The life of Clarence Miller can be easily summarized with a single word—responsibility. Raised in Mexico, Mo., he left his studies at Columbia High School (predecessor to Hickman) to take care of his four brothers and sisters after his father passed away. Years later, the young man answered another call to duty, this time when the nation beckoned for his service during World War I.
“I don’t really recall him ever talking about his military service,” said Robert Miller, a World War II veteran and son of Clarence. “I hardly even knew that he had served during the war when I was younger and now there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about his service,” he added.
Born in 1895, Miller was living in Columbia, Mo., when his name appeared in the July 25, 1917 edition of The Evening Missourian, listing his name among those registered for military service in Boone County, Mo. The registration was the result of President Wilson’s proclamation of May 28, 1917, which initially required men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register with locally administered draft boards “between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on the fifth day of June, 1917, at the registration place in the precinct wherein they have their permanent homes.”
Under the Selective Service Act of 1917, as the proclamation was known, local draft boards were given the responsibility for the initial registration, selection and delivery of men to military training camps, and was a process implemented by General Enoch Crowder—a Missouri native and provost marshal of the United States during World War I.
Though Miller, because of his age, was required to report for the first registration (two subsequent registrations were required, the latter of which extended the age requirement to those between 18 and 45 years of age), his lottery number was not selected until the following year. On August 15, 1918, ten days prior to his 23rd birthday, the young man said goodbye to his family when he was inducted into the U.S. Army and departed for his training destination of Camp Jackson, S.C.
According to Miller’s service card accessed through the Missouri State Archives, he remained at Camp Jackson and trained with a field artillery battery, preparing to serve as a replacement soldier in case the war continued. Camp Jackson was designated as the Army’s Field Artillery Replacement Depot in May 1918 and, as noted in the “History of Fort Jackson” accessed through the U.S. Army’s website, was plagued by the Spanish Influenza in September of the same year, resulting in 300 deaths during the same timeframe Miller was training at the camp.
When the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, Miller continued in his military service for several more weeks, until receiving his honorable discharge at the rank of private on December 27, 1918.
The process by which the young Mid-Missourian entered the military was not unique as statistics from the National Archives note that by the time World War I came to a close, “More than 24 million men registered for the draft, and almost 2.7 million men were furnished to the U.S. Army by conscription.”
Returning to Columbia, Miller later wedded his fiancée, Elsie McBaine, and the couple raised four sons. In later years, he became an employee of the City of Columbia.
“He used to work the swing shift,” recalled Miller’s son, Robert, “and when he got off, he liked to fish. I think that we fished all of the creeks around the city.”
Robert acknowledges that although he served in the Army during World War II, he and his father never had any discussions about his experiences during the First World War.
“He and my brother (Raymond) were very close,” Robert said, “and they talked about the military at times because Raymond had served in the infantry during the war, which really seemed to be a connection between them.”
Though Roberts’s brother has since passed and little information survives regarding their father’s service in the First World War, he remains grateful for the service records that exist, which help shed a little light upon a father’s military experiences during a war nearly forgotten. In the book “The Spirit of the Selective Service” published in 1920, General Enoch Crowder explained that a section of the nation’s history was preserved through the process that mobilized an army of men in defense of the nation during WWI—a collection of information that has survived the passage of years and is now available in various archives throughout the United States.
“The pride, the sorrow, the sacrifice and the patriotism of the nation were contained within the records of the Local Boards,” wrote Crowder. “Never in the history of this or any other nation had a more valuable and comprehensive accumulation of data been assembled upon the physical, industrial, economic and racial condition of a people.”
To learn more about military records available through the Missouri Digital Heritage site, visit http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/soldiers/. For more information on the history Fort Jackson, South Carolina, visit http://jackson.armylive.dodlive.mil/post/museum/history-post-wwii/.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America
Shortly after her graduation from St. Peter High School in 1942, former Jefferson City, Mo., resident Mary (Roling) Hood entered a nurse training program in Boonville, an educational endeavor she pursued for a year before deciding to fulfill her yearning for an adventure while also serving her country.
“I decided to join the Navy because they always said that you could see the world,” Hood grinned, “but when it was all finished, I never left the U.S.”
Enlisting in August 1944, Hood became a member of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)—an organization established on July 30, 1942 to help fill positions left vacant stateside because of the scores of men deploying overseas to fight in World War II.
