Futrell writes book on WWII experiences

Published 10:22 am Friday, September 13, 2013

Merle Monahan\Contributing Writer

Milton Futrell -- Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

Milton Futrell — Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

COURTLAND—If anyone had told Milton Futrell that he would end up assisting an Army surgeon as he performed brain surgery on a young soldier during World War II, he would not have believed it.

But that is exactly what happened to Futrell, a pharmacy technician and himself as young as the patient.

“We landed on Omaha Beach, in Normandy on D + 5 during the height of battle,” said Futrell. “I was immediately assigned to the pharmacy division.

“We hardly had time to set up our tents before the wounded started arriving,” he added.

“The next day, a soldier with a brain injury was brought in and an officer approached me and said I was needed in the surgical tent.

“My first thought was that I knew nothing about surgery and that’s what I told the doctor. But he said to me, ‘You know enough to follow my orders,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”

Futrell said the doctor told him the soldier would surely die without surgery and his chances were not good even with the operation. Sadly, the surgeon’s efforts were in vain, he added.

This is but one of numerous WWII experiences that Futrell writes about in his book, “Three Years With Uncle Sam.” The book will be on sale on Saturday, Sept. 14, with proceeds going to the Museum of Southampton History, which is affiliated with the Southampton Historical Society. Futrell and his wife, Kitty, are members of the society.

Futrell, 92, said the book came about when the Library of Congress asked military veterans to write about their experiences in service, which will be recorded at the library.

“My wife offered to help, so she recorded what I told her,” he said. “Some of it was difficult to talk about, but we managed to get through.”

He added that some his experiences are vivid even today because he and others in his old unit from the 39th Field Hospital, which had been assigned to the 99th Air Force, still have reunions.

“We talk about those days, of course,” he said.

“When Kitty and I finished,” he went on, “there was so much information that we decided to put it into a book form. It traces my route from my induction in Richmond, back to Courtland after the war. We thought it would be something our kids, their families and my Army buddies would like to have.”

The book turned out to be so well received, however, that the Futrells had additional copies made and are donating all funds received from this printing to the museum.

Drafted in December 1942, Futrell returned to Courtland after the war to start his own pharmacy, starting with half interest in the former Reese Drug Company.

At Dr. Reese’s death, Futrell purchased the rest of the business, built a new store and renamed it Futrell’s Drug Store.

In 1985, he retired, leaving his son to carry on the business for several more years. He did not slow down much, though, according to his wife.

A former high school athlete, Futrell became a Little League coach after retirement, a position he kept for 18 years.

He is proud to say that 85 percent of his players went on to college, some ending up playing college ball, he said.

Futrell has spent much of his time in later years caring for the Rochell-Prince House, another museum in Courtland affiliated with the Historical Society.

“Kitty and I have been members since the Historical Society was formed,” he said

“I do a little bit of carpentry, so I try to keep the place up. This is one way I can help.”

His work does not go unnoticed. Society President Lynda Updike says “I don’t know what we’d do without him.

“We know that if anything goes wrong over there, he’ll take care of it.

NAME: Milton T. Futrell

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: My family moved here from North Carolina when I was young.

HOMETOWN: Courtland

OCCUPATION: Retired pharmacist

MARITAL STATUS: Married to Katherine Kirkland Futrell for 72 years.

CHILDREN: Two sons, Tommy, married to Jane, and Doug, married to Adlyn. We have four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: We enjoy going out to eat with friends.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT: John’s in Murfreesboro, N.C.

FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Seafood with Key lime pie and a glass of wine.

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: I once assisted a surgeon in a brain operation on Omaha Beach during WWII.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOU: I will try to help people in need as long as I’m able.


PETS: None

FAVORITE HOBBIES: I am a self-taught carpenter. I love working with wood.

PET PEEVE: I don’t like the disrespect some young people have for their elders.

FIRST JOB: I worked for Rosco Edwards in his grocery store.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As an honest person who worked for the good of the community.

IF YOU HAD 10 MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: My topic would be young people and sports. I would urge all young people that I know to get involved in sports. It is an excellent way to keep young people healthy, build up confidence and is one of the greatest deterrents to crime that I know. I coached little league here in Courtland for 18 years and most of my students went on to college after high school. Some even played college ball. In fact, I can’t think of but one who got into trouble. I think that’s a pretty good record.