Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: March 24, 2016

Sgt. Jack O'Conner 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment - 11th Airborne Division

Jack was born in Ross, CA on New Year's Eve, 1926.  His father worked for the Bank of Italy which later became the Bank of America; his mother was a housewife.  They had three sons; Jack was the middle child.

He attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley in the Class of 1945 where he was a High School All-American in football.  Drafted before graduation, he was inducted at San Rafael and sent to Camp Roberts near San Luis Obispo for processing.  Jack went through Infantry Basic Training at Ft. Benning, GA and then volunteered for jump training at the adjacent parachute school.

Assigned to the 11th Airborne Division, he departed the US from Fort Lewis, WA via a troop ship to Okinawa.  The ship anchored offshore awaiting the start of Operation Olympic, the first stage of the planned invasion of Japan’s southernmost main island (Kyushu) in October 1945.

In 1945 on:
-- 6 August, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
-- 8 August, the USSR declared war on Japan.
-- 9 August, the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki and the USSR invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchuko.
-- 15 August, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies.
-- 2 September, Japan formally signed the surrender documents aboard the battleship USS Missouri moored in Tokyo Bay.

Soon thereafter, Jack landed in Japan at Yokohama.  He was based at Morioka on northern Honshu (Japan’s largest island) as part of US Occupation Troops.  Sent to language school in Tokyo, he learned Japanese and participated in small-unit court martials as an interpreter.

He participated in one regimental-sized demonstration jump in Japan.  The US sent a film of this jump to the USSR as a warning to forget any intentions it might have of invading Japan’s home islands.

Jack made a total of seven jumps, five in training and two in Japan.  After more than two years in Japan, he returned via troop ship to San Francisco.  In May 1947, he was discharged in the rank of Sergeant at Camp Beale which is now Beale Air Force Base near Yuba City.

Initially; he tried out for the San Francisco 49'ers; this lasted all of five days.

Because he had a younger brother to support, he went directly to work for CAL PAC CORP which later became Del Monte Corporation.  He started as a sales trainee and rose to become Executive VP of Sales and Marketing.  After 35 years with Del Monte, he conducted a study on the feasibility of acquiring the Granny Goose potato chips company.  When this was done, he was appointed as the acquisition’s President and CEO.  After eight years, Granny Goose was sold and Jack returned to Del Monte Corporation.

In 1948, Jack married Evelyn Merviani in Fairfax; they had two sons.  Jack resides with one of his sons in Moraga.