SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

The Boynton Administration During World War II

The GIs - Keeping in touch with SFA

One of the vital parts of the SFA war effort on the Home Front was keeping in touch with the men and women who were in the armed services. Through letters, Christmas cards, questionnaires to parents, and word of mouth, a vital link was forged between those away and those on campus. The Christmas card for 1944, for instance, was a drawing of the Rusk Building on the outside and on the inside, “Greetings from the Stephen F. Austin Faculty and Student Body, Christmas, 1944.” One soldier responded immediately: “Just a line to let you know I’m still thinking of old SFA. Was sure glad to get the Christmas card from school. It’s nice to be remembered.”

Weekly, as the Pine Log received news on service personnel, information was published on the various exes, where they were serving, and any honors they had received. Almost in every letter, the service group would responded that they were missing the Piney Woods. Many responded that they and met and seen other SFA exes oversees. They always seemed surprised to meet up in such strange places around the world as India, China, Europe, and the Pacific Islands. The University Archives has a sizable collection of letters from veterans during the war and after.

J. T. Richardson, SFA Director of Public Relations and Head of the Sociology Department, sent out repeated requests SFA servicemen and their parents requesting addresses so that the school could send them the Pine Log. Richardson put together a questionnaires; it asked for an address, the dates they attended SFA, the date they entered service, branch, time in service, promotions, places served, awards, and wounds.

The responses were remarkable. It is heartwarming to read the countless responses from servicemen expressing gratitude for the college going out of its way to sent them the Pine Log. One wrote: “Just to let you know I am receiving the Pine Log regularly and am grateful for your efforts and thoughtfulness. You can see that your paper is attaining a worldwide circulation, and I can assure you it reads just as well in Russia as under one of those pine trees on SFA’s campus.”

The parents responded that their sons and daughters were all over the world, at various naval stations, aboard ships, recovering in hospitals, “somewhere in the Pacific” or “England” or “Russia.” Some reported honors. One parent from Chireno wrote in July of 1944, “I thank you for the interest you are taking in the boys in the service. I have four son’s overseas.” Mrs. Davison wrote, “Tom is stationed at one of the shuttle air bases located somewhere in Russia.” Mrs. Rounsaville of Alto, whose first son was killed in 1941, wrote that three others sons were doing fine: Gus was on the USS Langley, James was in a Bombing Squadron, and Paul was in Amarillo. The wife of Lt. Jack Whitley answered the questionnaire for her husband who was flying B-25s in the Pacific. She stated on the response: “I might add we are the proud parents of a baby girl, Jackie, born July 27. Jack has never seen the baby.”

Some exes responded on their own. Arlene V. Kilpatrick reported she was a Lieutenant in the WAVES. Edwin W. Gaston, USMC, wrote from the Pacific. Capt. Verne R. Glazener, an SFA faculty member from the Agriculture Department, wrote that he was helping to set up the army’s educational program for over 1000 students at the University of Paris. [He received awards from French for his program, as well as from US Army.] The Army wanted him to stay in service, but he wanted to return home after 2 years overseas. E. H. Henning wrote that he and Van Samford [both in the Class of 1941] were “now riding the seas together,” and that he had met other SFA exes while in the service in the European theater. James Laree, known as “Flash” when he was the Pine Log sports editor in the late 1930s, wrote: “At present I am piloting a bomber over here and have been on several fire raids to Tokyo and various other missions to the Japanese mainland.” Irwin Moses wrote in June 1945 that “Tubbo” Tucker and Leon Gandy were on the same base with him in India. The saddest letters in the University Archives are the letters from parents who wrote to professors reporting that their sons were missing in action or dead; many thanked the college for the interest the faculty had shown them while in Nacogdoches.

The parents of Charles Pou of Tenaha wrote that he was with Patton’s Third Army in France. Pou himself wrote later: “I’m now entitled to wear 5 bronze battle participation stars, or one gold star; one for Tunisian campaign, one for Sicily, one for Normandy, one for Northern France and Belgium, and the fifth for Germany. About the only reason I care for them is that they count as points toward going home.” Another soldier, Lt. Jesse E. Petty, reported by V-Mail from 461 Bomb Group, that he was living in a barn in Italy, but he certainly wanted to continue receiving the Pine Log : “It won’t be long, however, before I’ll be back among the pines.” Petty’s mother attached a clipping in her response which said that her son, B-24 Liberator pilot, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross “for extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.” His story of a raid over a railroad yard in Linz, Austria is an exciting one. He was also awarded the Air Medal with a bronze oak leaf. Travis Noel Price, a veteran of more than 30 major engagements in the Pacific, wrote that he was a signal man second class aboard the Light Cruiser USS Mobile in the Pacific.

These are just a sample of the interesting correspondence which GIs wrote to keep in touch with the alma mater.