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John George Britvec

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. American will never forget their sacrifices."

Harry S. Truman

John George Britvec was born on October 3, 1924, to Matt Britvec and Agnes Crncich Britvec. His parents were both immigrants, Matt Britvec from Croatia and Agnes Crncich from Austria. The couple married in Marion County, West Virginia, in 1916. At the time of the 1920 Federal Census, the family lived in Monongalia County and included children Agnes and Katy. The 1930 census seems to indicate that the family was living apart. Matt Britvec was found living in Pennsylvania and working for the railroad. At the time of the 1940 census, the family was together once again and living in Monongalia County, with children Frank, Mary, John, and Steve. Matt Britvec and son Frank were working in the coal mines. Another Britvec family lived in Morgantown, whose family given names duplicated some of Matt and Agnes Britvec's family's names, so these were perhaps relatives who also honored other family members by repeating their names.

John Britvec registered for the draft on December 18, 1942. He stated that his employer was Morgantown Glass Company. Information given on the family's application for a military headstone indicates that he enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 21, 1943. According to the same source, John Britvec served with the Army's 15th Infantry, 3rd Division.

In May of 1944, it's likely that John Britvec was with the 3rd on the beach at Anzio, Italy, and had been there since January. The Allies had made a landing there and lived in uneasy tension with the Germans. The Allies would not be driven from the beach, but neither could they go anywhere. They occupied it, sometimes living fairly leisurely, and readily receiving supplies much of the time, but there were periodic German counterattacks that resulted in many casualties. Much of living was done in foxholes and trenches. According to one comprehensive history of the 3rd Division,

After a brief rest, the division was part of the amphibious landing at Anzio, codenamed Operation Shingle, on 22 January 1944, still as part of VI Corps, and serving alongside the British 1st Infantry Division and other units. It would remain there for just under four months in a toe-hold against numerous furious German counterattacks, and enduring trench warfare similar to that suffered on the Western Front during World War I. On 29 February 1944, the 3rd Division fought off an attack by three German divisions, who fell back with heavy losses two days later. In a single day of combat at Anzio, the 3rd Infantry Division suffered more than 900 casualties, the most of any American division on one day in World War II. The division's former commander, Major General Lucas, was replaced as commander of VI Corps by the 3rd Division's commander, Major General Truscott. He was replaced in command of the 3rd Division by Brigadier General John W. "Iron Mike" O'Daniel, previously the assistant division commander (ADC) and a distinguished World War I veteran. ("3rd Infantry Division [United States]," Wikipedia, accessed 12 March 2018,

As part of a coordinated and multi-objective attack, the Allies began a series of movements meant to result in the Allies reaching Rome. The VI Corps would begin its role by, at long last, breaking out of the beachhead, to take Cisterna.

For the next three months, a lull settled over Anzio. Both sides were exhausted and could not conduct major operations. On May 5, Gen Truscott ordered VI Corps to prepare for their breakout offensive and on May 23, the 1st Armored Division with the 3rd Division in support, broke through the main German line. VI Corps quickly encircled Cisterna and attacked the trapped German forces. Fighting was heavy in the town but on May 25, German resistance ended and the Allies controlled Cisterna.

The price for Cisterna was heavy. The 1st Armored Division lost 100 tanks in the first day. VI Corps suffered over 4,000 casualties. With Cisterna secured, the 3rd Division was ordered to link up with the 1st Special Service Force and advance on Valmontone where they would attempt to destroy the German 10th Army. Valmontone was captured by the 3rd Division but the 10th Army escaped north. VI Corps rejoined the 5th Army and was ordered to advance on Rome. The 3rd Division, along with the 85th and 88th Infantry Divisions, reached the outskirts of Rome on June 4, 1944 encountering only light resistance. On June 5, the 5th Army entered Rome and was met by throngs of jubilant Italians. The 5th Army remained in Rome only a few days, then continued north after the retreating Germans. ("The Third Infantry Division in World War II," accessed 19 March 2018,

Private First Class John Britvec would not go with them. Sometime on May 23, 1944, the West Virginian lost his life.

Much is known about this battle because Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier during World War II, served in the 15th. Murphy returned to the U.S., wrote his memoirs, and starred as himself in the movie based on his book, To Hell and Back. He was awarded 44 medals due to actions he took while fighting with the 15th in World War II. The following passage is indicative of the ferociousness of the fighting and the objectives placed before the 15th Infantry, 3rd Division:

The 3rd Division was in combat for 531 consecutive days. Its soldiers earned 36 Medal of Honors during World War II. At Anzio the Division fought off three German divisions. While there it suffered more than 900 casualties, the most in one day of any division in World War II. The enemy called them the "Blue and White Devils." The most highly decorated soldier of the war, LT Audie Murphy served with the 15th Infantry Regiment. ("WW2 History of the 3rd 'Marne' Division [based on the booklet Blue and White Devils]," The Italian Campaign of World War 2, accessed 12 March 2018,

John Britvec is buried in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, West Virginia, near his parents.

Military headstone, now weathered, for John Britvec, East Oak Grove Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
December 2017


John George Britvec

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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