Last week, my grandfather had been elected to cotton weigher for Tippah County. He skips some time and we’re now in the 1940s. His parents were separated and he was living with his mother, taking care of her.
“On Jan. 1, 1941, my mother passed away. That was the biggest change and the saddest day in my life. 13 months later my father passes away. My home was broken up [and] I was left alone for ten years, lonely and broken hearted.
In July 1942, I got my greeting from Uncle Sam. I was drafted. I went in a few days to be examined, passing the test with no trouble. This was another big change for a country boy that had never been anywhere, only in and around my hometown. Later in July I was inducted in [the] service at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. I shall never forget I knew nothing [about] what it would be like. After my basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia for six weeks, I was transferred to Camp Sutton, N.C. for several months and finally it came to my time for going overseas. We got our order for overseas duty, going from there by troop train to San Francisco, California for a few weeks and then one morning we packed our bags and started to the docks. Walking up that gang plank to the ship was another big change. That was a feeling and thoughts for me when that ship pulled out for sea. Three weeks later we entered the dock in Perth, Australia. There I was in another country thousands of miles from home. Everything [was] so different, even the people, but really nice and kind to a lonely American soldier.
In a few weeks, I was in an Australian hospital. The Sister came [and] said get dressed, [that] I was being transferred to Melbourne, Australia. In mid morning, me and one other American soldier in the Army car and headed away to the airport. This was a frightening change in life.
We started in the plane [and] I was really scared. When we were seated in the plane, soon we were given orders to buckle our safety belts. I thought many times what would be next. I could hardly tell the difference when the plane began to move.
Finally I decided to look out of the small window. What did I see? Nothing but clouds. We had done flew above the clouds. That is the time my eyes poofed out. I wondered if we would ever get down but we did. In a few hours we landed at the airport in Melbourne, Australia. We were met by [an] American soldier and carried to an American hospital which was far better.
In a few days I got a day of leave to visit downtown Melbourne. Everything looked so different. Felt like everyone was staring at me. What a change for me in a foreign city and country. Soon I was lost in everything, even the money did not mean anything to me.
In a short time I was called up to return to the U.S. I was tickled and thrilled the morning we boarded the ship for home.
Finally in a few weeks, after seeing nothing but water, we spotted the lights in San Francisco, California, which grew bigger and bigger each minute. Finally we pulled into the dock.
It was several hours before we could go ashore. We were signed into the hospital for a few weeks [and] then we were transferred by troop train to Texas near Dallas. We were stationed there for a few weeks.”
This is the only clue I have as to his service as most of his service records were burned in the archives at St. Louis. From a news article I know he was awarded medals, but I do not have them. He seems to have spent most of his time in hospital, suffering from malaria.
“In October 1943, I was discharged from the U.S. Army in McKinney, Texas. It was a very happy [moment] of my life. I packed my bag and by bus went into Dallas, Texas. There I caught a bus for home in Mississippi, arriving in Memphis, Tennessee early the next day. There changing buses for New Albany, Mississippi, south of Ripley, Mississippi, which was my home at that time. Getting home was a big thrill although it was a restless peace. Different and strange. So many people had moved away. I was lonesome and restless, could not be satisfied anywhere doing anything.
Friend I met in N.C. during the time I was in the army called me to come and work for him in a railroad cafe. I tried that a short time. I could not be satisfied so I resigned and went back home, trying Sears Roebuck and Co. in Memphis. I could not be happy there.”
One theme I’ve noticed has been change. My grandfather seemed to abhor change. It made him nervous and upset. After the war, it seemed worse. I don’t know what he isn’t saying, what he doesn’t want to talk about. Even his friend, Billy Power, couldn’t help him be content.
I don’t know if he ever found his way.