Branch of Service: Army
Service years: 1941-1943
Honors earned: Purple Heart
Glen Rock: Lived in Glen Rock on Princeton Place for 12 years
Richard Jacob Boonstra was born on December 3rd, 1915 in Paterson, NJ to Jacob S. Boonstra and Radia Ferwerda Boonstra. He attended school at the Riverside Christian School, an affiliation with the Fourth Christian Reformed Church of Paterson. In addition to earning good grades, Boonstra was also very active in school programs. After completing his education, Boonstra became a vegetable seller for Tice Youngsman in Fair Lawn, NJ and he eventually built up his own vegetable route in Glen Rock. Outside of his occupation, Boonstra held a strong interest in baseball and enjoyed pitching quoits and horseshoes. He helped serve others with his baseball talents by becoming the assistant coach of a team. This team was sponsored by the Harry Coopendyke Post No. 170 in Fair Lawn and was part of the Bergen County American Legion Baseball League. Boonstra grew up in Glen Rock with 6 siblings (4 brothers and 2 sisters). Richard was the youngest and the last child still living at home when he entered the service in 1941.
Richard Boonstra entered the army in 1941 in the third group from Ridgewood to be drafted during peacetime. He trained at Fort Dix, New Jersey as part of K company in the 47th regiment of the 9th infantry. Boonstra was part of the liberation of North Africa in Operation Torch, on November 8th, 1942. They landed in the town of Safi south of Casablanca, along the western Atlantic coast of Morroco. The first defenders they fought were French Vichy troops. As the men made their way into town they neared the area just south of the harbor where several army barracks were the main center of resistance. Company K was ordered to attack but was quickly pinned down by machine gun and rifle fire. French defenders in town counter-attacked them with three French FT Renault light tanks. Two of these were quickly knocked out with rifle grenades. The driver of the third tank was stunned by the explosions and action around him and drove his tank into a wall. The tanks were quickly seized by the Americans and the officer of K Company proceeded to count weapons and ammo. However, there was no need to worry. A section of 81mm mortars began firing onto the army barracks and at around 15:30 the French defenders ran up a white flag. They claimed they had been trying to surrender since half past two, but the American fire prevented them from putting up the flagpole! This was the first liberation of any Axis controlled city in the entire war.
The 47th infantry was put into more action in Sicily, on August 1, 1943, in Operation Husky, and Richard Boonstra was injured on August 5th in battle. In his last letter home to his parents on the day of his injury, he let them know his prognosis did not seem good. He passed from his wounds in a military hospital in Sicily on August 7th. A member of the 47th regiment of the 9th division talks about his experiences in Sicily here
Born: 1915, Paterson, NJ
Died: 1943, Palermo, Sicily