Liston Barber was born on January 31st 1926 in Martins Mill, Texas. He had two brothers and three sisters. The brothers were named Brown and Quentin Barber. There was six years difference between Liston and his next brother. The sisters, Quana, Marjorie and Mildred were twins, both younger than Liston. Quentin and Quana served in the military.
Quentin was in the Army (1942) and Quana (1941) served as a LCDR in the U.S. Navy. “She was the first woman to enlist in the Navy from Van Zandt County,” said Liston. “She went to Smith College in Massachusetts for training and got her commission there. Her overseas duty was in Naples, Italy as a Communications Officer. She was my big sister and we corresponded thru the years while I was in service. I found all those letters when she passed. She had saved all those letters in a folder,” said Liston.
Quana served over twenty-five-years in the military. Quana also helped to write the book on the history of Martin’s Mill.
“The Martin’s Mill store wall was started in 2004,” said Jerry Daniel. They were all early families from Martin’s Mill community who volunteered pictures for the wall and are residents from Martin’s Mill from 1950 or sooner. There are 300+ pictures that take up an entire section of the store. It is called “Memory Wall.” Along with Jerry Daniel, research for the wall was by Quana Barber and Maefayr Hooten in 2004.
Liston’s parents’ names were Ervin and mother, Ellen. “My dad owned the General Merchandise store in Martins Mill for about thirty-years. He had three boys at home. The boys did some farming on 50-60 acres my dad bought. We grew mostly cotton and corn. My dad moved to Martins Mill when he was about 21-years old from Alabama. He had family in the area and had change in his pocket and decided to move to this area. He said his first job he got was cutting hair in Ben Wheeler,” laughed Liston.
“As a young boy I could only pick about 200-pounds of cotton a day. That may sound like a lot but there were others that could pick 400-pounds a day. That was back-breaking work and tough on the hands. There were Gins in Martins Mill at the time and we took the cotton there for ginning. There was a guy in town with a truck and he took it down to Athens for sale,” said Liston.
“I started plowing when I was about ten-years-old, behind a mule. There was a walking cultivator that had two mules to it. My older brothers had grown up and moved on and left me there to plow alone and do the chores. Eventually, my dad bought a tractor and soon after that the war came on. That changed everything.”
Liston was 15 years old when he heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor. “I knew it was a big even at the time, but didn’t understand the significance of it. It was the talk of the school and all the conversation from then on. Our teachers would brief us about what was going on. Quentin was drafted into the Army around 1942 and Quana volunteered for the Navy around that same year.
I knew at the time what my future was going to be, because every able-bodied male was drafted very shortly after their 18th birthday. I volunteered for the military after graduating from High School, in 1944. Before I turned eighteen, a cousin, Don Bass and I joined the U.S. Navy. He and I were three months apart in age. We both decided to join the Navy instead of joining the infantry,” laughed Liston. “I ended up serving two and a half years in the military.
“There were four of us leaving Tyler together. We went by bus to Mineola, then boarded a train to San Diego, California for boot camp. I had never been on a train before and had never been out of the state of Texas. I was about as green and country and unsophisticated as you could be. I was very homesick when I had time to think about it but they didn’t give me much time to think. I ended up in the same Company as the guys that went out there with me. It was different and an eye opener for a country boy. Boot camp lasted for about six weeks. As it turned out the military told me what I was going to do in the Navy. After boot camp we were looking to attend an advanced training school. What school you got into was determined by a test you took. My test indicated I could be qualified for sonar or a radio technician school. Why, I don’t know. A guy came by us and asked me where I was from and I soon found out he was recruiting for the “seaman guard,” which was no more than kids standing guard at the gates of the training station. Normally, if you worked some time as a seaman guard you could get into a school afterwards. That is what I hoped to do. I wanted to go to radio tech school. They were looking for boys that were tall, so I was 6’1” and became a seaman guard. I served in that for about 2-3 months. It was simply drilling and standing guard at the gate.
