Charles Jackson Segment 1: Jogging Memory: Were you drafted or did you enlist? Drafted, I was angry, because he had to leave his Fiancé behind, he was 20 at the time, and wanted to continue with his job, but getting drafted got in the way. That feeling changed over time though. Drafted in June Where were you living at the time? Signal Mountain. Why did you pick the service branch you joined? I didn’t pick it, I was assigned to the Army. I reported at the Hamilton County Court house We were taken to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia to be process and then we were shipped overseas Do you recall your first days in service? Fort Oglethorpe Boot Camp, plain and simple. The food was rotten and the drill sergeants were worse they would always call me “recruit” and everyone was just miserable. The only good thing about boot camp was the friends you made. I knew every man in that company. And Every one of them was a good man, I don’t know whether they’re alive anymore.
What did it feel like? Like hell. It wasn’t the best experience I had, but it toughened me. Prepared me for war and life after the war. Taught me responsibility and how to be a citizen. How did you get through it? Biting my tongue. I sat down and I shut up. I didn’t stand out in any way, good or bad. Because the instructors would single you out.
Segment 2: Experiences:
Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)? WWII Where exactly did you go? After boot camp, I was posted in Africa and was involved in the invasion in Italy in July of 1943. We lost 6,000 men – killed, wounded or captured. Somebody
took a rope across the river and tied it to the trunk of a tree for us to cross. My sergeant came up to me and asked if I was going to use my shovel. I gave it to him, and that was the last time I saw either him or the shovel. Eventually we invaded France in 1944. I was in that battle as well.
Segment 3: Life: Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire. There was this time where all our officers had been killed, so I, being a sergeant, took command. I called back to my battalion headquarters and asked, “What do we do?” They said to dig in and defend the position. For four days, We holed up, just trying to hold the position. Eventually the attack was thrown back, and when me and my men were ordered to withdraw, I defended my men until they were all out. How did you stay in touch with your family? Letters. That was the only way to communicate. If there was some way to get to a pay phone, nearly everyone was lined up to use it, Did you feel pressure or stress? Not so much stress as frustration.
Was there something special you did for "good luck"? It was a cross necklace. My pastor gave it to me the day I turned 18. He said it would "remind me of my faith" when I go out to the real world. Let me tell you you can’t get more real than a war. I just got it out and kissed it every now and then.
Did you keep a personal diary? I did for the first few weeks overseas, but I lost it in the middle of France. And didn’t bother to start again
Segment 4: Later Years and Closing:
Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general? I see men fighting for what they believe in. I always had been taught to stand up for what I believe in. Then men I killed had families and friends, just like I did. The only difference was where we came from and whom we believed in. But I felt my cause was greater. The military taught me that men do what have to, and some people will do anything to stay alive.
Would you do it all over? If I had a choice, no. I belong working in the shop, helping the great community of Jackson. I feel like I can help this country better without a gun in my hands, but rather saw or hammer. I feel like war is necessary, but there are better men than me. Men who will put their heart into it.
What’s your legacy? I went. I fought. I came back a hero to our country. But I hope how I think is a testament to those who would run into war. It’s not worth it most of the time. Losing so many good friends just doesn’t make it worth it for me.
What would you tell the world if you had the chance? Stand up for what you believe in, your voice is valid and important. And if you believe than you’ll find that people are following you.
CHARLES JACKSON Army Based in Italy Marched on Rome