The Nov. 4, 1918 Johnson City Staff offered enlightening news about the First World War (July 28, 1914 – Nov. 11, 1918). Here is a slightly paraphrase of the commentary:

face and hands tanned to the shade of his brown khaki, hat string hanging behind his head and an insolent kind of jaunt as he lumbers his way through crowded streets.

We observe something in this fellow that makes us want to take off our hat to him. In the first place, he has passed a strict examination by Uncle Sam. This is something in his favor for our Uncle is no easy man to please in these troubled days.

The rejects are numerous because a man must be a good specimen and be sound in limb, heart, hearing, eyesight and general makeup. Government acceptance of a man is a good certificate of character. He is a well set-up sort of chap and seems to have no trouble looking the world directly in the face.

The soldier has had training, which is displayed in his rhythmic swing as he walks. He can stand up straight and when he stops, he is able to stand as still as a rock, with no lounging, no fumbling with hands, and no fidgeting from one foot to another. He displays self-confidence.

The soldier has himself under control. He stands for his country, for you and me and he knows discipline. He stands ready at quick notice to come, to stay, to go to the end of the earth, when his country calls.

If its to guard a bridge, he's there and digging trenches is all the same to him. If there becomes a need to man the trenches or go on the firing line, he's always ready. He goes where and when he is needed without hesitation. Because he is a disciplined soldier, danger means nothing to him; it's all in a day's work.

The soldier is the world's true optimist; some of the others might not make it back home, but he'll be sure to come back. Perhaps the soldier has a mother, wife or sweetheart. What matters is that he's a soldier with a job to do and he does it.

Staggering as are the totals of killed and wounded on the battlefields of Europe, the fact remains that the hazard of the soldier in France was mathematically far below that faced by a participant in the previous Civil War.

In one month of bombing and trench warfare, France and Great Britain lost 114,000 men killed and wounded, according to authentic reports which was said to make the world throw up its hands in horror.

But when it is remembered that a total of 2 million soldiers were engaged and subject to the same dangers to which their 114,000 comrades fell victim, the percentage of casualties is brought down to less than 6 percent.

However, during the Civil War, after 12 hours of fighting at Antietam, 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded, being 20 percent of the forces engaged. And taking the war as a whole, the degree of hazard of the Civil War soldier was almost four times as great as was that of the soldier in France.

Military experts tell us that if the armies engaged in the greatest of all wars had continued to follow the open warfare methods that marked the early days of the war and characterized the methods employed in the Civil War, the opposing armies long ago would have been annihilated.

It should be remembered that the original army that was sent to France by England at the beginning of the war was practically destroyed during the first six months. That was because they pursued open warfare tactics. But the successors of those unfortunate fellows soon learned to dig themselves in, with the result that the percentage of casualties was greatly decreased.

In summary, the soldier in France stood a far better chance of coming out alive and whole of body than did the soldier of the Civil War. 

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According to a Thursday, Oct. 24, 1918 Johnson City Daily Staff newspaper, a determined looking and likely-nervous squad of young recruits from Washington County, assembled at the Southern Railway Depot on the afternoon of the 23rd. They were there to begin preparations for the next morning's rail journey to Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, SC.

Street View Showing Mess Shacks & Tents at Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, SC, 1918

The camp, named in honor of Brigadier General James Samuel Wadsworth, was approved June 1917 as a temporary quarters site. The 27th division trained there from September 1, 1917 to May 4, 1918; the 6th from May 10, 1918 to June 23, 1918; and the 96th from October 20, 1918 to January 7, 1919.

The group consisted of recruits from the June and August 1918 registration class who were being mustered into service to swell the growing army of America's unexcelled fighting men.

There were 66 strong young men, including alternates, from Johnson City and an additional contingent of 74 men joining them from Bristol, Elizabethton and Mountain City.

S.K. Lindsey, drill master, was in charge of the company. The soldiers were initially formed in line and put through a few rudimentary movements.

