Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Texas During WW II

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Year before last Dr. Van Patterson, a friend and colleague at Panola College, was appointed Director of the Longview University Center. The LUC had never offered a public lecture, and as State Historian I was pleased to inaugurate a Speaker’s Series. I spoke on “Texas: Gunfighter Capital of the Old West.” I use weapons and holster rigs to demonstrate the evolution of revolving pistols, and the subject has proven popular. Van is quite resourceful at generating publicity, and we enjoyed a large turnout, including a number of citizens who had not seen the LUC before. Van was highly pleased, and asked me to return this year. 

With Valerie Kilgore of KETK-TV
We decided upon the topic “Texas During World War II.” Texas made extraordinary contributions to the war effort. Almost 830,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, donned uniforms, and more than 23,000 Texas fighting men died for their country. America’s most decorated soldier, Lt. Audie Murphy, and most decorated sailor, submarine commander Sam Dealey, both were Texans. Texas A&M, an all-male military college, placed 20,000 men in the armed forces, of which 14,000 were officers – more than any other school in the nation, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe, was born in Denison in northeast Texas. Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas. Almost 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, and fliers trained at scores of Texas bases. Texas fueled the Allied war effort, while Texas shipyards and defense plants provided a flood of war machines and munitions during the war effort. The details are fascinating, and I bring WWII rifles, pistols, equipment, and other items to enhance the presentation. The public event at the LUC was set for Thursday evening, March 26.

With Jerry Hanszen of KGAS Radio
Van Patterson arranged excellent publicity. I had half-hour interviews over KWRD Radio in Henderson and KGAS Radio in Carthage, and both stations also provided news cuts. Valerie Kilgore, Longview reporter for KETK-TV, drove to Carthage to tape an interview for the evening news. Area newspapers published a story with a color photo. The PR helped to produce a big crowd, which included a few WWII veterans. Indeed, L.V. Sadler, soon to turn 90, handed me a copy of his enthralling account of his service with the 7th Submarine Fleet in the Pacific – including his recollections of Commander Sam Dealey. There were veterans of other wars in the audience, and it was my pleasure to talk with almost everyone before or after the program.

With Dr. Van Patterson
There was a different crowd when I presented a similar program on Thursday morning, February 12, in Houston. Working in conjunction with Houston’s Region 4 Education Center, the Texas State Historical Association staged a two-day conference for Texas history teachers. A large number of fourth- and seventh-grade teachers gathered at the big Region 4 facility to begin a content-oriented program on Texas During the Twentieth Century. I opened the conference with “Texas During World War II,” pointing out that the three shipyards in Houston and Galveston employed 35,000 workers. I emphasized information and anecdotes that can used in the classroom about the remarkable efforts of Texas and Texans during the biggest and most important event of the 20th century.

To hear Bill's specch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOfNLHQpCtA

Region 4 Education Center in Houston
Steve Cure and JoNeita Kelly of the TSHA

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