By: John Cuddy – 7/23
Lawrence’s James George Hajjar, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the Plains neighborhood in Lawrence, a community of Lebanese, Sicilian, and Irish, a few blocks northwest of Campagnone Common, named after three Lawrence brothers, who were killed in the Normandy Campaign of World War II.
James Hajjar graduated from Central Catholic HS in the Class of 1946, the first class in a decade that was not old enough to serve in the Second World War. He then graduated from Merrimack College in their first class in 1951.
Shortly thereafter, he entered Boston College Law School, intent on becoming an attorney. The US Army interrupted the pursuit of this goal, by drafting him during the Korean Conflict. With a college degree and a year of law school under his belt, he was asked to consider serving as an investigator in the US Army Investigations Division.
The unit formed at the end of the war in Europe was called the US Army Counterintelligence Corps (Army CIC). James told me that his preference was to serve in the newly formed US Air Force, (the US Army Air Corp separated from the Army in 1947). His draft notice from the US Army beat his acceptance into the US Air Force by one day, arriving first and sealing his fate as a US Army Draftee.
Notable US Army CIC Veterans include a very eclectic group – novelist JD Salinger, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and roller derby promoter Jerry Seltzer. Two Americans of Japanese descent, Richard Motoso Sakakida and Arthur S. Komori are legends in the Army’s CIC community, for their heroism during World War II.
Komori ended his career as a Judge; Sakakida an Air Force Colonel. Most CIC Veterans feel Sakakida should have received the Medal of Honor, but Army bureaucracy and maybe even racism prevented that from happening.
After completing Basic at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Hajjar trained at Fort Holabird, Maryland as a US Army CIC investigator. His mission would be to contain the Russians and the Communists in Eastern Europe, rather than fight the Chinese and North Koreans in the mountains of Korea. After completing the Army’s CIC investigator school, he was sent to Germany to stop the spread of communism in Europe. He was trained to use listening devices, pick locks, and observe behavior.
Sent to post-war Europe and posted in West Germany, he spent his days observing, transporting, and even assisting in interviewing, a mix of Germans and Eastern Europeans to contain the Russians. James accomplished this without any fluency in the German, or any European language.
He served his two years of required US Military service and was a Corporal or Technician 5th Grade when he was discharged Honorably. The rank of Technician 5th Grade no longer exists, he was addressed as “Corporal”, but was paid equivalent to a Sergeant. The rank was used post war for technical specialties such as a CIC Investigator. James was awarded the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp and the National Defense Medal.
He recalls the war damage he saw throughout Germany, the German people always staring at him, and an indifference to the events of World War II by most of the German population. After serving his time in the US Army, almost all of it in Europe, James returned home. Eager to use his GI Bill to complete Law school, he enrolled as a second-year student at Suffolk University’s Law School.
This young Veteran then spent the next few years working third shift at Merrimack Paper in Lawrence, sleeping, and studying for a few hours, then catching the train into Boston to attend Suffolk Law at night, sprinting to the station after class to catch the last train back to Lawrence to work in the paper mill until morning.
In addition to his practice of law in Lawrence for 56 years, he served his community as chief of staff to Mayor Daniel Kiley and later as an assistant clerk in Lawrence District Court. He has served as chair of the board of directors of American Training, Inc. in Andover, MA since its inception many years ago.
One of the most influential public figures in James’ life was the famed baseball player who broke the color barrier – Jackie Robinson. James saw him play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In his own life, James personally experienced episodes of discrimination based on his Lebanese heritage. These experiences drove him to serve the less fortunate and to always support the underdogs he met along the way. He often cites Robinson’s quote, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
James Hajjar is a Veteran, 60-year Lawrence Lion, a Lawyer, a father, grandfather, and great grandfather, truly a hero in our midst.
The staff of the Valley Patriot thank James’s son Todd, (also a lawyer) and fellow attorney Mike Torrisi for their invaluable assistance writing this. A special thanks to Mike’s dad, Angelo, and the crew of the US Army Air Corp Bomber “Miss Nadine” for saving the World in 1945!
All the Merrimack Valley’s American Legion Posts ask all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, Veterans, and the Community, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations and serving all Veterans and their families.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 26 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com ◊