Lucious Norman Gillham

Lucious Norman Gillham was a veteran of World War II and came to Ray City, GA with his wife after the war. He was born in Jackson County, GA on January 5, 1908, a son of George Washington Gillham and Estelle Mae Gillham.

Lucious N. Gillham enlisted April 24, 1943 at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA.  At the time of enlistment he was living in Fulton County, GA, and was employed as a textile mill worker.  His father and older siblings had all been mill workers at the Porterdale Mill at Newton County, GA since before 1920s.  Lucious was only educated through the 5th grade, after which he left school to take up work. After the death of his father in 1925, Lucious went to work at a textile mill in Varennes, SC but by 1935 he was back at the Porterdale Mill working as a doffer.

Porterdale Mill belonged to the Bibb Manufacturing Company,  one of the largest employers in the state.  “The City of Porterdale is located 35 miles east of Atlanta on the Yellow River in Newton County, Georgia.  In 1899 the Bibb Manufacturing Company built a twine mill on the river and named it Porterdale Mill after a founder of the community, Oliver Porter.  The community of mill homes attracted workers looking for jobs and a better life.”

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

Porterdale Mill, Georgia

People came from all over the state to work in the Porterdale mill.  Among the many workers enumerated at Porterdale in the 1940 census  were Pasco Olandro Hall, of Ray City, GA; Tom Sirmans Jones, of Nashville, GA;  Grady Bloodworth, from the upper 10th District of Berrien County; Jesse Franklin Bennett of Adel, GA; Lois, Jessie Mae, James and Elmer Black, four teenage siblings from Lowndes County, GA.  One wonders if Lucious Gillham and the mill workers from South Georgia knew each other, and if their association later influenced Lucious to come to Ray City. At any rate, Lucious  and Jeanette Gillham moved about 1947 to Ray City,  where for 18 years they worked a farm on Route 1.

Lucious Gillham died on May 28, 1965 and was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.  His obituary appeared in the Nashville Herald.

 

Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Obituary of Lucious Norman Gillham, of Ray City, GA

Nashville Herald
June 3, 1965

Lucious Gillham Dies On Friday Morning

        Lucious N. Gillham, who made his home on Route One, Ray City, and was for the past eighteen years a resident of that area, succumbed to a lengthy illness early Friday morning, May 28. Mr. Gillham was confined to Berrien County Hospital at the time of his passing.
        Born on January 5, 1908, the deceased was 57 years of age.  A native Georgian, he was the son of the late George W. and Stella Mae Lowrey Gillham. He was married on December 31, 1935 to the former Miss Jeanette Dorsey, by whom he is survived. Mr. Gillham saw service in the United States Army during World War II, and before declining health curtailed his activity he was a farmer.
        Funeral services were conducted from the Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, May 30, with Elder Howard Weaver officiating. In accordance with Primitive Baptist doctrine, an unaccompanied choir sang three time-honored hymns of consolation, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, and In the Sweet Bye and Bye. Laid to rest in the churchyard cemetery, Mr. Gillham was accompanied to his place of last repose by a cortege of military men from nearby Moody Air Force Base.
        Besides his widow, Mr. Gillham leaves three sisters, Mrs. Doris Dix, of Griffin, and Mrs. Mildred West and Mrs. Beatrice Goode, both of Douglasville. There are also a number of nices and nephews.
       All details were completed under the direction of Lovein Funeral Home.

 

 

Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Grave of Lucious N. Gillham and Jeanette Dorsey Gillham, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA

Ludwigslust and Wöbbelin: Ray City Boy Describes German Prisoner Camp

Today, May 5, 2016 is  Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day.

One witness to the Holocaust was J. I. Clements, Jr., of Ray City, GA.

J.I.Clements  grew up in Ray City, GA. After graduating with the RCHS class of 1938, he completed two years of college at Norman Junior College, Norman Park, GA. Two days after D-Day, he joined the Army for service in WWII ‘for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”   He enlisted  at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA on June 8, 1944. Other Ray City men trained at Fort McPherson include Leland E. Langford, St. Elmo Lee, Billy Clements, Charles Otis Ray,  and William Crawford Webb.

J. I. Clements served on the faculty and coached at Georgia Teachers College ,now Georgia Southern University, in 1952.

J. I. Clements served on the faculty and coached at Georgia Teachers College ,now Georgia Southern University, in 1952.

After training, J.I. Clements, Jr. was sent to serve with American forces in the liberation of eastern Europe and  in Germany. By early May of 1945, he was among the Armerican troops detailed to the newly discovered Wöbbelin concentration camp at Ludwigslust, Germany, about 90 miles northwest of Berlin. Clements witnessed first hand the horrific condition of the survivors and the dead at Wöbbelin, and wrote home about what he saw at the  concentration camp on May 7, 1945. Germany surrendered the following day, May 8, 1945.

After the liberation of the Wöbbelin concentration camp, the US Army ordered the local townspeople to bury the corpses of prisoners killed in the camp. This photograph shows troops observing a moment of silence at a mass funeral for victims of the Wöbbelin camp. Germany, May 7, 1945. J. I. Clements, Jr. , of Ray City, GA was among the soldiers present on that day.

