John Hallisey
A War Hero to Remember
by Timmy Smith

The Early Stage
Before I interviewed my grandfather, I never knew how lucky I was that he survived the war. I had never known that he had been through so much, and it never dawned on me that he had so much experience with World War II. As a teenager, John Hallisey was interested in the Navy. He admired the massive ships and the troops on board at work. He always wanted to join the Navy, but he didn't have a real reason to join. He thought of going to a college of some sort, or at least finishing high school.

But when Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for young men to fight for their country at the start of 1941, he asked his father if he could go. At the time, he was only 17, so he wasn't eligible to enlist on his own. His father, being supportive to the fact that his son wanted to do this, signed his name for the U.S. navy. He wasn't worried because he knew that his son wanted to fight for his country.

John's First Entry

In the picture is his first entry in his journal.
He writes about enlisting in the U.S. Navy

Before he knew it, he was off to his assigned regional navy base in Rhode Island to start his training. When he got there, he was one of the youngest people and all the other older people intimidated him. For his training he was sent to Chicago for a year and a half. There he trained to become a ship fitter. Ship fitters specialized in engine repairs and ship repairs. He was taught how to control the ship on its lower levels. His job was very important. The navy depended on the engines being able to run and get troops to battle.

After training he was ranked as a 3rd class cadet. He was assigned to a ship and sent to Europe. The name of his ship was the Landing Ship Tank 377. The ship was used in amphibious attacks, which means from water to land. These kinds of ships were in charge of bringing troops, tanks, trucks, and artillery equipment to the shore. These were enormous ships, and one of the most important kinds of ships used in amphibious attacks. They were able to carry thousands of people and held all of the equipment used in the battle.

A Landing Ship Tank
Here is a picture of the LST 4, similar to the one John was
assigned to.  Each LST looked similar to the next, having the same
weight, length, and relatively the same top speed

The  Plan for the InvasionThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The Invasion of Sicily
The Sicilian Operation, also known as Operation Husky was the invasion of Sicily. This took place in July of 1943, and when this took place the LST 377 was taking part in dropping off tanks on the beaches of Sicily. Landing Ship Tanks were large and they needed to complete their tasks while under fire from the enemy. They spent a lot of time being under fire. This included the time it took to get to shore, the time it took to unload the troops and tanks, and then the time it took to get out of firing range. Once they had done this, they were in charge of bringing prisoners back to their designated area. The LST 377 was a good ship for this task because they were built for large quantities of people.

The Battle of Normandy
One of the most important events that John experienced was D-day, which happened on the shores of Normandy on June 6, 1944. This was probably one of the most important battles of the war. The invasion's objective was to try to take France back from the Germans. John's ship's job was to haul the soldiers to the beach of Normandy. In his ship he had thousands of soldiers ready to fight in soon to be one of the most important battles in history. The ship was also carrying at the time, tanks and trucks. This was one of the last battles that he was going to participate in. Like many other soldiers, he wasn't that nervous. They didn't realize that so much was riding on this battle a lone. The outcome would eventually lead to the victory of the war.

Front page of The Boston Daily Globe on the morning of June 6, 1944


A passage written on D-day (left) and photograph of two sailors (right)

An Old War Story
John remembers that this invasion was a very hectic one. There were bombs going off non stop and while other crew members were helping the soldiers off the bow off the ship, John was making sure that his ship would be able to make it out of there. He told me that his job during every invasion was to check if any of the bombs had done any damage to the outer shell of the ship. During some of the invasions he wasn't up on deck, he was down on the lower decks fixing any holes in the ship.

He also tells me that one time he was sent on a mission to check the ship for holes, which meant checking all the rooms at the bow of the ship. He had searched several rooms until he had found a large hole in an artillery storage room. The bomb's shock had knocked over almost everything in the room, but most of the guns and bullets had been taken out for their current invasion. Now that he knew where a hole was, he needed to go and get a large piece of wood that would be able to cover the hole, and some nails. He raced down a couple of decks to the ship fitter's storage room and grabbed his materials. Quickly he was back in the artillery room ready to fix things. When he got a closer look at the hole he was able to look outside and watch the unloading of guns and men for the invasion of Normandy. He saw thousands of troops from different ships load upon the beach. It was an incredible sight. He realized that he needed to get this hole covered up quickly. This is what his training in Chicago was all about, being able to fix your ship when it was in need of repair. He used his piece of wood and nails and boarded up the hole and was off to find more.

