|CU honors WWII veterans, 72 receive honorary Master's|
|CU honors WWII veterans, 72 receive honorary Master's|
|Tuesday, May 8, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL and NICHOLE MANNA
Cumberland University awarded veterans of World War II with Honorary Master’s of Military Arts degrees on Tuesday in commemoration of their service and sacrifice and their roles in the Tennessee Maneuvers that took place in Middle Tennessee from 1941 to 1944.
In all, 72 veterans or the families of deceased veterans received the honorary degrees.
“This day has been an honor for us, because we came to honor you. You deserve this honor,” said Dr. Harvill Eaton, president of Cumberland University.
For three years, CU served as headquarters for the 2nd Army Maneuvers, which encompassed six of the seven large scale war games that took place in Middle Tennessee, training 850,000 soldiers for war.
Col. Joseph P. McGee, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, pointed out that more soldiers trained in Middle Tennessee during the maneuvers than there are active duty soldiers in the U.S. Army today, which he said is approximately 560,000.
McGee said the veterans, who are commonly referred to as “The Greatest Generation,” were no different than anyone else. He noted many were brave and some were frightened about going to war. He said they all possessed the same qualities and flaws that are seen in every generation.
But, McGee said the human qualities and flaws of World War II veterans made their bravery and sacrifice all the more important.
“I’d like to applaud and thank the University for recognizing the veterans of these maneuvers,” McGee said.
Maj. Gen. Robert Harris, Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Tennessee National Guard, said he recalled meeting a resident in his hometown of Tullahoma, who was only 12 years old during the maneuvers.
Harris said the then 12-year-old boy watched as hundreds of parachute infantrymen slowly descended and landed on his family’s farm almost 70 years ago. Quickly, the boy rushed to a paratrooper and asked how many times he had jumped.
"None, but I’ve been pushed 23 times,” Harris said the paratrooper told the boy.
Referring to locals remembering the maneuvers, Harris noted, “Their impact in almost every case is mentioned in a positive way.”
CU Chairman Board of Trust Edward Thackston and trustees Col. (Ret.) Sam Hatcher and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Forrest Shoaf presented the degrees to each veteran.
For most of the veterans, returning to Lebanon for the first time in decades was a trip down memory lane, and many spent the morning sharing stories with fellow soldiers and meeting others who served in the same unit, but they had never met during the war.
Vaught parachuted into Italy and France, noting, “We jumped behind German lines.” He also served in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in the winter of 1944. During the maneuvers he was stationed in Watertown, negotiating the hills, hedges and woodlands of Wilson County.
“It was all rain, mud and just terrible weather while we were here,” he laughed. The area made such an impression on him, he moved to Wilson County in 1969.
Technician George Hundley, of Martinsville, Va., was stationed in Middle Tennessee in 1943 as part of the 12th Armored Division. Hundley said things had changed a lot since he was last in Tennessee.
Training during the maneuvers helped him once he arrived in Europe, but Hundley said it was much different when the real bullets began flying.
“The only thing I didn’t do, like in school, I didn’t take it as seriously here,” Hundley said.
L.B. Perry, of Jonesboro, Ark., was part of one of three divisions to be sent to the South Pacific after the maneuvers. Perry served with the 321st Infantry, 81st Infantry Division, most notably on the small island of Peleliu, where more than 14,500 Americans were killed or wounded.
Perry said there was little that could have prepared him for fighting in the Pacific, where Japanese soldiers fired from hidden caves, spider-holes or in trees. He said often the only way to avoid enemy fire was to lay flat on the ground.
“The only thing that got us through was the good Lord, not because we were smart or tough,” Perry said, adding it took 30 days to capture the small coral island.
Ernest Suttle Jr., of Portland, Tenn., served in the 106th Infantry and trained in Tennessee prior to landing in France after Allied Forces landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Suttle said he also fought in Belgium and Germany. Late in the war, after his unit drew within 30 miles of Berlin, Germany, they were ordered to stop. The Soviet Union captured the city in May 1945. Recalling his experiences during the maneuvers Suttle said, “It definitely was good training here.”
“I’m proud of what I did and I’d do it again. If I could, I’d join up tomorrow,” he said.
Mike Buczkowski of Marysville, Ohio, received an honorary degree in memoriam of his father, Bruce, of South Bend, Ind. Buczkowski said his father participated in the maneuvers from September through November 1943.
Upon embarking to France, Bruce Buczkowski served in the 94th Infantry with Gen. George S. Patton Jr., who led the assault on the German “Siegfried Line” in 1944, a series of fortifications from the Netherlands to Switzerland.
Buczkowski said it meant a lot to receive the degree in honor of his father, who joined the military after completing his sophomore year of high school.
“My father never finished high school, so to receive a Master’s degree, it’s really special,” Buczkowski said. His father passed away in 1982.
“I remember exactly how long he was away from me,” she said while stroking a piece of blue fabric pinned to her shoulder.
The fabric was given to her by her husband. It was a part of his war game uniform.
“There was the Red army and the Blue army. Ray was Blue,” she explained.
They met when Farley helped arrange a dance for the maneuvers and the USO workers. The couple went on two dates before he left for Europe, part of the 5th Armored Division. He was gone for more than 19 months.
When Farley returned from Europe, she met him in New York and he proposed. They were later married in Watertown, N.Y.
Cpl. Kelton Herndon met his friend Chester Crausy at the maneuvers. They trained together and returned to Lebanon together. Herndon was stationed in Fort Stewart, Ga., with the 565th Anti-Aircraft Battalion.
“We used to have reunions with everyone. But our last one was about 40 years ago,” Herndon said.
Now living in Winchester, Crausy could not believe how much Lebanon has changed.
“He took me for a ride yesterday and I didn’t know where I was,” Crausy said later adding, “I’ve been to so many places in this world, I don’t remember them all.”
As he looked through the weapons on display, Roland Stewart recalled carrying at least 85 pounds of equipment on his back through Germany. He was part of the 172nd Battalion and spent eight days lying in a ditch staring at Germans that were positioned in the distance. They had orders not to shoot.
“We didn’t want them to know we were there,” he explained.