Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Honoring Our Heroes

 

November 1, 2020 | View PDF

Romay Catherine Davis – 101st Birthday Parade in Her Honor!

On November 4th, over 120 people participated in the 101st Birthday Drive-by Parade honoring the WWII WAC, Romay Catherine Davis. Participants included multiple fire engines and police cars from the Montgomery Fire and Rescue Department and the Police Department. The VFW, DAR, American Legion and the AL Dept. of Veterans Affairs were represented in the parade. Thirty-five members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club from AL and South Carolina rode their motorcycles in the parade. Romay watched the tribute to her military service from a tent erected in front of the offices of the Central-East AL Chapter of the American Red Cross. Admiral Kent Davis, Commissioner of the AL Department of Veterans presented Romay citations from AL Governor Kay Ivey and the U.S. Department of Defense as well as Army service ribbons. Kelly Hodges, Director of the Central-East AL Chapter of the American Red Cross presented a proclamation from Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed declaring October 29, 2020, to be Romay Davis Day in Montgomery.

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Gerald Hopson Thompson: Age 93

Gerald Hopson Thompson served in the United States Navy for 13 months during WWII, and his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was postal officer and anti-aircraft gunner. His awards include: Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal and Good Conduct Medal.

Thompson was born August 2, 1927, at Titus, AL, a rural area of Elmore County, to his parents, Ocie Lee Thompson and Clara Elsie Snider Thompson. He was reared there and graduated from Wetumpka High School in 1945, and shortly afterwards, he joined the U.S. Navy June 22, 1945, at the age of 17.

Although he had an opportunity to join the V-12 Navy College Training Program, he decided not to pursue training to become an officer because of the high casualty rates of some Navy and Marine officers. Instead, he reported as an enlisted man for Basic Training for the invasion of Japan at the U.S. Naval Training Center at Bainbridge, MD. He rode by train to Port Charlotte, VA, and boarded the USS Albemarle, a tender for seaplanes. Although the Albemarle had just received repairs and alterations to fit her out for duty in the Pacific, the Albemarle was in the midst of this availability when the Pacific War ended in mid-August 1945. The Japanese capitulation suspended the work; and soon thereafter, the orders to the Pacific to tend seaplanes were cancelled. Shortly thereafter, however, the Albemarle underwent alterations of a different kind, which were to fit her out for different duty. With repairs carried out to the ventilation and berthing arrangements, the seaplane tender departed Norfolk on September 25th with 2,000 Navy replacements embarked bound for the Canal Zone, and Thompson was aboard. The ship soon reported for duty as a transport under the Naval Transport Service. The Albemarle cleared Coco Solo, Panama, for Pearl Harbor, but while transiting the Panama Canal, the ship suffered damage to her port screw or propeller. Reduced to proceeding with a single propeller, the seaplane tender put into San Francisco for repairs.

After arriving at Goat Island at San Francisco, Thompson was assigned to an Army transport ship, the USS General John Pope, sailing for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. While in transit, atomic bombs were dropped on Japan resulting in its surrender. He arrived at the Philippines in an area where the crew had to sleep in tents, and he was supposed to be assigned to work in the horrendous task of picking up corpses of Japanese. Instead, he was soon assigned to be a postal officer in the Philippines fleet post office where Quonset huts were provided for quarters. He had an opportunity to sign up for duty at Bikini Atoll, a coral reef in the Marshall Islands where the USA planned to continue testing atomic bombs. He turned down that assignment, and this proved to be fortunate for his health’s sake because many service personnel who served there many years later developed cancer after being exposed to radiation at the Atoll. Thompson next served on the USS Talladega, a Haskell-class attack transport, and sailed back to America arriving at the Naval Station Alameda in San Francisco Bay. While there, he assisted in decommissioning two aircraft carriers, the light aircraft carriers, USS Belleau Wood and USS San Jacinto. Thompson’s military service ended when he arrived by a slow train across the nation to Memphis, TN, where he was honorably discharged July 29, 1946 as Seaman First Class.

