GRAVETTE -- One local veteran would likely agree with William Tecumseh Sherman's famous quote that "war is hell." He told his audience at the Billy V. Hall Senior Activity Center that Army life during his service in World War II was tough.
"It was cold and I missed home," he said.
He admitted he even went AWOL twice.
"I left because I was mad at the sergeants and mad at the world," he said.
But it wasn't as if he called it quits and went home. He just went out to lunch with a friend and came back.
Gomer Alsup, 92, was guest speaker at the Veterans Day program at the Center last Tuesday. He said he was born in Quanah, Texas, and grew up on a ranch in nearby Ralls.
"It would take all day to ride across it if you's lucky and had a good horse," he said.
Alsup joined the Army at age 21. He signed up at Abilene, Texas, and went to San Francisco. From there he went to Leyte Bay. The trip from California to the Philippines took 38 days.
"I thought we would never get there," he said. "And we almost starved to death. We got a spoonful of oatmeal for breakfast and, in the afternoon, about a quarter pound of rock candy that was so hard you could hardly eat it."
When they arrived in Leyte Bay, the caves were full of Filipinos. Soon Gen. MacArthur sent them to the front lines, where they stayed for 118 days.
"The First Cavalry was on the back side and we were in front," he said. "I threw a lot of hand grenades, but I didn't kill anybody. I wasn't a very good shot."
When that siege was over, many of the men had hair down to their shoulders. They hadn't had haircuts or showers for weeks.
"We probably smelled like a hog pen," he said, "but nobody would tell us."
They made showers by nailing three barrels to a framework overhead and having Filipinos running to put water in.
Next the soldiers went to Japan. Again they were on a slow boat. They were going to make a beachhead in Yokohama.
On the way one of Alsup's buddies told him, "You better give your heart to God because the rest of you belongs to Japan."
When they arrived, they were told they couldn't unload because there was a minefield in front of their convoy.
Alsup was apprehensive, he said. He saw little houses on the beach. "They looked like doghouses and I knew they were full of Japs."
Since his last name started with an A, he was preparing to be one of the first on shore when an officer came around and said, "Don't unload. The war is over."
Alsup feels fortunate he was not hurt during the war.
"I had some close calls in Japan," he said, "but I didn't get a scratch nowhere. I got my feelings hurt, but no wounds."
He brought no souvenirs home from the service.
"I didn't want none," he said.
But he displayed several of his medals, including a sharpshooter badge, a good conduct medal, his 8th Army infantry patch and Americal Division insignia. He also showed the small sewing kit the Red Cross provided, several pictures he took and the small camera with which he took them. One of the photos he brought depicted the graveyard with 119 graves that he and a buddy discovered on the hill above their camp just before they came home.
Alsup made one of the Freedom Flight trips to Washington, D.C., this year to see the World War II memorial and other sights in our nation's capitol. He was accompanied by his nephew Danny. They flew to the capitol, spent 10 hours and came home. He received another medal honoring his service on the Asian front on that trip.
After his talk, Mary Kay Kelley, Center director, recognized all veterans present. Melissa Steele, program director, presented each one with a "thank you" for his service.Community on 11/18/2015
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