I am at a loss for words. Yes I know that is hard to believe, but it's true. Do you believe there are things in life that happen and even you can't explain them? I believe that things happen for a reason, we may not know the reasons but they are there. I personally believe that God puts us where we are to be and in His own time.
I guess I need to give you a little history. A year ago someone named Susie contacted me on Facebook. She said she had been searching for Carl Johnson and was he my dad? I said yes and then she proceeded to tell me that her 90 something father in law had been searching for my dad for years. She said he had even made a trip back to South Carolina and couldn't find him. She told me that he had served with my dad in WWII in the same unit and they had even survived a shipwreck together among other things! She had seen my website page on Military.com
Daddy didn't tell us much and I have found that is the way with most WWII Heroes. They are a proud but humble bunch who always will tell you that they just did what they had to do. They indeed did do and in fact went above and beyond the call of duty. I hate that we are losing them almost daily, because they are as they say "The Greatest Generation"! The pride, respect and honor they have for our country is a very rare thing to find in present day. There are still a lot of us left though because if I have it others do too!
You can imagine my excitement and surprise to hear from them and about them. I had to set this in motion and I just had to find a way to get to Texas to meet this man! We talked off and on for the entire year on the phone and I grew to love this family as my own. They are all very special people indeed.
Mr. Carl Johnson
Daddy had told we kids of a ship sinking actually there were two he told us about. This particular one I will never forget because the effect that it had on him shown in his face. He told of the cold water and how so many didn't make it off of that ship alive. He told how long they were in the water and how many they saw that had drowned. That ship was the LST 422
Along with an unidentified LST being unloaded in Anzio Harbour, Photo by Denis Healy from "Anzio The Friction of War: Italy and The Battle For Rome 1944," by Lloyd Clark source Robert Hurst. link above goes to some of the history of this Landing Ship
454 Americans and 29 British Sailors were lost January 26, 1944, during the landings at Anzio, Italy. All were members of the 83rd Battalion Motorized which was later renamed 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion.
The 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion was attached to many other units in WWII in the Mediterranean Theater. Some of that time was spent with Darby's Rangers. A few links here, some here 6615th Ranger Force and Darby's Rangers here and here
I have some of my new Hero Mr. Wheeler on tape and will go through his account of this shipwreck and sinking to post at a later date. All I wanted to do was just sit on the stool in front of this man and look at him. I so admire him.
This touched me to no end. He said that he and daddy had one leaky life vest between the two of them. They took turns wearing it and blowing it up the entire time, which was a very long time. until they were rescued. Then they were taken to the hospital. In a few days daddy was off to Anzio and Mr. Wheeler a short time later for some fierce fighting.
Jimmie Wheeler and Carl Johnson (Daddy)
I get the feeling that these two shared a few good times as well as many hard times together.
This picture can be found in the book Bastard Battalion by Terry Lowry
They are listed as unidentified but we know who they are!
Mr. Wheeler told me of the wooden puppet he had hanging on his side view mirror. You can see it if you look hard. I think he said he made that. When they would go through towns and children would be out in the streets he would pull on that puppet and the children would love it so!
The story behind this picture is just so good! These two were in France and had come to an area that the Germans had already gone through and ransacked. They found these hats, canes etc and tried them on clowning around. It wasn't too long before their commander arrived had a few choice words and then said to them, "Don't you two think you'd better get back to WORK"! "PUT those HATS Back Where You Found Them and GET TO WORK!" Mr. Wheeler told me they went around to the back of that truck and acted like they were putting them up but then ran back to the truck and threw them in. That commander was none other than George S. Patton
Jimmie Wheeler in his top hat taken on Christmas 2010
Can you tell he is a pistol, so much fun and the new 90 something. Sharp as a tack and full of life. He and his wife Nita! He is still so handsome and she is a beauty and gets around better than I!
They welcomed us into their home I should say they all welcomed us into their homes. The entire family was so very nice. We felt from the first moment that we had found a new family. This is our family now. We truly love them. I guess they are lucky they live all the way in Texas because I'd be aggravating them daily!
Mr. Wheeler has led a very interesting life, yes he has. He worked for Howard Hughes over 20 years in the oil business. He told many interesting stories about that. He and his wife Nita have traveled the world and done extraordinary things.
Guess I found my words! I'm so happy to have met this man who shared so much with my daddy and now has shared it with me. I do feel now that he and his family are now mine.
I have so much more to share one of their sons, Jimmie Ray (my new brother from another mother/father as I called him) and his great wife Susie (my new cousin/friend/sister) that made all of this possible. I owe her such gratitude! They have cows, horses, sheep, dogs, chickens, rabbits I may have left something out.
The other brother, Randall who is a salesman, writes Cowboy Poetry and does missionary work all over the world.
There are two sisters that I did not meet.
I must share Texas, the trips we took, the food we ate! Can you say Texas BBQ? The wide open spaces! So much more I'll be sharing.