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World War II Years - Local Heroes In Battle

Louie Passieu

Gene Pearce

Hoyt DeLoach

Donald Lee Kendrick

Louie Passieu Made Air Force History On B-29 in World War II

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

In Folkston it was a warm autumn afternoon, Sunday November 5, 1944. Nothing much was happening in the small South Georgia town. The Blue Willow Café was open on Main Street and Edgar Allen, the town’s postmaster, had told his patrons to mail packages early in order to reach the servicemen by Christmas. Rev. F.J. Gilbert preached at the Methodist Church that morning.

A little old lady, with a son in service, was sitting on her front porch listening to the radio for news of the war. The musical strains of “Sentimental Journey” drifted from the radio’s speaker. Folkston’s mayor, C.J. Passieu, two days earlier, had warned city water customers that their water service could be interrupted while repairs were being made to the city’s water tank. The water had been off for over two hours.

A half-world away, the mayor’s son, U.S. Air Force Flight Officer Charles L (Louie) Passieu, flight engineer on a B-29 Superfortress, “The Raidin’ Maiden,” was beginning another mission from his base in Karaghphur, India. Two unusual missions among a long string of daring flights will earn him the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for heroism.

The first unusual mission was described by the author, William H. Morrison in his book “Point of No Return”, a story of the 20th Air Force and the giant B-29 Superfortress bombers in World War Two. Excerpts from that book describe the 27-year-old Passieu’s role in one of the two momentous bombing missions.

The B-29s were loaded with 1,000-pound bombs for an unusual mission to Singapore. The target was only ten feet wide and 200 feet long and bombardiers were told that only precision bombing at its best could knock it out. The aiming point was the sliding gate of the main dry dock, a dock the Japanese inherited from the British and which was now used to repair Japanese warships. Crews gasped when they heard the distance of 3,800 miles for the round trip, which would keep them in the air for over 18 hours, with bomb-bay tanks filled to the brim. Leaving room for only three 1,000 pound bombs, the B-29s took off after midnight.”

The Bay of Bengal spread out before them as the B-29 from the 468th, with Louie Passieu aboard as Flight Engineer, headed out toward the Andaman Islands, enroute to Singapore. Captain Charles “Doc” Joyce was at the controls of the giant bomber. His nickname for Passieu, in the cockpit with him, was “Pass”.

 The target was located on the peninsula side of the island of Singapore, which was connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway across the Johore Strait. The formation ahead of Passieu’s plane was taking heavy flack from desperate anti-aircraft guns manned by the Japanese. The bombardier called that the target was clear. It was now the turn of Passieu’s B-29 to make its bombing run. Wicked red flashes of flak exploded all around them as the pilot headed over the target. The crew wondered how they could fly through that wall of fire that separated them from the target.

The bombardier added to the excitement by announcing that there were several Japanese warships in the harbor and they too were firing at the bomber with all their guns. The B-29 was taking punishment like it had never known before, and the crew was pondering whether or not they would live through it.

Morrison’s account continued, “They felt the plane lighten as the bombs fell away. Japanese fighters moved in for the kill. Once, a huge mushroom cloud exploded near them as a fighter dropped a phosphorus bomb. Just a few pieces of flaming phosphorus in a hot engine nacelle would end their combat careers. Miraculously they were away from those murderous guns, and heading across the lower end of the peninsular to get back to sea.” The target – the small dry dock’s sliding gate had been destroyed, along with the stern of a Japanese vessel using the drydock, in a spectacular success of precision bombing that was always expected, but seldom achieved.

Then began the hairy part of the mission which made air force history for the B-29, a first, and unbelievable accomplishment for the huge Superfortress – although Passieu would be involved in a second, and more miraculous incident four months later in the interior of China. Only the Singapore mission was described by Morrison in his book.

“Most of the way back was uneventful, but an hour from base, flight engineer Charles Louie Passieu told the captain Doc Joyce that they were running short on fuel. Joyce had been worrying about it for some time, but until now he thought they would make it. He asked the navigator what the maximum time to base was. ‘About twenty minutes to base,’ the navigator responded.

