OUR VETERANS

Thomas Mangrum, Sr.

Thomas Mangrum, Sr. stated in 1993 "I did my best: I served my country, my county and my family." Mangrum is rightfully proud. His accomplishments are found in a booklet available at the Gwynn's Island Museum.

When Thomas was finishing High School, WWII was being fought in Europe and the Pacific. He joined the U.S. Army at age 17. He trained as a radio operator and cryptographer and was assigned to the all-black 761st Tank Battalion. Three hundred men and their tanks landing at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The battalion's motto was "Come Out Fighting" and they did just that for more than 6 continuous months. They blocked the Brussels-Bastogne Road preventing the Nazis from reinforcing their forces which had encircled the U.S. First Army at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought valiantly defeating a panzer division in the bitter cold. Then they fought through the Seigfried line and later, upon General George Patton's orders, joined up with Russian Forces in Austria. By war's end, the battalion had suffered almost 50% casualties and had lost 71 tanks to enemy fire.

Thomas Mangrum and fellow 761st Tank Battalion member John Weston traveled to Washington to receive the Audie Murphy award for Distinguished Military Service during WWII. At the ceremony, Mr. Mangrum said, "This does not belong to me. It belongs to the 34 men we lost in the Battle of the Bulge. So I will not 'put it on my dresser.' I will put it in a Museum in Mathews County, Virginia so when I'm gone the young people and others can see it."

After the war, Mangrum joined the U.S. Army Aviation Material Laboratories. During a special ceremony, Thomas Mangrum received the U.S. Army's second highest award for "bravery and courage far beyond the call of duty." In 1969, Thomas was serving as a member of a ground instrumentation team at Fort Eustis Airfield when an aircraft which was landing turned over and caught fire. Thomas, with complete disregard for his personal safety, pulled the pilot out of the flaming aircraft and then grabbed a fire hose and extinguished the blaze.

 

Corporal William F. Soles

TEC 5 William F. Soles, 33043159, 116th Infantry of the United States Army was awarded the Bronze Star for Bravery by Robert Patterson, Secretary of War, when he drove a truck loaded with ammunition under fire on the D-Day Invasion in Normandy, France.

On June 6, 1944 during the assault on the French Coast near St. Laurent-Sur-Ner, Tec 5 Soles distinguished himself by the outstanding manner in which he performed his duties as Truck Driver. Tech 5 Soles displayed exceptional courage by braving intense enemy artillery and small arms fire to remain on the beach with his disabled truck until he could restart it and move it inland where its cargo of ammunition would be safe from the incoming tide. Tec 5 Soles' initiative, daring, and devotion to duty were an invaluable asset to the successful seizure of the Normandy Beachhead and reflect great credit upon himself and the Military Service. Entered Military Service from Gwynn's Island, Virginia.

 
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Thomas Edward Jarvis

Thomas Edward Jarvis, served with the Third Battalion, 331st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division and was wounded twice in the European theater of World War II.

In April of 1945, the Third Battalion was assigned the mission of seizing the Lipps River Bridge intact. As the battalion approached the highway bridge leading to the Rhur Valley, the Germans blew it up. That did not stop the Americans forces. Leading elements of the battalion pushed across the nearby, fire-swept, 500 foot long railroad bridge. They cut the wires leading to the explosives set under the bridge. The remainder of the battalion crossed over the bridge and set up defensive positions. Supplies were hand carried over the bridge under almost continuous enemy fire. The battalion fiercely repulsed counter-attack after counter-attack, night and day. For three days, the enemy committed large numbers of infantry and armor in an attempt to retake the bridge. The battalion refused to give ground or be demoralized by the direct fire from the enemy. The battalion exhibited unwavering courage and fighting determination without yielding a yard of ground.

This unflinching devotion to duty and courage displayed by each man of the Third Battalion reflects the highest tradition of the armed services. Ed Jarvis earned two Purple Hearts.

 
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Lt. Commander Hugh M. (Dixie) Godsey

Lt. Commander Godsey's valiant leadership was the focal point of a huge successful encounter with 3 enemy subs on the U.S.S. Johnnie Hutchins.

Soon after the submarine encounter, the Johnnie Hutchins encountered a devastating typhoon. Many ships were lost to the storm and the sailors believed that without Lt. Commander Godsey, they would have suffered the same fate.

"He was a great man, a great man-the finest seaman we ever knew. He was a natural born navigator. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, he brought us home safe and sound."

