Taylorville and the War

Taylorville and the War

Dad and I both stopped hoeing corn and look up in the sky toward the West. That’s where the strange noise was coming from. An airplane was falling in the classic tail-spin. Both engines screaming. The plane disappeared below the western horizon. There was no crash explosion or noise. No mushroom cloud of smoke and flames.

We leaned on our hoe handles and talked about what we had seen. Where had it crashed? Why had it crashed? Were there any survivors?

After a few minutes, I pointed high in the sky. My eyesight at ten years was a lot better than Dad’s at fifty-five. There were three tiny white dots high in the sky. They were slowly drifting downward. We knew right away that we were seeing three parachutes. We watched in silence as the three parachutes disappeared below the trees.

We began hoeing the the one foot tall corn again. All the while talking about the plane and the survivors. This probably occurred in 1943 or 44. It was just Dad, Mom, Lois and me on the farm.

Norman was a civilian working for the Army Corp. of Engineers. Born in 1911, he may have been too old for the draft. But he was exempted because he was dong essential work for the war effort. At that time he was teaching under water welding to navy hard-hat divers. They practiced on the old French luxury liner, the Normandie, which had capsized in the New York harbor. The Liner had caught fire and in the process of putting it out, the firemen put so much water into the Normandie that she capsized.

Farrell, born 1913, was stationed on a small patrol frigate, the USS Sausalito, in the Aleutian Islands. He said the North Pacific was never calm. He had enlisted in the Coast Guard prior to Pearl Harbor.

Marvin, born 1915, was lucky. He was drafted right after Pearl Harbor into the Army Air Force. He was sent to an air force base in Childress, Texas. Later was sent to England with the Eighth Air Force. He was a ordnance specialist working on machine guns on the Flying Fortresses and fighter planes.

Irving, born in 1920, was very unlucky. He was drafted into the infantry. The soldiers who would be on the front lines in every battle. He was sent to Fort Campbell in Kentucky to join other recruits in the 26th Division, the Yankee or YD division from Massachusetts.

Carlton “Biggy” Parsons, born 1913, was drafted into the infantry. The Parson family lived on the corner of Azalea and Adkins Road. He was called Biggy because he was very small. His biggest brother was called Teeny.

Jack Casper, son of Chauncey and Minnie Casper, joined the Merchant Marines. They had the only actual water well in Taylorville with hand crank and the old oaken bucket. They lived close to the Taylorville Church where Rainy Day Canoe was located and is now a small shopping mall.

Henry “Junior” Truitt was drafted into the Army. He and his parents, Henry and Alice Truitt, lived in front of Ocean Downs.

All of these young men were born and raised within a half mile of the Taylorville Church.

We drove into Ocean City one night. Our headlights had been painted black except for a one inch horizontal strip. An armed soldier stopped us on the mainland side of the bridge. Satisfied he let us continue on with a warning to keep lights on dim.

One wintery day, Norman drove us to Ocean City and then up the beach highway a short distance. The highway was nearly empty of buildings. He had heard that a Norwegian freighter had run aground.

There were a few dozen cars parked along the highway when we reached the general area. It was a cold nasty day, overcast, a light rain blowing off the ocean mixed with ocean spray. When we arrived on the beach, the Coast Guard had rigged up a bosun’s chair and were removing men off the ship, one man at a time. It was a small freighter hugging the coast hoping to avoid German Uboats. It had hugged the coast too close. A few days later, during a high tide, a tugboat pulled it free to continue its voyage up the coast.

The Civil Defense had volunteer plane spotters up and down the East Coast. Their job was to spot and identify all planes flying in their area. They were given a booklet with pictures and silhouettes of all American and German planes.

Dirigibles were a relatively common sight close to the coast. We would see one once a month or twice every three months. They didn’t fly very high. Usually at three or four hundred feet. Toward the end of the war we saw a few blimps.

The children saved tinsel and tinfoil for the war effort. Every pack of cigarettes had a thin layer of tinsel on paper wrapped around the cigarettes. They peeled it off and added it to their ball of tinsel. I assumed they sold it to the government somewhere in town.

We bought savings stamps for war bonds. Either ten-cent or twenty-five cent and put them in a booklet. When we had the required amount for a twenty-five dollar war bond, we took it the the bank to get our bond.

The two engine plane crashed on Morris Adkins’ farm near St. Martins, just a few hundred yard from Pitts Road. The three crew member parachutists landed safely in the general area. There is probably still a big hole where the plane crashed and exploded.

The Normandie was eventually re-floated and towed to Newark, NJ to be scrapped. In 1947, the last piece of the Normandie was carried away to a scrapyard.

Marvin stayed safely in England and was discharged in late 1945.

Farrell saw limited enemy action and returned home safe and sound. The Frigate, USS Sausalito, was handed over to the Russians.

My sister, Etta, born 1917, somehow got Irving out of the army on a hardship discharge. Our young brother, Dale, had drowned in July of 42. He had done all the work with the tractor. We needed help.

Irving’s outfit, the YD Division lost a lot of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge.

Jack Casper’s merchant ship was torpedoed in the North Atlantic. He was one of the missing.

Junior Truitt returned home safely.

Biggy Parsons was wounded when a jeep he was driving was hit by a shell from a German tank.. I remember him showing Marvin his Purple Heart after the war. He and Marvin were old drinking buddies.

Dad and I were in the same field hoeing corn in 1945. We heard the Berlin fire siren begin. Then came the steam whistle from the Adkins Company.

World War Two was over.

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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2 Responses to Taylorville and the War

  1. Carol Ann Ellis says:

    Hi Nelson,

    Enjoyed reading your memories of WWII. Since I was a baby when it started, I don’t remember much, but I do remember blackout curtains, since we lived 35 miles from GE in Schenectady, NY. I also remember my mother talking about rationing stamps, what she could buy and what was not available, sometimes, such as sugar. My dad worked on turbines at GE.

    Mom had a brother (too old for the war but signed up anyway) and three nephews involved in the wa, in Japan, etc. They all came home safely, but at least one of them was pretty messed up–killed himself by drinking. the brother drank heavily too and eventually died of cancer.

    It’s safe to say that WWII affected every living soul at that time. People have no idea what it was like to really be involved in a war.

    I didn’t go to writers’ today–had a three and a half hour heart stress test yesterday–passed out in Philly last week. Such fun to get old. Mostly, I feel good but it’s all unpredictable.

    Thanks for the memories!

    Carol Ann

    On Sat, Apr 2, 2016 at 8:20 AM, Taylorville Express wrote:

    > nel32 posted: “Taylorville and the War Dad and I both stopped hoeing corn > and look up in the sky toward the West. That’s where the strange noise was > coming from. An airplane was falling in the classic tail-spin. Both engines > screaming. The plane disappeared below the we” >

  2. Susan Davis says:

    Finally, I am healed enough to really read/enjoy. Your war story was very moving. In Catonsville, my hometown, our young men went to Vietnam, and some did not come home either. So many details, like the painted-black headlights, that let me see the scene. Didn¹t know about the Normandie.

    Donald Trump is holding a rally at the Stephen Decatur High School tonight. I vote Libertarian, regardless of who¹s running… Clinton or Trump… Saints preserve us!

    Thanks for continuing to share your tales, Susan S. C. Torrington http://www.sctorrington.com Endless Possibilities

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