“The captain turned to Passieu, his flight engineer, ‘What do you think, Pass? Can we make it?’  ‘I think it will be a tie,’ Passieu told him. They flew for another ten minutes and now they were over land. One engine sputtered, caught, and then ran smoothly again as Passieu transferred fuel to it. That was only momentary because the engine started to cut out again.”

Morrison’s description continued. “Frantically Passieu switched fuel from one tank to another, trying to keep all engines going. Now they were all sputtering as they used up the last fuel in the tanks. They were flying at 13,000 feet and the navigator spotted the runways of the 468th base ahead, drawing the captain’s attention to it.

“Gear down!” Joyce called, and his co-pilot, Lt. William Greenwald, lowered the wheels. “Flaps,” he said and “Greenie” ran them down.

Passieu called, “Number three is out.” There was a pause as Joyce tried to steady his emotions. “There goes Number four” Passieu called out. Joyce struggled to hold the plane level as its right wing dropped, and called on his co-pilot to assist him.

“Number two is out,” Passieu yelled. “Number one’s about gone,” At 7,600 feet Joyce shouted, “Bail out!” Lt. Howard Fauth, the navigator, came forward and looked at the captain. The captain repeated the order so Fauth faced the rear end dropped through the nose wheel well. Once his body hit the air, his feet flew up and his head went down. He waited until he cleared the tail before he pulled the rip cord. He could see three chutes below while the plane above seemed to be flying level and under control, and he watched with growing concern for more parachutes but they didn’t appear. He landed in brush and soon heard two pistol shots so he went in that direction where he joined Faulkham, Greenwald and Sergeant Vernon Egerton. They walked for an hour before they were picked up.

In the nose of the airplane only Joyce and Passieu remained and they elected to ride it down thinking all others had obeyed the bailout order. Doc feathered all four engines to stop the wind milling of the propellers. He was coming much too fast but he flared and the airplane hit the ground short of the runway and bounced onto it as Joyce almost sobbed with relief. Once they were stopped, the rest of the crew came out of the rear of the airplane, much to the astonishment of Joyce and Passieu. They thought they had all bailed out.

After performing the impossible, crew members of the Raidin’ Maiden were shocked to learn later that their group commander, Colonel Faulkner, Major Arnoldus, group navigator and group bombardier Major Harvey Johnson were lost in the mission.

Passieu’s second miraculous escape came four months later, in the interior of China in March of 1945 where Dick Mays was stationed. The American fighter air base Chinkiang, surrounded by mountains, was built for P-51 and P-38 fighter planes of the 14th Air Force. The short runway could accommodate B-25 bombers. Today it would be used for an emergency landing of a giant B-29 Superfortress with Passieu on board as flight engineer.

Returning from an extended mission over Japan, the Raidin’ Maiden used the American air base at Chinkiang as a checkpoint enroute to and from Japan from the B-29 base in India. Having spent too much time over its target, the bomber was running low on fuel high above the China base. There was not fuel enough for the flight back “over the hump” to India. The pilot “Doc” Joyce, with Passieu and the co-pilot in the cockpit, would attempt a landing on the short fighter runway. Joyce dived the giant bomber, like a mammoth corkscrew toward the tiny landing strip in order to miss the surrounding mountains and leveled off just short of the runway.

The B-29 bounced hard on the runway blowing several tires, but the pilot managed to brake it to a stop just short of the runway’s end. This time all of the crew elected to ride the Superfortress to the ground. They all piled out of the plane onto the runway, smiling at their fate.

The air base had been under furious attack by the Japanese for several days, and the B-29 crew needed to get airborne again to prevent the bomber from falling into enemy hands if the base was captured. A fighter plane was dispatched for new tires. The tires were put on and just enough fuel to get the plane back to India was put in the tanks. All unnecessary gear and supplies were taken off to allow the takeoff attempt from the short runway in the middle of the mountains.

