Thursday, February 11, 2016

Four Interviews: PFC Finney, Combat Medic in WW11, Spc. Rev. Dan Wright, Combat Engineer in WW 11, Sgt. Tom Barksdale, POW in WW11, and Emerson Beach, Nuclear Engineer on Sub. shot in Cold War

Four Interviews: PFC Finney, Combat Medic in WW11, Sgt. Rev. Dan Wright, Combat Engineer in WW 11, Sgt. Tom Barksdale, POW in WW11, and Emerson Beach,  Nuclear Engineer on Sub. shot in Cold War

1. PFC Finney: wounded in WW 11 while performing as a Combat Medic in Okinawa. PFC Finney, who was drafted as a teenager,  became a medic after finding out in Basic Training that "I did not have a killer instinct." The platoon Sgt. sent him to the Chaplain, who suggest he become a medic. Finney was wounded while climbing from foxhole to foxhole mainly to "stop the bleeding" of the injured soldiers. He declares that "I don't know how any medic is not shot having to expose themselves moving around to help the wounded." 
Finney who had to learn to walk again also suffered from hepatitis infected from "bad blood" given on the site. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze star for courageous actions. I asked them if he carried a gun as a medic? He replied affirmatively. I asked him if he would use it if necessary? "Of course, to protect my brothers in arms."
After the war, he used the GI Bill to go to Northwestern U. and on to Grad. School at the University of Chicago. He maintains he was thrown out of Grad. school because of his association with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called a "troublemaker" . He was grateful, as "I went upstairs and helped the other "troublemakers" write the Equal Opportunity Act, and do other writing work for Civil Rights.

2. Rev. Dan Wright was working at the Charleston Naval yard with a wife and a child when he was drafted into the Army. After basic, he received extra training as a truck driver and mechanic. He got on a British Freighter in New York to ship out to the Pacific theater. It took the small ship (stopped at lots of ports loading and unloading freight) 52 days to get him to Australia, where a small destroyer moved them to the beach at New Guinea, which was being protected by the Japanese forces. He observed on of his friends being shot on the beach - "he was shot in the stomach and his guts were hanging out." However, "I met him later fully recovered after end of war in Manila."
Rev. Dan became the Captain's driver and bodyguard because of his sharpshooting. "I grew up in the country (near Walterboro, S. C.) hunting so I could shoot pretty good before basic". Somehow, he and the capt. ended up near the front line being shot out and both evacuated the jeep to be protected from the bullets. At about the same time, a Japanese recon. (small) Zero plane landed near them. The pilot jumped out with his hands up and said "don't shoot, I surrender, I was in school in San Francisco." Sgt. Dan said he could "speak English better than I could." He said the Captain (Engineer) never wanted to go near the front again.
He told of having to endure racist taunts from other soldiers, however the worst were from the Japanese side - "Tokyo Rose" who said we ought to desert, because we "Blacks" were treated so badly in the U.S.A. I asked them what they called them and Sgt. Dan said "we were anything but Children of God." Later, he said that some of the racists were put into brig. and the verbal abuse was stopped.
He also said he had to sleep under mosquito nets, but could not help but being bitten by these "Anopholes mosquitos when on duty. He was sick a lot after the war spending a lot of time in hospitals but was not told until recently ("last few months") that he had contracted malaria in New Guinea.
Sgt. Dan, next, was shipped to the Phillipines to be part of the invasion - Gen. MacAuther's Return. He was stuck for awhile in the large harbor with many more boats. He watched kamikaze zero planes coming in attacking the boat. "I saw one fly so close to the water, that it put up a "spume", so we could not shoot at it, as we would hit another boat."  "Once it flew up to fly into its target, though I saw it shot down." 
Later, he drove trucks around Manila and was used as a guard for the Japanese POW's I asked if he would shoot one if he tried to escape, and he said if he didn't he would be required to stay in the Phillipines until the POW was caught.
Dan Wright after the war became an AME minister ordained by Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston. Then, he and a Rev. Middleton returned home to Jacksonboro and founded an AME church, which he proudly stated is "still open and doing well".   Rev. Middleton's daughter was unfortunately one of the "Emmanuel Nine". "She was a member of my church as a child.
Sgt. Rev. Dan stated he was treated very well here at Patriots Point (palliative care and hospice) at the
 Charleston V. A. He is very happy and especially appreciative of being able to go to Washington last summer on the last Honor Flight for WW11 vets.

3. Sgt. Tom Barksdale, POW at Stalag 17 in WW11.  96 year old Sgt. Tom, also drafted, became a radio operator on bombers from England over Germany and it's surrounding territory. On their 13th mission, their plane was shot up and pilot killed and several crew members were injured. Sgt. Tom put a parachute on the most injured one and pushed him out of plane telling him to pull the ripcord when he could not hear the engine anymore. After helping the rest of the crew put on parachutes and jump, Sgt Tom put on his and jumped. When he hit the ground, he saw that the first injured one was hurt so badly that he knew he had to get help quickly even if it meant capture. Sgt. Tom even climbed a tree to look for help. When they were captured a few hours later ("It felt like forever"), the most injured crewman was taking to a hospital in Germany, while the rest were evacuated to Stalag 17 in Austria. There the injured one ended up about a month later in the same barracks. They remained captive for 18 months. The last month, they were forced march 280 miles South over some of the Alps. for 18 days. This was probably because the Russians were coming toward them and the Americans could capture them further South. At the end of the march, the guards handed over their weapons to the POW's Sgt. Tom said they were treated well the whole time by the guards, and "Hogan's Heros" was based on lot of truth.

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