After completing my memoirs of the period of time covering the spring of 1944 until I returned from overseas in December of 1945, I thought it best to summarize some of the things that have been included during the rest of my life.
For example, I want the readers of this at some future time to understand that this was a small part of my life. I served for over fifty years as a Christian minister, serving pastorates in Oregon, Indiana, and California.
None of the events of the years included in my years in the ministry are intended to be a part of this presentation. I have no intention of writing a biography which covers those years, as I consider them to be very personal. I would not want to betray the confidences of people who would be featured in those accounts. Most of them, being deceased, would be unable to approve the comments I might make about them. Certainly, there would be many humorous events which would be worth writing about; there were enough to provide a chapter on weddings alone.
The purpose of these afterthoughts, therefore, is to accomplish two tasks: To introduce you to my family members, and to bring you up-to-date with some of my Army associates with whom I have kept in contact.
The memoirs of my overseas military experience end with my return to the States in December of 1945. Upon my arrival in Virginia, I made immediate plans to travel to Denver, Colorado, where Eleanor LaVern Beights, my fiancée, was living at the time. A week after my arrival in the States, I reached Denver.
Exactly one week thereafter, Eleanor and I were married in the South Broadway Christian Church in that city. In time, two daughters were born of that union: Linda, who was born in 1947, and Kathleen, who was born in 1948. Eventually, each married and had children. Linda presented us with two granddaughters, Michelle and Shannon. After completing her education at the University of California at
Davis, Michelle secured teaching credentials, and at this time she is teaching in the Elk Grove, California School District. Her sister, Shannon, married Brian Pipkin, and they both have been attending Life Bible College in Southern California, preparing to graduate in the Spring of 2002.
Following their graduation, they hope to be foreign missionaries, perhaps attending seminary for three years prior to their service in the field.
After the death of Linda's husband, Mike Fennell, she eventually remarried. There were no children from the second marriage. Her name is now DeBrito, and she lives in Elk Grove, California.
Kathy married Bill Reese, the boy next door, while we lived in Bell, California, and they have three children. Their oldest, Kristine, married Robert Roberson, and they live in Porterville, California with their two children, Benjamin and Brittany. Kathy's second child is Kimberly, who married Tim Watkins, and now lives in Elk Grove, California. Kim, a court reporter, has undertaken to transcribe all of these memoirs, a gigantic task, for which I am extremely grateful. She has no children. Bill and
Kathy's youngest child is Scott. He and his wife, Kerri, live in Rancho Cordova, California, raising Christopher and MacKenzie. It is apparent that I could write another article about our family, telling of all the ways they have made Eleanor and me so proud of them, but that is not the intent of these remembrances.
Let me proceed to the second motive for writing these afterthoughts. I do want to mention again some of the individuals you have met while reading my recollections of military experiences.
I have been able to maintain contact with some of the persons with whom I served. Several times over the years we have traveled to Maryville, Tennessee, to visit members of C Battery of the 191 FaBn. We had the privilege of attending three reunions of the group, meeting their wives, and enjoying fellowship with them, staying part of the time while we were there in the home of one of the sergeants I had known.
Attached to my remarks will be some pictures showing attendees, some of whom are mentioned in the main text. One of those pictured, with his wife, Johnnie, is Lakes England. Lakes was a PFC in the Unit, but the particular significance of mentioning him is that after my commissioning at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, while traveling in the company of my brother, Ralph, to California to my first assignment, I met Lakes by accident in the railroad station in Amarillo, Texas. He had been on furlough in Tennessee, and he was returning to the very unit in Camp Roberts, California, that I was joining. Lakes, therefore, was the first member of the 191 Battalion that I met.
George Garner, whom you will see in some of the reunion pictures, was a Staff Sergeant, the Chief of the four Chiefs of Section in C Battery. It was in the home of George and Frances that we were privileged to stay on two occasions when we visited Maryville. One of those with whom I renewed acquaintance after the war was Harold ("Ham") Ammons, a corporal in the battery. While we were in Mississippi, Cpl. Ammons brought me the information that news of our overseas departure had leaked out back in Tennessee. When higher authorities discovered that fact, our overseas trip was postponed, just long enough for me to travel to see my brother, Ralph, who was a patient at Fitzsimmons General Army Hospital, where he died in April of 1945 while I was in Europe. While there, I met my future wife. Harold Ammons, therefore, by bringing to light the breach in security which delayed us, played a significant role in my life. He has supplied me with several snapshots of wartime life in the 191. I've included some of them with these memoirs.
