TECHNICAL SERGEANT JOSEPH NORMAN VANDERGRIFT, was born April 21, 1916. His parents divorced when he was young. He lived with his mother Mary in the home of his maternal grandparents, Pierce & Ellen Cantwell, at 626 Cedar Street in Camden NJ. His mother, an operator at the RCA Victor plant in Camden, moved to 300 West Beechwood Avenue, in the Bettlewood section of Haddon Township NJ., shortly after the April 1930 Federal Census. This area was serviced by the Oaklyn Post Office at the time. He was a member of the 1933 class of Collingswood High School, but did not complete his studies there. He later lived at 142 Richey Avenue in Collingswood NJ, and worked for a dry cleaning firm. Inducted into the United States Army on January 8 1941, he was assigned to Company G of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.
After training at Fort Bragg NC, he went overseas with the 9th Infantry Division in the fall of 1942. The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion, November 8, 1942, when its elements landed at Algiers, Safi, and Port Lyautey. With the collapse of French resistance, November 11, 1942, the Division patrolled the Spanish Moroccan border. The 9th returned to Tunisia in February and engaged in small defensive actions and patrol activity. On March 28, 1943 it launched an attack in southern Tunisia and fought its way north into Bizerte, on May 7. While in North Africa he met up with a friend from back home, Sergeant John T. Martin of Camden NJ. In August the 9th landed at Palermo, Sicily, and took part in the capture of Randazzo and Messina. After returning to England for further training, the Division landed on France via Utah Beach on June 10, 1944 (D-day plus 4).
The 9th Infantry Division began combat operations on June 14 as part of the United States Army's drive to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and capture the port city of Cherbourg. The initial assault was conducted with two division, with the 82nd Airborne Division on the southern flank and the 9th Infantry Division on the northern end attacking towards the town of Ste. Colombe.
On the first day of the attack, Company G of the 9th Infantry regiment was held up of over an hour by extremely heavy machine gun fire from an enemy strongpoint. Seeing the difficulty of the situation, Staff Sergeant Paul E. Alexander led his squad forward to attack the enemy position. As he moved ahead of his men across the fire-swept terrain, Staff Sergeant Alexander was seriously wounded, but nevertheless continued to lead his squad and direct their attack. He personally threw hand grenades into four enemy machine gun positions completely silencing the guns and inflicting numerous casualties on the enemy. Staff Sergeant Alexander died of wounds received during this action and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.
After days of fierce combat, the port of Cherbourg's heavy defenses were breached and the city taken. After a brief rest in July, the 9th Infantry Division took part in the St. Lo break-through.
Twice wounded, in Tunisia and in
Sicily, Technician Fourth Class Vandergrift was killed on August 3, 1944
near Marigny, France during the advance towards the ForÍt de St. Sever,
north of Mortain. The 60th Infantry regiment had advanced 10 miles in
two days in the face of minefields and stiff resistance from prepared
positions at roadblocks and wherever the terrain afforded the German
forces a defensive advantage. His
death was reported in the August 21, 1944 edition of the Camden
Joseph Norman Vandergrift was survived by mother, Mrs. Mary Vandergrift of 55 East Collingswood Avenue in Oaklyn. He is memorialized on the Bettlewood War memorial, on the grounds of the Clyde Jennings Elementary School, at East Cedar and Johnson Avenues in Haddon Township (Westmont) NJ. He was brought home after the war, and now rests at Beverly National Cemetery, in Beverly NJ.
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