Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, May 26, 2017

LUTHER B. WORD, JR.

The Bright Star Falls in the Night.

The bright life of Luther Burns Word, Jr. began on this day 98 years ago.  The only son of Luther B. and Zennie Wood. Luther was a rising star in his high school years at Dublin High School. He was a trumpet player in the school’s first marching band and a member of “Lads and Lassies Band ” and the Ed Powel Orchestra in Dublin.  He sang in his church, the First Methodist, and was often called upon to play taps at memorial services.

As a young man, Luther lived with his father, a lineman for Western Union Telegraph Company, and his mother, who kept the family households at 502 Lawrence Street and 314 West Madison Street.

Luther joined with twelve of his fellow young future pilots to form the only chapter of Junior Birdmen between Atlanta and Savannah.  In the mid 1930s, thousands of teenagers across the country fell in love with the idea of flying airplanes.  Luther was one of those young men.  At the age of 16, Luther acquired his pilot’s license.  He joined the senior pilots, Izzie Lease, Clafton Barron,  and Bud Barron in pushing for a local airport in Dublin.  The movement paid off in the years before World War II.  The first true airport was located in the forks of the Country Club Road and North Jefferson Street, just north of Dublin.

Luther’s flying skills were tested early in his career. With only eight hours of solo time, Word took off from the Dublin Airport.  When he reached an altitude of 150 to 200 feet, his engine died.
Word immediately scanned the skyline and spotted a nearby field.  The young pilot skillfully guided the plane downward for a near perfect landing.  Only his landing gear was damaged.

Luther Word, Jr. joined the Army Air Corps and was initially assigned in 1940 to the 17th Bomb Squadron based out of Barkesdale Air Field in Bossier, Louisiana.  Word was transferred to the Pacific Theater as a member of the 90th Bomber Squadron of the 3rd Bomber Group of the 5th Air Force.

On January 31, 1942, Word and the members of his crew were flying one of their first missions off the coast of Australia.  With Captain Jack Bleasdale of San Antonio, Texas in command, Word’s B-24 Liberator was attacked by three Japanese fighters 23,000 feet in the air.   Rear gunner Brown jumped into action when two crew members were severely wounded.  Brown removed his own oxygen mask and went to the wounded men and provided them with first aid and his own oxygen supply.      Brown was awarded the Silver Star for meritorious performance of his duty. Crewman Francis Garvey was also awarded a Silver Star by General George H. Brett for his heroic actions in a separate event in March.  

In late April 1942 during a recon mission near Buna , the crew faced a similar situation and managed to survive relatively unscathed from an attack by five enemy fighters, two of which were shot down. Corp. Henry R. Sheppard, of Gibson, Georgia, Corp.  Andrew J. Swain and Tech Sgt.
Luther Word kept the fighters at bay during the 35-minute attack, knocking two of them out of the sky. Word, Sheppard and Swain were also awarded the Silver Star by Gen. Brett in recognition of
their extraordinary heroism and bravery during the air battle in shooting down two Japanese planes.

As the day of May 25, 1942, Luther celebrated his 23rd birthday by flying yet another mission. This time the flight plan called for taking off from Mile Drome near Port Moresby to bomb the Lae Airfield and surrounding the airfield.  Bombs were dropped on Lae Airfield and installations at Lae. After the bomb run, the American flyers were intercepted and attacked from Japanese Zeros based
out of Tainan Kokutai near Lae.

Lt. Bennett G. Wilson, kept flying Word’s aircraft with the aid of Co-Pilot Lt. Luther P. Smith, Jr..  Word, serving as the bombardier, scrambled to aid the gunners after his bombs were dropped. Engineer Cpl. Leaburn D. Myers kept the plane in the air as long as possible while  Sgt. Lloyd Bailey, of the Royal Air Force, repeated may-day messages.  Turret Gunner, Sheppard, did all he could to fend of the attackers in the sky.

An RAAF Status Card records that Word’s B-25C plane was “last seen losing altitude in the vicinity of Lae Airdrome, and it is believed that both engines had been put out of action by Japanese gun fire. Believed to have crashed in the vicinity of the airdrome."

A diary recorded, “Lt. Wilson and Lt. Hesselbarth’s ships were shot down immediately. Capt Lowery’s and Lt. Rullison’s ships quickly followed. About 20 miles outside of Lae, Lt. Shearer was forced to crash land in the water. The three remaining ships were attacked continuously until they reached Salamaua where the flight lost them in the clouds.”

In a cruel bit of irony, the news of the awarding of five Silver Stars to the crew was published in Dublin Courier Herald in early June, several weeks after Word and his crew were lost at sea and listed as missing.   Several reports of the finding of Luther and the crew were found to be false.

