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Honoring Our Heroes

Dr. Donald E. Hayhurst

Dr. Don Hayhurst landed on Omaha Beach with a U. S. Army tank recovery unit about 10 days after the initial landing and invasion of the Allies. Although his unit was supposed to land on June 18th and then convoy across the country, the waves were coming in making it just too tough to get to shore immediately. Hayhurst and his men finally made it. He received five battle service stars for his participation in combat including Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhineland Hayhurst continued fighting until the War was over. He received the French Legion of Honor for United States Veterans for his heroic participation risking his life in the liberation of France. During his service in WWII, Hayhurst’s rank was platoon sergeant; however he received a battlefield commission at the end of WWII with the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Later Hayhurst was recalled and served in the Korean War.

Hayhurst grew up in the hills of West Virginia during the Great Depression, and when he reached his 18th birthday, he was drafted to serve in the Army and sent to Europe, the other side of the world. When he returned to the U.S. after the War, Hayhurst earned his Ph. D. in political science at the University of Pittsburgh. At Auburn University, he helped create the department of political science where he taught with the rank of full professor. While teaching at Auburn University, Hayhurst applied his knowledge of political science by being elected and serving as mayor of Auburn for four years. Under his leadership at Auburn, he obtained a $600,000 federal grant for urban renewal used to improve the streets of downtown Auburn. A marker for this project can be observed at Toomer’s Corner at Auburn.

Recently while attending an event at Auburn University, he bumped into a former student, Alex Moore, with an offer he couldn’t turn down. The student said, “Would you like to go to Normandy again?” Hayhurst replied, “Yes, I always wanted to see that area again. I have thought about it for a long time and have just never done anything about it. He said that all I had to do was get on the plane with him.” However, Hayhurst replied, “I can carry my own weight. I did it when I came on shore at Normandy, and I can do it now.” In November, 2018, Hayhurst and his former student flew to France and toured the five landing sites for Allied forces during World War II. On the flights to France and back to the U.S., Don and Alex were moved to first-class seats when the flight crew discovered that Don who was wearing his WWII hat had served in Europe during WWII. The pilot on the return flight made an announcement recognizing that the flight had a WWII veteran aboard. This return to Normandy meant much to Don who says, “It means so much to your life. You ought to have the opportunity to re-examine it. It’s like the idea of completing something in your life. You want to have a post script or a final assessment of it.” At the Normandy American Cemetery where 9,400 American military are buried, he probably answered more questions than the tour guides and shared something most people could not. He had been there and seen all of the bodies; however, Hayhurst had survived. Don said that the sand that he had run across with military boots meant something to him. In fact, he brought some sand from Omaha Beach back home to Alabama.

Don and his wife, Joyce, were married 17 years. Joyce was reared in poverty. She trained as a RN and served as a surgical nurse for 30 years. At Millbrook, she had a special place in her heart for the library’s youth reading program at the Millbrook Public Library. Don recently donated $5000 to the Library in honor of her memory. Don and Joyce were members of the Open Door Baptist Church and participated in the Millbrook Senior Center.

Hayhurst says “I’ve been so blessed and protected so many times that I’m embarrassed to complain about anything. I have been blessed more than I ever deserved. I was always a competitor. I always wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. That’s what I tell young people today which is if you want to succeed in life, you have to compete. You have to get in there and work harder than everyone else. That’s why education is so important. It gave my wife and me the opportunity to succeed and make that hard work pay off.”

COL. Alton R. Barnes, Sr.

Col. Alton R. Barnes, Sr., was born December 27, 1923, and grew up on a dairy farm. In 1943, after Barnes finished the 11th grade at Prattville, AL, he was drafted for service in the United States Army along with every other such male from his school. He entered the service during WWII and served in the Pacific. Barnes trained in R.O.T.C. at Ft. McClellan, Al, where he developed skills in taking a machine gun into action and out of action and helped to train others with these procedures. In April, 1945, he was deployed to the Philippine Islands where his unit encountered sporadic fighting and made preparation for an invasion of Japan in a plan called Operation Downfall. His unit was the 158th Regimental Combat Unit from a National Guard Unit that was composed of predominantly Indians and Mexicans. His unit landed in Japan October 13, 1945, at Yokohoma, and then his unit was sent to an old Japanese military garrison camp. He returned to the United States and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army based on his outstanding performance and top grade passing tests.

Returning to the United States, Barnes entered Jacksonville State University and earned a B.S. Degree in Secondary Education. He taught science and coached basketball for one year at Munford High School. He was called to active duty a second time during the Korean War. In 1950, in the Army National Guard, he served as a 1st Lt. with the 31st Infantry Division activated to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Returning to Japan for a second assignment, he spent 19 months with the 24th Infantry Division. Then he went to work full time as an administrator with the AL National Guard in 1954. Barnes began and organized an officer candidate program in 1957 for the Army National Guard at Maxwell Air Force Base. Barnes established the AL National Guard Military Institute at Ft. McClellan, ran the program for 21 years and served as its commandant. A building at the Institute is named for Barnes. He completed his 31 years of military service as AL National Guard Assistant Adjutant General as a full colonel in 1979. After retirement from military service, he worked three years as an assistant administrator at the AL A.B.C. Board.

