Vafides was born in 1921 in Hull, MA. He was a member of The Citadel class of 1943. He attended The Citadel at the beginning of World War II, leaving in 1943 to serve in the US Army as a paratrooper. He returned to complete his studies after the war ended.
He was assigned to duty as part of a bazooka team in the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Co. H, and deployed with his unit in the 17th Airborne Division to England in late 1944. The Division was alerted for Operation Market Garden but did not participate. When the German attack against Allied forces began in mid-December 1944 in the Ardennes in what is known as the Battle of the Bulge, Vafides was in England undergoing training. His entire division was ordered to France and moved by air and then by truck into Belgium near Bastogne where it joined the fighting as part of Gen. Patton's Third Army. While engaged near Flamierge, Belgium, Vafides was wounded and taken captive by the Germans and sent to a POW camp in Germany. He returned to Allied control when his camp was liberated in early 1945 and returned home. After college Vafides worked as a teacher until his retirement.
Gladys Pinckney was born in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1915 and made the decision very early
to become a nurse. She attended nursing school and was encouraged to become a Red Cross
nurse. In 1941, she received a request from the War Department to serve as Second Lieutenant in
the Army Nurse Corps, and she reported to Fort Jackson two weeks later. She served at a number
of medical facilities in France at the tail end of the war and in its aftermath. As a nurse with a
specialty in anaesthesia, she took care of combat casualties and prisoners of war from all over
Europe. When asked how she felt about taking care of German POW’s, she said, “Didn’t make
any difference. When I took an oath, we vowed that we would take care of everybody who was
committed to our care. That’s an oath we had to take.” Pinckney also served as a nurse in a
MASH unit during the Korean War. She was asked to serve in Vietnam, but decided to retire due
to health considerations. She is presently a resident of Columbia, South Carolina, where she
volunteers at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and drives her own car.
Helen Rooks was born in Beaufort, South Carolina. She was the oldest of five children and her father worked as a lumberman, while her mother was a homemaker. Though she was initially interested in joining the Navy, a recruiter at the local courthouse convinced her to join the Coast Guard in 1943. Her time in the service began with a rough start when the train in which she was traveling struck a cow on the way to Miami. Upon arriving at her duty station, she worked as a yeoman with Air-Sea Rescue. At a hospital in Coral Gables, Florida, she worked in the burn unit. She recalls witnessing debris floating up onto the beach from battles with nearby German submarines. Rooks spent her off-hours enjoying the nightlife in Miami. She received a citation for being a charter member of the Women in the Military Service for America and was recognized for her service by Governor Olin Johnston. She was married to her husband Milton—a World War II veteran—for 53 years before his death in 1991.
Pearl James Hill was born in 1925, in Aynor, South Carolina. One of fourteen children, she was orphaned at age thirteen, and lived with various family members until she turned sixteen and moved to Charleston. Hill worked at the munitions factory manufacturing hand grenades. Later, she became a ship welder, and worked at the Naval Shipyard until WWII ended in 1945. She then briefly worked at American Tobacco. In this interview with Rebecca Michaud, Hill reflects on her childhood, work at the munitions factory and the ship yard, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Robert S. Adden was born 1 January 1923 in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1940. He went on active duty with his class of 1944 classmates at the end of their 1943 spring semester, first to basic training at Fort McClellan, AL, and then to 18 weeks of Infantry Officer Candidates School at Fort Benning, GA. His regiment was shipped overseas to England for a month and then to Germany, where they were attached to the British Second Army and became engaged in combat in an attack on the Siegfried line a month before the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he earned an M.B.A. and Ph.D., and returned to The Citadel as a faculty member and administrator until he retired. He received an honorary degree in 2008 in a ceremony that honored the class of 1944, "the class that never was."
Adden describes how his Citadel class (1944) was called to active duty at the end of their spring semester in 1943. He describes basic training in Fort McClellan, AL, and his stint in Officer Candidates School in Fort Benning, GA. Commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1944, he began training with the Eighty-fourth Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana where he became a mortar platoon leader. His regiment was shipped to Europe and was attached to the British Second Army during the Rhineland campaign. Adden discusses his first major combat experiences in November, 1944, when his battalion was assigned to secure the town of Prummern, Germany. Shot 5 times in the streets of Prummern, Adden describes how he played dead for hours as German troops and tanks passed beside him. He recalls stumbling to an American aid station after the streets cleared followed by hospital stays in Europe and the US. He returned to active duty in August 1945. Adden also touches briefly on his life and education after the war. Audio with transcript.
