Cotton Belt Veterans
World War II
These men died in service to their country

 

Will American, a former Cotton Belt section laborer on Section 64, died in an Army Training Camp--Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. His foreman at Cotton Belt was B. A. Douglas. Will American is survived by his mother, Mrs. Sadie B. Clay of Plain Dealing, La.

Cadet John Robert Bowers was a brakeman on the Cotton Belt for five months prior to his enlistment in the Naval Air Corps in December of 1941. Until September 3, 1942, John was held in reserve, but on that date he reported for pre-flight training at Iowa City, Iowa. Additional flight training was received at Lambert Field in St. Louis, and Pensacola, Florida. On June 15, 1943, three weeks before he would have received his commission, Johnny Bowers was killed while on a training flight from Barton Field, near Pensacola. He was born April 6, 1920 at Illmo, Missouri, where he attended elementary school. He completed three years at Cape Girardeau State Teachers' College. Mr. and Mrs. E. Bowers, his parents, reside at Illmo, Missouri.

Chief Shipfitter Nolan Richard Byrum, on duty with the Seabees in the South Pacific, was accidentally killed by an electric shock on February 11, 1944. He had enlisted in the Construction Battalion of the U. S. Navy October 15, 1942. Nolan Byrum entered the service of Cotton Belt as carman apprentice at Tyler on July. 17, 1934, completed his apprenticeship four yeans later, and was employed as extra carman and car inspector at Texarkana on August 6, 1938. For the next four years he served variously as carman and carman inspector at Texarkana, Waco and Commerce. Born December 26, 1914 at Tyler, Byrum was 29 years old at the time of his death. His mother, Mrs. Tracy, lived in Tyler.

Lt. Aubrey Harold Cooper entered the employ of Cotton Belt in 1940 as telegrapher at Pine Bluff. in which capacity he served the railroad until his enlistment in the Air Corps. While on a flight over Italy on January 12, 1944, Lt. Cooper lost his life at the age of 23. Aubrey Cooper received pre-flight training at San Antonio, Texas; Sikeston; Perrin Field, Sherman Texas; and Blackland Army School at Waco, Texas. Having graduated from Blackland Flying School in February 1943, he was sent to Avon Park, Florida. In July of the same year he was sent to Africa --where, during the following month, he was. wounded. Six weeks later he started flying again. In January of the following year he was killed. Lt. Cooper's mother, Mrs. Ruth Cooper, resides at Almyra, Arkansas.

Pvt. Ralph Curtis had been employed by Cotton Belt as blacksmith helper at Pine Bluff for only three months when he was inducted into military service on January 25, 1943. While on maneuvers with the 782nd Tank Battalion, Pvt. Curtis was killed in Nashville, Tennessee, on December 1, 1944. Ralph's widow, the former Miss Dora Fowler, and his son, James, live at Pine Bluff, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Curtis, reside at Midway Route, Monticello, Arkansas. Born at Russellville, Arkansas, on January 6, 1921, Ralph was 21 years old at the time of his death.

T/Sgt. J. Bryan Davis was a freight clerk at Tyler during the two months he worked for the Cotton Belt. In Dec. 1942, he was inducted into the Army Air Corps. After months of intensive training, he was graduated from Radio School at Scott Field, Illinois. On June 12, 1943, Sgt. Davis married Miss Dorothy Lee Richburg of Tyler. Six months later, he was sent to the European theater of operations as radio technician and gunner on a B-24. On October 2, 1944, while flying his twelfth mission over Hamm, Germany, he was killed. Sgt. Davis was awarded two Air Medals with Oak Leaf Clusters, the presidential Citation, Good Conduct Medal and was cited foe meritorious work in two major air battles. Sgt. Davis, son of Mr. and Mrs. L. L. Davis of Lake Park Road, Tyler, Texas, was born December 23, 1923, at Van, Texas.

Lt. Howard Felix Gardner, Jr., was the son of our Assistant General Car Foreman at Pine Bluff. He entered the service of Cotton Belt on January 4 1939, as carman apprentice at Pine Bluff. Three years later he enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force. He received his primary flight training at Victory Field, Vernon, Texas and advanced training at Good Fellow Field, San Angelo, Texas. November 10, 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant at Moore Field, Mission, Texas. Lt. Gardner was then appointed advanced flight instructor at Moore Field. Less than a year later, on September 23, 1943, he was killed when his plane crashed eighteen miles north of Moore Field. Howard Gardner's widow, the former Miss Mary Ann Bradley of Vernon, Texas, and his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, reside at 1810 Bowie St., Vernon, Tex.

