In reading through copies of this weekly newspaper published in 1949, I have been moved by the articles relaying details pertaining to soldiers’ bodies being returned to their families who lived in our area. I am talking about those soldiers who were killed in World War II and due to the war, the identification of bodies, the removal of their bodies and at last, their final trip home to Chickasaw County. I cannot help but be affected and I can only wonder at the pain this caused. These wives, mothers and fathers had already suffered through receiving that telegram no one wants to read, informing them their husband or son was killed on that day and in that place, whether in Germany, in Japan or the Pacific islands. For most, if not all, its been three or four years of pain, maybe that pain has subsided somewhat and now the wound is raw and open again. Another situation which baffled me at first was sometimes in the list of survivors, the wife might have a different last name. At first, I thought ‘how awful’ but then realized these women had a husband who had been dead for 2, 3 or 4 years. They had every right to move on with their lives, but at first, it was a puzzlement.
There were numerous times in the weekly newspapers that someone had taken a knife and cut out an article on the front page. I fear some of these were probably about soldiers’ bodies coming home. Those I found included:
Jan. 6, ’49 edition – Pvt. John Thomas Moore, US Marines, killed on Iwo Jima 15 March, 1945.
Apr. 21 ’49 edition – Lt. Preston Dewitt Carter, 11th Airborne Div. killed 6 Feb. 1946, outskirts of South Manilla, Philippines
June 6, ’49 edition – Pvt. Harrison A. Tutor, 2nd Tank BN, 9th Army, killed December, 1944 in Luxemburg, Germany.
Oct. 26, ’49 edition – S/Sgt. Garland Blanton, captured by Japanese and died 3 July, 1942 on the Bataan Death March
I have chosen to tell the story of the Golson family. Mr. and Mrs. Graham T. Golson were the editors and publishers of the Times Post for about nineteen years prior to Sid Harris assuming that role. When I was just a little girl attending First Baptist Church in Houston, Mrs. Golson was there – and I mean when in the Primary Department, sitting on those tiny little chairs that I can see in my mind to this day. She was a frail, diminutive little lady – wispy silver hair pulled back in a bun, a body that was a tad stooped, silver rimmed glasses and a smile that lighted up her face. And I had no idea of the pain this woman was suffering. When the doors of that church were open, you could bet Rochelle Golson was there.
The Golsons were parents of two sons, John and Graham E. Golson. The newspaper business was a part of their DNA. John was the editor of a newspaper in Tampa, Florida. Graham Emanuel graduated from Houston High School in 1933. He earned his M.A. from Emory University in 1938, where he was the editor of the university’s school paper. He also served as the city editor of the Macon (GA) News for several years prior to enlisting in the U.S. Marines in January, 1942. Graham graduated from Officer’s School at Quantico, VA, as a Second Lieutenant in the fall of 1942. As a part of the Third Marine Division, his first stop was Camp Pendleton, California, and from there to the South Pacific in February of 1943. Training continued at New Zealand for several months then it was on to Guadalcanal. Golson was part of the invasion of Bougainville Island.
In “Mississippians at War”, Clarion Ledger 4 December, 1944, it was written “Because he wanted to make sure that his machine guns were functioning properly in a night fight against the Japanese, Marine First Lieutenant Graham E. Golson of Houston, a Third Marine Division platoon leader, was killed at the Battle of Fonte Ridge during the Guam campaign. His platoon was in company reserve when a new Marine push was started from Sugar Bluff, a bloody battle site. At 5 p.m., his platoon was called to the front of Fonte Ridge. First Lt. Golson and his men had just enough time to dig in and set up their machine guns for the night before the Japs launched an attack. During the intermittent enemy attacks that night, the former newspaperman worked his way along the front lines keeping in contact with his men. At approximately 1 o’clock in the morning he got out of his foxhole to check his platoon’s machine guns. A Japanese light machine gun opened up and hit him in the face. He died instantly.” This was July 24, 1944.
On Monday night, August 28, 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Golson received that awful telegram beginning with that “We deeply regret to inform you”- and it went on to tell them their son, “1st Lt. Graham E. Golson was killed in action in the performance of his duty and service of his country. No information available at present. Regarding disposition of remains, temporary burial in locality where death occurred is probable. You will be promptly furnished any additional information when received. To prevent possible aid to our enemies, do not divulge the name of his ship or station.” Remember, this is August, 1944.
On June 9 of the following year, Mrs. Golson lost her husband. As stated in a Clarion Ledger article, “He received a crushing blow when his fine son, Marine Lt. Graham E. Golson, was killed on Guam in July, 1944, a blow from which he never recovered”. Still no further word regarding her son. She gathered strength from her church family and from her community. She waited alone for the next chapter in the death of her son.
While sifting through the pages of the Times Post, it was in the March 17, 1949 edition when I found it. This was four years and eight months of wondering, of a mother’s pain of not knowing what was in store for her dead soldier son’s body in being returned. I did a lot of reading about this process of returning dead soldiers’ bodies and it was, of course, a gruesome detail that no soldier wanted to be a part of and I will spare you the details. In going back to World War 1, Black Jack Pershing had a problem with it. He was of the opinion that a soldier’s body should remain where it had fallen – that it was sacred ground. However, mothers and daddies didn’t feel that way. They wanted their son to come home for burial in a local cemetery and it eventually became the norm – but the next of kin had the option of having their soldier’s body to remain in France, Belgium, Germany or on a Pacific Island where it had been interred after death or to be shipped home to be buried in a family plot.
The March 17, 1949, issue told the story of his body finally coming home. Graham E. Golson’s body was returned to Starkville where it was buried in the Odd Fellow’s cemetery, next to his father. On the page which told of his service to be held at the Methodist Church there, I found a small item with the word “thirty” at the top and bottom of it. This immediately rang a bell in my brain but I was not sure of the origin of this practice. Research reminded me that “thirty” was an indication of the end – back in the day of reporters being out in the field and sending their stories in a bit at a time. When that final piece went through, ‘thirty’ was at the bottom, indicating the end – no more etc. Mrs. Golson thanked her community for all their love and support during the past years. She then said she was going to be gone for a while – no particular destination, just around and about as they said in those days. But that ‘thirty’ also indicated that her long ordeal was over and done.
A lot of sad, sad stories in the paper during this time – young men with a lot of promise killed way too soon. Again, a reminder that “War is Hell” and also that we owe our military respect and thanks.