On This Day, 6-JUN 1944, We Honor a Fallen Hero
James L. Teeters was born on 12-JUL 1916 in Rocheport Missouri and later moved to Matson in St. Charles County MO. In Matson, he registered for the draft while living with his uncle Arthur Engelage. His mother was Mrs. Mina L. Teeters formerly of Matson, who had moved to Hannibal MO. James was employed by the M.K.T Railroad also known as “The KATY” Railroad.
James L Teeters enlisted in the Army at Jefferson Barracks on 15-DEC 1942. James served with 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion during World War II. He attained the rank of Technician Fifth Class.
The Army was organizing a new mechanical battalion. Since James worked on the railroad, he likely had certain mechanical skills the Army was seeking.
After the poor performances of Army Anti-Aircraft in the Africa Campaign, immediate changes became a priority. General Charles G. Patterson ordered trials of automatic weapons mounted on surplus halftracks. After several designs, two basic self-propelled anti-aircraft tracks were finalized, the M-15 and M-16. Having the acceptable gun platforms that were robust enough to keep up with mobile infantry, AA planners then instituted a new type of battalion for front line use. The AAA Anti-Aircraft, self-propelled was formed. The halftrack were equipped with (4) 50 caliber heavy machine guns. Men with special skills including James L. Teeters were inducted into the 197th AAA. James L. Teeters along with 229 volunteers – many from St. Louis and Missouri – arrived from Jefferson Barracks. The men would train at Fort Bliss, Texas.
James was in 2nd Platoon, Battery B of the 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion and his battalion would be part of the massive troop buildup in England to prepare for the Normandy invasion (D-Day). After several postponements, the invasion and crossing of the English Channel began for over 150,000 men including James L. Teeters at 03:30 hours on 5-JUN 1944.
James and Battery B were loaded into LCT-200 (Landing Craft Tank). Their objective was Omaha Beach in the center of EASY RED sector at H-Hour plus 120 minutes. Nothing would be easy on Omaha Beach today. Though not in the first wave, it would take many hours to secure the beach.
The skipper of LCT-200 struggled as the craft approached the beach. They had to avoid collisions and many obstacles as they neared the beach. All the while, enemy bullets were pelting the hull. Most of the men in the boat were either seasick, on their knees praying or praying AND seasick. Troops used up the Navy puke bags and later said, they were relieved to reach land.
As they were nearing the beach, a shell hit the ramp of LCT-200 and bent it, jamming it. The boat sat there with all of the men onboard while the Navy Seabees took a sledgehammer to the ramp to pound it open. The whole time snipers on the bluff were shooting at the Seabees. Suddenly the ramp dropped, and Battery B began to vacant the LCT at 9:05 AM. Unfortunately, the LCT landed just off the beach right in front of a German bunker with a 88 mm anti-aircraft gun in it. Battery B still had yards to go to reach dry land.
On many amphibious beach assaults, soldiers and vehicles must wade or swim ashore. The first halftrack of the ramp immediately stalled in the very deep water. After completing the delivery of the battery at 09:32 the LCT attempted to back off the beach but became tangled in anchor cable and underwater obstacles.
Teeters halftrack was riding on the shale of the beach. The crew manned the gun in their “bucket” (gun turret). As Teeters halftrack was nearing the beach, they took a direct hit from an artillery shell. A witness would later say, “the whole halftrack blew up killing several men on board.” Two men were killed; T/5 Robert B. Wells and T/5 James L. Teeters. James L. Teeters was killed instantly on Omaha Beach mere moments after landing. Robert B. Wells, killed along with Teeters, was also from St. Louis. They died 6-JUN 1944.
James L. Teeters is buried or memorialized at Plot I Row 9 Grave 33 Normandy American Cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer, France. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location. A memorial service was held at Matson Hall on 5-AUG 1944. T/5 Robert B. Wells is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
James L. Teeters is honored and remembered at the St, Charles County Veterans Museum.