A Tribute to the Local Heroes of
WORLD WAR II Me m o r i a l D ay 2 0 1 3
$1 A special supplement to The News Photo courtesy of Ezellâ€™s Studios
2 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
A note from the publisher
TAble of Contents Pacific Theater
We often forget just how much so many have sacrificed for us to be able to enjoy the rich bounties this nation offers. My wife’s grandfather is a member of the Greatest Generation, and is truly a great American. It was not until recently that he spoke with our family about some of what he endured during his years of serving in the Army in the European Theater during World War II. His stories of some of the situations he both suffered and persevered through battle resonated with me in ways that other media has previously failed to do. A.I. Smith, like so many of our CHARLES HILL citizens, valiantly defended MORRIS, JR. our country’s freedoms and sovereignty against those that wanted to see its successes vanquished and its citizenry controlled. It is out of a sense of awe and respect that we at The Covington News and The Rockdale News felt the need to begin memorializing our community’s veterans. This is especially urgent for World War II veterans, who are being lost at a rate of 600 a day. This Memorial Day, we will produce our first print publication and launch our permanent online repository of articles, photos and videos that honor those who have done so much for all of us. The staff and I feel this is the least we can do, as a thank you to those who protect our freedoms. Sincerely,
Marine recon survives brutal Pacific battles By Pete Mecca
By Pete Mecca
Fighting for justice at Gaudalcanal By Pete Mecca
Surviving the the Day of Infamy
Tanker survives ‘The Burning Grave’
Miracle over Europe
6By Pete Mecca By Pete Mecca
Italian/N. African Theater
Keeping the fires burning at home By Jessica Smith
Tuskegee Airman on the fight to serve
Surviving ‘The Battle for Anzio’
By Bryan Fazio
By Pete Mecca
Thank you to Pete Mecca, author of “A Veteran’s Story” series. For more Veteran’s Stories, go to www.aveteransstory.us
Charles Hill Morris, Jr.
Missing in jungles of Burma By Pete Mecca
By Pete Mecca
fights along11 Garrison side Chinese
James F. Fleming
THANKS for your
Sacrifice Bravery Freedom acts of
and for our
Newton County Sheriff’s Office – Ezell Brown, Sheriff
With dedication and courage, you have put yourself in harm's way in order to protect the freedom we hold so dear. For this, you have our admiration and heartfelt gratitute. May God bless each of you!
Clerk of Superior Court Newton County
Linda D. Hays
A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Marine recon survives brutal Pacific battles T
he Hawaiian Islands and Philippine Archipelago were familiar in name only to most Americans on Dec. 7, 1941, but even fewer recognized the names of locations where men died: Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Bataan, and Corregidor, to mention a few. Other Pacific Islands in the middle of nowhere soon shaped dinner conversations on the home front: Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Guam, Eniwetok, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Lesser-publicized Pacific battles faded into history as the island-hopping campaign moved ever closer to mainland Japan. American boys fought, died and far too many attained the inglorious title of MIA for eternity on specks of sand or in dense jungles with names like Buna-Gona, Huon Peninsula, Tarakan, Balikpapan, Vella Lavella, Noemfoor, and Morotai. Ralph Dunlap landed and reconnoitered Japanese-controlled islands in the middle of nowhere as a member of Marine recon. Armed only with a Ka-bar knife, Dunlap and the crafty warriors of Marine recon gathered pre-invasion intelligence in an attempt to lessen the casualties amongst the landing forces hitting the beaches. Slipping ashore in a rubber dingy or silently breast-stroking through shark-infested waters, Dunlap surveyed 50 Pacific Islands. “They weren’t all occupied,” he said. “But problem was, several of the ‘uninhabited’ islands turned out to be occupied. We were told Yogachi Shima was uninhabited, but nobody told the 300 Japanese on the island that they weren’t there. They blew two of our boats out of the water.” Dunlap spoke of Saipan.
