Reflections

Chester Joyner Remembers World War II

 by Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  This week we’re going to continue Mr. Chester Joyner’s service in the European Theatre of Operations in World War II.  Mr. Joyner entered the Army in November of 1943 and after basic training in Florida and advance training at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, he was shipped to England for more training and sent to France a few days after D-Day and with other replacements was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division  of the 9th Army.   
At that time they were pinned down in the hedgerows near St. Lo.  We left off last week that he had taken out two machine gun nests for which he later received a Bronze Star.  After that he was permanently assigned as a bazooka operator.  They were receiving fire from a German tank that was firing 88 shells over their emplacement.  An officer, he thinks was a lieutenant, told him to go into that abandoned farm house and try to get a bazooka shot at the tank.  He crawled up into the attic and spotted the tank and fired one round and missed.  Apparently the flash was noticed and they fired a shell into the house, taking out the entire attic and causing him to fall to the bottom floor. He received a dislocated hip and felt blood and realized a piece of shrapnel had hit his leg below his knee.  A medic treated him and he was taken back to an aid station.  He received his purple heart for this wound.  Five days later he was back on the front.  It should be noted that he spent ten months on the front lines and that was the only wound he received.  A friend of his stood up and was cut down by machine gun fire.  Mr. Chester had loaned him his watch and he noticed it on his arm.  As he said he didn’t dare touch it for fear that someone would think he was looting the dead.  Another time a sergeant was hit and he put him on his back and had to crawl with him as the fire was coming in so low.  He said that by the time he got to a medic, he was covered in blood˜none of it his.  He doesn’t know if the man made it or not.  He went ten days with the blood entrusted uniform before he could get clean clothes.  He said he had tried to wipe off the blood with dirt but without much success.  
A side bar here˜in WW1 Alvin York who due to his fundamental beliefs had been against killing took out some German machine guns and killed at least twenty-five Germans.  He was asked how he felt and he replied, “Those guns were killing men, maybe hundreds and I killed them to stop the killing.”  
In World War II, Audie Murphy was asked why he stood atop a tank and kept firing into the advancing Germans and he replied, “They had killed my best friend and several others and that was the only way to stop further killing.”  
Mr. Joyner put it quite simply, “we had a job to do and I did the best I could.”  These three had one thing in common; they were just doing a job as best they could.  Mr. Chester talked to me last week and said how he appreciated my writing about him.  I told him that I was the one that wanted to thank him for what he had done and how he and millions of others made it possible for all of us to enjoy the life we have today.  Like so many others, after the war he came home, married, raised two sons and a daughter and did about the same kind of work he had always done.  At eighty-five he is more or less confined to his house but his mind is still clear and his memory of the events I have written is fantastic.  I have a standing invitation to visit him any time I’m in the area and I intend to do so.  There are some other WW11 Vets that I know and with their permission I plan to write about them in future columns.  I’m sure that many of you out there have relatives that have some interesting experiences and I would welcome your sharing them with us.  My email address is charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week and enjoy the Christmas season and remember those that made it all possible.

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