Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Honoring Our Heros

 

January 1, 2020 | View PDF



Romay Catherine Davis: 100

Romay Catherine Davis served two years and four months in the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) during World War II. She was born October 29, 1919, to her parents, Fairfax and Catherine Johnson, in Prince George County, VA, where she finished the 7th grade followed by education in Camden, NJ, attendance at Harren High School in New York City and graduation from Dumbar High School in Washington, D.C. After graduation, Davis worked for a year in the U. S. Treasury Dept. operating presses where U. S. currency was printed.

Her brothers served in the military, and Davis carried on the tradition set by her siblings by volunteering to serve in the WACS. Her induction was at Camp Dodge in Des Moines, IA, in August, 1943, and from there Davis went to Camp Breckinridge, an Army troop-training facility in KY. Davis worked in the postal service, but she also served as a driver for officers. She sailed to Europe on the Ile de France, a French ocean liner, which was a remarkable sea-going experience for her landing at Le Harve, France, then continuing onto Paris for two years where she served in the motor pool. In Paris, she made friends with a family where one child taught her to draw although she had always been creative. Her last assignment was in Birmingham, England, for almost one year completing her military service in December, 1945.

Davis lived in Ecuador, South America, for 19 months and moved to New York City where she lived 1948-1983. She studied fashion design at the Traphagen School of Design in NYC, and for 30 years she worked in fashion design for Glen of Michigan, a popular children’s wear clothing company, retiring in 1983. Davis had a unique eye for color and design, and she enjoyed those years of her life. While in Manhattan, she also earned a B.S. Degree and a Master’s Degree in Educational Child Care from New York University in 1981.

Davis was married to Jerry Davis, a retired Army Master Sergeant, for over 40 years, and they enjoyed traveling. After retirement, they moved to Alabama which was his home. Davis worked in real estate in Montgomery, AL, for a while. Since1999, Davis has worked at two Montgomery Winn Dixie grocery stores where she organizes and cleans shelves. She has been active in churches where she has sung in choirs.

Davis concludes about her military service saying, “It was a duty as far as I was concerned. All five of my brothers went into service, and I thought I could be of support to them. I was part of something that to which I could contribute. I volunteered with the Red Cross in a hospital when I was a teenager, and I wanted to help somebody. The way that I think about it is that America is my home. It is all that I have. When I compare other countries that I have lived in, I prefer America. We have so much more than many people have.”

She attributes her reaching 100 years of age to her having a good family, being honest and taking care of herself. She recalls growing up in a rural area with her grandparents living nearby where she and her five brothers could run around and eat from fruit from orchards, berries and other produce grown on the farm.

James Vernon Godfrey: 99

James Vernon Godfrey served for three years as a payroll clerk in the U. S. Army in England, France, and Germany during WWII. He received the following medals: Army of Occupation Medal, The European-Africa-Middle East Service Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Godfrey was born September 2, 1920 in Society Hill, AL, in Macon County to his parents, Claude and Minnie Godfrey. Godfrey attended schools in Tuskegee, AL, and graduated from Tuskegee High School in 1938. He completed bookkeeping courses at Massey Draughon Business College in Montgomery, AL. He was employed by Southern Farmer publishing company 1941-1943. During this time of employment, Godfrey was the office manager, prepared payroll for employees, hired and discharged employees, coordinated work of various departments, made purchase of printing supplies and equipment as needed, prepared collection statements and kept records of credit accounts and collections, handled correspondence, filed and made out reports, sold advertisement by direct correspondence and through agencies and handled advertising accounts.

Godfrey’s military service began when he was inducted into the U. S. Army April 3, 1943, at the rank of Private. He completed three months of Basic Training at Fort Barker, TX, including five weeks of training as a clerk typist before being deployed to England. This training included instruction in the basic principles of general Army administration, records and procedures. Special emphasis was put on preparing, distributing and filing military correspondence, special orders and clerical reports. A minimum typing speed of 25 words per minute was required of graduates. During his military service, he worked for five months as a clerk-typist at the rank of Tec 5, 16 months as a General Clerk at the rank of Sergeant and six months at the rank of Tech Sergeant in general administration. When WWII ended in Europe and in Japan, Godfrey was honorably discharged at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, April 24, 1946.

