Jesse G. Acklam, Jr.


Jesse George Acklam, Jr.
Racine, WI
Wife, Mrs. Marilyn Acklam
1/29/1943 – 11/3/1945
NAMUR A/1/24 745 PFC
TINIAN Hospital Hospital Hospital
IWO JIMA HQ/1/24 055 Corporal REAR ECHELON
Purple Heart

Jesse Acklam was the son of Jesse Sr and Marie Peterson Acklam of Racine, Wisconsin. Though the family (which included Jesse’s older siblings Roland and Dorothy, and younger brother Donald) was of relatively modest means, the Acklam name was a fixture in the social section of Racine newspapers thanks to Marie’s activities with the Racine EMBA Auxiliary. The younger Acklams were well educated; all attended four years of high school (probably graduating from William Horlick High School, just a mile their home on William Street) and held decent jobs.

Jesse was eighteen and just out of school when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His older brother Roland was the first to enlist, joining the Navy in September 1942. Jesse followed on January 29, 1943 – he elected to serve in the Marine Corps. (1) He left Racine (his young family – wife Marilyn and infant daughter Susan) and traveled to Recruit Depot San Diego, where he trained with the Fifth Recruit Battalion until April, 1943. From there, he was sent to Camp Elliott, California for advanced infantry training. Finally, on August 27, twenty-year-old Private Acklam arrived at the barracks of Company A, First Battalion, 24th Marines, and reported for duty. The sparsely-furnished wooden buildings of Camp Pendleton would be his home for the next five months.

While at Pendleton, Jesse Acklam trained hard with his new unit, going on endless conditioning hikes, splashing a rubber boat in the surf of Aslito Beach, spending time at the target range (he was granted the MOS of a rifleman) and exploring wartime California while on liberty. He earned the approval of his commanding officer, Captain Irving “Buck” Schechter, who promoted Acklam to Private First Class on New Year’s Day, 1944. Less than two weeks later, Acklam and his company were aboard the USS DuPage, headed for combat on the island of Namur – they made their first landing under fire on February 1, 1944.

Although secured in less than a day, the twin islands of Roi-Namur were the baptism of fire for Acklam’s Fourth Marine Division, and the tired and dirty Marines who left the island had much to think about as the transports brought them to a new facility, Camp Maui, that had been built specifically for them. Less a rest camp than a “prizefighter’s training camp” in the words of one Marine, Camp Maui was designed to prepare the men for their next invasion, which was speculated to take place that summer. During this period of rest, rehabilitation, and training, PFC Acklam was taken out of his rifle squad and assigned as a messenger, either to his platoon leader or to the company headquarters. He would act as a runner for the officer in charge, delivering messages and running errands in camp and in combat.

The next landing occurred on June 15, 1944 – the invasion of Saipan. Acklam trotted ashore with the rest of his company that day, but what he saw and experienced in the next twelve hours were too much for him to handle. During that time, Acklam and his comrades were subjected to enemy artillery fire so intense that it would be remembered as one of the worst nights of the war for “Rugged” Able Company; in a few minutes they lost more dead and wounded than they had in the entire battle of Namur. Jesse was himself slightly wounded, but the corpsmen who treated him recommended his evacuation for other reasons; he was classified as suffering from “combat fatigue.” (2) He would spend the next several weeks recovering in Naval Hospital #10 at Aiea Heights, Hawaii.

PFC Acklam returned to his company on October 17, 1944, but was deemed not well enough to go back to combat. A few days later, he joined the battalion headquarters, got a new job as a clerk, and was promoted to corporal.

Racine Journal Times, December 22, 1944.
Racine Journal Times, December 22, 1944.

Jesse Acklam stayed at Camp Maui for the rest of the war; his medical record prevented him from sailing to Iwo Jima, which doubtless suited him fine. He was present for duty when the war ended, and was honorably discharged on November 3, 1945. He returned home to Racine to be with his family and swap war stories with his brothers Roland and Donald.

In the years after the war, Jesse put his clerical skills to work at a job with First National Bank & Trust of Racine; he and Marilyn raised Susan and at least three other children. (3)

Jesse in April, 1977. Racine Journal Times.
Jesse in April, 1977. Racine Journal Times.

Jesse Acklam passed away in February 2000, at the age of 76. He is buried in the Southern Wisconsin Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery.
(1) Roland H. Acklam served as a gunner’s mate with a number of sailing ships during the war; he seems to have been part of a unit that crewed defense weapons on merchant ships. Donald Ackerman, the youngest, would enlist in the Army in 1944.
(2) Due to its often misunderstood nature, combat fatigue was labeled in a number of different ways. On most Marine muster rolls, such as the ones examined for Jesse Acklam’s service history, Marines are either “wounded and evacuated” or “sick and evacuated.” “Wounded” is self explanatory, but “sick” could mean anything from a cold to a total mental breakdown. Two other Company A Marines were evacuated as “sick” the same day; one was later classed as “psychoneurotic,” the other is unknown. Of the three, only Acklam would return to the battalion.
(3) Tragically, the Acklams lost an infant boy at birth in 1956.

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