Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Honoring Our Heros

 

October 1, 2019 | View PDF



John F. Morrow ~ 97

Battle of the Bulge Hero

John F. Morrow is a 97 year-old WWII veteran who served as a U. S. Army tank driver in the liberation of Belgium, Holland, France and Germany. Lt. General George S. Patton was his commander during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes, a region in southeast Belgium that extends into Luxembourg, Germany and France. The Battle of the Bulge was the major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II taking place from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, during the coldest months of the year in northern Europe. Not only was Morrow enduring extremely hazardous combat, he was also responsible for maneuvering tanks in the Ardennes region in rugged terrain that encompasses rolling valleys, meandering rivers, extensive caves and dense forests. Despite heavy casualties, Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s successful maneuvering of the Third Army to Bastogne proved vital to the Allied defense, leading to the neutralization of the German counteroffensive. The Battle of the Bulge was the costliest action ever fought by the U.S.

Morrow was born February 2, 1922, in Big Flat, AK, to his parents, Calvin and Matilda Morrow where he was reared and graduated from Marshall High School. At age 19, he volunteered to serve and joined the U. S. Army. He completed the Army Basic Training learning to drive Sherman tanks at Ft. Knox, KY. The M4 Sherman tank had a five-man crew including a commander, gunner, loader, driver and assistant driver/bow gunner. Further training to drive each of the Army’s vehicles was completed at Camp Polk, LA, followed by desert training at Death Valley, CA, paratrooper training at Ft. Benning, GA, and frigid training at Camp Shanks, New York. All of his military driving within the U.S. was done driving a half-track vehicle. He was deployed sailing on the liner, the Queen Mary, to Scotland landing at Normandy after the Allies D-Day landing. His unit’s first mission with the 23rd Armor Division was to recapture Paris from the Nazis. He suffered burns to his eyes and was hospitalized for several weeks. While still driving the half-track, he was wounded three more times. He then joined the 7th Army Division as a tank driver and suffered a bullet wound to one ear escaping a serious injury to his head because he turned his head to the side just before he was shot. After the success in the Battle of the Bulge, he was the first tank driver to cross the Rhine River as the Army entered Germany. Morrow received the military award, the European Theater of Operations Medal with Four Clusters and also received citations from colonels. His unit participated in the liberation of concentration camps. His unit of tankers gave all of their food to liberated prisoners expecting to be replenished by the supply truck; however his unit was surrounded resulting in having no food or water for three days and nights. He had opportunities to shake hands with Generals Patton, Eisenhower and Bradley. Although it was planned for his unit to go to the Pacific Theater for battle, the Japanese surrendered in August, 1945. Morrow was discharged in October,1945.

After discharge, Morrow returned to Arkansas where he did some review study at his high school followed by graduation with a B. S. Degree in Science at Northeastern Teachers College in Tahlequah, OK. He taught high school biology and chemistry and coached basketball at Timbo, Marshall and Leslie, AR, for 16 years. His next employment was at Hanford Works, a nuclear production complex, in Richland, WA, for seven years. He returned to AR and worked in dry wall construction in houses and commercial buildings retiring in 1988.

He was married to his first wife, Joyce for 54 years until she passed away, and they had two sons and nine grandchildren. Now he has been married to Carie Nell for 18 years. He and Carie enjoy playing cards and dominoes with friends weekly. Since 1957, Morrow has been serving in the ministry as a pastor. He serves as a pastor to senior adults to the New Home Baptist Church in Elmore County, AL, and the Clearview Baptist Church in Chilton County, AL.

Morrow concludes about his experiences as a tank driver in combat saying, “The thing that sticks most in my mind is how scared I was, and I was sitting there seeing German tanks shooting at me. I went in because I love this country, and I always want this country to be free. Don’t let anybody ever tell you that there wasn’t any praying going on out there.”