“The island was scenic, but war had destroyed a good bit of that beauty.” Pausing to grin, Dunlap recalled, “The Japs had built a sake (liquor) distillery in Naha, Saipan’s capital. The boys who took the distillery consumed ‘the spoils of war,’ so to speak. “They weren’t in fighting condition for two days. The brass was upset, to say the least.” Dunlap reconnoitered atolls, coral reefs, and jagged rock-strewn islands with names like Tsuken Shima, Takabonari, Zamami Shima, Iki Shima, Kangoku Rock, and dozens more. He recalled one small island Marine recon surveyed named Ie Shima. “It was near Okinawa,” Dunlap said. “We were there when Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed. He was called ‘the soldier’s reporter,’ but the truth is most of the grunts on Ie Shima didn’t mourn for Ernie. He was another guy, just another casualty, one more American lost on a God-forsaken Pacific Island. I know that sounds cold-hearted, but war numbs your senses. It drains your humanity, and death soon becomes an acceptable way of life.” Dunlap and the pathfinders of Marine recon helped pave the way for other 18-year-old Marines packed like sardines in fully-loaded Higgins boats, all praying, all dreaming of home or a sweetheart, all thinking the “other guy” wouldn’t make it out. Dunlap’s monthly Marine salary was $50. Dunlap’s recon unit has periodic reunions in New Orleans. At the first reunion, 300 Marines met to reminisce. Last year, there were fewer than 40. - Pete Mecca
Submitted photos /The News
Ralph Dunlap as a young Marine (left). Dunlap and his bride
4 l A Tribute to Heroes of World War II
Fighting for justice at Gaudalcanal
fter Pearl Harbor, African-Americans wanted to fight for their country. A select few obtained the toughest training available: the U.S. Marine Corps. Recruiting began on June 1, 1942. Black men volunteered in droves, but under segregation, they were trained separately in a snake-infested area of Camp Lejeune, N.C., called Montford Point. Theodore R. Britton was one of the select few. He recalled, “I wanted the best; I wanted the United States Marine Corps.” His path to becoming a Marine was fraught with stereotypes. Britton recalled, “The Commandant of the Marines, Thomas Holcomb, publicly stated that if given a choice between 5,000 white Marines versus 500,000 black Marines, he’d rather have white Marines because black men can’t fight.”
The Montford Point Marines did their share of walking through hostile territory in the South Pacific, but primarily as support troops, stretcher bearers, and ammo carriers. They finally entered combat on the island of Saipan. The new Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. Alexander A. Vandergrift, after reviewing reports of conspicuous gallantry by black Marines, announced, “Negro Marines are no longer on trial. They are Marines, period!” Britton served on Guadalcanal for eight months. “The fighting was over, so I frequented the library. I fell in love with books and read everything I could get my hands on: philosophy, geography, chemistry and history, among others. Books whetted my interest in international affairs and diplomacy.” After the war, Britton earned a degree from
NYU in banking and finance. He covered several Central American countries for the American Baptist Convention. After serving in England and Spain to achieve expertise in housing, he accepted a job at the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the recommendation of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, Britton received an ambassadorship in 1974 to Barbados and Grenada. He served as Special Representative to Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. Ambassador Britton has visited more than 150 countries, served in peace initiatives in the Middle East, and in 2009 was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by Kristal University in Tirana, Albania. From a sermon by Chaplain Roland Gittlesohn at the dedication of the Iwo Jima cem-
The Mayor and City Council of the City of Porterdale honor the sacred memory of the 21 Newton County servicemen, those of “The Greatest Generation,” killed in action during World War II. In honor of all of our men and women who served, the City dedicated its newest park, “The Porterdale Veterans’ Memorial Park,” in February of 2013.
Submitted photo /The News
Theodore Britton as a young Marine.
etery, 1945: “We dedicate ourselves, first, to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried in war. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews, together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudice. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.” - Pete Mecca
5 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Surviving the the Day of Infamy
amilton Field near San Francisco: 9 p.m. Unarmed and unescorted, with fuel tanks filled to the max, 13 B-17 Flying Fortresses take off at 15-minute intervals. The heavy bombers would fly all night across the vast Pacific Ocean. Fifteen hours later and low on fuel, a B-17 began its base leg approach straight down the canal toward the airfield. A 21-year-old co-pilot glanced at his watch: 8 a.m. The date: Dec. 7, 1941. Ten minutes earlier, at 7:50 a.m., Imperial Japanese Commander Mitsuo Fuchida had slid back the canopy on a Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bomber and fired a green flare to signal the attack on America’s Pacific Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. Second Lt. Ernest “Roy” Reid, the young co-pilot of the B-17, noticed thick, black, oily smoke billowing above the harbor. He recalled, “I asked the pilot what the
heck was going on. He told me, ‘It’s the local natives burning sugar cane.’ I kept thinking, ‘When did they start growing sugar cane on water?’” Now at 600 feet and turning for a final approach, Reid was shocked by what he saw on Hickam Field in Hawaii. “There were at least six planes burning fiercely on the ground. I knew we were at war.” To confirm his conclusion, two Japanese fighters jumped the B-17 and raked it with machine gun fire. Reid said, “Tracer bullets poured by our wings and filled the inside with lead. We went full-throttle with the thought of heading for cloud cover, but the ship started filling with smoke. We realized we had no choice but to land.” The tracers had ignited the pyrotechnics amid ships. The pilot yanked the throttles off and Reid popped the landing gear. He said, “We hit the ground hard and
bounced because we couldn’t see much due to the smoke. Then the tail came down. The bomber buckled and broke apart in the middle where the fire had burned through.” The crew scrambled out of the damaged bomber and ran for safety. Their flight surgeon, 1st Lt. William Schick, was aboard Reid’s B-17 and had received a leg wound. Lt. Schick was still able to run, but a Japanese Zero piloted by PO1c Takashi Hirano strafed the airfield and mortally wounded the young surgeon. Notwithstanding, Hirano’s Zero was too low and failed to pull up. With its belly tank crushed and blade tips on the propeller bent, the Zero spiraled out of control. Hirano died in the crash. With singed hair and minimal wounds, the crew did what they could on that “Day of Infamy,” then hunkered down to survive the second attack wave by the Japanese. Reid sent what was possibly the last wireless cable out of Pearl Harbor on Dec.
