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James W. O’Rourke Jr. was born on December 1, 1911 in Camden, New York. The parents were James W. O’Rourke Sr. and Nellie O’Rourke. James had one brother Joseph and grew up with his cousins. O’Rourke was a devout Catholic and belonged to St. John the Evangelist Church in the heart of Camden.

O’Rourke was drafted into the U.S. Army and joined of May 25, 1942.
[1]  After completing his Basic Training, O’Rourke was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia and joined the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of September 4, 1942. Private James W. O’Rourke Jr. was assigned and joined Company F along with a total of 140 soldiers.[2] January 20, 1943 saw O’Rourke transferred to Service Company and would receive his Jump Wings. [3]

Private O’Rourke was promoted to Technician 5th Grade and became the Dentist’s assistant, working under John B. Long.
[4] Technician 5th Grade O’Rourke also became the Catholic Chaplin assistant for Captain John J. Verret.[5] O’Rourke went overseas in December of 1943 with the 507th Parachute Infantry to England.

May 19, 1944 Technician 5th Grade O’Rourke was transferred from Service Company to the Medical Detachment.
[6] O’Rourke’s duties remained the same.[7] On June 5, 1944 O’Rourke and the rest of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment flew into history. The 507th Parachute Infantry was the last one into Normandy at 02:32 Hours.[8] Technician 5th Grade O’Rourke was injured on the Jump breaking his right foot. [9] He was taken to the 4th Infantry Division’s Aid Station on Utah Beach on June 7, 1944.[10] [11]

O’Rourke along with 20 wounded Paratroopers and Infantry men were placed on to a Landing Craft (the ones that carried in the Infantry men on June 6, 1944 onto Omaha and Utah Beach). These wounded soldiers were being taken to a Hospital Ship, but before they reached their destination they hit a landmine killing all the men aboard including the Navy Sailors.

Technician 5th Grade James W. O’Rourke Jr. was killed on June 7, 1944 in the Bay of Seine, France off of the coast of Normandy. During the beginning of the second week of July 1944 some of those men were found far out to sea. One of those men was O’Rourke. His body was identified by his dog tags. Like the Navy Sailors, Technician 5th Grade O’Rourke was buried at sea July 10, 1944. The paperwork was then forwarded ahead to the 605th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company and then to the British in England. [13]

O’Rourke’s effects were found on his body and were sent ahead to the 605th Quartermaster Graves Registration on August 12, 1944 from the Naval Officer-In- Charge, Isle of Wight, R.N.
[14] Establishment, Isle of Wight. At this point the U.S. Army decided that they did not receive the information about the burial of James O’Rourke.[15] The U.S. Army never informed the parent’s of his death, instead told them that James O’Rourke Jr. was Missing in Action and never told them what they knew.[16] [17]

Only on May 29, 2011 was a family member told about the death of James W. O’Rourke Jr. I was able to contact James O’Rourke (his second cousin with the same name) and told him that his cousin had in fact been Killed in Action, not Missing in Action. James W. O’Rourke’s parents placed a Headstone in his memory after WWII at St. John the Evangelist Church in Camden, New York. [18]

Brian Siddall

May 29, 2011



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