Wednesday, January 22, 2014 12:00 AM
On January 17, 1945, the 76th Infantry "Onaway" Division arrived in France and became a part of General George Patton's Third United States Army. Serving in Company C of the 417th Regimental Combat Team was Private First Class Roy A. Martin of Neshoba County.
Nine days later, the Onaways crossed through Belgium and drove into Luxemburg. Weeks of bitter fighting followed as Private Martin, an automatic rifleman, later recalled: "There just ain't no way to explain it because it just ain't nobody that will believe it. You were just expecting death any minute. I wasn't scared. I was just expecting to get it, and was really hopn' it would hurry up. I was in misery. I was cold, freezing. I just didn't care. I was going to stay there as long as I could and do what I could. If I got hit, well I would be out of it. That's the way you had been trained for that."
By the time 95 days of combat ended for Martin's 76th Division, the red-haired, 6' 1-1/2" tall Neshoba private had earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star) and the Bronze Star, a medal he received a "full fifty years after the war."
While Private Roy Martin froze on the Eastern front, General Douglas MacArthur finalized plans for liberating Manila, capital of the Philippine Islands. On January 30, 1945, a company of United States Rangers and 289 Filipino guerillas attacked the 150 man garrison of Japanese guards at the Cabanatuan Internment Camp, 60 miles north of Manila.
In less than one-half hour, the raiders freed 486 American prisoners, mostly the "walking dead men" veterans of the Bataan Death March. Marine Corps Private First Class Clifton S. Miley of Neshoba County, one of the captured "Battling Bastards of Bataan," had been held at Cabanatuan during September 1944. Private Miley was among a large number of detainees killed on October 24, 1944, when a submarine torpedoed and sank a ship transferring POW's from Cabanatuan to the Japanese mainland.
Some family members believe that the Japanese Navy fired the torpedoes on direct orders from the Imperial Japanese Military Command. Miley was later awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star from the War Department, and his family placed a memorial marker in his honor in the Spring Hill Cemetery, located about five miles south-south-east of Philadelphia in Neshoba County.
On another island in the South Pacific, Private Charles Swain, serving with the 31st "Dixie" Division, received several wounds on Morotai Island. Years later, the deeply religious Neshoba private pondered the happening and recorded his thoughts for posterity.
Swain wrote: "In my religiosity, I have taken the 91st Psalms as God's personal promise to protect me from the 'terror by night and the destruction that wasteth at noonday a thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.' But it did come near me! It took a nick out of my left ear, plowed through my left shoulder and grazed my spine. Since I was a BAR (browning automatic rifle) man, I had an assistant named Hert. While on patrol, we were hit and Hert was the first to go down. I jumped into a small stream and discovered that I had company. We began firing at each other, but apparently both missed, as he disappeared around a bend in the stream. For a few minutes all hell broke loose, then all I could hear was Hert begging God not to let him die. 'Oh God, I don't want to die,' cried Hert, 'Please God, don't let me die.' But God let him die on his 21st birthday. All was quiet and I thought the rest had withdrawn and left me there with those 'Japs.' As I crawled out up over the bank of that stream, I saw my platoon leader frantically motioning me to take cover. As I ducked down behind a tree, the bullet slammed into me." Medics took Charles Swain to a field hospital on Morotai Island and he remained there for several weeks during his recovery. During the majority of his wakening hours, the Neshoba soldier asked God two questions: "Why did You let me down and why did You let Hert die?" Over a period of time, Swain eventually realized that "when we humans collectively set the stage for war, someone suffers and people are killed and those bombs and bullets are no respecter of persons."
Civil War Veterans
Ham, Henry - Fourth Corporal to Third Corporal; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles; age twenty-three; farmer; served as fourth corporal with the Neshoba Rifles; appointed third corporal in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, at organization, April 24, 1861; received $50.00 re-enlistment bounty at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, February 7, 1862; re-appointed third corporal at re-organization, April 21, 1862; wounded at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; Muster Roll, December 1862: "Shown on report as absent, sick or wounded;" died with a disease of the bowels at Goldsborough, North Carolina, February 9, 1863; John Ham, father, filed for benefits due; received $16.90, September 12. 1963.
World War II Veterans
Steve, McKinley, Sr. - Private to Corporal; enlisted on November 7, 1941, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi , in the United States Army; age twenty-one; farmer/painter; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, February 1943; served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a field gunner with Service Battery of the 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, February 1944 to November 1945; participated in the Invasion of Normandy and the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe; awarded the American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal; discharged at Camp Shelby, November 18, 1945, to enlist in the Regular Army; described as five feet ten inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, with black hair and brown 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