bocage Country”. Here, battlefields consisted of small fields separated by hedgerows, solid three foot thick and three foot high earthen mounds. These banks were capped with hedges, brushes, trees and sometimes wire. The rain did not help. Tanks were snarled up along the roads. Each man was on his own and a gain of 300 yards a day was a good day’s work. The American Forces, including the Old Reliables, were attempting to push south to the pivot point of St. Lo, the big city. The move was a build-up that would send the Third Army out into Brittany and the First Army toward Falaise and beyond.
By 15 June, the 9th had cleaned out the German strong points east of the Taute and gained the crossroads at les Champs-de-Losque. But just south of that village, the 9th struck the enemy’s new MLR, defending the higher ground rising toward the Periers-St-Lo highway. For the next two days of very severe effort, net gains were negligible. Finally, on 17-18 July, the 39th Infantry broke through; during these two days the 9th Division pushed to within a few hundred yards of the St-Lo highway, and crossed it with patrols. The 9th and the 30th together had gained the ground which First Army proposed to use for its jump-off in the breakthrough operation, Cobra.
It must have been during these actions that Sergeant Alexander must have been killed in action. A high price he paid for other to be able to live in freedom. His name can be found in the Divisional casualty listing.
Sergeant John H. Alexander is now buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy, and is resting at Plot F Row 23 Grave 33.
His sacrifice will never be forgotten.