NAME: John C. Kessler Jr.
ASN: 20363390 / O-1290257
PLACE OF BIRTH: Stonewall Jackson Hospital, Lexington, VA
DATE OF BIRTH: 03 Jun 1921
DATES OF SERVICE: 03 Feb 1941 - 00 Jun 1952
Virginia Army National Guard, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
541st Parachute Infantry
A Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
C Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
504th Parachute Infantry
CAMPAIGNS: Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, Central Europe
AWARDS: Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronzze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart Medal with oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal, EAME Campaign Medal with arrowhead and five campaign stars, American Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished (Presidential) Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster
SUMMARY OF SERVICE:
03 Jun 1921 - Born in Stonewall Jackson Hospital, Lexington, VA
Both of his parents were deaf mutes so he learned to speak and sign from his grandmother, then taught his two younger sisters (Ethel and Ruby) to speak and sign.
During the depression era his father made a living fixing up delapidated homes. They would move in while he worked on it then when complete they would have to move out to another home in need of repair. By the time he was 18 years old they had moved over 30 times living in Lexington, Lynchburg and Roanoke, VA.
00 ??? 1938 - Joined the Virginia Army National Guard - 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
00 May 1940 - Graduated from Jefferson High School
03 Feb 1941 - 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division was Federalized
03 Feb 1941 - Enlisted at Roanoke, VA - NARA Enlistment Record.
|ARMY SERIAL NUMBER||20363390||20363390|
|PLACE OF ENLISTMENT||3387||ROANOKE VIRGINIA|
|DATE OF ENLISTMENT DAY||03||03|
|DATE OF ENLISTMENT MONTH||02||02|
|DATE OF ENLISTMENT YEAR||41||41|
|GRADE: ALPHA DESIGNATION||CPL#||Corporal|
|BRANCH: ALPHA DESIGNATION||INF||Infantry|
|FIELD USE AS DESIRED||#||#|
|TERM OF ENLISTMENT||0||Undefined Code|
|SOURCE OF ARMY PERSONNEL||7||National Guard|
|YEAR OF BIRTH||21||21|
|RACE AND CITIZENSHIP||1||White, citizen|
|EDUCATION||3||3 years of high school|
|CIVILIAN OCCUPATION||002||Actors and actresses|
|MARITAL STATUS||6||Single, without dependents|
|COMPONENT OF THE ARMY||4||National Guard (Officers, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men)|
|FILM REEL NUMBER||3.64#||3.64#|
13 Feb 1941 - Moved with 116th Infnatry to Fort Meade, MD
?? ??? 1942 - Graduated from Officer Candidate School
?? ??? ???? - Volunteered for Paratroops
?? ??? ???? - Graduated from The Parachute School
?? ??? ???? - Graduated from Demolitions School
?? ??? 1944 - Sent overseas as a replacement officer
?? ??? 1944 - Joined the 509th PIB at Anzio, Italy
29 Dec 1944 - Bronze Star Medal Citation
For heroism while assigned to Company C, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, During as attack by Company C on prepared enemy positions south of Sadzot, Belgium, the enemy counter-attacked in force on the company's front and right flank. The friendly lines already being disorganized by its own attack, the men started a disorganized withdrawal to the rear. Lieutenant Kessler, in full view of the enemy and under fire from their small arms plus barrages from enemy Nebel-Werfer artillery and mortars, helped build a defensive line to repel the enemy counter-attack. He walked through his platoon positions during the fierce firefight, encouraging his men to hold their present positions and prepare to resume the offensive. When the order was given to resume the attack, he and his platoon leader were the first to rise and rush the enemy. First Lieutenant Kessler's actions brought great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
00 Jan 1945 - Wounded with frozen feet after falling through snow into a creek hidden below while persuing a German Tank. “That night, it got down to 13 degrees and the next morning I couldn’t move,” Kessler said. “They put me in a jeep to a hospital and it took seven weeks for me to thaw out until I could walk again. The doctor called me a lucky devil. He said if I had arrived six or seven hours later, he would have had to cut my feet off.”
01 May 1945 - Wounded with facial burns when blown off of tank
00 Oct 1945 - Served on 82nd Airborne Honor Guard for Eisenhower's visit in Berlin, Germany
John Kessler acquired a First Aid Kit from and aircraft prior to a jump click here to view First Aid Kit
?? ??? ???? - Married Nellie Anderson and has two sons
John worked for 30 plus years as a printer with the Roanoke Times.
He was a former member of Belmont Presbyterian Church where he served as a Sunday School Superintendent and a Deacon.
In more recent years he was a member of Shenandoah Baptist Church.
For many years he served as a very successful Sandlot Football Coach with the Williamson Road Recreation Club.
14 Jan 2020 - John Kessler Jr. passed away.
19 Jan 2020 - Funeral services were conducted at Simpson Funeral Home 5160 Peters Creek Road by Pastor Albin Crutchfield Interment was in the Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens.
Lt. John Kessler newly commisioned Officer Candidate School Graduate
Lt. John Kessler with A Company, 509th PIB at Anzio, Italy March 1944
Lt. John Kessler displays the C Company 509th PIB Guideon in Southern France
1st Platoon, C Company 509th PIB in Belgium Jan 1945
Lt. John Kessler rides in St. Patricks Day Parade as Grand Marshall in Roanoke, VA
Lt. John Kessler at 29th ID Memorial event
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