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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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Scroll down to find the interview of interest...on this page you will find:
Mrs. Claude Cason;
Paul Eugene Cooper;
Barney Davis;
Lawrence "Bigun" Peck;
Bob Reavis;
Estel Reavis;
Melvin Reavis;
Richard Storm;
Ed Tatman

By Jennifer Beach
11 March 1984

JENNIFER BEACH: What is your name?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Mrs. Claude Cason.

JENNIFER BEACH: When and where were you born?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: In Dequeen, Arkansas, on 22 September 1902. I moved to Panama, Oklahoma, when I was two.

JENNIFER BEACH: Do you have brothers or sisters?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Yes, I have one brother and one sister.

JENNIFER BEACH: Did you grow up in Panama?


JENNIFER BEACH: Where were your parents from?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: My dad was from Ohio and my mother was from Dequeen.

JENNIFER BEACH: What was your father's occupation?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: He was a pharmacist; he owned his own drug store.

JENNIFER BEACH: How different was that from today's drug store or pharmacy?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: It was quite different. We just had a drug store and a few other things, mostly medicines, and, of course, a fountain for ice cream and sodas, which were made from real syrup and were served in glasses. No cans.

JENNIFER BEACH: Did your mother ever work outside the home?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: She helped in the store some.

JENNIFER BEACH: Did you work when you were growing up?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Yes, I was practically raised in the store. I loved it, especially when it came to eating candy and ice cream.

JENNIFER BEACH: Where did you go to school?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: I attended grade school in Panama, through the 9th grade, and went three years to St. Anne's Academy in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

JENNIFER BEACH: Wasn't that unusual for a boy or girl to go away from home to high school?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Yes, it was, back then.

JENNIFER BEACH: What kind of clothes did the young people wear when you were a teenager?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Everyone wore dresses in those days. The boys were the only ones to wear pants or overalls. Females, even those on farms, did not wear pants or slacks.

JENNIFER BEACH: What kind of social life did you have at school in Ft. Smith?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: We had very little social life. We went on long walks on Sunday afternoons, always accompanied by a Sister, or could sometimes spend the weekend with a friend. Not often, though. I went home once a month, traveling by train.

JENNIFER BEACH: There were no parties or dances or such connected with the school?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: We danced some but there were no boys. The girls danced with each other.

JENNIFER BEACH: What about when you were at home on vacation or for weekends?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: I spent most of my spare time helping in the store and practicing the piano, which I would do to get out of other work, and helping with the housework. We got a car when I was 14 and I drove it but I couldn't go very much, just in town.

JENNIFER BEACH: How old were you when you got married?


JENNIFER BEACH: Did you move into a place of your own or live with your parents or his?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: We moved to Alma, Arkansas, after we were married and lived there one year. We had an apartment there and in Ft. Smith, where we also lived for one year. Then we moved to Keota, Oklahoma, in 1926 and lived there for 40 years.

JENNIFER BEACH: What kind of transportation did most people have when you were growing up?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Well, in early marriage, we had a car but when I was growing up, we traveled by train. We had two trains going through Panama and that's the way we traveled to Ft. smith and other places we wanted to go. Every summer, we went to spend the month of August with my grandparents in a small town close to Dequeen. My grandfather was a doctor there. We had enough fun that one month last us all year! We had lots of freedom there and it was the highlight of our year.

JENNIFER BEACH: Did people ride bicycles a lot to get around?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: We didn't have bicycles. Just two feet!

JENNIFER BEACH: You say you moved to Keota and lived there for many years. What business was your husband in there?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: He was in the grocery business at first and then the general mercantile store that he had with his brothers Bob, Ed, and Frank. They sold the business toward the end of the depression and they all left but we stayed on. My husband took over the large farm operation in Blaine Bottom. He later dealt in real estate and had other stores, but he kept the farm until it was sold to the government when Kerr Lake was being planned. After that, he dealt only in real estate.

JENNIFER BEACH: What was Keota like in those early years? What kinds of businesses were there?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: It hasn't changed all that much. Some of the same buildings are still there though some have new fronts. We had dirt roads then and there was a bank. In fact, at one time, there were two. There was a small movie house after the town got electricity in 1930. Before that, it was oil lamps and stoves, drawing or pumping and carrying water. I'll never forget when we got our first electric pump and had running water in the kitchen! And we got an electric refrigerator, an electric fan, and a radio.

JENNIFER BEACH: That really made a great difference in your life, didn't it?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Oh, yes! Then we moved into a house that had everything, indoor plumbing and central heat provided by a coal furnace in the basement!

JENNIFER BEACH: Wasn't there a hotel there at one time?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: I don't remember a hotel. The McKenzies had a boarding house there on the highway and anyone could go there to eat. That's the only place resembling a hotel that I remember.

JENNIFER BEACH: Did people go out of town much back in those early Keota days? It was difficult, I'm sure.

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: No, it was difficult. The only way anybody could go anyplace was by wagon or buggy and it would take a long time and the roads were never good. They were either dusty or muddy. If you had a car, and were going very far, you left early when it was cool and came back at night. In wintertime, we carried blankets to keep warm because those early cars didn't have heaters. People, who didn't own cars, went by train and sometimes the car owners did, too.

JENNIFER BEACH: How did the Depression affect you and your family? I know you had a business. How did that come through?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: It was hard on us as well as everyone else. During the worst times, we had to keep guards in the store at night but no one was ever turned away if they needed something. We gave more away than was ever paid for but a lot of those people paid years later. They never forgot. It pays to help people in trouble because we never know when we will need help ourselves.

