Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Salute: Ralph Poore

Ralph E. Poore during training maneuvers in 1941.
He is holding a Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR,
and is wearing a World War I style helmet. The Army had not
yet issued the "steel pot" helmets used in World War II.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

A young Ralph E. Poore worked at a number of jobs in Depression Era Laurel, Mississippi, in order to survive. He worked at Bush Dairy and a local furniture company. But nothing offered much of a future.

In December 1940, a 22-year-old Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Army. Recruiting officers assigned him to the Headquarters Battery, 29th Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. He eventually served in a forward observer liaison unit.

Over the next four years, the men of the 4th Division became among the best-trained troops of the U.S. Army. The Army welded the 4th Infantry Division into a powerful, highly mobile offensive force that could protect armored divisions.

As a unit of the 4th Division, the 29th field artillery helped put together the nuts and bolts of a motorized division. Training with General George S. Patton’s 2nd Armored Division, they helped write the manual on U.S. armored warfare.

As sergeant in the liaison unit, Ralph moved with the forward infantry units. When an enemy position blocked the infantrymen’s progress, the forward observers called the target location to the fire direction center. After wiping out one target, the artillery then moved on to the next.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Ralph landed with the early waves the 8th Infantry Regiment combat teams, which the 29th Field Artillery supported, on Utah Beach. Over the next seven months, Ralph stayed on the front lines with the infantry to help bring artillery fire down on the Germans when it was needed.

He fought through the hedgerow country, the breakout of Operation Cobra and passed through Paris on the way to the Siegfried Line. For his heroic actions in saving the lives of three other men in a minefield in the Huertgen Forest, Ralph was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
A restored M7 Priest at the Fort Sill Field Artillery Museum
depicts self-propelled artillery support during the Battle of the Bulge.
The 29th Field Artillery used this type of gun.

When the Germans broke through U.S. lines in December, Ralph and the 29th Field Artillery helped the 4th Division hold the southern shoulder of the Bulge.

Because Ralph had been continuously on the front lines since D-Day, the Army gave him leave back to the States in February 1945. He returned to the front at about the time Germany surrendered.

After the war, Ralph lived for a short time back in Laurel, then re-enlisted in the Army, serving until 1949. He settled in Mobile, Alabama, for the rest of his life, until his untimely death in 1976.

Veterans Day Salute: Alonzo Geiger

Alonzo W. Geiger, photo courtesy of Caroline Geiger Mulican and Kerry Cayten

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

Alonzo Winfield Geiger was a 22-year-old laborer at the Marathon Lumber Co. in Laurel, Mississippi, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918 for service in World War I.

Alonzo became a private first class with Company C of the 102nd Engineers with the 27th Infantry Division. The 27th Division spent all of the war with the British Fourth Army and the contributions of the Americans in breaking through the Hindenburg Line sometimes have often been overlooked.

The 102nd Engineers arrived at the front in advance of infantry and machine-gun units. Their dangerous job included repairing roads nearly destroyed after three years of shellfire.

In an attack on the Hindenburg Line on Sept. 29, 1918, Maj. Gen. John F. O’Ryan sent three companies of the 102nd Engineers to occupy a reserve position north of Ronssoy. He had run out infantry units to put on the line in the bloody and ferocious battle.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Geiger Mulican and Kerry Cayten
The engineers weren't needed and the war ended for Alonzo and the other men of the 27th Division when they were pulled back for a rest on Oct. 1.

After the war, Alonzo returned to Laurel and opened a gasoline service station on Central Avenue. A hard worker all his life, Alonzo could be found in the station six days a week. Sundays he reserved for church and visiting family.

Veterans Day Salute: John H. Poore

Gondrecourt, France training area

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

After John H. Poore was inducted at Bay Springs, Mississippi, on June 15, 1918, he entered Company A of the 152nd Infantry Regiment. This regiment arrived in Europe on Oct. 5, 1918, and never saw combat. 

It served as a source of replacements for other units. On Nov. 1, John was transferred to Company
B, 325th Infantry Regiment for combat duty.

On Nov. 1, 1918, John moved up to the front lines as part of the 325th Infantry Regiment for the last 11 days of the war. The 325th Infantry waited in reserve as part of the 82nd Infantry Division while three other divisions of First Army’s I Corps attacked along the Meuse River on Nov. 1. Three days later the Germans retreated east of the Meuse.