Submitted photo /The News
Roy Reid was co-pilot of the first plane shot down at Pearl Harbor.
7, 1941. To his wife, it read: “Am safe, Wire Mother, Love Roy.” Roy Reid continued the war in the Pacific as the commander of his own B-17. He completed 50 combat missions. As co-pilot of the B-17 that broke apart on Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Reid is credited with being a crewmember of the first American airplane shot down in World War II. - Pete Mecca
Though words could never repay the immeasurable debt of gratitude we owe, we salute you and say “Thank You.” You are true heroes, and we are forever grateful for your sacrifices.
770-786-7062 www.caldwellandcowan.com 770-787-8314
1215 Access Road & 3134 Floyd Street Covington, GA
6 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Tanker survives ‘The Burning Grave’
uring the Civil War, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman suffered a ‘‘breakdown” and was sent home on leave to recover. A sufferer of depression and mood swings, Sherman endured the humiliation of being labeled ‘‘insane’’ by the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper. At Vicksburg, journalists referred to Sherman as a “lunatic.” Via the ‘lend-lease’ program during World War II, England named American tanks after Civil War generals. The Medium Tank M4 was christened the Sherman. The moniker stuck. So did references to their crews as “insane” or “lunatics.” The Shermans guzzled highly flammable gasoline; the German Panzers used safer diesel. A round from a Sherman bounced off a Panzer’s thick armor, but a high-velocity round from a Panzer effortlessly penetrated a Sherman’s thin armor. The Germans dubbed British soldiers “Tommies” and their Sherman tanks “Tommycookers.” The Ronson cigarette lighter carried by our GIs advertised its reliability with the phrase, “Lights first time, every time.’’ American and British boys called the Sherman the “Ronson.” Polish tankers were more poignant; they called the Sherman “The Burning Grave.” Freeman Barber survived World War II in a Sherman tanker in Europe. That he lived to tell the tale is a testament to skill, cunning and bunches of luck. World War II was Barber’s first time away from home. “I sailed on a Liberty ship from New Jersey across the pond,’’ he said. “One night, we had pork chops for dinner, hit rough seas, lost the pork chops.” Barber disembarked at Lehavre, France, with the 8th Armored Division and entered the fray. German Panzers weren’t the only threat. Barber recalled, “Their 88mm anti-aircraft gun was a frightful weapon. They’d just level the barrel and pick off Shermans like sitting ducks.”
Submitted photo /The News
(Clockwise) Sherman Tanks lined up (Bottom) Freeman Barber as a young solder. Pete Mecca /The News
Freeman Barber today.
In early 1945, Allied forces reached the Rhine River. Freeman said, “I watched 17 Shermans attempt to cross the Rhine; only two made it. Our company commander said, ‘No way my men are trying that,’ and we didn’t, thank God.” During one encounter, the 75mm gun on Barber’s Sherman jammed. “I tried to retrieve a bell-housing type rod we used to clear the barrel,” he said. “Machine gun rounds were ‘bing, bing, binging’ off the side of our tank. Thank goodness another Sherman neutralized that threat before one of those bings binged me.” Weeks later on a snowy mountain route, Barber was topside when an 88mm shell whizzed over his head. He said, “Before I had time to react, another round hit below us. Then I saw a vivid blue flash coming right at me. It missed my head by inches.” The camouflaged anti-aircraft gun was quickly obliterated. Barber was the crew’s forager. He re-
called, “Moving through a German village, I jumped off the tank and went inside a house to forage for food. The phone
kept ringing, so I finally answered the darn thing. A German officer on the other end wanted the coordinates on our Sherman for his mortar crew. “I spoke a little German so I told him, ‘I don’t have time to mess with you,’ and hung up the phone. Bet that upset him a bit.” In closing, Barber said, “Uh, did I tell you how I almost burned down the General’s house at Fort Knox?” - Pete Mecca
Home of the Free Because of the Brave! Your courage and dedication mean more than words can say.
