Prewar Life

Wounded in Action

Combat in Germany

Wounded and Then Home

Postwar Life and Reflections


James A. Griffis was born in Lake Forest, Illinois in October 1924. His father was a general contractor. Lake Forest was a high-end community outside of Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois]. His father bought a summer home in northern Wisconsin. They did not have to sell it during the Depression [Annotator's Note: Great Depression; a global economic depression that lasted through the 1930s]. Griffis started college at the University of Colorado [Annotator's Note: in Denver, Colorado] in 1942 at the age of 18. He enlisted in the enlisted reserve corps. He was not called upon until April 1943 in Denver, Colorado. He went to basic training at Fort Wolters outside of Fort Worth [Annotator's Note: Fort Worth, Texas]. It was a nice summer in Texas. The Army started the ASTP program [Annotator's Note: generally referred to just by the initials ASTP; a program designed to educate massive numbers of soldiers in technical fields such as engineering and foreign languages and to commission those individuals at a fairly rapid pace in order to fill the need for skilled junior officers]. Griffis joined the 104th [Annotator's Note: 104th Infantry Division] at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs [Annotator's Note: Colorado Springs, Colorado]. He spent the summer going through more training with H Company in the 414th Infantry [Annotator's Note: Company H, 414th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division]. They left from Fort Dix [Annotator's Note: now Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Trenton, New Jersey] and landed in France in August 1943. Guys got seasick as they waited to unload the ship. Griffis slept up on the deck the whole trip. They landed in Cherbourg [Annotator's Note: Cherbourg, France]. They were assigned to the 7th Army at the time. They did not do any fighting in France. In Belgium and Holland, they joined the Canadian 1st Army.


James A. Griffis was in Belgium and Holland [Annotator's Note: with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 414th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division]. The people in Holland were happy to see them. He was there until the first week of November [Annotator's Note: November 1944] when the division joined the 1st US Army. One of their assignments was to take Stolberg [Annotator's Note: Stolberg, Germany]. They pulled up late at night. A tank pulled up and started firing. It was not too long before the tank got hit. There were several casualties. Griffis stood up in his foxhole and got hit in the leg. They went over to a farmhouse and stayed in the basement for a day. Griffis was put in an ambulance and taken to the aid station. There was another man in the ambulance who had lost his leg. He ended up dying before they made it to the aid station. They took Griffis' boots because he had a new pair. They put him in another ambulance to go back to a hospital. The doctors did not take the shrapnel out of his leg. After the field hospital, he was put on a train. He rode through Paris [Annotator's Note: Paris, France] and then got on a hospital ship to cross the channel [Annotator's Note: English Channel]. The hospital in England took the shrapnel out of his leg. When he left there, he was assigned to the 10th replacement depot. He traveled around England with them for a while and then he went back rejoined his division. They were almost to the Elbe River [Annotator's Note: Elbe River in Germany]. They joined the Russians on the Elbe. Then they went back to France. When they got back to the States [Annotator's Note: The United States] they got a 30-day leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time]. During their leave, the bombs were dropped [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945]. Griffis never had any bad dreams or nightmares after the war. He was nervous for a while. He used the GI Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment] to go back to the University of Colorado [Annotator's Note: in Denver, Colorado]. He graduated in 1949.


James A. Griffis [Annotator's Note: with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 414th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division] had good treatment in all the hospitals he was in. He could walk. He was hit in the left leg. He was in England for Christmas [Annotator's Note: 25 December 1944]. The Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter-Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945] had started around then. When he was a part of the replacement depot, he was picking up prisoners. The prisoners were Americans, and they were escorting them back. He had enlisted in the reserves to keep from being drafted. He enlisted right after his birthday in October [Annotator's Note: October 1942] and was not called until the following April [Annotator's Note: April 1943]. When the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] happened he was in the officer's club at Great Lakes, Illinois [Annotator's Note: Naval Station Great Lakes in Lake County, Illinois]. His close friend's father was a doctor on the Arizona [Annotator's Note: USS Arizona (BB-39)]. His friend was a B-17 pilot [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber]. His father was ashore at the time of the attack. The Germans had never directly attacked the US as the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. The Germans had better weapons and training. They took the tracers out so they would not be seen while they fought at night. It was about a month before they got back to the States [Annotator's Note: United States] after the war in Europe had ended. Griffis was on a 30-day leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] when the bombs [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945] were dropped. When he rejoined his division after his hospital stay, they were not in a major fight. They met up with the Russians. The Germans did not want to meet the Russians. He did not think about having to go to Japan because he was happy to be home for a month. When he got hit, he was happy. He left the service exactly one year after he got hit on 20 November 1945. He was discharged in Rockford, Illinois. He was a PFC [Annotator's Note: Private First Class].


James A. Griffis recently started to think about all the guys that did not get to live a life. He has been retired for 25 years. He thought about his friends who had been killed but not the war as a whole until recently. He went to school right after he got out in 1945 and finished in 1949. Then he went to work for his father as a general contractor. After three or four months he found a different job in construction. The company was out of New York. They were going to build concrete houses in the Great Lakes [Annotator's Note: Great Lakes, Illinois] area. He commuted there. Then he continued in construction with several other companies. He retired in 1986. He has two sons. One is in Afghanistan on a forward operating base near Pakistan [Annotator's Note: as part of the War in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001 to 2014, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, 2015 to September 2021]. Griffis went to war because he never saw an alternative. Everyone was going or was going to have to go. The war helped a lot of people go to school. It changed a lot of lives for the better. His generation was the luckiest generation when they got out of the war. The politicians [Annotator's Note: at the time of this interview] are not doing a good job. World War 2 was a necessity. It saved the United States from disaster. Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] did not want to get into it. Griffis thinks it is important to teach about World War 2. The children need to learn about it.

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