Oral History Course

New Faces

Sound Bites

OHA Annual Meeting

Calls for Papers

Iberville Parish Video

McKinley Students Record Oral History

My Summer Vacation

Vets Recall Wartime


Published by the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University

Vol. IV No.1 Fall 1995


Champagne flowed at the Lod Cook Alumni Center on 19 May 1995 as the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History and our supporters joined Estelle Williams to celebrate the birthday of her late husband. The party marked the culmination of our successful fund-raising campaign, "$86 for Harry's 86th." Development Council Chair Mary Frey Eaton announced that we raised $36,000 of our target of $40,000 to be added to the Williams Center's endowment. Eaton promised another campaign and another party every year until we reach our long-range goal of one million dollars.

As guests wandered around the Alumni Center, looking at a wide array of T. Harry books and personal memorabilia, the conversation often turned to reminisces of Dr. Williams. It was almost as if the late professor was sitting in his desk chair, prominently displayed at the center of the room with his rack of pipes and Pulitzer Prize close at hand, smiling down at all of his family, friends, and former students.

The highlight of the party came when, much to Mrs. Williams' surprise, the Center's director, Pamela Dean, announced that the endowment raised to date will underwrite the Estelle Skofield Williams Graduate Assistantship.

Mrs. Williams has been our major donor, unfailingly generous in her support and encouragement for our work. As many of our readers may know, she also played a key role in her husband's pioneering oral history research for his Pulitzer prize-winning biography Huey Long. She accompanied him on the nearly 300 interviews he did for the Long book, operating the recorder. In addition, she transcribed all of those interviews. She has told us that Williams then marked in blue pencil the portions of the transcript he thought he would want to use in the book and she retyped those excerpts onto note cards, from which he the wrote the manuscript.

"It is in recognition of her contributions to her husband's research and her unstinting efforts to advance the Williams Center that the assistantship is named for her," Dean said as she presented Mrs. Williams with a plaque signed by all contributors to the fund.

Dean also announced that Tara Zachary would be the first recipient of the assistantship. Zachary, a native of Sulphur, graduated from LSU in 1994, magna cum laude, with a double major in history and broadcast journalism. She expects to receive her MA in history from LSU in the spring and is also pursuing a masters in library and information science. She has worked for the Williams Center for two years. The assistantship will enable the Center to benefit from her talents for another year.

All of us at the Williams Center once again would like to thank our generous supporters, beginning with our lead donors, Milton Womack, John Barton, John and Mai Frances Doles, Lod Cook, James Peltier, Minou & George Fritze, Cissy & Jay Babb, Bert Turner, Dr. & Mrs. Stephen Ambrose, the McMains Foundation, and Senator & Mrs. Russell Long. We also want to thank Mary Frey Eaton, who outdid herself, and Liz Wincup who did a wonderful job organizing the party.

Other donors to this special campaign include:

Dr. & Mrs. William Arcenaux, Wallace Armstrong, Ellen & Paul Arst, Seth Arnold, Bennie & Edward Barham, Gen. Robert & Patricia Barrow, Harry Barton, Mr. & Mrs. John Bateman, Jan L. Bernard, Mrs. Walter Bigby, Thomas & Gretchen Boggs, Mrs. H. P. Breazeale, Ann & Jack Brittain, Vida Broussard, W. H. Broyles, Mr. & Mrs. Millard Byrd, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Byrne, Bill & Helen Campbell, Charles & Carolyn Carter, Doyle & Luella Chambers ,Sarah Clayton, J. W. Cocreham, Richard L. Colquette, William Comegys, Mr. & Mrs. Louis D. Curet, Mr. & Mrs. Claiborne Dameron, Annie D'Agostino, David Davis, Dwight & Lourine Davis, Wayne & Jo Anne Davis, William & Polly Davis, Marlin Drake, John & Corinne Duffy, Mrs. J. A. Dunnam, Jr., Louis Eaton, Jr. Family, Mary Frey Eaton, Susan Eaton, Harry Carter Edwards, Franklin Press, Glenn Flournoy, Helen Foley, Fred Frey, Sr. Family, Mr. & Mrs. James N. Fritze, Minou & George Fritze, Mr. & Mrs. James C. Gardner, Mr. & Mrs. Albert Garland, Virginia Gayle, John Edmond Gonzales, Randall & Margaret Goodwin, Sen. Tom & Cathy Greene, G. Lee Griffin, Mr. & Mrs. William Haag, Julia R. Hamilton, Milton Harrison, Ava & Cordell Haymon, Richard & Carol Haynes, Barbara & Stephen Henry, Jr., Lawrence Hewitt, H. B. & Marlorie Holden, Nancy Jane Honeycutt, Ann Meadors Huey, Margaret Jameson, Ann S. B. Jones, Eilleen Kean, Nannette D. Kirby, Mr. & Mrs. John P. Laborde, Beryle Evans Lapenas, Col. Rollo C. Lawrence, Richard & Judith Lee, Laura Lindsay, Mary Lou Loudon, Stuart D. Lunn, David Madden, Robert Martin, Thomas & Linda McCaleb, Mr. & Mrs. Charles McCowan, Charles W. McCoy, Harry & Clair McInnis, H. Leslie McKenzie, McMains Foundation, Hortense & Theodore McMullan, Mr. & Mrs. Hermann Moyse, Jr., Mr. & Mrs. Enoch T. Nix, John & Virginia Noland, Mr. & Mrs. J. Huntington Odom, Roger Ogden, David & Claudia Oliver, James Peltier, Margaret Pereboom, Cecil Phillips, Joseph Polack, George & Jean Pugh, Jeanette & R. Robert Rackley, Rev. & Mrs. George Ricks, Dr. & Mrs. Richard Robichaux, Wray Robinson, Tom Ruffin, Ginger Sabatier, Mr. & Mrs. Howard Samuel, Cary Saurage, T. E. Schermerhorn, John Sentell, Irwin Schneider, Gene & Myrna Sigler, Wayne L. Simpson, Dorothy Skolfield, C. Stewart Slack, Sue & Bob Slack, Mary Ann Sternberg, Sunburst Bank, Emily Lou & Cecil Taylor, B. W. Teekel, Laura N. & O. M. Thompson, Jr., A. Hays Town, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Waggonner, Claude Walker, Mary-Miles Walker, Anne Loveland & Otis Wheeler, Ruth M. Wilkinson, Mr. & Mrs. W. H. Wright, Jr., Patricia Womack, Martin D. Woodin, Judge & Mrs. Monty Wyche

