Wednesday, August 14, 2013 1:00 AM
Toward the end of summer in 1942, Sergeant James Madison "Matt" Tinsley, while home on a short, but much need leave, related some details about his life as a United States Ranger. Weeks earlier Tinsley was one of a crack commando team of 60 enlisted men and 18 officers that joined their British counterparts in several raids in Northern France. The Ranger sergeant recalled - "Such raids are usually made before dawn. The men's faces are painter black and they are camouflaged in other ways. We take our positions in the boats. Everybody crouched down... no talking, no smoking. We reach destination, nobody knows where except the skipper of the boat and he doesn't know until he's out on the water. The command to disembark [is given] and then the fireworks begin." "The American Rangers correspond to the British Commandos," the Neshoba soldier noted." Of the 1,000 volunteers for the Ranger Regiment, the War Department accepted less than 50 per cent after completion of training - a similar number for the British team. Sergeant Tinsley was to report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, upon completing his leave, assume a higher rank, and initiate a program to train future Ranger recruits.
Now far beyond training, life or death combat in the Allies first offensive in the southwest Pacific now engaged Marine Sergeant Homer H. Skipper. On August 7, 1942, 82 ships of Task Force 61 slipped through the darkness toward Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The 19,000 men of the First Marine Division filled the troop transports, one of whom was Sergeant Skipper of Neshoba County. The initial assault caught the Japanese defenders by surprise and the Marines easily captured the island with an almost completed airfield with a 2,600-foot runway. The seizing of the airstrip was the easy part, but as the Marines quickly learned, holding it was a different story. The Marines took almost six months to secure Guadalcanal, with fighting continuing almost every day. Toward the end of September, brisk operations on Guadalcanal engaged several Marine units. On September 27, 1942, Sergeant Homer Skipper participated in an act of valor, action that would earn him a Silver Star, the second issued to a Neshoba Countian. The Presidential Citation accompanying the medal read - "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with a Marine unit in combat against enemy Japanese forces at the mouth of the Matanikau River... Upon seeing a man stranded on the opposite bank of the river and unable to withdraw due to his wounds, Sergeant Skipper, at great risk to his life, unhesitatingly swam across the river, continuously swept by heavy Japanese machine-gun fire, and with the help of his platoon leader, brought the wounded man safely back. His great courage was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
While Sergeant Skipper fought on an island in the Pacific Ocean, Second Lieutenant James Roy Rush, son of Ida Watkins Rush and Dr. Daniel J. Rush of Philadelphia, conducted his war in a different place and different manner. On October 2, 1942, Lieutenant Rush was an aerial bombardier aboard a B-17, Flying Fortress bomber, a plane leading an attack on a German aircraft plant and airdrome in Northern France. The B-17s blasted targets at Meaulte and St. Omer as well as docks and naval facilities at LeHavre, France. At a height of nearly five miles, airmen from 42 different states battled nearly 100 Nazi fighter aircraft, eventually downing 13 of the fighters without the loss of a single bomber.
On some occasions during the air run, German fighters closed to within 300 yards of the behemoth aircraft in a futile attempt to cripple the formation and down Army Air Corps airplane. Over a period of almost 11 months of combat activity, James Rush became the most highly decorated Neshoba County Air Corps officer. The War Department later awarded Rush the following honors - American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with three bronze service stars), Air Medal (with nine oak leaf clusters) and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Civil War Veterans
Earnest, John W. - Private; enlisted September 8, 1861, at Camp Jones, near Bristoe Station, Virginia, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-eight; farmer; captured at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862 or June 1, 1862; imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and at Fort Delaware, Delaware, June 5, 1862; exchanged at Aiken's Landing, Virginia, August 5, 1862; died with typhoid fever at the Peace Institute General Hospital, Raleigh, North Carolina, January 19, 1863; buried in the military cemetery at Raleigh; hospital record note - "Sent from Weldon with fractured patella;" $8.00 of personal effects listed on deceased's records; described as five feet nine inches tall, dark complexion, dark hair and black eyes.
World War II Veterans
Weir, Jerry Lee - Private to Sergeant; enlisted in February 1942 in the United States Army; age twenty-one; laboratory technician; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at the Army Air Center at Nashville, Tennessee, with the Army Air Corps, July 1943; stationed as an aviation cadet at Maxwell Field, Alabama, August 1943, at Buckley Field, Denver, Colorado, at Las Vegas, Nevada, April 1944, and at the Army Air Base at Alexandria, Louisiana, June 1944; served also in the European Theatre of Operations as an armorer/ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress with the 549th Bombardment Squadron, 385th Bombardment Group, Eighth Army Air Force, in England, July 1944 to October 1944; participated in the campaign in Northern France; killed in action over France, October 10, 1944; awarded the Purple Heart.
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