In Dublin, Bob Hightower, Jim Laney, Trammell Keen, Cordie Adams, Earl Hilburn and the entire Elks and Lions Club radioed a telegram to Brisbane Australia.  The $11.86 message read, "Heartiest congratulations. Great work.  We are proud of you.  Give ‘em hell.  Citation received here by press and radio. Mother and dad are fine.

The search for the plane or any survivors continued for a long time.  Back at home, Mr. and Mrs. Word held out all hopes that their son was still alive, even if he was captured by the Japan. On the 2nd anniversary of his death, Luther’s parents donated $10.00 to the Red Cross in remembrance of their lost son.

After his death, the Army Air Corps awarded Luther Word and Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a second Air Medal for his actions during his last mission, for which Word was awarded his second
purple heart.

Luther Word and the other American members of his crew were officially declared dead by the military on December 4, 1945.  His name and the names of others are listed on the Walls of the Missing in the American Cemetery in Manilla, Philippines.

Luther’s parents placed a cenotaph marker to the memory of their beloved son next to their own graves in Dublin Memorial Gardens. (Photo by Loree and Billy Beacham.)

And when that sad day was done and the nights were all too long and dark,  Luther’s parents realized that their son was truly gone. They took great solace that was all was well and their little boywas safe in his savior’s arms and God was near.

On this Memorial Day weekend and on every day of every year, take a few moments to reflect upon the memory of our heroes like Luther Word and the sacrifices they made to keep us free. 

PIECES OF OUR PAST - A HUMBLING MILESTONE - ONE MILLION VIEWS OF PIECES OF OUR PAST

To everyone out there in the cities, the countrysides, and in Georgia, in America, and around the world, from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you for taking time out of your busy, hectic, and sometimes troubled lives to read one of my stories or look at one of my collection of old photographs as well as my own photographs.  Sometime this past Thursday morning, somehow I managed to accumulate ONE MILLION views of my main blog, Pieces our Past, over the last 101 months.  I can not express how lucky I am to have been blessed with the ability and the desire to share the pictures and stories of people and places I love and those who I never knew, but have grown to admire.  I take great pride in being given the ability to share their stories of the triumph of the human spirit.  Even more satisfying is that the total of all blog views which stands at about $1,532,000.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

IMAGES OF OUR POST - SIGHTS SELDOM SEEN BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD - ALLENTOWN, GEORGIA - HISTORICAL MARKER


This marker, located at the northwest corner
of U.S. Hwy 80 and Ga. Hwy 112
in Allentown, Georgia was erected
by the John Ball Chapter of the
National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution
on October 12, 1934.

It marks the spot of the intersection of the
Carolina, West Florida and Savannah Lower
Creek Indian Trails at a traditional Indian
site and burial grounds and an early
white settlement and haven for refugee 
families in 1812 Indian alarms. 
















Tuesday, May 16, 2017

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - EARLY 1950S - STATE OF GEORGIA NEGRO 4-H CAMP, DUBLIN, GEORGIA


Back in the 1940s, the Georgia Negro 4-H organization established its state wide camp on the present site of Riverview Golf Course.  In the mid 1950s, with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and many white citizens in the community and the state, the club was expanded to include a large swimming pool and the Emory Thomas auditorium. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - BARNES - PEACOCK HOUSE - 901 BELLEVUE AVE.



This house was built circa 1885 by Dublin James Barnes Sanders.  Today, it is the oldest standing house on Bellevue. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT

A LITTLE OF THIS AND THAT

Captain Clement Yannacone was flying his jet from Warner Robins to Fort Benning, when he lost control of his F-100 and crashed 20 miles southwest of Dublin on September 22, 1964.  Yannacone, a native of New Jersey, parachuted to the ground and landed five miles from the crash site.  Captain Yannacone, who flew two tours of duty in Vietnam, graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree and earned a master's degree from Pepperdine University, He was stationed at an air field in Myrtle Beach, SC.

One of his proudest moments was being awarded his pilot wings and becoming a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.   He served two tours as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, along with being stationed at numerous bases in the United States, the Air Force Academy, Okinawa, Ethiopia and multiple countries in Europe. He was awarded numerous Air Force medals throughout his military career.  Captain Yannacone died on October 10, 2013 in New Mexico at the age of 83.


Norrie Wright learned to play golf and play it well on the links of the newly constructed course at the Dublin Country Club in the late 1940s and 1950s.  As a member of the Dublin Irish golf team, Norrie won the Class B Low Medalist Championship in 1952 and 1953.   At 14, Norrie won the 1950 Country Club Championship.  As a 15 year-old, Norrie defeated the highly athletic, Dr. Ty Cobb, Jr., by one stroke in the club’s Fall 1951 tournament.