Willie Lee Maxwell ~ 97

Willie Lee Maxwell is a 97 year-old WWII and Korean War veteran who received two Purple Hearts for arm and head wounds received in the Korean War. Maxwell also received the Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with Bronze Star. On November 16, 2018, Maxwell was among 90 Korean War veterans presented with the Ambassador for Peace Medal by Young-jun Kim, Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Atlanta. His combat service record in Korea was July, 1950-May, 1951.

Maxwell was born February 22, 1922, in Coosa County, AL, to his parents, Les Maxwell and Mamie Belle McGhee-Maxwell. After his mother passed away, he was reared by his grandmother, Hattie McGhee. Maxwell attended the Keyno School in the small town of Kellyton in Coosa County, AL. He helped his grandmother on the farm raising cotton, corn, peas, tobacco and rice; as well as plowing fields with a mule. Later he worked at a local sawmill. In those days, children often did not complete high school because they were needed to work on the farms. Maxwell finished the sixth grade, and as a young boy, he joined the New Elam Baptist Church where over the years, he witnessed many changes there including walking a mile to church, riding to church in a wagon pulled by a mule and later being transported in a car. In addition, he saw the installation of indoor bathrooms as well as central heating and air conditioning.

In 1943 at the age of 21, Maxwell enlisted in the U. S. Army beginning at Ft. Benning, GA. He served in the U. S. Army’s medical units receiving his Basic Training at Ft. Pickett, Blackstone, VA, followed by assignments to Camp Beale, CA and Hawaii. He was involved with inspecting cemeteries and spraying mosquitoes to prevent malaria. Maxwell was sent to the Philippines when General McArthur returned there and then to Korea. He served nine years and five months during WWII and the Korean War as a member of the 9th Infantry Second (Indianhead) Division. Maxwell’s duty stations included Camp Stewart, GA, Ft. Lee, VA, Camp Beale, CA, Ft. Jackson, SC, Oahu, HI, the Philippines, Pusan, Korea, and Sasebo, Japan. His various duties included infantry, construction laborer and veterinary technician. In Hawaii, he took care of animals that were in a clinic for quarantine or medical procedures. Special attention was given to horses because they played an important role in military parades, funeral processions and other ceremonies.

On July 9, 1952, Maxwell was honorably discharged at the rank of Private First Class. After his discharge, Maxwell returned to live in Coosa County with his wife Josie Mae Thomas-Maxwell. Their union produced one son, Willie Arthur, and one daughter, Mamie, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. After returning from military service, he worked at a local poultry farm, and Becthal Pipe Line peforming equipment maintenance on vehicles for 10 years and with the Ray Water Company installing water lines in Coosa County. In addition to his church duties, his hobbies included fishing and gardening.

Reflecting upon his overseas assignments, Maxwell states that he found out about the poor living conditions of people outside of America, and he was grateful that he had survived. He remembers: Army life was hard, the work was hard, and the soldiers were always on the go, friends were hurt and killed, and Black soldiers suffered discrimination. An example of the discrimination which occurred was when white soldiers were issued medals in the fields, whereas Black soldiers were told that they would receive their medals later. Maxwell appreciates that he was able to travel, meet people from different places and see other countries. He concludes that he was able to experience things that he would not have seen or done if it had not been for his serving in the Army. Maxwell feels that being a soldier was his way of helping people because some of the places overseas were worse off than where he had lived in Alabama.

Guy Newell Vaughn ~ 93

Guy Newell Vaughn is a 93 year-old veteran who served in the U. S. Army during WWII. He was born January 9, 1926, in Cherokee County in northeast AL. His parents were Tollie G. Vaughn and Minnie Floyd. After graduation from high school, he was drafted into military service at age 18. Vaughn was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he was processed into service receiving his uniforms and weaponry. His Boot Camp training was at Camp Blanding, FL. Vaughn sailed to Europe from New York City’s harbor, and as he sailed pass the Stature of Liberty, Vaughn recalls the feeling that he got when he saw that stature, and it made him proud to be serving his country. He also remembers that his ship encountered a severe storm during its Atlantic Ocean crossing that was very frightening to him.