JENNIFER BEACH: You raised a family of four daughters. What important things did you try to teach them?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: Well, we tried to instill in them the honesty and honor that we had been taught, and of course, love. I think that is why we are such a close family today.

JENNIFER BEACH: How do you think children today are being raised differently?

MRS. CLAUDE CASON: The big difference in raising children today is that they have more freedom and not enough responsibilities or discipline. They have too much free time and, of course, cars!

JENNIFER BEACH: Thank you, Mrs. Cason, for you time and your interest in this project.

(This concludes the interview of Mrs. Claude Cason by Jennifer Beach.)

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By Amanda Beal
May 13, 2002

PAUL COOPER: They looked through our ears, they looked through our everywhere.

AMANDA BEAL: So did you get to pick which service you wanted to go into?

PAUL COOPER: Yeah, anyhow, we went through this line and if we volunteered you could get into any branch you wanted to. But if you didn't volunteer, in other words, if you were drafted, then they told you where you went. Now see I would have been drafted, but I volunteered before I was drafted, so I could have a choice. I wanted to go into the Marine Corp, I thought.

AMANDA BEAL: So where did y'all go from there?

PAUL COOPER: We went from Muskogee to Tulsa, then to Oklahoma City that day, that night. There was four of us that left from Tulsa to join the Marine Corp when we got to Oklahoma City there was more guys down there. We went down to the recruiting station and were sworn in, then we were shipped to the Marines in San Diego.

AMANDA BEAL: So in a 24 hour period you were inducted into the Marines? You weren't scared or anything?

PAUL COOPER: No, I wasn't scared, I wasn't smart enough to be scared.

AMANDA BEAL: Where was the first battle you went to?

PAUL COOPER: We went to San Diego and were in boot camp for eight weeks, after that we came home and went back to San Diego and from San Diego we transferred to Camp Tiddlemen. Then we were assigned to an outfit and we trained until November or December. We made a ten day pass and came back to San Diego. They left San Diego the 13th day of January and didn't know where they were going, then we got to Hawaii, I don't remember what day we got to Hawaii. They called us all out from Hawaii and said they were all going to the Marshall Islands and that was the first battle on land, when we got that done we went back to Maui. We trained some more and then went back onto another ship, and when we finished that operation we came back to Maui. We came back to the same place every time. When we left for combat, we left our tents rolled, secured our bunk, took our bedroll with us, and we came back every time to the same bed.

AMANDA BEAL: So it was like your home away from home?

PAUL COOPER: Yeah, on January 14th, 1944 we embarked on a LST in San Diego. We disembarked at the Marshall Islands.

AMANDA BEAL: So the guy you left Porum with, was he with you the whole time?

PAUL COOPER: No, he went into the navy. A funny thing is he kept begging me to go into the Navy with him, I didn't know what one was from the other. So when I went up he kept saying, "Why didn't (you) go into the Navy with me?" he went up to a navy officer and said that he wanted to join the marine corps and he said "Fine" and just stamped it like that. So when I walked back over to my friend he said "Whatcha get?" I looked down and saw US Navy, I ran back over and said, "I don't want in the Navy" he said "Son you are in the Marine Corp, the marine's part of the navy."

AMANDA BEAL: Do you ever talk to him or know where he is at now?

PAUL COOPER: Yeah, he's in Muskogee, he's been up there for a long time.


AMANDA BEAL: How many battles were you in?


AMANDA BEAL: What battles were you in?

PAUL COOPER: Kwatlein, Saipan, Tiniean, Iwo Gima.

AMANDA BEAL: Which would you say was by far the worst?

PAUL COOPER: Iwo Gima. They were all bad, but the reason I say that one, Amanda, is because we lost 6,851 men. The Japanese lost 21,000 men, so we had 27,000 dead men lying around.

AMANDA BEAL: I wonder how many people were there?

PAUL COOPER: The Japanese had around 23 or 24 thousand; we had around 80 thousand. So we're talking about over 100 thousand people.

AMANDA BEAL: Wow, so you were one out of a hundred thousand?

PAUL COOPER: Anyhow, it was just one of those things because there wasn't no trees, no shelter, no nothing.

AMANDA BEAL: So basically it was just face to face combat?

PAUL COOPER: They were underneath the ground, they all had caves, we couldn't see them.

AMANDA BEAL: So how did y'all attack them since they were underground and everything?

PAUL COOPER: We threw torches down in the holes, so needless to say it didn't smell very good.

AMANDA BEAL: So you were 18 years old when you went in?

PAUL COOPER: No, I was 19.

AMANDA BEAL: How old were you when you got out?

PAUL COOPER: I was 22. I was in for 30 months. I went in May of 1943 when I graduated from high school, and got out November of 1945. I was in for the duration of the war plus six months. I was in till the end. The war was over in September and I wasn't supposed to get out until March, but I got out in November. They let us out in November because we had enough points, but the guys that didn't have enough points stayed till March and that was one of the bad things about it, because when I got back I was one of the very first that got out and all my other buddies ere still in and there was nobody to run around with. It was the most miserable things you could ever imagine. Now, listen, you are going to miss high school whether you like it or not.


AMANDA BEAL: What were you looking forward to the most when you got home from the war?

