Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Status: Killed in action
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Minneapolis
1. Jack Steckman 2. Jack Steckman’s marker in the Florence American Cemetery
Jack Steckman was born December 7, 1912 in Virginia, Minnesota to parents John H. and Hilja Steckman. Both John and Hilja had immigrated from Finland around the turn of the 20th century. John and Hilja settled on Humboldt Avenue in Minneapolis where John found employment as a tailor and Hilja as a dressmaker. They had three children: Vera, Horace and Jack. Jack graduated from Minneapolis North High School in 1931 and went on to college to become a social worker.
After graduation, Jack was employed at the Well’s Memorial Settlement House, a non-profit institution formed by St. Mark’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. The House carried on many activities, including a free dispensary, mental clinic, pathology lab, TB clinic, kindergarten, day nursery, library and employment bureau. Jack was working at the Settlement House when he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940. He was 6’ tall, 174 pounds, with blue eyes and blond hair. For identifying marks, he noted that he had “scars all over body.”
It wasn’t long before Jack was a commissioned officer of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The purpose of tank destroyer units was to respond at high speed to enemy tank attacks. The 805th was shipped to the United Kingdom in August of 1942 and deployed for the North African Campaign in January of 1943. It took heavy losses at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in February, then fought at the Battle of El Guettar in March equipped with new M-10 tank destroyers.
The 805th became a “towed” battalion in October of 1943, which means its anti-tank guns were towed and not self-propelled. It became the first towed battalion with 3” anti-tank guns to see combat in Italy on the 25th of October in Naples. It supported the 34th Infantry Division in fighting on the Bernhardt Line and at Monte Cassino before being shipped to the Anzio beachhead in mid-March and attached to the 36th Infantry Division. On the 21st of April they helped to capture Bologna and then liberated Rome in early June.
In the meantime, before he left the U.S. Jack had married Esther Minnie Schroeder who waiting for him at home in Redwood, Minnesota. She had a child on November 28, 1943 but he was stillborn. They named him Eddy James Steckman.
Back in Italy, the Germans made their next stand along the Gothic Line in the north Apennine Mountains. The Allied force initiated a drive in September to break the Gothic Line, which took three months. The Italian Campaign involved some of the hardest fighting in the war and cost the U. S. forces 114,000 casualties. Among them was 2nd Lieutenant Jack Steckman, who was killed in action on October 27, 1944.
Jack was buried in Block H, Row 13, Grave 28 of the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Florence, Italy. He was 31 years old.