Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spaghetti Supper at American Legion

Camp Cecil Perkerson Post 186 will be holding a Spaghetti Supper on Saturday 18th of September from 5:30 until 7:30.  Meal ticket price is $5 and children under six are free.  Tickets may be obtained from Larry Whitlock, Claude Harman, Larry Dunaway, Dan Branch, Buster McCoy, Pete Johnson, Rob Cato, Ed Hobson, and John Norris.

Come and enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

An Interview with Pierce Tidwell, Sr.

I was born in a little place called Alps, Georgia. There wasn’t anything there but an old post office-three miles from Alvaton. I was born on an 140 acre farm. My daddy farmed cotton and corn, bought and sold hogs, and ran a little grocery store. I went to school in Alvaton and finished there in May 1940. I asked my dad if I could go in the Navy (they had to sign to let me go in) I told him I would stay there and help him make the crop this summer.

   What made me interested in going in the Navy was I had two cousins and they came home in the summer of 1939 and had on white uniforms, shined shoes, and they had money in their pockets. That set me on fire and I said that’s what I want.
   I went up to join the Navy in Atlanta and when I got there they told me they changed the rule and you signed from four years to six and that sort of scared me. I didn’t know if I wanted six years or not. Across the hall was the Coast Guard and you signed up for three years. I went over and talked with them and went into the Coast Guard September 2nd, 1940.
   They sent me to Curtis Bay, Maryland for my basic training. I was there for about a month. I was supposed to be there for twelve weeks but they asked for volunteers to go open an air base in New Orleans. To show you how smart I was, I didn’t even know where New Orleans was. I stayed in New Orleans about a month. Back then the salt water was like drinking sulphur and I broke out in boils all over and they had to transfer me.
   Then I was sent to a Coast Guard station in Sabine, Texas on the Sabine River and our duties were to check the ships on the river, it was a big river with ships with American pilots that would meet them in the Gulf and bring them in, and I would take down the name of the ships and what yard they were going to. The crux of things was I had never talked on a telephone in my life and liked to have scared me to death. I also had never ridden on a bus but had been on a train once. I stayed in Sabine from Dec. 1940 to June, 1941 when I was transferred to Paducah, Kentucky and went on this old Coast Guard buoy tender, old stern wheeler steam boat with big coal barge in front and we rolled it back to the machinery in a wheelbarrow.
   Anyway we ran from Paducah to Chattanooga and it took about a week each way. Going one way we’d go through locks that would raise you up and then the other way let you down. It was exciting and had a lot of fun. The rivers: Ohio and Mississippi rivers merge at Paducah and around Cairo, Illinois the Tennessee River comes in and we traveled Huntsville, Guntersville, Decatur, Alabama. We had a lot fun. It was summertime and every night we’d rob people’s corn field and get groceries.
   We were in Sheffield, Alabama when the war started or was declared. When we got back to Chattanooga they transferred me. I went to Curtis Bay, Maryland to the Calypso. We did North American convoy duty and escorted tankers and freighters helped with their protection. I was a gunner’s mate by that time. My training was on the Battleship New York for my gunnery training. The Calypso did not even have radar at first but they got radar by the time we started on our patrols-the first 6-8 months of the war was all visual. We would leave with fifty or sixty ships and escort them and maybe lose twelve or fifteen of them to submarines. We ran from New York to Key West, Florida and sometimes go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We would pick up convoys going north; the ones going south would usually go to North Africa. We would go so far and another convoy would pick them up.
   I actually saw two ships sunk within sight of Virginia Beach-sunk by German subs. People would even be out there swimming that’s how close they were. After 8 or 10 months of subs, they started sending out dirigibles-balloons-to escort us and they could spot submarines underwater. They couldn’t go but thirty or forty miles per hour and we were running 10 to 12 knots. In bad weather we had old PVYs would escort-PVY planes based in Charleston, Savannah and Atlanta and other places.
   We would help with rescue when ships would go down-the Calypso picked up 173 people over a period of two years. One distinct one was we were headed north and it was a Navy ship right in front of us and it was torpedoed and in two minutes it was gone-torn all to pieces. We picked up 20 something survivors. The worst experience I had in the whole war was when I was assigned to get a man back in the boat who was burned real bad. My duty was to man the depth charges. But I had to help the man, I grabbed hiss arm and came up with a handful of skin and meat. The man died later on the ship. He said he didn’t want to be any trouble but he was burned real bad. We picked up 23 that time.
   One time we saw this boat with three men sitting up in it. When we got up to it-it was in the winter time-they were frozen stiff as a board-everyone was dead.
   I was on the Calypso until April of ’43. I went aboard this ship before it was even finished being built. We went on as guards at night and I saw them pull the pin and launch it. The lady who was going to slam the champagne missed the ship, but when the ship hit the water it went against it and busted it. We had a month or two of exercises and break in the ship.
   The AKA stands for Amphibious Cargo Attack. We carried the troops, boats, tanks, whatever. We went to England and then to Scotland and did training in each place. We were there for about the next months.
