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Four brothers once served in U.S. military during WWII

May. 25, 2008 @ 11:52 PM

Four Massie brothers served during World War II: Bill, Allen, Freeman and Harold "Boots," sons of Willie and Trudie Massie of Prichard Route. They all survived and returned home. Allen is the only one living of these four today.

Bill Massie

Bill served in the U.S. Army Air Force, but was never sent overseas. He was stationed in California and suffered from a ruptured ear drum. Once when his brother Allen was going to be in California, Bill made a special effort to visit with him.

Allen Massie

James Allen was the first Massie brother to enlist in service. In early 1942, the 15th Naval Construction Battalion was formed to serve in the Pacific area and Allen enlisted. The battalion consisted of approximately 1,000 skilled technicians. After basic training at Camp Allen, Va., and Camp Bradford, Va., the men received a five-day leave and then sailed from Port Hueneme, Calif., on Sept. 14, 1942. They followed the Marines island by island, building airfields, hospitals, roads, water towers, etc. Allen operated heavy equipment and barbered in his spare time. This tour ended at Guadalcanal and lasted 24 months. The men then received a 30-day leave. The highlight of Allen's leave was when he saw his new son, Larry Allen.

Allen says that one of his worst experiences happened on their first island. The men had just begun to unload the ship when a warning was received that the Japanese fleet was approaching and the ship must be moved. There was no time to finish landing or to bring the landed men back on board. Allen was one of the unfortunate men "expended for the safety of the ship." They had their rifles and about one round of ammunition. Their only food was coconuts and small bananas found on the island. It is an understatement to say that the men were very happy to see the ship return a few days later.

The battalion had two tours in the Pacific departing again from Port Hueneme on June 4, 1945, going from island to island and ending in Okinawa (known as a stone's throw away from Tokyo) on July 14, 1945.

The 15th Naval Construction Battalion did not fight battles as such -- their battles were fought zigzagging across the Pacific Ocean, dodging torpedoes, and on land with insects, lizards, wild boars and Japanese snipers.

Allen remembers some frightening incidents that happened on the islands. One particular night he was sleeping on his cot when he heard heavy breathing nearby. He was certain that a Japanese soldier was under his cot. He was reaching under his pillow for his knife when, all at once, the cot and he were lifted off the ground and a wild boar ran out of the tent.

But the real scary time came when the anxious man in the next cot fired a round of rifle shot right by Allen's head.

Another time, Allen and a buddy were running bulldozers building an airfield. Their lunches kept disappearing. They were certain that a Japanese sniper was stealing their food. They decided to let matters lie as they figured they would be kept alive as long as they fed the sniper.

Allen saw many sad things. On Okinawa, he saw many burial tombs with shelves and hundreds of Japanese soldiers lined up like cords of wood. Right outside the cave he saw a Japanese soldier lying where he had fallen. He had a group of snapshots fanned out around him, presumably of his family and the last things he saw as he died. Allen says that scene had a profound effect on him. He saw the man not as much as the enemy, but as a husband and father, as he himself was.

One of the most memorable happenings was Allen's meeting on New Hebrides Island of two high school friends, Virgil and Bernard Perry. They had been separated from their Marine unit and reported as missing in action. Allen wrote to his father, and Mr. Massie was able to report to the Perrys that their sons were well and happy.

The war ended and Allen was discharged in October 1945 and returned home. The 15th Naval Construction Battalion was deactivated Oct. 29, 1945.

Allen is 88 years old and resides in Lebanon, Va.

Freeman Massie

Freeman served in the U.S. Navy. He crossed the Atlantic several times on a destroyer ship, one of escort for both men and women, and heard the women beg to die from seasickness. He was in constant danger from the torpedoes, depth charges, and submarines. Torpedoes hit close but never struck his ship. He saw bodies and parts of some of the enemy soldiers as well as those of comrades rolled up by the ocean waves.

Harold "Boots" Massie

Boots served in the U.S. Army and earned the rank of expert rifleman. He was stationed in France in the 760th Eng. Parts and Supplies, where he delivered supplies to the troops. He also guarded German prisoners at night. When they were getting ready to send a company of men to the front lines, Boots heard his superior speak on his behalf, who said, "Massie is not going. He is young and has kids." (He was one of the youngest in his company.) So Boots escaped the serious combat.

After the war ended with Germany, he was sent to the Philippines, and on to Japan with occupation forces. He recalled that he went through the Panama Canal on his way to Japan. He also remembered when the ocean waves were so powerful that they splashed coffee from the cups. But he had no grave combat endeavors.

Gene "Red" Massie

A younger brother (and fifth son) was drafted for WWII, but failed the physical examination.

John Massie

Another younger brother (and sixth son) served in the Korean War. John lives in Wayne.

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