James Martinelli was born 24 March, 1913, in Pennsylvania. He had 7 brothers and sisters. His father was a coalminer determined to make sure his kids would never have to spend one day in a mine. All the kids were of a different religion because they travelled from mine to mine and town to town attending whatever church was available. That is why James or Jimmy as he used to be called had a dog-tag showing a P, for Protestant. Later the family moved to East Paterson, NJ because there were good employment opportunities in the textile industry.
Jimmy got along well with his brothers and sisters. At some point they bought a car together and there was never any problem about who would take the car. This was a family with much respect and compassion for each other.
Jimmy was drafted in 1942 and joined the 15th Armored Infantry Battalion. He went for training in 1942 to Camp Cooke in California. When he knew he would be sent overseas he came home for a last visit. His rank was Staff Sergeant by that time. His mother new that if her son would be shipped overseas he would have had his stripes removed from his uniform because that was army policy at the time; Germans would target individuals with any rank. But Jimmy, not wanting his mother to be worried, had a friend's mother sew his stripes back on just before he entered the house so his mother wouldn't know he was being sent over seas. On his visit home, he brought a girl, but he told his sister that he couldn't get too serious with her because if anything would happen to him during the war it would brake his heart to know she was in sorrow. This compassion and caring is a theme right through this man's life.
His unit landed on Utah beach July 24 1944. In his letters he wrote that he was having a great time and that he was feeling swell. He talked about his men, how he was proud of them, provided them with food and even a haircut. He loved the wine in France and was also stunned by the hospitality of the French. While there, he made the decission to start a cafe or a restaurant after the war specializing in only the best French wines. He also told his family that after the war they should visit France.
His family sent him a camera and wrote him a lot of letters. In one letter they said that his little nephew had been crying because he was having difficulty adapting to school. Jimmy replied that every man has fear and that during his first firefight he was very scared just like his nephew but he learned to cope with it and said, "With a positive mind and with virtue you are able to achieve everything in life".
Jimmy's unit entered the Hurtgenwald1 in November, 1944. By mid-December, 1944 the letters from Jimmy stopped coming. In January, 1945 his family received a telegram that he was missing. In June, 1945 his family was informed that he was killed in action at Strass; a small German town at the edge of the Hurtgen Forest. Jimmy and his squad were trying to locate a sniper that had already taken a number of men out. They were crawling through the mud, Jimmy with his binoculars. While looking up through his binoculars the sniper shot him between the eyes. When his buddies were able to get close enough, they found that he had no pulse (info by Henry L. Hibbs, S/SGT Co. B. 15th AIB.) He died on 14 December, 1944. Due to the intense mortar and sniper fire his buddies could not evacuate him from the field. Jimmy was later buried at Margraten Cemetery June, 1945. He was buried in grave number 10, row number 1, plot number 3. In 1948, he was repatriated, by decission of his family, to the US and buried at Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Elmwood Park, New Jersey where he still rests.
This information was provided over a period of time by his only surviving family member, his sister Lena Fosca Martinelli,
now 91 years old. A lot of this info has taken about 63 years to get here. We should be proud of Jimmy and and we should
use his compassion for his loved ones as an example in our own lives.
"Everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us, on the inside, looking out." 2
1Hürtgenwald is comprised of the villages Gey, Strass, Horm, Schafberg, Grobhau, Kleinhau, Bergstein, Brandenberg, Zerkall, Hürtgen, Vossenack, Simonskall and Raffelsbrand.
2Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything is Illuminated. Houghton Mifflin, 2002.