The following morning, Captain Joyce at the controls, strained all four engines as the bomber barely cleared the runway and the mountains around the fighter base. Airborne once again Joyce, Passieu and the rest of the crew headed back to their base in India.

On the day of the emergency landing at the China base, Dick Mays, a radar operator there, knew of the B-29 landing, and he knew that Louie Passieu was the flight officer on the B-29 bomber. He saw someone who he thought looked like Louie Passieu coming out of the officer’s dining hall that evening and decided to look him up the following morning.

The meeting never took place. Passieu and the B-29 took off at daylight as the Japanese neared the base. The American forces at the base in east-central China then mounted a fierce counter-offensive with every weapon at their command. P-38 and P-51 fighters from the base dropped napalm bombs on the on-rushing Japanese, killing 30,000 in the encounter.

The Japanese retreated and the Americans continued in command of the base until the war’s end.

After the war, Passieu and Mays returned home to Folkston. Mays became the town’s Postmaster and Passieu would serve eight years as the city’s Mayor and as Chairman of the Slash Pine Area Planning and Development Commission. The Georgia Municipal Association elected Passieu as district president.

The B-29 flight engineer, born in Hilliard, Fla. to Cecil and C.J. Passieu on June 27, 1917 would move to Folkston with his parents in 1923 when his father bought half interest in Mallard-Passieu Ford Agency on Main Street. He attended the public school of the county and he and his family have always been busily involved in business, cultural and civic circles of the area. A former Chevrolet auto dealer in Folkston and Jacksonville Beach, he owned Folkston Gas Co. and served in numerous public service capacities. His wife, Kathryn, was a school teacher and was also active in community affairs.

Gene Pearce, Early World War Casualty, Remembered

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

 

It was Sunday afternoon and the streets of Folkston were still wet from an early-morning rain. Young Ben Huling was driving his stripped-down skip-jack around town. It was loaded down with young boys, part of the town’s bicycle gang. Dick Mays, Joe Huling, Fred Askew, Jr., Jack Mays and Gene Pearce were among those aboard. The date was December 7, 1941.

 

Driving away from a water-filled borrow pit near the Homeland Cemetery, Ben Huling pointed the jalopy toward Folkston’s Main Street. Along the way he was flagged down by Fred Askew’s father, Fred Sr. “The Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor!” he told the boys in an excited tone. The boys had never heard of Pearl Harbor, neither had Mr. Askew.

 

The older Askew then related the radio newscast he had heard, and told of the Japanese air attack on our fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. “It looks like war” he told the boys.

 

One of the boys was unusually incensed. Gene Pearce, with his patriotism showing, told the other boys that he wanted to “join up” as soon as he could. He had just turned 16 in July. The adrenaline began to pump inside all of the boys as they ganged up in front of the Ritz Theatre on Main Street. They wanted to help their country and began to map out their plans to enlist.

 

Just over two years later, one of the boys, Gene Pearce, who volunteered in August 1943 for military duty at age 17, died a hero’s death. Eleven months after enlisting he became a casualty on a battlefield near Leghorn, Italy. He was among the first of nineteen Charlton County’s servicemen to lose his life in combat in World War Two.

Darkness was falling in Italy. It was July 8, 1944. The Allies were fighting desperately to take control of the Italian city of Leghorn, with its petroleum refineries and storage tanks. The German resistance was fierce. Private Gene Pearce, a foot soldier, one week before his 19th birthday, was manning a 50-caliber machine gun. He was out front, leading an assault on the dug-in German troops.

The Germans fought like mad men. They were determined to prevent the Allies from taking the strategically-important city. Gene was on the trigger end of his machine gun as his 34th Division fought to dislodge the stubborn Nazis. Hundreds of mortar shells exploded overhead, hurled at the Allies from the muzzles of German howitzers. The dead and wounded of both sides cluttered the ground. Exploding missiles lighted the darkening skies.