Back to Top

Williams Center Offers Oral History Course

Williams Center director Pamela Dean will offer an oral history course spring semester in the evening school at LSU. Although the course, HIST 4197 Sec. 3, is listed as upper division and graduate level, any one who is interested in learning to do oral history interviews, including those doing family or local history, is welcomed to enroll. The course is also suitable for students majoring in history, anthropology, education, folklore, sociology, library science, and other humanities and social sciences who need training in fieldwork research methods.

In addition to the use of the tape recorder and interviewing techniques, the course will cover interpreting oral history materials and using them in exhibits, documentaries, and other public presentations, as well as published books and articles.

For more information on the course call Pamela Dean, 388-6577. To enroll, call the Evening School at 388-5213.

Back to Top

New Faces at Williams Center

The Williams Center staff recently underwent several major changes. Our long-time transcriber, Steven Coward, left the Center to enroll in LSU's Law School. We wish him all the best in this new endeavor. That he will be greatly missed is demonstrated by the fact that we have had hired three new transcribers to replace him.

A senior in English literature from New Orleans, Camille Benoit hopes to graduate in the summer of 1996. She plans eventually to pursue a master's degree in library science.

Deidre Cooper, who is a native of Alexandria, is majoring in political science with a minor in English. She hopes to graduate from LSU in the spring of 1997 and wants to attend law school.

Stefanie Rehn is from Charlotte, NC, and is working on her MA in English, with a focus on southern studies and feminism. She received her BA in English from NC State in Raleigh. In addition to working for the Williams Center, she also tutors at the LSU Writing Center.

Back to Top

**********Sound Bites**********

The Williams Center continues its work on transferring our interviews on the desegregation of LSU to the CD-ROM format. The first interview to be converted to this format will be completed in early 1996.


To commemorate its centennial in 2000, USL has begun conducting interviews with alumni, administrators, and faculty. Approximately twenty interviews are planned and will be deposited at Dupre Library in the USL Oral History Collection.


The Center for Regional Studies at SLU recently embarked on a concentrated effort to transcribe over one thousand interviews held at the Center. In addition, Joy Jackson, director of the Center, will offer a course in oral history methodology in the Spring of 1996.


Tulane's Hogan Jazz Archive has gone online!! You can access its oral history index on the web site The Archive has also expanded its collection. Tad Jones recently conducted interview s with jazz/rhythm and blues drummer Earl Palmer and with pioneer radio broadcaster/music journalist/promoter Tex Stephens. Twelve interviews with notable musicians such as Dr. John, Aaron Neville, and Spencer Williams have also been deposited in the Archive.


Back to Top

OHA Annual Meeting Honors Studs Terkel

The annual meeting of the Oral History Association, held in Milwaukee October 18-21, featured a tribute to Studs Terkel, Chicago radio personality and author of nearly a dozen books based on recorded interviews, including Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do; The Good War; Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression; Division Street: America; American Dreams Lost and Found; Giants of Jazz; and Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times. While Terkel has been criticized for not always adhering to the standards of professional oral historians, he has done more than any one else to popularize the idea of oral history and to encourage readers to listen seriously to the voices and stories of ordinary Americans.

