Information

John Overton


John Overton was born in Marksville, Louisiana, on 17th September, 1875. He graduated from the Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge in 1895. After graduating from the law department of Tulane University he was admitted to the bar in 1898.

Overton worked as a lawyer in Alexandria, Louisiana. A member of the Democratic Party, Overton, with the strong support of Huey Long, was elected to Congress in May 1931. The following year he was elected to the Senate. He was chairman of the Committee of Manufactures and served on the Committee on Commerce and Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation.

John Overton died on 14th May, 1948.


Oldest U.S. Veteran, Richard Overton, Dies at 112

For his first 107 years, Richard Overton lived in relative anonymity. A World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific, he could usually be found post-retirement on the porch of his Austin, Texas, home, smoking cigars and chatting up his extensive circle of family and friends. Then, in 2013, he visited Washington, D.C., and was referred to in the media as the oldest living U.S. veteran. (In actuality, that would not become true until 2016.) 

Suddenly, Overton was an in-demand celebrity. Texas Governor Rick Perry showed up at his door bearing whiskey. President Barack Obama invited him to the White House. The San Antonio Spurs gave him a number 110 jersey (his age at the time) and brought him onto the court for a standing ovation. And he became a staple at Austin civic events, such as the annual Veterans Day parade.

Meanwhile, strangers began sending him cigars in the mail, calling him on the phone, or coming by the house to thank him for his military service. “He’s very social,” Volma Overton Jr., 69, his second cousin once removed, told HISTORY in 2016. “He’ll spend time talking to everybody and shaking everybody’s hand.” 

Under doctor’s orders, his relatives limited his porch time so that he didn&apost overextend himself. Yet they acknowledge he thrived on the fame. “He kind of lives off all that,” said Overton Jr. “He knows that he has this attention and status around the world.”

In addition to spending several years as the oldest U.S. veteran, Overton was also thought to be the oldest living male in the United States before his death on December 27, 2018, at the age of 112. Though dependent on 24-hour home care at the end, friends and family say his mind remained sharp. At the age of 111, he still walked, and took no regular medication stronger than aspirin. Overton credited “God and cigars” for his longevity, telling HISTORY in 2016 he still smoked about 12 a day, but that he never inhaled.

Richard Overton smoking a cigar with a few neighborhood friends Donna Shorts and Martin Wilford in Austin, Texas, 2015. 

Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman/AP

America&aposs oldest veteran had hardscrabble origins. Descended from slaves who toiled on the Nashville, Tennessee, plantation of Judge John Overton (a close friend to President Andrew Jackson), his newly freed ancestors moved en masse from Tennessee to Texas following the Civil War. Around four decades later, on May 11, 1906, Overton was born outside Austin. At the time, Teddy Roosevelt was president, Albert Einstein had just published his special theory of relativity, and no one had yet heard of the Ford Model T or Titanic. Color television was still a half-century away.

Starting work early, Overton held various odd jobs as a teenager and young adult, including landscaper, cotton picker, home builder, and furniture store employee. He was also an avid hunter. “Richard has been a hustler all his life,” said Overton Jr.. “He’s always working hard.”

Military records show that Overton enlisted in the Army on September 3, 1942, at age 36, nine months after the United States had entered World War II. Serving with the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, he would eventually be shipped off to the Pacific Theater, apparently arriving in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, his unit’s first overseas stop, the day after a series of accidental explosions sunk several ships and killed or wounded hundreds of men. (This incident, which occurred two-and-a-half years after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, would become known as the West Loch disaster.) Overton’s battalion later helped wrest control of Angaur, in the Palau islands, from the Japanese, and also made its way to Guam.

Richard B. Frank, an Asia-Pacific War historian, explained that most African-Americans were forced into service support units during World War II, and that the principal job of Overton’s battalion “would have been the building or maintenance of airfields.” The Library of Congress reported that Overton likewise served on burial detail, as base security, and as a jeep driver for a lieutenant. He saw combat as well, however, and was recognized by the Army for his expert marksmanship with a rifle.

Richard Overton in the backyard of his Austin, Texas home. He served for the Army in the Pacific during World War II.

Jack Plunkett/Philips Lifeline/AP Photo

Though Overton no longer remembered all the details of his service when speaking to HISTORY in 2016, he had no shortage of war stories. He talked of reaching Pearl Harbor as the damaged ships were still smoldering and of participating in a battle so horrific that the water turned red with blood. He recalled enemy snipers in trees and giant flies that sucked the blood of the wounded. “It wasn’t easy, but I got out all right,” Overton said. “I didn’t look the same, but I got out all right.”

After being discharged from the Army at the end of the war, Overton returned to Austin—which was then strictly segregated under Jim Crow laws𠅊nd built the house he still lives in. (In spring 2017, the Austin City Council voted to rename his street Richard Overton Avenue.) Originally re-entering the furniture business, he later spent many years at the state treasury department, working for part of that stretch under future Texas Governor Ann Richards.

“She loved him and took care of him,” Overton Jr. said of Richards. He adds that his cousin performed many tasks for the treasury department, his favorite of which involved going to the bank in a golf cart and depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time.

Martin Wilford, 60, a longtime friend and former co-worker of Overton’s, remembered that Overton always kept a second job as well, selling fruit or cutting yards. “He was one of the best guys around the Capitol,” said Wilford, who described Overton as happy-go-lucky and “very generous.”

As the decades went by, Overton, who married twice but never had kids, remained in excellent health. Volma Overton Jr. remembered attending his 95th birthday party and thinking he looked closer to 65. “He moved around fast, talked to everybody,” said Overton Jr. “He was just going, going, going.”

President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton, with Earlene Love-Karo, before attending a Veteran’s Day Breakfast at the White House in 2013. 

506 Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

Overton did not gain widespread recognition, however, until coming to the attention of Allen Bergeron, chairman of Honor Flight Austin, a nonprofit that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials built in their honor. “I got his address and drove to his house, and there he was sitting on his front porch with his World War II hat on,” Bergeron recalled.

The two became friends, and in May 2013 Honor Flight Austin brought the then 107-year-old on his first-ever trip to Washington, where, according to Bergeron, he was so blown away by the beauty of the World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials that he started crying.

On the same trip, as they passed by Arlington National Cemetery, Bergeron overheard Overton mumbling to himself, “God bless those soldiers. How come them? How come I came home? Why me?”

By then somewhat of a media sensation, Overton returned to Washington that Veterans Day for breakfast at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. He also rode in the presidential motorcade to Arlington National Cemetery, where Obama gave a ceremonial speech singling him out for praise. “When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas, to a nation bitterly divided by race, and his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home,” Obama said. 𠇋ut this veteran held his head high.”

Thousands of people donated to cover his home care costs, and the Home Depot Foundation and Meals on Wheels Central Texas renovated his house for free after a plug melted into an outlet and nearly caused a fire. He even received air conditioning for the first time. Back at home after a bout with pneumonia in 2016, Overton said, “I’m still living and doing good.”ਊnd, with that, he returned to what he liked best: cigars and schmoozing.

This story has been updated to reflect that Richard Overton died on�mber 27, 2018, at the age of 112, after being hospitalized for pneumonia. 

This story is part of Heroes Week, a weeklong celebration of our heroes in the armed forces. Read more veterans stories here. 


Austin, John Overton (1818&ndash1910)

John Overton Austin, farmer and state representative, was born in Louisa, Virginia, in 1818, the son of David Shelton and Polly (Lowrey) Austin. Prior to 1848 Austin emigrated from Virginia to Missouri. Here, in Lafayette, Austin married Missouri Jones on March 23, 1848. This couple had three sons and one daughter. Austin immigrated with his family to Texas in 1851. By 1860 Austin had settled in Fannin County and established himself as a farmer. At this time he was among the more prosperous members of the community, boasting $5,200 in personal and real estate property. After his first wife died in February of 1860, Austin married Minerva Jane Bassham in Fannin County on August 15, 1860. In 1870 Austin won election as representative, running as a Conservative Republican, for Fannin County to the Twelfth Texas Legislature. Austin died in Bonham, Fannin County, in 1910.

Austin&mdashAffiliated Families (http://www.vanleerplus.org/austin.htm), accessed June 7, 2007. Floy C. Hodge, A History of Fannin County (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1966). IGI Individual Record, "John Overton Austin" (http://www.familysearch.org/), accessed June 7, 2007. Patricia A. Newhouse, Fannin County, Texas, Federal Population Census, 1860 (Honey Grove, Texas: Patricia A. Newhouse, 1980).


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Overton County, Tennessee was formed in 1806 from Jackson County, Tennessee and Indian lands. The county was named for Andrew Jackson's friend Judge John Overton, Judge of the State Supreme Court, and co-founder, with Andrew Jackson and James Winchester, of Memphis. In 1835 the county seat was moved from Monroe to Livingston. There was an election in 1835 to see if the people preferred Monroe or Livingston. Jesse Eldridge and ten others who favored Monroe, started out to vote but stopped overnight in the Oakley community. Eldridge, who personally favored Livingston, arose early in the morning and released the horses of the others who favored Monroe. He then rode to Monroe and voted.

Overton County was originally a part of Davidson County and later Jackson County. In 1805 Moses Fisk surveyed the first village in what is now the community of Hilham. On September 12, 1806, the area of Overton County was established by the state legislature as a county. The Indian Territory that had been within, in which Cherokee Chief Nettle Carrier presided over, was conceded to Tennessee for use by the white man. Overton County, at one time, included part of the territory that eventually became Fentress, Clay, Pickett, and Putnam counties, and since many of the early records of these counties have been partially or entirely destroyed, the extant records of Overton County are important.

The original courthouse was burned by Captain John Francis and a band of Confederate guerillas from Kentucky in April of 1865. This sensless act so close to the end of the Civil War might have destroyed all early County Records had it not been for County Register of deeds James Richardson. Mr. Richardson had hidden the county deed books in the cellar of his home. A few record books in the offices of the County Clerk, the circuit Court Clerk and the clerk and master were also saved.


John Overton - History


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Overton County, Tennessee was formed in 1806 from Jackson County, Tennessee and Indian lands. The county was named for Andrew Jackson's friend Judge John Overton, Judge of the State Supreme Court, and co-founder, with Andrew Jackson and James Winchester, of Memphis. In 1835 the county seat was moved from Monroe to Livingston. There was an election in 1835 to see if the people preferred Monroe or Livingston. Jesse Eldridge and ten others who favored Monroe, started out to vote but stopped overnight in the Oakley community. Eldridge, who personally favored Livingston, arose early in the morning and released the horses of the others who favored Monroe. He then rode to Monroe and voted.