Shortly before embarking the train, the soldiers marched to the Red Cross room located in the Summers Building at the Southern Station where each man was given his parcel and box lunch.

The Red Cross Attention Station was used by the ladies to prepare excellent box lunches for the soldiers. The food in each box was carefully inspected before it was distributed. The left over boxes were subsequently packed in cartons and loaded on board the train for the men en route.

The room was fully equipped for taking care of an emergency situation should a soldier arrive there and need immediate medical attention.

Prior to departure time, the station was saturated with a horde of people who were there to wish their special soldier “the best.” The young men were then loaded into coaches for the journey to Camp Wadsworth and beyond.

Shown in this list of names are those from Washington County. Some of the spelling is questionable but is shown just as it was listed in the newspaper:

Ollie T. Burrass, James W. Wilson, Floyd McKinley Tyree, Charles Ray Bayless, William McKinley Crow, Vernon Whitlock, William M. Fitch, William McKinley Green, Frank Kite, Henry Elbert Williams, Robert Marion Johnson, Clarence Walter Barnes, James Jackson Hale,

John Franklin Brokn, Samuel Clinton McCurry, Bernie Hubert Ball, Kelly McKinley Graybeal, George Branch, Charlie McInturff, James Lee Ferguson, James Franklin Brown, Guy A. Miller, Carl Eugene Cannon, Hubert Bryon Wheelock, William Benjamine Taylor, Colonel Stacy Elliott,

George Squibb Bacon, Hubert Baldwin, Carson A. Story, Eugene Kitzmiller, Roy Shaward Deakins, Hobert William Harrison, Alfred Henry Johnson, Benjamin Bryan, Paris Earl Story, Clayton Byrd Loyd, Clyde Joseph Campbell, George T. Britton, Hiram Cole, Dennis Bricker,

Nathan Dempsie Tarlton, Hobart Mat Richardson, Enoch Hobart Bacon, Aon Whaley, Walter Clifford Elliot, Hobert Smith, Willard L. Mitchell, Dock William Black, Charles Clarence Johnson, Uriah Squibb Lewis, Sherman Jarrott, Noah Edgar Collins, Dana Scott Laws, John Robert Miller,

Thomas Jefferson Bacon, James F. Brown, Loncion Porter Insco, Ephream Buck Norris, Hickey Sliger, Paul Franklin Lawson, Robert Scott, Charles Earl Shell, William Chester Adams, Hugh Vestal Kyker, William McKinley Clark and Mack Andis Shipley.

I hope many of you recognize a family member or friend in the list.

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On March 7, 1947, Harry S. Truman, our 33rd President of the United States issued Proclamation 2719, establishing: “Army Day and Army Week, 1947 by the President of the United States of America. A proclamation:

Army Day and Week Proclaimed, 1947, Sponsored by General Mills, Inc.

“Whereas the Army of the United States is a bulwark of our country's strength in time of peril and the faithful guardian of our dearly-bought liberty in time of peace, and has since the inception of this Nation stood between out freedom-loving people and all aggressors; and

“Whereas the soldiers of our Army continue in active service as loyal servants of our democracy, whose purpose is to insure the establishment of justice, tranquility, and an enduring peace; and

“Whereas Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, 75th Congress, 1st Session, which was agreed to by the House of Representatives on March 16, 1937 (50 Stat. 1108), provides:

“That April 6 of each year be recognized by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America as Army Day, and that the President of the United States be requested, as Commander in Chief, to order military units throughout the United States to assist civic bodies in appropriate celebration to such extent as he may deem advisable; to issue a proclamation each year declaring April 6 as Army Day, and in such proclamations to invite the Governors of the various States to issue Army Day proclamations: Provided, That in the event April 6 falls on Sunday, the following Monday shall be recognized as Army Day”:

“Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, in order that we may give special recognition to our Army, whose soldiers have gallantly secured and guarded our freedom since the founding of the Republic and have heroically sacrificed to bring to the world a lasting peace founded upon justice to all mankind, do hereby proclaim Monday, April 7, 1947, as Army Day, and encourage the observance of the week beginning April 6 and ending April 12, 1947, as Army Week; and I invite the Governors of the several States to issue proclamations for the celebration of this day and this week in such manner as to render appropriate honor to the Army of the United States.