The association also presented its first awards for outstanding work in the field. Michael Frisch and Milton Rogovin won the award for the best book based on oral history for their Portraits in Steel, about Buffalo steel workers. The pre-collegiate teaching award went to Michael Brooks of Suva Intermediate School in Bell Gardens, California, who has been doing oral history projects with his middle school students for twenty years. Vera Rony, George Stoney, and Judith Helfand received the non-print award for The Uprising of '34, a documentary on the textile strikes of 1934.

Other speakers at the conference, which met at the beautifully restored turn-of-the-century Pfister Hotel., included Wilma Mankiller, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation , and Ellen Bravo, executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women. Workshops on oral history methods for beginners, funding for oral history projects, and computer access to oral history collections preceded more than forty panels of papers responding to the conference's theme "Reflections on Relationships in Oral History Research."

Back to Top

Calls for Papers

In 1996, the Oral History Association will be meeting in Philadelphia, October 10-13. The theme of the meeting will be "Oral History, Memory and the Sense of Place." Non-academic as well as academic oral historians are welcomed at OHA meetings, and if you are doing oral history in any context we urge you to consider submitting a proposal to the program committee. Contact Howard L. Green, New Jersey Historical Commission, CN 305, Trenton, NJ 08625; or Linda Shopes, Division of History, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108. For more information or assistance with proposals, contact Williams Center director Pamela Dean at 388-6577.

* * * *

The Southern Oral History Organization (SOHO) will hold its third annual meeting April 19-21, 1996, at the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta. SOHO seeks individual and group submissions for the conference. The theme of the conference is "New Directions in Southern Oral History." Deadline for submission: January 1, 1996. Submit proposals to: Cliff Kuhn , Department of History, Georgia State University University Plaza, Atlanta, GA 30303. E-mail:

Back to Top

Video Depicts Iberville Parish

with Art, Music, and Oral History

"Images of Iberville Parish: Place Embodied in Art," a multimedia program for fifth and eighth grade students, is currently being expanded from a slide-tape show into a video, according to project director Aaron Tuley of the Center for Landscape Interpretation, a Plaquemine research and planning firm. The program uses art to increase children's awareness and understanding of the places that are important to their community.

The project aims to evoke a sense of Iberville Parish as a special place. The video presents romantic images of the parish depicted in a variety of media including photographs, both historic and contemporary, paintings, sculpture, Mardi Gras costumes, and folk crafts. The accompanying sound track includes music drawn from the rich gospel traditions of the African-American communities of Bayou Goula and Dorseyville, poetry such as Longfellow's' account of Evangeline's voyage down Bayou Plaquemine, and excerpts from tape-recorded interviews with parish residents who describe places that are meaningful to them.

After seeing the video, students will create their own images of Iberville. Through paintings, poems, collages or other media, they will depict those places that are important to them and their families, such as their homes, the places they play or where they spend holidays. Other projects may include asking an older person to describe a place they remember from the past.

Through the "Images of Iberville" educational program students will not only learn about their cultural heritage and the physical geography of the parish, they will also develop the vocabulary to think, create, and express themselves in aesthetic terms. A traveling exhibit of student art reflecting their sense of Iberville as a special place is also planned.

The project is sponsored by the Iberville Parish Chamber of Commerce and funded by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and the Iberville Parish Tourism Commission. The Williams Center has provided technical assistance and equipment for interviews with parish residents.

Back to Top

McKinley Students Record

Oral History of Louisiana's First Public High School of African Americans

McKinley High School "played a great role in the education [of African-Americans in Louisiana] because the young people in Baton Rouge were not the only ones who got their high school education from McKinley. You had West Feliciana Parish where young people came down and went to McKinley. You had young people from Iberville Parish and even West Baton Rouge Parish. McKinley served as an institution of education for the young people in East Baton Rouge Parish and all the outlying parishes," Reverend Nathaniel Perry, McKinley High School class of 1930, told students who were working on an oral history of the school this summer.

Working with Professor Petra Munro and graduate students Molly Quinn and Dereck Vaughn from the College of Education and Robin Chapman from the School of Social Work, the Williams Center helped four African-American high school students record more than fifty interviews with McKinley alumni. Michelle Johnson, a teacher at Southern Lab School supervised the students' work.