Overton County was originally a part of Davidson County and later Jackson County. In 1805 Moses Fisk surveyed the first village in what is now the community of Hilham. On September 12, 1806, the area of Overton County was established by the state legislature as a county. The Indian Territory that had been within, in which Cherokee Chief Nettle Carrier presided over, was conceded to Tennessee for use by the white man. Overton County, at one time, included part of the territory that eventually became Fentress, Clay, Pickett, and Putnam counties, and since many of the early records of these counties have been partially or entirely destroyed, the extant records of Overton County are important.


Overton County

Named in honor of Nashville judge John Overton, Overton County was carved out of Jackson County on September 12, 1806. With an area of 434 square miles, the newly created county encompassed all of what is now Fentress County, as well as portions of Clay, Putnam, Cumberland and Scott Counties. It is situated on the escarpment of the Highland Rim to the west and the Cumberland Plateau to the east.

Prior to the establishment of the county the area had been used as a hunting preserve by Native Americans, and white encroachment into the area violated existing treaties with the Indians. In the Alpine community the Cherokee inhabitants were referred to as “Nettle Carrier” Indians and were friendly with white explorers. In 1763 a party of Long Hunters explored the area and camped for a time at the current location of Waterloo on Spring Creek and later along the Roaring River. A number of the Long Hunters chose to remain, to the chagrin of the Cherokees. In 1769 one of those frontiersmen, Robert Crockett, was ambushed in the Oak Hill area and killed he is purported to be the first white man to die in Middle Tennessee.

In 1797 the idealistic and peripatetic Dr. Moses Fisk moved into the county. A recent graduate of Dartmouth who was licensed to practice law, Fisk wanted to tame the wilderness and pursue the American dream. He established a settlement at Hilham, which is one of the oldest communities in the county. Fisk, thinking Hilham was the geographical center of the entire globe, started four roads radiating out of Hilham in the four major directions of the compass, convinced that all roads would lead to his new Rome in the wilderness. In an era of male dominance, Fisk established a Female Academy–one of the first such schools in the entire South–at Hilham in 1806.

After the American Revolution many veterans received land grants from the federal government and moved into the region. In 1799 Colonel Stephen Copland and his son “Big Jo” left Kingston and established a settlement near Monroe. Copland worked out a hospitable arrangement with the Cherokee chief Nettle Carrier and was allowed to establish a home site. His success encouraged further settlement.

The first county seat was located at Monroe in the northern part of the county at the crossroads of the Kentucky Stock road and the road to Danville, Kentucky. Benjamin Totten served as its first county clerk. Both John Sevier and Andrew Jackson acquired landholdings in Overton County in such places as Monroe, Windle, Oakley, Independence, Taylor and Ozone. In 1802 French adventurer Andre Michaux explored the Roaring River and trekked through the county as he moved west across the state.

John Sevier’s son, Samuel Sevier, acted as the first doctor in the Upper Cumberland, and his daughter Joannah lived most of her life in Overton County she is buried in Monroe. Sevier’s widow, “Bonnie Kate,” moved to Overton County in 1815 and settled in the Dale community. Dale, or Lily Dale, no longer exists. The community was one of those flooded to create Dale Hollow Lake, yet its name endures in the choice of the lake’s name.

The county seat moved from Monroe to Livingston in 1835 as traffic through Monroe began to decline. Overton County representative Alvin Cullom engineered the change of location. New roads into Livingston and a burgeoning merchant district made it the logical choice for the county’s government.

Though much of the land in the county is inadequate for commercial agriculture, Overton County did have a number of slave owners. In 1860 slaveholders numbering 248 owned 1,087 slaves.

Though largely outside the fighting in the Civil War, Overton County was not untouched by the conflagration. Prior to the debacle at Mill Springs, Kentucky, which led to his untimely death, Felix Zollicoffer encamped and trained his Confederate troops near Monroe. Union soldiers gunned down a group of Confederates at the Overton Farm, north of Monterey, in 1864. In 1865 Captain John Francis and a band of Confederate guerrillas burned down the courthouse.

After the Civil War entrepreneurs and industry moved into the county. Two extractive industries, logging and coal mining, flourished side by side. Loggers like “Uncle Billy” Hull, father of Cordell Hull, made fortunes at the turn of the century. Logs were cut and either snaked by mules to “peckerwood” mills to be roughly sawed and shipped to market or floated down to the Cumberland River for delivery in Carthage or Nashville. Coal camps were established in the rugged hills to the south and east of Livingston. Run by the Fentress Coal and Coke Company and the Gernt family, towns like Twinton, Davidson, Wilder, Crawford, and Hanging Limb experienced a brief economic boom that lasted from the 1890s until the mid-1930s. The Wilder-Davidson strike over unionization led not only to the murder of organizer Barney Graham, but also precipitated the demise of the soft coal industry in the Upper Cumberland.

Concomitant with the logging and coal booms was the extension of railroads into the region. The railroad assisted the extractive industries and increased mobility in the region. Rickman, the second largest community in Overton County, was established in 1900 as a railhead. Rickman provided the only stop between Livingston and Algood and became a burgeoning economic center as a result. That economic boom reached its peak in the 1940s and has been on the wane ever since. The Rickman community had its own high school until 1984, when schools were consolidated and all students of high school age attended Livingston Academy. Rickman became a bedroom community for citizens who worked either in Cookeville or Livingston.

The Alpine community of Overton county was home to Governor Albert H. Roberts. A progressive governor and former educator, Roberts was instrumental in Tennessee’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Ironically those very women whom Roberts empowered with the right to vote chose to vote him out of office when he ran for reelection in 1920. Roberts performed the marriage ceremony of World War I hero Alvin C. York and his bride Gracie Williams in Pall Mall June 7, 1919.

The county boasts two significant recreational facilities: Standing Stone State Park, which began as New Deal-era parks project, and boat docks and campgrounds on Dale Hollow Lake, a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tourism accounts for a considerable portion of the county’s annual income.

In 2000 the population of Overton County was approximately 20,118, with less than 1 percent of the residents being nonwhite.


John Overton - History

HISTORY OF SEKAI TOSHI GIJUTSU DOJO
(English Translation - World Fighting Arts

Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo has its roots in a karate school called Okinawa-te started by Captain Angus Reynolds, United States Marine Corps (USMC), when he was stationed in Buffalo, New York sometime between 1960 and 1963. Captain Reynolds had two USMC Sergeants assisting him, Sergeant Sam Soda and Sergeant Jerry Simmons. Captain Reynolds was a Roku-dan in Isshin Ryu Karate, Shodan in Judo, and was well versed in Okinawa Weapons and other martial arts i.e., Aikido, Jujitsu, and Kendo. Captain Reynolds had studied Isshin Ryu Karate directly from the Master and Founder Tatsuo Shimabuku when he was stationed on Okinawa in earlier years, sometime between 1954 and 1962.

In 1963, John H. Overton became acquainted with Captain Reynolds and his dojo (school). When he visited the dojo. John H. Overton was so impressed with the traditionalism of the dojo that he became a student. During the course of that year Dave Rapp, Paul Hallenbeck and Mike Costello had the same experience and joined the dojo.

In January 1964 Sensei Reynolds changed the name to Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo with the idea of the school being a center for the learning of a number of martial arts, using his own knowledge and others. Some of the participating instructors were:

Sifu Ting Fong Wong Kungfu

Sensei Al Schmidt Judo

Sensei Angus Reynolds Jujitsu, Aikido, and Isshin Ryu Karate

The arrangement lasted less than one year and then only Sensei Reynolds and Isshin Ryu Karate was left. He kept the name Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo, however. Sensei Reynolds, Simmons and Soda went to Vietnam in 1967, before leaving they turned the school over to Senseis Overton, Rapp, Hallenbeck and Costello. Three years later Sensei Overton was the sole owner of the dojo.

In 1968 a training manual was put together for the students of Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo. It was called the Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo Promotion-Information Book. The purpose was to systematize the training and have of record of a students training for both the student and Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo. The manual was written by Sensei John H. Overton and Sensei Quitman Hawkins a student who later became a partner in 1970.

Over the years Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo accepted people from all walks of life. The dojo has been subjected to fires and explosions, for which the dojo was never closed for training. Never, in all its years and partners, has there been any contracts. The partnerships have always been through true brotherhood, a handshake, and extremely close friendship. The world could learn a lot from the relationship that exists among Master Angi Uezu, Dai Sensei John H. Overton, and all of Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo students, wherever they may be.

Over the years Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo has maintained direct ties with the Island of Okinawa through the yearly visits of Master Angi Uezu. Senseis and students have also made trips to Okinawa to train, keeping the art as it was taught by Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku.

Dai Sensei John H. Overton died unexpectedly on November 2, 1991, in Buffalo New York. Master Uezu came and paid his respects to Dai Sensei Overton and Beatrice Overton in May 1992. At this time Master Uezu stated that Sensei Robert Herron (Atlanta GA) would now carry on the teaching and philosophies of Dai Sensei Overton and Sekai Toshi Gijutsu Dojo.

For further information and a photo history of my school please click HERE


Interview with John W. Overton [11/10/2012]

So Mr. Overton, good afternoon. Today is November the 10th, 2012. My name is Brenda Page, and I'm with the State Bar of Texas. I'm conducting an oral history interview at Sunbelt Court Reporting in Houston, Texas. The court reporter today is Sue Baker with Houston Court Reporters Association. Our veteran this afternoon is John W. Overton. His date of birth is February the 7th, 1926. He served in the United States Army Infantry in World War II. His highest rank was staff sergeant. He also served in the Korean War, and he served in the Army Reserves and retired as major.

He received the Purple Heart the Bronze Star the Combat Infantry Badge World War II Victory Medical the Army of Occupation Medal, Japan the Asiatic Pacific Medal and the Korean Service Medal. Good afternoon, Mr. Overton.

I'm going to ask you a few questions about your background. Please state for the record your name and address.

I'm John Walter Overton. My present address is 11510 Eastland Drive, Houston, Harris County, Texas. Zip code 77065 dash 1015.

I was born in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Sumner County, Tennessee, postal area served by Bethpage, Tennessee.