The young recruit was soon on her way to the Bronx campus of Hunter College in New York, the location that became the training base for all WAVES by 1943, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. (Since the college had no residential dorms, the Navy incurred a yearly cost of $1 million to rent the entire campus for WAVES training, converting the college into a site known as “USS Hunter”). Hood remained at the campus for the next six weeks to finish her boot camp, which included drawing her military uniforms and an introduction to military traditions, customs and discipline.
“When I finished,” the 91-year-old veteran explained, “they sent me to San Diego for a few weeks of intensive training with patients to become a hospital attendant.” She added, “I was then stationed there, taking care of the boys coming back from overseas.”
Balboa Naval Hospital, which is now the Naval Medical Center San Diego, was located within the grounds of Balboa Park in San Diego and treated nearly 172,000 patients during World War II. During the period of the Vietnam War, it earned the distinction of being the largest military hospital in the world.
“A lot of the (sailors) that we were treating were coming back from the Pacific with cat fever,” said Hood.
In the book “Occupying Force: A Sailor’s Journey Following World War II,” author D. Charles Gossman describes “cat fever” as a generic term doctors used for a variety of “maladies ranging from the common cold to serious influenza-like symptoms.” .
Although her aspirations for world travel never emerged while she was in the Navy, the veteran recalls making trips to exciting locations such as Hollywood and Tijuana, Mexico, accompanied by fellow WAVES and sailors.
Hood remained at the hospital in San Diego for the rest of her enlistment, receiving her discharge in the summer of 1946. She made the decision to continue living in California for nearly four years after leaving the service. In 1950, she returned to Mid-Missouri and met her fiancée, Clarence Hood; the couple married two years later, raising three sons and three daughters. After several moves, they settled in Jefferson City, where Hood worked for local health care facilities and home health care companies.
In 2007, her husband passed away two months prior to their 55th wedding anniversary and Hood now resides in an assisted living facility in Grain Valley, Mo., and enjoys reflecting upon memories from her past naval service. Though the military did not provide her the overseas adventure she sought as a young woman, Hood affirms that her participation in the Central Missouri Honor Flight in 2009 helped to fulfill another wish—to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C.
“While I was in boot camp in New York, we were never allowed to leave the campus and visit any of the sites or memorials, so it was somewhat disappointing. The most memorable part of that period was when I took the train to San Diego—it was the first time I had been on a train and it was so exciting for me!” she exclaimed.
In reflection, she added: “But the Honor Flight was a great trip … and all of the veterans that were with us reminded me a lot of all of the wonderful boys we took care of (at San Diego). There were even a few other women veterans on the flight with me,” she smiled.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
When asked why he chose to enlist in the military amid the heat of the Vietnam War, Roger Thompson jokingly responded, “The Navy seemed better than the Army because the Army was in Vietnam.” Yet this voluntary spirit would soon land the recent high school graduate in the same overseas location that he believed naval service might help him to avoid.
The spring of 1965 should have been a joyous time for Thompson since he had just graduated from Jefferson City (Mo.) High School, prepared for a full life yet to be lived.
Military service, however, became the primary destination in his personal forecast, as he realized the likelihood of being drafted, thus encouraging his enlistment in the U.S. Navy.
“I enlisted in October (1965) and they sent me to San Diego for boot camp,” said Thompson, 67, Russellville, Mo. “Then I reported to the USS Hollister to await my next assignment.”
Though he did not receive any specialized training after boot camp, the recruit was slotted for a specific job when reporting for first duty assignment.
“They just kind of said ‘You’re gonna be a gunner’s mate,’” he grinned.
The Hollister—a Gearing class destroyer commissioned shortly after World War II—was stationed in Long Beach, Calif. Shortly after Thompson’s arrival, the ship sailed for Yokosuka, Japan.For the next two years, the ship supported combat operations in Vietnam by retrieving “downed pilots” and performing shore bombardment in areas such as the Gulf of Tonkin.
Thompson explained: “There wasn’t a heck of a lot to being a gunner’s mate; you would load the guns, shoot them and help maintain them.”
But it was not long before the sailor’s duties removed him from the protection offered by a large vessel and placed him in close proximity with the enemy. In early 1968, he left the Hollister and was transferred to Vallejo, Calif. For the next several weeks, he trained aboard “Tango” boats, which were the smaller vessels used to deliver troops via the inland waterways of Vietnam.
