James Lynwood Derix was born on October 20, 1916 to Charles and Verna Derix who lived in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. James was the older of two children.
James, who like to be called “Jim”, attended the Memorial Junior High School in Phoenixville which is where the famed 1957 movie The Blob was filmed. James left school before graduation to help support the family.
His brother Calvin remembers his big brother as stocky and strong as a bull. He was easygoing, hard to get mad. James enjoyed finding gasoline engines in junk yards and rebuilding them. He was not big on playing sports, but he loved to swim. James worked at the Weiland Meat Packing Plant in Phoenixville.
James married his wife Elizabeth of Ambler, Pennsylvania in 1941.
James was drafted into the Army in 1941. After basic training, he was assigned to the 329th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry “Thunderbolt” Division, which was activated at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. James’ regiment practiced maneuvers in Tennessee, Kentucky and New York. They embarked for England in April, 1944.
Leading elements of the 83rd went ashore on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 19th. They waited on board transports weathering a week-long, sever storm that wreaked havoc with the temporary port facilities built off the beaches. There was no port in the area. The Americana and British addressed the lack of ports by prefabricating floating docks, break waters, and long floating causeways.
The 83rd relieved the 101st Airborne in the Carentan Peninsula in late June. They slowly fought through the French hedgerows with heavy casualties, some of the toughest fighting in the European theater. The Carentan area was defended by german troops, mostly SS.
The French hedgerows permeated the area. They divided numerous small fields, and consisted of thick hedges planted on top of earthen and stone walls 4-10' high. Allied troops crossing the open fields were often mowed down by crack German troops who were well concealed in the thick hedges, lying in wait for the soldiers. Each hedgerow became a battle in itself, with very heavy casualties. Later in the battle, an American Sergeant came up with an idea - using scrap metal to form a type of toothed plow which he welded onto the front of a tank, he plowed through the hedgerows.
Private James Lynwood Derix Died Of Wounds on July 7, 1944. James was buried in a local cemetery. At his family's request, his remains were returned in 1948. On July 20th, James was buried with full military honors at the Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, NJ.
Infantrymen attempting to cross a hedgerow in Normandy, France, 1944