The names of your parents?

My father was Lee Overton and my mother was Nellie Thelma Collins Overton.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

I have one brother and six sisters.

Would you mind telling us their names and ages, if they're --

If I can remember their ages. I'm the oldest of the eight children. My -- going down the ladder from me, my sister is Elizabeth, Mary Elizabeth Moss. She was married to Ben Moss. My next one is Lela Mae Overton Jay. She was married to Bill Jay. They had one daughter. The next one is Virginia Dare Law, and she was married and she has two children, all grown, and grandchildren, of course. The next one is Theta Bara Campbell, who was married to Wert Campbell, and they have four children. And then the next one is James Thomas Overton. He had three children, one of which was deceased. And then the next one was Rowena Overton that was married to Griffy, Rowena Overton Griffy. And the last one, the baby child, was Martha Jo Overton Tuttle. And she was divorced, and now she's Martha Jo Overton. She changed her name.

In Sumpter County, Tennessee, and attended high school at the -- at Gallatin, Tennessee.

Were your parents in the military?

My father was in World War I, stationed at Camp Jackson in the veterinary corps. He was a sergeant in charge of a horse barn.

And your brothers or sisters, did they serve in the military?

My brother served a short period of time. He was in the tanks, some armored unit. He didn't go overseas, but he did serve in 1950 sometime, I believe it was.

How did you come to be in the military? Were you enlisted -- did you enlist?

Actually, I was drafted. And I knew that I was going to be drafted, and I reported to the draft board, requested immediate induction so that if I passed my physical examination, I would not come back home, I'd just stay in the service, and so that -- that's -- that's how I entered the service.

That was in Tennessee. I was sworn in under an old pine tree at Camp -- at Tullahoma, Tennessee, on September the 13th, 1944.

Did you pick the branch of service that you entered?

No. I wanted the Air Force because I liked aircraft, but he said he's going to put me in the Army, the captain that interviewed me. And I said, "Well, I'd like to volunteer, make a career out of the Navy." He said, "You can make your career out of the Army." So he put me in the Army.

Do you recall your first days in the service?

My first day? Yes, we laid around the barracks and got ready to ship out to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia, where they gave me my shoes and uniforms. And then they sent me to Camp Blanding, Florida, for 13 weeks -- I believe it was 13 weeks of infantry basic training.

Well, the -- it was quite different to me because, you know, the -- the regimentation and blowing a whistle and you had to fall out for this and fall out for that. And we'd go on moonlight marches and bivouac, and I ate a lot. I spent a lot of time on KP because I got injured going up a mockup village. I pulled a leg -- in my leg, and I couldn't walk real fast. And so the sergeant would get angry with me, and he'd put me on the back of the squad because I couldn't keep in step. Lot of times, they put me on KP. So I spent so much time on KP, the head cook, the chief cook, mess sergeant, would put me peeling potatoes or something and said, "Now, if an officer comes along, you put that down and you grab that broom and start" -- because I wasn't supposed to handle food. So they treated me just like I was another cook, really, because I was so familiar there. They got to where I wouldn't have to tie a towel on the end of my bed so that they'd wake me up early to go on KP. They let me sleep until they came in with the other troops, and I'd eat my breakfast and then go back in the kitchen and start my KP work.

Do you remember your instructors?

Yes, I do. My sergeant, my platoon sergeant was Sergeant Berger from New York, and the platoon corporal was -- we called him Ardine (phonetic), he was -- we didn't like him very well. He was kind of -- what did we call it? Chicken. He'd make us do things we didn't like to do.

Was there anybody else there that you knew from Tennessee?

No one in my company at Camp Blanding.

Not necessarily so, because, you know, I was with other young men and so -- stayed busy.

We're going to talk about World War II.

That's the first war that you served in --

-- is that correct? Where exactly did you go after training?

When we finished our basic training in -- it was '39 out of the company that was ordered to go to the Pacific Theater. The other men, the ones that were shipped overseas that were physically able, went to Europe. They were replacements after the Battle of the Bulge. I was given about two weeks delay in route. I went back home and I recall my mother fixed me a shoebox full of fried chicken and stuff so I could eat it on the train. And I got on a troop train in the day coach, and we went across the central part of the United States, through Kansas City Ogden, Utah into San Francisco, I believe it was and then down the coast to Fort Ord, California. We stayed at Fort Ord for a few days, and then we was shipped out on the train that went up the west coast at nighttime to Fort -- Fort Houghton, Washington, where we -- that's just right outside Seattle, where we were loaded on a ship and shipped out to a replacement depot in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Unit? From Hawaii, I went through Saipan as a replacement depot there after the Battle at Saipan was over. Some of the Japanese were still up in the mountains, and we went on some marches and we could see the snail shells where they ate snails. And I was there for about a week, quite some experience that -- I'll tell you about them if you're interested.

But while there, there came a big rain while we were out on a road march up in the mountains. We was living -- living in an area that had been bulldozed off so it had a lot of fresh ground there, and the rain made it muddy, and it washed the mud over my pup tent. I couldn't find my tent, I had to scratch for it because the blankets and the tent and everything was wet. So there was a moonlit night that night. I went over in the edge of a field, a rice paddy, and I just laid down in a ditch to go to sleep on the side of a road. Well, I laid there. Before I went to sleep, the movie theater was -- they have a -- after the -- it'd get dark, they'd have a theater. It dawned on me that the guys were going to be coming back along that road and they wouldn't know whether I was a friendly or Jap or what, and it frightened me. And I got up and grabbed my blanket and headed back over into the area to go to sleep. But anyway, from there, we went through the Marshall Islands into Okinawa. Thirty days after the initial invasion -- the initial invasion was on April the 1st, Easter morning of 1945. And I landed from a troopship off of Higgins boats on May the 1st, 1945, and was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division, Company I, in the 32nd Infantry Regiment.

So being in the infantry, what exactly were your duties? What was your assignment?

I was -- I joined my unit as a replacement, and I was given a Browning automatic rifle that was my weapon after the young man that was in the squad that had the automatic rifle was wounded. So it -- in a few days, it fell to me to carry the rifle. And if you're interested, I could relate my activities there with -- with that unit.

The first -- when I landed on the island, we went across the island. There was no resistance. The Japanese had already been pulled to the south or pushed to the south. The Marines had gone north, and had basically occupied the northern part of the island, had come back down and joined the line on the west coast over next to Naha. So going across the island on a quarter-ton truck, I could hear to my -- and it was in the daytime, but overcast, cloudy, with scattered clouds. I could hear a big boom on my left up north. I could hear something go (descriptive sound) and I could look up and I could see, going from one cloud to another, a shell with a ball -- with a light on the back of it. And then I could hear a boom when it landed somewhere down the island on my right. So the artillery was firing across our head as we went from the west coast to the east coast. So we went down the island to where the front lines were. We got out of the quarter-ton truck, and there was a major that met us and he spoke to us. He was the -- the battalion commander. And so there was a -- who appeared to be a lieutenant found out later he had a weird -- his name was Eightball. Now, what his real name was, I don't know. Everybody called him Eightball. But he was an older veteran that had been with that division on Attu, Kwajalein, Layte and now Okinawa. And at one time, he was a sergeant for the regimental commander -- who became regimental commander, but he was wearing a raincoat with lieutenant bars on it. He was just a soldier, but he got us and we followed him back up a -- on a ridge, where I was actually introduced to my company and my platoon that I was to replace. My platoon sergeant took a C-ration box, showed me where my foxhole would be. And it had rained some, so he tore the box up and made a lining so it wouldn't be too muddy in the box for me. And he told me, "Now, you" -- "you can go on duty the last tour in the morning." So that's what I did. And so I was on guard then during the last nighttime -- last shift, so to speak, when daylight came on. I recall while I was there, I saw what looked like a priest come out of a clump of woods probably a thousand yards away and come torwards our line, but he wasn't dressed in the uniform, so I -- I didn't shoot. But I did tell my sergeant that I saw him. He said, "The next time you see anybody out there move, you shoot because there's nobody out there but the enemy." Later that morning, when the -- when I was relieved from that guard post, the guys would come off of the ridge down to a central point where they had a C-ration box, and they'd get their breakfast from the C-ration box. While the -- they were standing around the box, eating the C-rations, there was a noise, (descriptive sound) like this, and everybody hit the ground but me. I'm just standing there. And that guy that I didn't shoot had lobbed a knee mortar shell across the ridge. He had saw roughly where the guys would come off and focus down to one point. Later, I learned this in a Japanese intelligence bulletin. And so he tried to land a shell there. The knee mortar shell didn't go off. If it had, I wouldn't have been here today, I'm sure, because I was standing up and it landed about 10 feet from me. So that was my first morning on the front line.

And did you actually see combat, then? This was --

Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. The day or two after that, the Japanese -- well, one night, the Japanese tried to land behind our lines and they miscalculated and landed in front of the lines and went into a village, Imabari, I believe it was called. So we were set in to go in and -- and run them out. One of the young men by the name of Newland that had come in with me, his name was close in the alphabet to mine, he had gone in that morning, and I was told -- he didn't come back. I was told that he fell in a foxhole, a camouflaged foxhole where the Japanese officer, the officer killed him. But that afternoon, we -- my squad went into there, and at that time, Herbert Foster from Arkansas was carrying the Browning automatic rifle. And as we went into the village, there was a wall on either side of the narrow street that went into there, and a shell had blown part of the wall out, and Arky, we called him, was over in there in a firefight with some Japanese that was in that building. I stuck my head around because I was supposed to -- I had a rifle then. I was supposed to protect him. And as I stuck my head around, they shot at me, and I felt the air from the bullet as it passed by my head and hit the wall on the other side of me. And so I took my helmet off and put it on the end of my rifle and stuck it back out. I did that so maybe they would fire again and Arkansas could see where they were firing from. But they didn't shoot at my helmet. They were after me. So that's two escapes, then, in a couple of days that I narrowly missed being killed. So we stayed -- finally cleared the village out. And then after about a week, they pulled my division back into a rear area for a ten-day rest. Although I hadn't been on the line that long, the older guys had, and they needed to go back and maybe shave and get a bath and -- and recuperate some. So we went back to a rest area. And while there, we had to dig a foxhole because the Japs that had been bypassed might try to drop knee mortar shells on us or to attack us. And so while there, I could pull up a shelter half over my foxhole. In case it rained, I could keep the water out. I was sitting there one morning on the edge of my foxhole, and I -- an Army photographer came by and took a picture of me that he sent to my mother. And then after ten days there, we went back up on the front line. And then it started raining. And it rained for probably close to two weeks, almost. And the mud got so bad that they had to bring our food and ammunition up to us in a Weasel. It's like a Jeep, but it has tracks on it. During that period of time, my platoon tried to take a little hill that was called Helmet Hill. There was a ridge on the other side, a much higher mountain, and the Japanese -- we didn't know this at the time, but they had an artillery piece on the south side of this ridge, and they dug a trench on the top of the ridge. And on the mountain up here, the big hill, they zeroed a machine gun on that ridge. And as our men would come up and attack that hill, they'd get over in that trench, and the marine -- the machine gun would kill them. My lieutenant was killed, and about eight of the members in my company were killed in that ridge, and we couldn't bring them off. They stayed up there for about a week before we went back. Finally, it quit raining and we could go back up there. And I'll relate to you my trip going up there, if that's okay.