S/Sgt. Lloyd Gee, a former Cotton Belter at Tyler, Texas, was inducted into the U. S. Army March 4, 1942, at Mineral Wells, Texas. From there he was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he trained with the 44th Division of the 71st Infantry. After one year at Ft. Lewis, he was sent to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, to train with the 42nd Rainbow Division for eight months. November 23, 1944, he sailed for France and was killed less than two months later, January 17, 1945, near Strasbourg, France. Lloyd Gee entered the employ of Cotton Belt as mail clerk in our general freight office at Tyler on December 29, 1941, and was transferred to the office of general Agent Pinkston as steno-clerk on March 12, 1942. Four months later he resigned to enter defense school at Nacagdoches. Lloyd's mother, Mrs. Fred L. Gee, resides at Troup, Texas.

Cpl. Leonard Hurston Gipson had worked on the Cotton Belt for about five years as blacksmith helper at Tyler when he enlisted in the Army Air Force October 16, 1942. After his basic training at Waco and Sheppard Field, Gipson was sent to a school in Michigan to study the B-24. He landed in North Africa in October 1943, and a month later while being transported elsewhere, his transport was sunk. At the time of his death Gipson was 38 years old. Cpl. Gipson's father, T. H. Gipson, lives at 1212 E. Earle St., Tyler.

Pfc. Charles Drum Grinnell, .son of Ernest D. Grinnell, our general freight agent, was killed in action on June 18, 1945, on Okinawa. Charles Grinnell worked on the Cotton Belt for several months, assisting in the construction of the C. T. C. from Fordyce to Lewisville, and worked in the vicinity of Camden and Bearden. On July 15, 1944, he resigned from the company to enlist in the U. S. Army. He was 19 years old at the time of his death.

Bert Mynard Hargett, Aviation Radioman 1/c, was employed by Cotton Belt about two years, first, as caller at Jonesboro, and later, as clerk in the mechanical department in East St. Louis. He enlisted in the Naval Air Corps on August 28, 1942. In February of the following year he received his wings at Jacksonville, Florida. On July 7, 1945, the airplane in which he was radioman failed to gain speed in the take-off and crashed into waters of the South Pacific. The three occupants of the plane, it was reported, escaped from the sinking plane, inflated their life jackets, and signaled nearby ships of their location. Shortly after this had been done, there was an explosion of bombs carried by the plane and Bert could not be found, although the other two were rescued unharmed. Bert was 23 years old at the time of his death. He went to school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where his mother, Mrs. Opal Bullard, resides.

First Class Petty Officer James Henry Hester, Jr., had been in the employ of Cotton Belt for five years in the general store department at Tyler, when in April 1943, he joined the 96th Construction Battalion. He received his boot training at Camp Perry, Virginia, and was then stationed at Camp Holliday, Mississippi, and later at Camp Endicott, Rhode Island. On October 27, 1943, during his last week of training, Hester was engaged in the supervision of a beach excavation. Suddenly the sand caved in, trapping Hester and two of his men. Although they were soon uncovered and rushed to a hospital, their internal injuries were beyond human help. Hester was 31 years old at the time of his death. Mrs. J. H. Hester, James' mother, resides at 127 N. E. 5th street, Mineral Wells, Texas.

Pfc. Roy Oscar Horn was killed December 18, 1943, in a plane crash southwest of Cayenne, French Guinea, while serving in the U. S. Army Air Corps. After nine months of employment on the Cotton Belt as caller at Pine Bluff, Roy Horn enlisted in the Army Air Corps on October 5, 1942, and in May of the following year was graduated from radio school in Chicago, Illinois. He studied navigation at Miami, Florida, and was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on a C46. En-route to India with a crew of five boys, Pfc. Horn's transport crashed in French Guinea on December 18, 1943, killing the entire crew. Roy Horn is ,survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Horn, 916 West Second avenue, Pine Bluff.

