Private First Class Jean Andrew White
- Unit: 65th Infantry Division, 261th Infantry Regiment
- Service Number: 36896925
- Date of Birth: October 22, 1925
- Entered the Military: January 29, 1944
- Date of Death: April 7, 1945
- Hometown: Bay City, Michigan
- Place of Death: Strüth, Germany
- Award(s): Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot C, Row 12, Grave 8. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands
Mentored by Mr. Craig Windt
Bay City Central High School
Andrew White, Jr. was born on October 22, 1925 in Bay City, Michigan, as the only child of Andrew White and Lorretta Jean. As a young child, his parents separated. Following the separation, White and his mother moved in with his maternal grandparents, Thomas and Leah Jean. In honor of his mother, he went by the name “Jean” and from then on he was known as Jean Andrew White. Thomas and Leah Jean owned a local family market called Jean’s Grocery, where Jean often worked in his spare time.
White attended Holy Rosary Academy for elementary school and finalized his education at Saint Joseph High School. While attending high school, he played for the football team.
Defoe Shipbuilding Company
Defoe Shipbuilding Company operated out of Bay City, Michigan. The company manufactured and produced ships and submarines used by the United States military. In 1939, Defoe received a contract to build the very first 173-foot subchaser, later becoming the major manufacturer of the subchasers during World War II. Tasked with very stiff deadlines and production demands, Defoe had to create quicker, more efficient methods for producing ships for the U.S. Navy.
They created the Roll-Over Method, which enabled them to produce ships at faster speeds and lower costs. This method consists of constructing the ship in parts and physically rolling the ship over as each side was completed. Using the Roll-Over Method, Defoe produced 160 ships for the war effort, completely reshaping the way the U.S. Navy fought in World War II.
Saginaw Gun Plant
General Motors, of automobile fame, shifted gears during World War II and began producing guns for the war effort. Their General Motors Saginaw Steering Gear Plant manufactured Browning 1919 and M1 Carbine guns. A government investment funded a second plant, known as General Motors Saginaw Steering Gear Plant 2, to keep up with the demands for military equipment. The plant earned the nickname “The Saginaw Gun Plant,” due to the large number of guns manufactured there.
On January 29, 1944, Jean White was drafted into the U.S. Army. To prepare for active duty, White trained at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, Fort McClellan in Alabama, and Fort George G. Meade in Maryland.
After training camp, Private Jean White joined the 65th Infantry Division. The division was responsible for relieving the 26th Infantry Division from a defensive position at the Saar River, which runs through northeastern France and western Germany.
On March, 4, 1945, the 65th Infantry Division landed in Oberesch, Germany, and continued their efforts to liberate the Austrian people from the Nazi regime. As the weeks progressed, the division fought its way across Germany. On April 4, 1945, the 65th Infantry Division attempted to seize control of Lagensalza, Germany. It took two days for the 65th Infantry Division to capture the town. However, on the following day, April 7, the Germans launched a counterattack. In this counterattack, Private White was hit by a mortar and died from his wounds.
Every soldier has a life outside the war, a family who cares deeply about its child and a story that describes his life. Yet most of these lives become forgotten, the families are left heartbroken, and the stories remain untold. I, however, was fortunate enough to have the honor of retelling one soldier’s story, the story of Private First Class Jean Andrew White – a man I will never forget. His actions in World War II have touched my life deeply.
After learning the story of one man who fought in the war and lost his life, walking through the cemeteries saddened me. There were countless graves and each had a name on it. Every grave harkened back to the lost life of someone’s son, brother, husband, or father. Seeing Private White’s grave at Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten made me understand what it means to truly sacrifice for your country. Towards the end of our trip, I received the honor of carrying a wreath across the Oversteek Bridge in Nijmegen, Holland. During the twelve-minute walk, I was given the opportunity to reflect upon everything I had experienced during my stay in the Netherlands– every tombstone I walked past, every monument, and everything I had learned. I realized just how lucky I am to be able to cross the bridge and walk the grounds of the cemetery. I am grateful for soldiers like Private Jean White who gave their all for the country they loved.
It was approximately 75 years after his death that I visited his grave; however, it feels like I know him personally, like he is part of my family. His legacy will live on forever since his story is finally being told. Private White is also the cousin of Mr. Craig Windt, my mentor, and I can honestly say that I could not be more humbled to have told his story. Mr Windt, your cousin was an extraordinary man who gave everything he could for his country. May he rest in peace.
“The 65th Infantry Division.” Senate Congressional Record. June 11, 2001, S6052.www.congress.gov/crec/2001/06/11/CREC-2001-06-11-pt1-PgS6051-2.pdfMichigan. Bay City. 1930 U.S. Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Military, Compiled Service Records, WWII, Hospital Admission Card Data File,1943 Battle Casualty, 1942-1945; 1950-1954, National Archives of St. Louis.
St. Joseph High School Football Team Photograph. St. Joseph Times, November 1942. Windt Family Collection.
The Torch Yearbook. Saint Joseph High School. Windt Family Collection.
Windt, Craig. Tommy Jean’s Market. Photograph. October 2, 2019.
Windt, Craig. The Jean Family Home. Photograph. October 2, 2019.
“65th Infantry Division.” U.S. Army Center for Military History. Accessed October 3, 2019. history.army.mil/documents/ETO-OB/65ID-ETO.htm.
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Defoe, David. “THE DEFOE STORY.” Defoenet. Accessed February 19, 2020. defoenet.com/shipbuild/TheDefoeStory.htm.
“Jean A. White, Jr.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed February 19, 2020. abmc.gov/node/389808.
Mapes, Joshua. “General Motors Saginaw Gun Plant.” Military History of the Upper Great Lakes. Updated October 12, 2015. Accessed February 19, 2020. ss.sites.mtu.edu/mhugl/2015/10/11/general-motors-saginaw-gun-plant/.
“PFC Jean White Killed in Action.” Bay City Times, April 26, 1945, p. 1.