by Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you‚re having a good week. As I said in a previous column, I want to tell some of the WWII experiences of Mr. Chester Joyner. He was kind enough to send me a copy of a video he had made so I can accurately tell his story.
Mr. Chester worked in the Stave Mill in Water Valley from the time he was fourteen years old until he was drafted in November of 1943.
In those days many young men dropped out of school to go to work to help the family. It was the days of the depression and everyone had a hard time just to survive. He went to Florida to take his basic training and then to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey for advanced combat training. He was then sent to England for more training in preparation for D-Day. A few days after D-Day he was sent in as replacement in the 29th Infantry Division. Although he missed the beach landings, he got caught up in the fighting in the hedgerows. As he explained, these were trees and hedges in and out of ditches that had probably been there for hundreds of years.
It was almost impossible for men to go through and was impossible for tanks.
Mr. Chester said that when they landed, he could see bodies stacked up like cord wood under blankets. In his calm laid back manner, he said „that made me feel pretty bad.‰ When they reached the forward lines, a sergeant told them to unload their packs. The packs contained socks, underwear, shaving equipment, toothpaste, and a change of clothes. He said, „where you‚re going, you won‚t need them.‰ Mr. Chester said, „that‚s when I really got scared.‰ This was near St. Lo, France and it took so long to finally capture that the entire town was practically destroyed. There were heavy casualties on both sides as well as many of the town‚s residents. Further inland they were pinned down near an apple orchard. He said that one of the worst things was the German 88‚s shells that sounded like a freight train.
Up until this time he had been a rifleman but he said that a Bazooka operator stood up to get a shot and was instantly killed by a shell. A Lieutenant told him to take the Bazooka and as he said that‚s when he became a Bazooka operator from then on. They were pinned down by two German Machine Guns that had them in a crossfire. He told the Lieutenant to have the men lay down a heavy field of fire and he would try to slip around and knock them out with the Bazooka. He got the first one with one shot and then he was able to get the second one. Mr. Chester got the bronze star for this. At this point I‚m going to explain to any of you that don‚t know, what a Bazooka is.
It looks like a king sized Oboe and got its name from a radio comedian named Bob Burns that played an instrument that looked similar. It required two men, a loader and a shooter. The projectile was loaded from the rear and a wire from a magneto was tied to the projectile and then the weapon was charged. The loader tapped the shooter on his helmet and then the shooter took aim and hopefully hit his target.
This weapon was used against Tanks but in some case against machine gun nests as Mr. Chester did. I had fired this weapon during Combat Police School but to be sure, I phoned Mr. Chester to get the correct information.
As you can see, Mr. Chester‚s story will take more than one column. In closing, I want to thank Jim Allen for pointing up an error in a previous column. I had said that Leon Wright served in Korea. This was an error, and although he and Jim went into the Air Force together, Jim went to Korea and Leon to Europe. Leon was discharged just before the start of the Korean war and Jim was wounded when the Koreans overran the Kimpo Air Field at Seoul. As I‚ve said before, my readers will be sure to correct my errors and for this I‚m grateful. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 381011 and have a great week.