My next assignment was at Twenty-Nine Palms, California. It was located in the desert. The Air Force had abandoned a base out there and the Navy was going to take it and use it for pilot training. They sent a bunch of us out there to clean it up and get it ready to be occupied by the Navy. The pilots were using the facility to practicing bombing runs. I mostly worked in communications, ran errands and was basically the flunky for the communications office. Never went to school for that either. I was out there for about a year.
My next assignment was Camp Elliott, in California. ( Liston pulled out a little black notebook that he had written down exact dates of where he was stationed in the military. The notes and dates were a tremendous help in recalling crucial dates in events that occurred over 75 years ago.
He had written the dates down but doesn’t recall, but believes it was after his time in the Navy. I only stayed at Camp Elliott for a few days. The Navy was congregating sailors from all over the country. The camp was a processing center to get you ready for the Transport ships to send you overseas. This was in July of 1945.
The War in Europe was winding down and troops were being sent back to America with a mindset they may be shipped over to the Pacific. Okinawa was intrenched in a furious battle for two airstrips with the Marines and Army. The U.S. needed those bases to have closer access to Japan. Liston was part of a large contingent of sailors boarding LST ( Landing Ships ) heading to the Pacific. There were 1,600 men on board heading to Japan to fight in the Pacific War against the Japanese. There were one or two other Transport ships within our group along with several Battleships steaming towards the Pacific. It was one month before the dropping of two atomic bombs on August 6th and August 9th on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I left San Diego on July 27th 1945 and got to Eniwetok on August 9th. We were shooting for the early part of November to invade Japan. That was only about three months away. This was the first time Liston had ever been on a large ship. “Boy, did I get seasick on that voyage over, man o man,” Liston said shaking his head. “I was about as miserable as a man can be. We had about five bunks on top of each other, mine was about in the middle. Once you get seasick you always have people advising you what to do. You got to eat, go to chow and get something to eat. So, I went to get something to eat. The chow line was long, and it was hot. I was sick and about to throw up again. I was so sick that I wouldn’t have resisted if someone came along and kicked me over the side. That is miserable sickness,” recalled Liston.
I didn’t remember that the bombs were dropped that early in my voyage. I had never heard of an atomic bomb or even suppose I had ever heard of an atom. They had a little mimeograph they distributed on the ship occasionally. They could have announced it over the PA system, but I don’t remember. I am sure there was relief and some cheers when it was announced.
To this day many historians discuss the impact of the two atomic bombs and would it have saved thousands if not millions of American lives. The ideological mindset of the Japanese was to commit suicide rather than surrender. The jumping off the cliffs in Okinawa and the Kamikaze pilots was a prime example of this fanatical mindset of the times.
On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM local time, the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Sixteen hours later, American President Harry S. Truman called again for Japan’s surrender, warning them to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Late in the evening of August 8, 1945, in accordance with the Yalta agreements, but in violation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Hours later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Following these events, Emperor Hirohito intervened and ordered the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War to accept the terms the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration for ending the war. After several more days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed coup d’état, Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address across the Empire on August 15. In the radio address, called the Jewel Voice Broadcast (玉音放送, Gyokuon-hōsō), he announced the surrender of Japan to the Allies.
Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland watches, September 2, 1945
According to my notes, I arrived on the Philippines on the 17th of August, 1945. Both bombs had already been dropped on Japan. We had all realized we had dodged a tremendous bullet.
On arrival in the Philippines I was assigned to another ship, the USS LSM-433. It was a landing ship. I was the only addition to their crew. They sent us all over there to fight a war and now that we are there they needed to do something with us so they assigned us to other ships. I don’t have any idea why the Navy assigned me to that ship. I had no school training or school specialty.
On the 9th of September we left to Philippines and arrived on Okinawa on the 13th of September. Three days later, on the 16th, we were sent out to sea for 32 hours because of an incoming typhoon. (Pacific Hurricane). It is still considered as one of the worst typhoons to ever hit this area of the world. We were anchored in Buckner Bay. It was full of ships. The winds got so high the anchors were not holding, including ours.
