Among the eight medals Emmett Harris brought home from World War II is a Purple Heart ... wounded in action.
Monday is Memorial Day, a national holiday to honor those killed in our wars. Harris made it back, but he had more than a few chances to remain “over there” on a permanent basis.
From Clay County, Harris found himself at Anzio, south of Rome, in the winter of 1944. From Anzio, Harris kept company with an M-1 rifle into Rome, then France and Germany.
You’ll find his story in:
Men and Women Who Served With Valor — Memories of WWII
It is a soft-cover book, written by Danny McCarty, who lives in Golden Springs.
Danny was too young for war, but he was the son of a career Army man, and his book is a compilation of interviews with 60 veterans from his father’s war.
“If you weren’t there, you don’t understand how bad it was.” — Artemus Gay
Gay is one of those you’ll find in Danny’s book, page 98.
The inspiration for telling the stories came on a day of sadness.
From Danny ...
“A man in our church, Golden Springs Baptist, had died. He was 80 years old, his name was Delone Grice, and he was a Navy man from World War II.
“During the service, I was looking at his casket and the thought came to me that he had a story to tell and nobody was ever going to know that story outside his immediate family and a few friends.
“That’s when it struck me, that I could tell their stories.”
It is no stretch to say Danny felt a kinship with the WWII vets. His dad, Austin, was career Army and had served in World War II. Danny grew up surrounded by the color khaki.
And, like most kids of that era, he and his buddies played “war” quiet a bit, “killing” Germans and Japanese by the thousands. Weapon of necessity was, says Danny, an old broom handle for a gun.
“You couldn’t whip a Jap, you had to kill him.” — Virgil Williams.
That is the bottom line on the brutality of war. Williams, from Sylacauga, joined the Marine Corps in 1943. He was wounded on Saipan in June of 1944. His story is on page 289.
Grice’s funeral was in the spring of 2009.
McCarty went home ... and started looking for World War II veterans.
There were several in his church. He talked with those first. He also began “asking around.” Word of mouth worked well, but there were also a number who didn’t want to talk about the horrors they had seen.
“I am no hero. The real heroes are the men buried under those white crosses.” — Marvin Brewer
Brewer, from Coosa County, was introduced to combat in North Africa as an infantryman with the Third Army ... under Gen. George S. Patton. He’s on page 41.
Some, says Danny, talked about their experiences for the first time.
One was Edd Prickett of Wellington, who was a German POW.
From Danny ...
“Somebody who worked with Edd at Bynum said he never knew he was a POW. When I left his house, his wife walked me to the door. She said, ‘He’s told you things I’ve never heard before.’
“I almost lost it right there. His trust really got to me.”
Prickett’s story is on page 240.
The book of Danny McCarty’s heroes was not an overnight production. It was a long labor of 18 months, beginning with interviews in the spring of 2009. Some weeks he would interview as many as eight or 10, other weeks maybe just a couple.
“It is a scary feeling to be in the water facing death all the time. A man is a fool if he says he wasn’t scared.” — Buck Bailey
Bailey, from Anniston, was a Navy frogman and was wounded while placing explosives on a reef just prior to the invasion of Guam. His story is on page 18.
Danny feels good about the book ...
“A lot people have said they really enjoyed the stories. One thing I hear frequently from people who have read the book is ‘I never knew he was in the war. He never talked about it.’
“It was very heart-warming to listen to their stories and to know they trusted me with those stories.”
The book is about heroes. It is about a generation going away quickly. It is about people you know (or knew) who you thought you knew ...
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: email@example.com