When American forces captured the heights overlooking the German railroad at Sedan, they assured the
John H. Poore's grave in Union Seminary Baptist Church
Cemetery in Jasper County, Mississippi.
Photo by Larry Bell
of the war. The Germans agreed to an Armistice to begin on Nov. 11, 1918. The war ended without John having fired a shot in anger.

During the five months afterward, John and his 325th comrades waited in France for transport home. There was a shortage of troopships to take them back to the United States.

Six months after the Armistice, John returned to the United States. The Army discharged him in May 1919 and he came home to Jasper County, Mississippi.

Veterans Day Salute: Dick A. Poore

Dick Austin Poore

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

In the late 1930s, Dick A. Poore drove a milk delivery route for Bush Dairy in Laurel, Mississippi. He wore a number of hats at the dairy as would be expected in a family business. Dick operated the electric milking machine, loaded and unloaded the delivery truck and kept an account of his sales.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Dick must have realized that life eventually would change for him. In late June 1942, about three months after his 22nd birthday, Dick registered for the draft. Soon enough, Uncle Sam called on him.

At 7:30 a.m., Oct. 17, 1942, Dick and 75 other young men lined up at the Laurel bus station for the short trip to Camp Shelby outside of Hattiesburg. At the camp, the draftees went through their first physical exams and were inducted into the Army.

Then recruiters sent Dick and the other men back to Laurel to settle their affairs. On Nov. 2, Dick and the other men again boarded buses for the 45-mile or so trip back to Hattiesburg and into the Army.

At Camp Shelby, the Army gave Dick and the other men only a basic introduction into military life. After less than 12 weeks of training, Dick shipped out for North Africa in March 1943. Around Oran, Algeria, Dick began training to be a part of anti-aircraft artillery radar unit of the Fifth Army.

On Sept. 9, Dick, his comrades and their antiaircraft artillery and support vehicles followed the infantry onto the beaches of Salerno in the first Allied invasion of mainland Europe.

The main job for Dick and the rest of the radar crew was to set up and operate the power plant and
Salerno invasion, Sept. 9, 1943

radar unit vitally needed to fight off repeated enemy air attacks on the men and supplies in the U.S. beachhead.

Leaving the Salerno plain, Dick and his comrades had to fight their way along steep and narrow roads in jagged mountains slashed by ravines and streams. Besides this Naples-Foggia campaign, Dick would take part in the North Apennines and Po Valley campaigns over the next year and a half.

The Army discharged Dick in October 1945. He returned to live in Laurel for awhile before eventually settling in Mobile for the rest of his life.

Veterans Day Salute: James Benford Poore

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

James Benford Poore, a native of Mississippi, served as a landsman (that's what the "LDS" on his grave marker means) in the U.S. Navy during World War I. A landsman was a new recruit with less than three years of experience

James was the son of John Franklin Poore, who served in the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

James is buried in Prescott National Cemetery, Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Veterans Day Salute: Unknown Sailor and Soldier

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

We don't know the names of this sailor and soldier, but the two men were members of either the Hosey, Geiger or Poore families of Jasper and Jones counties, Mississippi.

The uniforms are from the World War I period and so the photo was probably taken between 1917-1919.

The men's uniforms offer a few clues. Sailors called the style of hat worn here the “flat hat.” Civilians called it a “Donald Duck hat” or “pancake hat.” The top of the hat was 12 inches across.

Before 1941, the hat band, called a “talley” displayed the name of the sailor’s ship. In
Example of a flat hat
with the ship name
visible on the talley.
1941, with war under way in Europe, the Navy became concerned with the security of ship movements. So the services replaced the ship name with “U.S. Navy” or “U.S. Coast Guard.”

In this case, unfortunately, a shadow from the bright sunlight hides the name of the sailor’s ship on the talley.

Before the United States entered World War I, the Navy had switched to a smaller, floppier, more practical hat design. When the country entered the war in 1917, the Navy issued the many older flat hats it had in storage until the supply was exhausted.

The white piping on the right shoulder of the sailor indicates that he is in the seaman branch of the Navy. The three white stripes on the sleeve cuff indicate that he is a seaman first class.

The soldier’s uniform has no rank or unit markings. But his leggings tell us a little about him.

French civilians greet advancing American infantrymen
in this 1918 photo. The British-style puttee legging can
clearly be seen.
He appears to be wearing a light-colored canvas legging. This is a sign that he has not yet served in the war in Europe.