After Thompson’s discharge, he worked at a gas station with a brother-in-law for about one year followed by working with the National Biscuit Company as a shipping and receiving clerk for three years, as a salesman with the Interstate Life Insurance Company for five years collecting debit and selling insurance and becoming the youngest staff manager ever employed with it, as a salesman with Richmond Life Insurance Company for one year and as owner of the T&A. Insurance Company for less than one year. Thompson then worked in the AL Department of Industrial Relations for 29 years beginning as an interviewer and advancing to Supervisor, Adjudicator and Chief of Benefit Operations retiring in 1990.

Thompson and his wife, Elizabeth Oden Ellis Thompson, were married 58 years before she passed, and they had two sons. Since retirement, he was an active member of St. James United Methodist Church where he served as the president of the Couples Sunday School Class, the Men’s Club and a member of the Administrative Board. Then at First United Methodist Church, he has served as chairman of the Finance Committee of the Towers Sunday School Class. In addition, since 1993, he has provided service to church members one day a week in the Church’s Fix It Shop where he repairs anything that needs it such as broken furniture and lamps. He has also served as a greeter for 14 years.

Thompson has held membership and provided leadership and service not only in military veterans’ organizations but also for civic groups. He has served on the Board of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (R.S.V.P) of the Montgomery Area Council on Aging for 32 years, treasurer and manager of the Credit Union of Industrial Relations for 18 years, president of Capital City Lions Club and the Montgomery Lion Club, mentor and charter president of the Montgomery downtown Toastmaster’s Club, president of the Exchange Club, trustee of Post 96 Veterans of Foreign Wars, member of the American Legion Post #2, member of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Central AL, twice as a member of the AL Silver Haired Legislature, area president of the AL State Employees Association, president of the Alabama International Employment Security Association, member of Board of Directors International Employment Security Association, secretary and team member of the Service Corps Retired Employees (SCORE) for six years and AL coordinator for Citizens Representative Program for the AL AARP for four years.

Thompson’s conclusions about military service are, “I became a man. I learned the importance of discipline and working together. I learned to select my friends carefully. I learned that there are a lot folks that you can’t depend on. I realized that I was not cut out to be a military person. I thought that war, death and killing were awful and horrible. It was not what God intended. I wanted no part in it because I saw the destruction and horrors. When I enlisted, I was wanting to go to avenge the Japanese and what they did to us. Now I just don’t see any need for war. We can prevent any future wars by being strong and more powerful than any other nation. I feel like we have an exceptional country, and it is the most important country placed on the earth.”

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Colonel Bryan D. Strickland: Age 81

Colonel Bryan D. Strickland served 30 years in the United States Air Force. Beginning his service as a pilot, he exemplifies excellence in leadership having served in staff and leadership roles at 11 United States Air Force bases and two U. S. Air Bases overseas. He was a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours including 11 months of combat during the Vietnam War. His professional military education includes Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Air War College, and the National War College. He holds a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Webster College and a Master of Education Degree from Auburn University at Montgomery. His awards and decorations include: Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eleven oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Col Strickland was born in Birmingham, AL, November 12, 1938, to his parents, J. B. and Julia Strickland where he was reared and graduated from Shades Valley High School in 1957. He received a B.S. Degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama in 1962, and he was commissioned as a distinguished military graduate of the Reserve Officer Training Corps and entered active duty in May 1962. He won his pilot wings in June 1963 after completing pilot training at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas.

After attending pilot instructor training at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, Col Strickland was an instructor pilot in the T-33 and T-37 aircraft at Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Alabama, from October 1963 to March 1967. From March to September 1967, he qualified as an aircraft commander in the F-4D aircraft at George Air Force Base, California, and was subsequently assigned to Ubon Air Base, Thailand, where he flew 141 combat missions in the F-4D from November 1967 to August 1968 over North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail over Laos and Cambodia.

After attending the Tactical Fighter Operations Officer Course at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Col Strickland was assigned to Headquarters, 13th Air Force, Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, as chief of the Operations Requirements Division and subsequently as aide to the Vice Commander, 13th Air Force. He flew the F-4C and T-39 aircraft during this tour from October 1968 to June 1971. Returning from overseas, Col Strickland was assigned to the 76th Military Airlift Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Between June 1971 and June 1974, he was a flight examiner qualified in the C-141A aircraft and became chief of squadron standardization and then was selected as chief of 437 Military Airlift Wing Standardization-Evaluation.