I have made frequent references to Carson Scarbrough and Robin Smith. Unfortunately, I cannot locate pictures of Robin, but I did meet him again at one of the reunions. There are pictures of Carson, however, as he sent them to me in connection with a letter he wrote on the occasion of our fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1995. Of those I have mentioned above, both Carson and Lakes are now deceased. How happy I am that I had the privilege to visit with them again. Since Carson's death, we have been unable to make contact with his widow, but we communicate frequently with Johnnie England.
Of the officers I mentioned, you will recall that my closest friend, Roberdeau Drury, was killed in combat. While we were in Eugene, Oregon, attending Bible College, about 1946, Bob's wife, Virginia, visited with us briefly. After she remarried, however, we lost contact with her.
One friend I mentioned frequently is John Liljeberg. Recently, with the help of the internet, I have located John, who is now living in his home town in New Hampshire. He has not supplied any photos. I do have a snapshot, sent to me by another officer, which pictures John. The photo is dark, and it is difficult to recognize John's face. His stance is typical, however, making him easily recognizable to me.
The officer who sent me that photo is A.T. Pumphrey. He prefers to be called Pump by his friends. I have mentioned him on numerous occasions in my memoirs, because he was one of our liaison pilots. I flew with him briefly in combat. Pump and his wife, Angela, live in San Antonio, Texas. Pump remained in the service after WWII, going on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In addition to those three wars in which he served, he was also stationed in Germany during the "Cold" War. That was a "hot" spot, because trouble with the Soviet Union was expected at any time. I might say, therefore, that Pump is a true patriot, serving his nation in four wars. He retired from the Army as a full colonel. I mentioned in the memoirs that, while stationed in California, I had trained two flying sergeants so that they could receive their commissions as field artillery officers. Pump was one of them, so I take some pride that one whom I trained to be a second lieutenant eventually became a full colonel.
The other one of those two sergeants was John Hagan. John was also in Europe with us, flying one of the Piper Cubs in combat. Eleanor and I visited with John and his wife, Jane, several years ago when we were about to embark on a cruise of the Panama Canal. He did not stay in the service, but he was successful in the business world, and now lives in Key Largo, Florida. They also have a home in Ft. Lauderdale.
I have contact frequently with both Pump and John via e-mail on the internet. We are enjoying our re-acquaintance. Both have shared freely with me in order to assist me in the completion of my memoirs. Pump has sent a number of photos, which I want to include in this, showing him in all of the wars in which he participated.
John sent me a videotape, prepared by Readers' Digest, about his military experiences. It is professionally produced, and it is a remarkably good resume' of his activities during WWII. Included in that video is a picture taken on a sidewalk in Paris, France. It was taken at a time when John and I had gone from the front to Paris for a four-day pass. While there, I accidentally met an old friend, Cleva Adams, who was serving as a WAC and stationed in Paris. Together with her and a friend of hers, John and I toured Paris one afternoon. Cleva and I had been students together at Porterville Junior College before the war. After the war, Eleanor met Cleva, and, coincidentally, Cleva had married the brother of Bob Sargent, a ministerial associate of mine in Bell, California. (Cleva's friend is the girl in the photo.)
I want to make clear, as I conclude these remarks, that my time in the military was served in a very normal fashion. There is nothing outstanding about my military record. There were ten million of us in uniform during WWII, and each one could, if he wished, tell of his military experiences. A very few were true heroes, like my friend, Roberdeau, whose exploits I have detailed. Most of the servicemen and women lived very routine lives, affected only by the events of war, but not distinguishing themselves in any special way. I was one of that crowd.
I have stated elsewhere, and I repeat it here, that my only reason for writing these memoirs was that my grandchildren wanted a record. I had hesitated to tell of these experiences, and as I stated in the introduction, I had no intention of including bad experiences. Even so, it has not been an easy job for me, but there have been rewards, nevertheless, especially the pleasant memories of friends long ago.
--Written at Fresno, California
April 3, 2001