PAUL COOPER: I was hoping that it would be like when I left, but things are never the same. You'll find that out soon. Your friends get married and have kids and you'll get married and have kids, you never know what you are going to do.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Paul Eugene Cooper, by Amanda Beal.)

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By Randi Stout
May 14, 2002

(Skip ahead to subject of army)

RANDI STOUT: What did you do in the army?

BARNEY DAVIS: I was in field artillery during the war.


BARNEY DAVIS: Yeah. I took my basic training at Camp Roberts, California. Then they sent me to Camp ?, Mississippi. I went from there overseas in 1945, I stayed over there till 1947. I went over there to Germany where the war was going on. I got out of the war in 1947. I flew from New York back to California and worked, I don't know, let's see, I worked for ? Then we came back here when I married Naomi.

(Skip ahead)

RANDI STOUT: So you were in WWII?

BARNEY DAVIS: I didn't go in the beginning, but I was there at the end. It started when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. I went in to combat in 1945. I was in England and France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland. I was working in field artillery, so I wasn't on the front line all the time like the infantry. The guns we shot used 205 pd. Shells. We could set it up right here (in Hoyt) and blow Eufaula to pieces. That's how powerful they were.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Barney Davis, by Randi Stout.)

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By Lyndie Swink
May 16, 2002

(Skip ahead to subject of army)

LYNDIE SWINK: What war were you in?

LAWRENCE PECK: Korean War. I went in in 1952 and before my basic training was over, eleven weeks afterwards, the Korean War was over. So I spent most of my time in the defense of Anti-Aircraft Artillery Outfit with 90 mm Anti-Aircraft guns in the defense of Boeing Aircraft in Seattle. We had N33 Radar and radar controlled anti-aircraft guns in platoon or in my company. There was 40 different gun batteries round Boeing Aircraft in Seattle.

I was over across the bay what they call Harbor in the ferry dock, and every time we needed to go to Seattle, we had to take the ferry boat. This big navy shipyard in Washington and they had 3 other anti-aircraft batteries in the shipyard at Washington. We had another one on Bashan Island which was about 15 miles long and about 5 miles wide. Puget Sound waters, was where the ships came in, they docked there in almost down town Seattle. They had a big war there. They had in the neighborhood of 200 docks or ports.

And the Seattle area, it rained awful every day, except for 3 weeks in July and there is only 4 degrees difference between summer and winter. I thought, man we'll have us a nice time. Well, the 4th of July we was able to get off and go swimming and we all gathered and hit the water and I tell you I almost froze! When I came out of there I had goose bumps and I turned blue, I was so cold.

We built our own barracks and we stayed in what they called the Quonset huts, and we bought buildings and put them all together and made barracks during the time I was there. Anything to get out of those Quonset huts. They had dirt floors, so we had quite an experience.

(Skip ahead to subject of Civil War battle at Tamaha)

LAWRENCE PECK: (Skip) I'll tell you that Tamaha is the only place in Oklahoma that there was a naval battle fought during the Civil War. The only place. And I take pride in that.


LYNDIE SWINK: Where did you find the cannon ball?

LAWRENCE PECK: It was about a mile and a quarter from where the battle took place. Where they captured the boat. But it was less than 5 feet from the edge of the black top, on the north side of the road.

LYNDIE SWINK: You would think that someone would have already seen it if it was that close to the road.

LAWRENCE PECK: That is what I'd think, too. Where I found it, the guns that they used in those days would not carry that far, so evidently, one of the Indians had such a load of bacon and flour and ammunition that he had this cannon ball on his wagon, and to lighten his load he took this off. He would rather have 8 pounds of bacon than 8 pounds of cannon ball.

So in the process of rebuilding that road they probably pulled up that ball within 5 feet and never did see it. But I was brush hogging there and it hit something and that is the only time I ever got off to see what it was that I hit. It was round so I took my pocket knife out and went to digging around it and the farther I got, the bigger around it got. J. L. Stancil that works for the county, he come along while I was cleaning it up to see what it really was. That's one of those be there stories.

(Insert statements from the beginning of the interview which pertain to the cannon ball referenced above, and to the battle at Tamaha)

LAWRENCE PECK: Everything you read that they had down there at Tamaha, that battle was, they say, was all 6 pounders. But this is an 8 pound cannon ball. You see some of this stuff, Jim Edder from OKC, came and interviewed me years ago, and this was issued 1964 about the J. R. Williams. Was a boat of this type, and it was a side wheeler, so Indian rebels brought home bags.

The Indians, after the battle, after they got all the supplies off of the boat, and set it afire. And burnt it to the water line. And set it adrift. And the Indians loaded their wagons, they had bacon, flour, ammunition and all this stuff. They deserted General Stand Watie to take this stuff home and feed their families. This came out of a book called the "Red Fox" which they nick-named General Stand Watie the Red Fox.

It was Pleasant Bluff, but some people called it Pheasant Bluff, but there ain't never been a pheasant in Tamaha. The Red Fox and capturing of the steam boat and it starts right here. So can have all this if you would like to. My wife made copies of this for you. General D. H. Cooper, P.S. Now you read this. I have no idea where it was he was talking about.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Lawrence Peck, by Lyndie Swink.)