Sgt. Thomas Doster Lites, who worked on the Cotton Belt for 18 months, was 25 years old when he was killed while with a railroad battalion in France. Lites entered the service of Cotton Belt as a brakeman at Pine Bluff February 16, 1942. Shortly before his induction into the U. S. Army in November of 1943, he was promoted to conductor. He received his basic training at New Orleans, Fort Sam Houston and Jefferson Barracks. Sgt. Lites sailed in October 1944 and just two months later, December 13, 1944, he was killed. Mr. and Mrs. T. A. Lites, Thomas' parents, reside at Grapevine, Ark.

Cpl. George P. McMillan, Jr., was born February 20, 1919, just before the gun and cannon fire had quit echoing from World War I. The son of our traveling auditor of the Texas Division was with Cotton Belt about 18 months. At the time he entered the armed forces he was working with the Engineering, Signaling Department. He worked at almost every point on the entire line, from Illmo to the end down in Texas, doing construction and signal work. In April 1941 George was inducted into the U. S. Army. After basic training, he was assigned to Battery Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 200th Coast Artillery Anti-aircraft Division. In September of the same year he landed at Manila and was located at Fort Stotsenburg on that fatal day, December 7, 1941. Backed up to Bataan, they were starved out and surrendered on April 9, 1942. There followed the much talked of Death March and a string of filthy prison camps. On October 11, 1944, George, along with the other prisoners, was loaded onto a Jap prison ship sailing from Manila bay to Japan. Thirteen days later, the ship was sunk in the China Sea by U.S. submarine action, and all but nine of the 1,775 aboard were lost. George was the only son of George P. McMillan, Sr., traveling auditor, Texas Division, and had three sisters: Mrs. James S. Lieb of Houston, Texas; Mrs. James T. Ingram of Grand Prairie, Texas; and Mrs.. Harold O. Stallings, of Tyler, Texas. The Purple Heart was awarded posthumously.

T/Sgt. J. D. Miller was a messenger boy for the Cotton Belt--first in East St. Louis, then at Lewisville and finally at Camden. Just 18 years old, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 16, 1942. Upon the completion of his training as radio operator at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sgt. Miller was assigned to a B-17. They departed for Europe from Scott Field, Illinois. On November 5, 1943, while the "Sky-Ann" was flying her fifth mission, she crashed in the English Channel and her entire crew was lost. J. D. Miller's parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Miller, reside at 1700 East Sixth avenue, Pine Bluff.

Voy G. Moran, former coach builder helper: at Pine Bluff, was killed December 18, 1944, in the South Pacific, while serving aboard the Destroyer U. S. S. Monaghan as a torpedoman. 25-year-old Moran was inducted into military service on February 29, 1944, and on December 18 of the same year he lost his life. Voy G. Moran entered the service of the Cotton Belt December 5, 1941, and was with the company for two and a half years. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Margaret Moran, Route 1, Box 310-C, Pine Bluff.

Pfc. William Joseph Murdaugh died from wounds received June 29, 1944, on the battlefield near Cherbourg, France. Pfc. Murdaugh was employed by the Cotton Belt tin shop department at Pine Bluff for several months prior to his induction. His uncles, Tandy and Turner Brewer have been employees of the Cotton Belt for many years. Murdaugh entered the U.S. Army in August 1941 at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and received his training at Camp Wolters, Texas. In September 1943 he sailed for Northern Ireland where he was stationed until D-Day. The Purple Heart was posthumously awarded Pfc. William Murdaugh. His mother, Mrs. Mary Earle Zoch, resides at Bryant, Ark.

T/Sgt. Henry E. Peavy, born at Malden, Missouri, was killed at the age of 25 while making a routine flight over the "hump." The crash occurred on March 17, 1945, near Tengsching, China, killing the entire crew. Sgt. Peavy was, aerial engineer of the C-54 transport. In 1939, upon graduation from the Malden High School, Peary became an employee of the Cotton Belt freight department, St. Louis. Later he was transferred as station clerk to Malden, Missouri, where he was employed at the time of his induction. Henry Peavy is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Peary of Malden, and two brothers.