After discharge, Godfrey was employed by the Southeastern Publishing Company. He was also employed as a bookkeeper at the Record Shop and Cohens Co. in Montgomery, AL. He was married to Martha Mae Sellers, and they had two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren including one set of twins.

When reflecting upon what his military service during WWII has meant to him, he says, “I enjoyed serving my country. I hated to leave my girlfriend.” He attributes reaching the advanced age of ninety-nine years to his taking long walks with his poodle and riding his bicycle until he reached 88 years of age.

Sgt. Joseph Collins: 99

Sgt. Joseph Collins was born January 11, 1920, in the Welona community of Coosa County, AL, and except for the four years that he served with the United States Army Air Force during WWII, he has lived in Rockford, AL, in Coosa County. His parents were William Milton Collins and Jessie Virginia Allison.

Collins attended grammar school in the Richville community and graduated from the Rockford High School living on a farm until he was drafted along with 35 others to serve in the U. S. Army Air Force. On February 14, 1942, he was inducted at Ft. McPherson, a U. S. Army Air Force Base in Atlanta, GA. Then he was sent to Keesler Field in Biloxi, MS, Army Air Force Field in Charlotte, N.C., Army Air Force Base in Meridian, MS, Camp Shelby Army Air Corps Base in Hattiesburg, MS, and then to Camp Kilmer, N.J., an Army staging area. At New York City, Collins embarked on a ship carrying 5500 military personnel with a destination for Glascow, Scotland, arriving January 15, 1943. He worked at an airfield, at Polebrook, England, from which the U.S. Army Air Force carried out its heavy bombing group with the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Collins served with the 351st Bombardment Group and spent WWII servicing 45 American planes such as the B-17 with 2800 gallons of gasoline preparing them for combat flights on the German occupied countries of Europe. When WWII ended, Collins sailed back to the U.S.A. from Le Havre, France, and was discharged December 7, 1945, at Ft. McPherson, GA, and four Coosa County, AL, discharged G.I.’s pooled their money and paid a man $50.00 to bring them home.

After discharge, Collins resumed working on a farm, cutting timber and raising cattle. He worked as a distributor for the Carter Co., a go-cart company, whose products were manufactured in Brundidge, AL, delivering them in Georgia. Collins has served for 45 years as a supervisor for Coosa County Soil and Water Conservation which distributes federal money for conservation projects and is committed to conserving Alabama’s natural resources by connecting those who use and work the land to the education, technical know-how and resources that they need. Collins was also involved working with the schools creating greenhouses and providing conservation information. He and his wife, Elizabeth Hanna, have been married 59 years. Although they do not have children of their own, they have close relationships with friends whose children view them as special parents too. Collins has been an active, faithful member of the Providence Baptist Church. He has enjoyed fox and squirrel hunting.

Collins reflects upon his military service saying, “On May 8, 1945, on the day that the war in Europe ended, he flew over the heavily damaged areas. Being in the military meant that you got to travel a lot. I got to meet people from almost every state in the union, learn more about how they lived compared to us and learn how to get along with them. I got to wade in the Mediterranean Sea near Marseille, France, after the war was over when we went there to close a base. I got to see cities in Scotland such as Dundee as well as lakes such as Loch Lomond. Back then everything was a secret. Today people are told how many troops are sent to war.” Today Collins continues his interest in the U.S. Air Force as each quarter he reads the 8th Air Force News.

Atwood Bullock Rush: 97

Atwood Bullock Ruch is a 97 year-old valiant WWII veteran who served November 11, 1943, until May 28th, 1946, in the U. S. Army 79th Infantry Division in combat in France, Belgium and Germany. His assignment was calculating the coordinates for the ordinance to be fired. He received the following awards and medals: Silver Star awarded for Gallantry in Action, American Defense Medal with four campaign stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Europe Africa Middle East Medal and four Over Seas Bars which were given every six months for overseas duty for a total of two years.

Rush was born in Tuskegee, AL, to his parents James Rivers Rush and Annie Judkins, November 10, 1922. He attended schools in Tuskegee for 12 years and graduated from Tuskegee High School before enrolling at Auburn University (Alabama Polytechnic Institute) where his ROTC class was enrolled in the Army Reserves, and instead of being drafted, the entire ROTC class was called up to Fort McPherson in Atlanta for induction in 1943. Rush rode on a train to Fort Sill, OK, standing up almost the entire time because of the over crowding of the train that was filled with young recruits. He reported to the 79th Division, 312th Field Artillery Battalion (FA, BN) for 17 weeks in OCS completing his training at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Rush reported to duty in Salina, KS, where he was told, “Learn what you can, observe, do nothing, stay out of the way and don’t screw up!” Rush was sent to the Battery which provided an extra four weeks of OCS which paid off as he spent time on firing problems.

