Veteran of the Month – Mark Jurras

November 4, 2015

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Name: Mark Jurras
Place of Birth: Montpelier, Vermont
Date of Birth: 1924
Military Branch of Service: Army
Enlisted, Commissioned, or Drafted? Drafted
Service Dates: WWII Service: March 24, 1943 through December 8, 1945
Highest Rank: Enlisted service during WWII: Technical Sgt. (T-4), ROTC service: Lt. Col/Battalion Commander, Post-war reserve service: Major (Retired)
Military Job:

  • Initial Duty at Fort Devens in 1943, immediately after being drafted: Rebagging oats.
  • After the 776th Anti-Aircraft Auto Weapons Battalion was formed, assignment became Battalion Headquarters Clerk.
  • Note: The 776th Battalion was a semi mobile unit, meaning that it was capable of moving to meet demands but did not have the transport vehicles as part of the unit. The battalion included 32 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannons on wheeled gun carriages, and 32 Quad-Fifty trailers, each holding four .50 caliber machine guns.

Duties:

  • Prepare and send Daily Manpower Reports to Group Headquarters
  • Prepare Battalion and Battalion Commander’s correspondence
  • Process Officer transfers within the Battalion
  • Attended and recorded proceedings of court martials
  • Prepared and forwarded paperwork for five casualties
  • Played thousands of hands of cribbage with the battalion’s Colonel while waiting for reports of action from the four gun batteries.

Unit, Division, Battalion, Group, Ship, etc.: 776th Anti-Aircraft Auto Weapons Battalion (Semi Mobile)

War, Operation, or Conflict served in: World War II
Locations of Service:

  • Fort Devens, Massachusetts: Battalion formed here
  • Fort Fisher, North Carolina: Training
  • Blackstone, Virginia: Maneuvers
  • Scotland: Arrived in the European theater
  • Wales: Arrived by train, and drew equipment
  • Southwest England: Protecting invasion fleet
  • Omaha Beach: Landed about 30 days after D-Day
  • France: Moved frequently as the Allies worked towards Germany
  • Belgium: One night during the Battle of the Bulge
  • Germany: Continued supporting the Allied advance, and moved to Munich to support the occupation

Battles/Campaigns: Battle of Britain, Invasion of France, France and Germany campaigns

Combat or service-related injuries:
None, but in his words: “I spent several days in a Paris hospital for an ingrown toenail and an impacted wisdom tooth… My main concern was catching up with my unit! I was dropped off when my unit was passing through Paris during the exciting celebration of freedom from the German occupation.”

Military Schools/Training:

  • All experience in military schools was post war, starting with ROTC at the University of Vermont.
  • Six week Intelligence School program at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland in 1953
  • Reserve training for Army Field Press Censor through membership in Hartford CT’s Reserve unit

Family Info: Married Mary Elizabeth Abernethy in October 1955; Three children: daughter, Susan in Albuquerque with her husband and daughter; son, Mark III, in Canton with his wife, son, and daughter; and daughter, Amy, in Weatogue with her husband, son and daughter.

Community Activities and Volunteer Work :
Solicited funds for Hartford Community Chest
Active member of Junior Chamber of Commerce of Hartford and worked at the first ever Hartford Golf Tournament
Member of Springfield, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Aviation Committee.
Active member of the Rotary Club in Springfield, Missouri.

Occupation after military service:

Accident and Health Underwriter: Connecticut Life Insurance

  • Royal Typewriter: Plant in Hartford, Connecticut:
  • Manager of Employee Health Insurance Program
  • Manager of Employee Accident Insurance
  • Manager of Management Development
  • Assigned to team building new plant in Springfield, Missouri
  • New plant in Springfield, Missouri:
  • Employee Relations Manager
  • Plant manager
  • Friden Calculator Company, San Leandro, California, VP of Employee Relations
  • Singer Company, Business Machines Division, VP of Employee Relations. Worked at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City
    • Stanadyne Corporation, Windsor, Connecticut, VP of Employee Relations, Retired in 1990

    Biography:
    Mark Jurras was born on May 4th in 1924, as the 9:30PM curfew siren rang in Montpelier Vermont. He attended elementary and high school in Montpelier, and first went to work at Blakely Drug Store during his junior year of high school. After graduating high school, he began studies at Vermont Junior College on a small scholarship. A local dentist in the Reserves volunteered his time, and taught the students to march. It was his contribution to the early American war effort, knowing the knowledge would ease their entrance into military training.

    A draft notice in March of 1943 announced the beginning of Mark’s experience in World War II. After being chosen as Acting Corporal on the trip from the Montpelier courthouse to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, he was assigned to be the battalion headquarters clerk for the 776th Anti Aircraft Auto Weapons Battalion. A year later in March of 1944, he sailed to England with the battalion. Their task: guard the growing fleet preparing for the D-Day invasion. A month after the invasion, he accompanied his unit across the English Channel.

    From July 1944 until the end of the war, Mark and the 776th moved across Europe, providing anti-aircraft defense for forward fighter bases. These bases were located close to the battle lines, and during the Battle of the Bulge the German counterattack came to within about 10 miles of the 776th and the airfields they defended. Following the final battles of the European theater, Mark participated in the occupation of Germany from September to November of 1945 then returned to Vermont. During the occupation, Mark toured the Dachau concentration camp in Munich. General Eisenhower insisted on American soldiers viewing the concentration camps, knowing that in the future witnesses would be needed to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

    Upon returning to Vermont, he enrolled in the University of Vermont under the brand-new G.I. Bill. After depleting wartime savings, the $27 a month ROTC stipend became attractive, and Mark signed on. He graduated in 1949, turned down an active duty commission, and entered the Army Reserve instead. He began work at Connecticut General as an Accident and Health Underwriter.

    Seeking a different challenge, Mark accepted an Employee Relations position with Royal Typewriter. While working there, he married Mary Elizabeth Abernethy in 1955. Soon he was assigned to a team to build and staff a new plant in Springfield, MO. He accepted the challenge and was named to the position of Manager of Employee Relations for the new plant. While in Springfield, Mark was promoted to Major in the Reserve. While working at the new plant, he studied for and earned an MBA at Drury University. Shortly after graduation, he was named Plant Manager.

    An opportunity to become Vice President of Employee Relations for Friden Calculator Company arose, and Mark and his family moved to the Bay Area in California. The Singer Company, which was seeking a new product line, appeared on the scene, bought Friden and eventually formed a new “Business Machines Division.” Four years into the project, the Division Headquarters was moved to Singer’s home office located at Rockefeller Plaza.

    The President, the Vice President of Marketing, and Mark were transferred to Singer Headquarters in NYC. Mark traveled extensively, but the commute by train to and from Westport, CT became intolerable due to constant breakdowns, freezing train cars, and long delays. Following a brief search, Mark accepted the position of Vice President of Employee Relations for Stanadyne, Inc. whose Corporate Headquarters was in Windsor, CT. He retired in January 1990.

    Mark’s military career had come to a close earlier, after retiring from the U.S. Army Reserve with 20 years of combined WWII and reserve service. He and his wife Elizabeth raised 3 children, and were married 52 years. Mark and Elizabeth moved to Canton, Connecticut in 1996. His wife Elizabeth passed away in 2008 and Mark continues to live in Canton.