Clarence Whisler, US Army 1942-1945
Watch Clarence’s story or read it below.
Well, I’m from Belzoni, Mississippi. I was born and raised down there. I volunteered for service in Jackson, Mississippi, the capital. They put me in several differe’nt services until I finally ended up with the infantry. I was in the service two years, seven months, and one day. The positions I held in service were I was Army Clerk. In fact, I went to school in the service and became an Army Clerk and I held that position with the 94th Infantry Division. And why did I join? Yes. I joined because I wanted to. I volunteered. How did it affect my life? It kind of changed my life to a different direction. When I had gotten out of high school, so I was looking for some way to go, and so I went that way.
Stories about my time in the service. I had a lot of good stories, but I can’t recite them all right now. I was, I really felt good about going down and volunteering to go into the service, and then when I got in, I found out about some good and bad things. I enjoyed the good and didn’t worry about the bad. About my service, in general, I think it was a good time for me to become a man. I was 18, and I was 21, or 20 by the time I got out, two years, seven months, and one day. Would I do it again? Sure, I would. Why not? But I’m never going to be 20 again. That’s okay.
All those things do pertain to the basic things in my life, but one of the great things out of the service was they sent me to college, so I hold two degrees. One from Bolivar. Another one, the University of Oklahoma. So I’m highly-qualified to be a teacher and that’s what I did for 33 years. Enjoyed every bit of it. English teacher. After that time, I got settled down in one place with my wife. Got married, and we had … Let’s see, we were together for … Let’s see. How many years? We were married in ‘45, ‘46, ‘48. I’ll get it in a minute. ‘48 and until just this year, I was married to her. I enjoyed that lovely woman. She’s lovely, and she was a nice mother for my kids. I have two, Steve and Mary. They can be proud they had a lovely mother like that. I loved her all the way to the end. I really liked her.
About my military service, yeah, I’d do it again. I did it this time on a voluntary basis. If it came available, and I was able, and everything going great guns, well, I’d volunteer to go again. You bet. I’d do it again. You bet. I just didn’t want to be drafted. That’s the make you have to come in. Otherwise, I didn’t have to, so that’s what happened. I served in Germany mostly. Got captured, two months in prison camp. Limburg, Germany. I was on a team, a gunner team. We had a machine gun, and I carried the ammunition in tool boxes. That’s my position. I only had a PFC rank. I did get a corporal rank after I got out. I think that congress made every one of us one more rank. So I went from PFC to corporal and got out being a corporal.
But I felt good about my service, because I did it. I got through everything great. They made a man out of me. I was just a kid when I went in. I’m not a kid anymore. Yeah, I’d do it again. I had to wait until I was 18. I was too young, originally, when the war broke out. But the next year, I turned 18. That’s when I went down to the draft board and told them, “I’m ready to go. I want to go in the Air Force.” “No, we’ll put you somewhere.” I said, “Okay. Put me somewhere.” So they put me in the infantry. I didn’t want to go to the infantry, but I did. But I’d do it again, yeah.
I’m just proud that I served in the Army of the United States of America, because I am an American. I was born here. I was born in Belzoni, Mississippi, and I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud to be in the military. I served the best I could and that’s the way it worked for me. I don’t resent anything, no. Even though I did serve a month or so in prison camp in Germany. That made a man out of me, and I saw you could die and not be shot. So many different things you could die from in prison camp, but I learned how to get along on soup and bread. I lost a lot of weight, but I got out okay, and I’m back to where I was.
I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve had an interesting life, all the way from the bottom to the top. I’m at the top now. I’m 93 tomorrow. I think that’s the way it is. Tomorrow I have a birthday. 93. I didn’t know I’d make it that far, but I did. I’m happy and glad that I did what I did. I’m not ashamed of anything, no. I passed the story onto my students that I taught school, they wanted to hear it. They didn’t want me to write it on the board. They didn’t want to read it on a paper. So I told it, orally. But I could draw some pictures on a blackboard to show some things that they might be able to understand, but I might have had some influence on some of them joining the military. Could be, because I did come through in a tough situation, but I made it. I’m proud of it.
Yeah, we were in a unit, a machine gun squad. Germans came in that night. We were in a house and Germans came in a tank. It’s kind of hard to fight a tank with rifles and so they asked us to give up. Somebody answered said, “if you come with hände hoch we come with hands up.” They said, “kommen sie hier.” That’s what they said. They knew German, they knew a little English, we knew very little German. But, anyhow that’s the way it worked that night, that they called out. The guys started giving up. I didn’t give up right away, no. I went back in a coal bin, sat there waiting to see what’s going to happen.
I was protected until they came in. I looked up and there he was. Had a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other. I threw my rifle down. I thought, “This is the end of it,” so that’s the way they got me. Along with about, I guess there were 10 or 12 of us they captured. Some of the guys took off and had a Jeep and a truck, and they took off when the Germans got so close. But we didn’t take off, we had nothing to take off in. No. We stayed right there. They came right in and got us. A great experience, that prison camp. There was about 200 fellows in that camp in Limburg, Germany. I saw a lot of things happen. A lot of things I learned. There were different prisoners in that camp. Some from India, some from England, some from the United States, different countries.
Different areas, and I saw a guy, I thought it was a woman out there, rolling up her hair. I thought, “I didn’t think there was any women in here.” He was from India. He was winding up his hair with his turban. Like I say, you learn things, so I was learning a lot of things. I don’t know how to sum it all up. It’s just that I’m glad I got through the experience, but I did join because I wanted to. I was not drafted.