Uncle Jackie
Jack Norman Sheppard Jr.
By: Sam Moller


Interview
Uncle Jackie

Uncle Jackie
Beginnings

Jack Normazn Sheppard Jr. is from Brookline, Massachusetts.  He went to Brookline High School and graduated in 1942.  He did not have a very strong Jewish upbringing. Growing up, however, he did have some sort of Jewish identity.  My great Uncle proudly served for the United States of America in World War II from 1942 to 1946 in the United States Navy.  For the majority of his time he was on the USS DD440 Ericsson.   He served in the Soviet Union, the Mediterranean, and in the Pacific.  Most notably in the invasion of southern France and in the Battles of Anzio and Cassino.  He was a gunman on the ship on a 40 mm gun. 
My Uncles Start in the Navy

My Uncle like many Americans was drafted into the armed forces.  He did this very willingly.  He had a very strong physical and got a choice to join a branch of his choice in the military.  He decided to choose the Navy because he could swim.  Uncle Jackie started his Naval career in Newport, Rhode Island, where he attended gunnery school.  While in Newport he attended some Jewish services, which was not very usual for him.  In fact he recalled that religion did not have a very large factor during his time in the Navy.  Following his conclusion of gunnery school, he was accidentally put onto the USS Adabel Lykes a Liberty Ship based in New Orleans, Louisiana.  And, according to him ,what ever your orders were, you followed them.  So with out any complaints, he went to join the ship in New Orleans.  On the Adabel Lykes, Uncle Jackie along with his fellow sailors, traveled to Murmansk, Russia bringing unknown objects to the city.  My Uncle did not know what they were because they were all covered up.  Following his journey to Russia he came back to the States and joined up with the USS DD440 Ericsson in Brooklyn, New York and went immediately to Europe to fight in the war.

Uncle Jackie with the Adabel Lykes

Uncle Jackie with the Adabel Lykes

USS DD440 Ericsson

USS DD440 Ericsson
His Jouney With The Ericsson

The first thing the Ericsson did in Europe was go to Italy for Operation Shingle in Anzio and Cassino in January of 1944.  While there, an Italian ship hit the Ericsson.  The boat was repaired in about two to three days in Sicily (At the time Sicily had recently come under American control and was safe ground for them).  Following Operation Shingle, the Ericsson went to southern France for the invasion of it in later on in 1944.  He did not get closer than one mile from shore but his ship's mission was to pummel the beachhead to allow for a swift amphibious landing on the beach.  Following Southern France, Uncle Jackie’s ship was given orders to go to the Pacific.  The Ericsson did make many stops in the Pacific. However it did not engage in any battle of any sorts.  He did recall at one point they were going to shore on the island of Kyushu in the the city of Sasabo where they had to tie up next to a surrendered Japanese ship.  In order to go ashore they had to cross over the deck of the Japanese ship.  While crossing the Japanese ship, all of the Japanese sailors turned their backs to the Americans, due to their humiliation from surrendering. 

View Uncle Jackie in a larger map
Uncle Jackies Honorable Discharge

My Uncle's Honorable Discharge
Lack of Information

Throughout my Uncle’s journey in the war he was given little or no information of what was happening.  He was very isolated from everything that was going on around him.   Even being at the invasion of southern France he was completely unaware that there were so many casualties on the beach, and all he knew was that the shots from his ship hit their targets.  He did, however, stay in contact with his family via mail.  He wrote a letter just about every day, and his mother kept every single one of them. 
   

The American Jew in the Service

At the time my Uncle was drafted into the Navy, the United States had a Jewish population that consisted of about three to five percent of the country.  This percentage was also reflected in the Armed forces during World War II.   On my Uncle's ship, the USS DD440 Ericsson, there were about two Jewish officers out of a total of fifteen and about ten sailors out of a total of two hundred and fifty.  That amounts to four and a half percent of the ship's population.   At the time the Navy had the largest contingent of Jews in all of the branches of the armed forces, at sixteen percent.  Throughout all divisions of the armed forces there was a large amount of anti-Semitism amongst the troops.  At the time, the American Jewish population mainly lived in five major cities, (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles).  For many soldiers and sailors their first encounter with a Jew was at war.  My Uncle did not experience any anti-Semitism, and he did not even notice if a fellow sailor said he was the first Jew that they had met.   My Uncle said life on the ship was very robotic.  You got up, went to your stations, and prepared to fight in battle.  By the end of the day you were so tired that you had no time to think about faith or other things because you were so tired and you desperately wanted to go to bed.  The only encounter that he ever saw between troops involving anti-Semitism on the ship was when one sailor called another a “Dirty Jew”.  He said a boxing match, which was held on the tail fin section of the ship, solved it.  There was another sailor appointed as the referee and the match went about three rounds and ended in a tie.
   
My Uncle's Understanding of the Holocaust

During the War, my Uncle had no idea of what was going on in the concentration camps.  He also said the concentration camps would not have changed his view on the war if he knew about them.  He said he was so young that the meaning of the war meant nothing to him.  He knew he wanted to defend his country and did not really think about the reasons why the United States was at war.  The only thing that mattered was getting his job done and going back home and going on a date with a girl.  At one point during the war my Uncle captured, along with his fellow sailors, elite Nazi soldiers off the coast of southern France whose U-Boat had been shot down by the Ericsson.  However my uncle was unaware that many of the Germans had some form of hate towards Jews.
   
There are probably hundreds of stories similar to the ones that my uncle told, however he has a different piece to his story.  He was a Jew fighting in World War II for the Americans.  He was fighting against a group of people that did not like him however he was unaware of this.  Even though my uncle is not very Jewish he has a very interesting piece to his story.

Bibliography:

Moore, Deborah Dash. "The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America."
     Encyclopedia of American Jewish History. Ed. Stephen H. Norwood and
     Eunice G. Pollack. Vol. 1. Denver, Colorado: ABC CLIO, 2008. 329-334.
     Print. 2 vols.
Sheppard Jr., Jack Norman. Personal interview. 30 Dec. 2010.
Uncle Jackie Through The War. 1941-1946.