7 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Miracle over Europe
s in life, there are miracles in war. dangerously low, so I was able to watch Jim Armstrong’s exploits as a the bomber glide down. It never banked or B-17 pilot speak volumes about nosedived; it stayed level as if landing itself. amazing survival, but one of his waist gun- I couldn’t believe it. She made a perfect ners, Olen Grant, lived to tell belly-landing, wheels up, in a story beyond belief. a sugar beet field all by her Sept. 6, 1943 – Stuttgart, lonesome.” Germany: Of 338 B-17s that The sugar beet field was bomb Stuttgart that day, at next to an airfield near the least 45 Flying Fortresses and town of Etrepagny in Northeir crews are lost. Not one mandy. The Germans disbomb hit the intended target. patched troops and a French German fighters ambush ambulance to the scene, Jim Armstrong and his crew thinking an American pilot immediately after the disashad crash-landed the B-17, trous bombing run. which meant possible survi“They shot us to pieces,” vors were aboard, and more Submitted photo /The News he said. “I tried to reach cloud importantly, feasible intelliJim Armstrong as a young pilot cover, but we didn’t quite gence material. make it.” French firemen extinFire erupts behind the piguished the flames, and lot’s seat. Armstrong’s hair is singed, his the Germans searched for survivors. Olen face and hands burned. Waist gunner Olen Grant was still alive. Helped to his feet, Grant takes a round in his right temple that Grant walked out of the B-17 under his own exits through his right eyeball. Attempting power into the waiting ambulance. Bleedto aid Grant, the top turret gunner dies in- ing profusely, his right eyeball dangling on stantly from a round through his head. his right cheek, Grant was taken to a local As the German fighters press the attack, hospital, stabilized, then ferried to a GerPilot Armstrong knows the B-17 is doomed. man Air Force (Luftwaffe) hospital in Paris. He orders ‘‘hit the silk’’ over German-occuHis right eye could not be saved, but pied France. Grant made a complete recovery and evenFor better chances of survival, Arm- tually came home in a prisoner swap. He strong “trims” the heavy bomber for level now resides in Hot Springs, Ark. flight, then parachutes from the Fortress. In Armstrong’s own odyssey is worthy of a the confusion, two flyboys are left aboard book. Initially fed and hidden by French vilthe B-17: the dead top turret gunner and lagers, Armstrong later walked undetected waist-gunner Grant. for 50 miles in the direction of Paris. One Armstrong recalled, “We were already family (ironically Russians) gave Arm-
“We are determined that before the
sun sets on this terrible struggle our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.” – General George C. Marshall
Newton Co. Tax Commissioner
submitted photo /The News
A B-17 breaks into pieces as it is shot down.
strong milk, butter, a change of clothes, an apple and a satchel of food. Eventually found and safeguarded by the French Resistance, Armstrong was taken to the coastal town Douarnenez and joined 31 other airmen for a boat ride back to England.
Armstrong said, “I’ll always be grateful to the French people. Many paid with their lives to help Allied airmen.” Armstrong retired several years ago after a long career as a Presbyterian minister. - Pete Mecca
HONOR & RESPECT TO THE LAST. Thank You for Your Service & Sacrifice.
J.C. Harwell & Son FUNERAL HOME 2157 East Street S.E., Covington, GA 30014
PROUDLY SERVING THOSE WHO HAVE PROUDLY SERVED
In Loving Memory and
In Honor of Those Who Sacrified it All. Staff Sergeant
Cpl. Gerald Lamar Hipps
Cpl. A.W. Dalton
88 Military Police Company, Ft. Jay, NY American Theater, 1944-1946 In loving memory, Linda Dalton Hays & Family
US Marine Corp. Pacific Theater
• Awarded Purple Heart • Iwo Jima Survivor
In Loving Memory, Your Family & Friends
Capt. Roger W. Sheridan
Thomas L. Cavanaugh
Currently Mayor of Newborn, Georgia
In loving honor, Pat & Molly
WWII Veteran – 1942-1945 European Theater; 8th Armored Division
Peter Jay Mecca, Sr. Miss you Dad!
James Young In loving memory, Your Grandchildren
Horace Young In loving memory, Your Nieces & Nephews
Love, Billie, Allene, Connie, Linda & Tim
Thanks Dad! Love, Lynn
Served in the South Pacific
In loving memory, Linda, John, Clohe’ and Michael
Honoring the Mullins Brothers who served in WWII. – The Mullins Family
WWII – Pacific Theater Fighter Pilot Brother of Grady Pfc. Grady
Sgt. Robert Franklin Mullins
Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal & Occuapational Medal Germany.