Wöbbelin, Germany, May 7, 1945.
American troops observing a moment of silence at a mass funeral for victims of the Wöbbelin concentration camp.  J. I. Clements, Jr. , of Ray City, GA was among the soldiers present at Wöbbelin on that day. After the liberation of the Wöbbelin camp, the US Army ordered the local townspeople to bury the corpses of prisoners killed in the camp. The prisoners of Wöbbelin, approximately 25 percent of whom were Jews, came from Belgium, Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, the Balkans, and Russia.

Clements’ letter was later published in the Nashville Herald:

The Nashville Herald
June 28, 1945

Ray City Boy Describes German Prisoner Camp

(Editor’s Note: The below article was received this week, written by J.I. Clements Jr., a Ray City boy, now with American forces in Germany. The letter was dated May 7, 1945.)

      Just a few lines about an experience I had today. I got a chance to go and see one of Germany’s Concentration camps located at Luduigslust. The people in America don’t know how to appreciate what they have until they see such as this because I did not while in the states. I did not know that such things could be carried on by any human being, but the Germans aren’t human after this. The Germans are treated like kings in America compared to the way the people were treated here.
       The beds were made of crude logs with barb wire strung across for springs, with a few limbs on top. Inside some of the buildings I found raw Irish potatoes and turnip roots for the people to eat, but that was thrown in before the Americans arrived to try to create an impression. Really they had a bowl of bean soup, two potatoes and a slice of bread per day. At first when the prisoners would die they were thrown over the fence in a pile and buried but were later buried in large pits in stacks of ten to fifteen.            In uncovering some of the graves so as to have services it looked like some had been buried alive because they had their elbows over their faces for protection. The German prisoners were made to dig up the graves and the civilians carried them to town in wagons where the people in town had been made to dig graves for the burial ceremony. They were buried in the parks and on the square to remind the Germans of what they did.
      I later talked with one of the prisoners and was told how they ate the grass that was two feet high, when they were first brought to this camp, for food. Also, of the men that cut meat off their own thigh and fried it so they might have something to eat. I walked into one of the buildings and found men stacked up in a pile and they were nothing but bones with skin over to hold them together.
This was the most horrible thing I have ever seen or hope to see. Well, I will close but hope you have an idea of the things that all of us are seeing over in this uncivilized country.

The Polish underground had made known the existence of Nazi extermination camps as early as 1942. Although the genocide was reported in the New York Times and forcefully denounced by the United Nations, those early accounts were largely ignored by the American public. But in June 1944,  the Russian army discovered the Majdanek concentration camp at Lublin, Poland abandoned by retreating Germans. In the following weeks, Soviet troops liberated the abandoned extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered as part of the “final solution”.  The liberation of more “horror camps” followed.  In January 1945, the Russians liberated Auschwitz.  The first concentration camp encountered by U.S. troops was Ohrdruf, liberated in April, 1945.  As the Nazis were forced to retreat from these camps, they attempted to destroy the evidence of their existence and purpose. Prisoners from the abandoned concentration camps were forced on death marches deeper into German-held territory to prevent their liberation by the Allies. Those who were too ill to move were executed; thousands more died on the death marches. The Nazis attempted to burn the bodies they left behind, and to burn the camps themselves.  Incredibly, documenting the extent of “the many camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder the Nazis and their allies ran” continues to this day, the number of such places exceeding a staggering count of more than 42,000 cataloged sites.

According to the US Holocaust Museum, the Wöbbelin camp J.I. Clements visited “was a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The SS had established Wöbbelin in early February 1945 to house concentration camp prisoners whom the SS had evacuated from other camps to prevent their liberation by the Allies. At its height, Wöbbelin held some 5,000 inmates, many of whom were suffering from starvation and disease…When the Allied units arrived there, they found about 1,000 inmates dead in the camp. ”

German civilians from Ludwigslust file past the corpses and graves of 200 prisoners from the nearby concentration camp of Wöbbelin. Image source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

German civilians were forced by the American commanders to gather the dead from the Wöbbelin concentration camp and bring them to nearby Ludwigslust for burial on the palace grounds of the Archduke of Mecklenburg (now known as Schloss Ludwigslust). In this photo, the residents of Ludwiglust file past the corpses and graves of 200 prisoners from Wöbbelin prior to the burial ceremony conducted by U.S. Army chaplains. Image source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

The notes of the U.S. Signal Corps, which documented, photographed, and filmed the conditions at Wöbbelin, provide the following description:

NEW NAZI HORROR CAMP DISCOVERED.

One of the worst Nazi concentration camps uncovered by Allied troops was liberated at Wobbelin, Germany, a small town five miles north of Ludwigslust and 90 miles northwest of Berlin. Soldiers of three Allied units — the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division, the Eighth Infantry Division of the Ninth U.S. Army and airborne troops of the Second British Army — entered the camp and found sick, starving inmates barely surviving under indescribable conditions of filth and squalor. They found hundreds of dead prisoners in one of the buildings while outside, in a yard, hundreds more were found hastily buried in huge pits. One mass grave contained 300 emaciated, disfigured corpses. The dead included Poles, Russians, Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutchmen and Germans, all of whom had been working as slave laborers for the Nazis. It is estimated that at least 150 of the original 4,000 prisoners succumbed daily, mostly from starvation and savage treatment at the hands of Nazi SS troops who operated the camp. Some of the bodies found were burned almost beyond recognition and systematic torture of the inmates was revealed by the physical condition of most of the survivors. Military Government officers immediately ordered leading citizens of nearby Ludwigslust and other towns to march through the camp and witness the atrocities committed by representatives of the German Government. Most of the civilians disclaimed any knowledge of the camp’s existence despite the fact that many of the prisoners worked in the area. The local residents later were made to exhume the bodies from the mass graves at the camp and provide decent, respectable interment of all dead prisoners. Two hundred were buried in the public square of Ludwigslust May 7, 1945, and an equal number were buried in the garden of the highest Nazi official of Hagenow. Eighty more were laid to rest in the town of Schwerin.