   I never was out for rank. I knew I wasn’t going to stay in. I was a second class gunner’s mate. I was in charge of the 30 inch gun on the stern. I kept up with and maintained it. It took seven people to do operate or man it.
   From North Africa we headed to Normandy but our captain had a heart attack and we were sent back so I missed Normandy but a month later we went back for the Invasion of Southern France in 1944. Naples was torn all to pieces from bombs. We tied up to a ship that was sunk on its side in the harbor. The Cepheus always traveled in formation with other ships. Our ships were escorted to Europe-we did not travel fast in a convoy.
   We were on a ship that sent the boats and troops to the invasion and we were three or four miles from the beach and sent boats in to unload. I was on the five inch guns and shooting-I got orders with whatever angle to aim. One time my buddy who had to put the bullet in the gun and I pulled the lever and it was so big that it almost took his finger off-he never let me forget it. It happened to be in Marseilles when I did get to go ashore. It had not been bombed. It was a beautiful city. The German commander had told the man in charge to destroy the city and he did not do it. A lot of buildings were out of white marble. We saw very few people-the people were out in the country away from the shooting.
   Ships had regular routines: breakfast every morning, lunch, dinner. About 450 people were on the Cepheus. There were staggered meal times by groups-150 could eat at a time. We had around 22 or more boats so 60 men could be gone. In Africa the cities were mobbed with Arabs but France was empty.
   Ships had to supply shore patrol a couple of times a week. We found a place that had real good cognac. We emptied our canteens and filled them with cognac. Bringing it back to the ship we saw an MP arresting a sailor and the sailor wasn’t giving any trouble at all so we didn’t stop but we walked on by. The MP hollered that we had refused to help him arrest. We were thrown in jail and our belts and canteens were taken off. But the MP captain came and vouched for us and we got out with our canteens.
   We left in Sept or Oct 1944 and came back to the states. I had three years sea duty so they made me take six months shore duty. Hardest duty I had the whole time. I went to Maine with snow very deep for guard duty. They sent me to the west coast got on a train from Bangor, Maine and got off in San Francisco. I caught a troop ship and went to the Marshall islands went on an old gasoline thing that hauled aviation fuel. I never left port because the war ended and they sent me on the coast guard cutter Spencer about 350 foot that carried troops to Jenson, Korea we stayed there a week or ten days. We carried troops to Shanghai, China.
   Each ship has to supply so many shore patrols and a buddy made me his driver. So we road up and down the streets of Shanghaiin his jeep patrolling. If you had not known you would have thought you were in New York City with the big buildings. Companies came in and built refineries and all that were very modern. The Japanese yen took 400000 to make one dollar. When it was exchanged, you could not put it in your pocket. I tried to pick up things for my three sisters at home: a bracelet, a watch, a necklace and I gave my mother a watch I bought in Shanghai.
   We left Shanghai on Christmas Day 1945 and went to San Diego through the Panama Canal to New York. It took 38 days. We dropped troops in San Diego and picked up supplies and moved on.
   When I came home on leave in 1944 after getting off the Cepheus. My dad ran a country store. I met one of my old teachers and a young lady my daddy introduced me to named Virginia. We went together ten straight days and fell in love immediately.
   After the Cepheus it was the Spencer. I was corresponding with Virginia-it took a letter about two weeks to get to us. I had three brothers in the Army I was within two miles of my oldest brother and we were all in the Philippines and none of us knew it until we got back home.
   I bought a monkey in the Philippines. The captain told me I had to get rid of it so I had to put it in back on the boat. It had a chain and road on my shoulder and did tricks.
   We never got to see USO shows because most were on the shore. We had a place to see movies on the ship. In Italy I was walking down the street and asking where the USO was and I heard someone yell Pierce. It was a neighbor who farmed next to my granddad’s and we played together in the summer.
   Entertainment on the ship: Poker and pulled pranks. Hide things. I had a little building 10 by 8 with my equipment in it and cleaning materials and paint whatever was needed for the guns. The Cepheus had two five inch 38 guns. 8 or 10 forty mm and 8-10 20 mm guns scattered twenty or thirty feet apart. The Spencer that I was on sank the first German sub in WW2 in the North Atlantic. There were 18 or 20 survivors picked up including the captain. The ship had a place deep in the ship for prisoners or sailors. We had a Philippino cook that threw an Irish potato at the Germans and hit a shipmate and nearly put his eye out. When we had prisoners they sailed with us on patrol until we got to a convenient port. Those prisoners ended up being sent to Georgia. POWs were helping in cotton gins and with crops here.
   The Higgins boat came in all sizes and we had big booms to put the boats in the water and nets lowered the soldiers into the boats. We took troops into Africa but the fighting was almost over, we took them into Sicily and Angio.
   There is an old song about the Isle of Capri and I went around it, I went under it in the Blue Lagoon, and I went to the top of it. You had to lay down in the boat to get in the opening but all the colors reflecting in the cave were beautiful. They had taxis that criss-crossed up the steep mountain to get to the top of it.
   The most military action I was involved in was Southern France. There was an air raid in Italy and we had to go to general quarters and one of our ships got hit, but I was not in too much actual fighting other than dropping depth charges on the Calypso.