Army Air Corp, China – Burma –India
British Army, North Africa/Italy POW for 2 years
Williams H. Edwardy
Ens. James Carter Mullins
US ARMY – CPL, DEML, AUS
We would like to thank our dad for his service to our country and for our freedom as well as all of the other veterans for their service.
Army Air Corps Private
Sgt. Jim Kelly
U.S. Army, HQ 87th Infantry. Served in the European Theater during the Battle of the Bulge. Recipient of the Silver Star Medal.
U.S. Navy, WWII
Ray A. Howard
WWII – India Brother of Grady
WWII – 1944 European Theater
Seaman 1st Class
L.C. (Cleo) Carroll Pacific Arena – Guam WWII 1945-1946
In loving honor, Ken & Judy
Robert F. Abercrombie Sr. U.S. NAVY Served on a rescue ship for the wounded. Thank you to the best generation this country has seen. They served to assure a better world for future generations.
Sgt. Arlie Aukerman B-24 Nose Gunner Army Air Force, Europe
Miss you Dad...Love, Mary
Army PVT-Tech 4 - Signal Corps
Idus Pierce Piper, Jr.
Served in the Southwest Pacific Theater In loving memory, Mildred, Pierce, Kathleen & Katie Piper
In loving memory, Your Nieces & Nephews
Kelly Ratliff Stockton
U.S. ARMY Anti-Tank Gunner in 41st Division, Pacific In loving memory, The Stockton Family
“T he world must know what happened, and never forget.” - General Eisenhower
10 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Italy / North Africa
Surviving ‘The Battle for Anzio’
The Germans were completely surprised as Allied forces swarmed ashore at 2 a.m. Jan. 22, 1944, near the Italian prewar resort towns of Anzio and Nettuno. With almost no opposition, the Anglo-American armies pushed inland and secured a 15mile stretch of Italian beach. By midnight, combat engineers had cleared mines, laid corduroy roads, bulldozed exits off the beach and readied the port of Anzio to receive ships loaded down with supplies. Then the Allies made a decision that still is controversial. Because of stiffened German resistance, an order was given to stop the advance to consolidate and reorganize the invasion forces, a decision that also gave the German High Command time to reinforce its defensive positions. The four-month bloodbath that followed was known as The Battle for Anzio. When Jack Simpson’s 105mm tracked howitzer crew landed on Anzio Beach, they immediately dug in. He said, “We dug foxholes right next to the howitzer and covered ourselves with anything we could get our hands on. The Germans shelled us, their planes strafed our positions, snipers tried to pick us off, and spent anti-aircraft shells from our own ships peppered our position on the beach.”
Twenty miles inland and safely hidden behind the Alban Hills, two colossal German railroad guns, Robert and Leopold, rained death and destruction on Allied troops. Simpson said, “We didn’t know there were two guns, so we nicknamed the behemoths Anzio Annie. She wasn’t a lady, that’s for sure. Imagine a freight train passing over your head. That’s what it sounded like.” Nighttime offered no let up. “Parachute flares kept the beach lit up and naval vessels fired all night, but so did the Germans. Our howitzer fired 10 rounds on the half-hour to keep the Germans on their toes. Then, of course, they’d fire back to keep us on our toes. I really don’t know how we maintained our sanity, but we did.” Death came from land, sea and air. “Men would simply disappear in an explosion; so would a ship. We’d watch huge formations of B-17s flying overhead, see the planes hit, catch on fire, then spiral from the sky. The most sickening sight was seeing German fighters machine-gun helpless airmen in their parachutes.” The Germans poured seasoned soldiers like the 4th Parachute and crack troops from the Hermann Goering Division into the region. Outside the town of Cisterna, 767 U.S.
Thank You! With deepest gratitude for your unselfish love and service to our country.
Dr. W.L. Dobbs
Veteran 2nd Armored Division, WWII, U.S. Army
Submitted photo /The News
Two German railroad guns, nicknamed Anzio Annie, rained shells on Allied troops on Anzio Beach. (Left) Jack Simpson today, top, and as a young man, below.
