Tennessee Records Repository

Decatur Co. TN


From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983).

Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.

Lillye Younger

Despite the fact that Veteran's Day, formerly "Armistice Day" was celebrated this year on October 25th by an act of Congress, there is one man in Decatur County who is fully aware of the day, the minute and hour.

It's J.W.C. Gibson of the Garrett Community near Decaturville. "Armistice Day, as we World War I veterans know it, was the day the fighting was over, however to some of us, we didn't get the message until several days later. The peace treaty was signed the 11th day, the 11th hour and the 11th month, making it November 11th, 1918.

Mr. Gibson experienced some very trying times during his stretch in the conflict. He hasn't let it bitter him and relishes opportunities to tell of patriotic fervor in the early days in American history. He speaks to school groups and each time eager youngsters sit, spellbound. with ears perked to the exciting first-hand account of action during World, War 1.

He was inducted in the U.S. Army November 14, 1917 and received his basic training at Camp Gordon, Georgia. His Captain, Charlie Talley, was a Henderson Countian.

"My infantry company sailed from Camp Upton. N.Y. for Liverpool, England. We had no trouble crossing the ocean but an enemy submarine was spotted, which was sunk by the allied forces, " he recalls.

"One of the highlights in England was when my company joined other allied forces and paraded before King George and Queen Mary of England on May 11, 1918. There were about 4,000 soldiers in the parade. Just before we passed the reviewing stand the order W3S given, 'Eyes right.' So we all got to see the King and Queen.

Gibson met Sgt. Alvin C. York, the late Tennessee War hero while in service.

"Our company landed in France on May 13th, 1918, and we were held in reserve for the front lines." he remembers. "We entered the trenches July 13, 1918 and entered the battle of Argonne Forest September 26, 1918."

Under the command of General John J. Pershing, the American army launched an offensive toward a town lying 30 miles north of the American front. There were more than 1,200,000 American troops ready for the advance and 600, 000 of them taking an active part in the battle.

"Fifty men of my division were killed during the battle and I was captured and taken prisoner on October 11, 1918, to a camp in Germany," he said. "Here 2,400 American soldiers were imprisoned. I was lucky to make friends with an American German named Bill Wormhaughf who spoke English as well as German. We could communicate with our captors."

"Life was hard in the prison camp," Gibson explains. "We were forced to do hard labor and I hauled potatoes, worked at the sawmills and on the railroads. Common labor paid 6 cents a day and railroad work paid 18 cents per day. I worked at a sawmill five days and had to stand in line for half a day to collect my 30 cents."

Gibson received the Purple Heart while in service. He was wounded in the hip in the Argonne Forest battle. He also received three battle bars aid another medal.

"Seventeen days after I was captured the first Red Cross package arrived and were we happy prisoners of war," he recalls. "It certainly was good, it contained hard tack, canned foods, clothing, toilet articles and tobacco. A second supply arrived a week later. I swapped a short overcoat for a long one."

"I was released from prison camp November 30, 1918, nineteen days after Armistice was signed. On December 8, I left for France, traveling through Switzerland to Vinchy France where the army rented 70 hotels for the allied forces until they could be seat home. It was a health resort town and the food at the hotel was delicious. We were served turkey on Christmas Day."

Troops were transported to the states by ships. Gibson was discharged May 26th, 1919 from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Memcries of the war are kept in a trunk in the Gibson home. In it are a piece of "Hard tack," a canteen and a gas mask. "I wore my tan wool uniform out," he explained.

Gibson is a retired farmer and a member of the New Hope Baptist Church where he has served as deacon for 44 years and Sunday School Superintendent for 38 years. He has been a member of the American Legion for 53 years, an active member of the V.F.W. and Veterans of World War I.

He married Mary Ila Haywood July 20, 1919 and they are the parents of a son and three daughters, J.W. Gibson of Parsons, Mrs. Viole Flowers of Flint, Michigan, Mrs. Mary V. Moore of Parsons and Mrs. Marie Baddour of Covington, Tennessee.

We salute this outstanding Veteran of World War I not only for his service to his country but for his active service in society for the welfare of Decatur County.

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