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By Abbie Jansen
May 17, 2002

Introduction: I interviewed Mr. Bob Reavis. Even though the interview was kind of short, I leaned a great deal about Mr. Reavis and his life. Mr. Reavis graduated from Stigler High School, and then married and started a family. He joined the United States Army and in 1943, after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Reavis was sent to fight in World War II. He is an exceptional person who has accomplished many things in his lifetime. I am very glad that I was able to get to know him and by doing so, it gave me a better insight on the war and on life in our community back then. It gave me a better appreciation for our veterans and I am proud to know Mr. Reavis. Abbie Jansen

(Skip ahead to subject of army service)

BOB REAVIS: (Skip) The army called me in 1943. So I went into the army. I was born December 18, 1917, and went into the military on the 18th of November, 1943. And I spent 3 years and I got discharged on January 11, 1946. Spent three years in the army in the South Pacific, in the 25th Division. And after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. And they sent us over there to fight.

And that's where I spent my army days, over in the Philippine Islands, Lozan. And it's the first place that I went. Lozan Beach and Lungana gulf in January 1945. And 165 days of combat until August of 1945 and the 32nd Division relieved my division, the 25th, and we pulled back to get ready to hit Japan.

So in August sometime they dropped the atomic bomb, and we went on into Japan, to occupy Japan, but we didn't have to fight over there. So I stayed in Japan till December, and got to come home the ninth of December, and I boarded this ship and thought I could make it back to California by Christmas time to spend with my family.

I had a wife and two kids, but we were out three days on the ocean, and they said over the loud speaker that we were going back to New York City, to that harbor. They wanted to ship back over there on the Atlantic side. So we had to go through the Panama Canal around to New York City. It took 23 days. I spent another Christmas on the ship. So we got in New York in January and from there we went to Camp Kilmore, New Jersey, and then on to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. And that's where I was discharged. Caught the M.K.N.T. Katy Railroad on home. That was it.

ABBIE JANSEN: Did you have any special jobs to do while you were in the army?

BOB REAVIS: Yes, one special job, I got to drive a truck over in New Caledonia, that's where I joined the 25th Division. I got to drive a truck in New Caledonia, then they called me to go to the 25th Division and I got in there and I was in the sixty millimeter mortars. I started in as the last ammunition carrier, and then I got to work up to the first gunner and then whenever we moved back from the combat zone, all the cooks had enough points to go home, so I got to be a cook. Then I cooked until I got discharged. I was in the sixty millimeter mortars all through combat.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Bob Reavis, by Abbie Jansen.)

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By Jacob Hunter Basden
May 14, 2002

Introduction: Perhaps his most memorable moment is growing up on the Taloka Prairie, or attending Stigler Boone School, or being inducted into the United States Army at the age of nineteen years old. No matter what memory it may be, Estel Reavis cherishes them all. Being a twin out of eleven siblings provided Estel with a busy and congested life. He can remember his early school days where he and others danced the night away in a barn. He can remember that November afternoon in 1943 when he was drafted by the United States government. Soon after he was released from the army, he married a woman and they raised two daughters together. Mr. Reavis then journeyed into the work force in the Haskell County area where he worked at Keota's Bradford Ranch, helped construct the Kerr and Eufaula dams, and was employed by an ice company. But Estel's life was not "happily ever after". You will hear how he witnessed his best friend die in England, and how he was electrocuted so severely that he almost died himself. So grab a seat, make yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy the adventurous tales of the life and times of Estel Reavis. Jacob Hunter Basden

(Skip ahead to subject of army service)

JACOB BASDEN: So let's move on to your time in the army.

ESTEL REAVIS: I was inducted into the Army in November 1943. I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and from there I was transferred to Camp Blanding, Florida for 17 weeks of basic training.

JACOB BASDEN: I bet that was rough?

ESTEL REAVIS: Rough. Rough. I got out of that and came back by home on a 10 day delay route to Fort Mead, Maryland and from there we were sent to Port Embarkation in New York. The next day we caught a British transport, named Apalone Castle boat. There were 7000 troops on this boat headed for Liverpool, England, and we were 15 days and nights on the water.

We unloaded after a night in Liverpool, and we went to bivouac and pitched our tents and spent the night in pup tents. The next day we caught a train, a troop train to South Hampton in England near the English Channel. And we crossed the English Channel. Shortly after D-Day invasion, which was June 6th.

There was two beaches which they invaded, one was Omaha, one was Utah, and so we went in on Utah beach, we were replacements for the infantry, they had taken the beaches and were scattered around. We went to the first little town which was St. Lowe, that is where we joined the outfits, the infantry, the captain came and picked up as replacements and most everyone went into the rifle company, but I took training in heavy weapons, so they placed me in the machine gun squad.

See, there are two squads in a company, the purpose of that is if part of your company gets pinned down you have to come in with protective fire and get them out of situations. One machine gunner would go with a first gunner and second gunner and three ammunition bearers that carried two boxes of ammo each, the first gunner and the second gunners wore pistols that were little short pistols. You had to keep the ammunition handy, if the riflemen had to go on patrol they would pick a gunner to go with them as supportive fire in case they got pinned down and get everybody down and then they could get away.

We went to Headrose. Headrose was a major outfit that all the Germans were behind. They were fields that were a few acres that had mounds of dirt that had brush around them and there was very fierce fighting, we lost a lot of casualties in Headrose. I had one real good buddy about my size and we slept, we dig a fox hole every night to sleep in, or a slit trench, about the size of an ordinary grave that you could get in and stretch out in and lie in that, and if you could find any post to put across and throw some dirt on top of you could make a little fort.