“I also remind our citizens that our Army, charged with the responsibility of defending the United States and our territorial possessions and of promoting the firm establishment of peace and good order in the territories of our defeated enemies, can discharge these duties only with the firm support of our people. I therefore urge my fellow countrymen to be mindful of the Army's needs, to the end that our soldiers may not lack the means to perform effectively their continuing tasks and that the hardships of military service in foreign lands may be alleviated in every way possible. There is no means by which we can better honor our heroic dead than by our support of their living comrades who carry on the mission they so nobly advanced.

“In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

“Done at the City of Washington this 7th day of March in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-first.”

The newspaper clipping noted that young men, 17 to 34 years old, could learn of the many benefits being offered by the new regular Army by calling the U.S. Army Recruiting Station at phone number 1714 or visiting them at 119-121 Spring Street. The advertisement of local and national importance was sponsored by General Mills, Inc. (formerly identified as Model Mill Company). 

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Official announcement that a $500 thousand National Guard armory would be constructed in Johnson City was welcomed by numerous organizations who had long wished for such a place to hold meetings. The new facility was located on a 30-acre tract of land just off the New Jonesboro Highway (11E, left side traveling west) near what was then the city limits.

The new armory, after completion, made possible many types of gatherings that were previously prohibited for lack of suitable facilities. Colonel Clarence W. Taylor, commander of the five-unit 130th Tank Battalion, National Guard, said that worthwhile meetings of all groups, including religious and political, would be welcomed to use the armory's facilities.

With Johnson City becoming known throughout Tennessee as the “convention city,” Chamber of Commerce-minded residents were looking forward to bringing even more out-of-towners here after the armory was completed. The assembly room was designed to seat 3,000 persons.

Sketch of the New Armory That was Built on the New Jonesboro (Jonesborough) Highway

The armory grounds included amply parking facilities for all cars even after the assembly room was filled to capacity. The new armory was consistent with plans to help make Johnson City and Washington County a better place to live.

Most meetings of organizations and presentations of programs had previously been held at the John Sevier Hotel, the Country Club, East Tennessee State College  Memorial Gymnasium and City Hall in some instances.

For many meetings, the John Sevier and the Country Club were far too small, although they provided excellent facilities for crowds which they could accommodate. The State College Gym was much too large for smaller gatherings and City Hall was too small for larger ones.

The serving of meals put the John Sevier and the Country Club into a separate class for banquets and dinner meetings. The new armory was not expected to have any significant impact on that need. However, kitchen facilities were included in the armory's ultra-modern structure if groups wished to prepare their own food.

Conference and study rooms, designed to be used mainly by members of the National Guard, were used for small group meetings at the Armory. The assembly room, which included a stage, was built to be used for all sorts of rallies and meetings, which attracted a sizable group of visitors.

The armory was ideal for plays, band concerts, sporting events and about anything that needed a gymnasium. It helped remove some of the conflict in the often-crowded schedule of functions in the city and county.

Those groups which used the armory were to be charged a proportionate share of the extra costs of operation caused by their having a meeting, such as cleanup and utilities. The cost proved to be very low, and in many cases, no amount was charged. The city of Johnson City and Washington County, which promoted the armory project, were asked to contribute $30 thousand in funds and services, which included landscaping and grounds improvements.

The federal government paid 75 percent of the bill on the armory, which comprised a $100 thousand service building for National Guard use only. The state came through with the rest of the cost.

Since taxpayers provided the funds for the armory, Nations Guard officials felt that the public needed to use the new structure as often as possible. According to Colonel Taylor, arranging a meeting was as simple as making a telephone call.