When it was time for his deployment for combat in Europe, his commanding officer told him, “Make out your will and power of attorney and get ready to go overseas. I need cannon fodder that can shoot!” Rush sailed with a long convoy protected by sub chasers and destroyers from Boston to England. Arriving at Gourock, Scotland, he was sent for a few months to Leek (Stoke on Trent), England. His unit bivouacked several days before D-Day in a staging area in southern England. His unit landed D-Day plus eight days at Utah Beach on a Landing Ship Tank (LST). Rush served with C Battery, and on his first day in combat near Cherbourg, France, he served as the Forward Observer with the artillery telling the men where to shoot. Many of the infantry riflemen and replacements were hit and evacuated; but Rush survived combat without injuries. Crossing among hedgerows, communications were difficult as often the wires to the radios were severed making it impossible to string wires and to keep them working. Whenever it came almost impossible to communicate, Rush was told to use relay stations, vehicles, and cub planes with whatever was needed for setting the coordinates so that the armaments from the 155 mm Gun M1 could hit their targets. These weapons were so heavy that it took two men to pick them up and load them. By July, his division had experienced tremendous casualties. Conditions were miserable in the wet and cold of the fall as they traveled through forests. He recalls having one five minute shower during all the many weeks of combat, and most of his meals consisted of eating C-rations, a canned wet ration and K-rations for relieving hunger and sustaining energy. One gun position was his passing through the Saverne Gap adjacent to the Rhine River in November. During the trek through France, his unit was entertained by the Bing Crosby USO in a warehouse in Charmes, France. It was very cold with snow everywhere, and the roads were like a sheet of ice. He used a church steeple to view a battle scene in Haguenau, France, although his steeple was the only one not destroyed by the Germans. Rush became Battery Executive Officer after which the 79th Division was transferred to the 9th Army. His unit crossed the Rhine River and entered Germany near the Siegfried Line about the middle of December.

When WWII ended in Europe May 7, 1945, Rush’s unit was switched to Military Government guarding a large Russian POW camp in Cheb, Czechoslovakia. The unit was then sent to Tent City in Germany to train and to redeploy to the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese; however after two Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan, the Japanese surrendered August 15, 1945. Working with the Red Cross and the U. S. Army Military Government, he escorted displaced persons on a 50 car train to various towns in Czechoslovakia. His military duties were reaching an end. Taking a long train ride, he traveled to La Hague, France, where he caught a freighter back to New York City. Arriving at Camp Kilmer, NJ, he traveled via train to Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, GA, where he was discharged.

After discharge, he returned to Auburn, AL, where his parents then lived and resumed his collegiate studies at API graduating in 1946 with a B.S. Degree in Business. He worked for a while in a clothing store owned by his father until it was sold. Rush worked in sales and marketing for the AL Gas Company in Montgomery, AL, for many years followed by a few years in real estate until he retired at age 65. Rush was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Montgomery, and he served as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels delivering meals to elderly. He and his wife, Margaret Meriwhether, were married more than 60 years until she passed, and they had two children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

When reflecting upon his combat service, Rush says, “I thought that I was doing a pretty good job. If they gave us decent maps, I could give them the correct coordinates for firing the ordinance. When you go in as a second lieutenant, you go in and get bad jobs, and I guess that I got every bad job. One of the soldiers that I worked with was injured, but I could never find him in the hospital. I was not particularly afraid because I didn’t have time to be afraid. As a rule, we were trying to take our objective. I remember my commander telling us that we wanted to win this war so we could all go home. I did my job to make sure the coordinates were correct.”

Daniel Simms Alexander: 80

Chief Warrant Officer Daniel S. Alexander is a valiant U. S. Army veteran of over 26 years who served two tours to Vietnam, to Fairbanks, Alaska, which was considered an overseas assignment and three deployments to other overseas assignments including Vicenza, Italy, Ludwigsburg, Germany and Okinawa, and one TDY to Eniwetok Atoll. He is a highly decorated veteran who received the Legion of Merit which is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service and achievement, the Bronze Star with cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two clusters, the Good Conduct Medal with two knots, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with six stars, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon with the numeral three, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Expert Marksmanship Badge with tab Rifle and the Mechanic Bade with tab Mechanic.