So I had this good buddy whose last name was Whitehead, he was from Pennsylvania, that song "Pennsylvania Polka" was pretty popular at the time, he was always humming that. So one day the company of mine, there were A, B, c, and G companies, I was in G company, G and F were side by side, and G company we got ahead of the companies, we spearheaded on out, we got way ahead, we were about half a quarter ahead, it was about dusky dark, the Germans used a lot of artillery. They used a wicked gun they called a JU 88, it was an artillery gun, they would shoot a barrage of 8 shells, it went "boom, boom, boom, boom". And I was standing guard across the field and my buddy Whitehead told me he was exhausted and he told me he didn't want to dig a two man hole, so I told him fine and to go build a one man hole and rest and I would pull my guard duty here and then someone else can take over and I will dig mine.

There was this big rock across Headrose and the Germans spotted us from somewhere, and them suckers dropped a barrage right in on top of us, boy I was hugging that rock and the shrapnel was flying and I was praying and I kept thinking that Whitehead was down in the slit trench about six feet in front of me and I kept thinking that (when the) artillery let up a little bit I would jump in there with him, and it's a good thing I didn't because about another few seconds another barrage of 8 had landed, and one had landed right on top of Whitehead, and that poor boy never knew what hit him. And the dirt and posts were on top of him and there were two little hands sticking out of the dirt, so me and my squad leader pulled Whitehead out of the hole, and every bone in his body was broken and his clothes were blown off of him.

And we just left him laying there and we found a German blanket and we covered him with that, and we took his rifle and his helmet and we left him so that they could find him and bury him. But we went on and kept going, and we got to the Normandy breakthrough, we got out of the Headrose, we went across the wheat country. They grew this good wheat, it reminded us of the state of Kansas, they had the binders that we used 50 years ago to harvest the wheat and gather it in bundles. Back home we always hooked four horses side by side to haul the binder, but they hooked the () to the binder and then one another behind it until they had four horses and had a little kid riding the lead horse, he was doing the driving. But anyway, every farm house along the road had an apple orchard. We would hike up the road, one on each side, about 10 feet apart, we would hike all day.

Everyone would get up at 6 o'clock in the morning because the Germans would make their counter attacks between 6 and 7 in the morning. So after we ate our rations we would move out and the Germans would travel all night, they kept going back to their "fatherland" that's what they called it, we had them on the run. We couldn't catch them until about 5 in the afternoon, then we would have a pretty big fight until about sundown, dark, we would dig into a defensive position. We would have two machine guns, and we would have crossfire where nothing could get down the road all night.

We kept getting so far behind, they would leave a German sniper behind, along the road, they would put him in a tree. Well, every little town had a church steeple and they would always have a sniper in the church steeple, so we learned to knock that down pretty shortly, they would do that to slow you up while their troops were moving back towards the "fatherland". So we got through the Normandy Breakthrough and we jumped the Sigfried line. That imaginary line had pill boxes and they were way down in the ground, just like a school house cellar, all along this line that separated one country from another country, they were about 20 to 30 miles long, they had a slot down in the pill box so that they could have a 20mm artillery piece that they could move back and forth certain distances.

But we didn't pay attention to them, we would just send one G.I., he would get down on his belly and get under the line of fire, and he had a satchel charge, which was a sack of T.N.T. with a detonator and one G.I. could set it off and blow the Germans out of that hole and they would come out of there with blood running out of their mouths, nose and ears and they would holler "comrade" which meant they were giving up. We went across that, which took forever, then we got to the Hurtgin Forest which seemed to take forever and a day, that was a long, long battle. My squad leader got shot in the knee, it almost shot his knee plum off, they sent him back, they had a medic come up and get him on a stretcher and sent him back to the rear and we never heard from each other for 20 to 25 years.

And one day I was mowing the yard back home and I got a phone call and it was Grant Dickered, who called and we had a big long visit on the phone, he found me through an ad in the Reader's Digest. A lady from the area had written a little article about her and her little dog that would sit at the table and drink coffee with her, she would pour a little coffee in a saucer for the dog. They wrote the article and Dickered was reading the article and he saw the name Stigler, Oklahoma, and so he told the ammunitions bearers that was visiting him, he had lost his wife since he had been back home, he was on his way to Florida because he spent his summers in Florida, but he lived in Michigan. Dickered lived in English, Indiana, he had moved from Michigan to Indiana because the crime rate had gotten so high, he moved to a little country settlement and built him a brick home.

We corresponded back and forth for a year, we wrote and called, we told all our experiences, we were going to meet that year but I got a letter from his wife that said he had a massive heart attack, so we never got to meet each other to talk.

I went on from second gunner to first gunner. We had a big battle coming up on the side of a mountain and we had dug in on the side of this mountain, the top of the mountain had fir trees and brush and it was gull of Germans, we were going to have a battle at H Hour, which was one o'clock, we were supposed to go over the top, that was November, that is when Dickered got hit. They shipped him to a special hospital, where they sent all the amputees. That evening a hand grenade or shell landed right in my face, that day before that big attack we had to hide everything, so I had a billfold with pictures and things, and all that stuff went everywhere, bent my dog tags, broke my razor, messed up all the stuff in my wallet, everything in my picket, and these things saved my life by stopping the flying shrapnel from hitting my heart.

JACOB BASDEN: Wasn't there a picture of Mrs. Benham in your wallet?

ESTEL REAVIS: Yeah, there was a picture of Carolyn, when she was a baby, a friend and others, I brought them home but I have looked and looked and can't find them. She wasn't even a year old then, he mother Fanny always sent me pictures of Carolyn, that helped save my life too.