In 1952, Norrie competed in the Georgia State Junior Chamber of Commerce tournament and was one of five young Georgians to compete in the national tournament in Eugene, Oregon.    Norrie played basketball for Dublin in his junior and senior years.  He joined the Florida State Seminoles golf team in 1955.   After he completed his collegiate career, Norrie has served as a golf pro in the Southeast for many decades.  In his playing days, Norrie was known as “the longest hitter on the planet.”  A golf mentor by destiny, Norrie coached Donna White to victory in the US Ladies Amateur Championship, as well as many PGA Tour golfers, including Bruce Crampton, who had 14 career wins on the PGA Tour and finished second to Jack Nicklaus in one Masters, one U.S. Open, and two PGA Championships.  Crampton was ranked in the top five golfers in the world in the early 1970s.  Norrie established the Norrie Wright Golf Center in Jacksonville, Florida.



Daniel Cummings was a well respected man in Dublin and Laurens County for more than a century.  He even has a building named for him.  On his 103rd birthday, Cummings swallowed enough alcohol to make him drunk  for the first time in his life.  He was quickly convinced that it
doesn’t pay to get drunk. Augusta Chronicle, 10/5/1951.

Dublin’s fire chief, S.V. Holmes, reported that during the year 1947, there was not a single false fire alarm reported. The Morning Olympian, 2/26/1948

Mrs. C.B. Fountain of the Harmony Home Demonstration Club won the 1948 fashion show in Laurens county.  Mrs. Fountain’s dress, made of feed sacks, cost her only five cents in materials. Edwardsville Intelligencer, 9/10/1948

Long time Laurens County vet, Dr. J. L. Smalley  reported that during an early June heat wave in 1939 that 40 mules, which are normally hardy during hot weather, died of the horrendous heat.  The Indianapolis Star, June 10, 1939.

Mainer Lee Toler, long time Society Editor of the Atlanta Constitution and one of the state’s leading newspaper women, was killed when her Chevrolet sedan  left  Highway 80 and slid down an
embankment five miles east of Dublin while she was on a Labor Day trip to Charleston, South Carolina  on September 2, 1939.  R.B. Calhoun, the operator of a nearby tourist camp, told Sheriff I. F. Coleman that the wreck was caused by a blowout of a tire which sounded like a gunshot.  Mrs. Toler’s badly damaged body was rushed to a local hospital for treatment. She died about four hours later.   Dublin Courier Herald, September 2, 1939.

Iris Mackey Ward Gillis was awarded the co-championship of the 20th Ward-Belmont Spring Riding Show in Nashville, Tennessee on May 6, 1943.  She tied Barbara Hess of Indianapolis in the national competition.

As World II came to an end in early September 1942, a problem arose - what do with all of the equipment which was left over.  Captain B.L. Graves, of Dublin, Ga., was placed in command of the Toddington Vehicle Storage Base, the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom.  Just in the first few days, Captain Graves was challenged with the duty to store and catalog 14,500 vehicles in a facility designed to handle only 5000 used Army vehicles with a projected 6,000 additional vehicles every month.  “We’ve got over 2,300 jeeps alone and every vehicle has to be checked,” Captain Graves told  reporter for the UPI in London.  The Troy New York Record, September 4, 1945.

The Dublin police were laughing when they hauled Willie Thompson into jail on the night of August 30, 1952.  It seemed that Thompson needed a ride home, so he stole the first car he saw.  Now this wasn’t your typical car parked beside the street. This car belonged to a local embalmer, whose car, you got it, was a hearse.  Thompson led police on a wild chase throughout the city around the courthouse and out into the country, where he was finally forced off the road by patrolman Ernest Dominy.  When Thompson tried to escape, Dominy fired a shot at Thompson and wounded him in  a knee.  The police charged Thompson was driving under the influence, speeding and resisting arrest, but couldn’t stop laughing when they opened the back of hearse to find a freshly embalmed woman. The Jackson Tennessee Sun, August 31, 1952.

Dolly was a special cow in this area.  After a five - day battle with pneumonia, Dolly, a two - headed cow, died.  The Greenville, South Carolina News, January 7, 1952.

Stanley A. Reese, a Dublin attorney serving in the U.S. Military, acted as a prosecutor in one of most heinous war crimes trials for murders committed by Japanese soldiers near Honshu in August of 1945. Twenty seven Japanese soldiers, including five generals, were charged with murdering some 50 American fliers by beheading, shooting or poisoning them.  All of the defendants plead not guilty because of their vicious rage after the indiscriminate bombing of their homeland. The Bend Oregon Bulletin, August 3, 1948.

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - SERVICE COACH LINES BUS STATION - DUBLIN, GEORGIA, DECEMBER 1937