Colonel John Allison was born September 19, 1921 in Albany, Georgia. He entered the Citadel in September of 1939 and left at the end of his Junior year in 1942 to enter the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet. During World War II he received three Distinguished Flying Crosses as a bomber pilot. He flew 59 combat missions as a B-24 pilot and five as a B-25 pilot during almost two years in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. After returning to the Citadel after the war, he graduated in 1947 and then rejoined what was then the Air Force, becoming a squadron commander in Vietnam. He currently lives in Charleston and is an avid golfer.
Allison reflects on his decision to attend The Citadel and his combat experiences in both WWII and Vietnam. He discusses his training as an Army Air Corps pilot and subsequent World War II military experience as a bomber pilot in the Pacific theater. He also alludes to his post-WWII career during the Cold War, including flights to gather intelligence over Russia and Cuba. Audio with transcript.
Leila Kikos was born Leila Elizabeth Bailey on President St. in Charleston, SC in 1923. She graduated from Memminger High School in 1940, after which she studied drafting at The Citadel and worked at the shipyards and for the War Department as a switchboard operator on Meeting St. After the formation of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Kikos consulted with her father and enlisted. She attended basic training at Hunter College in New York City. She was assigned to Washington, D.C. as a drafter. It was there that she met her husband Peter, a Marine studying bomb disposal at American University. After the war, she and her husband moved to Minneapolis briefly before returning to Charleston, where they operated a bakery.
Gerald Meyerson was born in Spartanburg, SC, on December 19, 1921. After his sophomore year at The Citadel, he transferred to Duke University. While still at Duke as a first-year law school student, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps communications cadet program. He then returned and completed his law school exams while he waited to start the training program.
As a communications officer, he later served in London and Paris. From there his unit coordinated communications with various Air Corps units in the European Theater of Operations. After the German surrender, he transferred to the Judge Advocate Generals Corps because he had attended law school. He worked there on minor cases for only a short time before returning to the United States.
Meyerson reflects on his decisions both to enroll at and subsequently transfer from The Citadel. He also discusses his postwar career, initially as an attorney and subsequently as a men’s clothing merchant.
Ida Ostendorff was born in Gilbert, South Carolina. At the start of WWII she traveled to Washington D.C. where she passed a typing course and began work as a “government girl” working in the Judge Advocate General’s office. In 1942, upon turning 21 and meeting the minimum age requirement, she jointed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). She completed her basic training at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia, where she was trained to use a gas mask. She volunteered for an assignment overseas and traveled to New York City to embark on the Queen Elizabeth. She landed in Scotland on June 6, 1944, having no idea at the time that it was D-Day. She was then transported to her assignment at Stone Staffordshire, England. On her way there she remembers the commotion caused by the Normandy landings: “As we were going along, people were just waving wildly to us because they knew it was D-Day, but we didn’t know it.” She remained in England until the end of the war. She met her husband after the war when they both took the same French class. They were married for 61 years and have five children, several of whom have served in the military.
Elma England was raised in Grover, SC sixty miles from Charleston. During the war she moved
to Charleston to work in the Charleston Navy Yard as a welder. At the shipyard, England worked
on the USS Tidewater and she was on board during the destroyer’s ceremonial launch on 30 June
1945. As someone who had worked her whole life, she found it easy to make the adjustment to
working at the shipyard. She was laid off after the war and went to work for the phone company.
Reamer Lorenzo Cockfield was born on December 2, 1924, in Johnsonville, SC and moved to Lake City shortly thereafter. He was a pre-med student in The Citadel class of 1945 and therefore was exempted from the draft. Nevertheless, Cockfield voluntarily enlisted in the Marine Corps in December of 1943. As a private first class, he served in combat operations in the Pacific Theater. After the war Cockfield led a highly successful life serving as a public school teacher, principal, superintendent and one term as mayor of Lake City.
Cockfield reflects on his experience as a stretcher bearer for 30 days of continuous combat during The Battle of Iwo Jima. The stretcher bearers hauled ammunition, food, and medical supplies from battalion headquarters to company headquarters and often returned with a wounded marine on the stretcher. Cockfield was the only member of his original eight-man team to survive. "It was at that time that they replaced me and assigned me to the K Company of the Ninth Marines which was on the front lines and I was delighted to get on the front lines because it was a lot safer up there in a foxhole than where I had been moving around all of the time." Audio with transcript.