Suddenly young Pearce fell face-forward on top of his machine gun. Shrapnel from one of the exploding shells tore into his abdomen. He lay motionless on the ground, mortally wounded. His commanding officer, with whom he had become very close, and two stretcher bearers reached the fallen Pearce at the same time. Medics started blood plasma and placed him on a stretcher. He was rushed behind the fighting lines to a field hospital.

The medics and surgeons fought valiantly to save his life. They operated on him in the field hospital to close the deep intestinal wounds, but the young serviceman died just after midnight. Thousands of his comrades joined him in death in one of the bloodiest battles of World War Two, on the outskirts of Leghorn. The city was claimed by the Allies on July 19, 1944, eleven days after young Gene Pearce fell at the gates of the city.

Gene Pearce’s parents, Jim and Lucille Pearce, received notice from the War Department only of their son’s injury. The telegram said that he was “wounded in action.” They were given the address of a hospital where they could send mail to him.

His mother, a clerk in the Folkston post office, wrote lots of letters to him. Some were light V-mail, others were regular mail. She cut the ads from the local newspapers to make them lighter, then mailed them to her son at the hospital address she had been given. Young Gene Pearce had gone into battle with only 17 weeks of basic training, and a five-day leave at home before being shipped to North Africa.

Weeks passed following the first news of Gene’s injuries. The parents and community prayed for the young serviceman’s recovery. An older brother, Jim Pearce, Jr., who volunteered for service in January 1943, eight months before Gene enlisted, was stationed in the west. He had been able to visit his younger brother for only minutes at Fort Meade, Maryland on the same day Gene was shipped overseas. Gene had developed bronchial trouble, and could not go overseas with the group with whom he had trained. He went a week later among only total strangers.

 Three weeks after learning of Gene’s battle injuries, his mother reported for work at her job in the Folkston post office early one morning. As usual, the businessmen were clamoring for their morning newspapers to be put in the post office boxes. The postal workers had learned to put up the papers first, even ahead of the first class mail. That morning Mrs. Pearce was to learn of the death of her son in a cruel manner.

The death notice did not come about in the usual way. While putting aside the first class mail that morning, to get to the newspapers, she had come across several bundles of V-Mail and regular mail which had been returned to sender at the Folkston post office. They were the same letters and newspapers she had mailed three weeks earlier to her son Gene at the hospital address. Written in bold script on the top of each bundle of letters were the tragic words “Deceased 7-9-44”. They had been written there by his commanding officer. This was the mother’s first knowledge that her son was dead. She got sick at her stomach.

Postmaster Edgar Allen noticed his nervous postal worker as she attempted to work. She had said nothing about the devastating revelation. When Allen asked her problem, she showed him the message on the returned mail her son never received. The postmaster insisted that she go home.

Before going home she diverted by the home of her brother-in-law, E.B. Stapleton, Sr., who was preparing to go to town to open up his drug store for the morning.

The Stapletons comforted the grief-stricken mother as best they could. Mr. Stapleton, who was a confidante of Georgia’s powerful United States Senator, Walter F. George, vowed to call George and Senator Dick Russell to find out why the mother had not been officially notified. He wanted to know who was responsible for the cruel manner in which a mother learned of her son’s death on a battlefield in Italy.

The protests got results. Before noon, on the same day, three telegrams from the War Department were received by Gene’s parents. Rev. F.J. Gilbert, pastor of the Folkston Methodist Church, where the Pearces were members, learned of the bad news and went to the home to comfort the parents.

Gene Pearce, although born in Jesup, as was his brother Jim, Jr., and sister, Betty, grew up in Folkston. The patriotic urge had caused the popular teenager to quit school to enter service. Young Gene Pearce was built like a prize fighter. His athletic prowess forced him to be in great demand when local baseball teams chose up sides.

A turn at catching behind the plate, for the local baseball team had cost Gene his two front teeth. The replacements provided his young friends entertainment as Gene mastered the art of “clicking” them and making them disappear. Although he was named for two uncles, his young friends kidded him that he had been named for Gene Talmadge, a controversial Georgia governor. Gene faked anger. He was not among the Talmadge admirers.

