Please indulge me for a few minutes, and let me tell you about some people I know. Their stories were the inspiration that caused me to write the book, THE VETERAN NEXT DOOR. In 2010 I became intrigued with the fact that so many War Heroes lived in my neighborhood, and in and around Knoxville, Tn.
Where do I start? How do I tell you my experiences, I guess I just have to start somewhere. How about November 26, 1941. The day the Japanese fleet set out for Pearl Harbor. That would be an earmark date to justify the statement that the Industrial Era was about to peak, and all man’s knowledge about machinery and technology was about to be unleashed against mankind, and the Atomic Age was about to be born. My mother, Juanita Belle Kinzalow Baxter Haun was 16 years old, an Appalachian farm girl from Riceville, Tn.
Sonja Dubois was in Europe trying to survive pretending to be a two year old Protestant. Her Jewish parents had been separated from her and killed at Auschwitz.
James and Eppie Julian were a young black couple. James was already in the Segregated Navy, unaware he would be fighting the Luftwaffe, the Italian air force and later on, the Kamikaze.
George Harper was a drifter soon to go to Guadalcanal, and Bougainville, returning in a few years with a bullet hole in his chest and a pocketful of gold Japanese teeth.
Norm Bakley would go to Bougainville, and the Philippines, suffering a sword cut across the shoulder, a grenade explosion, and a bullet in the buttock before working on the space shuttle. His son did not know of his experiences or of his 3 separate wounds until I wrote about them.
Murl Conner arrived in Africa with Audie Murphy and had just as many medals, came home, married, and dealt with Post Traumatic Stress the rest of his life. Audie had PTSD, too.
Dr. Robert Harvey was going to school to learn to be a mathematician, to escape the life of a cotton picker. He was a truck driver for Gen. Patton. The Red Ball Express because of his skin color. That did not stop him from becoming interim President at Knoxville College a time or two.
John Shell was working at Knoxville Iron Works. Later he was captured on December 16, 1944 at St. Vith. The spot the Germans hit on the first day of the Bulge.
Charles Beal was in High School and would soon fight across Europe, arriving a little before the Bulge.
Got home before his 19th birthday, he had PTSD, too.
Harold Johnson in his B-17 got to see one of the first German Jets blow his friends out of the sky over Germany.
Clyde Beeler’s ship the USS Pittsburg broke in half in a typhoon.
Earl Henry was the dentist on board the USS Indianapolis. A torpedo is thought to have crashed through his sleeping quarters, you probably know that story. The sinking and the sharks.
My Mom, grew up during the war and went to work in Oak Ridge, eventually dying from the beryllium poison she picked up working in the Manhattan Project.
I wonder how life would have turned out had the Japanese stayed at home?