Army Rangers walked into an enemy ambush staged by units from 36 enemy battalions massing for a counterattack. Only six Rangers made it out. Heavily reinforced, both sides slugged it out for four months. Eventually the Germans outnumbered the Allies, but Allied naval power and air superiority made the difference. Simpson said, “We lived through four
months of hell. I don’t know how anybody survived.” The Allied “breakout” came in late May 1944. Simpson’s unit, the 45th Infantry Division, was the first to arrive in Rome. He said, “The Italians showered us with flowers, kisses and a whole lot of wine. That was a pleasant change.” - Pete Mecca
You have a special place in our hearts…and our hearts say
THANK YOU for your service to our country! 770-786-7088 newtonfederal.com
11 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Garrison fights alongside Chinese
f present-day students are fortunate enough to find World War II mentioned in their history books, they’ll most likely study battles fought in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. The CBI Theater is habitually cited as a footnote. The China-Burma-India Theater did not receive the recognition or the respect that it deserved. The reason is simple: CBI was a back-water, unglamorous battle in disease-ridden jungles and/or ungodly mountain topography that few combat journalists cared to cover. The painted Tiger-shark nose on the legendary P-40 Flying Tigers is the bestknown CBI icon, but few Americans can knowledgeably discuss the commando unit known as Merrill’s Marauders, or, as the loyal indigenous peoples called them, Kachin. To mention the “Hump” may evoke visions of camels, but the resupply route to our troops and Chinese allies over the Himalayan Mountain Range (the “Hump”) cost 594 airplanes either lost, missing, or simply written off, along with 1,659 personnel. Via Oran, North Africa, and Bombay, India, Bill Garrison flew across the “Hump” to Kunming, China, to join Claire Chennault’s 14th Air Force, 3rd Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron. “I flew over the Hump in suntans (khakis),” he said. “Ice and frost had formed inside the cargo plane and sifted down like snow. Almost froze to death.” Garrison repaired combat-damaged aircraft like the P-40 fighters and P-38 reconnaissance planes. He also worked on and loaded bombs on B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers. His six Chinese ground crew members spoke pidgin-English.
Smiling, Garrison recalled, “We modified a belly tank on a P-40 for ‘critical’ supply flights to India for peanut butter and British gin.” Garrison spent 28 months shuffling back and forth from several bases like Lingling, Kweilin, Liuchow, and An Kang, depending on which side was winning the war at any given moment. He survived more than 100 bombing raids. He said, “After a bombing raid, the Japanese would come in low at 500 or 600 feet and let their gunners strafe the airfield and personnel. “My crew and I scavenged 50 cal. machine guns off junked P-40s and crafted twin-mounted anti-aircraft weapons. We killed a few Japanese pilots. I noticed they stayed a lot higher after that.” Recalling the Chinese contributions, Garrison said, “Those people took a terrific beating from the Japanese because they supported us, but they never gave up. I had a lot of respect for them.” With aircraft stationed close to the fighting, snipers or infiltrators were always a problem. Garrison said, “One day in the chow line, a guy just dropped dead in front of us. Then we heard the rifle crack. They were that close. “The Japanese also infiltrated our bases just to kill a guard in order to spook the Chinese. Shoot, they spooked us, too!” Forced by the Japanese to evacuate several bases, Garrison recalled a certain day when all hell broke loose. “There was gunfire and tracers and explosions everywhere. I grabbed my carbine and ran outside. An officer said, ‘Celebrate, Garrison, the war is over.’ “Yes, sir, that day was really special.” - Pete Mecca
submitted photo /The News
Bill Garrison as a young pilot in 14th Air Force, 3rd Fighter Group, 8th Fighter Squadron.
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2315 Iris Drive, Conyers, GA 30013 Off of I-20, Exit 84 (between Salem Rd. & Almon Rd.) www.fieldstonepawn.com 770-483-8248
12 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Missing in jungles of Burma
innie Lee Williams refused to accept the notion her son Johnny Williams would never return from World War II. She took in laundry to help augment her husband’s earnings from his shoe repair shop on Green Street in Olde Town Conyers and on occasion took out her son’s clothes, too. Minnie washed and ironed Johnny’s clothes as if he still lived at home, as if he would still be coming home, as if he was still alive. Johnny G. Williams joined the Army in March 1941 before his country entered World War II. He was among the first Afro-Americans to train at the ERTC — Engineer Replacement Training Center at Fort Belvoir, Va. After completing additional training at Fort McClellan, Ala., Johnny’s next port-ofcall was CBI, the China-Burma-India Theater of operations. His unit, the 76th Light
Pontoon Engineering Company, would be building an engineering marvel, the Ledo Road. The road started in India, weaved through virtually impenetrable Burma, and eventually lengthened into China to establish an overland route to resupply the war effort raging from Chinese soil. If not fighting off marauding Japanese or dodging in-coming artillery as well as enemy airplanes, the Ledo Road engineers battled knee-deep mud, typhus-carrying mites, poisonous snakes, Monsoon downpours, malaria bearing mosquitoes, jungle insects and the biggest leeches in the world. Annual rainfall averaged 120 inches in valleys; 140 inches in mountains. Normally, the 76th constructed bridges and pontoons across hazardous rivers like the Tarung, Lamung, and Magwitang, but in early August 1944, the forces of Commanding General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell
were fighting a tenacious enemy counter-attack and called for backup. The only reinforcements available were the combat engineers. On Aug. 19, 1944, SSgt. Johnny Williams and six other Americans took off from Shingbwiyang on a C-47 cargo plane to reinforce Allied militaries near the town of Myitkyina. The C-47 and its human cargo were never heard from again. The thick, unforgiving jungles of Burma had claimed more souls. One of Johnny’s nephews, Pastor Aldren Sadler, Sr. of the Church of New Beginnings, said, “Diplomatic relations have recently improved with Myanmar (Burma) and the door is gradually opening for recovery teams to enter areas where downed aircraft have been reported. Our family hopes that one day Johnny can actually come home.” A chunk of granite in front of the Rockdale County Court House records the names
submitted photo /The News
One of the only remaining pictures of Johnny Williams in uniform.