When completed, the armory was among the most modern ones in the United States. Washington County residents were proud to have in their midst, a new half-million dollar institution, designed to be of use intellectually, economically and for its contribution to nation defense.

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In 1903, it was deemed to be the supreme Soldiers' Home in the country. The National Home for Disable Volunteer Soldiers, located near Johnson City in East Tennessee, was only a short journey over the mountains from Asheville, NC, site of Vanderbilt’s immense palace.

The Home's grounds were laid out in the shape of a rectangle, covering nearly a square mile. Its 36 buildings stood on a commanding plateau overlooking the loveliest of landscapes, with scenic mountains majestically posing in the distant horizon.

Magnificent forests of pine and maples stretched in every direction displaying a dazzling landscape picturesque with streams, glens and cliffs. The beauty was indescribable. Although somewhat remote, the outside world was within easy access to the Home. The Southern Railway made plans for a station to be built at the entrance to the grounds along with a connecting spur there from the main line at Johnson City.

Credit for the noble national venture belonged to Colonel Walter P. Brownlow (nephew of “Parson” Brownlow, the famous Union leader and editor of the Jonesborough Whig, which later relocated to Knoxville.

The colonel asked Congress for a $1.8 million appropriation for the home. They, in turn, voted to grant Brownlow's request in recognition of her loyalty to the government during the Civil War. The payout was reported to be the largest amount the government had granted for a soldiers' home.

General Martin McMahon ably directed the task of selecting the site and erecting appropriate buildings on it. He became the driving spirit in the effort and to him was due the honor of having a complete, comprehensive plan prepared at the outset for the grounds, buildings and interior finish.

When the Home opened in October 1903, it was put under the executive direction of John Smith, resident governor of the institution, along with an ample staff of officers. Colonel Brownlow, the father of it all, appropriately became the local manager.

The home comprised 30 buildings. Approaching it from the railway station and walking up the central drive displayed an imposing view with a glorious landscape stretching away and mountains breaking the distant horizon.

 Ascending the steps of the main entrance, the visitor observed the Administration building on the left and the Governor's residence on the right. Also to the right were the buildings of the hospital group and the home for nurses. In the center was the mess hall that measured 500 by 400 feet and contained a grand dining room where 1500 residents could comfortably sit at tables without crowding one another or inconveniencing the waiters.

Farther back was the impressive library financed by Mr. Carnegie that contained an estimated 17 thousand volumes. Next came the barracks measuring 300 feet long, then the chapel and finally Memorial Hall, an entertainment venue aimed at helping veterans get their minds off their physical and mental ailments.

The grounds also contained a storehouse and combination barracks where soldiers could be cared for and fed without having to go to the big mess hall. It also contained powerhouses, laundry facilities, stable, ice plant, propagating houses, guard barracks and a hospital with an adjoining morgue. The calm conservatory was an institution within itself, being an attractive part of the general scheme.

A significant feature of the architect's plan was housing for officers; it was designed for each resident's individualized use and comfort. The structures were separated with each one being surrounded by an attractive garden. North of the grounds was the cemetery that was ornamented and improved annually. In front of the spacious home in the center of a grand circle was a bandstand used to entertain visitors and patients with daily concerts.

At the imposing main entrance of the facility was a national flagstaff mounted on a pedestal of bronze, rising from the center of the elevated plaza through which would be observed by those on their way to the mess hall.

The six buildings, though separated, were connected by closed corridors, all enclosing a rectangular garden 400 by 700 feet with a fountain in the center. It was an Italian garden, beautifully laid out, ornamented with trees, shrubbery, benches and chairs so as to provide a delightful place of rest and comfort for the heroes of the great wars.

The kitchen, another model in design, represented every modern convenience known to mankind. Food was delivered at the pantries of the ward and elevated to the floors in the shortest possible time, ensuring hot meals from the kitchen. Also, there were private dining rooms for officers and mess rooms for surgeons.