I was told to leave my rifle back with my assistant, my buddy in my foxhole, and to take a case of grenades and go up there, and that's what I did. And we got there, and I delivered my grenades, and there was a man by the name of Gerwin that had been shot through the face thisaway (indicating), and he couldn't see. We had to bring him out on a stretcher. And the rice paddies had a -- a little embankment, like, where they were elevated, and you could walk along the top of the bank. But in bringing Gerwin out, we had to get below that -- that walkway or that embankment and scoot him on the stretcher, as we slipped along on our bellies to push him, you know, to avoid the machine gunfire. But we brought Gerwin out from there. And then it was -- after it got where we could travel better, we went back up on that hill and took that hill. In the mean time, the Japanese had moved the -- the artillery piece. And going up there, one of my -- they would attack the hill, and it was a shell crater, and a man by the name of Tiny and one other guy was laying in the crater. And a guy that had taken my dog tags, that was wearing my dog tags when we were back in -- in the rest area -- I don't know why in the world he did it or why I let him have them -- but he said, "Move over, Tiny." And he -- we were being attacked. Tiny moved over, and this guy laid down in the shell crater where Tiny had been laying. The place where Tiny moved over, a knee mortar shell fell on him and took his life out right away. Such a close call, you know. While the guy said, "Move over, Tiny," he doesn't even know, you know in other words, "I'm coming. Move over." You know, I mention these things to you with quite a bit of humility because of the sacrifice those guys made.

It sounds like you remember them very well.

So were the relationships between your fellow soldiers close?

Were you very close, then, to the men you were serving with?

Yes, I was. I stayed in touch with most of them for several years, and as a last -- less than a year ago, all of them had passed away except two. It rained so bad, we went -- I'd take a grenade can -- grenades would come in a little container. Take that can or a C-ration can and dip the water from our foxhole, because you couldn't -- you had to stay in the foxhole, and the rain would fill it up. And your fingers would turn white, and get wrinkles in them, and your feet, and you would do the same thing and, you know, you just -- water there. One morning, it quit raining. The sun came out after it had been raining quite a while. And some Gideon when I was going overseas, gave me a Gideon testament. And I had wrapped it in a piece of -- piece of plastic, like, to keep it dry. So I got it out, opened it up, and I opened the Gideon testament and I read Matthew 10:28. And Matthew 10:28 said, "Fear not them that kill the body but are unable to kill both the soul and the body. But rather, fear him who can destroy both the soul and the body." So you know, as an 18-year-old kid, it gave me a lot of encouragement to think they couldn't really wipe me out, because I was a believer. I was a Christian from the time I was 14 years of age.

Did you see many civilians?

Did you see civilians when you were fighting? Were there civilians around, townspeople?

Oh, yes. Yes. We would encounter civilians. A lot of the school boys would wear uniforms, and they were hard to detect from soldiers. I recalled one incident when we were moving south, they had dropped leaflets telling the soldiers to strip off except just their underclothes, and to come out with a leaflet or the hands up. And there was a whole group of people coming up towards our lines, and the Japanese would get among those civilians and try to -- to invade our lines, to get behind the lines. And so my sergeant -- I wasn't going to fire on them. My sergeant gave an order to fire. And I was hesitant of firing, and he -- he got after me, and it made me mad, and I fired so much with that Browning automatic rifle that the barrel turned white and started smoking. I don't know how many people were civilians and how many were soldiers in that group, but I've always felt bad about it.

Did you-all feel like it was a cause worth fighting for?

Oh, certainly. Really. Because we knew, we'd been told those reports about the Bataan Death March and the atrocities that the Japanese had perpetrated against our prisoners, and so we were -- had a way -- we were very determined about it. I -- I can recall that an 18-year-old kid doesn't quite think like an older man that maybe has a family, you know. There was one young man there whose name was O'Keefe. O'Keefe was from Chicago. And O'Keefe was such a kid, he got sunburned going overseas on the deck of the ship. But he became first -- first scout in our squad. And O'Keefe would stay out probably 50 yards or 100 yards in front of the squad, and he thought it was funny. His theory was, "They're not going to shoot me. They're going to wait to get a bunch of you when you-all come by." But he was a good first scout and apparently he came through without a scratch. My sergeant that lives up in Nebraska now, one of the sergeants, he became sergeant, a man by the name of Lyle Dahl. I stayed in touch with him. And Lyle Dahl was wounded, also. And so the -- the sergeant -- the company sergeant just before him, we called him Smoky. And we was in a village and going south, and we had gone through the -- to the village. And first before we get there, it was in the morning, the sun was out, and my unit was moving south in a line. We came to a big crater that had been blown in the ground by a 16-inch Naval shell, and that was a large crater. To take cover, I got in the crater, and we were held up and I went to sleep. I don't know how long I slept, but when I woke up, I didn't see anybody. I didn't know whether my unit had gone back or whether they'd gone forward. I didn't know where I was. But I wasn't going to jump up until I saw something happen. I waited there, and I was never so happy in my life to see another guy sticking his head up out of another hole over on my right. So when we moved into that village, though, Snuffy got wounded, and we couldn't -- couldn't get him out quick enough, and he bled to death. While we were in that village, also, the night before, we could hear a child crying. And the next morning, we found this little girl, and Snuffy, before he got killed, had taken a parachute -- the Navy would send luminous shells over, flares that would burst in the air and come down on a parachute to light the area up at nighttime. Well, it took -- the little girl was naked, and he took one of those silk parachutes and made her a dress and sent her back to the back.

So how long did you stay in Okinawa?

Until about the 2nd of September, after the atomic bomb had been dropped, and then my unit boarded a ship and went into Incheon, Korea. And the tides there come and go as -- they became quite notable during the Korean War when General MacArthur landed there again. And so we -- the tide went out, and we stayed on an island overnight and got on a train the next morning and went to Seoul. And from the depot, you could see the capital ground. It was about a mile away down the Main Street, and so we went on the capital -- as we go towards the capital ground, the people were standing -- the streets were clear, but there would be a Japanese guard standing at the intersections with his back towards us with his rifle with a bayonet on it towards the people that were gathered around. Everybody was quiet. And we went down that way and got on the capital ground, pitched our pup tents, and then we took down the Japanese flag -- and I have pictures of that -- and ran up the Stars and Stripes. Of course, the Stars and Stripes didn't stay there very long. They put up the -- the Korean flag. But after this -- the people saw the Stars and Stripes go up, they came climbing across the walls with banners painted, with the paint still dripping from them, giving us a welcome. So we relieved the Japanese guards on the points of interest that -- the communications center, the switchboards, the banks and places like that. And they came back and stayed in the old Chosin Palace grounds right behind the capital building. And so eventually, we were moved back in an empty building that was on the other side of the Chosin Palace, a museum building that was empty, and that's where we stayed for a few days. So as we'd come off duty, though, we'd have to go through the palace ground, and the Japanese would be around that staring at us, we'd stare at them. It was a funny feeling, because you know, you'd been shooting at them before, and now they're all around you. You're walking through their bivouac areas.

I'd like to back up a minute and talk about the atomic bomb.

How did you -- did you know that they were going to drop a bomb?

No, I did not. I had no idea at all. And we were quite happy that they had dropped the bomb, because we were scheduled to go in to make landing at Yokohama. And quite frankly, after that bomb was dropped, they started feeding us real good. They wanted to get us in good shape so we could make the invasion at Yokohama. And I saw the -- I saw the planes come over, the white plane carrying the delegation that was going towards the BATTLESHIP MISSOURI, where that armistice was signed. And while at Okinawa, before they dropped the bomb that ended the war, I'd seen the kamikazes get shot out of the air. And if they would fly across a destroyer, they could fly across a battleship and maybe get away, but the destroyers were real good at shooting down those kamikaze planes.

So how did you hear about the atomic bomb being dropped?

I don't remember exactly how I heard about it, but we were more interested in the ending of the war than we were the dropping of the bomb. The bomb didn't mean that much to us, you know. It was the war being over that -- that we were really looking for. And when it was, it became dangerous on Okinawa, because the guys were shooting in the air and throwing hand grenades and celebrating and everything else, and a few guys got injured when -- when they, you know, told us that the war was over.

It's my understanding that there were a lot of casualties on Okinawa -- in Okinawa?

And that even though the Japanese lost substantially more, we lost a lot of our servicemen, too?

Yeah, the island was declared -- the Marines flew a Piper Cub airplane down and landed it on the southern tip of the island on the beach on -- I think it was on the 21st of June, 1945. On the 20th of June, 1945, I'd had a close encounter with a Japanese cavalry officer that wounded me. He lost his life. And so they sent me back to a field hospital. I had blood and stuff all over me. I wasn't wounded bad, but it was his blood. They sent me back and -- to a battalion aid station, and then they sent me back to another holding area. We spent the night there, and a lot of guys in there was wounded, and they moaned and they tried to relieve their pain, you -- you'd hear them scream all night. I get overwhelmed. I'm sorry. The next day, we were loaded on an alligator. That's like a tank but it's an amphibious track, taken out to -- on an LST, and taken up the -- up the island to a field hospital. Excuse me. So the following morning, I was operated on to remove some shrapnel from me. The next morning, while laying in my bunk, I looked up from out of the flap of the tent, and there was an airplane coming straight towards me. And I didn't realize what it was, really. And just before he got in, he turned over to his left and right into the back of a -- the LST, and it was parked on the beach. And of course, it was a kamikaze. And I'm often thankful that he didn't pull the trigger on his machine gun before he did that.

