"Joseph Wallace Croft served in World War II and Korea"
6 - Veterans - Saturday, November 9, 2002 - Mexia Daily News
By Elizabeth L. Croft Hewitt
JOSEPH WALLACE CROFT, my father, served in World War II and in Korea with the United States Air Force. He retired from the Air Force on December 31, 1960 as Major Croft.
Ethan Williams is my nephew. He is presently in the Navy. He was on the USS Carl Vinson after September 11, 2001 and was in combat. He graduated from Annapolis, Naval Academy.
This letter was written by Joseph Croft to his grandson Ethan.
You asked me what I did during World War II and I'll try to remember back those many years ago.
I was a member of Co. B, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Division which was part of the Texas National Guard when we were Federalized into the U.S. Army on November 25, 1940. We were sent to Camp Bowie, (Brownwood), Texas. This was a new camp, muddy, cold and miserable. We lived in tents that had wooden floors and a little store in the middle. Being in the Infantry, we marched every day except weekends. Sometimes these marches [in] full packs and rifles were as much as 60 miles. We fired rifles on the range when the rain froze our gunsights and clothes to the ground. We were in "War" games in Louisiana in the summer and fall of 1941 and we had to walk from south of Shreveport to Lake Charles playing "War". I was promoted to Sergeant during this time and was the Supply Sergeant.
The 36th Division was transferred to Camp Blanding, (Starke), Florida after war was declared on Dec. 7, 1941. I was there until my company was moved to Ft. Benning, Columbus, Georgia to work with the Paratroopers. I had previously applied for the Air Force (it was a part of the Army back then) and I received my transfer to the AAF while at Benning.
I was sent back to San Antonio, Texas to Kelly Air Base where I underwent additional testing, examinations, etc. I was accepted for flight training and sent to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center for preflight. This consisted of 3 months concentrated academic and military training which was extremely hard on all the cadets, very rigid and strict. So many of the young men failed to pass the rigors of this training (about 50%). This was in the summer of 1942. I successfully completed this training and went to Uvalde Field, Texas for pilot training. I had about two months flying training there but the instructor said I would kill myself in airplanes, so I was eliminated.
I was shipped back to Kelly Field for about a month and was selected to go overseas to be trained as an Air Traffic Controller. I was placed in charge of 16 other airmen and we went by train to Atlantic City, New Jersey in December 1942. This city was nothing but servicemen then since the Army had taken it over. I went to Camp Kilmer, N.J. in March 1943 and stayed for about 10 days. One night they put us on a train and the next morning we woke up in Maine on our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Candada. 75 Americans were put aboard a British liner with 8,000 British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand troops; and we set sail for England. We had German subs after us a couple of times in the crossing. The ocean was extremely rough most of the way and there sure was a bunch of seasick troops. We had cold fish and potatoes twice a day for 6 days. No fresh water except for drinking. It was cold weather all the way and at times we could see icebergs. We arrived in Liverpool, England and then shipped to Chorley north of Manchester. I stayed there for a while and then shipped to a British Royal Air Force Base (Wittering) Stamford, England which is located in East England. I trained with the British Controllers at this base for 3 months and the[n] went to an American school in South England (near Oxford) for 3 months. After successfully completing this phase, I went back to Chorley where I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. I was then sent back to the Royal Air Force at Wittering for 3 months as a Flight Controller. After being certified by the British to operate in their airfield and airways[,] I was assigned as Chief Controller of the AF unit at Keevil near Trowbridge (South England) handling A20 aircraft (two engines attack bombers). My unit was then transferred to Charmy Downs outside of Bath to control the first night fighters to come to England. I then took my unit to a field called Beauliew (an English channel south of Southampton). I then went to Christchurch to set up a field for the 404th Fighter Group (p-47's fresh in from the States[)]. This was in the Spring of 1944. The were flying bombing and strafing runs across the channel. I was at Christchurch on the English Channel on June 6, 1944 controlling the aircraft. We flew over 600 missions that "D" Day. The heavy traffic continued until I took one airman with me and went to Normandy to set up the first strike airfield. The combat engineers had to make a runway in the middle of apple orchards and hedgerows. We flew over in a C47 and landed on Utah Beach. We slept in a ditch the first night with the guns roaring all around us. The Germans would bother us at times but the airstrip was completed and I sent for my unit to come over and later the planes came over to start flying from the continent. The place was near St. Mere Eglise. We were so close to the front we were bombed heavily by our own bombers fro[m] England. It was real interesting since they destroyed 43 aircraft, killed many of our own and several Frenchmen.