 

Bill Dixon, AB U.S. Merchant Marines

Bill Dixon joined the Merchant Marines in 1936 when he was 17 years old. He served as able-bodied seaman aboard many unarmed merchant vessels before and during World War II. Two boats he served on were torpedoed and sunk by U-Boats. In each attack, Bill managed to climb aboard a rescue lifeboat while injured. He was also injured in the face by shrapnel during a German dive bombing attack in Algiers. Bill was honorably discharged in 1945 at the end of the World War. Afterwards, he rarely spoke to anyone about his wartime experiences.

Bill made his biggest mark in life by being nice to people. He ran a full service gas stop - Dixon's Exxon in Hudgins, Virginia. Johnny Dixon relates, "His service was very special to many of the communities; elderly, the handicapped and the needy citizens. He helped many who needed a little gasoline or service but were short on cash. He loaned money, gave credit, no paperwork required."

 

First Lt. Cathryn Hudgins Chitty

Cathryn Hudgins Chitty joined the Army Nursing Corp and served in the South Pacific during World War II.

In April of 1945, the hospital ship U.S.S. Mercy was at anchor during the Battle for Okinawa was under constant air raids from Japanese Kamikazi attackers. Over 14,000 allied troops lost their lives in the long battle for Okinawa. Many more were wounded and First Lt. Cathryn Hudgins Chitty bravely cared for those in need.

 

Gunners Mate 2C Bernard A. (Buck) Stansbury, Jr. 

Bernard enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 18 and served as an armed guard, Gunners Mate 2C, aboard merchant ships for 34 months during World War II. His ships were twice sunk from under him during his time in service.

Bernard earned the Bronze Star for outstanding service as a member of the armed guard aboard a merchant ship when it came under vicious attack by 32 hostile bombers off Gela, Sicily. Their vessel received 3 direct bomb hits which set fire to their ship. Despite the smoke and flames, Bernard and his crew stayed at their battle stations. The boat exploded shortly after they were ordered to abandon ship.

In January 1944, his merchant ship was torpedoed and sank off North Cape, Norway in a separate encounter. A British Navy destroyer rescued the men and took them to Murmansk, Russia where they received warm clothes and shelter. They were then transported back to the United States through Scotland. After a short leave at home, he boarded another merchant ship to serve again as Gunnery Mate.

 

Chief Petty Officer Alvin Burley Crockett, U.S. Navy

Alvin Crocket was 17 years old when he wanted to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He asked his mother to sign him aboard. She did and Al was off to Navy Boot Camp in Bainbridge, Maryland. In October of 1941, Al had completed boot training & aircraft engine mechanic school. He was then assigned to serve on the brand new, Norfolk built, aircraft carrier Hornet.

In April of 1942, the U.S. was losing the war and the national spirit was low. General Jimmy Doolittle volunteered to lead an airstrike against Japan. The carrier Hornet was berthed in San Francisco. Crews loaded and lashed down 16 U.S. Army Mitchell B-25 bombers. The Hornet was navigated as close to Japan as safely possible. Doolittle led first off and carrier with only 500 feet of runway. Al Crocket and the entire Hornet crew cheered mightily as each bomber cleared the flight deck. The raid was successful and the tides of war began to turn. Admiral Bull Halsey stated this attack was one of the most courageous acts of war.

The Hornet was involved in 4 major battles, including the Battle of Midway. However, the carrier was irreparably damaged and sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942. One-hundred and fifty sailors were killed. Al Crockett narrowly missed being severely injured by shrapnel during an enemy dive-bomber attacks at Santa Cruz.

 

Lt. Colonel Reginald Deagle

In 1968, the United States Marines were surrounded by the Viet Cong at Khe Sanh in the Republic of Vietnam. Lt. Colonel Deagle led his men of the 57th Transportation Battalion through heavy mortar and small arms fire to deliver ammunition and supplies to the besieged Marines.


With his men under attack, the convoy was forced to stop their vehicles due to obstacles in their path. Under cover, Deagle ran from one end of the convoy to the other, completely exposed to enemy fire in order for his men to get back into their trucks. Lt. Colonel Reginald Deagle was wounded during this brave action. No one was left behind and the convoy continued on to Khe Sanh. His fearless action earned the Bronze Star for exceptional valorous heroism.

Reggie was born on Gwynn's Island in 1922 to George and Lucy Edwards Deagle. He joined the Merchant Marines when he was 17 and saw service in World War II. He worked his  to Chief Engineer on ships delivering supplies to the Pacific Theatre of War.

He joined the U.S. Army after the war and retired from active duty in 1970 after 31 years of service. Although retired, he did not stop serving. he delivered meals on wheels for his Mathews' community. He was an active member of the Mathews American Legion Post 83 and he served the Piankatank Ruritan Club as Facility Manager until he passed away at age 93 in 2015.

 

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Gwynn's Island Museum, 1775 Old Ferry Road Gwynn, VA 23076

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