Until last weekend, I didn’t know old Jack was a paratrooper. My grandmother left me his purple heart when she passed away and it was one of the first items in my US militaria collection. She received the medal from Jack Beatty’s mother when she and my grandfather visited her in California (this must have been in the 80’s I would guess). After the war, my grandmother adopted Jack Beatty’s grave at the Margraten American military cemetery and cared for it, as did many Dutch people. Jack Beatty’s mother gave her the purple heart to thank her for all those years of care. I remember my grandmother took English lessons especially for the trip to the States.

Jack Beatty in class A dress uniform with staff sergeant’s stripes and the ‘Fighting 69th’ Infantry Division patch His mother’s handwriting explaining the picture was taken before Jack joined the 513th PIR, 17th Airborne as a medic.

The photograph turned up only last year. I think my dad found it when going through my grandparents’ paperwork (he has time for this now that he has retired). He sent me a scan of it, but didn’t mention the writing on the back. So I thought Jack Beatty was a SSGT with the 69th Infantry Division. I had no reason to think he had been anything else because my grandmother never told me any specifics about Beatty, and I don’t think I asked her about it either. In fact, I didn’t even know his name until I got the medal. Of course I did start to wonder about it when it was too late to ask her. Apparently his parents called him Jack, but on the engraving on the medal is John M Beatty. Until I got the photograph I always figured he had been with one of the units of which I had gotten insignia from my grandfather (1st Army and the 2nd Armored Division). This made sense because both had seen action in the area from which casualties were interred at the Margraten cemetery. The medal was a cherished family piece and was not kept in the same box with all the other American and German insignia from which I was allowed to choose one every now and then when sleeping over at my grandparents. But really only ever so often, because I never did get to collect them all before they both passed away. When my grandmother died I got the remainder of the insignia and the purple heart. The medal was kept in its display case, which in turn was stored in its shipping carton. My grandmother must have kept it in her bedroom closet because the box still smells like her perfume after all those years.

Purple heart in presentation case displayed here with a medic’s brassard and a 17th Airborne patch Detail of the engraving at the back and the shipping carton with spare purple ribbon.

So now it all comes together. I think that next time in Limburg, I will go and pay my respects at his white cross. His remains have long since been repatriated to the States, but his legacy and that of all his many fallen comrades lives on. The fact that he turns out to have been a paratrooper, and a combat medic makes for a more interesting story, but I didn’t think any less of him before I knew that. To me personally, his medal and picture are a constant reminder of the immense human sacrifice, more so than any other piece in my paratrooper collection.

I will try to find out just when Beatty joined the paratroops and when he arrived in Europe. The 17th Airborne saw action at the end of war during the Ardennes offensive and operation Varsity – the jump at Wesel, Germany – which was the largest single day airborne drop in history, even to date. Beatty was killed by a German sniper on April 2 while caring for a wounded comrade. This was 9 days after the jump as the 17th Airborne fought to take the city of Munster.

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