Biography of William Ivy Byrd
Company Clerk, CCC, Company 6426, Eureka Utah, & Green River, Utah
Lt., Machine Gunner, I Co., 4th Bn, 66th Inf Regt, 71st Div, 3rd Army, USA
I grew up on a farm 20 miles west of Mobile, Al in the Tanner-Williams Community during the years 1930-1940 and am therefore a member of the "Greatest Generation" according to Tom Brokow. I tell people I did not grow up in the Country - you had to go through the country to reach our location. We moved there when I was eight years of age from Monroe County, Al when the crash took all we had, cotton, corn, mules, cows and equipment. Mama, Papa, six boys and a girl composed the family. With six boys in school, to say times were hard is putting it mildly. All six of the boys graduated and became successful.
From the second grade on, I expressed my desire to be a lawyer. My family, teachers, and classmates encouraged me although it appeared to be an impossible dream considering our economic means. I remember when Mr. Roosevelt established the CCC and that later appeared to be an answer or a help.
Graduation day came June 2, 1940 and on June 12, I applied for the CCC. On July 2, 1940 a group of us from Mobile, including my best friend from childhood, Murray Driskell, were trucked to Uriah, Al, my birthplace, at a tent camp out in the woods. My notes show this was Jericho Camp G-26, CCC Company 6426.
The group was lined up and the person in charged asked if anyone could type. No one replied.
My principal in High School, John R. Montgomery, one of my best supporters, had asked me to help him in the office. He had an old typewriter and I learned how to hunt and peck so I held up my hand. They wanted the roster typed which I did and from that day I remained in the office as a clerk.
A few days later we were trucked back to Mobile and boarded an L and N train for shipment to the west. This was an interesting experience for me since I had never ridden a train nor been more than fifty miles from home. You are not going to believe it and I have trouble believing it but that is completely blocked out of my mind. I know we boarded the train in Mobile . I had never been on a train and you would think that would leave an impression. I may have been scared to death!
Soon we arrived in Eureka, Utah from where we were trucked out in the mountains near Eureka. On July 9, 1940 we joined the officers and cadre forming Company 6426. We were known as CCC Co.6426, G-26.
Lt. William P. Pope was the Commander and Lt. James C. Grant was the Subaltern, each from Alabama. Anton J. Gleason, non reserve and a Mormon minister from Utah, was the Educational Advisor, who stayed with the company the entire time I was there.
Dr. Albert R. Taylor came to us to serve as our Camp Doctor on July 9, 1940 and stayed there until Oct. 15, 1940 when he was replaced with Dr. Ashton D. McKinney.
Dr. Ashton D. McKinney took me with him to Salt Lake City, Utah and we toured the City getting to see the Temple and tour the Tabernacle while studying the history of the Mormons. I met Brigham Young's grandson and in later years while in school in Omaha saw the winter home of the Mormons where many of them died.
Another very exciting experience was seeing my first snow. I was almost 18 years old and I remember the thrill as it began to fall and then covered the ground.
On another ocassion we were going into town one day when the bus stopped. We were on our way to Eureka and stopped beside the road near Eureka. We went over to the side of the road and looked down in a hole. The house, which had occupied the site, was standing straight up a good distance below the surface. It had fallen into a mine, I guess.
I only went into Eureka twice. I saved my money!
I was tutored in the Company Clerk's office by two very fine people from Perth Amboy, NJ. They were Charles S. Pasco and Lawrence V. Gemon. Charles S. Pasko, from Perth Amboy N. J. was the Company Clerk. With his help I became Company Clerk and did the clerical work in the office. My duties required me to handle correspondence, type orders, payroll, filing and the usual paperwork. At night I would help with the education of other men. We had twelve who could not read nor write. It was great to see them write letters home and be able to read those received.
Since I never went out in the field, I honestly do not know what kind of work the boys did.
On August 1, 1940 I was appointed Assistant Leader at $36.00 per month and on August 14, I was appointed Leader at $45.00 per month with board and clothing. I had never seen more than $3.00 at one time which I could call my own.
The CCC served a purpose to feed, clothe, house, and train poor boys as well as to reclaim natural resources. It certainly served my purpose which was to save some money to enroll in college to pursue my dream of being a lawyer which I did. After over fifty years in the legal business as a lawyer and Circuit Judge, I am truly thankful for what the CCC did for me. It also inspired me to help others obtain an education by awarding scholarships on my own and serving on committees for that purpose.
Lt. Pope was transferred to Co.482 on Jan 8, 1941 and Lt. Grant went to Co. 585. Charles S. Pasko of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, who trained me as Company Clerk, transferred with Lt. Pope to 482.
