John "Jack" L. Pearce

Army Badge
  • Name: John "Jack" L. Pearce
  • Location of Birth: St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Date of Birth: January 18, 1926
  • Date of Death: August 2, 2010 (84 years old)
  • Parents: Seth and Priscilla Pearce
  • High School and Class: Cretin High School - St. Paul, Minnesota
  • College: 1949 - St. Thomas College
  • Highest Rank: PFC (Private First Class)
  • Branch: Army
  • Other Branch:
  • Date Sworn In: February 16, 1944 (Enlistment Date)
  • Place Sworn In:
  • Date of Discharge: January 17, 1946 (Release Date)
  • Place of Discharge:
  • Military Awards:
    Purple Heart
    Bronze Star Medal
    Battle Stars in the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaign (3)
    Combat Infantry Badge
    Several letters of commendation

  • Military Highlights:
    Jack voluntarily enlisted in the Army during World War II at the young age of 17. From ages 17 through 19, Jack served as a rifleman in the 304th Regiment of the 76th Infantry Division, whose service was throughout Europe. Though still a teenager, he shouldered the burdens of war admirably, earning 3 Battle Stars in the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns.

    A true hero, Jack Pearce was also awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star for Valor (the fourth highest combat award of the United States Armed Forces), the Purple Heart (the oldest award still given to members of the United States military), and several letters of commendation.

    Article written by Willow Sedore, Herald-Review Staff Writer, dated May 30, 2004:

    "Paying the price for freedom
    Veteran reflects on Memorial Day
    When World War II was declared in December of 1941, John Pearce was 15 years old. By the time he was training at Camp Hood, Texas (now Fort Hood) D-day had already come and gone on the banks of Normandy. But by his 20th birthday Pearce had won the gold star of valor, a purple heart and the combat infantry badge giving him enough points to retire from the Army--but not without his share of battle scars.
    "I learned to appreciate what we have," said the 78-year old. "It made me stop and consider where I came from."
    This Monday, Americans will stop and consider not just veterans like Pearce, who served in World War II, but all of the nation's combat veterans.
    "Recognition of someone who recognizes a duty and does something about it is important," said Pearce.
    More than 500,000 World War II Veterans and their survivors also will be recognized this weekend as the WWII monument will be dedicated in Washington, D.C.
    Pearce said, "One of the finest things that happened was the new recognition with the national monument dedicated to the World War II Veterans and their survivors."
    Pearce was a Private First Class with the 76th Infantry Division of the Army from 1944 to 1946. His first feel of battle was the famous Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1945.
    He earned his medal of valor when in Germany on March 9, 1945, his platoon was advancing to attack an enemy town.
    His commendation states: "Private Pearce left a comparatively safe position and moved forward alone, exposed to the hostile machine gun fire until he was close enough to throw a hand grenade. The enemy gun was destroyed and the platoon was thereby able to continue the attack."
    Pearce said that he killed three enemies in the foxhole and later found out that he had saved the life of a fellow soldier in doing so.
    In general, the company was assigned to a "mopping up" operation. Tanks would charge through small European villages, towns and hamlets leaving whatever operation there was for infantrymen like Pearce to clean up.
    Pearce served as a runner delivering messages from the Platoon Commander to the Company Commander. One night when the group of messengers were standing together exposed on the blacktop, the enemy dropped a round of artillery fire among a group of six. Pearce was the closest to the grenade when it detonated leaving him unable to hear for thee days and wounded by shrapnel in his right calf.
    Pearce's calf was not injured badly, but it was the infection later which caused him to spend six months in various Army hospitals in Europe and the United States. Mortar shelling in Luxembourg a few weeks later left him with permanent hearing damage.
    "I ended up paying the price and I will pay the price for the rest of my life," said Pearce who today walks with a cane and wears hearing aids in both his ears.
    After the war, Pearce went on to earn a degree in social studies with minors in education and economics in just three years by attending classes year-round. He later worked 20 years for the Great Northern Railway and another 20 years as the traffic manager of the Blandin Paper Company. He retired in 1990 and has eight children with his wife of 56 years, Irene.
    A few years ago one of his 13 grandchildren was working on a school project and asked Pearce to recount some of his experience of the war.
    In a poignant letter he wrote, "What did I learn? War is hell, no doubt about it, but it is sometimes truly justified. WWII was one which clearly was justified even though it had so many negative effects until our country entered. For many of us who enlisted or were drafted in our teens, it compressed an awful lot of living in relatively short periods of time. Most were bad and violent experiences but some were good. The truth in the saying about there being 'no atheists in a foxhole' are (is) absolutely correct. My hope and prayer along with many other(s) is 'no more war.' But I will qualify that with the need we do have on occasion a 'justified' war."
    Memorial Day is not just a long weekend marking the beginning of summer, it is a special day dating back to the days after the Civil War (when it was called "Decoration Day" because people would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers) to remember those veterans like Pearce and others who served in combat in order to preserve the freedoms Americans hold near and dear."

