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John Skeen

Sergeant First Class

70th Infantry Division
275th infantry regiment
3rd Battalion, Company I
3rd platoon

Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader during World war two

At 105, Platoon Sgt John Skeen of Bradenton, Florida, is a hard man to track down. He still drives, maintains his home of 40 years, and has a full social calendar. He credits his longevity to not smoking or drinking, not chasing wild women, and eating all the chocolate you can get ahold of (It does not matter the kind).

Skeen entered the service in 1940, before the start of WWII. Serving with the West Virginia National Guard, his unit, the 201st Infantry, was soon activated for service. Skeen was sent to the Aleutian islands off of Alaska to build defensive fortifications on the Island of Amchitka. Here, Skeen manned a 20mm antiaircraft gun, tasked with shooting down Japanese airplanes. His unit experienced constant observation by enemy aircraft, and bombings kept them in a continuous state of alertness.

In July of 1943, the 70th Infantry Division was activated at Camp Adair, Oregon. Soon, Skeen transferred to the newly formed 275th Infantry Regiment, where he served as a Platoon Sergeant for Item Company, third platoon. While an NCO, he filled an officer’s billet as platoon leader for much of the war, turning down a battlefield commission twice to stay with his men.

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In November 1944, Skeen and his regiment landed in Marseilles, France, and made final preparations for combat. They would soon be part of Operation Norwind. On New Year's Eve 1944, Skeen and his company were ambushed by the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord, an elite German Alpine unit. Skeen recalls all hell breaking loose. Withering machine gun fire raked the men, and the Germans maintained a constant mortar barrage. Item company would lose 21 men during the action.

Skeen would be wounded twice during the war and would receive a bronze star for leading a bazooka team against a German machine gun bunker. Despite being wounded by shrapnel, Skeen led his team in taking out the threat.

Throughout our interview, Skeen maintained his composure, even when recalling unimaginable suffering and pain. But his tone drastically changed when our conversation shifted to his friends still buried at Lorraine Cemetary in St. Avold. Skeen says he discusses his experiences in the war to keep the memory of his friends and comrades alive so that people remember World War Two and the sacrifices they made so that we can enjoy our tomorrow.



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