Colonel John James Christy was a native of Cranston, Rhode Island and a graduate of Cranston High School where he was a standout scholar and athlete. John wrote extensively for the school newspaper and yearbook. He competed in soccer, wrestling, basketball and football. He was a member of the Cranston High School 1934State Championship football team and was selected to the Rhode Island All-state Football Team. John received a football scholarship to Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island) in 1934.
During his college days at the University of Rhode Island, John worked as a reporter for the Providence Journal, played varsity football and was a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity. In addition, he served as the Managing Editor of both the school’s newspaper, The Beacon, and the Grist yearbook. During his senior year, he was elected Student Body President and was voted by his senior classmates as “Most Likely to Succeed.”
John participated in the Army ROTC program for four years. He graduated in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Journalism and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. Initially, Second Lieutenant Christy served in the Army Reserves and was called to active duty in February 1941, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
During World War II, Captain Christy served with the 26th Infantry (Yankee) Division in Europe as part of the US Third Army under the legendary General George S. Patton. He served initially as a Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer and later as a Battalion Commander, a position he held throughout the remainder of the war. He participated in numerous battles as the US Third Army fought its way across Europe.
His heroics and personal bravery during combat in World War II are legendary. In early December 1944, Captain John J. Christy was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy while serving with Company L, 3d Battalion, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division. In the vicinity of Sarre Union, France, he made a personal reconnaissance patrol and led his unit forward under hostile mortar, machinegun and small arms fire to take a group of stubbornly defended buildings within the town. The enemy counter-attacked with ferocity and was repulsed with heavy losses.
In a subsequent battle during the period 26-31 December 1944, Captain Christy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations while serving as the Commander of Company L, 3d Battalion, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces at Kernsdorf, Luxembourg. Captain Christy led his company in assault boats across the Sure River, drove the enemy from the heights overlooking the river and established a firm bridgehead in the face of intense enemy resistance.
By skillful disposition of his men and brilliant leadership, Captain Christy drove back two hostile fanatical counterattacks, each time inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.
On 29 December 1944, in order to assure protection of the bridgehead, his unit was assigned the mission of seizing and securing enemy-held high ground positions near Hoacht, Luxembourg. Captain Christy’s splendid disposition and direction of his company resulted in heavy casualties upon the German forces, disrupting an enemy counterattack.
On the morning of 31 December 1944, the enemy brought up reinforcements and launched a spirited attack. In the face of German machine gun, mortar and artillery fire, Captain Christy moved among his men, heroically directing the Company’s fire power and supporting artillery with complete disregard for his personal safety. As a result of his bold leadership and sound tactical judgment, the enemy attack was repulsed; and the enemy attempts to drive into the Sure River bridgehead were thwarted.
Colonel Christy’s additional awards include the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. In 1946 he was honored by then Governor John Pastore who awarded him the Rhode Island Cross.
After the war, John served as the Chief Public Information Officer for the Army of the Pacific. His career culminated in his selection as the 1st Commandant of the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Colonel Christy was a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.
He retired from active duty in 1970 and was recognized in a personal letter from General William Westmoreland, Chief of Staff of the Army, for his distinguished career of service to our nation and the US Army. Upon Colonel Christy’s retirement, he became Executive Director of the Indiana Catholic Conference.
Colonel Christy spent his entire life serving his community and nation during peace and war. His exemplary devotion to duty, personal bravery and outstanding leadership is in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his family and the University of Rhode Island.
Colonel John J. Christy died in February 2011 and is buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.