In the picture (above) John is spending some
of his Liberty driving the carriage with his friends

John and his crew members pose for a picture

Finally Some Leisure Time
When he wasn't training to be a sailor, or involved with some type of naval operation, he was thinking about his family and his home. On the ship you were able to write to your family about once a week. This was because the ship only had limited times to send letters to a postal service. John would write postcards to his family and tell them what was going on over in Europe. Even though they were learning about it from the news in the U.S., they were learning about it from a different point of view. He would send them postcards of places he had visited and told them about all the exciting things he was experiencing. At home there were three sisters and one brother who missed him very much. Also his mother was very sad for him to be at war, but she knew it was something he wanted to do. Another thing that John might have been doing on the ship in his spare time is relaxing on the top deck. He enjoyed looking out at sea and sometimes was able to see the different coasts along their route. You might also have seen him playing cards with the friends he had made on the ship. But what John liked most of all was liberty, which is time off from the ship when it docked in a harbor. John had most of his liberty in Italy, and while he was there, he would walk around the different cities with his friends and enjoy the different culture.  

His Journal
He wrote all about his experiences anytime he could in his war journal.   He specially bought this journal just to write his war stories in.  What's more incredible, is that he still has that same journal today.  In his four years at war, there weren't that many times when he could get a chance to write something down.  There could be a period of one or two months in-between journal entries.  Even though it looks tattered and torn on the outside, it stills holds a lifetime worth of memories on the inside.

John's Journal

The End of the Road
While in Japan in 1946 the Navy gave John the okay to go home. His duty as a Naval sailor was over, now that the war was over. With this news he was very excited and couldn't wait to go home and see his family, which he hadn't seen for almost four years. He was discharged in Boston Massachusetts at the Fargo Building. This building is now torn down, but it was stationed right outside Boston Harbor. Overall, John says that he has no regrets about enlisting into the Navy. He says that it was the most memorable time of his life, and he was so glad that he could experience something like a war. John is so proud to be a survivor of World War II because it was such an important time in history and loves the fact that he was part of it, and saw what happened first hand.

A Special Gift Back for a War Hero
It just so happens that in the summer of 2005, the town of Dedham, Massachusetts is building a memorial plaque for the regional veterans of World War II. His name will be on it along with many other heroic figures that gave their lives to protect this country over 50 years ago.

Personal Reflection
This interview with my grandfather was very informative.  I had never even known that he played such an interesting role in World War II.  From the stories I heard and read about Sicily and Normandy, my respect for my grandfather has greatly increased.  When I read the stories out of his war journal I was shocked to read that crazy things like bombings and air raids happened to him.  Before this interview, I always took for granted that he was still alive.  And now I know, especially since he had so many chances to die, my current family and I are extremely lucky.  This whole experience of learning about World War II and interviewing my grandfather was a huge revelation for me and now I am eternally gratefull that he has lived a long life, especially since I have gotten to spend some of my life with him.


Primary Sources
          Clancey, Patrick. "A Landing Ship Tank." 30 Jan. 2004. Ships of the U.S. Navy. Hyper War.
                   12 Dec. 2004 <>.

          "Crew Members."  19 Jan. 2005

          "D-day Passage." 19 Jan. 2005

          Hallisey, John. Personal Interview. 11 Nov. 2004

          "Horse and Carriage." 19 Jan. 2005

          "John Hallisey." 19 Jan. 2005

          "John's First Entry." 17 Jan. 2005

          "John's Journal."  19 Jan. 2005

Secondary Sources

          Beck, Roger. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Boston: McDougal Littell, 2003. 819.

          "Invasion of Sicily." 14 Jan. 2005 <>

          "Invasion Opens." 19 Jan. 2005

          “Invasion Opens.” Historic Front Pages.  Boston: The Boston Globe, 1997 pg. 57

          Jones, Thomas. "World War II." Encyclopedia of the United States at War. Ed. 1998.

          Wallace, Robert. “The Plan for the Invasion.” The Italian Campaign. Alexandria, Virginia:
                    Time-Life Books Inc., 1978.

          "War Begins." 17 Jan. 2005

          “War Begins.” Historic Front Pages.  Boston: The Boston Globe, 1997 pg. 52