Canvas leggings proved impractical in the muddy trenches of Europe. So American troops quickly adopted British-style wool wrap leggings, known as puttees.

Puttees were about 8-12 feet long with 3-5 feet long tie ribbons. A soldier wrapped these around his leg starting from the ankle going all the way up to the knee. The puttees also were closer in color to the olive drab uniform.

So it seems likely that this photo was taken in 1917.

Veterans Day Salute: Donnie Alva Vickers

Part of the 306th Ammunition Train, 81st Infantry Division
Photo from
 the North Carolina State Archives

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

During World War I, Donnie Alva Vickers, a 24-year-old from the farming community of Vashti, Alabama, enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 26, 1918. He eventually became a private first class in Company F of the 306 Ammunition Train of the 81st Infantry Division.

As a member of the ammunition train, Donnie's job was to transport ammo for the artillery and
Donnie Vickers

infantry to the front line area. He and the other men carried the ammo in horse-drawn wagons, trucks or sometimes by a literal train on tracks.

The 81st Infantry Division arrived in the Vosges Mountain region of France in mid-September. Here they had to deal mostly with German trench raids and artillery fire.

In mid-October, the Army moved the division to the American 1st Army area and on Nov. 6 the division entered the front lines near Verdun, east of the Meuse River.

The division attacked German positions on Nov. 8 and ran into heavy enemy machine gun and artillery fire. By midday, the doughboys had pushed the Germans back, but intense enemy fire halted the advance.

Two days later the division troops attacked again, only to be forced back at nightfall by intense enemy artillery fire.

The 81st Division commanders didn't receive word of the armistice that was to being at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 and pushed ahead with an early morning attack. At daybreak, the doughboys went “over the top” and fought their way toward the German trenches.

Then at 11 a.m. the firing stopped. The war was over.

The men of the 81st Division remained in France for five months before being shipped back to the United States. The Army discharged Donnie on May 5, 1919, at Camp Gordon, Georgia.

After the war, Donnie married Hazel Lee Pierce (1905-1985) and the couple moved to Akron, Ohio, where
Donnie worked for the General Tire and Rubber Company. The Vickers eventually left Akron for the Alabama farming community of Faunsdale, not far from where Don grew up. There they owned and managed a 600-acre farm specializing in cattle.

Veterans Day Salute: Ralph B. Pierce

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm again posting my Veterans Day Salutes to my family.

During World War II, Ralph Bailey Pierce (1917-1984) served in the U.S. Army Air Corp, which later became the U.S. Air Force. Today he has grandchildren proudly serving in the armed forces. The following information about his service comes from his daughter Judith Pierce Croxton, who formerly was the director of Business Operations for the 20th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force.

Ralph joined the U.S. Army Air Corp on a Wednesday and he received a draft notice on the following Friday. In August 1941 he left his home in Mobile, Alabama, to travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for two weeks of training. Ralph was stationed at Craig Field, Selma, Alabama, as a supply sergeant. Ralph’s first military paycheck was for $15 after a deduction of $6 for Post Exchange checks.

In the 380th school squadron of 35, Ralph made steady advancements, even to the point of being promoted once a month. He became a staff sergeant in seven months.

There was an added incentive. Ralph could not marry Gay McKeough until he was at least a staff sergeant. On July 1, 1942, Ralph obtained that rank and on October 3, 1942, Ralph and Gay were married in a beautiful wedding in Prichard, Alabama. Gay then joined Ralph and they lived on the air base in Selma.

During the 2 1/2 years that Ralph and Gay lived in Selma, Gay worked on the base keeping cadet and officer flying times. She also served as private secretary to the base operations officer.

In 1944 Ralph received an overseas assignment to the Azores Islands. He was an ordinance supply
officer. While in the Azores, he made the rank of technical sergeant. Gay returned to Saraland and worked for her uncle, Samuel Powe’s Allied Detective Agency and with Family Reserve Insurance Company (later changed to Liberty National).

Ralph returned in 1945 and was discharged from the service after “4 years, 7 months, 26 days and 14
Lagens Field in the Azores in early 1944. U.S. operations
on the Azores during World War II were secret for years.
hours” to quote Ralph. Gay met Ralph in Manchester, New Hampshire, and they both recalled going to a horse race and winning enough money to buy Ralph a new suit, shoes and a hat. All these items were apparently needed.
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