After the breakthrough at St Lo and Falaisa slaughter[,] I took my unit into Paris Field. We stayed there one week and went to a German field near Rheims. We stayed there about two weeks for we had outrun our supply lines, and then went north to St. Trond, Belgium (east of Brussells near the Dutch border[)]. This was a German Base that had been blown up, but we patched it up to use part of it. We got there in Sept. 1944 where, in December '44 and Jan. '45 we were bombed by V1 rockets and straffed by German aircraft. The battle of the Bulge was just south of us and we though[t] we might be cut off and captured. But, the weather cleared and one day the planes flew (fully loaded with 2-500 bombs and belly tank of napalm), 834 takeoffs and landings. The Germans were stopped and nearly totally destroyed. In March we moved to Cologne, Germany and made an airstrip in a huge cabbage patch. In April 1945, I crossed at Remagen Bridge on pontoons on our way to Fritzlar, Germany (near Kassel). This happened to be a German airfield that was camouflaged into the side of small hills. It was near the end of the war and it was at Fritzlar two Russian Generals (Zukov and Rohasofsky) came to have a meeting with Eisenhower, Bradley, etc. I saw them all. I had seen Eisenhower, Bradley, etc. several times while at St Trond when they came to meet with field Marshall Montgomery (Britsh).
I was supposed to go into Temple of Airdrome in Berlin, but was cha[n]ged since the Russians would take Berlin. Instead I was sent to Struabing, Germany on the Danube in southwest Germany to set a field up in case Hitler decide[d] to hold out in the Alps Mountains. It never happened -- Hitler stayed in Berlin. Goering, the head of the German Air Force went to the Alps and was captured down there.
When the war in Europe was over, I was in Struabing. I contacted the Colonel who commands the 404th Fighter Group who had moved from Fritzlar to Stuttgart to get me tranferred to his group since they were headed back to the states for training and then to the Far East. The war was still on in the Pacific.
I went to Stuttgart. Then with the 404th, I went to Antwerp, Belgium to board a ship. While we were on the way back to the U.S., the war with Japan was over. We landed at Norfolk, Va. and then by troop train to San Antonio, Texas. I finally arrived back in the state of Texas after nearly 2 1/2 years overseas.
I came back with medals, ribbons and battle stars for this period of my military career. There are many sad and te[r]rible things I saw and experienced while in Europe. I was fortunate, I came back.
Hopefully, Ethan, this will let you know a little bit more about your Grandpa.
I love you, Joseph W. Croft
On the death of Melvin Moore Croft, the farm was divided into seven divisions. The parts of the farm were divided by lot between the seven surviving children. Joseph W. Croft, Sr. bought five of the seven divisions from his aunts and uncles and obtained the sixth part from his father. When Joseph W. Croft, Sr. bought the first part, his father M.V. Croft traded his part with one of his sister's part so that the two parts would be adjacent. M.V. Croft initially farmed the two parts. As J.W. Croft Sr. was able to purchase additional parts, the size of the farm grew and M.V. Croft was able to farm the additional sections. He bought the sixth section after his farm residence was built. The original home place of Melvin Moore was located on the sixth section so J.W. Croft Sr.'s home had to be built in a different location though he always wanted the house to go where Melvin Moore's home had originally been located (on the hill). The seventh section still belongs to a different owner.
"Vol. Y, Page 530" listed in his genealogy notes. May refer to Groesbeck/Limestone Co. courthouse birth certificate records.