BIPPA EA 66641

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: German soldiers stand bareheaded at the graves of these victims of German cruelty. In the background, soldiers of the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division witness the burial proceedings at Ludwigslust. U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETC-H-45-46088. SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: German soldiers stand bareheaded at the graves of these victims of German cruelty. In the background, soldiers of the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division witness the burial proceedings at Ludwigslust. U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETC-H-45-46088 [and caption].
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

On May 7, 1945,  the date J.I. Clements, Jr wrote his letter from Ludwigslust, a memorial service was held by the Americans. Chaplain Major George B. Woods of the 82nd Airborne Division, spoke to the assembled townspeople. Standing beside the two hundred grave-sites, the GIs, the German officers and civilians, Major Woods gave this eulogy:

We are assembled here today before God and in sight of man to give proper and reverent burial to the victims of atrocities committed by armed forces in the name of and by order of the German Government. These 200 bodies were found by the American army in a concentration camp 4 miles north of the city of Ludwigslust.

The crimes here committed in the name of the German people and by their acquiescence were minor compared to those to be found in concentration camps elsewhere in Germany. Here there were no gas chambers, no crematoria; these men of Holland, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France were simply allowed to starve to death. Within four miles of your comfortable homes 4,000 men were forced to live like animals, deprived even of the food you would give to your dogs. In three weeks 1,000 of these men were starved to death; 800 of them were buried in pits in the nearby woods. These 200 who lie before us in these graves were found piled four and five feet high in one building and lying with the sick and dying in other buildings.

The world has long been horrified at the crimes of the German nation: these crimes were never clearly brought to light until the armies of the United Nations overran Germany. This is not war conducted by the international rules of warfare. This is murder such as is not even known among savages.

Though you claim no knowledge of these acts, you are still individually and collectively responsible for these atrocities, for they were committed by a government elected to office by yourselves in 1933 and continued in office by your indifference to organized brutality. It should be the first resolve of the German people that never again should any leader or party bring them such moral degradation as is exhibited here.

It is the custom of the United States Army through its Chaplain’s Corps to insure a proper and decent burial to any deceased person whether he be civilian, or soldier, friend, or foe, according to religious preference. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces has ordered that all atrocity victims be buried in a public place, and that the cemetery be given the same perpetual care that is given to all military cemeteries. Crosses will be placed at the heads of the graves; a stone monument will be set up in memory of these deceased. Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish prayers will be said by Chaplains Wood, Hannan and Wall of the 82nd Airborne Division for these victims as we lay them to rest and commit the into the hands of our Heavenly Father in the hope that the world will not again be faced with such barbarity.

holocaust-graves-at-Schwerin

Under orders from officers of the US 8th Infantry division, German civilians from Schwerin attend funeral services for 80 prisoners killed at the Wöbbelin concentration camp. The townspeople were ordered to bury the prisoners’ corpses in the town square. Germany, May 8, 1945.  U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Epilogue

In 2001 WWII veteran Manny Steinfeld, who participated in the liberation of Wöbbelin, went back to Germany to film a documentary.

“He returned to Ludwigslust, but found almost no trace of the Wobbelin cemetery.

Over the years, some of the wooden markers had rotted away, while the local population had used other markers to aid them during a fuel shortage.

Steinfeld approached local authorities for an explanation. They informed him that communism had taken its toll on the cemetery, the grounds of which were located in East Germany until the reunification of the country in 1992. The only noticeable remnant of the cemetery, according to Steinfeld, was a small sign stating that 200 victims of fascism were buried there, which made no distinction between the Jewish and non-Jewish victims.

Appalled, Steinfeld offered to put up more than half the funds to rededicate and recreate the cemetery for the victims. The United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad and veterans from the 82nd Division paid additional funds to make the refurbished cemetery possible. This time, the grave markers were made thicker and heavier 120 pounds each preventing neo-Nazis and skinheads from harming them.

More than 1,000 people attended the rededication ceremony in front of the Ludwigslust castle. They included the following: officials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and the American Consulate General in Hamburg in addition to local Ludwigslust citizens, plus 100 Holocaust survivors.
JUF News

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Leland Etheldred Langford Died in Plane Crash

langford

Leland E. Langford grew up in Ray City, GA before joining the Army.

Leland E. Langford grew up in Ray City, GA before joining the Army.

 

Leland Etheldred Langford (1919-1949)

Leland E. Landford was born July 10, 1919 at Ray City, GA,  a son of  Luther and Amanda Langford.  The Langford family farm place was on Rt 2, Ray City, Ga, about 1 mile east of town on the old Milltown (now Lakeland) – Ray City Road.