of Rockdale residents who lost their lives in World War I and World War II. Johnny G. Williams’ name is etched into granite on the bottom left. - Pete Mecca
13 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Keeping the fires burning at home
lice Stallings defies one’s expectations of a 93-year-old woman. Her style and humor are positively contemporary. Through her voice, the World War II era doesn’t seem so removed and separate. During the war, while her husband, PFC James Stallings, made his way through North Africa, France, Germany and Italy with the Army Medical Corps, Stallings operated one of Conyers’ first salons, Nifty Beauty Shop, on Center Street. The couple was married only 15 months before he shipped overseas. It would be four long years before she set sight on him again. “I had no earthly idea it would be that long,” she said. “I didn’t have hopes of any certain time, but I figured he would make it back to me.” To this day, a little more than a year after he passed away, Stallings glows when she talks about her partner of nearly 70 years. They met crossing the street in his hometown of Lithonia. It was love at first sight, for him. “The little old ladies of the town had been going on about him and thought we would make a good couple.” James had been away attending mortuary school. It took a few more dates for her, but eventually she discovered what
all the fuss was about. Correspondence in war time was often spotty. She would go through long periods without a letter, and then receive a big batch all at once. Many portions of the letters were blacked out — intelligence monitored mail and removed any sections mentioning location and other sensitive details. Fortunately for her, James was an excellent letter writer. “It was just as though he were saying it to me.” Another way they communicated was through wounded soldiers. Before seriously injured men were shipped home, James would tell those destined for Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta to contact his wife. Stallings would often receive calls from the soldiers, and she lived vicariously visiting them in the hospital. “They were so thrilled to see somebody and tell me where he was and what he was doing there,” she said. Never one to arrive empty-handed, Stallings came bearing home-cooked picnics. She decided not to inform her husband she had bought a beauty shop because she didn’t want him to fret about home-front happenings. “I never told him until I paid it off,” she said. “I knew he had enough to worry about over there.” Her clientele was largely wom-
Jack T. Coyle Radio Man First Class Navy Group China – Saco – WWII
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(Top) Alice Stallings, left, corresponded with her newlywed husband James Stallings through letters that would be delivered sporadically and messages from patients sent home. (Left) Stallings today.
en coming off their shift at the mill. Another accomplishment Stallings acquired during the war was cooking. She learned during her boardinghouse stay at Kate Smith’s house on Milstead Avenue. The war-time rationing that most affected Stallings was gas and shoes. To make the journey to her parents’ cotton farm in Carlton, she and a friend would pool gas rations and still have to buy bootleg gas, at the inflated rate of 25 cents per gallon, to make it home. Shoes were limited to two pairs per year. “It wasn’t a hardship to me at all,” she said. “I worked at keeping up my spirits and I was fortunate to have my girlfriends.” Though she said their reunion was “next to heaven,” it didn’t exactly come off according to plan. Expecting him to arrive via bus, she
didn’t count on his impatience and ingenuity finding fellows to pool in for a taxi. With a new dress laid out, but still in an old chenille robe with her hair in curlers, she heard footsteps on the stairs hours earlier than planned. She thought the war might change him, perhaps make him bitter, but it did not. “He was the same sweet, considerate person,” she said. “He always made the best of every situation and had a bushel of patience.” One of things Stallings attributes her longevity to is genes — both physical, her mother lived to be 97, and mental. “I’ve always enjoyed life. No matter how bad things were, mother would convince us it would get better, and it usually did.” - Jessica Smith
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14 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
Tuskeegee Airman on the fight to serve
orld War II brought out extraordinary feats of valor, service and sacrifice of everyday Americans. But during this time, many servicemen and women found themselves fighting for freedom abroad while at home, they were denied the basic freedoms and dignities they had defended. Tuskegee Airman and Stockbridge resident Val Archer served in the U.S. Army at a time when the country was a very different place. In those days, even German prisoners of war were given more basic dignities in some ways than black Americans serving in the military. “They could go to certain places on bases where we were training that we could not,” said Archer. “[Prisoners of war] could go to the Base Exchange and the base theater, and there were seating arrangements where they could sit where they wanted to, and we were either stuck in the balcony, if there were a balcony, or some segregated area at the movies.” Life in the 1940s was restricted for black Americans, especially in the more prestigious career fields and activities. And with a war ongoing and the boom of technology that came with it, there were few fields more prestigious than aviation.
