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Jack Nealy


Date and Place of Birth: February 14, 1924 Langdale, AL
Date and Place of Death:    March 2, 1945 Iwo Jima
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: First Base
Rank: Private
Military Unit: Weapons Company, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, US Marine Corps
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Jack A. Nealy grew up in Fairfax, one of four Alabama textile mill towns (the others being Langdale, Riverview, and Shawmut) in the Chattahoochee Valley located halfway between Montgomery, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia. During the 1930s, the working day in Fairfax began with the shriek of whistles at the textile Mills, and West Point Manufacturing - one of the biggest names in the textile industry - provided the townsfolk with housing that they rented for a few dollars a month, plus whatever they needed in the way of recreation, churches, stores, jobs and schools.

Nealy played football and basketball at Fairfax High School, and played baseball in the Chattahoochee Valley League, in which each town had a mill-sponsored team. Baseball was a significant part of life in the valley at the time (a team representing Chattahoochee Valley was among those vying for a place when the Alabama State League was reformed in 1946), and Nealy was an up-and-coming star.

Following graduation, he went to work for Langdale Mill before signing with the Birmingham Barons of the Class Al Southern Association during the late summer of 1943. A first baseman, he played just one minor league game, failing to get a hit in his only at-bat. The following year he was with the Marine Corps in the Pacific.

Nealy was a radioman with the 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, at Iwo Jima. The 28th Marines landed at the southern-most beaches of Iwo Jima with the intention of isolating Mount Suribachi. In March 1945, the Chattahoochee Valley Times ran a story about Nealy fighting the Japanese. During the early days of the battle, a Japanese sniper was picking off the Marines unloading supplies on the southern landing beach. Nealy was sharing a foxhole with Private First Class Irving C. Birkemeyer, and Birkemeyer saw what appeared to be a slit on the sand terrace about 30 yards ahead of them. When he looked a second time, the slit had disappeared and three small rocks had taken its place. Nealy peered over the edge of the foxhole and confirmed the apparent optical illusion. "They replaced the rocks with a hand grenade and one more Jap was exterminated," reported the paper. This upbeat report appeared in the paper on March 14, 1945, twelve days after Private Jack Nealy had been killed in action. Private First Class Birkemeyer was killed in action the day after Nealy.

Jack Nealy's body was returned to the United States after the war and laid to rest in the family plot at Langdale Cemetery, even though he had lived most of his life in neighboring Fairfax. A wreath was placed on Nealy's grave during the 1961 Veterans Day memorial services with family and friends in attendance, as well as representatives of the Alabama National Guard. "He and others who sacrificed helped gain something for us," said John Schofield on the day, post chaplain of the Chattahoochee Valley American Legion. "Will we maintain it? ... What shall we the living do to honor the memory of those who fought and died for freedom?"














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Date Added February 3, 2012 Updated July 21, 2016

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