Leland attended the Ray City school  where he was a member of 4-H.  He graduated with the Ray City High School class of 1939.

After graduation, Leland had difficulty finding employment.  The Census of 1940 shows he continued to reside in his parents household and that he was doing government work as a carpenter on a school Works Program.  For this work he received $8 dollars per week.

On June 12, 1941 Leland Langford enlisted as a private in the Army at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia. Enlistment records show  he was 5’11” and 124 pounds.  Leland was trained as a pilot and commissioned as a Lieutenant.  Some time after he enlisted, Leland met and married a nurse.

Lt. Langford continued to serve  with the Army after WWII.  In 1949, he was working for the Army as a liaison pilot to the Air Force.

Atlanta Constitution
June 2, 1949

CAA Probes Union City Death Crash

Army officials and investigators of the Civil Aeronautics Administration yesterday launched a probe of the plane crash which Tuesday night killed two Army liaison pilots and injured an Air force officer near Union City.
Killed in the crash were Lt. Leland E. Langford, of Ray City, Ga., and Lt. Warren J. Ludwig, of New York City. Lt. Ludwig died en route to Grady Hospital.
Lt. Henry Matney, of Germantown, Md., flying with the two liaison pilots, parachuted to safety. He was treated at Fort McPherson Hospital for bruises.

Leland E. Langford killed in plane crash,  May 31, 1949.

Leland E. Langford killed in plane crash, May 31, 1949.

Leland’s body was returned to Ray City, GA.  He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery.

Leland Etheldred Langford

Leland Etheldred Langford

Ag Teachers go to War

St. Elmo Lee, 1939

St. Elmo Lee, 1939, served with the 902nd Artillery at Leyte, WWII

On October 24, 1942 vocational agriculture teacher St. Elmo Lee gave up his classrooms at Ray City  and New Lois, GA for the U.S. Army.  He was inducted at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA for the duration of the war. He was single, 5′ 9″ tall and weighed 134 pounds.

St. Elmo Lee enlisted as a private, eventually serving as a sergeant in Battery C, 902nd Field Artillery Battalion 77th Division.  He fought in the Pacific Theater of Operations from March 30, 1944 to November 22, 1945 during which time he was involved in amphibious assaults and  campaigns on the Marshall Islands, Southern Philippines, and Ryukyu Islands.

U.S. howitzer fires on Catmon Hill, Leyte, Phillipines. October 20, 1944.

U.S. howitzer fires on Catmon Hill, Leyte, Philippines. October 20, 1944.
St. Elmo Lee, of Ray City, GA participated in the Battle of Leyte with the 902nd Field Artillery Battalion. In November 1944 the 902nd provided artillery support for the 77th Division operations in the Battle of Leyte.

In November 1944 the 902nd Field Artillery Battalion provided support for the 77th Division operations in the Battle of Leyte. In April 1945 the 902nd was with the 77th Division in the first attack on the Ryukyu Islands, seizing the islands west of Okinawa, and later moving to Okinawa itself.

St. Elmo Lee continued to serve until the end of the war.  He was returned to Fort McPherson, GA for his discharge on January 1, 1946.

Among the decorations he received were:

  • Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars and One Bronze Arrowhead
  • Philippine Liberation Medal with one Bronze star
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War Two Victory Medal

After the war, a pamphlet was published to honor the contributions of Georgia’s agriculture teachers, A Memorial to Georgia Teachers of Vocational Agriculture who fought, suffered, died and worked to win the war.

Among the area agriculture teachers who served were: St. Elmo Lee, of Ray City and New Lois schools,  J. V. Wynn from Nashville and Poplar Springs schools; W. C. Thigpen, Jr. of Barney; W.E. Rooks and Hal Godwin, of Homerville; K. N. Phillips from Ocilla; and J. I. Musselwhite, of Willacoochee; R. E. King, Jr., of Clyattville and Lake Park; John Hensley of Hahira;  H. C. Dorminey from Tifton; and Tom M. Cordell, of Abraham Baldwin.

1946 war memorial to Georgia teachers of vocational agriculture.

1946 war memorial to Georgia teachers of vocational agriculture.

 ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SEVEN TEACHERS ENTERED THE SERVICE

One hundred and fifty-seven teachers of vocational agriculture left their classrooms and entered the Armed Service between 1941 and 1945. More than two-thirds of these served in the army, about one-fourth in the navy, and the rest in the Marines.  

These teachers scattered to the four corners of the earth. To the damp humid jungles, to the freezing temperature of the Aleutians, to the barren sand-swept deserts, they went to do their bit for Uncle Sam. But no matter how far away from home, their thoughts stayed in Georgia.

Seven of these men made the supreme sacrifice. Some of the men were injured; they came back maimed for life, wearers of the Purple Heart. Some were captured and suffered the horrors known only to “prisoners of war.” Many were decorated for courageous actions. All made courageous contributions to winning the war.

The accumulated stories of these teachers would probably fill a book. Some were baptized in fire with American forces that swept across France and into Germany itself. Others fought from the decks of ships or cheated death in flaming battles of the skies. Still others who may have wanted to get in the active fighting were assigned to shore stations in this country or abroad.

But all of the men have stories to tell-if they wanted to talk. It is highly probable that the experience of the men give them a more international point of view. They have seen enough to convince them that this is now in reality one world. And they have had an opportunity to see where Georgia and her agriculture fit into the scheme of things.

