By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - JW Ragsdale was a 25 year-old husband and father when he was drafted into the Army in World War Two.
"I was an old country boy, just making a living with two children."
He trained on the 60 millimeter mortar.
"Oh, I loved that weapon. It was something else. Started out, you were an ammunitions bearer. That sack went over your head and they put shells in the front and the back. To carry those shells and watch those men handle the 60mm mortar that was something else."
After training, he went to Hawaii to a replacement depot.
"A replacement depot is a depot that they send you out when a man gets killed on the front line. They had a lot of man killed in Leyte in the Phillipine Islands and that's where I ended up. And that's where that big battle was fought between the United States and Japan. It was one of the biggest battles in the South Pacific."
From Leyte, he went to Kerama Ketto, Ieshima, and ended up in Okinowa. He spent his days fighting the Japanese --and his nights in foxholes. He remembers one night when his mind played tricks on him.
"We decided to dig in for the night. Nobody moved at night except dead men. If you moved at night, you were dead. I mean your own people killed you. You stay in your hole no matter what happened. We had a supply sgt. who'd bring us up food and water every evening just before dark. He had trouble that day. Didn't make it. He dropped the food off at the bottom of the mountain.
At about 3 in the morning, I looked down the hill and I saw one of those cans move. I punched my buddy and woke him up. He said 'I don't see a thing' and he went back to sleep. And that can got up and walked a little bit further toward me. I cut out on it with my M1 and the other thousands of people saw where that tracer went and they began to fire on them too. We cut them cans, I know there was 150, 200 cans. We fired on 'em all night long.
No water, no rations the next day. And one of my sgts. said 'I wish I had that s-b that shot that first round. And I said 'Man I would too."
Ragsdale made it through the war alive and without injury. But before he left Okinowa, he was asked to help those who were not so lucky.
"Out of all the 4 different islands that I fought on, this was the only island I was called on to pick up the dead. And I said to myself, 'I don't know wh'er I can do it, but if I was out there, they'd come get me.' So I told them I would go. We left no man that we knew of up on them hills and in them tombs, we got 'em out and brought 'em in."
He looks back on his service with pride.
"I'm glad I went because I enjoy my freedom. Freedom is something we take pretty lightly, but it's something that's real good to have. Tom Browkaw said the WWII generation was the greatest generation that ever lived and I take that to heart. I'm glad to have been a part of it."
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