“Everybody (in our training group) learned how to steer and operate the boat. I was the gunner’s mate and operated two 20mm anti-aircraft guns, two .50 cals (calibers), four .30 cals and a MK-19 grenade launcher,” Thompson said.
After completing a two-week class in survival and escape techniques, Thompson flew to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam, arriving in May 1968. He transferred to a Tango boat assigned to a larger ship—the USS Benewah. For the next several months, his crew would drop grenades into the water to prevent enemy “swimmers” from mining the waters or attaching explosives to the Benewah and examine brush or other material in the rivers that could be used as camouflage for mines.
Later in the deployment, Thompson’s boat began operating in the waterways off the Mekong Delta, ferrying American and foreign military members participating in search and destroys missions.
“That was the fun part,” Thompson grinned. “Our top speed was about 12 knots so we made pretty good targets.”
On one occasion, the veteran shared, their boat was traveling down a river and came under attack by Viet Cong firing from the shoreline. Thompson turned his 20mm gun on his attackers and began firing. He then witnessed an event he believed might be his last.
“I saw a rocket coming toward me,” Thompson glumly recalled. “I knew for sure it would be the end of me, but I just kept shooting back.”
The rocket stuck in the bar armor on the side of the boat but failed to detonate. As the sailor later learned, the enemy soldier firing the rocket forgot to remove the pin to arm the weapon.
Thompson has kept the pin as a souvenir to remind him of his “close call.”
In spring of 1969, he returned to the United States after finishing a year in Vietnam. With less than 180 days remaining on his enlistment, he received an early discharge and returned to Jefferson City. The former sailor married his fiancée, Nancy, and the couple later relocated to Russellville. Thompson went on to finish a lengthy career as a union plumber and pipefitter, retiring in 2009.
While reflecting on his time served in Vietnam, Thompson laments that the combat zone was not the most concerning aspect of his military service.
“The hardest part of my time in the Navy wasn’t Vietnam, it was coming home,” he said. “People didn’t really realize what we went through over there or what we had to endure.”
He added: “But when I came back to San Francisco and saw all the antiwar signs,” he paused, “…you couldn’t even walk down the street without somebody throwing something at you. My only wish is that there was some way to make all those people go to the Vietnam Memorial … to see all those names on the wall and witness the number of people who made the greatest sacrifice possible.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
During the period of World War I, while society struggled with issues of racial prejudice, many black men were drafted or volunteered for military service and thus demonstrated a willingness to fight on behalf of their white neighbors, oftentimes clinging to the hope that their service in the military might someday bring them equality on the home front. One such aspiring youth, who came of age on the east side of Jefferson City, Mo., went on to develop proficiency as a soldier among a unique group of men that would later distinguish themselves in the trenches of France.
“I remember hearing years ago from one of our local World War I veterans that Tony Jenkins loved to play baseball and was quite talented at the game,” said Saundra Allen, an auxiliary member of the Tony Jenkins American Legion Post 231 in Jefferson City.
Much of Jenkins’ early years remains shrouded in mystery because, Allen noted, his family has either passed away or moved from the Mid-Missouri area, leaving behind little information with which to piece together his brief—yet interesting—life. Born in Jefferson City on October 10, 1894, the 1910 U.S. Census indicates Jenkins lived with his older brother and two sisters when he was 15 years old; however, his WWI service card accessed through the Missouri State Archives shows him living in Richland, Mo., when he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Fayette, Mo., on October 29, 1917.
In the book “Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War,” the author notes that during World War I, “about 367,710 of the nearly 400,000 black soldiers that served entered the service because of the Selective Draft Law,” as was the case with young Jenkins.
Black recruits were often separated into one of two combat divisions—the 92nd or the 93rd Division. Jenkins was attached to Company G, 365th Infantry Regiment of the 92nd Division, which was formed at Camp Dodge, Iowa. In December of 1917, he was transferred to Camp Funston, Kan., where he remained until departing for France in late March 1918 as a member of Company G, 369th Infantry Regiment, which was formed from the 15th New York National Guard Infantry Regiment.
“We must not eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service. We must not commend too highly these troops, especially in front of white Americans,” wrote General John J. Pershing about black troops on August 7, 1918, in a secret communication to French troops stationed with the American Army.