Today, some of the teachers are returning to the classrooms they left behind; some are teachers of vocational agriculture in new fields; others are instructors in the newly developed Veterans Farmer Training Program.

Georgia is glad to welcome back her sons. They have done a good job where they were and there is still a job for them to do here. It is good to see the official family of vocational agriculture getting back together again.

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Billy Clements was a Combat Engineer

1942 recruitment poster for the Army Corps of Engineers

1942 recruitment poster for the Army Corps of Engineers

On August 2, 1942, William A. “Billy” Clements enlisted “for the duration of the War.”  He was inducted first as an Army private at Fort Mcpherson, Atlanta, GA.

A line of soldiers during induction at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, 1942.

A line of soldiers during induction at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, 1942.

Billy had four years of college education, and after basic training it was decided his “civilian occupation, training and background were more suited for conversion to Specialist use in the Engineer Corps than in other branches of the services…The army engineer is a builder as well as a combat soldier.”  It was in 1942 that the construction of domestic military bases reached its peak.

On October 5, 1942 The Atlanta Constitution reported William A. Clements had been transferred to the Engineer Replacement Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

William A. "Billy" Clements was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in October of 1942.

William A. “Billy” Clements was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in October of 1942.

The Atlanta Constitution
October 5, 1942

The Army and Navy

Fourteen Georgians are now stationed at the Engineer Replacement Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
    From Atlanta are Herbert C. Johnson, of 476 Lytle avenue, S. E. and James B. Owen, of 1189 McLendon avenue.
    Other Georgians are: Earl L. Nash, of 3787 Highland avenue, Hapeville: Thomas B. Jordan, of Greenville; Roy W. Smith, of Jonesboro; Philip E. Williams, of Colquitt; Glen B. Phillips, of Forest Park; James E. Terrell, of North Roswell; Charles A Lindsey, of Dalton; Arthur L. Long, of Woodbury; Robert F. Meek, of Smyrna; William A. Clements, of Ray City; John V. Benson, of Nelson, and Frank W. McCrae, of Raleigh.

New arrivals at Fort Leonard Wood were greeted with a pamphlet, Introdution to ERTC Fort Leonard Wood,  which provided an orientation to the base and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The prime reason for your being here is to be trained as a combat engineer.  You will learn the use of hand and motorized tools, to construct fixed and floating bridges, to build roads and obstacles, to execute demolitions, and to protect yourself against  enemy attacks.

WW II era yearbook, Fort Leonard Wood

After the War, Billy Clements returned to Ray City, GA. He later became the owner of the Victory Soda Shop, Ray City’s iconic landmark of World War II.

Billy Clements (left) on Main Street outside the Victory Soda Shop after the Ray City fire of March 1969. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

Billy Clements (left) after the Ray City fire of March 1969. Image courtesy of berriencountyga.com

 
 

The Berrien Press 
February 2006

The Berrien Press — William A. “Billy” Clements, 88, of Ray City died February 2, 2006 at Louis Smith Memorial Hospital in Lakeland. Born October 3, 1917 in Berrien County to the late William A. and Mary  Elizabeth Clements, he owned and operated Victory Soda Shop in Ray City for 33 years. He served in the U.S. Army during WWII and was a member of First  Baptist Church in Ray City. Survivors include his wife, Helen Wood Clements of Ray City; three sons, Richard Clements of Chula, David Clements of Ray City, Chris Clements of Virginia Beach, VA; two sisters, Ann Ryals of Valdosta and Grace Howell of  Houston, TX; one brother, Wendell Lee Clements of Conyers; seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held February 5 at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Ray City. Interment was in Beaver Dam Cemetery. Music Funeral Services of Lakeland was in charge of arrangements.

-30-

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Charles Otis Ray Freed From Nazi POW Camp

Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996)

Charles Otis Ray was born June 5, 1922, a son of Charlie Lamar Ray and Leila Smith. He was a grandson of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas Jefferson Smith. As a young man, Charles O. Ray lived with his family near Ray City, GA in Georgia Militia District 1329.

Charles O. Ray enlisted in the Army on November 4, 1942 at Fort McPherson Atlanta, GA. His enlistment records show he was 22 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, weighed 138 pounds and was working as a farm hand in Berrien County.  He entered the services as a private.

On October 3, 1944 the War Department reported that Charles O. Ray was missing in action in Europe.  The Jan 13, 1945 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported that PFC Charles O. Ray, son of Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, was a prisoner of Germany.

On June 14, 1945 the Atlanta Constitution announced that PFC Ray had been liberated from a German POW camp, along with 41 other Georgians.  The following article appeared in The Valdosta Times

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles O. Ray Freed From Nazi Prisoners Camp

     Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, Ga., Route 1, received a V-mail letter this week from his son, Pfc. Charles O. Ray, stating that he is now a free man again, having been liberated after spending 11 months in a German prisoner of war camp.
     Telling of how happy he is to be free once more, Pfc. Ray wrote that he is expecting to return home in the near future.
His relatives and many friends were overjoyed to learn that he was among the many Allied prisoners of war liberated from the Nazis, and that he expects to return to the States soon.
     Pfc. Ray failed to give any details of his imprisonment, preferring to use the limited V-mail space to describe his happiness upon being released from the camp.