Each of the 36 buildings had individual features, each differing somewhat from the others, so that picturesque harmony would charm every visitor's eye. Each one was the result of long and careful study of the purposes for which it was to be used.

The most modern ideas in arrangement and equipment were introduced into every department and every building from icehouse to laundry and morgue, from barracks to the Administration Building and dwellings for officers. This was achieved because there was a definite overall plan covering the entire enterprise that was established at the beginning of the project when the grounds were only wild fields in the midst of mountains and distanced from the nearest town, Johnson City.

Thus were created the improvements and conveniences of a city, which became known as “a city within a city.” The purest soft spring water from the pristine mountain reservoir was judged to provide healing for many an old soldier. 

Another feature was the system of barracks. Rotundas surmount two of these buildings. There were grand balustrades on each floor for promenading and lounging, an improvement deeply appreciated by the aged soldiers. At the ends of the barracks were ''recreation porches” open in summer and converted into sun parlors during winter.

The dominant note in the architecture was in keeping with Southern climate. A reminiscence of the Spanish architecture was suggested in the heavy overhanging roofs and wherever striking effects were produced. This was particularly true of the fine tower of the mess hall. A glit ball surmounted the slate cupola roof. In the veranda hung a big bell that chimed the hours, while a great dial indicated the time on the terra cotta face of the tower. Below under the balconies, one has a spacious view of the countryside.

As initially stated, the National Home for Disable Volunteer Soldiers was deemed to be the finest soldiers' home of its kind. Johnson City had something for which they could truly be proud. A drive-through the complex today takes the visitor back to 1903.

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The Selective Service Act was implemented during Woodrow Wilson's presidency in 1917 because the government wanted to ensure that the country’s military services had enough qualified men.

The new law resulted in many Americans being called for combat in World War I. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, the country had its first peacetime draft.

Some local residents likely recall registering for the draft at the local Selective Service System, Local Board #97 several years later when it was located in the Hamilton National Bank building at E. Main and Spring streets. The Clerk in charge was Walter Phlegar who used a manual typewriter to type the registrant’s card with his two index fingers. He and his wife, Mary, lived at the beautiful Montrose Court on Virginia Avenue.

The November 22, 1950 edition of Milligan College’s student publication, “The Stampede,” asked and answered the question of undeniable importance to draft eligible males: “How does the draft affect you, Mr. College Student?” That year, 219,771 men from around the country were drafted into military service.

The campus periodical answered the question by publishing guidelines for male students from bulletins issued by the Selective Service. Local boards established several conditions for deferment consideration, all of which had to be met.

The new law required men to register for the draft at his local board, defined as the one nearest his home, within five days after reaching their 18th birthday. However, a student already attending school such as Milligan was permitted to register with the board nearest the campus and request that they forward the paperwork to his home board.

Those who received a classification card had a Selective Service identification number on it, which was to be used in all correspondence with the board. A student was also required to keep his home board informed of any address change. The registrant must have completed at least one academic year of a full-time course of instruction at a college, university, or similar institution of learning.

The college or university was required to certify that the student’s scholastic standing at the college placed him among the upper half of his class. The consequence of poor grades dramatically highlighted the importance of maintaining good academic standing.

The local board received from the college verification that a student who desired to enroll in a full-time curriculum at the college did so prior to August 1, 1950 for the academic year ending in the spring of 1951. In the case of a registrant meeting the above conditions to whom an order to report for induction into military service had been issued, the local board was authorized to reopen the case for reconsideration.

 The law further stated that any notice mailed from the board was considered “active” regardless of whether or not the registrant received it. The draft-eligible male also had to notify the board if he married after the registration date since that would change his classification. Anyone receiving an induction notice from his Selective Service Board could report immediately to another board and ask for a transfer from the board where the request of transfer was made. Persons born before August 31, 1922 (age 28 or older) were not required to keep their local board informed of any change of address; their records were placed in storage.

In 1973, the draft ended and the U.S. converted to an all-volunteer military, which continues to this day. 

