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The following are excerpts from Chapter 4, “Old and New Kentucky Homes,” from A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham

Another decisive victory for the U.S. Navy, following on the heels of its success at the Battle of Midway, was its defeat of the Japanese during the Battle of Guadalcanal. This operation, which ended in early January, had been under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It provided an optimistic beginning to the new year. “Many senior officers, from all branches of the armed forces, aren’t planning strategy on the battlefields of Europe or commanding operations in the Pacific,” Dad told Mother and me one late-winter day. “They’re working behind the scenes in Washington, often in cramped, temporary office buildings.”

The temporary buildings in which government offices did their work were in various places in Washington—near Fort McNair, on the Washington Mall, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, along Constitution Avenue, and in the grassy areas surrounding the Washington Monument. The Pentagon had been constructed, but occupants were moving in slowly.

      Dad’s remarks were prophetic, because he was soon to become part of that harried Washington lifestyle. In the spring of 1943 he was ordered to report to the Fuels and Lubricants Division, a newly formed division of the Quartermaster General’s office.

For the first few months on the job, he would serve as deputy director of the division, commuting between Washington and Hopkinsville.

His change in assignment coincided with the end of the war in North Africa. American troops had steadily made big gains after their defeat at Kasserine Pass in February 1943. One occurrence that helped them was that hundreds of British Matilda tanks and American Sherman tanks had been able to push back the smaller force of German Panzers.

Dad, who at the start of the desert campaign was concerned that the power and weight of the Panzers would place the lighter Shermans at a disadvantage, was relieved that the large number of Allied tanks used in the campaign made up for their smaller size.

The Allies defeated Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943, thus spelling the end of Hitler’s dream of access to the Suez Canal. Uncle Bob Shaw, who was serving with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa that spring, saw firsthand the downfall of Rommel’s troops, as he writes in Shaw Clan: “What a sight as the Africa Corps surrendered by marching their units, without guards, under their officers, to the POW camps.”

Considering the discipline Rommel had enforced on his elite corps, it’s not surprising that they surrendered in such a disciplined and controlled way.

When the war later progressed to France, Rommel would again be a force to reckon with, along with German Panzer and Tiger tanks. In Italy, to which Bob’s division proceeded next, Mussolini was politically defeated on July 24, 1943, in the Italian Council, prompting Victor Emmanuel III to order his arrest. This event ended the Rome-Berlin Axis and the power of Italy’s Fascist regime, but it did not put an end to the fighting, in which Uncle Bob’s 3rd Infantry Division would soon be heavily involved.

When our moving day approached, Dad ruefully told me we couldn’t bring our cat, Willie. Noticing the onset of my tears, he said, “We’ll make sure he gets a good new home.” Like fish propelled forward in a river, thousands of workers had been swept to Washington, so it would take us time to find a place to live.

The day before we left, a carload of soldiers came up the driveway to pick up Willie, and a bit later we learned that our cat had become a mascot of their unit. I felt much better. Soon thereafter, we drove away from a friendly small town and towards a city where newcomers lived in anonymity.

[Click on the following Amazon site to learn more about A Salute to Patriotism and read some pages from the book:

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

1942 Uncle Bob (my mother’s half-brother), who would become a well-decorated officer of the 3rd Infantry Division, and wife Bunny before he left for Africa: 1942

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My father (second from right) and the other Camp Campbell generals (Brewer, second from left and Newton, third from left) turn to greet the visiting General Jacob L. Devers.

My father (second from right) and the other Camp Campbell generals (Brewer, second from left and Newton, third from left) turn to greet the visiting General Jacob L. Devers.


The following are excerpts from Chapter 4, “Old and New Kentucky Homes,” from A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham: 

      I didn’t know anything about the large German Panzer tanks in Europe about which my father had once expressed concern, and I had certainly never seen one.  I did see Sherman tanks, however. One day I stood very close to one that was on display at Fort Knox, and I recall feeling dwarfed by its big treads and complex-looking weaponry.

      As fate would have it, I would never sit in one of those tanks again. Howard Peckham’s stellar performance during an intensive one-month course at the Armored Force School brought about a change in his assignment. One evening in early July 1942 he told us he had received orders to report to Camp Campbell later that month. My mother’s response to the news was unexpectedly dramatic.

      “Oh, no!” she sobbed, while pressing her head firmly against a wall in the stairway. She was still in the process . . ., and we had lived at Fort Knox for only three months. This was one of the few times I ever saw her cry when told we would be moving. “I’m sorry, dear,” Dad said sympathetically, “During wartime, officers are sent where the need for their leadership is the greatest.”  Feeling the determination to behave like a gallant army wife, my mother gradually regained her composure and began to pack. 

      In late July 1942, our furniture was again loaded into a huge van, and I started wondering what my future school might be like.

      We had moved to Fort Knox near the end of the school year, so I didn’t attend classes there. I had enjoyed the vacation, though. For one thing, I always looked forward to the arrival of a bakery truck that came to our cul-de-sac twice a week to deliver newly baked bread and sugary cinnamon rolls. I was unhappy when these treats ended.

Back at Fort Benning, our previous post, other officers’ wives—many of them wives of senior officers—were having to make big adjustments.

For example, in August, General Crittenberger assumed command of III Armored Corps (later called XIX Corps) at Camp Polk, Louisiana.

During the following year, General Crittenberger left for assignments in England and then in Italy, the latter of which had more than its share of danger. Josephine (his wife) undoubtedly felt an enormous strain while her husband was serving there—not only was he leading the IV Corps during its many days of fighting north from Rome and across the River Po, but their son, Townsend, was in combat in the European Theater at the same time.