JACOB BASDEN: What about the Battle of the Bulge?

ESTEL REAVIS: I didn't get to stay there long, my feet froze and they sent me back and I was 3 weeks in rehab getting them thawed out and they threw me out because I couldn't walk. I landed in a trucking battalion. I had to stay, by then the war was over and this point system came out where people who had wives and children got to come home first, which was right. They added at home and away time and everything added up, so I was single and 19 so I had to stay another year in the battalion and had to do observation duty, we were hauling troops to boats to send them home.

We would get a bunch of troops in and we had to be a certain place a certain time, because of the tides and that is when the boats would be there and you had to load the troops before the tides went out. I had 85 points and I got to come home.

I went to Antwerp, Belgium on February 1, 1846 and left on February 28. We were on a really nice American ship, "Victory" and we were only 8 days and nights from returning to NY. It had the nicest mess hall, comfortable and the American sailors manned it, we had good eats. I got back on March 13th, we had to stay in Camp Kilmore, NJ, and then took a troop train to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, the 15th of March I got my discharge. It was a long trip with a lot of uninvited guests.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Estel Reavis, by Jacob Hunter Basden.)

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By Evan Perranoud
May 16, 2002

(Skip ahead to subject of Army service)

MELVIN REAVIS: I didn't have to do much service for the Army.

See, when I was eighteen, which was in 1945 and the European War was over on May the eighth in 1945, and I hadn't even got out. Well, I had just graduated from high school and I had to sign up the, see my birthday was on the thirty-first of May so I had to register for the draft.

And then Europe had give up and by the time the July draft came, you see, they did have a, didn't call up anyone for the draft in July, so I missed that one for another 30 days and the twentieth of August in 1945, I got drafted, and I forgot what day, but it was in August when Japan give up. So boy, I mean they was turning them loose right and left.

So I got a, they called it a dependency discharge, like "Saving Private Ryan", something like that except there was four, four, I had three older brothers in the service, I was the fourth one. And they, if you lived on a farm, you know, you could file for a discharge, you know, that could go ahead with the farm, so I put in for a discharge and got it. And I only had seven, six months or seven, let's see what was it, seven months and twenty days something like that, military days, but I signed up in the reserves and stayed in the air force reserves for three years, but in the mean time I went to work for PSO.

And we had 2 boys, you know by the time the Korean War came along and that was essential work electric, with the electric company, so they didn't call me. I missed it all, I didn't much care, I didn't care about the military anyway.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Melvin Reavis, by Evan Perranoud.)

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By Cameron Kasbaum
May 22, 2002

Introduction: Personally I just feel that out there in today's society there (are) so many veterans that are living, but still suffering because they haven't been given the time or effort to be calmed down and worked with to get rid of some of the tragedies that are lingering on in their heads. So for me to give a person (the chance) to talk about what happened to them many years ago at war or in the service, I feel like this assignment is giving us the chance to give those few veterans a chance to get something out that maybe they've wanted to tell for a very long time. (Skip) I wish there was some way that every veteran could express their true feelings through tape. But at least I'm glad I got to do one, my own step dad, I feel that this will let me get to know him better. So thank you for giving me that opportunity. Cameron Kasbaum

CAMERON KASBAUM: The first question Richard, is how come you decided to join the military?

RICHARD STORM: I kind of came into it as an inheritance, my father was in the army air corps during WWII and that was the grand adventure of his life. All my life I grew up listening to stories of things he did and the contribution he made during WWII. His job was as a mechanic for General Patton's army anywhere they went. He was in North Africa and when Patton went to European continent he followed behind and was in support there in Sicily and Italy and so forth, all the way through the progression of the war. Like I said, I grew up hearing these stories, I always admired him for the contribution he made, you know he wasn't a great warrior or anything like that, he was just one of the millions of guys that gets to go off and try to do away with the great evil of the time. As a boy I felt that when I grew up, when I was of the age to go off and do whatever was necessary at that point, then that's what I wanted to do. That was pretty much my frame of reference.

CAMERON KASBAUM: You just wanted to follow in his footsteps.

RICHARD STORM: Yeah, pretty much. I always admired him a lot and wanted to be like him, and so I kind of set that as my goal. The kind of bad thing about that was, when I was in school, I really didn't care about learning anything because my mind was set that I was going to go off and join the air force, which is what I did. The main reason that I joined was that there was a war going on. The Vietnam War started when I was about 15.

CAMERON KASBAUM: That brings up a good question, what was about the date that you started to join the military?

RICHARD STORM: I went in, in July of 1967, then served through July 1969.

CAMERON KASBAUM: How old were you?

RICHARD STORM: I was 17 when I went in, I was about 2 to 3 months away until I was 18, and graduated, and went straight in. I was the youngest guy everywhere I went; I was the youngest guy on the base, kind of like everybody's kid brother.

CAMERON KASBAUM: Well, you had a lot of older brothers there. But what were your feelings, besides the obligation, were you kind of anxious to go, or was it fearful? How was the emotional side of it to you?