A resilient and patriotic group, now known as the Tuskegee Airmen, had a small chance at the opportunity of the wild blue yonder thanks to an experiment by the U.S. government to train blacks to become pilots. In 1944, Archer was a 15-year-old high school dropout who had just lost his mother and was looking for a path into adulthood. Archer grew up in Chicago hearing and watching the glistening airframes of DC-3 airplanes flying overhead. He soaked in newsreels of American flyers in acts of heroism in World War II, read comic books of men soaring through the air and fell in love with airplanes. That childhood fanaticism, along with a country-wide patriotic duty to protect his home and a lack of finding anyone who was willing to hire a young black man led him to try and enlist in the service. First, Archer tried the Navy and Marines but they wouldn’t accept a 15-year-old boy. Then one day, he and his buddy were downtown and decided to stop into the Army recruiter. The Army accepted and processed them right there. The next day — after some numerical changes to his birth certificate — Archer became a member of the United States Army. He was assigned to a combat engineer outfit called the aviation engineering squad-
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Stockbridge resident Val Archer joined the Army and was assigned to the group known as the Tuskegee Airmen at the end of World War II.
ron doing mostly construction and demolition jobs. Following that, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps in the all-black unit, the 332 fighter group. The group originally started out Rantoul, Ill., as an experiment. When it was approved to become the 99th fighter group, they were assigned to Tuskegee, Ala. Since the Army was still segregated, the 99th fighter group had to have its own air base separate from whites and was moved to Tuskegee, because the Tuskegee Institute was one of six black campuses of the civilian pilot training program. From 1941 to 1946, the Tuskegee Army Air Field trained about 994 pilots and 15,000 ground personnel, of which around 119 pilots and 211
ground personnel are still alive. Many people at the time, from civilians to academic experts to generals and politicians, assumed blacks were incapable of the skills, knowledge and courage needed for aviation and expected the group to fail. Another common reaction, said Archer, when a black person tried to do something considered out of the ordinary such as enlisting in the service, was an attitude of “Who do you think you are?” But that didn’t deter Archer and his fellow servicemen, even if people sometimes asked why they were fighting for a country that excluded them from so many things.
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15 l A Tribute to the Heroes of World War II
>> FROM PAGE 14 “I would say it was as much my responsibility as it is yours,” Archer said. “It is my war as much as it is your war. My family is involved in this the same as your family. “If the U.S. was going to get bombed, they’re not going to say, ‘You black people stay over there. We’re only going to bomb someone else.’” The Tuskegee Airmen took this abuse frequently and still prevailed. The 332, known as the Red Tails because of the unique paint scheme on their P-57s, became one of the most elite groups in the war. Working as bomber escorts for the Army’s B-25, the Red Tails were often requested to ensure as few casualties as possible. While Archer, a crew chief, and the Tuskegee Airmen were training to fly B-25s over Japan, the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki went off and the war ended.
But that didn’t bring Archer’s service or the struggles of black soldiers to an end. Archer stayed in the armed services for 23 years, retiring as a technical sergeant. It ultimately took about 20 years before the armed services became fully integrated, even after President Truman’s Executive Order 9981, given in 1948. “On paper, that is what the deal was, but in fact, there was a lot of resistance to it,” Archer said. “It just took a long time.” But eventually life became easier for blacks trying to defend their country, thanks to the path-breaking struggles and performance of soldiers such as Archer and the Tuskegee Airmen. “America was a different place, almost like a different country, compared to what it is today,” he said. “I’m proud as are a lot of people who were part of the change for changing the format for segregation to the extent that today, the armed forces are a kind of model for what the society is and the way they have adjusted and accommodated desegregation of America.” - Bryan Fazio
Major Venon H. Ison
Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial will be open on 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with an information booth availa Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial will be open on America's 145thatAnnual Memorial Day from starting 11:00 a.m. (for informat
7:00 a.m. p.m. with an booth available, and a145th public Memorial DayDay Ceremony Walktoof7:00 Heroes Veterans Warinformation Memorial will be open on America's Annual Memorial from U.S. Marines - U.S. Army starting at 11:00 a.m. (for information call 770-786-2302). Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial will be p.m. open America's 145th Annual Memorial Day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 withonan information booth available, and a public Memorial Day Ceremony 1940-1962
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