MEET OUR VETERANS: Roy McEnturff (Edgewood, Tx.). Served in WWII and Korean War
Roy McEnturff was born on August 30th, 1925 in Edgewood, Texas.
He passed away June 4th, 2019 at a Hospital in Tyler, Texas. He was 93 years old and a WWII and Korea veteran. Roy had one sister and his father was a farmer and owned 100 acres.
RAF Training at Terrell, Texas
“I remember as a young boy watching the AT-6’s from the training going on near my house,” recalled Roy in one of our early conversations.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) training station in Terrell, Texas, trained many British pilots with AT-6’s aircraft during WWII. “On the right side of the main entrance of the cemetery in Terrell there are burial sites of a number of trainees because they were killed in accidents. There is a memorial plaque in the cemetery dedicated to the RAF soldiers killed during training exercises during WWII. I am old enough to remember the training that went on there,” said Roy.
“I was 18 years old at the time, we watched the planes practicing. The AT-6 was an advanced Trainer plane. It was powered by a radial engine and was considered an advanced Trainer aircraft. Even today a lot of wealthy people have bought and restored these planes,” Roy said recalling his childhood days.
In early June 1941, six months before the United States would enter the war, young Englishmen, most of them no more than teenagers, began arriving in North Texas to learn to fly. Part of President Roosevelt’s efforts to aid Great Britain when England stood alone against Hitler’s might included an offer to train pilots desperately needed by the Royal Air Force (RAF). One training program utilized American civilian flight schools, which became known as British Flying Training Schools (BFTS). Officials located the first of six schools in Terrell (the other schools were in Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California). Known as No. 1 BFTS, Terrell’s school was operated by Major William F. Long, a World War I Army pilot and well-known Dallas flight-school operator. During its four-year existence, No. 1 BFTS trained 2,200 young men, of whom 1,470 graduated, including 138 U.S. pilots.
Today, the museum in Terrell occupies an 8,500-square-foot building at the Terrell airport, the site of the original school, whose construction William Long oversaw in the summer of 1941. Numerous photographs in the museum depict each of the 27 classes trained at the school, the civilian flight instructors, and other school personnel. (The last two classes did not finish in Terrell, because the war ended.)
Oakland Memorial Cemetery is on the south side of US 80, on Terrell’s west side, a mile west of where US 80 and Texas 34 intersect. Twenty graves of RAF pilots killed during flight training are buried together in a distinct area in the cemetary
WWII: Aleutian, Philippian Islands and Guadalcanal
Roy was drafted into the Navy during WWII. He spent 2 years in the Aleutian and Philippian Islands and Guadalcanal. “When the war was still going on Admiral William F. Halsey was still in command of a segment of the American Navy. They were the protecting force for McArthur at Leyte Gulf,” remembered Roy.
“I was a second-class Corpsman aboard the APL-19 which served in Manilla,” said Roy. The APL-19 was a non-self-propelled Barracks ship. “The floating Dispensary had no power and was towed from San Francisco and was tied up at the mouth of the Pasig River. We primarily treated servicemen for scabies and gonorrhea. That was our primary medical treatment.” Roy continued to strain when remembering his time during this period. “I remember serving at the Battle of the Midway on Manilla and the invasion of Leyte Gulf,” he said.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, was the biggest naval battle in modern history. The battle was part of World War II, and happened in the seas near the Philippines island of Leyte. It took place from 23 October to 26 October 1944, between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. It may well be regarded as the largest naval battle in military history.
U.S. Troops invaded the island of Leyte on October 20th, 1944 as part of the “Island Hopping” strategy, to get close enough to Japan to launch an invasion and at the same time isolate & bypass heavily fortified Japanese positions.
After four (4) visits to sit down and interview Roy McEnturff, I could tell after each visit is was becoming very difficult for him to remember details of his experiences during WWII along with his early childhood. However, Roy was very deliberate in telling his story about his uncle who served in the Philippines.
According to his granddaughter, Amee Ryan, Isaac McMillon was Roy’s uncle. He referred to him simply as I.B. Isaac was born on March 14, 1924. He was a Boatswain Mate 2ndClass in the U.S. Navy.
My Uncle I.B., Isaac Benjamin McMillon. WWII
“It was in 1941. They had just returned from delivering planes to WAKE islands in the Philippines. At the time of the Midway battle, the Japanese Fleet was trying to take Wake Island and the Philippines. When the carriers got back the B-25s went over the Philippines they bombed the city of Tokyo and the pilots were supposed to fly on across Japan to China at a predetermined site there. Some were captured by the Japanese. It was a morale booster to bomb Tokyo. The B-25s were not designed to be launched off American Carriers. But they did use them to launch the raid over Tokyo. Some of them made it back. The planes came back to San Francisco and the crew was reassigned. I.B. was sent to a receiving station and he was reassigned to a destroyer called the U.S.S. HOEL (DD-533). They were ordered to attack the battleship and cruisers of the Japanese Navy using 3-inch guns against 18-inch battle wagon guns. During the battle the USS HOEL was sunk.
The hard fought battle eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States’ amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War.
Telegram to I.B.’s Parents
“The telegram said he was classified as Missing in Action.