Vaughn served in France and Germany, and he was on a troop train in France headed toward the front lines when WWII ended. However, he was required to stay on in Europe for the remainder of his service time. Vaughn served in Le Mans, France, as a telephone operator for about six months. He recalls that there was a prison there, and he witnessed several hangings. It was required that the American troops had to stand at attention during the execution. His next assignment was to supervise operations of a warehouse in Darmstadt, Germany, which had suffered a lot of destruction from the Allies’ bombing. During times of recreation, Vaughn taught Darmstadt youth how to play baseball. He recalls hearing Tony Bennett sing many times when Bennett performed with an Army band. His reflections about his participation in WWII are, “It was an adventure to travel to other countries because I had never been out of AL. The destruction that I witnessed was devastating.”

Vaughn was married to Annie Laura Bishop for 67 years, and they had three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. After discharge from the Army, he worked as a farmer in northeast AL raising cotton, soybeans, corn and wheat. He purchased a cat fish farm and allowed neighbors and friends to fish there. Later he worked helping his nephew with a heating and air conditioning business. He was a member of the Spring Valley Baptist Church, Springville, AL, and the Shady Grove Baptist Church at Cherokee County, AL.

Reverend Dr. Roy Thomas Sublette ~ 91

The Reverend Dr. Roy Thomas Sublette is a 91 year-old U. S. Navy veteran who served as a Methodist minister for over 70 years. Sublette was born in Montgomery, AL, August 17, 1928, to his parents, Roy Newton and Effie Elizabeth Sublette. He was reared in Montgomery, graduated from Sidney Lanier High School on June 6, 1946, and volunteered to serve in the U. S. Navy one week later on June 13, 1946. Sublette completed Boot Camp at the U.S. Naval Training Center at Bainbridge, MD, where he learned the basic training of all personnel who join the Navy. He was trained at the Storekeeping School at Bainbridge as a Disbursing (Pay Unit) Storekeeper for the Navy.

Sublette was assigned to ships out of San Diego, CA, the USS Prairie, a supply ship followed by permanent assignment to the USS Benner DDR 807, a Radar-Pickett ship destroyer. Although WWII was over when he reached the Far East, Sublette served as a Commissary Storekeeper being responsible for food supply on this ship all over the Pacific Ocean. His rank began as a Seaman Second Class and rose to the rank of Seaman First Class and then to Storekeeper Third Class which is a Third-Class Petty Officer. His ship patrolled the shores of Far Eastern Asia as occupation duty took him to Pearl Harbor, Guam, China (Tsingtao, Shanghai & Hong Kong), Japan, Okinawa, Saipan, Korea (Pusan), etc. Sublette believes the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan August 6, and 9, 1945, resulted in his life being saved because the invasion of mainland Japan by Allied forces was planned for the Spring of 1946. He would have been a part of that invasion and the battle for Japan which would have resulted in the loss of thousands of American lives. Sublette is grateful that it had not been necessary for him to serve in combat. After serving for almost two years, Sublette was discharged in March,1948.