What you are describing, the --

What you have described, the men sound so incredibly brave. Where do you think they got the courage?

Well, it's -- it's -- I think -- I think anybody that's in those situations has fear. It's a matter of overcoming the fear, you know. It's just you do what you have to do and -- I didn't really ever think about me getting killed, you know, it was just a day-to- day existence. And it's always somebody else, you think, you know, that's going to get killed, not me. And so I -- I felt I feel very fortunate, very fortunate.

So you-all were in Korea, and when you arrived in Korea, the fighting had stopped is that correct?

World War II was over. We went to Korea as occupation troops, and we stayed there -- I stayed there with the unit until -- for about a year, almost a year to the day. And while there, we moved up to a little town called Chuncheon. There was a -- United Nations had a unit there, a headquarters in Chuncheon. While in Chuncheon, I spent about two weeks up on the 38th parallel. The Russians were north of there. A Russian sergeant with his silk britches and his machine gun and a corporal with him would march down the river for about ten miles and come over and visit with us. And so that was quite an experience there, what with the meeting the Russians on the 38th parallel.

What was your impression of the Russians?

Of the Russians? Well, they were quite friendly. You know, they were just in the Army, doing what they were supposed to do, too, yeah. I recall the first time he came down, he -- he hugged me, he gave me a bear hug like this (indicating). So the second time he came down, I saw him coming, and we just ran together and I tried to break his ribs. So we got to be kind of buddies.

So how did you communicate?

Just sign language, yeah. I couldn't understand Russian and I don't think he could understand English. But you can do a lot of communicating just with sign language when you have to.

So you were away from your home for how long?

Two years exactly, during World War II. I went -- I got on the -- school had started. I went out on -- on my junior year for two weeks, and I rode the school bus to -- every morning to the high school. And this particular morning that I went in the service, the school bus driver of the school bus would go downtown a little bit farther down central Gallatin, so I just stayed on the school bus and went down and got on the bus to go to Tullahoma for my examination. Two years later to the day, I came back home. Next morning, got on the school bus and went back to high school. Very unusual, but that's exactly how it happened. Two years exactly.

How did you stay in touch with your family during those two years?

Usually just write to them. We had what we called -- I think they called it a V letter. They sent them by air mail, and we could -- particular form, and we could write, and I stayed in touch with them that way.

Did the mail service come regularly or --

It was pretty good. It was pretty good. We always looked forward to letters from home. A lot of guys got Dear Johns and that sort of thing. I wasn't bothered with that because I didn't have a girlfriend I left at home. The girl I had been interested in had met a lieutenant from up north someplace and -- and they had got married, so I lost my girlfriend, and I was.

Did you have anything with you for good luck or --

It wasn't good luck. You know, I wasn't interested in good luck.

So you must have had leave -- been on leave during this two years at some point, were you? Did they have actual leave?

Only -- only on the delay in route after I finished my basic training before I shipped out going overseas. That was for -- I don't know, about a week, something like that.

So what did -- what did you do?

I don't recall. Just eat my mother's fried chicken, probably, and enjoy it. I like -- I liked -- cornbread and buttermilk was my favorite food, and I recall when I was overseas, I wrote a letter to my mom and I said, "You know, I'd sure like to have some of your cornbread and buttermilk." And for years, as long as she lived, when I'd go home, I'd have cornbread and buttermilk, you know.

Do you have any photographs -- did you --

I do, but they were -- I don't have original photographs. I didn't bring any with me. I brought a copy of my discharge order. Actually, I was -- stayed service connected -- we haven't talked about the Korean War yet, but I stayed service connected for 41 years, 9 months and 19 days in some capacity until I was actually discharged from -- from the military service.

Well, let's talk about the Korean War.

So you came back home, and how did you -- how much time was in between when you got home and when you went -- I assume you went back to Korea?

I went back to high school, took a GED test and graduated with the class that graduated in the spring of 1947. I got a job with Cumberland Valley Paint Company that we were spraying coal tar on warehouse roofs on -- basically, it was the back of warehouses in middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky. I stayed with that until the fall of 1947, when I went and enrolled in Cumberland University, so I -- with the intention of studying law. I decided that I wanted to study law while I was in Korea as occupation troops. I was promoted to sergeant and then staff sergeant while we were in Korea. And we got some new officers, some lieutenants. One of them was from West Point, and he -- he acted like he had a grudge against some of us guys from combat. We had some combat experience. I don't know in particular why, but he would give us some orders that just didn't particularly suit you, you know. So I started studying regulation, and I liked to do that, and I thought, "You know, if I like to do this, I'd like to study law." And so Cumberland University was 20 miles from my home, and I enrolled at Cumberland University. I went -- finished two years of pre-law, which was Tennessee's requirements at that time, and was ready to enter law school in the fall of 1950 when the Korea broke out. And I had -- when I was separated from active duty, I joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps. My friend, my buddy in my hometown, was in the Tennessee National Guard, and he persuaded me to join the Guard with him, so I transferred into the Tennessee National Guard into Company C of the 168th Military Police Battalion. When the Korean War broke out, that battalion was called into federal service, and my company was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland. And in the mean time, because I was first three grader of staff sergeant, I was recommended for promotion to second lieutenant, direct appointment. And it was approved. So I went back in federal service in September of 1950 as a second lieutenant. We did training. I trained MPs at Fort Meade, Maryland, until the spring of 1951, when I transferred to Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation at Norfolk, Virginia, as assistant provost marshal. We stayed with the -- with the naval -- at the naval air station, my captain and I did, who was provost marshal and during the summer months, the reserve Navy flyers would come in for the two weeks annual training. We requested quarters allowance, and it was granted, and we went to Virginia Beach and rented a house. And there, we stayed the summer of 1951. And he got orders to ship out overseas in late '51, and then I got orders to ship out in early '52. And so I had bought a car in the mean time, and I -- they were paying me mileage, and I started -- drove back down in Tennessee, and I was going to -- to go into Mexico and up the west coast of Mexico. But the roads to Mexico was so bad, I came back up and went just north of the border in through El Paso into San Diego, and then up into Oakland. And I traded -- I sold that car back to the original dealer in Oakland, where it had been purchased by somebody appearing to be coming back from overseas. Got on a plane and flew back through Hawaii, through Wake Island, back into Japan. And was -- took a ferry boat back into Korea, where I was assigned to the 59th Military Police Company in Korea that was charged with the responsibility of providing security for the Taegu military command, the command that extended actually like a belt from the east coast to the west coast across the Korean peninsula. Part of my duties at that time -- I had 26 different duty assignments as executive officer in that MP company. One of those, we went to Pusan, loaded some civilian internees that were Communist sympathizers, onto a troop train. I got up in the cab with an engineer. My guards were along the train as we took them up to a new camp that was outside of Taegu that had been built especially for them, and there, we discharged them out into the -- with that camp commander. Later, the commander of the Taegu military command, because the -- in the military, venereal disease is very -- you'd get court- martialed for it at that time. And so the -- the venereal disease at that camp, around that camp with the troops, the guard troops and the other incident troops and so forth that were there, was getting too high. And the commander, Taegu military commander, was concerned about it because it looked bad on his command. So he called me to his office and he says, "Overton, I want you to go up to Chuncheon, that little town up there, and I want you to stop that VD rate." That's quite an order, you know. How am I going to do that? He says, "Talk to the MP company commander that's up there that's furnishing guards to the enclosure and to the medical officer that's there." And I did. Well -- you know, they cooperate with you, but that don't stop the VD rate. What you got to do to stop the VD rate is to keep the troops away from the prostitutes that were coming up. We'd see them get off of the train and go into town, and then the guys would get a leave and they'd go into town and meet the prostitutes. So right away, I made friends with the national police major who was in charge of that particular area, and -- and I had a Jeep that had MP markings on it, and he liked that. So we went out and inspected his guard post one night and we got to be real friends, and I took him a fifth of whiskey. So he assigned me a national police officer. We'd go -- that police officer would go down towards the depot where these prostitutes were, and he'd recognize who they were, you know, you could -- he could pretty well tell. He would arrest them. He'd take them and put them in the jail. The next morning, my sergeant would take a deuce-and-a-half truck, empty the jail out and drive way out in the country and just let them out. And they'd have to walk back to town. After that happened two or three times, they were so tired, they started leaving town. And then it was quiet over there, no aircraft, you know, at nighttime. We could walk through the village, and we could hear these GIs talking if they were there. And the police would knock on the door, and I'd order the -- the GI to come out. And they'd come out and I'd take him back, turn him over to his unit commander. I remember one case, we were outside listening to this conversation that this GI was having with his Mousse Mae, and he'd got her pregnant and he wanted her to have a -- have an abortion, and she didn't want to have a abortion. And so he was quite upset about that, because he had a girlfriend back home and he -- you know. And it was a sad situation. But after a couple weeks, I got that VD rate almost wiped out. And the unit commander Taegu village, that commander was quite glad about that.

So how long were you in Korea this time?

During the Korean War? I believe -- I was born in '26, I went back in service in Korea in '52. I hadn't figured that out. I was about 22 or something like that.

So did you stay in Korea for months or --

I was there for almost two years. I had -- when I first went back on active duty during the Korean War, I was in category 1. I believe that's correct. I renewed my category and I stayed for another three years, a total of four years on active duty during the Korean War. When I came back to the States, I took a ship back from Korea to Fort -- Fort Lewis Washington, and was flown from Fort Lewis into Chicago on a Lockheed Constellation. That's the aircraft that had those three fantails on it. My first and only trip on a Lockheed Constellation. And I was assigned then to -- I bought a new automobile. I obtained a '53 Mercury automobile that was -- the '54s had just come out, and I found a receipt the other day that showed I paid $1,200 for it. So I was assigned to Fort Lee, Virginia, that's a quartermaster post, and I was in the -- I believe it was the 515th Military Police Company. And there was a stockade at Fort Lee, and I had been stockade commander in Korea for a short period of time, and so I was assigned to the stockade after the major, a warrant officer and about two other lieutenants, the staff, had left the stockade going overseas. I had a -- I had a good staff there, the sergeant and the other people that knew what to do, and so it was a pleasant tour of duty to be stockade commander then. That's exactly what I did, a consignment officer, taking care of those prisoners.

