Wednesday, March 13, 2013 1:00 AM
Sixty-nine years ago in March 1944, about three dozen men from Neshoba County prepared to sail as replacement troops to the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations for duty with the 31st Infantry "Dixie" Division, a unit that traced its history to 1798. Organized as the Adams County Militia (Mississippi), the company fought in the War of 1812, the Creek Indian War, the Civil War with the First Mississippi Volunteers and its 155th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) served in World War I with the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division.
The Dixie Division in World War II was primarily served by national guardsmen from Ala., 167th RCT; Fla., 124th RCT; La., 156th RCT; and Mississippi, 155th RCT, along with 106th Engineer Combat Battalion and other specialty units.
The 155th Regiment was the oldest regimental unit in Mississippi and the seventh oldest in the United States Army.
Joining the 124th were: -- Erby W. Agent, James K.V. Beckham, Woodrow M. Burt, Jesse L. Hurt, Archie Matthews, Willis H. Molpus and Andy Stokes; the 155th - Paul M. Beckham, Reginald P. Carter, Gaston Frasier, Audy J. Irons, Richard L. Johnson, Grady Leopard, Jimmie J. Maxey, Kenneth E. Moore, Tom Nation, Edward H. Pruitt, Clarence H. Rushing, David J. Smith, Ulyess C. Stokes, Tubby J. Thompson, Clarence L. Todd and Lester P. Weathers; the 167th - Oraben C. McCraw, Ed Rush, Connor C. Stokes and Charles E. Swain; the 106th - Estele O. Anderson, Hershel E. Beckham and Lukie O. Pinter and the Military Police Platoon - Otha E. Gordon and John T. Hill, Jr. Soldiers Coy. H. Hicks and J. E. Pettigrew served with the Dixie Division but local records did not indicate the name of their units.
The War Department activated the famed Dixie Division on Nov. 25, 1940, and separated the 156th Regiment of the La. National Guard from the 31st Division on July 14, 1942.
On March 12, 1944, the remaining elements of the division sailed away from Va. for the Asiatic- Pacific Theatre.
The 167th RCT's long sea voyage was not without problems, perhaps an omen to future hardships, adversities, and sufferings that lay ahead for the brave men from Dixie.
Private First Class Charles Eldrod Swain, Company G, a twenty-three year-old farmer from Neshoba County wrote on March 29, 1944: "After some weeks, the ship lost power in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For several days we drifted helplessly.
No power meant no refrigeration, and the food spoiled and made us sick. For a couple of days most of us were either hanging on the rail or sitting on the commode. Freshwater was rationed to one quart a day and, with no air-conditioning, most of us slept on deck at night.
The situation was getting quite desperate when a friendly ship supplied us with food and water, and in the process of transferring the food and water, both ships rolled together in the high seas, doing considerable damage to both.
Enough power was restored to our ship that we were able to limp into port on New Caledonia where after about ten days the ship was repaired and we were on our way again."
The 31st Division arrived in Oro Bay, New Guinea, on April 24, 1944, and engaged in amphibious training prior to entering combat. Major campaigns included Aitape, New Guinea, and the bloody Battle of Driniumor River on July 13, 1944, and the invasion of Mindanao to take part in the liberation of the Philippines, April 22, 1945.
The famed division's soldiers received: one Congressional Medal of Honor, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, 178 Sliver Stars, 11 Legion of Merit Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, 73 Soldier's Medals, 948 Bronze Stars and 88 Air Medals.
Civil War Veterans
Pigg, David L. - Private; enlisted March 1, 1862 at Philadelphia, Miss., in Company D; nick-named "Lank;" hospitalized with pleurodynia at Chimborazo Hospital #9 at Richmond, Va., May 25, 1862; wounded at Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862. Admitted with a gunshot wound to General Hospital #21 at Richmond, June 29, 1862; returned to duty, July 3, 1862; wounded (lost finger) at Second Manassas, Aug. 29, 1862; received $64.50 for four month's pay and clothing at Richmond, Sept. 8, 1862.
Wounded at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Captured at Gettysburg, July 5, 1863.
Hospitalized at the U.S.A Satterlee General Hospital at West Philadelphia, Pa., July 12, 1863; hospitalized at the U.S.A. Hospital (ward 1, bed #96) at Chester, Pa., July 13, 1863; exchanged at City Point, Va., Sept. 17, 1863.
Hospitalized with a gunshot wound in the left foot at the Episcopal Church Hospital at Williamsburg, Va., Sept. 23, 1863; furloughed to Miss., Sept. 28, 1963; Muster Roll, Nov.-Dec. 1864: "Permanently disabled by gunshot wound;" paroled at Meridian, Miss., May 9, 1865.
World War II Veterans
Swain, Charles Eldrod - Private to Private First Class; enlisted on Nov. 10, 1942 at Camp Shelby, Miss., in the United States Army. Age twenty-one; farmer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations with Company G, 167th Regimental Combat Team, 31st Infantry "Dixie" Division, April 1944 to November 1945; arrived in Oro Bay, New Guinea, for amphibious training, April 24, 1944. Participated in the campaign in Aitape, New Guinea, July 13, 1944.
The invasion of Morotai Island, Netherlands East Indies, September 15, 1944, the campaign on Mindanao Island, Philippine Islands, April 22, 1945; wounded (four bullet wounds in his back) in action on Morotai Island, Feb. 2, 1945. Awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Philippine Islands Liberation Medal (with one bronze service star), World War II Victory Medal, Bronze Arrowhead and the Purple Heart; discharged at Camp Shelby, Dec. 19, 1945, demobilization; described as six feet tall, weighing 154 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Monday thru Friday