   We would be right over submarine and drop depth charges and I got to set the depth 30 to 100 feet depending on where it was. The wall of water would make a terrific pile of water sent into the air as much as a sixty feet. If we hit the sub the oil would come to the surface. I carried the key to set the depth charges in my pocket.
   Carried through the war for luck: I carried a buckeye through the war for luck. Our everyday uniform was a blue denim shirt and dungarees and I got one of those white suits. We had one dress white suit with stripes on the collars. On liberty you wore the whites. Shore leave usually started at noon and lasted until the next morning. We’d go to beer joints, talk. In New York you could take a dime and go all over New York so we had a lot fun there.
   I stayed in the Coast Guard from Sept 1940 to June 1946-one day I saw the bulletin board sign say “anyone that wants out, come sign up.” I went in and filled out the papers and in a week’s time I was home. We got lax and lazy after the war and didn’t have to keep up the guns. When I came home for leave in 1946 and went car looking I didn’t see what I wanted. They had a motorcycle and I bought it and next day rode to Charleston SC. When I got my discharge I got on my motorcycle and had to ride to NY and a friend rode with me. I had a girlfriend in Connecticut and I went to see her rode the motorcycle from Harvard Connecticut to Greenville, Ga in two days.
   Ten days time after being discharged I had a job and went to work with Southeast Pipeline Company in Griffin, GA making $1.10 an hour and I thought I was going to be rich. I had a great uncle who got me the job. No personal problems going from military to civilian life.
   I married Virginia while I was in Griffin and Virginia taught school in Sunnyside. We had been talking about going into the nursery business with her mother. She quit teaching and I quit working and we lived with her family for three years. I started growing boxwood, I sold automobiles for Hines Motor Co, I worked for the government, I sold insurance and started building the nursery. It took us ten years to get it sustaining.
   The Cepheus reunions-the first one I went to was in 1999 but they had started five years earlier but I didn’t feel like I could turn loose and go. I went to Philadelphia first then Maine. I hosted it in Georgia then we met in West Texas, then New York. To this day I have had three good buddies that write or we call each other. The oldest is 90 years old and was in on the cognac story. “Dutch” Noble was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Kansas and his father came over from the old country. When they got to New York they asked where they were going and they said Pittsburgh and they were sent to Pittsburgh, Kansas where they had to sell apples on the street for a long time. They had three girls and four boys but they all grew up and got a college education. He is in the Colorado Hall of Fame for being a football coach and the stadium there is name after him. Another buddy became a football coach in Mississippi. One was an electrician, one a farmer, and another went into computers and one is in the printing business in New York.
   The first reunion in 1999 there were 58 of us and the last reunion in 2009 there were 11 of us. They think this is probably going to be the last year. I am looking forward to the Honor/Freedom Flight in April 23, 2010 to Washington DC.
   I never have been depressed a day in my life; I look on the bright side. I made up my mind not to stay in the service but have a good time while I was in it and not worry about rank. I went in making 21 dollars a month and when I got out I was making $96 from overseas duty pay. I bought a $75 war bond every month and sent it home. When I came home on my first leave in 1941, I had $121 in my pocket because I had no where to spend it. We had nothing to do but play cards and swim in the Sabine River. We had a savings bank and I kept my money there. My daddy in 1933 had made ten bales of cotton and got $250 for a year’s work. He had to quit farming the next year after the war. The blacks who had been helping him on the farm got better jobs so he had to stop farming and he ran the store.
   Shore leave in uniform: we were treated like kings. We hitchhiked everywhere in the US and even waited on a Cadillac or Buick instead of taking the first Ford that came by because we wanted a better car! One time I hitchhiked to Atlanta in one day using only two cars.
   Pictures framed: Medals-Occupation Service Medal, WW2 Medal (everyone in service gets one of those), China Service, Pacific Southwest medal, European-Africa Middle East medal where I served. June 23rd 1946 I was discharged-I got out a month and a half early. Virginia and I married in 1947 and were married 62 years.
   Silver dollars-on the troop train from Maine to San Francisco. We stopped in Ogden, Utah to let another train go by and had to wait two hours. Naturally we went to the beer joint. All I had was a twenty dollar bill for a beer that cost a dime. I got change-19 silver dollars and nine dimes. He said I had to drinkup the rest! O=I picked out one it was a 1921 silver dollar that I declared I would never spend because it was minted the year I was born-I still have it.
   In 1980 going to see daughter Jo in California I went back to Ogden to see the little old beer joint which was still there. I pulled out the silver dollar and the owner said it was his grandfather’s place then and that he had died two months before. We also had half dimes-not nickels-back then that I carried around too. This one is dated 1841.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Post Officers for 2010-2011

Post Commander-Alfred J. Mccoy, Adjutant/Secretary-Claude P. Harman Jr., Treasurer-Herbert Y (Pete) Johnson, Senior Vice-Larry Witlock, Junior Vice-John Powell, Junior Vice-Larry S. Dunaway, Chaplain-Robert L. Infinger Jr., Judge Advocate-Vernon Phillips, Sergeant-At-Arms-Robert B. Cato,  Historian-Edward Hobson, Service Officer-Henry E. Lanier.