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In November 1901, newspapers across the country touted the beautiful new National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (N.H.D.V.S.). The heading of one newspaper was “A Great Soldiers’ Home.” The facility was also commonly referred to as Mountain Home.

Another publication stated that when it was finished, it would be one of the most notable groups of buildings in the state. The existing homes and soldiers' retreats that had been built across the country were exclusively for Union or Confederate veterans, but not both. The Johnson City one provided a shelter for men who volunteered in Union or Confederate Civil War service and in the war with Spain. However, Confederate soldiers were required to sign papers of allegiance back to the United States.

After fierce competition with six architects, the lucrative contract for erecting buildings and laying out grounds was awarded to J.H. Freedlander, whose design scheme encompassed 37 buildings. The plan called for eight barracks, theatre, mess hall, chapel, canteen, powerhouse, infirmary, jail, administration building, laundry, icehouse, morgue and even a fine hotel. Other structures were added later that included a library, zoo and baseball recreational area.

The site that comprised a tract of land 1.75 miles long and 0.75 miles wide was situated with a stunning view to the south of the Tennessee Mountains. The grounds were laid out in parks, groves and driveways and the landscape features added to the picturesque appearance of the home. The place was so delightfully situated it was believed that it would eventually become a popular health resort attracting people from all over the world.

General John T. Richards of Maine was appointed superintendent of construction. The plan included a large parade ground and a group of 12 barrack buildings. These structures were in a semi-ellipse arrangement and were within easy walking distance of the mess hall. Each barrack building had its own park and everything about the place was arranged so residents could spend their days in perfect comfort amid surroundings that were naturally beautiful.

The new home was obviously impressive to the masses, but what did the veterans who lived there think about it? One opinion came from Francis McClendon, a disabled veteran of the Spanish-American War from Florida who spent time there and penned a letter on Jan. 28, 1905 that summarized his feelings about the place:

“I send these lines to you to state that I am at present a member of the mountain branch of the National Mountain Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Johnson City, Tennessee. Will you have the kindness to send my paper to the above address? I am at present in the hospital receiving every attention I could reasonably ask for. We are having some extremely cold weather – four degrees below zero this morning. At the present writing, it has moderated considerably. This is something unusual for this section as it very seldom reaches zero.

“Well, this is a beautiful place costing in the vicinity of about $5,000,000. All the buildings are constructed on the most modern plans fitted up with every convenience. As for the hospital department, it can’t be beat. The capacity of this home is 2500. It now contains about 1150 or 1200. Some future time I will give you a more detailed account of it. With kind regards and best wishes I remain, yours truly, Francis McClendon.”

While the note speaks well for the expansive military facility, we can only wish that Mr. McClendon had given us a more detailed account of what it was like to reside there soon after the turn-of-the-century. Perhaps he did and we just need to locate the information. 

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Today’s column is derived from correspondence I received from local residents, Patricia Crowder and Barbara Hobson, daughters of Wm. Roscoe “Ross” Grindstaff who served his country during World War I in France, Germany, Luxemburg and Belgium.

An unidentified soldier from William’s unit penned in beautiful cursive writing a short diary of their division’s travels. When William returned home after the conflict, he placed it in an old trunk in his attic. Years later, Ms. Hobson removed the fragile document, typed it and distributed copies of it to family members. She graciously sent me one. She told me that George Dugger of Elizabethton was in her father’s outfit.   

The following are excerpts from the 43 entries written between Oct. 1 and Dec. 18, 1919. The hardships of war are discreetly depicted, along with an occasional pleasurable occurrence such as an observation of the beautiful countryside. Numerous entries relate to heavy fighting, constant fatigue, incessant rain, cold weather and lingering homesickness:

“Our Last Fight. Co. D, 23 Inf., 2ndDiv.”

“Oct. 1 – Found us on the safe side of a big hill in foxholes. Here we had our last warm meal at dusk in the evening for several days to come. At 7:30 marched toward the front line. Reached there and begin digging in on No Man’s Land at eleven (big shell holes).