From June 1974 until April 1980, Col Strickland was assigned to the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. He was the test manager and test director of the C-141B “Stretch” program during its initial operational test and evaluation. When the aircraft transitioned to Military Airlift Command for follow-on testing, Col Strickland became chief of the airlift branch and subsequently Deputy Director of Test and Evaluation.

Col Strickland was transferred to McChord Air Force Base, Washington, in April 1980, where he initially commanded the 8th Military Airlift Squadron. He later became Assistant Director of Operations of the 62nd Military Airlift Wing upon his selection to the rank of colonel. In August 1981, he was transferred to Ft. McNair, Washington, DC, to attend The National War College. Upon completion of school in June 1982, he was assigned to Headquarters, United States Air Force, as Chief of the Airspace and Air Traffic Services Division, Directorate of Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations.

Col Strickland returned to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in June 1984 and assumed the position of Vice Commander of the 1606th Air Base Wing. Two years later, he was reassigned to the Air War College, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama. He initially served as a faculty instructor, then as Chairman of the Department of Command and Leadership and finally as Vice Commandant of the Air War College. He retired on June1, 1992 after completing a 30-year career.

Col Strickland and his wife, Charlotte, have been married 58 years, and they have three children and three grandchildren. They served as teachers at Christiansen Academy, a school for Missionary Kids, supported by The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in Rubio, Venezuela, during the school year 1996-97 where he taught English. Charlotte taught world history, American history, 7th grade geography and was the school counselor. Beginning in 2000, they traveled throughout the USA and Canada spending each winter in Key West, FL, living in their motor home. They are active members of Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL, and affiliate members of Key West United Methodist Church when visiting there. At Frazer, he has served as the President and as a substitute teacher of the Sowers Sunday School Class, a greeter, proof reader of the Frazer Family News and server at Wednesday night fellowship suppers.

Col Strickland reflections upon his military service are, “I never intended to go into the military when I graduated, but my AFROTC commander encouraged me to accept a regular commission as an officer, and I never regretted it. I enjoyed flying. When the Vietnam War started, because the Air Force had trained me, and because I really appreciated what the military was doing for our country, I decided to stay in and serve as a pilot in that War and continued to serve. When I entered the Air Force in 1962, the draft was still in effect. I believe the draft was a good thing. It caused a broad cross section of the American population to serve and learn to fully appreciate their nation and the military forces that protect it. They are the ones who still stand and place their hands over their hearts for the National Anthem. Since the draft has ended, that broad cross section is no longer represented in our nation’s military forces. The ones who volunteer today, both men and women, may not represent people from all walks of life, but they are the ones privileged to learn why America must have a strong military to protect our nation and its people who have never served. They are the ones who understand and appreciate that the United States of America is “one nation under God” and that there has never been a nation like ours. It is truly exceptional. I fear that the broad cross section of our population no longer appreciate the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform, nor do they understand the forces of evil that exist in the world today. Only those who study history can appreciate how unique our system of government really is. It is a shame that all citizens don’t have the opportunity or the desire to gain that understanding by serving in our military services, and I fear that our educational system no longer focuses on American or world history. Someone once said, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.” I fear for our country if the current rabble-rousers and no-nothings prevail at the ballot box.”

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A. Wyndal Murrah: Age 98

Wyndal Murrach is a WWII veteran who served in Europe in combat in the U. S. Army Infantry. He received the following awards and decorations for his valiant service: Bronze Star, FAME Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal.

He received a Medal of Honor from the U.S. Veterans Friends Luxembourg March 22, 2017.

Wyndal Murrah was born March 14, 1922, at Mineral Springs, AL, a rural area in Chilton County, to his parents, George W. Murrah and Roberta Murrah. He graduated from Chilton County High School in 1940, worked a year in the Upchurch Drug Store at Clanton, AL, and enrolled at Auburn University (Alabama Polytechnic Institute) in 1941.

