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James Thomas Rasco

Beckley Post-Herald

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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James Thomas Rasco
1923-1943

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King Jr.

U.S. Army Private James Thomas Rasco was born on March 29, 1923, in Pike, Kentucky. Instead of calling him “James,” his family members opted to call him by his nickname “Jack.” Jack was the son of Marvin Thomas Rasco and Maude Jacobs Rasco. He was the youngest sibling of two, his older sisters being Edna Louise Rasco Pack and Sarah Nell Rasco Kelly. Jack’s niece, Betty Willis, said that the Rasco family was originally from Alabama, but Marvin Rasco moved to Kentucky, stayed a bit, and then moved to West Virginia to pursue his coal mining occupation. James “Jack” Rasco was about ten years old when he came to Sullivan, Raleigh County, West Virginia. He was the type of person who loved being outdoors. Growing up, he built a little home-made cabin from scratch near his parents’ house, using any type of stick he could find in the woods. He was imaginative.

Jack pursued his education for three years at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley. After graduating, he went on to marry Florence Buskirk in 1942, as indicated in West Virginia marriage records, at the age of nineteen. According to his U.S. Army World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-46, his profession before going to war was, like that of his father, as a semiskilled miner. In addition to being a miner, he also operated mining machines. On April 16, 1943, his child, Jack Rasco, was born. Unfortunately, his child only went on to live for three days. Baby Jack died on April 19, 1943. By the time Baby Jack was born, James Thomas Rasco had already enlisted for World War II on January 29 in Huntington, West Virginia.

Jack was included in the 4th Signal Battalion Headquarters Company during World War II. He served in the U.S. Army as a private. Signal companies were charged not only with communications among the various army units, they also were responsible for recording events via newsletters, still photos, and film. The 4th Signal Company participated in most of the major western European operations, including Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the final campaigns in Germany, so it appears that Jack would have seen much of the action first-hand.

Ironically, James Thomas “Jack” Rasco did not die in battle. He died at the age of 22 on August 17, 1945, in Arolsen, Germany. By this time, the war in Europe had ended on May 8, 1945. From the time between July 17 and August 2, the Potsdam Conference had mandated that Germany be separated into four occupational zones for the Allies, which were France, Britain, the U.S., and Soviet Russia. Arolsen (which was called Bad Arolsen until 1997), a town located in northern Hesse, was under U.S. occupation. It can be assumed that James passed away from some sort of disease or accidental injury due to friendly fire. His family members were in total shock at the news of his death. His niece Betty Willis reports that his mother was especially affected by his passing; as is often said of service casualties, she was never the same after his death. Jack’s body was returned to his family five years later; he was buried at Sunset Memorial Park, in Beckley, West Virginia.

Betty Pack Willis, Carolyn Pack Callopi, and Marvin L. Pack are the daughters and son of Edna Louise Rasco Pack and her husband Leeburn. Peggy Kelly Truman, Gaynell Kelly Love Bartleson, and Robert M. Kelly are the daughters and son of Sarah Nell Rasco Kelly and her husband Gayle. These nieces and nephews have maintained an interest in Jack’s life and have attempted to keep his memory alive for future generations.

Article prepared by Nour Foual, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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James Thomas Rasco

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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