After the war, Charles O. Ray married Quilla Taylor.  They lived in Fitzgerald, GA where Charles worked in home construction as a carpenter.

Charles Otis Ray

Charles Otis Ray

Charles O. Ray died Feb 2, 1996  in Lowndes County, GA. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA.

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

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Accidental Death of William Crawford Webb

William Crawford Webb.  Image courtesy of Jimmie Webb.

William Crawford Webb. Image courtesy of Jimmie Webb.

William Crawford Webb, born July 30 1907, was the twelfth of thirteen children born  Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten and John Thomas Webb.  He was born near Ray City,GA (fka Ray’s Mill) and grew up on his father’s  farm in the 1329 Georgia Militia District where, along with his ten brothers, he helped with the farm labor.

Several of his brothers served in the military. One brother,  Shellie Loyd Webb, was killed in the sinking of the Otranto during World War I.  It was not until 1928, when William was 21 years old, that his brother’s body was brought home from Islay, Scotland (see The Long Trip Home.)

During World War II, William C. Webb joined the Army enlisting on April 3, 1943 at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, GA.  He served as a Private, First Class in the Medical Corps of the Army Air Force. By December of 1943 he was at Drew Field, Tampa Florida.

That Christmas the base newspaper, The Drew Field Echo, ran a headline story on the new base hospital.  “It is the U. S. Army Medical Corps which keeps ’em healthy,” the paper said.

Drew Field Echo, 1942 Christmas Edition, Drew Army Air Field, Tampa Florida

Drew Field Echo, 1942 Christmas Edition, Drew Army Air Field, Tampa Florida. Image source: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00076231/00041

The story continued, “In the Station Hospital at Drew Field, the medical staff consists of doctors, dentists, sanitary engineers, veterinary officers, administrative officers, nurses, and highly trained enlisted men of all ranks and grades. The entire staff is bound together by a common ideal — to remove the fetters of disease and injury from the men in training in order to make them more effective combatants on the far-flung battle fields of the global war.”

His corps was honored in the Christmas paper, but Christmas was not to be for William Crawford Webb.  In late December, he had been furloughed and had gone home to Ray City, GA.  Following a tragic accident,  he was classified DNB by the Army –   “Died, Non-Battle.”

His obituary ran in the Nashville Herald:

The Nashville Herald
January 4, 1944

PFC William Crawford Webb Passed Away in Atlanta, Dec 23

PFC William Crawford Webb, 37, died a the Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta Saturday afternoon December 23 at 1 o’clock following injuries received when he fell out of a car enroute from Ray City to Moody Field a fews days earlier in the week.
    PFC Webb had spent his entire life in this county before entering the U.S. Army in April, 1942.  He was the son of the late J. T. Webb and Mrs. J. T. Webb of Ray City. In 1927 he was married to the former Miss Doris Knight, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Lester Knight.
    At the time of the accident PFC Webb was at home on furlough and had been stationed at Drew Field, Tampa Fla. in the Medical Corps.  Following his injury he was rushed to the hospital at Moody Field and then carried by plane to the hospital in Atlanta on Tuesday.
    Funeral services were held December 26 at 3:30 o’clock at Pleasant Church in Berrien County.  Rev. Charlie Vickers of Nashville, and Elder John Davis of Pearson, conducting the services.  Burial was in the church cemetery.
    Survivors include beside the wife nine children.  Terrell, Heyward, Louise, Donald, Thomas, Bennie K., Jimmie, Linda, and Dean, all at home, his mother, Mrs. J. T. Webb of Ray City, and nine brothers, Dr. M. L. Webb and L. O. Webb of Tifton, L. H. Webb, H. P. Webb, and M. B. Webb of Ray City; H. W. Webb of Valdosta, U. T. Webb, J. T. Webb of Miami, Fla., and Sgt. Homer Webb of U. S. Army, Ill.

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James Aaron Swindle and the “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder

James A. Swindle, Sept 3, 1942, Ft McPherson, GA

James A. Swindle, Sept 3, 1942, Ft McPherson, GA

Captain James Aaron Swindle

James Aaron Swindle was born January 1, 1920, a son of  Sarah Ellen “Stell” Daniel and James H. Swindle of Ray City, GA.  His father was a farmer and merchant of Ray City who served as a City Councilman, Mayor, Chairman of the County Board of Education, and Georgia State Assemblyman (see James Henry Swindle). James A. Swindle graduated from Ray City High School in 1936.  He attended two years of college and was afterwards employed by the U.S. Engineers at Florence, S.C.  In 1940 he was residing in his parents household in Ray City; he was employed as a rodman for the highway department.

On January 2, 1942 James A. Swindle enlisted as an Aviation Cadet  at Turner Field, Albany, GA. It appears that James attended basic training at Ft. McPherson, East Point, GA. He attended  advanced flight training at the Columbus Army Flying School in Mississippi where he learned to fly the B-26 Martin Marauder. This aircraft, while eventually becoming one of the chief bombardment weapons in the European Theater, was regarded as challenging to fly.  James Swindle graduated September 6, 1942 commissioned a Second Lieutenant,  and received the silver wings of a flying officer in the  U.S. Army Air Force.

James A. Swindle graduated from Advanced Flight School, September 3, 1942.