Memorial services were held at the Folkston Methodist Church soon after the community learned of Gene’s death. The body was returned to his hometown four years later, in November 1948, for burial in Pineview Cemetery. It was five years after the young serviceman had so proudly gone off to serve his country. The Army awarded him the Purple Heart, posthumously.

Gene Pearce’s sacrifice touched his friends deeply. They wept along with his family. Most of his friends were also in the armed forces. All of the young friends who were with Gene on Ben Huling’s skip-jack on December 7, 1941, entered into the service of their country. Only one among them, Oscar Eugene Pearce, did not come home alive after the war ended.

The oldest son, Jim, Jr. was extremely proud of his younger brother. He served with an army radar unit overseas and wanted so badly to avenge Gene’s death. He never got over losing his younger brother. Jim Jr. died many years after the war, as a result of injuries received in an accident. A sister, Betty Pearce Conner, lived several blocks down the street from her parents’ home.

Mrs. Pearce served too during the war years. She worked for the Draft Board and Ration Board. Mr. Pearce was a timekeeper in a Brunswick, Ga. shipyard. No family served their country with more honor and dignity than the Jim Pearce family of Folkston. No family gave more for the cause of freedom. The fond memories of young Gene Pearce continue to dwell in the minds of his friends and family.

Hoyt DeLoach Won Distinguished Flying Cross Over Europe

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

In Folkston, Main Street was quieter than usual that June morning, 1944. The weekly Charlton County Herald, at the bottom of page one would report that the U.S. Eighth Air Force, stationed in England, had flown 25,000 bomber sorties over enemy Europe in June alone, losing 225 heavy bombers and 311 fighter planes to enemy guns in those 30 days. Although not known in Folkston at this time, Benjamin Hoyt DeLoach was playing a major role in these statistics. He and his B-17 always returned safely to his base in England. The young Claxton, Ga. native was reported missing in combat action on three separate occasions, once with an engine out, a fuselage full of shrapnel holes and all his bomber’s instruments and gauges destroyed.

It was Monday morning June 19, 1944, C.W. Waughtel was improving in St. Vincents Hospital in Jacksonville from a gall bladder attack and Frances Mizell was to undergo an appendix operation that day in Riverside Hospital, also in Jacksonville. The three members of the county’s Board of Tax Equalizers, Russell Johnson, B.S. Prescott and Sam Mills would be given their oath of office by Superior Court Clerk Aderine Reynolds

No one in Folkston had heard of B. Hoyt DeLoach but on a United States B-17 Airbase near Peterboro in England, the man who was to be the county’s agricultural agent for nearly thirty years, had his own rendezvous with destiny as pilot and Commanding Officer of a B-17 bomber over Hitler’s Germany. This is a story of that rendezvous, many years later.

The four motors of the B-17 Flying Fortress strained mightily to get the big plane and its load of bombs into the air; its huge propellers biting into the early-morning darkness over the English countryside near Peterboro. Twenty-four year old Lieutenant Benjamin Hoyt DeLoach sat at the controls in the pilot’s seat, flying yet another combat mission, his heavy bomber loaded to the gills with five hundred pound bombs earmarked for Nazi Germany’s industrial cities. The huge American bomber trembled under the strain.

It was to be one of 29 nerve-racking combat missions the bomber pilot and squadron leader flew over enemy territory in Europe in seventy-five days, marking up 995 flying hours; 213 of them in combat. His b-17 heavy bomber was the target for enemy anti-aircraft fire on all but two of the missions, and was damaged by anti-aircraft fire on 15 of them. That day DeLoach would fly his plane through an almost solid wall of anti-aircraft fire and take 50 holes in the fuselage of the lumbering Flying Fortress. The mission earned for the young bomber pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross to go along with the Air Medal and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, 3 Battle Stars and a Presidential Unit Citation signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The medals are now kept in a glass-top trophy case, along with a three-inch fragment of shrapnel removed from the lining of his flight jacket after one of his combat missions.

