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George William Webb often wonders what happened to all the young men and women he served with in World War II.
It was 75 years ago on Oct. 17, 1944 that the native of Wilson County’s Town Creek community was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Webb, who is now 94, reported to Fort Bragg and took his basic training as an infantryman at Fort Croft, South Carolina.
The 19-year-old was among the first to qualify as an expert on the M1 rifle in part because of the experience he had as a boy hunting squirrels in the Wilson County woods with a .22-caliber rifle.
“They sent us right on overseas,” Webb said. “They were having such a time at the Battle of the Bulge that they cut our training short and sent us on over there.”
Webb boarded the USS Wakefield in Boston and headed across the Atlantic Ocean bound for Great Britain.
Webb’s fellow servicemen gave him the nickname “Spider” Webb.
He had once seen the ocean at Wilmington, but had never actually been on it.
“I didn’t like it, but I had to go,” Webb said.“Of course, at that time, a lot of time a lot of ships didn’t make it across. I know we got in a tight situation. The night before we docked, they called up on the loudspeaker on the ship that everyone on it was supposed to wear a life belt with a canteen full of water on it, so we knew something was up, but we never were attacked. We figured that night that there was a submarine out there after us somewhere.”
The ship landed at Liverpool. Webb stayed one night and then boarded a train to Southhampton, England, where he was put on a landing ship to cross the English Channel to France.
When Webb walked off the LST, he saw the carnage the war had brought to the French people.
“You could not see a building standing as far as you could see,” Webb said. “They had been in there and pushed them up with bulldozers in piles. You could not see a building standing.”
Webb had never seen such devastation.
“It was really something to think about knowing where we were headed because we were headed for the front somewhere, in Germany probably,” Webb said. “It wasn’t a pleasant thought.”
Webb served as a military policeman in the 18th Airborne Corps for his time in Europe until the Germans surrendered.
He returned stateside for a 30-day furlough but was told his duty station would be in the Pacific.
“To show you how lucky I was, the night I left home to report back to Fort Bragg, after that 30-day leave, the Japanese surrendered that day,” Webb said.
Webb stayed in a year after that and was honorably discharged on Aug. 1, 1946.
EARLY DAYS IN WILSON COUNTY
Webb was born April 5, 1925 to Luther and Josephine Webb.
“I’m the oldest son,” Webb said. “My two sisters were older than I, but I was the oldest son. ”
His earliest memories were helping his father tend to the farm.
“As soon as I got big enough to reach a plow handle, my father had me out plowing in the field,” he said.
The family didn’t have a tractor.
“We all tended it with mules,” Webb said.
Webb completed the seventh grade and then during his eighth grade year, he left school to help his father full-time on the farm.
“I was the oldest son, so the rest of my brothers helped my father in the kitchen was I was always in the field working,” Webb said
The family raised tobacco, corn and soybeans, but not livestock except for the pigs they kept for meat.
“We had a big garden every year,” Webb said. “In fact, we lived out of the garden almost. We grew potatoes, sweet potatoes, butter beans, snaps.”
The family had no electricity and no indoor plumbing. Water came from a hand pump near the back door.
“I had helped my mother many a day when I weren’t working on the farm when she was washing,” Webb said. “Of course she had to wash with a washing board and scrub the clothes. Once I stopped school, if I weren’t working on the farm, I’d always help her.”
‘WE ENJOYED LIFE’
For fun, the children played with each other.
“We were happy as we could be,” Webb said. “We enjoyed life. We lived with our own selves. We had some games we were always playing when we weren’t working.”
Webb would ride a bicycle to his grandparents’ house three miles down the road and played with an uncle who was eight months older.
“You stayed around home because we didn’t have anywhere to go. In fact, it was very seldom we even got to town,” Webb said. “It was enough of us children, so we entertained ourselves. We finally got a battery radio and we had to be careful because we weren’t able to get batteries too often. We enjoyed that radio if we had a battery.
Webb is proud of the fact that his family practically housed their entire crop of tobacco when it was time.
“We might have had to hire one or two to help us, but us children, when we weren’t working at home during tobacco season, we were helping other people and that’s the way we usually bought our school things,” Webb said.
A year before Webb got out of the service, he married the girl he was going with, Evelyn Braswell.
“She was from the same neighborhood where we were raised up,” Webb said. “We got married and we decided that’s where we wanted to stay, in the neighborhood.”
To support her and their family, Webb worked as a tenant farmer for 20 years and for 30 years as a mechanic.
The Webbs lived in the same small farmhouse in the Town Creek community for 64 years before moving to Wilson at family members’ insistence.
The couple was working on their 75th wedding anniversary when Evelyn Webb got sick.
“Nobody knows how much I miss her being here with me,” Webb said.
Evelyn Webb died Thursday and was buried Sunday at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Elm City.
“I don’t know how she put up with me all those years. She’s 92 and I’m 94. We have been blessed many times in our life,” Webb said. “I think my family is the reason I have lived as long as I have.”
Webb said he has no regrets in life
“I have had such a happy life all my life,” Webb said. “Me and my wife have never been apart many nights except for the last month she has been in the hospital and the rest home. It’s hard to get along without her, but it looks like I’ll be right behind her with these 94 years I’ve got on me.
“I reckon that will be all right too.”