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Date processed: 5-2005
Processed By: M. Olliff
NARRATOR: Judge Val McGee
BIOGRAPHY: Val McGee was born October 15th, 1920 in College Park, GA. He grew up in
the Hartford, Al area. He attended the University of Alabama were he was active
in ROTC. After graduation Mr. McGee was
inducted into the Army Infantry in 1943. Mr. McGee attended OCS training at Fort Benning, GA, and was commissioned as
a second lieutenant in 1944. Mr. McGee was stationed at Camp Rucker before
entering the European Theater of Operation. Judge McGee retired from the
military as a Lieutenant Colonel. He is the author of the book The Origins of Fort Rucker.
OCCUPATION: Retired State Judge
INTERVIEWER: Jason Searcy
PLACE: McGee Residence, Ozark, AL
No. of tapes: 2
No. of Sides: Tape 1, Sides A & B;
Tape 2, Side A
Length of tape: 70 Min
Military branch of service Army Infantry. No Air force at this time.
Rank upon retirement 22 year career- Lieutenant Colonial
First military experience University of Alabama-1938 ROTC
Enlistment After college, worked for one year in Birmingham. Continued in ROTC. Commissioned at end of the year. Went to OCS. Inducted 1943.
OCS Training Fort Benning, GA-May 1944
Commissioned Second Lieutenant- Infantry- May 1944
After commissioned Sent to Fort Rucker-66th May-May 1944. Trained with Division
Sent to New York. Port of embarkation. Arrived in England. Crossed channel to Europe.
Command experience Commanded infantry platoon.
Arriving in Europe 66th Infantry-historic tragedy
New York to England Arrived in England in waves.
Waiting to cross channel to France Waiting in South Hampton. Infantry division of 15,00 men. Sent in waves.
Battle of the Bulge Important part of the war.
Ships in South Hampton Located sleeping quarters. Time passed to leave. Convoy ahead, 2,000 to 3,000 men, sunk by German submarine. Navy tragedy.
Crossing the channel Lost 1/3 of division. Left crippled
Germans scattered Turned toward west. Coast of France. Stayed in France.
Time in Europe One and a half years.
Germans well armed Had different weapons than U.S. Tanks built better. Had famous 88-mm. cannon mounted on tanks.
American weapons Used 75 and 76 mm cannon; M-l rifles-reload every eight shoots. Used clip.
German weapons Good weapons. Portable sub machine guns.
German surrender Seized piles of weapons. U.S. soldiers picked out weapons they wanted to keep. Carried for six months. Traded.
Schmeizer-German machine gun Took weapons to range. High velocity.
Travel to Southern France Marseilles. Soldiers would assemble for embarkation to U.S. or the East.
Atomic bombs No idea about atomic bombs. People have disputed moral aspects of using bomb. No debate among troops. War is a terrible thing.
Marseilles, France Men assembling by units. Shipping to Japan. Fall of 1945-stayed in Europe.
Sent to Austria 42nd Infantry = line infantry.
Assigned to Division Head Quarters Assigned to Salzburg. Personnel department. 1945-1946. Shipped to embarkation port. Returned to the U.S. in 1946.
German resistance Fighting in several directions. France and Belgium. German soldiers were well trained.
Change in mission Germans would not give in. Continued fighting. .88 ~er being used against the U.S. Could not let them move.
Tragedy in English Channel Set to go to the Battle of the Bulge. Lost 2,000 to 3,000 men. Turned west. Remained in France.
Took enemy fire Never wounded. Some were wounded, died. Artillery shelling.
Experiences in Salzburg Received message from Head Quarters. Report to director of personnel office. Selected to be Asst to Division Personnel Office.
American troops use hotels Stayed in Downtown Salzburg. Music house-opera music. High quality.
Stayed in Austria In Austria until returning to U.S. Occupation forces.
Letters to family Poor correspondent. Had a girlfriend. Married someone else. Received Dear John letter.
Family Home Grew up in Hartford. Wiregrass.
Personal diary Not meticulous. Would have kept one if had known then what he knows now. No word processors. Pen and paper.
Personal relationships during the war Some kept up with colleagues. Units have reunions. Never pursued.
Occupation after the war Judge in Ozark. State trial judge 1986-1987.
Major divisions Marker recognition 81st and 66th Infantry. Participated in marker project.
Typical infantry company Five or six officers.
Veterans organizations Came to him. Participate in reunion. Good memorabilia.
Medals and citations Combat Infantry Badge. Blue background- silver outline. Medals for European Theater participation
Law school & Attended U of Alabama in 1946. Entered as a freshman. U.S army reserve-3 years.
Came to Ozark Originally from the Wiregrass. Sister had family in Ozark.
Joined local National Guard Served 22 years. Armored unit.
Unit called up during Korea Got back from oversees 1946. Back in 1950.
Stationed in Japan Never went to Korea. With administration in Tokyo.
Education and GI Bill Bill passed before the war was over. Helped go to college. No doubt about going back.
Local National Guard Unit Well run organization. Mostly veterans. Armored in 1941.
North Korea attacks South Korea Here we go again. Sent to Armored school- Ft. Knox Kentucky. Battalion administration. Unit expert ran unit training.
Return from Japan Summer-1952-2 Years in Japan
After Japan Returned to Ozark. Working with Doug Brown. Practiced law. Elected as judge.
Military experience and outlook on war and military Cannot experience that detailed without influencing your life. War and military different today. Military has changed in 60 years. Understand how military units function.
Origins of Fort Rucker- Inspiration for writing On the bench during the day. Worked on book at night. Interested in history.
Mentors Creel Richardson. Presence in Dale County history.
Stories of Ft Rucker Interesting. Heard stories thru Joseph Adams. Wanted to write a small book on a narrow subject.
Henry B Steagall Congressman. Lived on Broad street-built in 1905. Democrat in 1930's.
FDR elected Succeeded Hoover . Democrats take control of Congress. Steagall becomes Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee. Middle of the depression.
FDR closes banks Steagall wrote key legislation
War upon us Starting looking for location. Need to raise large army. Need training camps. Adams family. Key figure.
Steagall convinced Fort Rucker was a good idea Key figure in Washington. After December 7th ,1941 urgency increased. Post built in 109 days.
Serving at Camp Rucker Did not know would be serving at camp. Spent entire career in Ozark.
Death of FDR With remainder of 66th Division. Turned west. Occupied French city. This was a sad time. Elected 4 times-Only President we knew. Very admired.
Overall experiences-effect on life No dramatic change. Had uniform since a freshman in college. Pick up rifle one day a week.
ROTC uniform Blue/Grey-different from regular uniform. No dramatic change. Good to have military experience.
Infantry Officer Candidate School Another world. Instructors of high caliber. Learn what you need to know in 90 days. Everyone knew his or her jobs. High demand on students.
History professor-McPherson Retired. Hobby- work with Assoc of Fort Benning officer graduates.
History of OCS High pressure military training.