“Oct. 2 – New men rather excited, the big barrage on at 5:30 sharp. We are at the Dutchman, very few prisoners. The rifles are kept busy at fleeing Boche on open ground, comical sights watching new men shoot, three batteries captured (18 men and 1 sergeant). 

“Oct 3 – Full pack made up, ordered back to bed, called out again at nine and moved forward through the Marines.  Some excitement here, casualties.

“Oct 4 – Caisson captured and the fun begins, Boshe on all sides and we start cleaning out, 2 batteries, hundred prisoners, several machine guns, heavy artillery play on us all day, several causalities.

 “Oct 5 – Under heavy shell fire, some casualties here, we take no prisoners, too much trouble. Marines pass through again, also 2ndand 3rdBattalion.

“Oct 6 – Into No Man’s Land, line broke, lost, line connected again, very tired. I slept from 8 o’clock until daylight the next day.

Nov. 10 – The day was spent mostly playing cards. Their artillery did not get us spotted until the afternoon. We hear all kinds of reports about the Armistice and hope some are at least true.

Nov. 11 – The Armistice signed at 11:00 a.m.

Nov. 16-23 – (Marches to) Stenay, Montmedy, Ethe, Artour Fressen, Saeul, Musch and Heffingen.)

Nov. 24 – Some very nice (inhabitants), some don’t take (to) us very well. Not many Frenchmen here. And our Dutch is very poor. Heavy frosts every night, sleep in barns.

Nov 25 – Blue Monday, rain and sloppy weather, on short rations, two inspections, everything to make life miserable. No idea of moving, getting homesick.

Dec. 8 – Have been traveling down grade all day now going in the Rhine valley, very pretty country, many villages.

Dec. 15 – We followed the river down past an old moss covered castle ages old. Very pretty scenes.

Dec.18 – Drill in the morning. Rainy sloppy night.”

After returning home from the war, William drove an ambulance for Pouder Funeral Home and then a cab for Red J. Taxi Cab Company (located at the current site of the Trailways Bus Station). The family lived on Afton Street near Maple in Johnson City until Mr. Grindstaff went to work for American Bemberg Corporation and moved his family to a residence about a mile down Sinking Creek Road in Johnson City. 

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In 1943, there arose a need for increased production of quality gloves brought about by the war effort and increasing civilian demands.

Tom Lee, in his excellent book, The Tennessee-Virginia Tri-Cities (U.T. Press, 2005) noted that during World War II  “while wartime demand increased manufacturing activity across the Tri-Cities area, the distribution of major new employers during the war reflected a growing disparity among the urban centers that made up the Tri-Cities. Elizabethton continued to rely on the rayon industry. Johnson City recruited only one new firm, the Artcraft Glove Company of Tennessee.”

The big news came from Mr. Patrick Crocetta, president of the Artcraft Glove Company of New York with several factories in operation there. He announced that his company was expanding operations to Johnson City. The plant became a reality for our city after five years of negotiations between Artcraft officials and the local Chamber of Commerce headed by Norris Langford, manager of the J.C. Penney store.

Artcraft chose to remodel an existing building, the vacant Columbus Powell School at 901 S. Roan, for its facility rather than construct a new one. Remodeling efforts went into high gear on September 15 that year with ambitious plans to have it operational by early November. Machinery units soon arrived at the new business. Training of production line workers was assigned to Mr. William Warren “Doc” Simmons of the Johnson City Vocational School. The United States Employment Service hired personnel from the area’s local labor pool, excluding foremen positions.

According to estimates, between 165 and 290 people worked in the factory with 80% of them being women since a goodly number of men were serving their country. My cousin, Mrs. Jean Bowman Moore, who lived on Myrtle Avenue at the time was one of them.

