168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division
Family and Farm
Worth Jackson was the youngest son in a family of eight children born to Herschel and Maree Jackson. The family struggled during the Great Depression, and moved several times before settling in the small farming community of Markleville, Indiana.
The Jackson family farmed more than 87 acres of land, growing corn and beans. They also raised cows, lambs, and poultry. To earn money and help the family during the Great Depression, Jackson walked a rural paper route until one of his customers, admiring his dedication and work ethic, purchased a bicycle for him. With the three older brothers grown and out of the house, Jackson's sister Janet recalls that Jackson became the protector of his younger sisters, even checking their dates’ cars for alcohol.
Jackson was a member of the Markleville High School basketball team. In 1943, during his senior year, the team finished the season with only three losses and upset the mighty Anderson High School team in the sectional tournament. That victory is still one of the most important events in the history of Markleville.
While a senior in high school, Jackson was anxious to go to war. His two older brothers, Lyman and Donovan, were already serving in the armed forces, and several of his classmates had already been drafted. He told his sister, Janet, that he believed it was his duty to serve and he could hardly wait for his draft notification.
Jackson worried that even after being drafted the military might exempt him because he worked on a farm. In a letter to his brother, Donovan, he wrote, “Dad has given me an opportunity to stay home and work the farm, but I’d rather go fight. They may find out that I am a farmer and make me stay home. Dad and Mom hope so. Ha, Ha.” With one month of high school remaining, Jackson received his draft notice. Markleville High School awarded Jackson his diploma early, and he went off to serve.
On May 11, 1943, Private First Class Worth Jackson received orders to report for active duty at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana. Assigned to the newly formed 272nd Infantry Regiment activated on May 15, 1943, Jackson attended Basic Training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. He completed basic training in September 1943 and earned a rating of excellent in both character and soldier skills.
Jackson was pulled from the 272nd Infantry Regiment and sent to North Africa. Arriving in Oran, in North Africa, on November 24, 1943, Jackson was assigned to several different replacement regiments during the next two months without seeing any combat. On January 17, 1944, Jackson joined the 168th Infantry Regiment.
The Gustav Line
Jackson, along with 400 other replacement soldiers, spent a week training near the front lines in battle conditions and methods particular to the Italian campaign. After this training, Jackson and the others were ready for combat and were sent to front line foxholes near San Michele, Italy.
Directly in front of the 168th Infantry Regiment were the German defensive positions known as the Gustav Line, designed to halt the Allied advance north to Rome. Adolf Hitler ordered his German defenders to hold the line at all costs. At the center of the Gustav Line was the abbey at Monte Cassino.
Jackson could see the abbey high in the mountains directly in front of his foxhole position. Monte Cassino gave German artillery spotters excellent observation of all Allied troop movements. As direct assaults on the abbey were underway, the 168th Infantry Regiment was ordered to attack the Gustav Line to the north and then move on Monte Cassino from the rear.
On January 26, 1944, the 168th Infantry Regiment crossed the Rapido River and began their assault on the Gustav Line. The regiment encountered flooded fields, land mines, barbed wire, interlocking machine gun fire, and deadly accurate mortar, rocket, and artillery fire as they moved toward the hills at the base of Monte Cassino. Over the next several days, Jackson and the 168th Infantry Regiment captured key positions in the drive toward the abbey, including hills 56 and 213 and the town of Caira.
On February 3, several companies of the 168th Infantry Regiment moved toward the town of Terrele.
February 4, 1944
On the evening of February 4, 1944, Jackson’s platoon was sent out on patrol, in advance of the American lines. Their mission was to locate enemy machine gun and mortar positions. The platoon encountered a German patrol, and they were subjected to heavy machine gun and rifle fire.
Jackson’s platoon dispersed and returned fire, but the enemy brought up reserve troops, and Jackson’s platoon was surrounded. Only six men returned from the patrol. Nine were captured, and 13 were killed.
On March 1, 1944, with three sons serving in the military, Maree and Herschel Jackson received a telegram at the family farm. The telegram informed the Jackson family that their youngest son was Missing in Action. A Missing in Action designation was not uncommon immediately following a soldier’s death, especially in cases where he was was killed in advance of the American line. In the months that followed there were several letters exchanged between Maree Jackson and the Department of the Army, but there was no news or any change in their son’s status.
On July 30, 1944, the family finally received a second telegram which reported that Jackson had been killed in action on February 4. Jackson was buried at the temporary American Cemetery at Marzanello, Italy. In 1947, Jackson’s parents were given the choice of having their son returned to the family in Indiana or remain in Italy. Jackson’s mother wrote in a letter, “It is our desire for his remains to be left abroad; as we feel that would be his wish. He is now where he so wanted to be.”
Today, Jackson rests peacefully beneath the Roman pine trees in the beautiful Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. He lies among nearly 8,000 fallen heroes, reminding us, as General John J. Pershing declared, that “time shall not dim the glory of their deeds.”
34th Infantry Division; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, World War II Combat Operations Report 1940-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 8133); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
34th Infantry Division; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, World War II Combat Operations Report 1940-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 8136); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
34th Infantry Division; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, World War II Combat Operations Report 1940-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 8137); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
34th Infantry Division; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, World War II Combat Operations Report 1940-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 8260); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
34th Infantry Division; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, World War II Combat Operations Report 1940-1948, Record Group 407 (Box 8283); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Anderson Daily Bulletin. “Soldier From Here Missing.” August 1, 1944.
Anderson High School 1943 Yearbook, Vol. 1943, p.90-91.
Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007.
Best, Janet. Personal Interview. December 28, 2015 and March 23, 2016.
Bogan, Sharon. Personal Interview. December 28, 2015.
House Family Photographs. 2015-2016. Collection of Cary House.
House, Virginia. Personal Interview. November 28, 2015.
Jackson Family Photographs. 1943-1945. Courtesy of Phillip Jackson.
Letter from Worth H. Jackson to Donovan Jackson. 1943. Courtesy of Phillip Jackson.
Letter from Worth H. Jackson to Mr. James Heffernan. 1943. Courtesy of Patty Mauck.
Letter from Worth H. Jackson to Mrs. Mary June Jackson. 1943. Courtesy of Patty Mauck.
Mauck Family Photographs. 1922-1945. Courtesy of Patty Mauck.
McMullen, Derrick. Personal Interview. March 26, 2016.
Records for Worth H. Jackson; World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [Electronic File], Record Group 64; National Archives at college Park, College Park, MD [retrieved from the Access to Archival Databases at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/fielded-search.jsp?dt=466., December 31, 2015].
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. Copy of Aerial Lithograph. October 16, 1964. American Battle Monuments Commission.
“Worth H. Jackson.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed January 13, 2016. http://www.abmc.gov/node/424358.
Worth H. Jackson, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.