RICHARD STORM: Well, it was, well, I'd like to tell you that I was pretty much scared to death. When I'd signed the papers when I had just turned 17, to commit to going as soon as I graduated. The closer it got, the more nervous I got. Of course seeing it on the news every night, the war was a sobering thought. To think that you were going to go off and leave a little town in Oklahoma and commit yourself to whatever they asked you to do. Yeah, to be honest, I was pretty frightened. I just pretty much put it in the Lord's hands. I didn't know what contribution I could make but just go and do my best. And be the best I could be for them, and do what they told me to do. It's always a real important thing in the military to never ask too many questions, not try to be in charge, go where they tell you to go, be where they tell you to be. Other than that, sit down, shut up, and have at it.

CAMERON KASBAUM: Richard, what was it exactly that you did, any certain kind of ranks you made it to?

RICHARD STORM: Well, I just went in as an enlisted man, they don't give 17 year olds a key to the Pentagon or anything. But I started off going in as an enlisted man, and I started off in basic training, went through that and survived, and then to Texas they decided to make a radio operator. I was a Morse code radio operator. I had to use the Morse code. When some think it disappeared from the face of the earth.

CAMERON KASBAUM: Yeah, well we still have walkie-talkies though.

RICHARD STORM: Yeah, some radio operators still use them. It's pretty old timey. They decided to put me into intelligence work and we were trying to figure out what all the time what the others were up to. So I went down to Blondie Mississippi. And six months of tech school down there and while I was doing that they ran a security check on me and I had to get a top secret security clearance which is one of the highest they give and that was like a big ordeal. They had FBI agents over to Collinsville talking to old teachers and my neighbors. They were trying to find out if I was a good citizen or part of an organization or anything like that. They asked me if I had ever been in a submissive organization, at that time, I didn't even know what that was.

CAMERON KASBAUM: You got checked front to back.

RICHARD STORM: Yeah, I was pretty much an innocent, I was pretty much able to get that security clearance. I didn't do much wrong in my life.

CAMERON KASBAUM: What's there to do wrong in Collinsville?

RICHARD STORM: Yeah, there wasn't much to really get into, maybe a little cow tipping. Wasn't much trouble going on over there. So I was in the tech school for six months and then got out of there and of course we all thought we were going to ship out to Vietnam. Some got sent over there but for some reason I got sent to Germany instead. Went over to Germany and was there for two years and after I finished there everybody figured the next thing from there was Vietnam. And when I left there for some reason they decided to send me to San Antonio instead. I missed out of the war entirely, and kind of had mixed feelings about that.

CAMERON KASBAUM: Yeah, but you got to do all the background stuff.

RICHARD STORM: Yeah, well I think that's one thing about military services is that when you go in it's a huge organization, and each person does his part. And I think that they try to set each person doing the thing he's most fitted to. I think probably they took one look at me and decided I wasn't going to make much of a warrior. And decided to put me on something I could use my head instead.

CAMERON KASBAUM: Well, see, you just got head-to-head combat instead of hand-to-hand. I'd rather pick the brains over the hands anyway.

RICHARD STORM: It was interesting work. Of course the interesting thing about it was I was 18 years old and I was working with top-secret information. And we were all sworn to secrecy and a lot of things I learned at that time I never told a soul in my life. You know some things you just keep to yourself. But it was good work and it was interesting and we were kind of, I guess, cold warriors. We were on the side where the cold war was going on at that time. All the political intrigue with Russia, all the communist nations. That was the side we were working on.


(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Richard Storm, by Cameron Kasbaum.)

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By Lyndsey Ogden
May, 2002

Introduction: "My interview with Mr. Tatman was very fulfilling. He made me see that, even though he did not encounter all the horror stories you usually hear about from Vietnam, he truly felt guilty to be alive. He has a very sincere heart and thought a lot about the families who had lost loved ones, and him coming home without a scratch. Vietnam is still hard to talk about for him. I wonder what it is like for those who were in Vietnam when it climaxed. Talking with Mr. Tatman gave me a lot more respect for soldiers. They are just like you and me, who have to wonder from day to day if they will survive or not. Fighting at Vietnam made him wonder if they were really fighting for what they were told they were fighting for. It is sad to think that America could have lost that many men for natural resources. The interview helped me see the bigger picture of all types of heroes: dead or alive. Lindsey Ogden

LINDSEY OGDEN: What were some memories from high school?

ED TATMAN: Born and raised in Stigler. Graduated in 1963, with half a credit shy. So I came back in 1965 for a semester to get the rest of this credit.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Did you have any friends from Stigler go off to war with you?

ED TATMAN: No. But I met a boy from Stigler in the buddy system. His name was Kenneth Fows, he drew drill instructor duty for three years and I was an aviation major after boot camp. Instead of infantry I went with the aviation option. Kenneth and I did make it through school at Memphis, Tennessee together, then I went to Vietnam, and he stayed on the east coast and was a drill instructor.

LINDSEY OGDEN: What was the buddy system?

ED TATMAN: If you're afraid of going alone, then you find someone compatible to you to hang out with to make you feel more comfortable.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Did you always know you wanted to be in the Army?

ED TATMAN: No. I still have a problem with those who could afford to keep their kids in college and got the legal way out. But some of my decision was patriotism.

LINDSEY OGDEN: How old were you when you enlisted?

ED TATMAN: 19. Stayed around Stigler for a while then I had a teacher hurt my feelings by asking me if I was still living at home, sponging off my mom and dad. It embarrassed me but was probably the best thing that could have happened because it motivated me to join the Marine Corps. I joined before they got the chance to draft me.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Was the Vietnam War going on before you enlisted?