  • Wars Involved:
    World War II

  • MIA / POW:

  • Civilian Life:
    It is impossible to fully capture the life and character of John L. Pearce, lovingly known as Jack, Dad, and Grandpa Jack. A gentleman in every possible sense, Jack lived a life of integrity guided by his strong faith.

    His lifetime love of learning began at St. Andrew's parochial grade school and Cretin High. After high school, he set his love of learning aside.

    After being honorably discharged from the Army, Jack resumed his pursuit of knowledge, attending and graduating from St. Thomas College with the class of 1949.

    In 1948, Jack married the love of his life, Irene M. Warner of St. Paul, Minnesota. Their 62 years of marriage is an enduring example of love and commitment.

    From 1949 to 1951, Jack passed on his love of learning to his students as the Commercial Studies teacher at Balaton, Minnesota High School. For the following 20 years, he represented the Sales and Service Departments of the Great Northern and Burlington Northern Railroads at various locations in Minnesota and North Dakota. The final 20 years of his working life were spent with Blandin Paper Company at Grand Rapids, Minnesota, as Manager of Transportation.

    Though formally retired in 1990, he did not by any means settle quietly into retired life. Jack pursued interests that had been set aside as a teenager serving his country in World War II, which included traveling throughout the United States, skiing and sail boating. He also continued his lifetime devotion to learning, taking an avid interest in all the latest technology.

    In addition, he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Disabled Veterans, the American Legion, as well as the 76th Infantry Division and 304th Regiment Associations.

    Jack continued to serve others as a board member of The Hope House of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, a member and later Vice Chairman and Chairman, of St. Joseph's School Board, also in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and a long time member of the Duluth Superior Transportation Club. Furthermore, he was a member of The Health Service Agency of Western Lake Superior, the BN Veterans Association and the MN Statewide Coordinating Committee. Finally, Jack served on the NW Shippers Advisory Board, and the North Central Paper Traffic Conference, eventually serving as Treasurer.

    Jack held high standards throughout life, both for himself and others. A truly rare breed of gentleman, Jack was able to give everyone the confidence, love, and support to meet these standards with great success. Also among his greatest gifts to us was his ability to reach out to each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild, letting them know, without doubt, that they are special, treasured, and much loved.

    Surrounded by his loving wife and family, Jack peacefully stepped into the welcoming arms of the Lord to rejoin his parents, Seth and Priscilla Pearce, and brothers, Seth W., Jr. and Robert.

    With his beloved wife, Irene, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and sisters, Mary Brady and Priscilla Reber, and countless friends, we celebrate John L. Pearce's life.

    Jack and Irene were blessed with eight wonderful and much loved children; Jack, married to Dawn; Mary Danz, married to Ken; Mark; Gregg, married to Margie; Joan Tomaselli, married to Chris; David, married to Cindy; Michael, and James. Throughout the years, Jack and Irene were also blessed with thirteen beloved grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

    Though you are gone and life continues, we will always remember you.

    Jack died at Grand Itasca Hospital in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and is buried in Itasca Calvary Cemetery at Grand Rapids, Minnesota. (Plot C-D)

  • Tribal Affiliation(s):