Sublette received the call to the Christian ministry while he was still in service. Sublette stated, “It was good that the Lord called me into the ministry while I was serving in the Navy though I did not recognize it at the time.” Whenever the ship was in harbor, sailors had to go on land to attend church on Sundays because there was no chaplain on the ship. Whenever there was opportunity, he was the only one who went. The Lord kept telling him, “Somebody should do something.” He told the Lord, “I am not qualified.” The Lord told him, “Get qualified.” He kept reading a Gideon Bible that he had on board so that he could talk to others about the Bible. After discharge, he returned to Montgomery. He was invited by his aunt to attend a Frazer United Methodist Church Sunday School Class Picnic hosted by Roy Cox, the teacher of the class that still today bears his name. Roy was a man who greatly influenced him into becoming a minister. Sublette was still single, and he met his wife-to-be, Jean, as a blind date on Roy and Elsie Cox’s front porch on June 3, 1948.They went to the picnic together. They then wed on January 8, 1949, and have been married 70 years. They have two children, seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Before entering the ministry full time, he worked in Montgomery as an accountant for the American Agricultural Chemical Company. Although he attended the University of AL’s Montgomery campus studying accounting, he accepted the call to ministry and graduated from Huntingdon College with a B. A. Degree in Religion in 1952 and graduated with a Master of Divinity Degree from the School of Divinity at Vanderbilt University in 1955. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Huntingdon College in 1985.

Sublette served many Methodist Churches beginning with the LaPlace Charge serving four circuit churches in Macon County and one in Montgomery County. He served five circuit churches in Sumner County, TN., plus the Greenbrier Methodist Church also in TN. After completion of his degree at Vanderbilt, he served as pastor at Curtis Memorial Methodist Church in Dothan, AL, for four years. Sublette returned to Montgomery to serve as pastor of Normandale Methodist Church for eight years and then to Ft. Walton Beach, FL, for four years as pastor of First United Methodist Church of that panhandle city. He was then selected as Superintendent of the Demopolis, AL, District supervising about 50 Methodist churches and pastors for six years. Afterward, Sublette returned to Montgomery to serve as the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church for seven years followed by serving as the Council Director for the Alabama-West Florida Conference and program assistant to the Bishop of the AL/West FL Methodist Conference for four years. His next pastorate was at the Fairhope, AL, UMC for two years and then to Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Pensacola, FL, where he retired from 43 years of full-time ministry as pastor/administrator in 1993.

Sublette then served on the staff at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in evangelism and congregational care for 19 more years making a total of 62 years. While on staff at Frazer, he also served for two years as the pastor of Trinity UMC in Weoka, Alabama. Although Sublette has now retired from full time ministry as a Methodist pastor, he still serves and visits others. He is the author of the book, Walking in the Light of the Eternal: A Pastor Called to Serve Christ During the Civil Rights Struggle in Alabama. He served as the President of the Montgomery Ministerial Association during his pastorates in Montgomery. He is presently working on his second book, entitled “As for Me and My House” with the sub-title of “The Strength of the Nation Depends on the Strength of the Christian Family.”

Lt. Col. Leo M. Headley Jr.

Lt. Col. Leo M. Headley is a heroic U. S. Air Force veteran who served as a pilot and as an instructor of other such pilots for 20 years. Headley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal which is awarded for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Reservist Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

Headley was born in Chilton County to his parents, Leo M. Headley, Sr. and Ethel Headley, September 17, 1931. He assisted his farther on a large farm, graduating from Verbena High School, completed training in R.O.T.C. and graduated from Auburn University formerly known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute with a B. S. Degree in Agricultural Science, and he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the U. S. Air Force.

His 20 years of service as a military officer in the Air Force took him to many Air Force bases within the United States as well as to overseas assignments in Greece, Vietnam, Iran and Korea. His training as a pilot began with preflight at Lackland AFB, TX, followed by Graham AB, FL, flying the Piper Cub and T-6 and then to Greenville AFB, MS, flying the T-28 and the T-33 receiving his pilot’s wings pinned on by his wife. His first assignment was at Craig AFB, Selma, AL, as the Headquarters Squadron Commander and Assistant Wing Adjutant. He completed training at the Basic Instructor School at Craig where he then served as an instructor for pilots for one year followed by deployment to Athens, Greece, serving as a Classified Courier flying all over the Middle East carrying classified mail. Headley sailed on a ship within eight miles of the Russian border on the Black Sea carrying classified mail. His next assignment was to Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX, where he served as instructor of pilots in the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and the NorthropT-38 Talon. He was promoted to serve at Stand Board where he flew with instructors to make sure that students were trained correctly. When he returned from Vietnam, he learned that 22 of the former instructors had been killed in Vietnam.