ED TATMAN: I enlisted in April of 1965 and it had been going on for 10 years previous. The most troops we lost were in 1968-1969. About 18 to 20 thousand each year. A lot of protesting and burning buildings was going on. Eventually we pulled out in 1973 when we got our P.O.W.s.

LINDSEY OGDEN: How long were you there?

ED TATMAN: I did a 13 month long tour. From May of 1966 to June 1967. I then volunteered for a seven month long deal so I would not have to go on another tour.

LINDSEY OGDEN: After boot camp did you get shipped immediately?

ED TATMAN: No, this is kinda my angel story. I was not aware of aviation in the military, only infantry. I ran into a guy in a doorway in a processing center in Tulsa, and he asked me and my buddies where we were going, and I gave some smart remark like "Off to kill Gooks" and he said, "No, are you going to the infantry or the air wing?" Being mechanically inclined, I said that sounded exciting. So he went and called headquarters in New Orleans, and then gave us a test which we passed. I would have never made it in infantry because my arches dropped the third month in boot camp, and your feet are what carry you in infantry. In the air wing I got to ride.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Do you think boot camp prepared you for what Vietnam was like?

ED TATMAN: Probably adequate. Sometimes only real experience is your best education. My first day at work was to rescue a helicopter. We had been told that the enemy wore black pajamas, carried rifles, and had bad body odor. When I got out of my helicopter I saw little guys in black pajamas running towards me. Everyone wore black pajamas over there though.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Did everyone on your airplane survive?

ED TATMAN: Yep. All eight of us survived. When we made it back to our station and was all talking about what just took place and my crew chief looked over at me and said, "Tatman, you&'re now a veteran." When I got back to base they already had me another plane and mission.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Was your job to go pick up stranded soldiers?

ED TATMAN: Yes, I eventually became a crew chief who has an assigned aircraft. We toured with the helicopter. I actually have met up with one of the old aircraft that was at Vietnam, that we now take to schools and talk to the students with. I worked on this plane at Vietnam, and did time on it, but was not the crew chief.

LINDSEY OGDEN: When at Vietnam did you lose any friends or see anyone die?

ED TATMAN: We had an officer help go relieve a gunner in one of the airplanes for his lunch duty. They flew into a situation and one of the marines got into the plane and his grenade came off his belt and killed everyone on the plane. The guy who was relieving the gunner wasn't even on the plane 15 minutes.

LINDSEY OGDEN: What sticks out about Vietnam?

ED TATMAN: Well, we were told we were there to protect America because we were being run over, but they claim Vietnam is probably one of the largest untapped resources. Is that the reason we were there? I would hope that all the young men that died, didn't die for no reason.

LINDSEY OGDEN: After Vietnam were you more grateful to be an American citizen?

ED TATMAN: Not as much as today. But when we got out of Vietnam we were advised not to wear our uniforms.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Was Vietnam indescribable?

ED TATMAN: I had a blessed tour. It was just getting started when I arrived and did not escalate until 1968-1969. I think back to when I ran into that guy in the doorway, when he introduced me to the air wing, because a lot of guys did not make it, and if you were in infantry, you were more likely to die.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Was it hard to talk about Vietnam?

ED TATMAN: Most of us just tried to put it behind us. Until three years ago when this airplane surfaced from Vietnam, I hadn't really thought about it. There supposedly was not supposed to by any left, but we have become involved with it. A lot of the planes were destroyed or given to the South Vietnamese army. This aircraft happened to get shipped to Japan and reconstructed, then sent to southern California. A guy from Oklahoma bought it to ship large air conditioning machines, etc. for his business, until he found out it had combat history. We brought it to Stigler in 1999 for its first outing.

LINDSEY OGDEN: When you got home did you immediately marry?

ED TATMAN: Well, marriage was not in the plans, but I met my one and only wife in California pretty soon after getting out of the corps. She was an Okie, too. We've been married 33 years, I have three step children.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Would you go back to Vietnam today knowing what all went on?

ED TATMAN: Wouldn't have it any other way. Makes you wonder if I would be so willing to go back, if I had lost an arm or a leg.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Did you contact any people you met at Vietnam?

ED TATMAN: In some way. I've chased guys down and they say they are going to call me back and get together, and that's the last I hear from them.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Is it disappointing to think you had made some really good friends and them not keeping in contact?

ED TATMAN: Yes, it is disappointing. But coming back to this aircraft we travel with is a healing tool for us veterans to just sometimes let out all that we have bottled up.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Do you cry because you feel lucky to be alive?

ED TATMAN: Yes, there is a guilt trip there. A lot of guys didn't make it out and I walked out without a scratch. It hurts to think about what all the families went through.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Has it helped to talk to your family about it?

ED TATMAN: I get to thinking about the families who lost loved one, but not any more than what goes on around here.

LINDSEY OGDEN: How did you get started with the V.F.W.?

ED TATMAN: My dad was a veteran of WWII and there is a lot of satisfaction in working the other veterans. I just enjoy getting out. I feel a little obligation, though.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Was Stigler different from before Vietnam?

ED TATMAN: No, I fell right back into place. I am living in the same house I grew up in.

LINDSEY OGDEN: Is there anything else you would like to share?

ED TATMAN: Well, probably, but I am in no shape to tell them. I've kinda set myself up. Gilmore Christy was a classmate of mine, so our Christy Award winner is pretty special. He was in Vietnam with the army (infantry). Little bitty guy, we played football together.

(This concludes the excerpt of the interview of Ed Tatman, by Lindsey Ogden.)

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