James A. Swindle graduated from Advanced Flight School, September 3, 1942.

The Atlanta Constitution September 3, 1942  The Army and Navy in Georgia       Two Atlantans and five Georgians are members of a class of flying cadets which graduated from the new Columbus Army Flying School near Columbus, Miss. September 6.  They received the silver wings of a flying officer and commissions as second lieutenants in the Army Air Forces.      They are Mario M. Hulsey, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Monroe Hulsey, of 701 Elkmont drive, Guy Blalock Harris, son of Mr. and Mrs. Covert Durham Harris, of 792 Cumberland road; Edward D. Gillespie, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Gillespie, of Savannah; Richard L. Lang, son of Mrs. E. M. Lang, of Calhoun; James A. Swindle, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Swindle, of Ray City; Richard A. Young, of Savannah, and Berton Hugh Ramsey Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Berton Hugh Ramsey, of Statesboro.

James A. Swindle was a pilot  of the B-26 Marauder “Sarah E”.  The plane may have been named after his mother, Sarah Ellen Swindle. His Crew Chief was Tech Sergeant D.H. Snyder, the Assistant Crew Chief  was Cpl. Vincent J. Mosca, and Sgt. Chief McCarry was Grease Monkey. Other members of the crew have not been identified.

The "Sarah E" B-26 Marauder, flown by James A. Swindle during WWII. Image Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

The “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder, flown by James A. Swindle during WWII. Image Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

James and his crew were assigned to the 451st Squadron, 322d Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force.  Part of the 322d Bombardment Group moved overseas to RAF Bury St Edmunds, England,  through November and December of 1942 with planes and crews following  March through April of 1943.  Swindle departed for overseas in early 1943.  Ongoing construction at Bury St. Edmunds forced two of the group’s squadrons to locate at RAF Rattlesden, and the group’s aircraft did not arrive until late in March 1943.

James A. Swindle (far right, kneeling) with his crew in front of the "Sarah E". The names of Lt. J.A. Swindle, Pilot, and Tech Sgt. D.H. Snyder are visible on the fuselage below the cockpit. Image Source: Ron O'Neal.

James A. Swindle (far right, kneeling) with his crew in front of the “Sarah E”. The names of Lt. J.A. Swindle, Pilot, and Tech Sgt. D.H. Snyder are visible on the fuselage below the cockpit. Image Source: Ron O’Neal.

James Swindle, pilot of the "Sarah E" B-26 Marauder, flew 74 missions in WWII.

James Swindle, pilot of the “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder, flew 74 missions in WWII. Corporal Vincent J. Mosca served as Assistant Crew Chief, and Sgt. Chief McCarry was Grease Monkey. Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

Once operational, the 322d flew two low-level bombing operations from Bury St. Edmunds. The first, on May 14, 1943 put up 12 planes for a minimum-level attack on an electrical generating plant near Ijtnuiden, a port city in North Holland. This was the first operational combat mission flown by B-26s in Europe. The second was a disastrous return mission to Holland.  On May 17, 1943, 11 B-26 Marauders of the 322nd Bombardment Group (BG) took off for a low altitude bombing mission against the Ijmuiden and Haarlem Power Stations in Holland. With the exception of one aborting aircraft, all were shot down in German occupied territory.  Sixty crewmen were lost to flak and interceptors. Group morale was not improved when, on 29 May, a B-26 crashed onto the airfield, killing the crew and damaging a hangar. After these missions, the group was re-equipped and trained for medium-altitude operations for several weeks before returning to combat operations. On 13 June, the 322d moved to RAF Andrews Field in Essex.

B-26 of the 322d Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff - Spring 1944. (World War II)

B-26 of the 451st Squadron 322nd Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff – Spring 1944. (World War II)

The 322nd Bomber Group and other aircraft stationed in England were carrying out daylight bombing raids on German targets. The most direct bombing route to took the planes within reach of German interceptors at the Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield in Nazi occupied Holland. The Germans stationed dayfighters (mainly Me 109’s and some Fw 190’s) at Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield to attack the American bomber formations on their way to Germany. The strategic importance of the airfield and the growing threat to the success of attacks against Germany meant Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield had to be bombed.

James A. Swindle at the controls of the B-26 Marauder.

James A. Swindle at the controls of the B-26 Marauder.

On the 29th of July, 1943 B-26 bombers of 323 Bombardment Group tried to attack Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield for the first time, but the mission failed due to problems with the flight navigation. The mission was repeated on October 3, 1943, this time with Swindle’s squadron participating. The heavily defended target was bombed – but the airfield was only slightly damaged. All aircraft returned, despite the attacks by German fighters and heavy flak fire. A third strike on Amsterdam/Schiphol was planned for October 16, but this mission was canceled. Along with other Marauder units of the 3rd Bomb Wing, the 322d was transferred to Ninth Air Force on October 16, 1943. The group continued to attack enemy targets in France, Belgium, and Holland attacking the principal targets but the group also attacked secondary targets such as power stations, shipyards, construction works, and marshalling yards. On the afternoon of November 3, 1943, eighteen B-26’s from the 322, 323, 386 and 387 Bomber Groups again took off to attack the heavily defended Nazi airfield at Amsterdam/Schiphol. The American B-26 bombers reached the target in the late afternoon and began their bomb run at about 3:50 PM. The Germans threw up heavy defenses with intense flak cover over the field. Swindle’s group, the 322nd Bomber Group, were the first to attack, followed by the 387th and the 323rd Bomber Groups. One B-26 was shot down on this mission, the first of Swindle’s squadron mates to be lost. On December 11, 1943 Andrews Field was attacked by the Luftwaffe but little damage was done. Two days later on December 13, 1943 Swindle’s squadron, the 451st Bomber Squadron, struck back returning for the third time to Amsterdam/Schiphol. This attack was successful – the airfield was inundated by water pouring through broken dikes as result of bombing. By January of 1944, James A. Swindle and the “Sarah E”  had flown 25  combat missions. James was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross  for “outstanding Achievement while serving as pilot of a B-26 Marauder in hazardous bombing missions over enemy-occupied continental Europe.”