Alexander was born November 22, 1939, to his parents, John Henry Alexander and Dorothy Virginia Alexander, in Charleston, WV, and he was reared near Charleston in St. Albans. He married Deanna Sue Thomas while he volunteered and enlisted in the U. S. Army in May, 1957, starting at the rank of Private. He worked as a mechanic on vehicles and construction projects needed by the Army’s Corps of Engineers after receiving such training at Ft. Belvoir, VA. After completing Basic Training at Ft. Benning, GA, he went to Vicenza, Italy, for 2.5 years, to Sierra Vista, AZ, for 16 months, to Ft. Belvoir, VA, to serve as an instructor in the mechanic’s school for 10 months, to Ft. Wainwright, Fairbanks, Alaska, for almost four years, to Ft. Carson, Colorado Springs, CO for 1.5 years where he received his appointment of Warrant Office One, then to schools for four months of Officer Training before deployment to Vietnam for one year for Tour I, to the Presidio at San Francisco, CA, for six months, to the Proving Grounds at Aberdeen, MD, for 16 months and to Vietnam for 11 months for Tour Two. His entire career was with the Corp of Engineers.

Returning from Vietnam, Alexander earned an Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. After completion of that education, Alexander was sent to Ludwigsburg, Germany, for 3.5 years, to Ft. Rucker, Enterprise, AL for the Senior Warrant Course remaining there 2.3 years including a TDY to Eniwetok Atoll for the cleanup of past atomic weapons testing there, and Okinawa where he was in charge of all equipment for the fuel depot of all branches of service coming onto the island, for two years, to Ft. Sill, OK, for 2.5 years where he retired from service July 31, 1983, at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (W-4). Alexander reflecting on his first tour in Vietnam, he said, “I was a professional soldier. No questions were asked. That was my job.”

Returning to the States from his first tour, he volunteered for Body Escort accompanying the bodies of deceased Army personnel to their hometowns for funerals. He was in charge of eight men in his mechanics unit his first tour and 21 his second tour in Vietnam, and he never lost a man. He was sent to the central highlands of Vietnam to work with the transfer of military equipment to the Vietnamese. While there, he became friends with the Montagnards, an indigenous people in the mountainous assisting them by providing them with water and gasoline. After his second R. & R. during his second tour, the American Red Cross assisted in his getting home for his mother’s funeral.

Returning to the U.S.A. from Vietnam tours, he encountered much disrespect from people in airports. Today, Alexander’s health has been affected adversely resulting from his exposure to Agent Orange during two Vietnam tours and to atomic weapons residue during his TDY to Eniwetok Atoll where the first hydrogen bomb was tested in 1952 and where 43 nuclear tests were conducted, yet he remains steadfastly loyal to the Army and the United States of America in spite of his current conditions.

After military retirement, Alexander worked with the Woods Psychiatric Institute in Abilene, TX, providing management of its facilities for seven years, and he worked assisting veterans to find employment through the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs in Hope, for nine years. He returned to Abilene, TX, where he completed a B.A. Degree in History at Abilene Christian University. His oldest daughter was his History Advisor and taught all his core history classes, and he worked part time in the University’s library. He presented lectures about Vietnam at this institution as well as at a community college in Minnesota where his daughter presently is a professor.

Alexander and Deanna have been married almost 63 years, and they have five children, eight grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and five step great-grandchildren. Since his final retirement in 2005, they have enjoyed traveling the U.S. and overseas and visiting their children. His hobby was coin collecting, and he has just sold a large collection. Alexander is a keen student of history and is a voracious reader. They have written the book, Children Do You Remember When, which is a detailed record of their lives and is dedicated to their grandchildren to let them know how their parents and grandparents lived and how they grew up together. The Alexander family has a rich patriotic history with four generations of men serving in the U. S. Army including his father, his son and his grandson who is an Air Borne Ranger plus one son retired from the Air Force. Influenced by his wife, he has grown in his Christian faith serving in the Church of Christ as a lay minister conducting worship services wherever he was stationed.

 

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