Early in the war, Pershing made the decision to loan the four regiments of the 93rd Division to the French. Despite the institutional racism they faced within the larger military structure, the division would go on to fight boldly on behalf of those who did not recognize their value as citizens and soldiers.
Jenkins’ regiment, the 369th, was the first to arrive in France and, following training with the French forces, was integrated into France’s Fourth Army and soon began to prove their mettle in combat operations, all the while wearing French uniforms and using French weapons.
In an article by Jami Bryan appearing in “On Point,” an Army Historical Foundation publication, she notes that although the division experienced some early problems related to the language barrier, their French counterparts treated the American soldiers as equals.
The division’s list of military operations included several major battles along the Western Front; however, after bitter fighting during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the division earned the title of “Hellfighters” by their German foes (the title later morphed into “Harlem Hellfighters” in recognition of the location from which many of the division’s recruits originated).
On September 28, 1918, during the carnage of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, a 23-year-old Tony Jenkins lost his life from wounds received in combat. (The day following Jenkins’ death, fellow Jefferson City resident Roscoe Enloe was killed in action).
News of the soldier’s death was shared in the December 16, 1918 edition of the Jefferson City Post-Tribune, with the young “Harlem Hellfighter” being laid to rest as an American soldier alongside hundreds of his fellow veterans in the Jefferson City National Cemetery.
Years later, the Tony Jenkins Lodge No. 432 of the Elks was formed to honor the late veteran (with the “e” removed from his first name) and on February 1, 1934, at the old Community Building, 901 E. Dunklin Street, the Tony Jenkins American Legion Post was formed with a charter group of 15 local veterans. Since that time, it has remained a predominantly black post.
In a confidential cablegram sent to Washington, D.C., General Pershing lauds the black soldiers of the 92nd and 93rd Divisions, beaming with pride over their “comparatively high degree of training and efficiency,” followed by remarks that would indicate their sacrifices did not go unrecognized.
“(The) only regret expressed by colored troops is that they are not given more dangerous work to do,” wrote Pershing, adding, “I cannot commend too highly the spirit shown among the colored combat troops, who exhibit fine capacity for quick training and eagerness for the most dangerous work.”
Nearly 30 years after Jenkins’ burial, President Truman desegregated the military through Executive Order 9981, with the sacrifice and performance of the 93rd Division helping inspire major changes in highest levels of U.S. leadership and delivering the beginning stages of equality for which the soldiers of the division so valiantly fought.
Jeremy P. Ämick is a military historian and author of “Cole County, Missouri at War: 1861-1975.”
With more than nine decades of experience to his credit, Jefferson City, Mo., veteran Ray Herigon has accrued a lifetime of events to share with younger generations. But the memories he made during two years he spent in Europe in the Second World War appear the most poignant and colorful in his vast collection.
Born and raised in the St. Thomas area, Herigon graduated from Meta High School in 1941.He then commuted to Jefferson City for several months to attend a machinist school, which, as he noted, was sponsored by the United States government. With good jobs in short supply, Herigon traveled to St. Louis and was able to secure a one-year deferment from the draft by working at a defense manufacturing plant.
“We were making 20 and 40mm aircraft projectiles,” Herigon recalled.
While working at the plant Herigon was married, but his honeymoon period was soon interrupted when he received notice to report to Ft. Riley, Kan., for induction into the Army after his deferment expired in 1943.
“I knew it was coming,” he smiled.
He was sent to Ft. Hood, Texas, to complete boot camp and learn to be a gunner on light-armored vehicles, which was followed by a few weeks of infantry training at Ft. Meade, Md.--an experience, Herigon asserts, was “practically another basic training” consisting of calisthenics and marksmanship practice at firing ranges.”
The young trainee then reported to Camp Shanks, N.Y., and received instruction on the proper procedures for boarding amphibious vessels. Completing all of his preparatory training in late spring of 1944, he boarded a ship bound for overseas service. After spending a short time in Wales doing what Herigon describes as “training to keep the soldiers busy,” he was transferred to a location near Liverpool, England, as part of a replacement company.
“We were told we would be replacing GIs lost in the beach landings (on D-Day),” he said.