They ordered us out to sea. It was a terrible storm. When we got back the bay was full of ships pushed up on shore. There was a “Conning Tower” on the ship. The Captain, Yeoman and others from the ship had to get up there. I had a watch scheduled during this typhoon and I was headed for my watch. The Captain yelled at me from the Conning Tower, to get back, forget the watch, and get below. I did and can’t describe how miserable of a time it was riding out that typhoon. I don’t know how the ship even survived. LSM’s are designed to go up on the beach. It doesn’t sit very deep in the water, they have a flat bottom. We were like a cork in the ocean. Everyone below just tried to hang on. Cooks couldn’t cook. A lot of people got seasick. I don’t know how the helmsman could control the ship at all. I would think half the time the propellers and rudder were out of the water. We had about seventy-five sailors on board.
In wartime the LSMs had a well deck which was a recession the full length of the ship. We hauled tanks, jeeps, large trucks, people and other supplies. The front of the ship had doors that would open and a large ramp would come down to drive vehicles off onto the beach.
On September 26th we left Okinawa headed to China with about fifty Marines. We arrived in Tientsin, China on October the 1st. That is located in North China, close to Peking. We tied up to a pier downtown and unloaded the Marines and headed down the River. We left on the 29th of October and arrived in Chinwangtao, China. This was further north into China and if I recall we were hauling salt. We stayed there one day and left on the 30th of October and went back up to Tientsin, about thirty-miles up the river. We were hauling supplies up and down the river after we dropped the Marines off. The first load we dropped off was 90% was Miller’s Highlife Beer,” laughed Liston. “No kidding. Now, that was a lot of beer. Most of what we hauled were in crates, so most of the time we didn’t know what we were hauling. China was our ally at the time, so I am not sure what or why we were hauling these supplies to them. We could have had some diplomatic presence there or the Marines could have been sent there for security forces.”
On the 25th of November we left Tientsin and arrived in Jensin, Korea on the 27th. We stayed there until January 1st 1946 and arrived in Taku, China on the 10th of January. We stayed there about three months and left on the 13th of April and went to Shanghai on the 16th. I left the LSM-433 on the 22nd of April 1946 and arrived at Orvetta (another Transport Ship).
We left on the 25th of April and boarded the USS CAELUM AK-106 heading to Guam arriving on the 3rd of May. We arrived in Seattle, Washington on the 23rd of May. We stayed there until the 31st of May and arrived in Norman, Oklahoma on the 4th of June and arrived back to Martin’s Mill on June 7th 1946.
The Military Experience:
“I adjusted to the military part of the Navy pretty well. I didn’t like to stand duty, especially at night on the late-night guard duties. I had an easy time in the military. The food wasn’t “Mammas cooking.” I got acquainted with avocadoes for the first time. I had never seen or heard of an avocado. I wasn’t too finicky of an eater and ended up weighing the most of my life while in the military. The best part was some of the fellas you met and got acquainted with.
I became lifelong friends with a boy from Nathalie, Virginia. He was one of the cooks on the ship. He was a Virginian farm boy and we had a lot in common.
In the military I learned the importance of doing things together. The role that other people play in your life. You need other people. Sometimes you are not in the best circumstances but have someone to lean on and share it with you, and makes the situation easier to handle. I like a well-disciplined environment and a structure of things. I wonder today what or how the citizens would respond to an event like Pearl Harbor.
Controversy about Dropping the BOMBS:
“There has been some controversary about dropping those bombs. Overall it saved lives. It is terrible that so many civilians had to die from those bombs. If we had to invade Japan, a lot of people would have been killed on both sides. That would have been a bloodbath. We would have to face an enemy that believed we will die to the last man. Overall, the decision probably saved lives.
