Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: November 19, 2015

John Shirley, Captain, United States Army

John Shirley was born in Santa Ana, CA in December 1924. His father was a carpenter and a farmer; his mother was a nurse. He had two younger sisters.

John graduated from Newport Harbor High School in June 1942. He wanted to enlist immediately but his father urged him to get more education first. So he attended California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo CA for two semesters studying dairy science until he was drafted in February 1943.

After four months of infantry training at Camp Cooke, CA (now Vandenberg Air Force Base), John and three others in the class of 200 were promoted to Corporal and sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for additional training. Promoted to Sergeant, in April 1944 John was sent to join the 15th Infantry Regiment of the Third Division as a replacement on the Anzio-Nettuno Beachhead.

John participated in the battles to the beachhead breakout and to liberate Rome. He led his rifle squad in the invasion of Southern France and served as a Platoon Sergeant or Acting Platoon Leader as the Third Division fought to the Rhine River at Strasbourg, the first American division to reach the Rhine.

On 23 December 1944, John was wounded, captured, escaped by hitting his guard on the chin, and made his way back to American lines. After three months in hospitals in France and England, he returned to his regiment for the final battles in Southern Germany.

After the capture of Nuremberg, John was awarded a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. He ended his military service as Commander of L Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, in the Army of Occupation. In January 1946, he was discharged in the rank of Captain at Fort San Pedro, CA.

John’s military awards and decorations include a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart.

In 1947, he married Helen Freeman at her parents’ home in Berkeley, CA. They have five children, four grandchildren, and one great granddaughter.

In 1948, he entered the first class of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, CA on the GI Bill of Rights and received his DVM degree in 1952.

John is a former Mayor of Livermore, has been a member of the Livermore Rotary Club for 49 years, and served as its President in 1967-68.

In 1994, he introduced President Clinton during the 50th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremonies at the American Cemetery at Anzio-Nettuno.

On August 15, 2004 during the 60th anniversary commemoration of the invasion of Southern France, he received the French Legion of Honor from President Chirac aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.