The Fathers Who Never Came Home: And the American WWII Orphans Network

John Charles Eisenhauer, WWII US Army 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment, K Company.


Some men came home from WWII and had children.  Some men went to war already having children and never came back.


John Charles Eisenhauer was born in New York City, New York, on March 23, 1917.  He was a New York Giants baseball fan, collected stamps, was interested in photography, listened to Jack Benny and Bob Hope on the radio, and enjoyed western movies starring Gene Autry and The Lone Ranger.  He and his friends sailed model sailboats on Jackson Pond in Richmond Hill, New York.  John had a Flying Cloud model sailboat he named “Comet.”

John and his cousin were sanding a chair for their grandmother in January 1941 when he heard his draft number called on the radio.  He was inducted into the United States (US) Army 9th Infantry Division (ID), 60th Infantry Regiment, K Company, and was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

In the late 1930s John had met Dorothy Krumm, a New York City Flower 5th Avenue Hospital nursing student, on a blind date.  On February 7, 1942, Dorothy and John were married in Dillon, South Carolina.

October 23, 1942, John sailed with the 9th ID from Virginia on the United States Ship Susan B. Anthony.  They landed at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, as part of the WWII North African Campaign Operation Torch which began on November 8, 1942.

November 9, 1942, John’s daughter, Gail, was born.

In May 1943 the 9th ID moved from French Algeria and French Morocco to Tunisia and then to Sicily in July 1943.  John and his unit sailed to England in November 1943 and prepared for the upcoming invasion of Europe.  June 10, 1944, D-Day plus 4, the 9th ID landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.

John received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant in late June 1944.

The Allied push continued through France, Belgium, and into Germany.

The Battle of Hurtgen Forest (Schlacht im Hurtgenwald in German) was fought from September 1944 to February 1945.  The Hurtgen Forest is approximately 50 square miles in size and east of the Belgium-German border.  The densely wooded area made Allied artillery and air support problematic. It was also heavily fortified by the Germans.  It was the longest battle of WWII fought on German soil. 

During the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, Second Lieutenant John Eisenhauer was mortally wounded on September 27, 1944, when he and his company attempted to capture a German pillbox.

John never met and held his daughter.  His body was not found until 1948.  He is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium.

Gail Eisenhauer first visited her father’s grave in 1981. She has returned several times since then.  Her regret …”I wish I had had the privilege of knowing him.  And I wish he had lived long enough to get to know me.”  Gail inherited and treasures “Comet,” her father’s sailboat.


Gail Eisenhauer with Marie, a young Belgian girl, at a Memorial Day ceremony in 2015 at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. Citizens in Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg have “adopted” WWII American graves at American cemeteries in their country.


The American WWII Orphans Network (AWON) was founded in 1991 by Ann Bennett Mix who is herself a WWII orphan.  The government defines “war orphan” as a child who has lost one or both parents in war.  It is estimated that 183,000 American children were left fatherless as a result of WWII.  The organization has assisted the orphaned children and family members by providing support and in locating information about those fathers killed in action or missing in action in WWII.



Story and photographs are published with the permission of Gail Eisenhauer and the Achten family. 

For more information about AWON visit

Yuri Beckers, a 38 year old Dutch man, has created a WWII website with in-depth information about the US Army 9th ID and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.  See