Since its establishment in 1926, McKinley, the first public black high school in the state, has been a center of community life in the Bottoms, the neighborhood to the immediate north of the LSU campus. In addition to the interviews, Carmen Posey, Shanta Jenkins and Shawanda Hollins, McKinley seniors, and Roderick Jones, a senior at Istrouma High School, prepared a time line placing the development of the school in the context of African-American history. They also created several photo display panels based on the school's yearbooks, beginning with one from 1928. The twenty-four foot time line and the photo exhibits are on display in the McKinley High School Library.

To wrap up their eight week project the students invited the McKinley Alumni Association and other community members to a slide-tape show that drew on historic photos, current photos of themselves and their interviewees, and excerpts from interview tapes. They have also presented the program for LSU College of Education and English classes.

Hollins, Posey and Jenkins enjoyed their summer work so much that they have formed an oral history club and McKinley and have been recruiting other students to help carry on the interviews. Future plans include a video tape of their presentation, which will be sold with proceeds going to help the McKinley Alumni Association restore the original school building at the corner of Delpit and Louise as a community center.

As further testimony of the importance of this project, Molly Quinn has had a paper based on the McKinley project accepted by the American Education Research Association for presentation at its annual meeting in New York City in April. Roderick Jones and his McKinley colleagues hope to be co-presenters at the conference and the McKinley Oral History Club is planning a number of events to help raise the $2,500 necessary to cover their expenses. If you would like more information about this project or would like to contribute to the travel fund, contact Pamela Dean at 388-6577.

The project was one of the first major activities of the Community University Partnership (CUP). CUP, an interdisciplinary task force headed by James Midgley of LSU's Office of Research and Economic Development, works with the Metropolitan Community Housing and Development Organization (MCHDO), which is made up of residents of the Bottoms neighborhood. The goal of the joint effort is to make the resources and expertise of the university available to assist the community in economic development, anti-crime, housing rehabilitation and construction, and other projects selected by the residents themselves.

Back to Top

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

by Mary Hebert

This summer I embarked on what I'd have to call an adventure in oral history. In May, I left for Durham, North Carolina, to work as one of six field researchers for Duke University's Behind the Veil Project. This was the last phase of a three-year project to document African-American life in the Jim Crow South, a subject too often absent from traditional sources. The project was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

After an intensive two week training period, I left Durham for Summerton, South Carolina, a small town located about seventy-five miles northwest of Charleston. Summerton, a primarily agricultural town, spawned one of the first lawsuits challenging school segregation (Briggs v. Elliott), which was one of the cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court under the heading Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

I interviewed about twenty African-Americans in Summerton. Some described having to leave town because of their participation in the Briggs case. Others, mainly sharecroppers, kept quiet about their support of Briggs because they feared losing their homes and livelihoods. Perhaps, above all, I was struck by how little had changed in Summerton in the forty-one years since the Brown decision. The town is still segregated. The schools are still segregated. The restaurants are still segregated. But the black residents of Summerton refuse to let this dominate their lives. Through projects like Behind the Veil and especially their annual Afrikan-Amerikan festival, they are preserving and celebrating their history and culture.

After five weeks, I left Summerton and went to Norfolk, Virginia. The differences between the two places were striking. In Norfolk, African-Americans created a world for themselves that existed almost independently of the white community. They owned and operated retail stores, movie theaters, dance halls, restaurants and other businesses. Thus while the system of segregation was still oppressive and many challenged it, Norfolk 's black community was not as vulnerable as Summerton's. In fact, some fought to end discriminatory practices they faced on the job. For example, black teachers filed suit in the 1940s to equalize their salaries with those of their white colleagues. Today, Norfolk resembles other medium-sized cities. Legal segregation no longer exists. African-Americans can eat anywhere, shop anywhere, live anywhere. Yet, many of the people that I interviewed decry the loss of the close-knit community that existed during the Jim Crow era.

At the end of the summer, I was happy to get back home to Louisiana. But my summer in South Carolina and Virginia had taught me many things. The people I met and the stories they shared have given me a better understanding of African-American history and a deep appreciation of those who launched the civil rights movement. I hope this will enrich my dissertation on the movement here in Baton Rouge.

Back to Top

Vets Recall Wartime Experiences

The military tradition run deep at the Ole War Skule. In World War II, LSU sent more officers into service than any other university, with the possible exception of Texas A & M. War time service figures prominently in the nearly seventy interviews we've conducted with LSU alumni and others who are veterans. On the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and in commemoration of Veterans Day, we thought we'd let some of our interviewees share their experiences in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.


World War II


During the War, John Cox, LSU '38, one of the university's most decorated veterans, earned the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star for gallantry in action, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Victory Service Medal, and medals for the Philippine Liberation and American Defense--Asiatic Pacific. Here he describes how he received two of his commendations, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, during his service in the Philippines.

