By Paula Walter
Reford McQueen, of Shady Valley, served in the United States Army during World War II. Born in 1922, he was from a family of six. His father had passed away, and he and his brothers and sisters were raised during the Great Depression by his mother.
McQueen was a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program from 1939 to 1943 in the United States. He initially was stationed in Unicoi County for approximately six months before he was reassigned to Washington State. It was for unemployed, single men as part of the New Deal. It was his first time out of Shady Valley. According to McQueen, he cut wood with a nine-foot saw. So they could roll the wood and make sure it was out of sight to keep the Japanese from hiding near the Pacific Ocean during the war.
McQueen maintains a sense of humor to this day. “I didn’t know how to drive,” he said of his time in the Army. He drove his first truck and clocked over 320 miles that day. “I was on the road, and then off the road.” McQueen said. “I volunteered to try and drive so they sent me out to buy food. I would buy cabbage. Everyone was hungry,” he said. “They even had me drive a hearse.”
McQueen reported for basic training in Oglethorpe, Georgia after being drafted in 1943. “It was one of the prettiest places,” he said. “The prettiest place I ever saw was Yakima Valley. He learned to drive tanks in Arizona and achieved the rank of sergeant. “We was just like a bunch of hyenas.” He attributes making the decision to join the military to a friend. “You just done what you thought you ought to,” McQueen said. “You ought to do what you got to do.”
According to McQueen, he left the United States and headed for England during war by ship on the Queen Elizabeth. “I was the only one that didn’t get sick,” he said. “I ate everything.” After arriving in England, he went on to France. “We were worrying about getting back home,” he recalled. He fought during the Battle of the Bulge. “They had a pile of guns you wouldn’t believe,” McQueen said.
McQueen recalls crossing the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge. “There were 13 tanks in front of me, “ he said. “There weren’t supposed to be more than four at a time. It was impossible to get everything done. We were a bunch of teenagers. The Germans kept trying to shell as they crossed the river. It was the first real battle we saw.” According to McQueen, the Germans had placed themselves up in a church steeple so they could see where the shelling was occurring.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.