That mission was to come mid-way into the 75 days. The U.S. Eighth Air Force stationed in England, favored daylight bombing raids over Germany and enemy-occupied countries, while the English opted for night bombing raids. This mission would be another of the daring daylight raids.

In England the day started peacefully enough at Gladden Air Force Base, near Peterboro. Lieutenant DeLoach woke early and downed a light breakfast in preparation for the eight hour bombing run that lay ahead. He gathered his flight crew; his co-pilot, bombardier, navigator, engineer, radio operator, two waist gunners, a ball turret belly-gunner, and the tail gunner. The briefing officer had told DeLoach that his bomber would be one of eleven hundred bombers slated for the day’s mission from their bases in England to drop tons of five-hundred pound bombs on the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, deep in the heart of Hitler’s Germany. Every four-engine bomber the United States and Great Britain had in England would fly that day in the saturation bombing mission. The allies were determined to destroy the industrial capacity of Germany.

DeLoach struggled into his fleece-lined battery-heated flight suit. The temperature in the cockpit would drop near zero when the plane reached its 27,000 foot altitude. He put a candy bar in his pocket to eat on the flight back to England. His 45 caliber automatic pistol would have to be left in his room because regulations did not allow wearing them while flying over Germany. U.S. officials reasoned that if the American crew was downed in Germany, there was very little likelihood of escape and the firearm would fall into the German’s hands that had ammunition to fit the American pistol. The pistol could be carried when flying over fallen countries occupied by the Nazis. Escape was probable through the friendly underground there, and the Americans wanted their guns to be used by the freedom-fighters after they made it back to England.

Sitting relaxed in the steel-backed pilot’s seat of the B-17, DeLoach pulled the nose of his bomber up as the B-17s took off from their field in England and headed out over the North Sea on their way to the German interior. His flight suit was interfaced with flexible steel bands to protect against the expected flack from anti-aircraft guns in Germany.

As the allied 1,100 plane armada broke over the German border well after daylight, anti-aircraft shells exploded all around the high flying bombers. Two hundred German anti-aircraft guns were shooting at the bombers with three shots a minute belching from each gun. “We had a three-relay fighter plane escort” DeLoach said, “But all the time I was in Germany I never saw one of our fighters.” One team of fighters would escort the bombers from the English coast to near the target – another team would then pick up the bombers and escort them over the target and part-way home. The third team would then pick them up and escort the bombers back to the English coast. “There were nearly 500 P-51s and P-47s divided into three groups” DeLoach commented.

Just as it reached the targets at Schweinfurt, DeLoach’s B-17 shook in the heavy flack from the exploding anti-aircraft shells. Shrapnel punched over 50 holes in the plane fabric. All the plane’s instruments and gauges went out from the hits as DeLoach struggled to keep the big bomber under control. Fuel gauges ceased to function, but the plane’s radio and interphone continued to work.

At the height of the shelling, DeLoach’s co-pilot, in panic, unstrapped himself from the co-pilot’s seat, and attempted to leave the cockpit. “Get back in that seat” DeLoach demanded. Then, a firm voice came in on the plane’s radio and reminded DeLoach that his order had gone out over the radio to the other planes in the armada. “Get on the interphone” said the voice. DeLoach switched to interphone and succeeded in calming his co-pilot.

The bomber piloted by DeLoach would have to break out of the formation because of its damage. One engine stopped and another sputtered. The air flotilla commander ordered DeLoach to break out of formation, drop his bombs and return to England and tersely warned “You’re on your own.” The bombardier opened the bomb bay doors and dropped the bombs over the targets. DeLoach turned the plane back toward England and away from the burning factories, the other bombers, and the fighter escorts.