So what was that -- what was that particular assignment like? You really enjoyed that. What --

Well, I enjoyed that because, number one, for some reason, Army cooks are terrible, they'll go to town, get drunk and be AWOL, and they'll put them in the stockade. And so we had some good cooks in the stockade and the reputation of having the best mess on Fort Lee. And so a lot of the officers would come down and want to eat, particularly MP officers would come down and want to eat in our mess. And so we'd do that. And I recall one young man that brought in the stockade the -- his -- that came somewhere out of Baltimore somewhere, his girlfriend had told him that she's going to leave him. He took a notion that he was going to try to impress her, so he drank some carbon tetrachloride. They had to pump his stomach out. The next morning, they told me about it, and I called him into the office and I stood him in front of my desk at attention, and I dressed him down. Basically, what I told him was, "I don't want to have to fill out all the paperwork if you kill yourself in this stockade. Now, if you're really serious about wanting to die" -- which I didn't think he was -- I laid my .45 up on the desk. I says, "I'll drop this over the woods and you can go over there and just pick it up and blow your brains out and I'll leave you there till the buzzards get you." And I really got on his case like that. That boy straightened up and he made a good prisoner and he got returned back to duty. But sometimes you just have to really get after them in order to get them straightened out. But it was pleasant dealing with those people, because they'd messed up, but they hadn't messed up real seriously. The worst prisoner that I ever had had committed murder. He was a truck driver in Korea, and his buddy was in the back of the truck, and he said something that he didn't like. He stopped the truck, took his rifle out of the rack and shot and killed his buddy. And so he wound up in my stockade in Korea. I had to ship him out to the Big 8 stockade in Tokyo. But he was the worst offender that I had. Most of them were AWOL and things like that.

So you -- when you came back from Korea this time, what happened, what was -- what was next? Did you stay in the reserves?

Yes, I did. I reported to headquarters, National Guard headquarters in Nashville and told them that I was -- was returning home, and I was going to Houston, planning on going to college in Houston. Because in the mean time, I'd gotten married in Fort Lee, military wedding, and I had met a colonel that was an attorney that had offices in Brownsville, and he'd invited me down to -- to see him when I finished law school. Because he knew I was planning on studying law. So I wanted to go to law school, to University of Houston Law School. And while I was at Fort Lee, there was two young men from Houston that came there for summer training. One of them later became dean of the law school at University of Houston, Dean Neible. But I -- I made the decision that I wanted to do that, because Tennessee had increased the requirements from two years of pre-law to three years of pre-law and had sold the law school, Cumberland University, to Sanford in Birmingham, I believe it was. So the -- I couldn't go back to the law school that I had planned on attending. So I came to Houston and -- and almost started all over. I took my Bachelor of Science degree and started on the -- on a three-year combined educational program where you go three years in the college of arts and science and your first year in law school and then you get your bachelor's degree. Well, they had a dean in University of Houston that had -- was going to flunk 50 percent of his class, and I knew that I was in that 50 percent deal, so I just went back and did four years at the University of Houston and I took my Bachelor of Science degree and majored in economics, and then went to South Texas and did three years of law in South Texas.

And so you got your law degree and practiced law?

At South Texas and went into practice in April of 1953, I believe it was.

Did you keep in touch with any of your military friends from --

Yes, I did. A man by the name of John Law lives in Medina, New York. John can't hear good now, and he has real bad health, the last time I talked to him. I haven't spoken to him recently. And then the other one that's still living that was -- that was about 15 or 16, obviously stayed in touch with each other for quite a while. The other one was Lyle Dahl, who had been first sergeant in Korea during the occupation there. Lyle lives in -- in Minnesota -- up in Nebraska. I talk to Lyle once in a while on the telephone. So he's -- those two are the only two that's left. The three of us.

Do you feel like your time in the military made an impact on the rest of your life?

Most certainly. Most certainly.

I think -- well, I think it gave me a deeper appreciation of what freedom is really about.

Is there anything that you would like to add at this point that we haven't covered?

Well, after -- while I served with the -- with the -- in the armored reserve, transferring to Houston, I transferred out of the Tennessee National Guard into the 75th Maneuver Area Command, and there, we would get requests from different National Guard and reserve units on the -- west of the Mississippi River to help train those units. And so we would write a military exercise that was suitable for that unit. Of course I got involved with the MP units. We'd write the exercise, go on location and conduct the exercise to train those troops during the -- during the summer months. One of the units that -- that we were quite involved with was the 300th Military Police Command, which was the only mili -- I'm sorry, Prisoner of War Command, which was the only Prisoner of War Command in the United States Army. And that -- it was located in Wisconsin. So we'd go up to Wisconsin every summer and put on exercises up there. And then during that particular period of time, a lot of riots in California and places, and we studied riot control, how to control crowds and riots during that period of time.

What time period was this?

I think that was probably the late '60's. And then in the '70's, early '70's, we were concerned about national defense, so my unit, as a -- as a -- as a training command, was scattered from the Mexican border to Seattle, all across the western coast, and I was stationed just at the far end of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Mason during that period of time, and we'd conduct those civil defense exercises. And it was quite -- quite interesting, in particular when you -- when you're training prisoner of wars command, these people had to deal -- had to know how to deal with prisoners of war, what their rights were under the Geneva Conventions, and so I taught the Geneva Conventions and that phase of international law during that particular period of time that I was in the reserves. It was quite interesting. I volunteered to go to Vietnam, to the Vietnamese War, and because of my age and because of the fact that I had four children, they turned me down. I'm kind of glad they did, but my idea was to go to Vietnam as a camp commander, one of the POW camps, and get involved with handling the POWs, and then after the war, maybe get a job with the State Department and work to revise the Geneva conventions. Because there was a lot of revision that needed -- lot of provisions that needed changing, but that didn't materialize, so I just.

You said there was a prisoner of war camp in Wisconsin? Or was that --

That was a prisoner of war command.

Right. These people were trained, their primary mission was to take care of prisoners, to operate POW camps.

We ran out of tape. (Pause to change tape.)

But I was -- in June of 1986, I was having digestive problems, and I went to my doctor, and he was treating me for digestive problems and wanted me to go to a specialist. Well, I had -- just prior to that, I had gone through -- a little while prior to that, I had gone through a divorce and had lost my health insurance. And well, as a background to that, I'd had a subdural hematoma, and so I lost my ability to remember. And they found me and took me to the VA hospital, and I got connected with the VA hospital. So in '86, when I was having this problem, I went back to the VA hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, the doctors were there, they kept checking me for a digestive problem. And one of their physicians assistant's called me one day and said, "Would you come in so we can ask you some questions and check you out?" I volunteered to do so. So he persuaded the doctors to send me for a CAT scan, and they discovered a tumor in my pancreas. So they said, "we want to operate right away, we're going to do exploratory surgery." I said, "What's a pancreas?" I didn't even know what they were going to explore. "We're going to look and feel. If it doesn't look right, we'll take it out." So they did operate and took out a -- a malignant tumor out of my pancreas. Dr. Paul Jordan did the operation. He told me I had two years at the most to live, told a friend of mine that I had no chance of recovery. But that's 26 years ago. So I'm quite proud of the fact that dodging bullets, dodging the subdural hematoma -- and I still got the holes in my skull -- and avoiding pancreatic cancer after 26 years, I feel very fortunate. Very fortunate.

So when you look back over your military career, what is it about the military that made you re-sign up and stay in the reserves and -- because you didn't have to.

No, and I liked the fact that with the military, you learn and you teach, and it's a process of learning and teaching. And I liked the regimentation. I liked the association with people that I met in the military, plus it was another source of activity. I met a man in the 75th maneuver area command that was about ten years older than I was that was also an attorney, and we worked very close together for many years. He had his practice -- independent practice and I had mine. Joe Pappas. And Joe stood up for me -- stuck up for me so many times, and we became very, very close friends. He was just like a brother. So it was the acquaintances that I made, too, the friends that I made. I liked that camaraderie. And so as a result of that, I belong to the American Legion Life Member of the Disabled American Veterans a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of another association, which it's composed primarily of military people that slips me now what the name of it is because I haven't attended a meeting, but primarily people that are retired, military people that's retired. I haven't attended a meeting in a couple years, but I maintain my membership.

I've been to a reunion several years ago in Kansas City for the 75th -- I'm sorry, for the 7th Division reunion. But that's the only one that I have -- have gone to.

Is there anything else about your military career and your service or the people that you were with that you want to impart to us today?

That you would like to talk about?

Well, not -- I suppose not really. I recall what General MacArthur says, "Old soldiers never die, we just fade away."

Did you get to meet any -- like General MacArthur or --

I never met General MacArthur. I used to escort J. Lawton Collins and Ridgeway when they'd come to Korea. I would escort them. And I wanted to take them through the roads at a good rate of speed, and most of them would say, "No, you slow down," you know, "we don't want that attention." Because the Koreans, the Korean generals and people would do that, they'd really like for the people to know, "Hey, I'm a big shot." But Ridgeway and Collins weren't that way. And of course, I don't recall the specific time that I've escorted General Van Fleet, but he was the commander of that area when I was there, and we used to provide security for Van Fleet and Van Fleet's headquarters.

When you went on leave while you were in Korea, did you go to Tokyo?

Did you go to Tokyo while you were in Korea?

Yes, I did. And when I got orders to close the stockade at Korea, and to transfer the prisoners to the Big 8 stockade in -- outside of Tokyo, they -- we would fly a load of prisoners, under guard, on a C-46. Now, the C-46 was an old aircraft, and that's the one that I flew over on when I took my group over. And once we got in Tokyo, we could have about a week leave in Tokyo. So we had to wear parachutes and Mae Wests on that old aircraft. But we got in Tokyo and I went to the Nakatsu Hotel. It was one of the most modern motels in Tokyo, and the airlines had their offices on the first floor. And I went to the desk and asked for a room, and they asked me did I have a reservation. I did not have a reservation, but I knew the Japanese people well enough, so I went down the street to a telephone, called the hotel, made a reservation and went right back and picked up my reservation, and they gave me a room. And I invited the guards, the enlisted personnel that went over with me doing the guard work, to have dinner with me that night. And I'll never forget that. It was the most elaborate dining that I have ever been in. They had string orchestras on one end of the dining room and the other type orchestra on the other end, and the waiters were all in white jackets with towels over their arms. I couldn't read the menu. The menu was in French. But we had a young man with us who was Dutch, and he could read French, and he interpreted the menu for us. And we wanted to take a picture of the guys that were there. They were very opposed to us taking a picture, but I insisted, and finally, they brought a cameraman in to take the picture of the group that was there at the table. And they served in courses, and I recall -- being -- being a country boy, I just always liked to use good manners, but they had the silverware on this side of your plate and the silverware over there, and I picked up the wrong fork. And the waiter behind me came and took the fork that I should have got and replaced it. And I -- I paid the check, but you'd be surprised, the check didn't come to really that much for about eight of us. But, yeah, I remember that very well.

