Jerair “Jittie” Mardirosian was born on 14 October 1917, in East St. Louis in Illinois to Charles and Ogheg Korkorian Mardirosian. Jittie was the couple’s youngest child; he had two older brothers: Harry, born in 1913 and Huddie born in 1914. Jittie’s father Charles, who was from Hediaz, Turkey, had left his country to come to the United States in 1905. Charles supported his family by working at a foundry in St. Clair county. Jittie’s mother, Ogheg, was from Armenia. She passed away at age 36 when Jittie was five years old. About six years after his wife died, Charles married Mary Katherine Brooch. By 1930 he had also purchased property in Centerville Township in St. Clair county, Illinois. That year his son Harry was working as a weigher at the foundry where possibly Charles worked. Jittie was attending Lafayette School in East St. Louis.
By 1940 the Mardirosian family members seemed to have gone their separate ways. In 1936, Charles and his second wife Mary moved to Evansville, Indiana, after Charles was transferred there by his company. Harry married and remained in St. Clair county working in a machine shop. Huddie also married and was living in the same city as his father – Evansville, Indiana.
Meanwhile, Jittie made his way north to LaSalle, Illinois, and was living with Francis Sever and his family at 1646 St. Vincent avenue. He was working as a truck driver for a coal company. On October 16, 1940, like so many other young men that day, Jittie registered in LaSalle for the draft. As a 23-year-old man, he stood five foot 4 inches tall and weighed 157 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He listed his employer as Elliott Hayden and Company in LaSalle. A little less than two years later on 13 July 1942, Jittie enlisted in the Army. Initially he served at a Texas Army post and was assigned to the motor pool. He eventually achieved a rank of Technician fifth grade and was assigned to the 14th Field Hospital.
In early 1943, Jittie was sent to the Aleutian Islands to support the forces fighting there for control of the area from the Japanese. According to the National Park Service website, “on May 11, 1943, 12,500 U.S. soldiers landed on the northern and southern ends of Attu Island” in the Aleutian Islands. Unfortunately for the soldiers sent to the islands, they were not given proper clothing to contend with the weather or terrain. Many men lost their lives due to exposure and the conditions.
“In the evening hours of May 28, American forces occupied the high ground in Chichagof Valley, controlling three critical hills: Fish Hook, Buffalo, and Engineer.” However, the Japanese had not yet given up. The National Park Service website recounts what happened next:
“At 3 a.m. on May 29, Company B of the U.S. 32nd Infantry received an order to march to battalion headquarters to get a hot breakfast, leaving a handful of sentries on guard. Suddenly, the Japanese attacked. Startled, many Americans retreated to the comparative safety of Fish Hook and Buffalo hills to regroup. Consequently, Yamasaki and his men were able to advance on the artillery on Engineer Hill without meeting any organized resistance.
‘What a nightmare, a madness of noise and confusion and deadliness.’ Capt. George S. Buehler reflecting on May 29, 1943.
A small number of noncombatant units were stationed on top of Engineer Hill. Under the command of General Archibald V. Arnold, they quickly organized a defense made up of medics, engineers, and service personnel who began hurling hand grenades at the Japanese. Unfazed, the Japanese continued to advance, and desperate hand-to-hand combat erupted as the defenders fought for their lives. The tide turned when the 50th Engineers arrived and forced the attackers back with bayonets and rifle butts, preventing them from reaching the critical artillery. Although the battle continued throughout the day, the Japanese were not able to mount another concentrated attack. Colonel Yamasaki was killed late in the day as he led another wave up Engineer Hill.”
Jittie died in the Aleutian Islands on that day: 29 May 1943. And while records could not be found to indicate Jittie was part of that group left stationed on top of Engineer Hill, the date and location of his death indicates there is a chance he may have been.
His brother was notified of his death and in 1948 received his body. Jittie was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville, Illinois. Tec5 Jittie Mardirosian was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asian-Pacific Medal, WWII Victory Medal, and the Army Good conduct Medal.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.
If you noticed anything erroneous in this profile or have additional information to contribute to it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SBTS Historian Pam Broviak
You can also access this story at the following sites:
U.S. Census 1920, Charlie Mardirosian, Ancestry.
U.S. Census 1930, Charlie Mardirosian, Ancestry.
U.S. Census 1940, Francis J. Sever, Ancestry.
U.S. Census 1940, Charles Mardirosian, Ancestry.
Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947, Oghig Marderosiam, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Charles C. Mardirsian, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Huddie Francis Mardirosian, Ancestry.
U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, Jittie Mardirosian, Ancestry.
U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970, Jittie Mardirosian, Ancestry.
Charles Mardirosian Obituary, Newspapers.com
East St. Louis Soldier Killed in Action in the Aleutians, Newspapers.com
LaSalle Man is Killed in Pacific Area, Newspapers.com
Battle of Attu: 60 Years Later, National Park Service