Monday, May 26, 2014

52 Ancestor's Challenge - Army PFC Jake J. Holcomb, World War II - Week 21

My grandmother, Tennie Belle Holcomb Gibson, had a brother, who we all called "Buck."  He lived next door to my grandparents in a tiny, one-bedroom house in Baldwin Park, California.  He was a quiet, sweet, man who never married, and always wore plaid western-styled shirts and cowboy boots.  He didn't speak much and kept to himself mostly, except for the occasional family gathering.  In conversations, he usually wasn't the one talking, but would reply "yeah, yeah, yeah."  The most I ever heard him speak was sitting with my grandmother and reminiscing about their childhood.  Even then it was my grandmother asking the questions and leading the conversation.  But he usually had a smile on his face, and seemed happy.  This is how I remember him.

It wasn't until I was older, that I found out he had earned a Purple Heart in World War II.  Since it is Memorial Day today, I felt it was appropriate to dedicate this post to him, .

Buck was born Jake Jr. Holcomb on October 29, 1919 near the town of Leuders, in Shackelford County, Texas.  He was the 4th child, and youngest son to Benton Rogers Holcomb and Mamie Estelle Locke Holcomb.  Why was he named Jake Jr. when his father was named Benton?  Well, Benton was often called Jake.  Not sure why Benton was called Jake, but we believe Buck was named after him.  So why did everyone call him Buck you might ask?  Well, I'm not sure about that either, except that it was actually "Roebucks" that they originally called him.  Maybe it was so they wouldn't get him confused with his father.  Why Roebucks?  I have no idea.**

The family lived in Shackelford County, Texas for a few years, before moving to the Tahoka area, just south of Lubbock, Texas.  Buck spent most of his childhood on a farm and worked alongside his family raising cotton.  He attended school until the 5th grade, which is when he began working on the family farm as a farm hand.  According to his Army Separation Qualification Record (we have on hand in his papers), his main occupation was a farm hand on a general farm.  His work summary listed was: "Worked on farm for wages.  Drove tractor to plant, plow and harvest such crops as cotton and small grain.  Tended cows.  Raised poultry for home use." 

Benton Rogers Holcomb and Jake Jr. Holcomb (Buck) in front of the families gas station and general store.
Not sure of the date - probably taken after the war.

Around 1941, Buck's parents purchased a grocery store and gas station.  I believe this was in New Lynn, which was just northeast of Tahoka.  According to U.S. World War II Enlistment Records on, Buck's Civil Occupation was a "Sales Clerk."  On October 29, 1941, a Notice of Selection was sent out to Buck to report for "Induction" on or around November 17, 1941.  According to his enlistment records, he enlisted at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas on November 19, 1941.

Buck's identification card found in his papers
Card from Buck sent back home to his family while he was away at war.
Signed "Roebucks"

According to his Enlisted Record and Report of Separation, Honorable Discharge, Buck served as a PFC in the Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry.  He was an Ammunition Bearer, and he "Carried ammunition to troops in front lines.  Loaded and unloaded trucks.  Stacked shells and explosives.  Pre=pared ammunition for instant use."

He saw action in
"Algeria-French Morocco  Tunisia  Sicily  Normandy  Northern France  Rhineland GO 33 WD 45." 
Decorations and Citations earned:
"EAME  Campaign Medal with 6 Bronze Stars  Distinguished Unit Badge with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster  Purple Heart GO 23 Hq 3474 Evac Hosp APO 43 3 Aug 44  Good Conduct Medal  American Defense Service Medal."
The Purple Heart was earned from a small shrapnel wound he obtained, according to a newspaper clipping we have (do not know the name of the paper it was from or the exact date it was printed). 

Buck separated from the Army at Fort Sam Houston on July 1, 1945, and returned to his family home.  I'm not sure what happened next, but I do believe at some point he suffered from a nervous breakdown.  I've heard it was due to his time in the Army.

Buck remained with the family and probably worked in the store and gas station.  His father became sick in the beginning of 1946, and he traveled with him to Ruidoso, New Mexico.  There, Benton was trying to get relief for asthma, and Buck was there to help him.  Unfortunately, Benton passed away unexpectedly on March 11, 1946.

Buck returned to Lynn County, TX and lived with his mother, Mamie, and younger sister, Tennie Belle for another year, until the store was sold and they all moved to California.

Mamie eventually purchased a small property in Baldwin Park, California in the early 50s.  This is where her and Buck lived.  My grandmother, Tennie Belle, and her husband moved in next door to them around 1955.  Buck shared the one-bedroom house with his mother.  She had the bedroom while he slept on the pull-out sofa in the front room.  Mamie passed away in 1972, but before she died, she made my grandmother promise to take care of, and look after Buck.

Buck with his mother, Mamie, holding my mother, Teresa.
I believe they're standing in front of their little house - about 1950.

Buck in his cowboy hat - probably taken in the late 70s early 80s,
In Baldwin Park, CA - My grandparents dog Sandy and our dog Pepper running around him.

Buck remained at his little house until he became sick and had to move to a nursing home.  He passed away on December 6, 2000 at Intercommunity Medical Center in Covina.  His final resting place is at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA.

If you have any questions, or concerns, about the information in this post, please leave me a comment. I'd be happy to answer any questions, or share what information I have on the individuals listed above. Thanks for reading!!

**After my mom read this, she passed on a little information about what she remembers about Buck: "I heard that Mama (that would be Buck mother Mamie) called him Roebuck when she would call him in from playing or working, instead of just Buck she would say it really long like..."RooooooooooBuck!"  Kind of like calling someone who was out in the fields or down the street."  "Also, he loved In-n-Out hamburgers, fries, and Cokes...Had the biggest smile on his face everytime we brought him one."

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