James Reynolds Jr. was born on 6 December 1920, in Deer Park, Illinois—an unincorporated area in LaSalle Township. James was named after his father, James Grover Reynolds, who was born in Jonesville in 1892. The Reynolds family had lived in the LaSalle area for a long time. James Junior’s great-grandfather, Henry Reynolds, moved to America from England possibly in the 1850s. On 5 July 1857, he married Hannah Johnson, a young lady from New Jersey who had moved to Illinois. They initially settled in Ophir Township. By 1870 they had moved to Deer Park and had six children one of whom was William—the grandfather of James Junior. Henry supported his family by working as a teamster.
Henry and Hannah’s son William married a local girl, Laura Way, on 8 November 1884, in LaSalle county. James Junior’s father, James Grover Reynolds, was William and Laura’s third child. William supported his family by working as a wood cutter. But by 1910 William had possibly passed away as Laura Reynolds was married a second time to John Evans around 1908. After their marriage, the family along with James Grover Reynolds and his brother William Reynolds moved to Bureau County where John Evans and both Reynolds brothers worked for the coal mine.
When James Grover Reynolds was 26, he enlisted in the Army and fought in World War I in Company E of the 311 Engineers. He was discharged on 8 July 1919, as a Corporal. After returning from the war, James Grover Reynolds married Mary Berta in Oglesby on 27 September 1919. Mary Berta was from Italy and the daughter of Peter Guglielmi and Mary Tamborini. She had previously been married to Joseph Berta who passed away the year before on 28 June 1918, leaving her with a baby, Josephine.
Mary had also lost her father about 10 years before when she was about six years old. Peter Guglielmi had been working as a miner in Cherry, Illinois, when the mine started on fire on 13 November 1909, trapping 259 workers inside. Many men and boys including Mary’s father Peter died. At the time Mary was in Italy with her mother and sister. Eventually Mary left Italy to travel to the U.S., and both of her daughters sailed to America in 1912 to join her.
Early in 1920—the year young James Reynolds was born—his father was working as a miner. His mother’s daughter from her first marriage—Josephine—was living with them in a home in Oglesby, Illinois. By 1930, the family was living in Jonesville, and James and Mary had two more children—daughters named Hazel and Louise. James Sr. was now working for the cement mill. James Junior and his sisters attended the Oglesby grade schools.
When James Junior was 10 his uncle William Reynolds, his father’s brother, died. William had been working on a farm and was killed in April 1931 when he was struck by a horse-drawn wagon which broke his back. Later that year, James Junior also lost his mother—she died in October 1931. His father never remarried.
By the time James Junior was 18 he and his father were working as coal miners in Peru for the Union Coal Company. A few years later James Junior registered for the draft on 16 February 1942. At the time he was 21 years old standing 5 feet 11 inches tall weighing 165 pounds. He had blue eyes and brown hair. On 8 April 1942, James Reynolds Jr. enlisted in the Marines along with five of his friends: Clifford Hunter, Joseph Hoffman, Joseph Welch, John Rolando, and Frank Gauld.
After receiving his recruit training in San Diego, PVT James Reynolds Jr. was sent to the Marine Barracks Hawthorne in Nevada and then was placed in the 4th Raider Battalion which was stationed in Oceanside, California. In 1943, his unit was sent to New Georgia in the British Solomon Islands. PVT James Reynolds Junior was killed in action on 20 July 1943, while participating in the attack against the enemy at Bairoko Harbor.
The War Diaries from the U.S. Navy for the Solomon Islands Campaign describe the assault that day:
“At daylight on 20 July the Northern Force opened its drive on Bairoko against 500–600 Japanese armed with automatic weapons and heavy mortars and supported by one battery of heavy artillery on the west bank of Bairoko Harbor…After advancing to within 300 yards of the east bank of Bairoko Harbor our forces were met with heavy enemy artillery fire, suffered heavy casualties, and were forced back to Enogai, where they were surrounded and practically cut off from all supply for a time.”
Initially PVT James Reynolds was buried at Enogai Harbor Cemetery in New Georgia, British Solomon Islands. But later in 1949 PVT James Reynolds Jr was brought back to the states and buried in Rock Island National Cemetery, Illinois, in Section E Site 313.
PVT James Reynolds Jr. was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Asiatic/Pacific Campaign 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 email@example.com.
- SBTS Historian: Pam Broviak
You can also access this story at the following sites:
- Fold3, James Reynolds
- Together We Served, James Reynolds
- 1860 U.S. Census, Henry Reynolds, Ancestry.
- 1870 U.S. Census, Henry Reynolds, Ancestry.
- 1900 U.S. Census, William Reynolds, Ancestry.
- 1910 U.S. Census, John Evans, Ancestry.
- 1920 U.S. Census, James Reynolds, Ancestry.
- 1930 U.S. Census, James Reynolds, Ancestry.
- 1940 U.S. Census, James Reynolds, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, James Reynolds Jr, Ancestry.
- U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, James Grover Reynolds, Ancestry.
- U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960, James Reynolds, Ancestry.
- U.S., Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019, James Reynolds Jr, Ancestry.
- Illinois, U.S., Marriage Index, 1860-1920, Ann Johnson to Henry Reynolds, Ancestry.
- Illinois, U.S., Marriage Index, 1860-1920, Laura Way to William Reynolds, Ancestry.
- Death certificate, State of Illinois, Joseph Berta, FamilySearch.
- Death certificate, State of Illinois, Mary Reynolds, FamilySearch.
- Marriage License, James Reynolds to Berta, FamilySearch.
- U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970, James G. Reynolds, Ancestry.
- New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, Marie Guglielmi, 1912, Ancestry.
- “Ladd Farm Hand Dies of Broken Back,” Bureau County Tribune, 17 April 1931, p. 1, Newspapers.com.
- The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster and Illinois Rescue and Relief Fund Work, University of Illinois.
- Together We Served, Honor Roll, James Reynolds Jr., PVT.