The January 13, 1944 Valdosta Times reported that James A. Swindle had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying twenty-five combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.

The January 13, 1944 Valdosta Times reported that James A. Swindle had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying twenty-five combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. B-26 of the 322d Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff – Spring 1944. (World War II)

Beginning in March 1944 the 322nd bombed railway and highway bridges, oil tanks, and missile sites in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. A later newspaper article gave an update after James had completed 40 combat missions.

Lt. Swindle has piloted a Marauder in 40 attacks against Nazi installations in enemy-occupied Holland, Belgium and France thus far. In addition to the D.F.C. he also wears the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters. He rates as his most interesting mission a recent attack against the Luftwaffe base at Amsterdam Schipol, in Holland, when flak fragments hit the windshield of his aircraft and spattered glass all over his lap. ” It was the most concentrated flak that I have ever seen,” he said upon return from the mission.

Maintenance on the "Sarah E", B-26 Marauder flown by James A. Swindle, of Ray City, GA

Maintenance on the “Sarah E”, B-26 Marauder flown by James A. Swindle, of Ray City, GA Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

On D-Day, 6 June 1944 the 322d Bomb Group attacked coastal defenses and gun batteries. Afterwards, during the Normandy campaign, the 322d pounded fuel and ammunition dumps, bridges, and road junctions, supporting the Allied offensive.

B-26 Maruder of the 322d Bomb Group at on a bomb run during World War II. Source: National Archives via the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB Alabama

B-26 Marauder of the 322d Bomb Group on a bomb run during World War II. Source: National Archives via the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB Alabama

On June 25th, 1944 a German Buzz bomb hit near the end of the runway where the 451st squadron was stationed. That day,  the “Sarah E” completed her 100th mission.

From Andrews Field the 322d received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the period 14 May 1943 – 24 July 1944. The group moved during September 1944, transferring to Beauvais (A-61) Airfield in northern France, and aiding the drive of Third Army across France.

After D-Day Swindle’s group deployed to Advanced Landing Grounds in France and later Belgium. The 322nd Bomber Group Provided tactical air support and bombardment of enemy strong points and military targets to disrupt resistance to Allied ground forces advancing from the French invasion beaches and the ensuing offensives on the continent; 1944-1945.  They attacked enemy forces as part of the Western Allied invasion of Germany in 1945 and continued offensive tactical operations in support of ground forces until German surrender in May 1945.

The 322nd flew its last mission on 24 April 1945. After V-E Day, the group was assigned to occupation duty in Germany beginning in June 1945, engaging in inventorying and disassembling German Air Force equipment and facilities.  The 322nd returned to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey in December 1945, and was deactivated on 15 December.

In all, James Aaron Swindle was decorated with the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the African-European Campaign Medal, Caribbean Campaign Medal, and a Presidential Group Citation. He flew 74 combat missions between July 1943 and November 1944. The B-26 Marauder “Sarah E” that was “his” plane was flown by other pilots. According to Marauder historian Trevor Allen, at www.b26.com, “Sarah E”  completed 140 combat missions before running out of fuel and crashing into a cow pasture in France November 1944.

Other Ray City AAF men included B-24 Liberator pilot Max Maurice Johnson, and flying officer Jim Paulk. Charles Shaw  entered the Army Air Force and was trained as a mechanic for the B-17 Flying Fortress.    Sgt. Mitchell Moore was assigned  to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron, 491st Bomber Group, flying as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator. Howell Shaw served at Sedalia Army Air Field and William C. Webb served in the Medical Corps of the Army Air Force. Lt. Jamie Connell, of Nashville, served as a  navigator-bombardier. Saunto Sollami served in the Army Air Corp and came to the area after the war. Sergeant Dillard Markham was stationed at Moody Army Air Base when he married Ray City girl Ruth Boyette.

After the war,  James A. Swindle returned to his home town, Ray City, GA.  He became a cattle rancher with land on Possum Creek Road near Ray City, a spread he called “Rolling Green Farm”. He married Betty Ann Patten from Lakeland, GA, a UGA Class of 1943 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Heath Education. A 1979 advertisement in the Florida Cattleman and Livestock Journal indicates he was a breeder of Brahman cattle.

James A. Swindle, cattleman, was a breeder of Brahman cattle

James A. Swindle, cattleman, was a breeder of Brahman cattle

James A. Swindle was killed on September 10, 1993 when he was gored by one of his bulls. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

James Aaron Swindle (1920-1993), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

James Aaron Swindle (1920-1993), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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