"We had a detail that was supposed to put that flag up [on top of the Manila post office]. I was with them, and they couldn't get into the place to put it. They had a Japanese flag up there, so I climbed out and stuck it up on top. We still had 115 Japanese in the basement. We got them all out later on by blowing a hole in the floor, and put a couple of flame throwers in there, and they came out. They weren't surrendering. They were just getting out of that building. The people[Japanese] that stayed in Manila, their mission was to kill as many Americans as they could and to make us destroy everything.

"We were the lead troops in 1945, January the 9th. We went up in the northern part of Luzon. We landed the same place the Japs landed when they took the Philippines.

"The first mission [in Luzon] was to secure Wa-Wa Dam, an auxiliary water supply for the Philippines. We fought several days, and I ended up getting hit with a Japanese 140 millimeter mortar shell fragment. They thought I wasn't good for any more duty then. As a matter of fact, they had put me in the wrong stack of casualties, the one that you can't do anything for, [but] I had a sergeant from Illinois. He made them take me out. He waked the chief surgeon up, who was taking his nap that night around midnight, two o'clock in the morning, and he got him out. They probed around a while and they couldn't find it, and they sewed me up. For six weeks, I had up to 104 fever, and they were just running blood through me. I had a lot of internal bleeding, and they would take the blood out. But they put penicillin in there, and that penicillin really saved my life, no infection."

Cox went on to serve as the director for the LSU Co-operative Extension Service and an LSU Goodwill Ambassador.


Charles Titkemeyer, a native of Rising Sun, Indiana, joined the Air Corps in 16 January 1942 and served as a navigator on a B-24 airplane. He went with the 8th Air Force to England in 1943 and was later sent to Bengazi, a remote post on the coast of North Africa. From Bengazi, the Air Force launched a successful raid on the Ploesti oil fields.

"They said to us, 'We're sending you down there [Bengazi] for a special mission.' The base was nothing more than just a leveled off place in the desert, and we had tents to live in. They had us practicing low levels. Now, that's unusual because we were in a plane that was designated to fly up to 20,000 feet. Finally, on August 1, 1943, we were sent on a low level raid on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania.

"We were briefed the night before and told, 'If you are lucky and they don't find out you're coming, a third of you will get back. If you are unlucky and they find out, none of you are going to get back.' They said, 'The following men will volunteer.' They had it posted on the board. The first name I saw was great big long Charles William Titkemeyer will volunteer. So, I volunteered!

"This raid was pulled off because of the oil. Germany depended on oil to keep their tanks and their planes going, and here in Romania, they had a huge oil field. Shell and Texaco, they [had been] the ones who were exploring and bringing out this oil [before the War].

"[Our mission] was to destroy this oil field and the cracking plants around it, so that we would deny Hitler the source of oil. We had excellent intelligence on it because the American companies that owned it [before the war] showed us exactly where each building was and how important it was. So, we knew where we were going.

"Now, on the way over there, we had a little mishap. We were flying, but there also was the 14th Air Force from the desert flying on that mission. Now, on the way over there, we run into a big bank of clouds. In England, [we] were trained, if you come to a bank of clouds, you circle and slowly climb until you get above the clouds and then you go over the clouds. The 14th Air Force was trained, when you hit clouds, you separate a little bit but hold your position and go straight through those clouds without changing heading.

"Well, as a result of our making that big circle to get above the clouds, they [the 14th Air Force]got about fifteen minutes ahead of us. When we got to the target, they were there fifteen minutes ahead of us. They, of course, alerted the gunners to the fact that we were doing this low-level. They came across that target and didn't have a loss. Along we came, not only did we have the gunneries aiming at the right height to get us, but we also had their exploding bombs, all the fire, and the exploding oil tanks to boot. So, we literally flew through hell in order to get across that target. But it was exciting, I'll say that. It was exciting.

"[We flew so low that] we were on the ground. There were planes when they closed their bomb bay doors picked up stalks of corn. We were on the ground. We had to be because [the] gunnery platforms were up high enough, and we were trying to fly under them. But we were as low as you could possibly be over a city.

We had 50% loss that day. We were lucky."

Titkemeyer later served as the first head of the department of veterinary anatomy for LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine.


Johnnie Jones, Sr., a native of Laurel Hill Louisiana, was a student at Southern University when the War broke out. Drafted into the Army in 1943, Jones, a warrant officer in an all-black unit, took part in the invasion of Normandy.

"My ship that I crossed the [English] Channel on was hit. Approximately twenty-five or more killed. My driver, Jackson, was knocked across the rail of the ship, but he wasn't hurt. I thought he was dead. I went up in the air, and I came back down in the midst of that twenty-five dead. My sidearm [a .45] was blown off of me. I didn't get a scratch. I took a rifle from one of the dead, that's the only way I would have had a weapon. Then, the landing craft came for us and took us ashore. I had to hold that rifle up because we had to wade in water after we got off the landing ship craft.