On February 17, 2017, the Senate of Alabama passed Senate Joint Resolution No. 17, commending Alton R. Barnes, Sr. for outstanding service to the State of Alabama.

Now Barnes enjoys leisure time playing golf and writing. He is also a published author. Three titles of his publications are: (1) It Had to Be You, (2) Night Visitor and (3) Silent Courage. A synopsis of each book can be found at :, and books may be purchased from that web site.

Barnes and his wife, Mary Jo, have been married over 73 years since May 11, 1946. They have two children, five grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren.

Barnes knows that the Lord has blessed him beyond his years. He recalled having his life spared when he was scheduled to be on a military flight. For no reason that he could determine, his name was removed from the flight list, and the next day news came that all people on board that plane had perished when the plane crashed. Reflecting on WWII with Japan, Barnes said, "I think it is great the things that happened over there in Japan on the way that the people have come back."

Alabama’s Rosie the Riveter:

Jessie Mae Smith

Jessie Smith is Alabama’s Rosie the Riveter who worked in the aircraft industry assembling planes at Hickman Field, Oahu, Hawaii, for two years during WWII. The massive conscription of men led to a shortage of available workers and therefore a demand for labor which could be fully filled only by employing women. At the age of 18, Jessie, courageously volunteered for this service leaving her small town of Danielsville, GA, to undergo two months of training at the Warner Robins Army Air Depot where 60,000 field repair mechanics trained and worked for every WWII theater during 1941-1945.

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who joined the military.

Rosie the Riveter is used as a symbol of American feminism and women's economic power. Images of women workers were widespread in the media as government posters, and commercial advertising was heavily used by the government to encourage women to volunteer for wartime service in factories. Rosie the Riveter became the subject and title of a song and a Hollywood movie during WWII.

Because the world wars were total wars, which required governments to utilize their entire populations for the purpose of defeating their enemies, millions of women were encouraged to work in the industry and take over jobs previously done by men. During World War I, women across the United States were employed in jobs previously done by men. World War II was similar to World War I in that massive conscription of men led to a shortage of available workers and therefore a demand for labor which could be fully filled only by employing women.

Nearly 19 million women held jobs during World War II. Many of these women were already working in a lower paying job or were returning to the work force after being laid off during the depression. Only three million new female workers entered the workforce during the time of the War. Although most women took on male dominated trades during World War II, they were expected to return to their everyday housework once men returned from the war. Government campaigns targeting women were addressed solely at housewives, likely because already-employed women would move to the higher-paid "essential" jobs on their own, or perhaps because it was assumed that most would be housewives. One government advertisement asked women: "Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill.” Propaganda was also directed at their husbands, many of whom were unwilling to support such jobs. Many of the women who took jobs during World War II were mothers. Those women with children at home pooled together in their efforts to raise their families. They assembled into groups and shared such chores as cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Many who did have young children shared apartments and houses so they could save time, money, utilities and food. If they both worked, they worked different shifts so they could take turns babysitting. Taking on a job during World War II made people unsure if they should urge the women to keep acting as full-time mothers or support their getting jobs to support the country in this time of need. Being able to support the soldiers by making all different products made the women feel very accomplished and proud of their work. African American, Hispanic, White and Asian women worked side by side. Once women accepted the challenge of the work-force, they continued to make strong advances towards equal rights.

The term, "Rosie the Riveter," was first used in 1942 in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. The song was recorded by numerous artists, including the popular big band leader Kay Kyser, and it became a national hit. The song portrays "Rosie" as a tireless assembly line worker, who earned a "Production E" doing her part to help the American war effort. The name is said to be a nickname for Rosie Bonavita who was working for Convair in San Diego, California. The idea of Rosie resembled Veronica Foster, a real person who in 1941 was Canada's poster girl for women in the war effort in "Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl."

Jessie Smith who goes by the nickname, ”Smitty,” was reared by her parents, Jessie and Sarah Frances Smith in rural Georgia. After graduating from Madison County High School in Danielsville, GA, near Athens, GA, she worked briefly at the five-and-dime retail department store, S. H. Kress, and then she volunteered to become trained in working with sheet metals assembling planes for the U. S. Army Air Corps. After training at the Warner Robins facility in GA, she traveled across the U.S. by train to Seattle and then via ship to Oahu, Hawaii, where she truly worked as an example of Rosie the Riveter.

After WWII, she returned to the South and worked in the mail order department at Sears Roebuck. Jessie applied for work at the Maxwell Air University Library at Maxwell Air Force Base at Montgomery, AL, and after passing a library clerk civil service exam, she was hired. This resulted in her living in Alabama and serving there at that Library for over 50 years. She and her husband, Joe Stone, were married 20 years, and they had one son, Jeffrey. At age 94, Jessie reflects upon her WWII service in airplane mechanics saying, “I loved my job. They were truly good to us women at Hickham. I liked working with planes. In some ways, I was sorry that the War was over.”


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