Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Veterans Day, “Lets Go” with James Edward Hairgrove, 1945.

When James Edward Hairgrove went off to war, his two first cousins went with him. The boys – James Edward, Billy Wayne and Charles – were all born in 1926 but James Edward was older by a few months, 19 to the others’ 18.

James Edward was the oldest son on a working East Texas farm. He took a six-month deferment on that account; it kept him out of some of the worst battles in the Pacific War. That half-year delay would work in his favor right through the end of World War II.

After basic, Billy Wayne and Charles stayed in Fort Bliss and taught riflery – they’d all grown up hunting. James Edward was in California for additional training, went home to Texas to visit family before shipping out, the only cousin that went overseas. When this photo was taken, he was on his way back to the west coast, to board ship for the invasion of Japan.

He arranged his trip back from East Texas so he could lay over in El Paso for eight hours and see his cousins at Fort Bliss one more time. In their clean Class As, they went down to Juarez – where this picture was snapped, July of ’45.

James Edward’s the one on the right. That’s cousin Billy Wayne in the middle and cousin Charles there on the left.

James Edward shipped out of California at the beginning of August to join Operation Olympic, the initial invasion of the Japanese home islands. He was at sea for a day and a half when the first atomic bomb fell out of the bottom of the B29 Enola Gay onto the city of Hiroshima: August 6, 1945. Eight days later Japan surrendered and World War II was done. (James has always called President Harry Truman “hero” because, thanks to the atomic bombing, he didn’t have to invade the country.)

James Edward completed his service as a basic infantryman in the Okinawa occupation force, guarding prisoners, escorting Red Cross ladies. After the island’s own 82-day-long battle, 90% of its buildings were utterly destroyed. The tropical paradise had been shelled, blasted and burned into a huge expanse of shattered trees, mud and decay.

Then he returned to Texas. The magisterially named Aurora Council Hairgrove, the cousins’ grandfather, had sworn he’d live ‘til the three boys came home from the war. They did, safe and sound, and he was waiting for them. Not everyone came back for this and other American wars. Today’s the day we remember all – including those at Fort Hood.

In addition to James Hairgrove: Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz and Sam Slavik. Tom Ritter. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Frank B Foulk. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. John Naumann.

George A Schuler, Jr., Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. The names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. Charles Rose and Bill Krull. Gary Bearden. Bernard Mazursky. Harold Borenstein and Phillip Becker. Clarence Everett Latham and Irene Helen Phillippe. Meyer Horwitz. And me.

Every year this list grows longer – you’re welcome to add names of your own.

*Thanks to James’s daughter (and my colleague) Kay Hairgrove Krenek for the photo and the story.


Kay Krenek said...

Richard, thanks for taking the time to write the lovely tribute. I'll make a printout of it for my Dad and Billy Wayne. They always say how lucky they were and I think this really underscores that point perfectly as long as we take time to remember those who weren't as fortunate.

---Kay Hairgrove Krenek

Brian Bearden said...

A wonderful story for Veteran's Day. My father Gary Bearden served during the Korean war and made it home safely. He spent a good part of his life in government service in Washington, DC. He passed away in 1983 from a brain aneurysm at the age of 49. Since he served during war time we were able to bury him in Arlington Cemetery. I have been to Arlington on Memorial Day with all the flags on the graves. I believe on Veteran's Day, they lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldiers in honor of the veterans. One day I will make a trip to Arlington on Veteran's Day. Remember those that served to protect the freedoms we have today.
God Bless

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service dad, and for writing such wonderful things about our servicemen each year.

your daughter

Phyllis Eisenberg said...

My father, Harold Borenstein, is 93 years old. He was the only one in his family to pass the entrance exam and he has outlived his three other brothers.

My grandfather, Phillip Becker, served in WWI. Please add to your list of family members to remember.

A classmate of mine, Bernard Mazursky, (related to the Rozansky family as their mother was a Mazursky) was the only one in my age group to go and he was, unfortunately killed in Vietnam. His grave is near the Borenstein family's in the Madison cemetary, so I slways stop to remember him.

Matt Sabel said...

Thanks for writing, it's a great story I'll be sure to pass around.

I'd like to add Meyer Horwitz to the list if I could. He was Tecnical Sergeant in the 13th Military Police Investigation Division.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks for the note, Matt - I'll be sure to add Meyer Horwitz next year.

And thank you to everyone who wrote back in support of veterans. Ta for Saturday...

S Reeves said...

What a loving tribute to veterans. Thank you Richard for your service then and your writings about history now.

Mary Jo Martin said...

I know this is late, but...

Please add to your list: Clarence Everett Latham, USN, and Irene Helen Phillippe, USMC. My parents - who both made it home.

My Mom was one of the first women to enter the Corps, where they referred to the "girls" as BAMs (Broad A**ed Marines) since the Marines never had an "official acronym for them.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thank you for sending this information, Mary Jo. A note to those of you who have been in touch since this post was written: I have added the names you sent. God bless...

John Feitshans said...

I typed in Aurora Council Hairgrove into Google and your blog came up. I've been doing research on the Hairgrove family for years.

I come from Joel Marion Hairgrove through his son Alfred, Aurora's brother. My great-grandmother was Edith Marion Hairgrove, Alfred's daughter.

I don't know a whole lot about Aurora's father, Joel Hairgrove. I know that he was teacher, a county commissioner and the Shelby County Treasurer at one point.

I also know he was Sergeant in the Civil War. He served in Company A of the 28th Texas Cavalry.

I know that my great-grandmother said that he had a large house in Timpson. She used to run up and down the stairs.

I would like to ask what you know about the Hairgrove Family? I would love to exchange info or pictures.

Kay Krenek said...

Richard, we are already are in touch with John. He found me on Facebook but this solves the mystery as to how he knew I was related to Aurora Council.

He is a History major at A&M researching his family history. My Dad knew his great grandmother. In fact she is my Dad's first cousin.

I am emailing with him and plan a telephone call to him with my Dad while we are at the lake later this week.

He would nor have found us if it weren't for your blog, so thank you! My Dad is very excited about a young guy so interested in the family history. He has emailed a great article about our relative who moved to Texas from Tennessee and held a fort in the Indian War of 1812. It also refers to General Jackson. I know you are a military history buff, so I will email it to you.