Pfc. John Derrick Halls was born on March 24th, 1922 in Southwest Colorado, in the town of Mancos, Montezuma County. His parents were Francis William Halls and Doris Hazel Mincher Halls, children of Colorado pioneers. He helped on his family’s farm while growing up, and eventually worked for the National Park Service in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. At home, his nicknames were “Dickie” or “Dick,” and he was a star basketball player at Mancos Highschool.
On September 1, 1942, John Halls enlisted in the US Army in Pueblo, Colorado. He was eventually assigned to the 506th PIR* of the 101st Airborne Division, and was placed in 2nd Battalion/HQ Company's 81mm mortar squad. He went by the nickname “Cowboy” when with Army buddies.
While training in England in 1943 and the first half of 1944, Pfc. Halls played on the 506th regimental basketball team which was in fact coached by then 1st. Lt. Dick Winters, Executive Officer of E Company, 506th. The two were good buddies, according to Winters’ journals during and after the war (++Source: John D Halls - Honor States - Comment Section++).
Pfc. Halls saw his first combat jump on June 6th, 1944 into Normandy, France. He landed in the Ste Mère Église vicinity and found himself in a slowly growing column of paratroopers that included 1st Lt. Winters. After making it through the jump and the earliest hours of D-Day, Pfc. Halls found himself part of the assault team making the well-known charge on a German artillery battery at Brécourt Manor.
During this assault, men of Easy, Dog, Fox, and HQ Company charged and destroyed four 105mm howitzers that were currently firing on Causeway #2 -- one the few main draws off of Utah Beach -- where troops of the US 4th Infantry Division were advancing inland. Taking this gun battery was crucial in getting 4th ID reinforcements up to the Airborne positions.
Guns one and two were taken, and upon assaulting the 3rd howitzer, Pfc. Halls took point in the trench, leading the squad to the next 105mm emplacement. At some point on their approach, Pfc. Halls was struck by a burst of machine gun fire, according to Lt Winters’ after action report. Many current online blogs state Pfc. Halls was KIA by a landmine, but this may be a myth perpetuated by HBO's "Band of Brothers" (***See Side Note below for further "BoB inaccuracies on Pfc. Halls).
Also confirming that he was struck by machine gun fire is Pvt. David Keyon Webster of E/506th. In his book "Parachute Infantry," Webster writes of a friend and medic (T-5 Howard R. Porter) that he believes was killed by the same machine gun that struck Pfc. Halls on D-Day. Webster writes, "...The medic, who could have saved so many lives, had been killed -- right on the edge of the flooded area, by the same machine gun, they said, that killed John D. Halls" (Webster, 63).
Lt. Winters in his journal wrote, “John D. Halls was with me on D-day he was killed charging for the third cannon, by an undisclosed machine gun nest. He was a good basketball player and a good soldier.” (++Source: John D Halls - Honor States - Comment Section++).
Pfc. Halls was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions taken on the Brécourt Manor assault. It is said that Lt. Frederick “Moose” Heyliger was one of his officers and wrote to Halls’ mother notifying her of what happened to her son (++Source++). His heroic actions taking the battery on D-Day saved a vast number of potential casualties in the 4th ID advancing off Utah, and potentially even further lives in secondary waves of seaborne troops. All of which helped protect the lives of his fellow Airborne troops behind German lines.
His name is not on the memorial to Easy company at Manoir de Brécourt, however is is my goal to help provide more truth the hero that was Pfc. John D. Halls.
We Will Remember Him
Pfc. John Derrick Halls is buried at Plot C Row 10 Grave 32, Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He had three brothers also in the service during WWII, all of which survived the war.
*****SIDE NOTE: **There is much confusion surrounding Pfc. Halls in online forums, due to small details that alter with oral histories being passed to authors, and eventually major TV networks. HBO’s “Band of Brothers” portrays a “John Hall” from New York, supposedly in A Company/506th that is KIA on the Brécourt assault by a landmine or grenade. After the war, veterans of the mortar platoon in HQ/2nd Bn/506th have since confirmed that the fictional "John Hall" in the show was in fact Pfc. John D. HALLS, and was a member of HQ Company. Many online sources still name Pfc. Halls as a member of A/506th, which is known to be false now. There was in fact no John Hall in A Company/506th. There was however a T-5 John D. Hall in the 506th, who was tragically killed with his whole stick on the D-Day drop when their plane went down prior to their exiting.
Pfc. Halls’ daughter, MaryJo Wagner, PhD, has written a blog about her perspectives on discovering her father's service details: ++https://medium.com/illumination-curated/memorial-day-world-war-2-band-of-brothers-this-happened-to-me-a178c18ba674++
*PIR = Parachute Infantry Regiment
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 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.