US Army – World War II
June 24, 1943 – Oct. 29, 1945
American Theater of Operations Service Ribbon, European African Middle Eastern Service Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, and Victory Medal. He was discharged Oct. 29, 1945.
Jim Ratliff was inducted into the U.S. Army on June 10, 1943 and began active service June 24, 1943 as a Tech 4 of the 576th Engineering Maintenance Company.
He served under General Patton of the 3rd U.S. Army and was in the following campaigns: Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.
There are many different opinions of General Patton, but Jim respected him for the fact that he would not send his men anywhere that he would not go himself.
Jim was with the division that liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp close to Weimer, Germany, on April 11, 1945. They liberated 21,000 prisoners – among them 4,000 Jews and 1,000 children. The camp had held as many as 80,000 prisoners in late March, 1945.
The Germans had started evacuating the camp April 6, 1945, and thousands died in the evacuation. Prisoners were in a terrible condition – most near death from starvation and extreme conditions. They laid five in a bunk; many times they laid next to a dead person for several days before the dead were removed. Some were nursed back to health; others did not survive.
One of the worst atrocities that Jim saw during the war was one of the concentration camps they came upon had been burned out when they knew the Americans were advancing. Charred children’s bodies were still hanging on the fence where they had tried to climb out and were burned to death on the fence.
Jim was lucky to have not been wounded seriously.
He did have a large shell explode close to him which broke his ear drum and he could not hear out of it after that.
He received a small stipend for that injury after he was out of the service.
Jim’s wife divorced him while he was fighting for his country so he did not have a lot to come home to.
He came home to a broken marriage, plus having to relive the atrocities of the war every day of his life.
The Ratliff family is proud that he served his country in time of need and did it well.