The Philippino’s had donated this plaque without any survivors because they were missing in action. The Japanese got away after the sinking of the USS HOEL. There was one survivor who knew IB had survived and gotten off the ship because they had seen him in the water for two days after the ship was sunk. Therefore, they said he was or could still be Missing in Action, but they knew he had survived and gotten off the ship. The Phillipino’s wanted a token of respect and they put his name along with other names listed as known survivors. They never recovered his body. He did escape the ship before it went down. After all these years it was nice to know for sure that he had survived. Some of the survivor’s that were picked up from the HOEL were able to identify I.B. as a survivor. Some of his friends did see him in the water,” Roy told the story in detail. Unfortunately, I.B.’s mother never knew the information, she passed before ever knowing what happened to her son.
This is a copy of the tribute
Roy’s granddaughter, Amee, sent me a copy of the tribute from the USS Hoel. Amee researched the tribute after taking her grandfather to the veteran’s memorials in Washington D.C. on a recent trip.
TORPEDO ATTACK on USS HOEL (DD533)
A Survivor’s account
“The Hoel, as it turned away from the battleships, received hits in the aft fireroom followed by a direct hit in the after turbine causing the loss of the port engine. The rudder jammed right while turning away from the torpedo attack, due to another hit aft causing the loss of power to the after 5-inch guns and steering, causing the Hoel to turn slowly to the right heading towards the battleship at which the torpedo’s had been launched. “
An enemy destroyer was seen by the Hoel life raft groups taking survivors from the cruiser during the day of October 25th. That night the cruiser disappeared.
“There were 4 different raft group’s. One of the raft groups had 70 men to start out. Only two of those men survived after spending 5 days on the raft. They ended up swimming to Samar Island, were taken to the hills by a Philippine Guerrilla unit that moved them daily to different locations to prevent the Japanese from taking them captive. After sixteen day’s they were taken off the island of Samar by an American landing craft, during the night, and later flown back to the states. There was one raft group that no one survived. The other two rafts had survivors that together totaled 84 men who were in the water 56 hours before they were rescued. Those two groups were independently picked up by LCI’s. Some of the more seriously wounded were transferred to the Patrol Craft, which was the lead director of the search party. They were then taken into Leyte Gulf, transferred to the Hospital Ship Comfort, examined and treated.
After a good month of Survivors leave at home with my lovely wife, I was transferred to Bremerton, Washington to an ammunition depot. Wherever I was stationed, it was great to be alive.”
Glenn H. Parkin
Senior CPO, Retired
Roy goes to College between Wars
“They ended the war in the Philippines and then I went to college,” said Roy “I got out of the Navy and attended college at the University of North Texas. I got two degrees from the University,” said Roy with a big smile. “He got a four-year Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Education Administration,” said Amee.
“The Navy wanted me to reenlist after I got my degrees. I said no, not for 6 years,” said Roy.
However, Roy was called back into the Navy after the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Unfortunately, Roy was off to fight another war.
Korean War: Kodiak, Alaska (Treasury Island)
“I was on Treasury Island in the Philippines. It is about a mile and a half long and one mile wide. The only thing on the island is a landing strip. We did medical support for B24 and B25 bomber pilots. They sent out 25 bombers every day,” recalled Roy.
“There were five Navy officers and four nurses at our peek to staff the Treasury Island Hospital. The highest-ranking officer was a Commander. I was a corpsman for 2 years 2 months and 25 days. I made 3rdclass corpsman and eventually made 2ndclass corpsman when I was discharged. The wounded vets were coming in from Korea and we treated them for wounds as well. The Navy had to keep the airstrip viable so planes could bomb the Russian subs. The Russians were interested in Alaska at the time. I was in Kodiak, Alaska from January 1951 to June of 1953. We had the P2V Neptune Bombers. We patrolled the Aleutian Islands for 15 months while I was there.” The Navy sent him back to Seattle, Washington for a permanent discharge. “I loved Alaska. I didn’t like the Kodiak Bears though. I remember lending some of my friends some money to buy a 30-caliber rifle so they could hunt the bears. They were mean bears,” said Roy laughing. “The Navy decommissioned the island shortly after I left. That was around 1953,” said Roy.
Amee Ryan on her Grandfather
“He does not feel like he is a hero, he told me if he had a chance he would do it all over again,” said Amee over the phone.
“He was married to his wife, Dena for 65 years,” according to Amee. “He spent about 30 years at the Dallas Independent School District (D.I.S.D.) and taught History at Fred F. Florence Middle School in Dallas. After his retirement my grandfather worked the summers running and managing a city swimming pool and surveyed cotton fields in the county. In later years he worked in his family’s jewelry store called “Timekeepers,” in Wills Point. He repaired jewelry and mostly worked on watches. He always likes to tinker with things. We bought him a hearing aid and when the batteries died he took the device off and took it apart to repair it,” laughed Amee.
I talked with his granddaughter and she graciously filled in a lot of blanks in her grandfather’s life. She included the information from her research in the tribute the Philippine’s gave to his uncle I.B. and the sinking of the U.S.S. Hoel.
I made my last visit to Roy at the Assisted Living Home on Saturday afternoon and surprised him with a picture of his uncle’s grave marker. Roy paused and looked at the picture for a long time. His eyes welled up and he looked out the window and slowly said, “I still miss him.” I know he did.
As I left the viewing room at the Canton Nursing Home Roy called out that I left a picture on the couch. I looked at him and smiled and said, no, that is for you Roy. He smiled back. I am going to miss my veteran friend.
Thank you, Roy McEnturff, for your service to our country in both WWII and Korea.
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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