By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - "From childhood, I always wanted to fly an airplane,"says Thomas Kirk. "I volunteered for the airforce for the cadet service and went into the military anticipating I was going to be a pilot."
But it wasn't meant to be. Kirk's dreams of flying were dashed when he was assigned to the army infantry. He would serve with the 49th Infantry Division during World War II. His first stop: England.
"We lived in a camp, tents, in the mud and cold. We were very short on food."
From England, he crossed the English Channel to France.
"The French are not known for their cleanliness but they were real nice to us."
The 49th fought the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge through France, Luxenburg, Holland and Belgium.
"We saw a good bit of combat; lost a good many men. I ran into a personal case of what's called combat fatigue. They sent me to the hospital and found I had all I was going to stand."
He was assigned to non-combat duties in Germany. After the war he would help set up the United States headquarters there. Kirk says the German people were kind to the GI's. One family even took him in and he lived with them a short time.
"Ms. Giltner treated me just like her son had he been there."
But the Nazis were a different story.
"The other side of the German picture when you capture a POW camp. It's horror beyond belief. How civilized people could treat other civilized people. It's unbelievable."
He was finally able to set sail for home in 1946, but he wasn't out of danger yet.
"We hit an iceberg, tore a hole in our ship; got our ship off kilter. We broke the propeller shaft on the ship. We were high and dry in the middle of the ocean. We got a group together and we welded that driveshaft together and got that dude on the road."
He returned to Bentonia, where his family and future were waiting.
"I married the prettiest girl I could find. I was a farmer; I had a fertilizer business. I did a variety of things until I retired. I've had a wonderful life. The military was good to me."
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