By Gerry Fischer
A wonderful thing occurred in Algiers. While in route to India, Larry had a layover in Algiers, where the two brothers shared a memorable meeting. Larry’s discharge came August 2nd, 1945 after Germany had fallen and four days before the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A second bomb on Nagasaki, effectively ended the war with Japan.
On November 11th, 1942 President Roosevelt signed a draft bill for the first peace time conscription in the history of the United States. It also allowed high school seniors, if 18 years-old, and would graduate after January 1st, to receive their diplomas early and enlist or be draft eligible. Will and Ida were afraid for Hayes and sought a deferment for him. They were successful, but Hayes had other plans and signed up to do his part. In September of 1943 he found himself in training at Camp Blanding, Florida, and shipped out with 5,500 troops when he was nineteen. He spent 33 days at sea, before reaching Bombay, India, where Hayes served with the 33rd, Quartermaster, Pack Troop, Company A. In 1943, his company began opening a road, closed by the Japanese when Burma fell. This entailed a trek of 650 miles on foot from India to Burma. Hayes survived bouts with Malaria and Typhus. He was then assigned to the 3,000 strong, elite unit of “Merrill’s Marauders,” of 1962, movie fame. The Mars Task Force, succeeded the Marauders, and Hayes and some other Merrill’s men joined the MTF. These two groups were the only United States Forces to serve in WW II on the Mainland of Asia. He received two Bronze Stars, a Victory Medal, and an honorable discharge in February 1946.
On March 26th, Russell, the oldest of the Prather boys received his draft notice and left his wife and two young, daughters for Training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago Ill. After his training he was assigned to the 926th Naval Supply Depot sailing on his 30th birthday, July 6th, 1945, one month before the Enola Gay dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. Russell was stationed on Guam, a peanut shaped Island, home of an airfield, Japanese P.O.W. camp, port and refueling/supply center. Russell was honorably discharged by the Asiatic-Pacific Victory Medal point system, February 27th, 1946.
Clarence Ray Bennett, son of Wordie and Mary Ruth Johnston Bennett, was born August 14th, 1925, he registered for the draft in Louisville, Kentucky, on or about his 18th birthday. When he was 20 years-old, he joined the Merchant Marine in the waning year of WW II, where he served for three years until 1948. Completing eleven tours across the Atlantic Ocean, and two across the Pacific, from March of 1945 until August 1948. The Merchant Marine delivered personnel and materials in time of war in coordination with the United States Coast Guard and Navy. The ships were variously armed with 20 mm guns and were frequently attacked by enemy submarines, especially in the North Atlantic where Ray primarily served. Proudly, Marian Bennett, mother of Karen resides in Brandenburg and ninety-four-year-old Hayes Prather, resides in the Carl Brashear’s Veteran’s Center in Radcliff, Kentucky. Oh, the stories Marian can tell of her times in the Shumate School, and Hayes could tell of his adventures with “Merrill’s Marauders,” in Burma. I can’t wait to hear them.
There is an underlying theme running through this story, of two families united in marriage, and the land once separated now rejoined, reflecting both families,’ friendship, patriotism, heroism, and soon to be combined with a century of heritage and farm ownership. Five members of these two families are commemorated for their defense of our country and this land, by the five patriotic stars. After hearing this story so meaningfully relayed to me, I gazed once again at the stars on the barn. They appeared to me a bit differently than when I first saw them, they seemed to shine more brightly. Maybe it was the way the sun was hitting them, the pride reflected on Tony’s face, or just the knowledge these five men served their country well and are not, nor will they ever be, forgotten.