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JD Andrews: The story of a local WWII veteran

Sunday, November 18, 2012

(Photo)
Photo provided JD Andrews stands with one of the many planes he piloted.
Editor's note: The following was written following a discussion with Wanda (Hedge) Andrews and JD Andrews on Nov. 9, 2012, their wedding anniversary. The author of the piece is the great-nephew of the article's subject.

HAYTI, Mo. -- JD was born March 8th, 1924, and Wanda was born March 2nd, 1927 . His parents, Mr. and Mrs. SH Andrews of Bragg City mailing address, honored gentlemen named James and Dowell, but only placed "JD" as his name on his birth certificate.

JD was a Junior at Deering High School, and Wanda was a Freshman at Hayti High School when they met. His family lived at "Ingram Ridge" or the "Netherlands", about 7 miles from Hayti, and south of Hwy 84.

Two days after war was declared on Japan, the Pemiscot County Selective Service sent sheriff's deputies to the SH Andrews home. The deputies escorted JD's two older brothers, Mancel and Woodrow, to Caruthersville, where they boarded a bus for Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Mr. Andrews ensured that JD had a deferment from draft as he was still in high school.

JD notes that every young man was anxious to serve then, and he dropped out of high school in 1943 to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He had to get signed letters from many to vouch for his character, and overcome his father's work to ensure his deferment.

JD completed his basic training in Wichita Falls, Texas, and his pilot training took place at multiple locations in Texas and other states. He quickly remembers flying from San Antonio, Love Field, Pierre Field, and Jones Field as a few of his training sites in Texas. Volume 2, Number 8 edition of the "Dodo Dope" newsletter of the 2547th AAF Base Unit of the Central Flying Training Command at Jones Field in Bonham Texas, listed JD Andrews as the "Heartbeat of Every Local Belle" in its "Hall of Infamy". He is quite proud of that distinction.

He also received additional training in Madison Wisconsin. It was there that he began to grasp that war was not all honor and valor. The early fighting yielded a realization that many United States soldiers/pilots lived approximately 8 minutes, once in combat. That thought caused a fatalistic view of the world by JD and others around him. He and other soldiers (including one Military Policeman), went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) more than once. One instance found them in a refrigerated food truck, leaving a training base in Wisconsin . . . just to go to town. After all . . . they expected to die soon anyway . . . what worse punishment could the Army impose? Who cared what anyone else thought?

JD attended the 90th College Training Detachment at Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater as another part of his preparation for duty, and was assigned some weeks in Alaska to searching for downed planes. The weather was certainly the biggest enemy of a pilot in that area.

One of his last Continental United States stations was in the Washington, D.C. area "to await further orders" While here, JD found himself on a train in Virginia and face to face with 4 soldiers in handcuffs. At that time, a soldier in uniform could board any train to any destination in the US without even having a ticket. However, the handcuffed soldiers were a solid reminder to return to his assigned base as required. Some soldiers stole cars, to return to their homes in small towns rather than yield to the increasing probability of death. Any crime felt justified to many, facing such a bleak future. JD felt a pull in two apparently-opposite directions . . . honor and survival.

Army plans for this pilot were revised regularly. One day JD was warm in Washington, DC, expecting to be sent to Germany, and the next found him awakening in Iowa on a train bound for a much colder Seattle. It was in Seattle that he boarded his first "Cruise" ship, his transportation to the direct war effort in Saipan. This was a "secured island", but JD discovered that "secured" did not mean that fighting had stopped. It mostly meant that the United States was more or less in command. There were still Japanese in residence, committed to killing all Americans, and willing to fight to their deaths rather than surrender.

He witnessed the utilization of "Suicide Cliff" at the end of the runway on Saipan. Apparently the Japanese women still on the island expected to be raped and tortured by our soldiers if captured. They regularly ran to this cliff, sometimes with their children, and hurled themselves to their deaths.

JD piloted all Army single-engine planes in use at the time. His primary job was reconnaissance and observation, searching from the air for any enemy threats to US troops. Any Japanese camps or troop movements had to be discovered and reported to enhance allied safety. However, a secondary job was finding and disposing of enemy casualties. On his arrival on Saipan, and later on Guam, the dead were still everywhere . . . some being eaten by animals . . . others simply decaying where they lay. He maintains photos of both United States (US) and enemy cemeteries in Guam which attest to the human cost of war.

His assignment to Guam was to be his last before Invasion of Japan itself. Guam was yet another tough experience on a "secured" island. JD's photo scrapbook shows US planes which crashed on landing after return from air missions. He noted that these were almost considered non-events since only a few were killed per event. The mass casualties elsewhere simply overshadowed the loss of these pilot-friends of his (that could have been him). His heart was hurt and concurrently hardened further.

Back home in Pemiscot County, JD's high school sweetheart was among those who sent letters to any soldier/sailor whose names/addresses were furnished by the high school via bulletin boards. The high school ladies at home were asked to try and boost the morale of troops from the area. Wanda still remembers writing, "We are proud of you", and "I know your family", etc. to the brothers of her classmates. She had never met most of them, but certainly felt the need to do her part.

JD was still in Guam when the Enola Gay was sent to bomb Hiroshima, beginning the end of the war. However, it was another 6 months before JD would board a ship bound for San Francisco. That ship still traveled on a slow, zig-zag course to the Continental US to avoid Japanese submarines, even though the war was over. Byron Smith of Blytheville Arkansas was aboard a not-so-lucky ship. He died after the Japanese surrender when the USS Indianapolis was sunk. Most (all?) aboard this ship were lost to sharks, however Byron is still honored with a marker in a Blytheville cemetery.

Five of the six Andrews brothers served their country during WWII. The oldest two of these, Mancel and Woodrow, were wounded in action. Mancel served in field artillery, Italy, and had his Silver Star pinned on him by General Patton himself. Woodrow was an Army Airborne Glider in the South Pacific, and suffered wounds while in the Phillipines. The third son, Howard entered the service after JD, and served aboard a US Navy submarine. Fifth son, Murel, was assigned to Europe, as an Officer's chauffer. The last of SH Andrews' sons, Quentin joined the Navy after the end of WWII to round out the S.H. Andrews family's immediate contribution to Country. I hope the local Citizens of the United States realize the debt we owe this Pemiscot family, and honor them accordingly.

JD Andrews was discharged from the Army in 1946, and convinced his high school sweetheart to indeed marry him in 1948. Wanda and JD live in Hayti, and celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on November 9, 2012. They have one daughter, two grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.


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Great story about good people. I remember most of the family. Went to school with some of the younger ones. Mr. Andrews and his brothers should certainly be recognized by Hayti and Pemiscot county as HEROS.

-- Posted by HAYTI67 on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 2:20 PM

Great story Michael! We just never know how close we are to those who sacrificed to help us keep our most precious freedoms!

-- Posted by zele50 on Tue, Nov 20, 2012, at 4:05 AM


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