Major General James Alexander Grimsley was born in 1921 in Florence, South Carolina. After graduating from The Citadel in 1942 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. He served for thirty-three years and finished his Army career as the Director of Security Assistance Plans and Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Among his thirty-five major decorations are Two Silver Star medals for gallantry in Action; four Bronze Star medals for Valor; four Legion of Merit awards; and three Purple Heart medals. In September 1975, Grimsley accepted the position of Vice President of Administration and Finance at The Citadel and five years later was named the 16th President of the military college. Upon retiring in 1989, the Board of Visitors named him President Emeritus, a position held only by Generals Charles P. Summerall and Mark W. Clark. Grimsley, reflects on his decision to attend The Citadel and his combat experiences in Vietnam. He also discusses several of his major achievements as Citadel President. On transitioning from the Army to The Citadel, Grimsley observes that “it was made easier for me coming to The Citadel because it was a military college so there was a structure here that I understood. They just wore cadet uniforms and not army uniforms.” In an April 4-6, 2000 interview, a transcript of which is at the Citadel Archives and Museum, Grimsley detailed his active duty service during WWII.
Bishop G. Edward Haynsworth explains his strong family connections to The Citadel. His father and two brothers were Citadel graduates, and he said his grandfather was credited with firing the first shot at the Star of the West in 1861. His decision to apply, he said, was “relatively simple.”
He was called with his entire class of 1944 to active duty in 1943 at the end of his junior year. Within a year he had been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and shipped to the European theater with the 84th Infantry Division.
He describes his combat duty in WWII, including being wounded on November 29, 1944 during an action against the Germans near Aachen. He and his platoon came under attack while advancing, and he was shot through the arm and returned to England for medical care.
After returning to The Citadel to complete his English degree, Haynsworth attended the School of Theology at the University of the South. Haynsworth asserts that his wartime experiences confirmed his desire to go to divinity school. Since then, Haynsworth, has traveled the world as a Christian missionary, helping to establish churches in Central and South America as well as in Asia.
Clarence A. Renneker Jr. grew up in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1939. His brother-in-law, a graduate from the school, influenced his decision. He majored in business and graduated from The Citadel in May of 1943. Renneker was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he completed OCS and was commissioned. He was then assigned for a time to the 80th Infantry division. After training in the southwest, he was shipped overseas in June 1944 as an “excess officer.”
After arriving in England, he was assigned to the 118th Infantry after speaking with the regiment’s executive officer by chance in a barbershop. The Regimental executive officer was Citadel graduate Colonel Caldwell Barron, Jr. As an officer in the 118th division, Renneker helped run training schools around England, and later in France, he helped train replacement troops from other branches as riflemen by teaching them map reading skills, to shoot and care for their rifles, and other basic infantry skills before they were sent to the front lines.
After the surrender was signed in Germany, Renneker helped coordinate the post-war return of soldiers to the United States. In June 1946, he returned home to his wife and eventually took over his father’s clothing store in Orangeburg. He is retired and living in Mt. Pleasant with his wife.
Ernest F. Hollings was born on January 1, 1922. A Charleston native and World War II veteran, Hollings graduated from The Citadel in 1942. He served as Governor of South Carolina (1959-1963) and represented the state in the United States Senate (1966-2005). He is credited with enhancing the state’s system of public education and expanding its industrial base through the establishment a network of technical education centers and the State Development Board. During his tenure in the Senate, he was instrumental in envisioning and developing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In this interview, Hollings credits The Citadel for preparing him for WWII and life as a politician. He recounts the state’s “embarrassing” treatment of returning African-American veterans after WWII. Hollings also asserts that the establishment of the state sales tax improved public schools. Drawing upon his life in public service, Hollings reflects on contemporary political problems, including the economy, the war in Iraq, the current state of politics, and the press. For a full account of his experiences in WWII, see Hollings’s interview with H.W. White, a transcript of which is located in The Citadel Archives.
John Burrows was born in Saginaw, Michigan. An excellent student and athlete he graduated high school and received a full scholarship to go The Citadel. He entered in September of 1936 as a civil engineer major, and quickly became number one in his class academically. He also excelled in football, basketball and track, making all-state for basketball three years in a row, and remains in the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame. Upon graduation from The Citadel in 1940 he received a regular army commission and joined the 61st Coast Artillery Regiment. From there he was eventually assigned to the air defense division of the Supreme Headquarters under General Eisenhower in London, and oversaw the then top-secret plan codenamed Operation Overlord.