Miraculously, DeLoach and the crew had escaped injury as the B-17 began to limp away from the flaming Schweinfurt. Soon the giant bomber headed into thick clouds and with no radar at that time, and no instruments, DeLoach and his navigator got lost. “My navigator didn’t even know which ocean we were over” DeLoach recalls. It could have been the North Sea, the Irish Sea or the English Channel. Recalling that his radio was still working, DeLoach spoke into the microphone, identified his aircraft and asked for a radio direction finder heading back to England. A voice responded “Turn 90 degrees to the right.” These directions were given three times. Then DeLoach smelled a rat from the instructions given and he also detected a German accent in the radio operator’s voice. “I might be crazy” answered DeLoach on the radio, “but I ain’t that crazy.” The German radio operator had tried to turn DeLoach back toward the interior of Germany.

Undaunted, DeLoach put the bomber into a “steep climbing turn to break out of the clouds.” The crippled bomber broke free above the clouds and headed out over the North Sea as the sky began to darken. A legitimate radio bearing from England put DeLoach and his plane back on course to their base in that country.

German fighters did not worry DeLoach, as he recalled, “Hitler and Goering, his air chief, had discovered their fighter pilots shooting down crippled American bombers while letting the healthy ones escape, to claim an easy kill.” DeLoach said. “Hitler and Goering gave orders that any German fighter pilot who shot down a crippled American airplane would be sent to the Russian front, as chances were the crippled plane wouldn’t make it back to England anyway and the German fighters could concentrate on the healthy American bombers that could be able to return to bomb Germany again.”

Headed back to their base, DeLoach must have recalled more tranquil times: Two years studying agriculture at ABAC in Tifton, where he took flying lessons and got his private pilot’s license before the outbreak of war; his induction into service in June of 1942 as a “buck private”. His mind turned to his home in Claxton, where his father was a member of the Evans County Board of County Commissioners.

The shot-up Flying Fortress, with one engine dead, and another running roughly; with no gauges or instruments working and with 50 shrapnel holes in its fuselage, limped onto the runway at the air base in England while the base radio crackled “DeLoach has done it again!” DeLoach and his crew piled out of the badly wounded Flying Fortress, thankful to again be on friendly soil.

DeLoach’s first phase flight training, just after entering Flight Cadet School, came in a Stearman Trainer BT-17 in Lakeland, Fla. with his introduction to the open cockpit, single engine, bi-wing primary trainer. At Bush Field in Augusta, Ga. he would later train in a single engine, single wing, BT-13 two-seater. Advance training in a twin engine AT-10 came at Turner Field, Albany, Ga. where he received his silver pilot’s wings and commission in the Army Air Force on August 30, 1943.

Hendrix, Field, Sebring, Fla. was where DeLoach trained to be a B-17 pilot and airplane commander. Later he was transferred to Rapid City, S.D.  for intensive combat training, and to pick up his flight crew for combat missions in Europe.  It was in Rapid City that he met his future wife, Betty, whom he married after returning from combat. To this union was born four daughters, Barbara Ann, Carolyn, Susan and Patricia and a son, Hoyt, Jr.

DeLoach was separated from service at Laredo, Texas in July 1945 and graduated later from the University of Georgia with a degree in Agriculture. He became County Agent for Charlton County in December 1946 and retired on January 1, 1975 after 29 years. He received credit toward retirement for his time in the Air Force.

Reflecting on those hectic combat missions, DeLoach said, “Heck, Hitler had to be whipped – and the Lord prepared a bunch of men to do it. If the Lord had been on the other side, I shudder to think what might have happened.”

Charlton County furnished three combat pilots: John White, Wordie Leckie (Royal Canadian Air Force) and Lonnie Roberts, Jr. None returned. Evans County sent two; Hoyt DeLoach was the only one to return.

Shelton Monroe, who had worked in Folkston before entering the Air Force in World War Two, was a native of Waycross. He was a P-51 fighter pilot, also with the 8th Air Force in England, and claimed nearly a dozen enemy planes shot down before returning safely from combat.

DeLoach said he knew John White when they were both at ABAC, “He was a man among men” he said.

DeLoach sought a more tranquil life after his combat missions in World War Two. “I went from perfect physical specimen to perfect physical wreck in 75 days” he chuckled. He enjoyed those tranquil days full time in his retirement.

