Looking Back: World War II – Southampton men in service

Published 7:06 pm Monday, August 3, 2020

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By Clyde Parker

Aug. 4, 1945

Although the war in Europe ended, officially, back in May, the war in the Pacific Theater of the war, against the various and scattered remaining elements of the Japanese Empire, is still being fought.

(V-E Day (Victory in Europe)), 8 May 1945, is officially designated as the day that Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces (primarily, The United States, Great Britain, France and Russia) thereby ending World War II in Europe. Actually, the remaining German military leaders had signed surrender documents at several locations in Europe on the day before. Adolph Hitler, realizing his was a lost cause, had died on 30 April 1945 from suicide in his bunker — in Berlin.)

The Tidewater News continues to receive reports of various individual actions and heroisms of many of our Southampton County people who have fought in Europe and in the Pacific.

Lieutenant W.B. Poland Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Poland of Boykins, recently returned home following combat duty. He just spent a 30-day furlough with his parents. Lt. Poland volunteered in the U.S. Army Air Corps in October of 1942 and was called to active service in February of 1943. He received his pilot wings in May of 1944, going overseas in December of that year, and was stationed with the 8th Air Force in England. He flew 34 combat missions over Germany and was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He has two battle stars for his European Theater service ribbon and wears the Presidential Citation. Lt. Poland and his crew returned safety to the United States on 1 June 1945. He is to receive an honorable discharge in the near future.

Corporal William H. Johnson, of Franklin, was just awarded the Bronze Star medal for bravery under fire and devotion to duty during fighting, on 16 April 1945, in the vicinity of Michelsbach, Germany. Corporal Johnson’s platoon had run into extremely heavy machine gun fire until the rest of the platoon and the wounded could be withdrawn. The corporal is a former member of the military police at Bartow Army Airfield and has been overseas since March. He also has received the Infantryman’s Combat Badge ETO Ribbon with one battle star and the good conduct ribbon. Corporal Johnson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Johnson of 408 Chestnut St.,, Franklin, and is married to the former Ruby Hayes of Bartow, Florida.

Lieutenant (JG) Herbert G. Cobb Jr., of Franklin, earlier this year, while aboard the battleship U.S.S. New York in the Pacific Theater of the War, as a junior turret officer, prevented possible casualties inside a gun turret during the Okinawa bombardment when an electric motor panel started smoking and threatening to burst into flames. Noticing smoke from the overloaded panel, Lt. Cobb ordered the switches cut, sent all powder below to the magazines, and had the burned-out panel swiftly brought under control to prevent fire. The turret filled with smoke but there were no exposed flames. Using other equipment, the turret was still able to continue its blasting of the enemy on the island. During the Okinawa engagement, Lt. Cobb, now a qualified turret officer, helped fire hundreds of salvos against the enemy. Lt. Cobb went into active military service from the U.S. Navy Rreserves one year following the Pearl Harbor attack. His first sea duty was aboard a destroyer escort in the North Atlantic, making convoy trips to North Ireland ports as assistant gunnery officer and torpedo officer. He boarded his present ship in March of 1944 and participated in the Iwo Jima bombardment.

Alden H. Gee, Seaman First Class, U.S.N.R., son of Mrs. Laura Taylor Gee of Franklin, is at Newport, Rhode Island, training for duty aboard the USS Great Sitkin, a new ammunition ship. Gee, in the Navy since November 1943, was formerly attached to a ship operating in the Pacific, and participated in action at Tinian, Saipan, Palau, Leyte and Luzon, and has crossed the equator 12 times. He is married to the former Miss Elizabeth Ingram of Keeling, Virginia, who lives in Franklin with the son, Alden, aged 8.