Jack Winton Aeby
|HOME OF RECORD:
|NEXT OF KIN:
Wife, Mrs. Jack Aeby
|DATE OF BIRTH:
3/30/1942 – 6/22/1944
|DATE OF DEATH:
Silver Star, Purple Heart
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Jack Aeby was born in Jefferson Township, Indiana; he grew up playing around the hardware store owned and operated by his father, Alton. Little other information about his life before the war is available; his father died in 1940, leaving the widowed Flossie Aeby as the family matriarch. At the time of his enlistment in March 1942, Jack Aeby was married and living in Chicago. He trained at MCRD San Diego and excelled on the rifle range; he took additional training and became a range coach, which was followed by a promotion to Private First Class in the winter of 1942.
In June of 1943, Aeby – now a corporal – was assigned as a squad leader with Company C, 24th Marines, at Camp Pendleton. He served diligently over the next few months, and was rewarded with a promotion to sergeant; the promotion came two days before his company boarded the USS DuPage and sailed for their first trial in combat.
Sergeant Aeby led his rifle squad through the invasion of Namur in February 1944, and then in training through the following spring. During that time, he grew close to not only the men in his squad, but also to those in the rest of his platoon, respected by officers and men alike. Aeby turned thirty at Camp Maui that spring; he was older than the majority of the men in his company, including all the officers.
When the Fourth Marine Division landed on Saipan in June 1944, Aeby was once again in charge of a squad. He fought for seven days, but on June 22, would face the hardest – and final – test of leadership of his life. That afternoon, his battalion scaled a rise known only as Hill 600, and were suddenly ambushed by a strong Japanese force; the lay of the land meant that none of the battalion’s companies could easily support each other.
A ridgeline forced a gap between the right of Company A and the left of Company C; with Able pinned down, the gap was a potentially fatal opening in the Marine lines. Captain Schechter’s Company A needed to pull back, so Captain Parks’ Company C detached its leftmost platoon to cover the withdrawal. Led by the executive officer, Lieutenant Thomas Schultz, and with Aeby’s squad in the forefront, the Marines dodged mortar fire and scattered enemy troops. Sergeant Aeby quickly deployed his squad to provide covering fire while Schultz’s stretcher parties carried out the wounded. Finally, as the last Marines withdrew, Aeby ordered his squad to fall back one by one while he covered them alone – his expertise with the rifle serving him well.
As the last of his squad disappeared into the thick trees, Aeby finally turned to follow, but was fatally shot by an enemy sniper. He died on the slopes of Hill 600.
For his bravery, Jack Aeby was awarded the Silver Star medal:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Sergeant Jack W. Aeby (MCSN: 386276), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving with a Marine Rifle Company of the First Battalion, Twenty-Fourth Marines, FOURTH Marine Division, during the invasion of Saipan Island, Marianas Group, 22 June 1944. When his platoon was ordered to aid the unit on its left during a vigorous attack, Sergeant Aeby courageously led his squad in advance of the rest of his platoon and, effectively directing and controlling the fire of his group, enabled the unit to withdraw without further losses. Remaining in his position until he assured himself that all his men were protected, he then attempted to withdraw but was mortally wounded by hostile sniper fire. Sergeant Aeby’s valiant fighting spirit and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Lieutenant Frederic Stott recalled the events slightly differently. In a pamphlet published after the war, he wrote of “[many] heroic acts… such as Sgt. Aeby’s fatal attempted rescue of wounded men on deadly Hill 600….” (1) Either way, there were many Marines in Company C who owed their lives to Jack Aeby’s courage.
In 1949, Jack Aeby’s remains were returned to the United States. He was buried in Highland Cemetery, South Bend, Indiana.
(1) Frederic A. Stott, “Saipan Under Fire,” (Andover: Frederic Stott, 1945), 7. Stott misidentifies this location as “Hill 700” in his narrative. He may be excused for the error; on this date he was reassigned to the position of Charlie Company executive officer, replacing Lieutenant Tom Schultz, mentioned above. Schultz was killed by artillery while helping to evacuate the wounded, an action for which he received the Navy Cross.