Tragically, Townsend did not survive the war.  In Italy . . .

Like his job at Fort Knox, Howard Peckham’s assignment at Camp Campbell, a relatively new army installation (now called Fort Campbell), was in Kentucky. We would still be living in a pretty bluegrass state noted for its horse ranches, but the Camp had no available houses for dependents. Therefore, we would have to live in one of the nearby small towns.

No longer would we have quarters on a typical army post.An army post was structured and efficient, a place where straight-backed uniformed men and women, who looked as if they had ramrods attached to their spines, walked at a quick pace on sidewalks located . . .

Nevertheless, the move was quite advantageous as far as my father’s career was concerned. In late August, he received a promotion to brigadier general. He had accumulated an impressive array of complimentary efficiency reports from his superiors over the years, so gaining a star was a well-deserved step up the career ladder.

Other good news was that my parents found an attractive place to live in Hopkinsville, a town sixteen miles north of Camp Campbell. Named for Samuel Hopkins, a Revolutionary War soldier and pioneer, Hopkinsville was caught up in the patriotic spirit of the times. Several of its residents offered to share their homes with army families, and Dad found one prospect especially appealing.

After showing my parents their property, the owners, Robert and Frances Fairleigh, invited us to move in with them. My parents gladly accepted, and soon thereafter we began to unpack the few items we had with us. My bedroom was tiny, as was my brother’s, but my parents at least had a large bedroom-sitting room combination, where we spent much of our time. Our own furniture, which had always traveled with us to our far-flung temporary homes, was placed in storage.

At first, it seemed strange to me that we were “boarding” in someone else’s house, but at least, I reasoned, we were living on an old, charming mini-estate with its own distinctive name: Fairlelond.

The property’s grounds were vast and filled with flower gardens and vegetable patches, and I’ve never forgotten the taste of large ripe tomatoes we picked and ate right off the vine. A favorite four-legged playmate of mine, who stayed in a backyard doghouse much of the time, was the Fairleigh family’s rambunctious setter, Lady, who produced a large litter of puppies during our stay. Also in attendance was the frisky black and white short-haired cat my brother and I acquired, named Willie.  Best of all, Robert and Frances Fairleigh were to become lifelong friends of our family.

For many soldiers assigned to the 12th Armored Division, activated at Camp Campbell in September 1942, training was so rugged that they had little energy for socializing.   Their days consisted of long marches and endless combat exercises. “When the sun shines, dust unmercifully flies into their eyes,” Dad said about their environment, “and when it rains, they have to trek through deep mud.”

The commander of the 12th Armored Division then was Major General Carlos B. Brewer. When General Jacob Devers paid a visit (shown in the photo at the top of the page and in A Salute to Patriotism), Dad and the two other 12th Armored Division generals greeted his plane, gave him a tour, and updated him about the division’s progress. 

Dad’s main task was to ensure that the division received training to prepare it well for its inevitable participation in battle. Learning how to load armored vehicles for sea transport, how to communicate in a tank environment, how to perform armor tactics were necessary components of armored warfare training.

The second edition of A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham was published in May 2011. Click on the link below to see the table of contents and other pages.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

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The following are excerpts from Chapter 4, “Old and New Kentucky Homes,” of  A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham

During the early months of 1942, the Philippines, a country Howard Peckham had gotten to like and know very well as a young lieutenant, suffered from one capitulation after another.

      After General MacArthur left the Philippines and found safety in Australia, President Roosevelt ordered Jonathan Wainwright to succeed him as the commander of the American and Filipino forces. Then-Lieutenant General Wainwright took on this task with courage and hoped that fate would treat him well. Success was impossible to achieve, however. Only a few weeks later, he wrote these words to Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor, “We have done our best, both here and on Bataan.”

The next day, May 6, 1942, he surrendered to the Japanese.

      He was then held in prison camps for three years, during which he lived in squalor and a state of near-starvation. Those years were agonizing for his wife, Adele Wainwright, who worried about him unceasingly. I knew a little bit about the Philippines already then, primarily because of the two brass containers that went with us from home to home.“They’re called chow pots,” my father explained to me one day. “After meats, fish, and other foods were cooked, Filipino people could sit in a circle, reach into the pot, and help themselves.”

In the spring of 1942 Dad received new orders. So, at the end of May, our chow pots and other household goods were packed and placed in a large van.

      We then left Fort Benning. In our four-door sedan, Dad drove us on scenic narrow roads adjacent to the budding fruit trees of Georgia, the hills and dales of Tennessee, and finally the lovely blue-green pastures of Kentucky. Our destination was Fort Knox, named after George Washington’s chief of artillery.

At Fort Knox, my father had an important role to play in an expanding and highly mechanized force known simply as the American Armored Force. At that time, then-Major General Jacob L. Devers commanded the Force. At his Fort Knox headquarters, he was responsible for expanding the Force, which he had commanded at that post since August 1941. Sixteen armored divisions were eventually created under the Armored Force.

Howard Peckham was assigned as Chief of Staff of the 8th Armored Division, which been activated at Fort Knox in April 1942, only a month before our arrival. Here the division trained officers and enlisted men from other divisions, as well as its own troops.

My father’s experience as Assistant Chief of Staff of the 2nd Armored Division  prepared him well for this new assignment. His goal was to help bring the 8th Armored Division  to a prominent standing among the divisions.

During the early weeks of its formation, it was jointly commanded by two men—Thomas J. Camp and Robert W. Grow—who were both brigadier generals at the time. “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

The second edition of A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham, published in May 2011. Click this link to look inside the book:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0966585550/

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