"That first and second wave [of the Normandy Invasion] was almost completely annihilated. I saw all of them just get wiped out, as we went in. I went in there at the Omaha Point in the third wave on Dog Red. They had excavations there. That whole German front that was set up where they had the pillboxes and the cave dug in there. [There were] some Germans in that pillbox who was doing a lot of damage. There was an American solider, that rascal, he was white. Now, I don't know where in the devil he came from. I don't know whether he ever survived or not, but that rascal got in that bulldozer and just drove that bulldozer right straight in to that pillbox and just tore that pillbox up. Now that was a risky, risky thing. If that hadn't of happened, we wouldn't have gotten in."

When he returned to the States, Jones enrolled Southern University's law school and finished in 1953. Jones, who had been a student organizer of the NAACP in Louisiana, became a civil rights attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Several of his cases were successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court.


In 1939, Major, later general, Troy Middleton offered LSU student Thomas Blakeney a commission in the United States Army. Blakeney, who had earlier decided that he wanted to pursue a career in the military, gladly accepted. When war broke out, he served with several units state-side and eventually went to North Africa and later Italy with the Seven-Sixtieth Tank Battalion. Here he describes the invasion of Italy in 1943.

"We got into the fight almost immediately, moving towards Naples. Naples was a pretty grizzly place then. The Germans were still bombing it. They were using the fires of Mount Vesuvius as a guide to come in. We moved north from Naples and got involved in the fight at Cassino. Cassino was well known then because it had a big abbey, full of monks, and it was sitting right on the high hill, and so it could see everything that coming and it was pretty damn dangerous. I know the Pope was reported to have said that there were no Germans in the abbey. Well, if there weren't any Germans in the abbey the monks were shooting because I could see tracers coming out of that big abbey, every night. Finally, the abbey was bombed by the U.S. Air Force and, it did a lot of damage to the abbey, but it's all been rebuilt."

After the War, Blakeney remained on active duty. He received a bachelor's degree from LSU in 1954 and ended his military career at LSU as the commandant of cadets from 1968 to 1970.


Baton Rouge native John Capdevielle graduated from LSU in 1942 and, because he had completed advanced ROTC, was commissioned into the army as a second lieutenant. Capdevielle served in the air corps of Patton's Third Army in Germany.

"The first priority in the Third Army was gasoline [Patton had run out of it in France and was determined that would not happen again], the second priority was ammo, and if you had any room left over they brought rations. So, we didn't eat too good, but we had plenty of gas and plenty of stuff to shoot. We did run low on propellers. I remember one morning there one of our boys busted a landing gear on take-off, and he hollered back. I told him, I said, 'Spark, just go on and fly your mission and when you come back call me.' I was the operations officer that day, and he called me, and I told him, 'All right, now, you get in position to where you think you can dead stick it to the field.' Dead sticking is without an engine. 'And when I tell you to cut, cut and hope that the thing stops crosswise.' And it did, you know horizontal, parallel with the wings. Well, that meant then we could bring him in on his belly and save the prop, because we had some landing gears so we slid him in, and we had him back ready to fly again in about forty-five, fifty minutes. It didn't take long."

Following the War, Capdevielle returned to LSU and worked as director of housing until his retirement.


Native Baton Rougean, Ellen Bryan Moore, an LSU graduate and a teacher at Bernard Terrace Elementary, answered her nation's call in 1942. One of the first women in Louisiana to join the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later Women's Army Corps (WAC), Moore served as a recruiter and later as a captain commanding the 3804 Service Unit in New Orleans. She was one of the first WACs to be appointed to this type of command position

"They were asking for women to come into the service, that they were going to form the Women's Army [Auxiliary] Corps. They said if more women would come into the service they could do a better job at getting the men out that they needed. So, I joined the service. In fact, I was the first woman from Baton Rouge to go into the Women's Army Corps with three other ladies from Louisiana. We were in one of the first six companies that went to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, for our initial training.

"Colonel Darden Faith, who was head of the area at the time, was a perfectly wonderful officer to be under, but a lot of the other officers said, 'Oh, these women think they want to be in the army. We'll show them.' So, it wasn't easy. The training was just like the training men got in most instances. You didn't have an excuse for everything. We were under strict rules and regulations just as the men were. It wasn't any just going there to have a good time or to see what it was like.

"You had two diverse types of individuals. You had many of the men who were most appreciative that women were coming to help and they were delighted to be instructing us, and they treated us well and with a great deal of respect. Then, you had some who were just the opposite. Their idea was, 'I certainly don't want my wife or my sister in this.' In most cases, we found that it was quite easy when I was recruiting to recruit the wives and sisters who were in the service, quite easy.

