(Bob Holeman conducted this series of interviews with local World War II in 2011-12. Most of those 34 American heroes have passed away in the decade since).
After Pearl Harbor, the United States was looking for all the able-bodied young men they could find for a World War on two fronts. For the time, though, they passed on a young man from Calvin who had slightly fallen arches and an old collar bone injury.
However, Hubert Howard was willing to serve and did his part by working at the PX at Camp Livingston, near Pineville, where he’d been working since 1939. He’d seen the Army in training in his home parish of Winn during the Louisiana Maneuvers. In fact, it was during the Maneuvers in August 1941 that he married his wife, Mavis Boyd.
As the need for more and more manpower grew as the war went on, Howard’s “handicaps” apparently seemed less problematic to the military and he was duly drafted into the U.S. Navy. He traveled by train to San Diego for basic training. Howard noted that his brother-in-law Murphy Worsham was there at the same time but there were so many men in training that they didn’t meet. While there, he called home to talk to his loving wife, only to find that Mavis, determined to be with him, had followed him to California and was already there. He gave her his love but sent her home, asking her to wait there for him until the war had ended.
Howard was then sent back across the country to Norfolk, VA, where he was trained as a radar man. Shipped up the east coast, he set sail from Boston for Europe in a slow, two-engine transport ship, LST-989. Passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, Howard would see service in ports of call including Marseilles, Nice, Corsica, Rome, Naples, Sicily and Oran.
“We’d transport supplies, equipment and vehicles to the fighting men ashore,” he said. “I remember one time in France, they had to haul supplies over the mountains where vehicles couldn’t go. Helicopters were not available. So we had to bring in pack animals for them. I can tell you, it smelled terrible on the tank deck where they kept the animals. Fortunately, I was inside in the radar room.”
When Germany surrendered, LST-989 sailed directly to the Pacific for more service. “We went through the Panama Canal, an experience I will never forget. It was mostly inland, with the ship lifted through a series of flooded locks. When it finally opened onto the expanse of the Pacific, it was magnificent.”
As the transport made its way up the Pacific coast, Howard was hopeful that they would stop at the familiar port of San Diego. But that wouldn’t happen. They proceeded to San Francisco, then Seattle, before embarking on a nine-month mission in the Pacific. Their first stop was Hawaii, then the Marshall Island, then Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and, on the China coast, Yancheng, Tsingtao and Jinzhou. “It was all work. We did a lot of hauling.”
Howard saw the war end while he was still in the Pacific. The war over, his slow vessel made its way back to San Diego. Mavis, still eager to be near her long-absent husband, was again ready to cross the country but Howard, now a petty officer second class, asked her to wait until he returned to the South.
Back home, the former seaman worked for a time at Milam’s Department Store, then, with the help of Rudolph Foster, got on with South Central Bell where his career spanned 39 years. He retired in 1984. Hubert and Mavis had three daughters, Jan Durbin, Nan Harrell and Jill Alsup, and three grandchildren.
As a point of interest, all three of the Howard brothers served in different branches of the military during World War II. Bill “Happy” Howard was in the Air Corps, Randall “R.B.” Howard was in the Army and Hubert Howard was in the Navy. Their sister is Dolores “Coach” Carter.
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