So you would have been in Tokyo in the '60's? So it would have been --

No. No. That was not in the '60's, that was in '50 -- probably sometime in early '53, sometime in '53 that I was in Tokyo there. I went through Tokyo on my way to Korea, but this was the leave that I got, and -- in Tokyo. We could take what we call R & R after you had so many points and you could go to Singapore. But the -- I came home before my turn came up to go for R & R into Singapore.

I was wondering if there were signs of the war in Japan in the '50's when you went to Tokyo, if you --

I didn't see it. I didn't see them.

I think that pretty well -- pretty well covers it. I could describe in detail some of the combat experiences.

At 18, at 18 years of age, and being raised on a farm, I was a lot different than I am now. I recall seeing Army tanks come up on the esplanade where the Japanese were dug in the hillside of the mountains and with flamethrowers to try to burn them out. Tanks would -- after a bit, would retreat. There would be a sniper or somebody come out and start shooting again. I recall on that same esplanade, when we got up to it, that -- you had to eat, you know. You could open a can of C-rations and you'd eat something. And I recall sitting there one day, eating, and as close as me to that wall over there was a dead Japanese soldier laying there with the maggots working in his stomach and his mouth and his eyes, stinking. But you just eat your food anyway. I couldn't do that today, you know. I was so different. And I recall another time that I got into a firefight with a -- some Japanese undoubtedly were in a dugout behind some bushes, and it was -- I was up on a little basin like this (indicating), and they were on the other side, probably 50 yards away, at least. And I was behind a rock. And they were firing at me, and I was tying to figure out where they were firing from so I could fire into that particular place behind those bushes. And I -- I couldn't see them. So it dawned on me that since they could see me and I couldn't see them, they had the advantage, and I needed to move from there. So I -- I knew that he had to work the bolt on his rifle to reload, where my rifle, I could just pull the trigger and it would fire eight rounds, my M-1 would. But at that time, I was carrying the big AR. But I -- I knew the difference in what he was firing. So I waited till he fired a shot, and then I moved from this rock over to a safer place between the time he could work his bolt over there. And I recall sitting there, and I couldn't get my legs all back behind the rock, and I thought, you know, "If he shoots my leg off, so what? As long as I get by with my life." You know. That's really what counts. And I recall having those thoughts about that at the time. Because it -- you know, at times, the -- it got pretty critical. And I recall the -- my commanding officer by the name of Williams got wounded. He was the company commander. So they sent him back to the hospital, of course, and we got an artillery officer who apparently wasn't infantry-trained, and we was going along a road, going south in a column, and I was back behind the column a little ways. And I was -- I was there intentionally, because then as the men went up, scout was up front, I could see on both sides if somebody came out and started firing on these men, then with my automatic rifle, I could protect them. Well, I don't think this artillery understood what I was really doing. He told me, said, "Come on in, keep up, get up here." He wanted me to close in. So thank goodness, nobody fired on us that day. But he didn't stay very long. We got another officer in, a young first lieutenant who was killed the day after I was wounded and sent back from the front line. And I'll never forget how the -- the guys that survived was telling me how there was a Jeep up there and it had a trailer behind it, they just put his body in the trailer and took him back. He's dead, you know, he don't know the difference. So they transported him out of there in a Jeep trailer. But after the battle was over, of course, when it was really -- when the island was declared secured, I was back at the hospital. I stayed back there for a few days and came back to the unit. They'd already pulled the unit -- the war was over. They were back in kind of a bivouac area. And I remember being impressed with such a short -- what we call a chow line, you know. You get your mess kit and you go through the line to get your food. You could almost touch the back of the line. There was probably not over a dozen people in the line. The rest of them were either dead, wounded or in the hospital. Eventually, those that were wounded would -- like I did, they came back to the unit. But the unit was almost wiped out. Yeah.

Do you know how many of the unit?

No, I don't. No, I don't know the number.

How many men were in a unit?

In a company was probably about 200, roughly 200 people. They -- I was in Ida company. Ida would be -- best I remember, three companies to a battalion, and those -- the regiment, the 32nd Infantry Regiment which was off of Hawaii was called "The Queen's Own" regiment, they were made up of the battalions, and the battalions were made up of the companies and the companies were made up of platoons and the platoons were squads. And that's the way it broke down. But about 200 in a -- in an infantry company.

Did you see a lot of other Allies?

I recall the Australians, the Australian Air Force, used to be -- would give air support to us while we were on Okinawa. And those pilots were really good, but they looked like they would take chances that the -- that our pilots wouldn't take. And I recall one time -- I don't know -- I don't remember what Air Force it was, but we'd put up markers, kind of like an oil cloth, and it would be yellow, probably 8 or 10 foot long and 4 foot wide, something like that, front line marker so the aircraft could see where we were. And apparently one of those aircraft got confused on what side the friendly forces were, and so it was not uncommon for somebody to get hurt or killed by friendly fire. But the -- those -- those Australians would come in very low, strafing and dropping their bombs. During the Korean War, the Turks were there, the Gurkhas were there. They had a reputation of once they pull their sword, they'll never put it up until they draw blood. I was never -- I didn't have too much contact with the Gurkhas. They were a unit all by themselves up there. But there was different types of UN forces in Korea during the Korean War. Spent a lot of time on a ship going over from Seattle when we -- during World War II, as we shipped out of Seattle, we went out of Puget Sound on this troopship, and they assigned me guard duty. Now, why that, I don't know. But they just gave me guard duty in the head. Now, if you don't know what a "head" is, they called it "latrine" in the Army, a "head" in the Navy and we'd call it a "bathroom" in civilian life. But I got duty in the head. And the ship started rolling, and I started getting woozy and seasick. And I had some Adabrine tablets in my -- I think they were Adabrine -- seasick pills in my first aid kit. I thought, "Well, I ain't going to -- I'll just take a pill." I didn't realize they were to make you vomit instead of keeping you from getting sick. Not preventative. So I was sick for eight days. I was never so glad to get to Hawaii. And we went in at Honolulu and got off that troopship and got on a narrow-gauge railroad in gondola cars -- that's the -- you know, the -- little metal -- don't have a top. Late in the afternoon, and we'd go up through the pine groves into -- into Schofield Barracks, and we stayed there for a while. While I was there, I went down to a service club. And I'll never forget, there was a soldier there from Hawaii in uniform. They had a Coca-Cola machine. You'd get a Coke for a nickel. He got his Coke, got a bottle of Coke, and he looked at the top and apparently he didn't see an opener, but he had his two front teeth out, so he just put it in his mouth and opened his Coke. It's little things like that you remember, you know. And at the service club, the Dole Pineapple Company, they'd take some of the pineapple that were getting quite ripe and they'd bring them back and they'd dump them behind the service club, and you'd go back there and pick up the pineapple you want and cut it off and trim it and eat pineapple.

How did you find out the war was over, World War II?

I was sitting in an open-air theater, waiting for the movie to come on, when we got the word. And I think it came over a loud speaker. And those guys started hooping and hollering and shooting and carrying on. And that's the way that I found out that it was -- that it was over. We were told that it was -- that it was over, at that time. And it was dangerous.

Do you remember what movie was going to be played?

How long was it between when you found out the war was over and when you actually left to go home?

Well, when I found out the war was over, that was sometime in August. And a typhoon was coming in at Okinawa, and we got on a boat I think it was around the 2nd of September, and the seas were already getting rough. And I recall trying to get on that -- we'd load on Higgins boats, small craft, and we'd go out to that boat and they'd let a rope ladder down that we'd climb up the rope to get in the -- and they tried to tie up to the troopship. There was one of the sailors that was on the wheel in the control booth, I guess, on that Higgins boat, and another one up on the ramp, trying to -- with a grappling hook, trying to grab the ladder, and he was having a hard time. I knew that if I could -- from being so sick for so long, going to Hawaii, I knew that if I could see the -- the horizon, that it would keep me from getting sick. So I got up on the ramp on the other side with another grappling hook to help him get onto the ladder because the seas were so rough. And after several times, we finally hooked on. Then we'd hold the ladder and the guys would crawl up. But the rest of the guys were down in the bottom of the boat, just getting sick from that rough sea down there. So the typhoon came in as a real bad typhoon, but we -- we got to Korea before it really hit, but it hit Okinawa pretty heavy.

So even though the war was over, you knew that you would be staying on in Korea for a while?

Yeah, I went to Korea with occupation troops. And the Army would let people come home on a point basis, and they had a point system. When you got enough points, you could come home. Because I -- you know, I was rather new, I didn't get enough points until sometime probably around September. I think it was on the 2nd of September that I sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, coming back home on board ship. I remember one incident coming home. The seas were calm, and it was at nighttime and the ship was just moving along, rocking, and you could see the phosphorus in the water as the water would -- waves would part. And it had gun turrets up here on the deck, and I was sitting up on one of those gun turrets which hangs out over the side of the ship, with my feet hanging over, just like a kid. Eighteen-year-old kid, really. Actually, at that time, I was 19. And it dawned on me that if I fell over the side, they'd never hear of me again. When the thought hit me what a foolish thing I was doing, I just went over backwards in that gun turret. One morning, we came through a storm, and there was a rumor that there had been a crack in the vessel somewhere or another in the body of the vessel, because I looked out of the hatch -- you go up the stairs and you hook out. I looked out of the hatch and the ocean was way down there. In a minute, the ocean was way up here, we were rolling so much like that. That was a real bad storm, but we got through okay.

How long did it take to get from Okinawa to Korea on that ship? Is that days?

I think it was about few days. It wasn't a real long time. Somewhere between two and four days, something like that.

I had heard stories that there wasn't air conditioning, so the men would sleep on the deck if it was hot.

Is that the way you-all would, also?