Murrah enlisted in the U. S. Army in the Enlisted Reserve Corps while at Auburn University. Murrah began his military service January 29, 1943, in the artillery branch of the Army with Basic Training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He was selected for engineer’s work in the Army at North Carolina State College where he studied for almost one year; however, because of the high casualty rate of Infantry in the wars with Germany and Japan, he was pulled from engineer training to Infantry training at Ft. Jackson, S.C. followed by assignment at Ft. Meade, MD, and Camp Killman, NJ, and embarkation from New York City to Wales aboard the RMS Mauretania, a Cunard ocean liner.

After two weeks at Manchester, England, Murrah landed at Omaha Beach at Normandy, which was a few months after the invasion of Allied forces on June 6, 1944, D-Day. Murrah’s Infantry unit was sent for several weeks to Le Mans located in the northwestern area of France. The Infantry was loaded and packed uncomfortably into boxcars that had been called “Forty and Eight” during WWI which had been used to haul 40 men and eight horses, and they traveled for three days without heat, seats, restrooms or other conveniences. Food was limited, and near Paris, food ran out completely. At one stop, an infantryman found a box of crushed pineapple and a box of butter, which the men consumed eagerly.

Murrah’s unit was assigned to the 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division, and they journeyed to Belgium and Luxembourg. Their assignment was to chase the German troops from Luxembourg into the Hurtgen Forest which encompassed 54 square miles east of the Belgian-German border. This warfare involved a series of fierce battles fought from September to December 1944

between American and German forces on the Western Front. It was the longest battle on German ground during World War II and is the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought. Murrah fought as a rifleman in the Hurtgen Forest, and he suffered severely from cold, fatigue, hunger and terror during November. He remembers hearing the Germans dropping mortars into the mortar tubes. He took cover behind trees for protection from the Germans’ mortars and shrapnel. He recalls images of chasing Germans through the Forest and seeing Germans throwing down their rifles after running out of ammunition.

From his squad, only three survived. Other squads had suffered the same high casualty rate.

Fighting conditions were brutal during the exposure of the cold November days and nights. The troops had not been issued adequate winter clothing, and they struggled to keep warm while hovering in foxholes. They kept getting colder, wetter, more scared and hungrier while trying to survive. They had only machine guns and rifles because the weather did not permit aerial bombardment, and the artillery could not get in because the ground would not hold up anything. He was assigned to return to the supply area to bring back ammunitions, and he was shot at while accomplishing this mission resulting in a hole being shot in his helmet. In the foxholes, it was necessary to break the ice that had accumulated during the night. Finally, the men got a few sleeping bags from some other troops. Murrah’s feet hurt excruciatingly from the cold. After a length of time, his ankles could not bend. He could not wear his shoes, and he could not walk for three months. He went to a medical aid-station, was transferred by ambulance, was carried to hospitals at Belgium, Paris, Normandy, England and sailed on the hospital ship, Ethos, returning to the U.S.A. with final hospitalization at Ft. Carson, CO, completing nine months of treatments at hospitals. He was discharged from military service August 31, 1945.

Murrah’s conclusions from his WWII military service are, “I was 22 years old when I went overseas, and I had never had any real life-changing experiences as a farm and college boy until then. This made a change in me. One night in the foxhole, I had a vision of my mother standing there in a white dress. I told her, ‘If I ever got out of here, I won’t be the same when I get home.’ I can’t say that there was much in the military that I could enjoy. I didn’t mind the field artillery. I enjoyed studying to become an engineer to be an officer in the Army. I never lost my patriotic feeling towards my country. I remember my Dad took his truck all over to sell war bonds, and my brother served in the military in Chicago. I would not take anything for having served. It was a great experience.”

When Murrah returned to his life in Alabama, he and his wife, Betty, were married 64 years until she passed. They had four children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. They enjoyed traveling to many of the states in the U.S.A. and foreign countries.

Murrah worked with his dad for a few months before he returned to college, and he graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. Degree in Agricultural Science in 1947. For 10 years, he worked for the Farmer’s Home Administration, which involved lending money to farmers. Murrah worked 27 years with the Product Credit Association providing short-and-intermediate-term credit to farmers, ranchers, and rural residents. Murrah retired in 1986. He has enjoyed wood-working making tables and chairs for his children and yard work as well as playing golf and bridge. He is a member of the Towers Sunday School Class at First Methodist Church of Montgomery, AL.

 

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