"So, you were never ashamed of any of the girls that were sent to you [to assist with recruiting], and I never had any trouble with any of them, disciplinary trouble. Most of those that I had wanted to [serve their country] they were volunteers and wanted to come into service. [Those that went overseas] got very high praise from the tops of the various companies and all who were overseas.

After the army, Moore and her husband Heywood, a real estate agent, settled in Baton Rouge. In 1952, Louisiana voters elected her as their register of state lands, a position she held for twenty-five years.




A student in advanced ROTC at LSU, Joseph Dale reported to his first active duty station at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in June of 1942. Stationed in Europe during World War II, Dale served as the battalion commander for an artillery unit that by the end of the War had made its way to Berlin. After the War, he decided to remain in the army and went on to serve in the Korean Conflict. Here he describes the first day of his service as an aide to General Matthew Ridgeway.

" I was in the unit Command Post around midnight and I had a call from Colonel Pop Landrum who'd been in World War II down in Italy. He said, 'As you know, General Walker was killed in an accident. General Ridgeway is coming in here tomorrow as his replacement. I know you from Fifth Army, having been an aide to General Gavin and General Chambers. I want you to come back here and be the aide to General Ridgeway.' I, being all charged up as a young captain, I said, 'Colonel Pop, I appreciate that honor, but I'd prefer to remain with my unit.' His next words to me were, 'Captain Dale, you'll report to me at eight o'clock the next morning.' I said, 'Yes, sir.'

"Usually, when a general officer asks you to be his aide, or when you're recommended to be an aide to a general officer, the officer will ask you, 'Would you like to be my aide? I'd like to have you be my aide. What do you think?' I'd set my mind up that when General Ridgeway asked me that question, I'd say 'Thank you very much, sir, but I'd prefer to return to my unit.'

"Well, when I met General Ridgeway at nine o'clock that next morning, he greeted me with a handshake with his legs apart and his hands on his hips, he says, 'Nice knowing you, Dale.' He looked at his watch and says, 'I want to be in Tenth Corps C. P. [Command Post] at eleven o'clock, do you understand? In the C. P. not on the ground landing.' He said, 'I want to be in the Command Post.' So, I never had the opportunity to refuse the service of General Ridgeway.

"Anyway, that first day, it was a day which could have been another memorable one, in his history and mine. We went out to the airfield and, not knowing anything about headquarters operations, I was told by the secretary of the general staff, 'The driver knows where to go.' I was informed that the G-3 and the G-4 and the G-1, basically, the staff of the general's headquarters were all going out to Tenth Corps C. P. on the east coast of Korea. So, we got out to the airfield, and I went to where I was supposed to find the plane, and there was no plane. But there was a tent nearby with a bunch of air force officers inside, and I walked in. I said, 'Hey, you guys, I've got General Ridgeway out here with his staff. I'm looking for a plane.' They said, 'Ridgeway? I want to see him!' So, they all dash out to look at Ridgeway, and here I am, looking for a plane to get the old man to Tenth Corps C. P.

"Just about the time we had arrived, somebody had sent the C-47 on the other side of the field, thinking we were going there to pick up the plane. This is no problem except that a scramble alert occurred, so everything else but fighter planes went on a stand-down basis. So, for forty-five minutes, I stood down, while Ridgeway paced up and down and looked at me as if to say, 'What kind of an aide do I have here?' Well, after about forty-five minutes, the C-47 came on over and we went on up to Tenth Corps C. P. It was fine. We did get into the Command Post a little after eleven o'clock, but I still had my job.

"We stayed there for briefing, had lunch there with [the general] who commanded the Tenth Corps at that time. About one-thirty, two o'clock, General Ridgeway said, 'Well, let's go.' So, we go out to the airstrip, which was a gravel airstrip. The wind had picked up a little bit, and I stood aside as the General got aboard the aircraft and the other three colonels. As I started up the step, the pilot grabbed me, he says, 'Can you fly an airplane?' I said, 'No, but I've handled one in the air. What's the problem?' He said, 'Our crew chief, who was my co-pilot up here, had an appendicitis attack, and he's in the hospital. I'm the only one that's flying this plane. You're going to sit in the right seat and I'll teach you how to fly this thing!'

"Here's my first day with Ridgeway. I'm late in getting him to Tenth Corps C. P. I'm getting ready to take him back to Taegu, and we have no co-pilot. So, I go up to the front, and I told the General, 'General Ridgeway, if you don't mind, I'll sit up in the front as an observer.' He said, 'Go ahead'. Well, my observation was in the right seat, and I learned how to fly a C-47 under the most difficult circumstances. But anyway, we got the plane off, and as soon as we got off the ground, he [the pilot] called in a mayday to Taegu. Instead of circling, we came straight in, but we could see fire trucks, ambulances, M.P.s , all over the field. We came straight in, landed with a couple of bounces, and as we stopped, I got out and went back to the General, and I said, 'Well, we're here, sir.' He says, 'There must be an emergency on the field, look at all the fire trucks and ambulances out here.' I said, 'I don't know, sir, but we're here on the ground.'