Right, yeah. One of the -- talking about sleeping on the deck, you refreshed my mind. Sometimes, you know, you could do that. One time when we were going, I think it was from Saipan in towards the -- through the Marshall Islands before we got to Okinawa, I was assigned a duty of working down in the -- in the boiler room. We were going through some bad weather, and they'd have these 50-gallon garbage cans tied down on the deck. Well, they'd get trash in there and they had to dispose of the trash. So I got the job of -- of disposing of the garbage, and you put it in the incinerator. And so the bad -- filthiest job I had when I was in the Army. The guys had been puking in the garbage cans. So I had to take the garbage out, put it in the incinerator. And I was feeding it so fast that the captain of the ship sent word down for me to slow down, it was leaving smoke, and they don't want to leave the trace so the submarines would pick up the location of the ship -- troopship. And basic training, the -- there was a story my buddy told me that he went through that I've often thought about. He'd peel potatoes, and he'd peel them with so much peeling that the mess sergeant would make him peel the peelings. Peeling potatoes on KP was quite common. In basic training, the cooks would cook the -- the baker would cook his pies and things and put them in a pie cage. The pie cage was on the side of the back of the mess hall. Eighteen-year-old boy, I got hungry for a pie. So I went to the pie cage, took a pie out of the pie cage, pan and all, went out the door, under the mess hall floor, ate the pie, put the pan in my fatigue jacket, came back up and slipped it back into the pie cage. The baker -- this was long in the afternoon. He'd been up since early morning, doing his baking. He came back and discovered that empty pie pan in the cage. He went berserk. He didn't know what happened to his pie. But nobody ever told on me. If they'd had, they'd have probably court-martialed me for stealing pies. I didn't know it, but I just wanted the pie. The mess sergeant said that I ate more than anybody that had ever been through that training camp, except one big Injun he met that could eat more than I was. I'd start off one side of the mess hall -- and the KPs would start cleaning up. I'd go all the way to the mess hall because I'd go back there as long as I wanted to for seconds. Got all I want to eat. I ate a lot as an 18-year-old kid.

Did you get to spend time in Hawaii?

Did you spend any time in Hawaii?

I was there for about a week. I went to Waikiki Beach from -- from Schofield Barracks. I went down there with a young man by the name of William Ogg, and he was from Chicago. Nice young man. And our names were close in the alphabet, so I got to know William pretty well. And so we spent a little time on Waikiki Beach right outside the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. And at that time, the mariners, the submariners were in the -- staying at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. And I remember going in the hotel and the -- in the lobby there and drinking a beer with the submariners, yeah.

Was Fort DeRussy there on Waikiki at the time?

Fort DeRussy? The fort that's there now.

I don't recall. I recall seeing Diamond Head. You could see Diamond Head way over there. Beautiful beach, though. And after the battle of Okinawa was over, I went back to the 7th Division cemetery, and Ogg's name was on a cross. We were assigned to different companies. He was in another company. I don't know how he got killed. But I enjoyed -- I enjoyed being in Hawaii. I was there for those few days. Now, when I went back to Hawaii during the Korean War, my plane landed there, but I wasn't there for -- but just for a few hours, to refuel before it went on to -- to Wake Island, I believe it was.

I think that we're approaching the end of our time. Is there something else that we need to talk about?

I just want to thank you for taking your time to -- you know, to interview me and give me the opportunity to -- to make a little record of these experiences for my kids and grandkids. I talk about it with a great deal of humility. I recall a young man that I shared a foxhole with at Okinawa when it was so rainy. They called him Frankie. His last name was Roberts. But Frankie, I probably ought to have punched him one, but he was a coward at nighttime. I'd see him sticking his fingers in his throat to make himself vomit. He'd report to the sergeant that he was sick, and they'd send him back. That happened. Last time I saw Frankie was when we came back, I believe it was in San Francisco before we boarded a train to come back to go to Fort Sheridan to be separated from service. Frankie was there with a crowd around him, telling the war stories. I felt like really punching that guy out. But I never wanted to be that type of guy, just telling a war story. Because I was just 18 years old, just doing what they told me to do, quite frankly, you know. Glad I had the opportunity to do it. And in so many ways, I'm really proud of the fact that we're in a country that takes care of its military people. State of Texas has granted me the privilege of having a Purple Heart tag on my vehicle cost me $3 a year. I can park on any meter -- I can't park on an illegal place. I can park on any meter for free any government parking facility, I can park there. I go out to the airport, and the last few years, I've flown into Mexico quite often on mission trips down there, park at the airport, stay out there for a couple of weeks, doesn't charge me a dime. And I'm really grateful for those things. Yeah.

It's a real sign of thank you. Thank you.

And thank you for your candor and all the detail. I really feel like I was there. Thank you.


John Overton - History

JOHN OVERTON From the Portrait and Biographical Record

The Long Island Overton family

Isaac Overton (DOB abt 1683-1744?), "The Giant," second generation

Isaac Overton was distinguished for his great physical strength he was much known in this country, and through this then colony, from 1725 to 1744 at which last date his great-grandson, Mr. Jonathan Overton was quoted as saying he died, aged near sixty. As a man he was mild, well disposed, and respected. Very many amusing stories of his feats of strength are told of him. The following was told by Jaded Griffin who had from his father, Samuel Griffin who was a neighbor of Mr. Overton, and an eye witness to the fact.
The incident took place, at the house of Mr. Robert Griffin, who at the time, 1725, kept an inn at Southold. At, or near the date noticed, an athletic bull or boxer, as he styled himself, came to Boston, from England. He gave out that he had never met his equal for strength or one that he could not easily whip. Hearing of Overton's powers, he immediately repaired to Southold, to show Overton a "thing ot two," as he said on arriving at Mr. Griffin's. After partaking of refreshments, he requested Mr. Griffin to send his boy after Mr. Overton Mr. Griffin did so, but told the stranger that Overton was of retiring habits and rather bashful and would not notice nor pay any attention to testing his strength in wrestling, or other sports, which he viewed degrading. Not knowing for what intent he was sent for, Mr. Overton came with the boy. On being introduced to the stranger, and learning of his errand, he utterly refused to have anything to do with him. Mr. Overton, the stranger soon learned, eas fond of flip, a beverage in those days made of beer, spirits and sugar. He was liberally supplied with this stimulus, yet not till a blow with the flat of the hand from the stranger could he be aroused to defend himself. Then with the quickness of thought, he seized the bully by the seat of the trousers, and the collar of his coat, with his arms at full length, he held him as high as his chin, then walking around the room, crying at the top of his voice, "Mr. Griffin, what shall I do with him? Mr. Griffin, what shall I do with him?" And amidst the contortions, and writhings of the stranger, who was held as in a vise, and the roars of laughter of those present, let him fall heavily upon the floor. The stranger did not trouble Mr. Overton again. On another occasion, he lifted and put on a wheel of a loaded cart, which wheel had come off by reason of a loss of a linch pin. He also shouldered a cannon in New York, which four men ordinarily could not easily handle. There is not any doubt, but Isaac Overton was one of the most powerful men, as to the bodily strength, this country has ever known.
Many tales are told of the "Giant's" strength. At a town meeting he offered to lie on his back and allow any six men to hold him down by his hands and feet. When all were ready, the Giant gave one spring and brushed them off like so many flies. He was of so great stature that a large iron bed had been provided for him. Shortly before his death, he was involved in a discussion with a man of ordinary size. It was at meal time. The man spat upon the Giant's plate. He was enraged at the insult and reaching across the table, picked up his opponent and threw him out of the window with such force that the frame was broken. A short time after this, the Giant suddenly died. It was supposed that he had been poisoned by the man whom he threw out of the window. In his death struggle, he grasped the top posts of his iron bed and crushed, or broke, them in pieces, saying "I've been a strong man, but death is stronger than I."

Most of the information contained in this file, as well as the paragraphs above, came from the publication by Alvin R. L. Smith entitled "The Overton Genealogy," The Overton family of Long Island, New York 1966.


John Overton - History

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This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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Size 7 items
Abstract John Overton was a Tennessee lawyer and politician. John Overton (1766-1833), Tennessee pioneer, jurist, and dedicated supporter of Andrew Jackson, born in Louisa County, Va. Personal letters (1827-1830) from Overton's Virginia relations chiefly detailing the illnesses (dyspepsia and pleurisy) and death of Overton's sister, Ann Coleman (d. 1828), with comments on the division of her slaves among her heirs, diet, the election of 1828, and a Tennessee land dispute. The collection includes letters received by John Overton, chiefly about family matters. Included are three family letters chiefly concerning the sickness and death of Overton's sister, Mrs. Hawes Coleman and four miscellaneous personal and business letters from Samuel Carr, E. J. Claybrooke, John Claybrooke, and Hawes Coleman.
Creator Overton, John, 1766-1833.
Language English
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

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  • Carr, Samuel.
  • Claybrooke, E. J.
  • Claybrooke, John.
  • Coleman, Ann, d. 1828.
  • Coleman, Hawes, Mrs.
  • Coleman, Hawes.
  • Diseases--Virginia --History--19th century.
  • Family--Tennessee--Social life and customs.
  • Family--Virginia--Social life and customs--19th century.
  • Louisa County (Va.)--Social life and customs--19th century.
  • Overton, John, 1766-1833.
  • Real property--Tennessee--History--19th century.
  • Slaveholders--Virginia.
  • Tennessee--Social life and customs.
  • Women--Death--History--19th century.

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John Overton (1766-1833), Tennessee pioneer, jurist, and dedicated supporter of Andrew Jackson, was born in Louisa County, Virginia. He studied law in Mercer County, Kentucky (1787), and then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he shared lodgings with Andrew Jackson. They became steadfast friends and were partners in a number of speculative land ventures, including the founding of Memphis, Tennessee, in 1819.

Overton succeeded Jackson to the state Superior Court (1804-1810 and 1811-1816). He was a widely recognized authority on land legislation in Tennessee. He was also reputed to be the state's wealthiest citizen. After his resignation from the bench in 1816, Overton committed himself to the furtherance of Jackson's political career.

(Biographical information from the Dictionary of American Biography .)

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These seven letters (1827-1830) are from Overton's Virginia relations. Most (4 of 7) detail the illnesses (dyspepsia and pleurisy) and death of Overton's sister, Ann Coleman (d. 1 July 1828). Other subjects include diet, the election of 1828, and a Tennessee land dispute. Typed transcriptions are interfiled with the letters.


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