November 11, 2008

WWII Veteran and Gardener: Arthur's Story

What started as a story about flowers at the North Carolina State Fair turned into the history of World War II Veteran, Mr. Arthur Teasley of Durham, North Carolina.

Arthur and his wife Kitty had an award-winning display garden in the Flower and Garden Show. In addition to creating his own display, Arthur grew most of the beautiful flowers used in the award-winning display created by his granddaughter, Natasha, and other family members. Great garden design is apparent in the Teasley family!

As an 89 year-old, Arthur is quite the active and talented gardener. He grows his flowers in containers from seeds! Natasha Teasley says:

I asked Grandpa if he had anything to add about favorite plants or seeds or gardening advice. He said he didn't really have anything that people didn't already know. I asked him if I should say "some people have it and some don't" -- he chuckled.

While his flowers were quite inspiring, there is even more inspiration in the story of his service to this country. I'm happy to present Arthur's Story, in his own words, on this Veterans Day.

Arthur's Story

Serving in World War II
Arthur Winston Teasley
US Army
Headquarters and Service Company
1339th Engineering Construction Battalion

Kitty and I were married on April 4, 1942. About three months later I received the news that the US Army wanted me, so in July 1942, I went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I stayed there one week then I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for Basic Training. Kitty came up to Fort Belvoir and stayed one week.

When I finished training I ranked in the top fifteen in Basic Training. Training consisted of sharp-shooting, field training and endurance. I earned the American Theater Service Medal, European Theater Service Medal, Pacific Theater Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. I also earned the 1903 Springfield Bolt Action Sharp Shooter Medal and (after 1943) the M1 Sharp Shooter Medal wearing a dishpan helmet.

In April 1943, I was picked to help train young men for war at Camp Abbot in Bend, Oregon. We stopped off at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for one month of training in close order drill. After training, I got a 15-day leave to come home.

We arrived at Camp Abbot on May 15, 1943. It snowed that same day. In May 1943, I was promoted to Corporal. Kitty and Julia (first born) came out in August to live. We spent a lot of time in Bend, Oregon, at the park on the Deschutes River. It was also a place we would go fishing. To get down to the water we would climb a ladder up and then down about 20 feet. In October 1943, I was promoted to Sergeant. In January 1944, we had to go out for two weeks on maneuvers. The temperature stayed from 10 degrees below to 10 degrees above with about 2 feet of snow on the ground. We stayed at Camp Abbot until June 1944, then went up to Fort Lewis, Washington.

At Fort Lewis, Washington, we continued with maneuvers and training. During my time at Fort Lewis, I met an old Indian who took me on the Columbia River netting salmon. I didn't feel too safe, but it turned out fine and we caught large salmon. Bubby was born September 3, 1944 in Olympia, Washington. We left Fort Lewis in March 1945 headed towards Boston, Massachusetts. Kitty, Julia and Bubby returned to Durham. We stopped off at Camp Miles Standish outside of Boston for about 4 days for re-equipment of the troops. We soon received word that President Roosevelt had died.

In April 1945 in Boston, we boarded the USAT George Washington* for Europe. We arrived in England April 27. We had to wait until dark to go through the English channel. We arrived in LeHavre, France, on April 28, 1945. There were sunken ships and planes everywhere you looked. That is when I wanted to turn around and return home. We got on riverboats and went up the Seine River about 50 miles. The riverbanks were lined with burned up tanks and trucks. They had gotten to the river and could not cross and had to burn the tanks and trucks. We got off the riverboat at a small town named Ville Saint Aubin les Elbeuf, France, put up camp and stayed three days before our convoy headed towards Germany. We would stop each day about 5 o'clock for the night. One of our stops was just outside of Lyons, France. On May 7, 1945, we were going through Paris and people were everywhere on roofs, hanging out windows, some laughing, some crying, and some dancing. We thought everybody had gone crazy. Then we found out the War was over. We got orders and did an about face and headed for Marseilles, France. We were real happy and almost knew we would be going back to the USA.

On July 10, 1945, we left Marseilles, France on board the USS Admiral H.T. Mayo** and 10 days later we woke up thinking we were coming into New York, but instead we were going through the Panama Canal heading for Japan. We were sitting out in the waters waiting for orders when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, so then we were put off on Okinawa (late August 1945). The first day we were there we had a bad typhoon. There were still some Japanese on the island that didn't know the War was over. We still had a lot of cleaning up to do. There were some dead Okinawa people we had to bury. Sad time! We also had to blow up many truckloads of ammunition that the Japanese left behind. The only injury I got was two broken ribs when I was riding on a bulldozer that got caught on a land mine. We left Okinawa in December 1945 on board a small Liberty Ship, the SS Cape Cod.*** We crossed the International Date Line on December 24, 1945, which made us have two Christmas Eves.

On January 8, 1946, we arrived in Seattle, Washington. On January 11, we left Seattle for Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

I was discharged from the US Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on January 19, 1946. Kitty was already at Fort Bragg waiting for me.

Good to be back home! I would not take anything for what I did and saw.

*The George Washington was a large German passenger liner captured in World War I. The United States converted it into a Transport Ship. It was commissioned the USS George Washington in September 1917. In March 1941, it was recommissioned the USS Catlin. In April 1943, it was recommissioned the USAT George Washington. It would carry up to 10,000 troops.

**The USS Admiral H.T. Mayo was commissioned in January 1945, decommissioned in May 1946, the later recommissioned the USAT General Nelson M. Walker.

***The SS Cape Cod was one of the 2,710 World War II Liberty Ships. We were unable to locate any specific information on the SS Cape Cod Liberty Ship.

Arthur's Story was written by Mr. Arthur Teasley. Photos and introduction by Freda Cameron. Research assistance from Natasha Teasley.

Mr. Teasley passed away on March 13, 2013 in Durham, NC.

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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