Dale ended his army career as commandant of cadets at LSU from 1970 to 1973.




St. Francisville native, Robert Barrow, a former LSU student, enlisted in the Marine Corps almost immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Making a career out of the Marines, he served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. As a colonel in Vietnam, he commanded the 9th Marines and led an unauthorized raid on Laos in 1969.

General Stilwell and General Davis, both from their respective positions determined that there was a build- up in the northern reaches of the Ashau Valley, or the southern and upper reaches of the DacTo Valley, right up on the Laotian border. Now, that is really rugged land, distant from any friendly forces. That is also where Tet `68 came from, and it had this big build-up of all kinds of supplies and people. They just flowed into Hue City from that direction. The decision was made to try to pre-empt what appeared to be a build-up of forces for Tet `69.

We were tasked to do something about that. At the time, I had forces in and around Khe Sanh. Khe Sanh had been evacuated, but we still revisited [it]. In five days we conceived and started directing a force [there]. I made visual reconnaissance, picked out fire support base sites, talked about how we would do it, met with all my subordinates. We did this out in Vandergrift Combat Base, which was a base out in the western part of Quangtri. We launched a regimental size force, leapfrogging by fire support bases, until we got to the ultimate destination of the northern Ashau Valley in the Laotian border. They [the Vietcong] had literally a highway that they [used for] re-supplying at night.

This operation [was] called "Dewey Canyon," well-known by most marines [and] still studied at Quantico. It resulted in an enormous, the largest in the Vietnam War, seizure of enemy caches, all protected by enemy forces. We really, in a sense, uncovered the potential landing sites so that the helicopters coming in for low approach would not be as vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire.

We unearthed just tons and tons of ammunition, weapons, rice, you name it, all of which was defended, and it was a hard fight to get it. This was not an operation that was done simply to satisfy someone's whim that we would go out there and hit the enemy because that's the way it was determined to be. It was done to do something far-reaching, and that was to pre-empt in the northern I Corp, Tet `69. This was the conclusion of all of my superiors, all the way back to the J.C.S [Joint Chiefs of Staff].

In the midst of all this, we had one battalion, it got right up on the Laotian border and could see and hear the night movements of vehicles on Highway 965. [This] clearly needed to be interdicted, but there was a rule of engagement which said, "You will not put ground forces inside Laos. It's all right to bomb, no ground forces." Bombing did not give you the results that ground forces give you. I made a decision to have one of the companies set up an ambush on that road, a risky proposition. [It] had to be done quietly at night and had to be successful. After they were in position, [they] sprung their ambush successfully on a convoy of enemy bringing in supplies by trucks. This is enemy country if there ever was any. They re-supplied and reinforced with troops.

Then, I told my superiors that we had conducted an operation into Laos. My immediate[supervisor], General Davis, was temporarily out of country. My immediate superior that I reported to was a marine brigadier general who had something called Task Force Hotel out at Vandergrift Combat Base. I remember when I told him on the secure net, voice scrambled. I told what we had done, he said, 'Are you crazy? You have what? You have forces in Laos? Some of us thought you had a future in the Marine Corps.' Well, I sent a message, which gave the rationale for doing it, success achieved, and my last words, 'If I cannot conduct raids or interdict forces in Laos we shouldn't be here.'

We violated the rules of engagement. I felt it was essential for the security of my forces and to accomplish the mission that we were about. That got passed up the line, all the way back to Washington and in an J.C.S. meeting. The word came back, 'All right, and you may conduct operations up to . . .' They gave a distance I've forgotten. It was plenty adequate for us to do what we needed to do inside Laos. The lid on this was kept for years later.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter named Barrow commandant of the marine corps.

On Veteran's Day, 1995, the staff of the Williams Center joined LSU in honoring the men and women of our nation's armed forces. As part of the LSU Salutes celebration that brought to campus fifty-six general and flag officers, most of them LSU alumni, Mary Hebert, Tara Zachary, and Pamela Dean, of the Williams Center; Angie Joe, Cherie Bonnecarre, Blythe Bellows, Toby Blanchard and Gina Arrigo, of the Scotch Guard; and volunteers John Capdevielle and Peter Soderbergh interviewed twenty of the visiting generals. Added to previous interviews with veterans, our series on the Ole War Skule and the military tradition at LSU now includes nearly seventy interviews.

Back to Top