Cpl. Grady Phillips was killed on Luzon with a combat unit of the 25th Division on March 23, 1945. Grady Phillips had been a section laborer on the Cotton Belt for three years when he entered the U. S. Army on February 17, 1942. He received bis basic training at Schofield Barracks in Texas, Cpl. Phillips had come through Guadalcanal and the New Georgian campaign unharmed, and was entitled to wear the Combat Infantry Badge, Asiatic Pacific Ribbons, Good Conduct Medal and the Purple Heart. He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Phillips of, Hubbard, Texas, one sister, and two brothers.

Sgt. Clarence Britton Smith, Jr., is another member of our Cotton Belt family who rests in the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. Sgt. Smith was killed February 9, 1945, near Hosenzeld, Germany. Inducted into the U.S. Army on December 28, 1942, Smith became an instructor in B1RTC at Camp Fannin, Texas. He remained there for 18 months before being sent overseas. On September 2, 1944, he sailed from Fort Meade, Maryland, and saw action in Belgium and Germany. Clarence B. Smith was employed by the Cotton Belt for eleven months as a machinist apprentice prior to induction into the army. He is survived by his widow, the former Miss Betty Wallis of Pine Bluff, and one son, who was nine months old at the time of his father's death. Sgt. Smith's father, Clarence Britton Smith, Sr., resides at 1504 E. 7th avenue, Pine Bluff.

Richard Soloman Stagg was killed in the battle of Bastoyne, Belgium, on January 15, 1945, and is buried in the American Cemetery Henri Chapelle No. 1, Belgium. Stagg entered the service of Cotton Belt on November 10, 1942, and was employed as yard clerk until his induction into the armed forces two and a half years later. He received his basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, and after a fifteen-day furlough was sent overseas. Richard Stagg was born September 4, 1920, at Wheatly, Arkansas. During his high school days at DeWitt he was very active in sports. His widow, Mrs. Evelyn Stagg, and two daughters, Rosemary and Elizabeth, reside at DeWitt, Arkansas.

George Franklin Thacker, of the U. S. Marine Corps, had been in the Southwestern Pacific area for fourteen months when he was killed on February 2, 1944, at Cape Gloucester, New Britain Island, off the coast of New Guinea. George, also known as Frank, was 29 years old at the time of his death. He had been in the employ of Cotton Belt for approximately four years as a ,section laborer at Brookland, Arkansas. George Thacker is survived by his mother, Mrs. Mollie Catherine Thacker, and a brother, J. E. Thacker, Jr., both of Brookland, Arkansas.

Yeoman 2/c Charles Holland Tunnell, died of a tropical fever on July 18, 1944, while stationed with the Seabees on Admiralty Islands. He had been in the Seabees since December of 1943 and had been in the South Pacific thirteen months at the time of his death. Charles Tunnell was employed at Cotton Belt as messenger and train and engine crew caller from February 11, 1942 until the time he enlisted on January 20, 1943. Charles' father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. II. B. Tunnell, reside at 114 West Cedar Street, Tyler, Texas. His uncle, B. W. Hewitt, is a former Cotton Belt yardmaster, and also lives in Tyler.

Pfc. Bill J. Williams of the 20th Regiment, 4th Marine Division, was killed in action at Saipan on July 7, 1944, and is buried there in the 4th Marine Division Cemetery. He had seen action in the Marshall Islands campaign in February 1944, winding up unhurt on Namur Island. He received his basic training at the Marine Base in San Diego and at Camp Pendleton, California. Bill Williams was born in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, on December 26, 1913, and was attending law school at Cumberland University when he yielded to his life's ambition to become a railroad man. In 1937 he became a trainman on the Cotton Belt where he was engaged until he volunteered for military service in April 1943. He is survived by his widow, three-year-old daughter and his parents, Judge and Mrs. I. N. Williams, Texarkana.

Cpl. Frank Wueger, Jr., was killed on the battlefield in France, on November 30, 1944, after five weeks of combat duty. Employed in our St. Louis traffic department, Frank Jr. was well known to many Cotton Belters through the reputation established by his late father, Frank Wueger, who was chief clerk to the Purchasing agent in St. Louis for many years. Frank Jr. had been in the traffic department about two years at the time of his induction into the U. S. Army. He was a member of the 411th Infantry Regiment and at the time of his death was 26 years old. Frank was a graduate of Washington University, St. Louis. His mother, Mrs. Ella Wueger, lives at 3654 Fillmore street, St. Louis.

From the Thanksgiving issue of Cotton Belt News, 1945

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