The plant started up as planned and capacity soon rose to between 3,000 and 4,000 pairs of gloves a day. Nearly all of them went into the various branches of the military – a wool-lined leather glove for the Navy, a wool glove with a leather palm for the Army and Marines and a leather mitten, as seen in “Memphis Belle,” for the Air Force. The latter was a 1943 documentary film directed by William Wyler that told about the 25th and last mission of an American B-17 bomber, which was based in England during World War II.

Surprisingly, Artcraft made no work gloves, choosing instead to produce multi-purpose ones for both military and civilian needs using a wide variety of material available for glove construction. Retail cost for the gloves ranged from $2 to $3.

One stipulation of the effort was that the plant would be utilized for government contracts if available. Mr. Crocetta emphasized that the plant was not considered to be temporary with full expectations that production would continue long after the war. Indeed, it did.

The glove factory operated two shifts a day, six days a week. Paul Sechrest was chosen plant manager. His daughter, Mrs. Charles E. Allen, remembers that every day from 6 p.m. to midnight, she was with her father, mother and sister laboriously packing the day’s production output into boxes for shipment to military units around the world.

According to historian Ray Stahl, the plant was one of the first new industries to come to Johnson City after the Depression of the 1930s. It stayed around for 30 years, ceasing operations in 1973.  It served our country well. 

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The August 14, 1945 Johnson City Press Chronicle headline with “PEACE” written across the top of it in large bold letters said it all: “Japan Bows; War Over” – Washington, Aug. 14 (AP) – President Truman announced at 7:00 p.m. EWT (Eastern War Time) tonight. – Japanese acceptance of surrender terms. They will be accepted by Gen. Douglas MacArthur when arrangements can be completed.”

The event would become known as “V-J Day.” The yellowed with age and frayed paper went on to say: “The Press Chronicle suggests you preserve this war-end edition, which will become valuable through the years as a memento of one of the high points of history. Peace, now coming into being after nearly six years of warfare may last forever. This is the fervent hope of people the world over and is not an empty hope. World collaboration plus military and scientific achievement have brought us to the point that we must and shall live in peace”. Fortunately, my dad complied, saving the entire newspaper.

Although the First World War was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” it failed to do so. Why then were we naive enough to think the second one would bring lasting peace for all mankind. The Korean conflict punctured that fragile bubble within a few years.

The cost of the global war was high in several respects. From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, 16 million of 160 million Americans were in uniform; 400 thousand lost their lives; and 700 thousand were wounded. The entire world celebrated the end of fighting especially the military personnel who played an active role in the bitter clash.

Johnson City conducted its own celebratory party. According to the paper: “Shortly after the official announcement was broadcast, after only about 10 minutes warning that something important would be told, Johnson Citians unleashed its long pent-up spirits and the raucous sounds of automobile horns, boys’ bicycle bells, whistlings and wahoos started in earnest. The first signs of celebration were heard in the western end of town.

“Meanwhile, as firecrackers popped and automobile horns blasted, the cities observance of victory over Japan took another line. Church doors opened for services one hour after reception of the announcement at 8:30 p.m. so that thanksgiving and worship might have their day. Ministers and fighting men's families gathered in prayers for the living and the dead in churches of their choice.”

I vaguely remember the exciting event. Grandpa Cox took Grandma, Mom and me for a ride in his “old brown Dodge,” as the family called it. We drove all over town celebrating with others the end of the war. Vehicular horns were blaring everywhere. My assignment was to sit on Grandpa’s steering column and blow his horn.

I truly did not understand what was happening; the war was over and servicemen were coming home. My grandparent’s son, my mom’s husband and my dad would soon be on his way to Johnson City. Although I was too young to remember him when he went into service, I routinely “wrote” him through Mom’s letters.

Although to some extent I recall the festivities surrounding V-J Day, I have no recollection of any commemoration associated with V-E (Victory Over Europe) Day on May 8, 1945, probably because of my age. 

The reality of the war’s culmination for me came a few months later when a handsome young man wearing an OD (Olive Drab) green uniform and carrying a large duffle bag anxiously entered our front door Gardner Apartment into the waiting arms of his loving wife.  

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