June 7th 1946, I come home to Martins Mill:
“That was a happy day for me,” beamed a smiling Liston at his home in Martins Mill. “Some people said I was kind of a momma’s boy anyway, being the youngest of the brothers. She sure looked good to be coming home. My cousin, Don Bass, was back home also and we both decided to go to Tyler Junior College. They sent a bus thru Martins Mill, circled around thru Ben Wheeler and Chandler and we took the bus to college. I went to college on the GI Bill. I went two years there and then went over to Texas A&M and Don went over to SMU. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at A&M but I majored and graduated in AG Education.
The night before I was to graduate my father passed away from a heart attack. I came home immediately and ended up missing my graduation ceremony. I looked around for teaching jobs and the only opening came up over in West Texas. I place I had never heard of and didn’t want to go out there anyway. I stayed home a couple of years and helped my mother and around the farm.
In 1952 I got married to Alice Pugh and we were together 68-years. She was from Athens. I was once working down there at a grocery wholesale company and that is where I met her. It was love at first sight for me. She was six years younger than I am. We have three kids, seven grandkids and two great-grandkids on the way. I was very blessed to have such a lifelong soulmate in my life,” smiled Liston.
“A friend of mine called who was on the school board at Canton High School and wanted to know if I was interested in being a teacher at Canton. It was as a science, reading and spelling teacher at their Junior High, so I took it. I started around 1959. In my second year, the High School Principal, had a heart attack and passed away before school started. They asked me if I would serve temporarily and I told them I would. I never went back to the classroom. I was High School Principal for five years and one year as a teacher. I left there in spring of 66. It was a challenge and the biggest part was learning what I was supposed to do. I enjoyed having the contact with a bunch of kids. In the early 60s I was involved with the integration at Canton High School. The transition went very smoothly for us. We have a real good football team. We went undefeated and unscored on. Dean Hess was the coach at the time.
I went, during the summertime, to East Texas at Commerce and eventually got my Master’s in school administration.
Around 1966 I went to Van School District as Director of Business Services. We supervised the accounting. We were trying to implement a more effective accounting system and became Superintendent in 1968. I retired from there in 1981. While at Van my wife worked as the Elementary Principal secretary at the Van school for several years.
I had an idea of doing something in the Petroleum land work. It was booming at the time. I went and got my Real Estate license and then the bust hit. I was a 50 something-year-old man looking for a job in a field they were laying off people left and right. I was out of work for about a year.
A friend of mine was the District Judge and he asked me if I would consider being the county auditor in Van Zandt County. I ended up doing that for about four years. I was approached about coming to work at the First State Bank of Van. I stayed there for about 8-10 years. I think they finally gave me the title of Vice President. I was mostly the loan officer working with personal loans. Occasionally, there would be an agricultural loan, but not a lot. When I left the bank, that was the end of my working career.
IN 2006 I built a new house on the old homestead. I have about 225-acres and lease it for cattle. I have always enjoyed working with cattle. I like to fish and did for many years with a friend of mine. I started fishing with some friends when I was at Canton High School. We went on trips to Tawakoni Lake. When I got over to Van I took several fishing trips with my friends over to Lake Fork and fished for crappie under the bridges. I like crappie because they are the best tasting fish.
“The secret may be in my Genes. My mother lived to 100. Of all of us kids I am the only one still living. One lived to 97, the other two to 93 and 94. I never drank alcohol or smoked. I always drank a lot of milk, and still fond of milk. I think about how fortunate I was with my kids. One of my boys was an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. He recently retired. My second boy was a Dentist and he retired a few years ago. My daughter, the baby, received her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. She retired from Lockheed Martin and doing some contract work on her own now.
One of the things I have always wanted to do in my life was to play the piano. I would like to be able to read and understand music. I have always been able to carry a tune singing. I can also whistle a tune. But, I can’t plan an instrument at all. I would just like to play popular music. We always had a piano in the family. My sister took piano lessons but that she didn’t have the natural talent for it. I admire people and can’t understand how some people can just naturally play an instrument. I sang at our pastor’s Calvin Morgan’s wedding. It was called “Whither thou goest, I will go.” I can carry a tune, at least I used to be able to,” he laughed.
Liston Barber, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Navy. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of www.vzcm webpage and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
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