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Reflections

Water Valley Recruits Ship Out In 1951

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  Look up everyone, I feel we’re going to have a great year so lets all do our part to make it happen.  This January is something of an anniversary as Jim Peacock, Kenny Burk and I decided that since we were all 1-A we wanted to join the Air force rather that wait to be drafted.  

The Korean war was in full swing and things weren’t good over there.  We had talked to Staff Sgt. Elwood Russell, who came to Water Valley each week looking for recruits.  His office was in Oxford and it had been a plum assignment for him as he was raised in the Etta community. This was to be our first of many lessons about things never being quite what they were purported to be.  

We were told to report at the recruitment office on January 15, 1951 and we all said goodbye to our families. Everybody cried and we were ready to go.  Mother drove me along with Charlie Holloway, his fiancé and Mr. Holloway, while Jim’s dad, Cleve, drove Jim and Kenny.

We all met in Sgt. Russell’s office and there we got the good news that recruitments were frozen temporarily. Kenny had already left his car with a relative in Memphis, so the three of us went up to get it.  This caused us not to get to go together, as later they were only going to take one each week.      

Kenny went first, and Jim next, and  on March 14 in Columbus I was sworn in. They put us up in a cheap hotel in a converted sun porch with cots there for us.  We got our meals in a place called the Straight 8 cafe.  The day before  I was supposed to be sworn in, Bobby Poteete showed up  to be sworn into the Army.  

Bobby and I stood side by side as we took the oath. They told us that if anyone wanted to back out before the oath, no questions would be asked. Bobby told me later I should have gone out the door and taken him with me, as he wound up later in Korea. Although Kenny, Jim and I visited each other during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, we never served together.  Jim stayed on as permanent party at Lackland and  I went through combat military school at Fort Gordon, Ga. and went on to a SAC squadron.

Kenny, after going to a school in Oklahoma, went to Japan. I forgot to mention that they sent us out to basic by twos, highest scorer first and so on.   I gave my place to two guys who were friends, and I was assigned with a young guy from Oxford named Paul Weeks. In true military fashion I had to be in charge, which meant I was responsible for the train and meal tickets until we reached Lackland.      

Paul and I went through basic training together and after we shipped out to schools , I never heard from him again.  To paraphrase the late Walter Cronkite, “and that’s the way it was, January 1951.”  

As a footnote, several of our friends from school went to the Air Force that year.  I’m not going to mention them by name as I don’t want someone calling and complaining that I’d left one out. Several  made a career of the Air Force – Jim, Kenny, and I were not among them.  I realize that 50 years later it probably doesn’t look important in light of what’s happened since then, but to those of us it happened to, it WAS a big deal.

Let me hear from you as your input is always appreciated.  My email address is cncooper1@hotmail.com or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week

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