Arriving on the beaches of Normandy, France by amphibious boat on June 9, 1944, three days following the initial Allied invasion, Herigon was assigned to the 42nd Field Artillery, HQ Battery. The veteran notes he was in combat the next several months as the battery—attached to the 4th Infantry Division and commanded by Missouri native Gen. Omar Bradley—fought its way through locations in France, Germany, Holland and Luxembourg. Serving in communications and as a forward observer, Herigon participated in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945—a major offensive that took place toward the end of World War II.
“They had everyone on the line during the Bulge,” Herigon said. “Cooks … even medics had rifles. But we stopped the Germans,” he boldly added.
Toward the latter part of the war, Herigon spent a brief period with American occupational forces in Germany awaiting orders to return to the states, which he received in July 1945.
He returned home for a brief period of leave before reporting to Camp Butner, N.C., where he served as a messenger until his discharge from the Army a few months later. After moving to St. Louis for a short time to work for General Motors, Herigon eventually returned to the Mid-Missouri area and worked for several local companies before retiring in 1984.
A recipient of a Bronze Star Medal for valor, Herigon has been a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars for more than 50 years and in 2009 participated in the Central Missouri Honor Flight to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“The (Honor Flight) was a wonderful experience—I would go back on it in a minute,” he excitedly stated. “The memorial, the camaraderie … everyone just bent over backwards to make us feel special.”
The father of 11 children—three of whom have also served in the military—Herigon explains that the most profound lessons encountered during his time in service were those of independence and being able to rely on others.
“The military teaches you many things, including how to make it on your own,” he said. “And when you are under the stresses of combat, you also learn the importance of counting on your fellow soldiers … the importance of helping one another.”
Jeremy Amick is a military historian and is the author of the World War I novel "Soldierly Devotion," and the "Cole County, Missouri at War': 1861-1975."
As a boy growing up in rural Mid-Missouri in late 1920s, one might imagine the thoughts of a young Walter Lehman filled with the aspirations of someday becoming a brave soldier, inspired by the local World War I veterans with whom he came into contact.
As the Second World War erupted several years later, Lehman himself donned the uniform of a soldier in the U.S. Army only to leave behind a family that would decades later remain uncertain of his fate.
“Grandma Lehman had all three boys—Fred, Walter and Richard—in the military at the same time,” said Russellville, Mo., resident Darlene Schubert, Lehman’s niece.
“I was always told that you couldn’t have all the sons in one family in the service at once, but she did,” Schubert added.
According to a newspaper clipping saved with several family effects, Lehman was born in Brazito in 1924 and attended school at Clarksburg, Mo., and later at Russellville, Mo.
“He quit school when he was a senior to go into the service,” Schubert recalled.
Morning reports available through a website dedicated to the division with whom Lehman served in World War II show the young soldier attached to Company L, 331st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Division as early as July 15, 1944. Five months later, Lehman’s service in a combat zone would encounter a somber shift.
After action reports (AAR) compiled by the headquarters company for the 331st Infantry go on to describe a large part of the regiment involved in offensive operations in locations near the towns of Gey and Berzbuir, Germany, on December 14, 1944. In an appendix to the AAR containing a casualty listing, Lehman and two other soldiers were listed as missing in action, along with 63 wounded and eleven killed while participating in military activities that same date.
Two days later, on December 16, 1944, the German military began a major counter offensive recognized as the Battle of the Bulge, which resulted in an estimated 75,000 American casualties.
Lehman’s body was never recovered and though initial communication to his family classified the veteran as “missing in action,” a letter military authorities sent his mother in September 1945 stated the young soldier was “killed in action on the date he was previously reported missing …”
“He was really popular in school—a handsome guy and the girls chased him like he was a king or something,” Schubert grinned, recalling moments spent with her uncle many decades ago.
When Lehman’s brother Fred passed away, Schubert explained, his daughters placed a marker in Enloe Cemetery near Russellville, Mo., honoring the memory of their missing uncle. The veteran’s service is memorialized also on a tablet for the missing in the American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.
“It really broke my heart when he left for the service … I didn’t want him to go,” Schubert said.
Despite the ongoing efforts of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) to locate and identify the remains of the more than 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II, Schubert affirms that her grandmother clung to the hope that she would one day be reunited with her long-absent son.
“They never found his dog tags or anything,” Schubert said. “Grandma went to her grave believing that some day he would come walking through her front door.”
For more information on the 83rd Infantry Division, please visit http://83rdinfdivdocs.org.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.