My grandfather served with the United States Army in North Africa during World War Two, and that theater of the war has always held a special interest for me. When I discovered that Dover, Ohio resident John P. Rose (1918-1942) had served and sacrificed his life in that campaign, I wanted to discover more about him.
Fred Rose (1884-1963), John’s father, grew up in Monroe and Belmont counties Ohio where he worked as a farm laborer, and later, on an oil well. He would marry Carrie Sharp (1883-1972) in Belmont County in 1907, and shortly after relocate to Tuscarawas County where they would raise their family. The couple acquired a farm near Dover by 1930 and Fred, along with his four sons, worked on the farm and in the nearby iron works.
After the United States entered World War Two John Rose, and his brother Paul (1912-1970), enlisted in the United States Army. John was sent for training in early 1942 to Camp Wolters, Texas and later to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was then attached to the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. The 60th Infantry Regiment would play a pivotal role in the invasion of North Africa, known as Operation Torch, later that year.
The 60th Infantry Regiment departed Hampton Roads, Virginia for Africa in early November 1942 as part of the Allies’ Western Task Force. This force, consisting of 38 ships and 56 escort vessels, would rendezvous with forces coming from the United Kingdom prior to invading North Africa. The Western Task Force was given the objective of landing three attack groups on the coast of Morocco.
John Rose’s battalion, part of the Northern Attack Group, came ashore the morning of November 8, 1942 at “Green Beach” just in front of the village of Mehdya, Morocco at the mouth of the Sebou River. The group’s objective was the inland town of Port-Lyautey and a small airfield nearby. The attackers met strong resistance from the French defenders of a nearby fortress and the airfield. It took the attack group three days to finally secure the capture of the town and arrange a truce with the defenders.
We discover later that Private Rose was a radio operator for the 2nd Battalion, 60th Regiment’s Headquarters command, so it is likely that he was serving that role during the invasion as well. Luckily for the Northern Attack Group, the battle for their objectives was achieved with relatively light casualties considering the number of troops engaged. The 60th Regiment remained in the Port-Lyautey area until January of 1943.
The 60th Infantry Regiment advanced along with the rest of the Allied force as it fought its way eastward towards Tunisia in the late winter and early spring of 1943. The regiment would play a very active role in the engagements that permitted that advance, culminating in what was Private Rose’s last battle, the Battle for El Guettar, Tunisia.
The exact circumstances of Private Rose’s death are not recorded in the historical record, but his reported date of death (8 April 1943) implied that he was probably mortally wounded during the Battle of El Guettar. The 60th Combat Group, which consisted of the 60th Regiment’s Headquarters command to which Private Rose was attached, was tasked with capturing two strategic points in Tunisia, Station de Sened and Maknassy in late March 1943.
As the days-long battle winded down, around 11:00 am and again at 4:00 pm on 7 April 1943, the 60th Regiment’s Headquarters command post was heavily shelled by German 88 mm artillery guns. The barrages were so severe that the regiment was ordered to be prepared for an enemy assault. The artillery fire was actually designed to pin down the American force while the enemy withdrew. This heavy shelling of the command post was probably the action that led to Private Rose’s death.
Initially Private Rose was buried in an Allied cemetery in Tunisia; but, after the war, families of deceased soldiers could request that their remains be returned to the United States for burial. John Rose’s remains, along with those of a handful of other local soldiers who had been killed overseas, made their way home aboard the transport ship Barney Kirschbaum in the spring of 1948. A funeral service for Private Rose was held in June 1948, and he was laid to rest in the Dover Burial Park, Dover, Ohio.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.