WWII Portrait Photo Identification: PFC John M. Holland, 11th Airborne, 675th GFA

A recent eBay photo grouping purchase has landed me with a fantastic identified and easily researchable photo of an 11th Airborne paratrooper.  An often looked-over paratrooper group, the 11th served in the PTO and has been sadly back-burnerned due to the popularity of the 101st and 82nd Divisions who fought in the ETO and who have inspired such works as Band of Brothers and other films, books and video games.

PFC. John M. Holland in Japan

PFC. John M. Holland in Japan

This portrait photo was taken by M. Kimura in Yonezawa, Japan in late 1945.  The sitter is John M. Holland, a Dallas, Texas WWII veteran who served with the 675th Glider Field Artillery in the Pacific Theater of Operation(PTO) during WWII.  He was born on June 2nd, 1924 at 821 East Dallas Street in Dallas, TX.   After the war he went on to play professional baseball for two years in the Texas Leagues until he injured his throwing arm in 1947.  He next went to work in the Cotton Exchange Building in the cotton and textile industry.


And I was able to find an incredible account of his wartime experiences here: http://www.johnmorganholland.com/Military_John_M_Holland.html


I’m copying it here:

John writes of his Army record:

“Feb. 18, 1943 – Assigned and shipped by train to Camp MacCall, Hoffman, North Carolina. Arrived February 22nd. The US Army started their first Airborne Division to be trained as Airborne Troops. This was the 11th Airborne Division, which included glider and paratroops together. This Division of about 8 to 10 thousand, included artillery, infantry, engineering, anti-aircraft and tank, and support units.

“I was assigned to the 675th Field Artillery, Battery A Unit. This was a unit of 105 Howitzers, short barrel with split trails, to fit in the gliders for transport to battle areas. I was assigned to the Communication Section, which had to set up telephones and switch boards to all positions: Headquarters, guns and forward positions by wire (laying lines), and also radio.”

John served throughout the Philippines during World War II where he supported the infantry in capturing Los Banos prison camp and liberating its prisoners, and later was ordered into Japan with the occupation forces. Among the medals he received were the Asiatic-Pacific medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, Philippine Liberation Ribbon as well as Parachute/Glider Wings.

Of the invasion of Leyte, Philippines John writes “Further action did not occur until just before dark when three Japanese planes came in from the East over the high area inland and dropped two bombs; one was a dud and the other exploded just east of our area. The planes circled and started back to us, then turned away as seven of our planes intercepted and shot down one Zeke. “

“Then about dark, we heard incoming shells and we all hit the fox holes. All shells hit either on the beach or short of our position. At about 2000 hours, a group of Japanese soldiers started hollering and running to our position. We killed all but one and he fell into a large hole before he got to us.”

“The next day there was a lot of movement off shore, just to the North of our position, and several LST’s landed with cameramen and reporters….standing in front of the last LST was “the man with the pipe,” General Douglas Mac Arthur, with cameras firing off as fast as possible. He was about 100 yards from our position and that is where he made his famous “I have Returned!” statement.”

John’s unit stayed on that beach for two more days and nights under fire from enemy planes and troops on the ground. On the fourth day, they began to move inland. It took them two weeks to push through the center of Leyte Island to the east coast. When they finally got there they helped the people of the villages put their houses back together.

“Many of our soldiers were stricken by yellow jaundice and malaria. We received replacements and started moving to several other small islands, securing them and cleaning Japanese pockets of soldiers from them.”

“At about 06:45 A.M., we hit the shore of Luzon, (Manila) at Nasugbu.” John received the Presidential Unit Citation for his part in the Battle of Manila. “This operation covered almost one month…Then we rested for one week by scouting villages in and around our area. After the Manila operation, this area was always free of any Japanese aircraft.”

Not long after that, John’s unit was told they were going to be dropped into Japan to take and secure Atsugi Air Field just outside of Tokyo. On the flight over the senior officer on the plane told them “do your jobs again like we did in Manila and Nichols Field and we again would be the victors as We are the Airborne!” The men all yelled with him, then settled down, got some rest, and prayed.

“About four hours later, we were awakened and told that the atomic bombs had been dropped and that Japan was willing to surrender….. We all hollered and, after many handshakes and hugs, the officer told us we were headed back to Okinawa…..we all got on our knees and gave thanks. Many of us shed tears of joy!”

Now that the war was ending, there was a race to get to Tokyo. MacArthur wanted his favorites, the 1st Cavalry, to be there first.

John was chosen as part of the honor guard to go to meet MacArthur. When “Mac” and the 1st Cavalry arrived at Atsugi Air Field, John and the 11th Airborne were there to welcome them!

After the Surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri, John got his orders to go home. He arrived in Seattle December 24th, 1945 and about four days later got to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He was discharged February 1946.

To see footage of the Los Banos POW camp on the day of it’s liberation please click the photo below:


And to hear an incredible interview with  released POW’s from the camp click the photo below (they reference the paratroopers dropping in):


All of the information in this post has been acquired through the biographical website of John M. Holland:http://www.johnmorganholland.com/Military_John_M_Holland.html



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