Burrows recalls his decision to enter The Citadel and his active duty in WWII. Although never in direct combat, his time on the Supreme Headquarters staff allowed him an insider's perspective on the planning for Operation Overlord and the European Theater. He discusses the US Army's ingenuity when it came to advances in weaponry, which were occurring in front of his eyes. He also discusses in detail the German surrender at Reims and how the US Army so effectively handled the multitude of issues surrounding the details of such an event. Upon returning from his service in the army, Burrows worked for a book publishing company before returning to Charleston take a job as Assistant Commandant at The Citadel. Audio with transcript.
William Ladson was born in Moultrie, GA, on October 10, 1915. He chose to enter The Citadel in 1932 but returned home after two years to help his father run the family business, which was strained due to the Depression.
He eventually returned to school and graduated in 1938 with a degree in engineering. He entered the Army Reserve in 1940 as part of the Coast Artillery and, due to his background and degree in engineering, worked stateside as part of the engineer corps during WWII.
Ladson recalls his decision to attend The Citadel and his experiences during WWII and the Korean War. Anxious to go overseas, he eventually went to Korea after the Korean War broke out. There he was executive officer and commanding officer of combat engineers in direct support of the frontline troops. He retired from the army in 1965, and his engineering background led him to take a job as city manager of Cocoa Beach, FL. He maintains strong ties to his alma mater, recently attending his class reunion and speaking to a class of Citadel Cadets.
Philip S. Minges, Jr. was born on December 1, 1923, in Charleston, SC. He reported for active duty in 1942 during his sophomore year at Clemson University. Although he began training in the Corps of Engineers, combat replacement requirements led to Minges’ assignment as an infantryman to the Eleventh Armored Division. Minges reflects on his combat experience during the Battle of the Bulge when he had to try to dig a foxhole under fire in frozen ground. In his first battle, only three men of a 12-man squad, Minges and two others, came through unharmed. All others were wounded or killed. A few battles later, Minges was wounded: “I heard something hit on the side of the track, about waist high. I knew what it was. [If the shot] had been over about a foot [it would have gotten] me in the back…. I heard another pop and dirt flew up around my feet…. I got shot in the foot.”
Following World War II, he enrolled at The Citadel in 1946 and graduated in 1948. After the war, Minges worked fifty years for Dupont in Camden, SC, and retired as an Army Reserve colonel with thirty years of service.
Burnet Maybank entered The Citadel in September 1941 at the urging of his father, who had agreed to fund his college expenses so long as he attended The Citadel. He reflects on his decision to enter the Citadel and his tour of duty in WWII.
In September 1942 Maybank joined the Army Air Corps and served as a B-17 bomber pilot flying on around thirty-seven missions in the European Theater of WWII. Maybank discusses some of his most memorable missions, including flying over the Normandy beaches a few days after D-Day in 1944, in some of the earliest bombing missions over Berlin, a mission against a “secret” facility in Denmark.
He tells of a fellow Citadel cadet’s plane, Bill Daniel’s, going down in the North Sea. For his war service he was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, the Air Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war years he returned home to become a lawyer and later lieutenant governor of South Carolina. Maybank resides in Charleston.
Raymond Kessler was born November 29, 1922, in Charleston, SC, attended the public schools, and enjoyed his first military experience at Porter Military Academy, now the Porter-Gaud private school. At The Citadel, he majored in civil engineering and served as company commander. After graduation in 1943, he was assigned to an engineering officer candidate school at Fort Belvoir, VA. There he learned the military aspects of civil engineering including training in demolitions. Sent to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, he taught draftee recruits basic engineering skills. In August 1944, he was sent to the 1381st Engineer Air Petroleum Distribution company in Camp Claiborne, LA.
Kessler overseas experience began with his departure by ship from California to an unknown destination. After stops in Fiji and Australia, his unit arrived in Bombay [modern Mombai], India, in October 1944 and went from there by train to Assam Province in northern India. From Assam Province, his unit was flown over the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range with a dozen peaks higher than 25,000 feet, to China. This route was known in World War II as “the Hump”; it claimed the lives of many airmen.
His unit’s assignment was to build a 1,000-mile pipeline from India across Burma to China to pump high octane gasoline for American airfields being built to support the war against Japan. There he was put in charge of fifty men and assigned to build a fifty-mile stretch of the pipeline. Though otherwise safer than in combat, he lost two men who were inspecting the pipeline. Locals presumably knocked a hole in the pipeline for fuel, and when the leaking gasoline caught fire it flashed back up the mountain and burning the two men to death.
Shortly after the arriving in the US, Kessler signed up for the army reserve and was promoted to captain. He retired as a colonel in 1976. In his civilian career, he worked for a time with the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company before taking a teaching appointment at The Citadel. He later worked for DuPont and then the US Navy until retirement.