MEET OUR VETERANS : Todd Berry, U.S. Navy (Canton)
Canton resident Todd Berry was born in 1920 in the country town of Marietta, Texas. He was the youngest of eight children in his family. He had three brothers, and four sisters. He is the only one still living.
“My dad was a cotton farmer. He was raised on the farm and the only mode of transportation was horse and buggy.
We only had a few head of cattle and it got so bad we had to sell the last milk cow to pay for the house rent. Those were terrible times,” said Todd. “This was around 1930 during the depression era.”
According to his son John, “ dad graduated from High School in 1938. He started working for the Civilian Conservation Corps ( CCC ). The CCC worked on government projects including national parks and built bridges. My dad made enough money to attend Texas A&M. He completed three semesters in agronomy before he was drafted into the Navy.”
“I went into the Navy when I was 20 years old and stayed there for four years. I was stationed in China and did most of my foreign service in that country. I remember when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor I was on the USS Texas.”
The USS Texas was built in 1910 and commissioned on March 12, 1914 . It served in WW1 and WW2. The Texas escorted war convoys across the Atlantic and later shelled Axis-held beaches for the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings and later in 1944 to provide naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Texas was the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns and the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers similar of today’s computers. The USS Texas (BB-35) is now a museum ship near Houston, Texas. News reporter Walter Cronkite launched his career as a war correspondent aboard the USS Texas off the coast of North Africa. Todd Berry was on the USS Texas when the United States invaded North Africa.
“I was on the USS Texas for six months. I was an enlisted man and my duty was to be a lookout for the enemy and when we got into battle, I helped load the artillery. I was a gunner’s mate on the ship. When we invaded North Africa and the USS Texas was in on that. We bombed North Africa from the sea.”
“I joined the Navy to keep from being drafted. When they swore us in you could join the service you wanted to be in, and I chose the Navy. You know why I joined the Navy? Because if I joined the Army I knew I would have to walk. Guess what I did in China, I walked all over the place. I walked for two years out of the four years I was in the Navy” Todd recalled with a big belly laughter.
“I had a good experience in the Navy. That’s a terrible thing to say in a war, because there was so many killings that went on. The Japanese controlled China, until Communist China got strong enough and forced them out. What has been done in China was because of the Communist.”
Todd was Petty Officer 1stclass when he got out of the Navy. “When my father was discharged from the service he left Washington, D.C. and headed back to East Texas. On the bus with him was an African-American, who was also a veteran. It was a very trying time for a black person. My father stayed with him the entire time,” said John.
On November 26th, 1947 Todd married and had two sons, Joe born Jan 1949 and John born March, 1955. After the service he went back to A&M and got a degree in Agronomy and graduated in 1948.
“I was in Dallas at a filling station and it was cold. The owner wouldn’t let us stay there, so he kicked us out. I was thinking of going back into the Navy but a friend of mine that I went to Dallas with talked me out of it. He and I roomed together at Texas A&M and he talked me into staying in college. He did the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. I can’t thank him now because he has passed on. He was the same age I was.”
“There were lots of jobs in the country when I got out of the service. The VA paid me to finish my college. I stayed in summer and winter until I finished,” Todd said proudly.
“After the service I went back to Marietta. I was an Agricultural Agent. I first went to Tyler, Tx. for eight years. My oldest son was born in Tyler and second son born in Canton. He is 70 and the other is 65.
“I became an Ag Agent in Canton in 1953. I remember working the rest of my time there and I loved it. I met so many people. I made friends and I made a good living. People were so nice to me. And they still are. Some were young. They are old now.”
“Oh yeah, I wrote a weekly article for the Van Zandt County News all the time I was an agent. I started the County Fair in Canton. The person who started it was still working but didn’t keep up with it. So I worked with them. I don’t get around like I used to. I still keep in touch with the Ag community. I am proud of that. I remember being a judge at the county fair stock show.”
They have a building named after you Todd. The Todd Berry building. “That is right,” You are famous. He laughs. “They still use the Todd Berry Building. I always feel good about that. It is their way of saying thank you. They have been good to me. They have been really good to me. I have many friends in this county.”
You are 98 years old now. What is the secret to your longevity? “I wish I could give em an answer. I don’t know but I did this. I am proud of it and kind of bragging. I use to drink too much. I can’t tell you why but one night and I can’t remember when it was. I was still single. I had been out and I had too much to drink. I remember when I got back to where I was staying, there was a puppy there. I took him to bed with me, and I can’t tell you why, the next morning when I woke up.” ( There is a long pause ) “I decided then I would never take another drink of whiskey, or a beer and I haven’t”
“My father was a kind man. I liked being around him. I never heard an ethnic slur from him. He has told me he is not afraid of dying, but really enjoys living,” said his oldest son, John.
We ended our conversation with Phil thanking Todd Berry for the time he allotted him for this interview as well as thanking him for his time he served our country. He was a gracious and humble man. This country needs more Todd Berry’s