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The Early Years: From Duluth to the Marines
United States Marine Corps Sergeant James Joseph Hubert, killed in the Battle of Tarawa, has now been accounted for and will be repatriated home to Duluth this summer of 2017.
Sgt. Hubert was born in Duluth, Minnesota to Mary Harriet (Arseneau) Hubert and Wallace Leon Hubert on August 12, 1921. He had a younger sister: Elizabeth Jane. He attended school in Duluth and worked a variety of jobs, including the Northern Cold Storage Co., where his father was employed. In his job applications, he described himself as a ‘laborer’.
The life story of James Joseph Hubert is similar to that of hundreds of thousands of young men of that period. His childhood and early adolescence was spent in the 1920s, his teen years were in the 1930s. He came from a Lincoln Park working class family; he had a solid home life but with few luxuries. Employment opportunities were almost nil and mostly sporadic during the Great Depression. Skills training programs were nearly non-existent and competition was keen for limited slots in programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Travel was also out of the question; there weren’t funds for such adventures. Enlistment in the Armed Forces offered employment, skills training, the possibility for travel and exploration. It appealed to a young person’s sense of patriotism and love of country. It offered an opportunity to be a part of something larger than self, family, neighborhood, school or region.
James Joseph Hubert enlisted in the 50th Division, United States Navy Reserve, in Duluth on September 5, 1938, and was awarded the rank of Apprentice Seaman (AS). He served a two-week tour of active duty on board the USS Wilmington during July-August, 1939. The Wilmington was a Spanish American War era gunboat that was stationed on the Great Lakes for the purpose of training naval reservists. He was honorably discharged from the Navy Reserve in early 1940 to embark on an even more patriotic endeavor.
On the same day of his discharge from the Navy Reserve, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and assigned the rank of Private (Pvt). His parents’ consent was required for enlistment because he was under the age of 21. Pvt. Hubert completed his Marine Corps basic training at the Recruit Depot Detachment at San Diego, California and qualified as a ‘Marksman’ with the Springfield model 1903 .30-06 caliber rifle.
During the summer of 1940 he was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Elliot, San Diego; a unit he remained with for the remainder of his Marine Corps Service. In September of 1940, Pvt. Hubert was promoted to Private First Class (PFC). In February 1941, he learned that he now had another sister, Mary Katherine, 20 years younger than himself whom he would ultimately never get to see. Later that year, in November, he was promoted to Corporal (Cpl).
Family photos of that period show a handsome young man, almost always smiling. Pictures in his Marine Corps uniforms and in sharp civilian clothing depict someone full of life. He contacted numerous family members who had earlier left Minnesota, and spent happy times with them. Life in sunny southern California wasn’t all work. His extended family included him in many of their gatherings.
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