This Friday, June 2 The American Legion Post 435 will honor Sgt James Briggs with a Flag of Remembrance.
Jim received his draft papers in 1941 but was granted a one year exemption as he was providing
needed income for his mother and younger sibblings. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on
July 25, 1942 at Fort Sheridan, IL with basic training at Fort Bragg, NC. He recalled it being
very hot and crawling under live ammunition. He trained to be a paratrooper for 3 weeks before
being encouraged to join the Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (ESBR) made up of 8
companies of 200 men and 2 officers in each. They went by train to Camp Edwards. MA. His
company shipped out while he was in hospital 23 days being treated for pneumonia with sulfa
drugs (no antibiotics back then).
Eight new companies were formed (A-H) and he was in F company. Sev~ companies shipped
out to Europe while Cadre Company F went by train to Camp Carabelle, FL.where they trained to
operate landing craft (ducks). Eight companies were made up and his went to Monterey, CA
where he trained officers to operate landing craft on land and water. He also had three weeks
training in demolition before leaving San Francisco, P.O.E. on USS America and sailing 17 days
across the Pacific toward Australia, where they were diverted to Port Moresby in Papua, New
Guinea. The ship couldn’t get in so men and gear were transported by landing craft to shore
where they chopped the jungle away before they could set up camp.
One officer, Jim and his buddy with all the demolition equipment and supplies headed out on
landing craft, just the three men, where they spent three weeks cleaning up unexploded bombs
and land mines to make beaches ready for Marine landings. He told of setting charges and then
paddling down the shore line in a rubber dinghy a good distance before detonation. He received 7
stars for 7 nights of clean-up at Dutch New Guinea, and 4 arrowheads for 4 nights of cleaning
beaches at British New Guinea.
Back at Port Moresby he learned his company had crossed over the Owen Stanley Mountains, a
trek of 100 miles to the north. He volunteered as a sharp shooter on John F. Kennedy’s PT-109
with no idea Kennedy would be a future president of U.S. He also sat on the beach napping with
a pack of dynamite on his back when General MacArthur nudged him and stopped to talk ..
He was promoted to Sergeant in the Philippines and received the Philippine Liberation medal,
then was headed toward Japan when the treaty was signed. He spent several months in Japan and
received a medal for Army of Occupation in Japan. They left Japan in November and he
remembered having Thanksgiving dinner, crossing the International Dateline and having
Thanksgiving dinner again the next day. Their ship, USS Queen Mary was badly damaged in a
typhoon and had to be repaired in Hawaii with all men on board before sailing home. He was
honorably discharged Jan. 7, 1946 at Camp McCoy, WI.
Jim and three brothers served in WWII:. Pvt Ralph, killed by a land mine explosion on Anzio
beach, Italy; Cpl Charles, stationed in Hawaii; and Pvt John completed basic training, later to
enlist in U.S.A.F. as a career man.
After the war Jim blasted tunnels for the railroad into Taconite Harbor, worked for Bridge
Builders, then Earth Movers hauling heavy equipment, and then Builders Supply in Superior. Jim
embarked on his final journey June 7, 2007, and was interred at Veterans Cemetery at Spooner.