Headley’ hazardous service in Vietnam included 186 combat missions with 26 of them flying over North Vietnam in the McDonnell Douglas F-4C. When North Korea took possession of the ship, the USS Pueblo, from four squadrons at Cam Ranh Bay, he was picked among those who still had six months of service in Vietnam to go to Korea. His family did not know where he was when he was deployed to Korea. His next assignment was at Reese AFB, Lubbock, TX, as a pilot instructor in the T-37 and as the Administrative Officer. Headley was next sent to Tehran, Iran, to serve as the Executive Officer for an Air Force general for two years. He returned to Craig AFB to serve as the Base Operations Officer inspecting the airfield runways, lights, pilots’ flight forms, etc.

Headley concludes describing his military service saying, “By the time that I retired in 1975, I ended up with almost 5,800 flying hours. I enjoyed my time in the Air Force. Every time that I rotated back from overseas, I was sent to a training command base.”

Headley and his wife, Betty, have been married 65 years, and they have four children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He enjoys hunting mule deer in Colorado and going to his family’s farm. After retirement from the military, he received a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics from Auburn University in 1981, and then he began full time Christian service. He is an active member of Frazer Memorial Methodist Church in Montgomery where he served on the staff as the Buildings and Grounds Supervisor for 17 years.

John Sherrer

John Sherrer served in the U. S. Army in the Korean War, and although he was not involved in the fighting, he was assigned guard duty for the Demilitarized Zone which was created after a truce ended the “hot” war between North and South Korea. John stated, “I pulled guard duty during my time there. We could see North Korean troops near us. They could see us, too, of course and would park a tank near the DMZ just to let us know they were watching.” He served 18 months in Korea and Japan totaling 23 months and 20 days.” Sherrer said, “Thousands of us answered out country’s call back then. We didn’t question what it was for. It’s what has made our country great.” Sherrer’s leadership abilities were noted as soon as he donned his Army uniform, and by the time he was discharged, he had been promoted to Master Sergeant. Sherrer proudly wears his patriotism on his sleeves and takes a dim view of those who don’t feel the same way that he does.

After two years of active duty, Sherrer served six and one-half years in the Army National Guard, one of the first five enlisted men when the Army National Guard organized in Dallas County, AL. He then worked at a cattle ranch at Marion Junction, moved to Flint, Michigan, where he worked in management for a firm that hauled automobiles for one and one-half years, to Atlanta for one year and to Los Angeles for one year. He attended the University of Alabama. Sherrer worked as the manager for Houston Truck for six and one-half years and moved to Ocala, FL, where he started a brick supply business for one year. He moved back to Selma and worked at Henry Brick Co. for 31 years retiring in 2002.

Sherrer has devoted many years of service as a lay-person to the United Methodist Church. From age 15, he has served as a lay-speaker. Not only has he served as a District lay-leader for the Selma-Prattville, AL District, he has also served as a Conference lay-leader for the Alabama-West Florida Methodist Conference. Sherer has served six times as a delegate to the General Methodist Conference representing Alabama and seven times as a delegate to the Jurisdictional Conference. At his local church, he serves as a volunteer for the Church Street United Methodist Church at Selma, AL, where he has taught Sunday School, sung in the choir and served as a lay-speaker.

John Sherrer was born, May 3, 1932, at Plantersville, AL, where he lived until he was 12 years old. His family moved to Massillon, AL, where he lived until he was 26. John and his wife, Sherie, have been married 60 years. They have four children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grand child.

In reflecting upon his guard duty for the Korean DMZ, Sherrer stated, “It made me appreciate home, the U.S.A. and the freedoms that we enjoy. These freedoms are certainly worth the price that we paid for it and whatever it takes to maintain it.”

 

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