Wednesday, November 20, 2013 12:00 AM
In late October and early November 1944, sixty-nine years ago, Lieutenant General George Patton drove his United States Third Army relentlessly east toward the French-German border.
One of his military units, the 26th Infantry "Yankee" Division, advanced northeast of Nancy, France, toward a densely forested area known locally as Moncourt Woods.
On November 8, 1944, the 328th Regimental Combat Team of that division met fierce resistance by the camouflaged and entrenched German Army.
One member of Company E of the 328th was a Neshoba County soldier named Thomas Henry Stubbs, III,* known to his family as "Jack," but as "Mississippi" to his comrades-in-arms.
Private First Class Stubbs, his sergeant, and two other men were beneath a tree in an area receiving heavy mortar fire.
An incoming round exploded near the four soldiers and a jagged piece of shrapnel tore into Stubbs' right ankle.
"I didn't know I had been hit until my sergeant told me," recalled Stubbs. The wounded soldier immediately removed his boot and began crawling.
"Fear is the best anesthetic," Stubbs later remembered.
Medics found the injured twenty-three-year-old Mississippian and picked him up. More mortar rounds, however, forced the corpsman to abandon "Mississippi" Stubbs.
When the Neshoba private finally crawled his way to the First Aid Station, he found "there were wounded everywhere."
Medics moved Stubbs and fellow wounded soldiers to Nancy in trucks because heavy rains prevented planes from evacuating the casualties.
Two days after arriving, surgeons removed the shrapnel from the ankle of the Neshoba County man.
After the surgeon presented Stubbs with the piece of metal fragment the following day, he boxed the shrapnel along with his Purple Heart and mailed the package to his mother, Mrs. Darden Farmer Stubbs, in Louisville, Mississippi.
Only days before his active service ended, his fiancée, Patty Sue Williams, prepared a special package for her future husband.
Patty Sue, called "Pat" by friends, one of the three beautiful daughters of Brown and Kate Williams, obtained a supply of Hershey Bars from the family store located in Williamsville, about two miles west of the center of Philadelphia.
Knowing that the odds were slim that such sweets would find their way into Stubbs' mouth, Pat devised a foolproof method to protect the valued treats.
Following a suggestion from the local post officials, Miss Williams placed the candy bars into an empty molasses pail, took the container to a welding shop, had the top soldered, and then dropped the gift into the mail.
Mississippi Stubbs left the hospital in Nancy, France, days after his surgery to begin the long trek home, with the postal parcel always a few days behind.
After a stay of about a week in Paris, the injured soldier went to Southampton, England, then to Youville for a stay of six weeks, and from there to Blanford, England.
After a short visit in Blanford, Stubbs flew to Glascow, Scotland, a trip he described as a nightmare of "sputtering and straining" for the twelve wounded men strapped in litters.
This harrowing flight led Stubbs to quickly volunteer for passage home on the ocean liner, the Queen Mary.
Six days later, the Queen Mary docked in New York Harbor.
There Stubbs found his best friend in the service, a man named Albright.
When Stubbs inquired of Albright for information on his expected package, Albright recalled seeing the can days after Stubbs was wounded.
From New York, the young man from Philadelphia headed to New Orleans, La., to recuperate.
Pat Williams and Stubbs' family members reunited in the Bayou City after their long separation.
In April 1945, the young couple from Neshoba County married.
A few days after they returned from their honeymoon, the tightly-sealed container finally found its way into Stubbs' hands.
"We decided we would never open it," Stubbs said, and now, sixty-eight years later, the old tin can rests in the den of their home in Holly Springs. The old molasses bucket with the Hersey Bars now sits as a reminder of "one man's heroic service to his country and a couple's love and devotion to one another."
Civil War Veterans
Adams, William Bert - Private; enlisted March 1,1862 at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-eight; farmer; received $69.00 ($44.00 for four months pay and $25.00 clothing allowance), September 15, 1862.
Hospitalized with diarrhea at Howard's Grove Hospital at Richmond, Virginia, September 22, 1862; furloughed for thirty days, October 26, 1862; captured at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.
Imprisoned at Fort Delaware, Delaware; released from Fort Delaware, June 1865; described as five feet five inches tall, light complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair.
World War II Veterans
Creel, Lee M. - Private to Technician Fifth Class; enlisted on March 25, 1941 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-one; farm hand; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Pine Camp, New York, July 1943.
Served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a truck driver with Battery B of the 47th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, February 1944 to September 1945; participated in the Invasion of Normandy and the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland. Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe; awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with one silver service star), Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Discharged at Camp Chafee, Arkansas, December 4, 1945,demobilization; described as six feet tall, weighing 200 pounds, with blond 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