Donald Lee Kendrick, Hero of World War II, at Iwo Jima Battle

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian

History books describe it as “the bitterest battle of the Pacific”.  It was the battle of Iwo Jima – World War Two, February 16 – March 17, 1945.

Private First Class, Donald Lee Kendrick, age 18, a proud United States Marine from Racepond, Ga. was one of that battle’s outstanding heroes, performing one daring act after another before being finally cut down by Japanese machine gun fire. He died there on the volcanic rock of the tiny Pacific island on March 6, 1945. Kendrick had killed ten of the enemy before being fatally wounded himself.

Iwo Jima, 750 miles south of Tokyo and heavily fortified by the Japanese, gave the Japanese an important two hours’ warning of US B-29 raids on Tokyo from the Mariana Islands. To reverse the situation, the US Marines were ordered to take the island.

Such an order was not new to Donald Lee Kendrick and his 4th Marine Division. He had stormed ashore with them at Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu and Leyte, each time taking heavy casualties, but inflicting more casualties on the Japanese. Donald Lee Kendrick was an expert rifle marksman with the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, Fourth Marine Division. His was a proud outfit with a glorious tradition. Now it was ordered to take Iwo Jima. The likeable Marine from Racepond was ready to go.

Following three days’ bombardment of the island by the United States 5th Fleet, Kendrick and his Fourth Marines, along with the Fifth Marines went ashore on Iwo at 9 a.m. February 19, 1945 on the southeast coast. In total, the landing force consisted of 30,000 men. Facing them, in the shelter of a forest of underground fortifications accurately sited and linked by tunnels – a real ants’ nest – were 21,500 fanatic Japanese soldiers, many of whom would commit suicide before the island was taken by the Americans.

Tanks and artillery went into action the moment the Americans landed. Because of massive preparation, beach casualties were moderate but capture of the remainder of the island required the bitterest fighting of the Pacific campaigns. The island, in the Volcano Group, covered less than twelve square miles. It had two airfields with a third under construction. Dominating the island was the 560 feet high Mount Suribachi.

Heavy casualties were inflicted on both sides. The seizure of Mount Suribachi on February 23 gave the Marines the dominant terrain from which they carried on a ten-day struggle to capture the ridges, buttes and deep caves in which the Japanese made their last desperate stand. It was during this fighting that Donald Lee Kendrick earned the coveted Silver Star Medal for heroism, and gave up his life at age 18.

Charlton County Herald

August 27, 1943

The scrap metal we sent to Japan is coming back to us in shrapnel wounds. Lt. Col. W.J. Carrington, Chief of Surgical Service at General Hospital, Clinton, Iowa, told newsmen touring army installations in that state. “In our surgery we often find shrapnel in which we identify pieces of American-made razor blades and pop bottle caps,” Col. Carrington said. 

Local Women Receive National Attention

Charlton County Herald

 December 10, 17, 1943

Nell Pickren Pearre

December 1943 was little more than a date on the calendar in Folkston because of World War Two. Local business men reported they received Christmas merchandise in small, scattered shipments and that their limited stocks were sold out as rapidly as received and placed on display. The Christmas spirit was hard to find, with so many of the young men of the community away on the battlefields. However, two young women from Folkston brought distinction to Charlton County during this time.

Those who went to the Ritz Theater that December on Main Street, near Stapleton Drug Store, were pleasantly surprised when a newsreel film featured a Folkston young woman who was serving in the WACS.  Sgt. Nell Pickren Pearre was shown in a WACS review. She was the former Nell Pickren, sister of Verne J. and Woodrow Pickren of Folkston and was attached to the recruiting service. She had recently made a tour of the large cities of this nation in the interest of WACS recruitment.

Lois Mattox Miller

Another young woman from Folkston received national attention that December when national radio commentator Walter Wenchell commended Mrs. Lois Mattox Miller for her outstanding work as a writer on medical subjects. A sister of Mrs. Hilda Jones, of Folkston, she had written an article in Readers Digest about the doctor who discovered that the mosquito was the transmitter of the dreaded Yellow Fever disease.

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