The person I liked most in the camp was Lt. William P. Pope. He gave me an opportunity to work in the office and within 30 days I was promoted to Leader and with the extra money I was able to get a start in College. He gave me much responsibility and he and I worked together very well. I hated to see him go but in 1968 I was able to contact him through one of his relatives in Marion, Al. In his letter He indicated that as Lt. Col he commanded the 3d Airborne Anti-Aircraft Bn in New Guinea and the Philipines. He made full Col in the artillery and shifted to T.C. and got into the amphibious business retiring at Fort Bragg in 1964 as commander of the 12th Support Brigade.
He married a good Alabama girl and they have a fine family. He became supt of Oak RidgeFoundation at the Military Institute at Oak Ridge, N.C. He is retired now, I am sure. I give you this info to show you that my confidence was placed in a good man.
No one did I dislike at the Camp, however, the Subaltern and I did not get along as well as I would have liked. I believe he resented Lt. Pope having so much confidence in me and I was doing a lot of the work that might have been done by the subaltern.
Lt. William A. Summers took command on Jan. 9, when Lt. Pope left. Aubrey W. Priebe took over as Subaltern on Jan. 20, 1941.
My company was transferred to a camp about 52 miles out in the country from Green River, Utah on May 10, 1941. I remember the train ride from Eureka to Green River because we stopped out in the middle of nowhere at a place where steam engines pick up water. Trucks met us and I thought I would never get to where we were going. They brought me back after one full day there.
Lt. James A. Sears took command on the 10th, relieving Summers. Seemed like a nice fellow but I hardly had time to shake hands with him before we left. Two days later I was discharged.
The company commander who was being transferred, William A. Summers, and I left the Company on May 12, he to Camp 5713 in Prove, Utah and I was sent home to Tanner-Williams. Aubrey W. Priebe was transferred to Co. 2529 on the day we left.
I do not know what happened then but I presume they were dissolved since I was being sent home early and they were talking about doing away with the CCC.
I have no memory of the trip back home and I have no notes on it.
I obtained a job in Mobile as a clerk in the used car department of DeVan Ford Motor Company. At the hugh sum of $13.00 per week. I was raised to $15.00 two days later. I remained there until I enrolled in College in Omaha, Neb. on Sept. 6, 1941. My father died that day and I am told that some of his last words were, "Did Ivy get in College?" The answer was yes and that fulfilled his dream too - He could not read nor write although a very smart man, carpenter, painter, electrician and farmer.
After the CCC's I went to school, ending up in Law School. Then came the war
Although I was a trained Company Clerk (CCC) and in Law School, they gave me a machine gun. and I served with Patton's Third Army across France, Germany and Austria. I was first gunner in the machine gun squad of the 4th platoon, Company I of third battalion 66th Infantry Regiment of the 71st Infantry Division, joining the 7th Army in France in Jan 1945 and after crossing the Rhine at Mannheim we joined the Third Army under Patton. We proceeded across Germany into Austria where we were the right flank of the Third Army when we met the Russians at the Enns River in Steyr and became known as the "Farthest East Unit". This was in Austria on May 7th, 1945 when "we accepted the surrender of the German Army Group South after the rout of the German Sixth SS Division Nord".
I was guarding the river bridge at the time. A representative of a German Division on the other side came over to our side and want to surrender his Division to us. Orders required us not to let any more Germans on our side. The German Officer said and I quote, "You will have to come get us because we will continue to fight". That was the day before the surrender on the 8th. The soldiers did not want to face the Russians and had been giving up to us in droves. Three German soldiers jumped into the River to swim over to our side. I was ordered to fire which I did over their heads. Two turned back but one was successful. Bless his heart, he was sent back to an unknown fate. With those shots I believe I fired the last shots of the war since they came on the 7th.
I attained the rank of PFC in April, 1943 and by choice (story behind that) remained a PFC until March 1946. At that time I was attached to the CIA rounding up Nazi officials and seeking German Public opinion. I had a driver who was a cpl and an interpreter who was a Sgt. My superior wanted to promote me and he assured me I would keep the same job. Therefore I accepted the SGT position in March and was discharged as such in April 1946. I have told people I was the highest ranking private in the Army having been in grade for 35 months!
I reentered Law School and enrolled in ROTC. I graduated as Distinguished Cadet and was offered a regular Army commission. The Army was not for me so I accepted the Reserve Commission as Lt. in Army Infantry. I got ready to leave for Korea in 1950 because I had an MOS as light machine gunner and was a Reserve Officer in the Infantry with my ROTC Col Martin headed for Korea. I just knew I would be called. He was killed and they never did get to me, Praise the Lord.
After the war, I continued my studies at Creghiton Law Scool in Omaha and graduated June 8, 1948. I practiced law in Alexander City, Al and surrounding counties for 25 years before I became Circuit Judge and road the Circuit in four counties with five courthouses, Tallpossa, Chambers, Randolph, and Macon (Tuskegee). I retired in 1983 and have travelled the State as active retired Judge. After 52 years in the legal business I am just about ready to retire again!
----- William I. Byrd
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