By Buddy Sexton
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
One of the many amazing qualities of the military family is their
ability to set up home – wherever that may be. And while Denton is the
hometown of John and Jerrie Lomax, the couple has set up housekeeping
in many locations during John’s service in the U.S. Army.
The newlyweds had been married just over a year when John, a shipping
clerk at Bisher Mill, was drafted into the service. He boarded the bus
on January 9, 1943 along with local draftees Elwood Dockham, Myron Wade
Sexton, and others bound for Camp Croft, SC, where they were inducted
into the U.S. Army. John traveled by train to Camp Robinson, Arkansas,
for twelve weeks of basic training and, upon completion, was selected
for Non-Commission Officers School. Following his training with NCOS,
Lomax was promoted to corporal and assigned to help train new recruits.
In May of 1943, Jerrie joined her husband in Arkansas.
Little Rock, John explained, was near Camp Robinson and many residents
there had turned their homes into apartments and rented them to Army
wives. Occasionally spare bedrooms with kitchen privileges were rented
as well. Jerrie’s first Army “home” was a rented bedroom with kitchen
privileges; she found a job in Little Rock at Gus-Blass Dept. Store.
Three months later, in August of 1943, John became a member of the Army
Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and was transferred to Camp Hood,
Texas. “This was a new unit being formed at Camp Hood, with a cadre
made of non-commissioned officers,” Lomax said. “This unit was for
college graduates with ROTC training with a 2nd Lt. rank, but still
requiring field training before being assigned to a unit. After a
six-month wait, no trainees arrived. This break in communications was
unlike anything we had experienced in the military thus far.”
It wasn’t long before Jerrie followed suit and moved to nearby Waco,
Texas. “Jerrie, my wife of 64 years, moved on to Waco, which was close
to Camp Hood,” John said. “This was an overnight trip by train. The
trains were so crowded with moving troops, Army wives following their
husbands and visiting families, that it was almost impossible to find a
seat…Jerrie ended up having to sit on her suit case in the rest room,
leaning against the wall for the overnight trip!”
While living in Waco, Jerrie worked in a nice uptown ladies’ clothing
shop and made friends with many other Army wives – some with which she
managed to keep in touch over the past 63 years. Oftentimes, after all,
the friendships forged during times of tribulation are lasting
John visited Jerrie on weekends…
“After John and I were in Texas for awhile, we came home on furlough
for a visit,” Jerrie said. “One of the pleasant memories of that
journey was that, just by happen-stance, we ran into Myron Wade Sexton
on the same train! We had a great visit with him. Myron and John, as
well as Elwood Dockham, had left on the same bus from Thomasville (to
Camp Croft, S.C.). This was the first time they had seen each other
since their bus trip. It was also the last time they saw each other
until after the war…”
John spent most of his ten-day furlough preparing his 1935 Ford for the
return trip to Waco. He was lucky enough to scrounge around and obtain
four new tires for the trip. However, the big question remained: “Would
they have enough gas stamps?”
It was the couple’s family - Blanton Lomax, the Johnsons (Jerrie’s
family), and Johnny Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Oil and a draft board
member - who made the trip possible. John and Jerrie could calculate
about how many stamps it would take to get there, and they believed
they also had a couple extra just in case.
In spite of fuel concerns, the car ran good along the way…until they were about forty miles from John’s base.
That’s when the vehicle began to overheat, and the water pump had to be
replaced. It had taken them four days of hard driving to almost get
there…they were out of gas stamps…and they had very little money. But
this was during WWII, and John was a solider in uniform serving his
One of John’s and Jerrie’s better memories of their service time
together came when a small town Texas mechanic agreed to repair the car
and to hold John’s watch until pay day. This small town Texas mechanic
was willing to help two strangers as his way of helping fight the war.
Needless to say, they were very appreciative.
Once they had arrived in Waco and settled in, John realized that having
a car on base was a real plus. Because there were not many cars on
base, he soon learned that fellow soldiers were very willing to provide
gas stamps (which had been sent to them from home) to ride into town on
Friday afternoons. Some paid for their rides with sugar stamps, coffee
stamps and even shoe stamps as well!
They hadn’t been “home” at Camp Hood for very long when John had
another opportunity to go back “home” to North Carolina for a brief
visit. Word came down that a basic trainee from another part of camp
had gone AWOL and was being held at Camp Butner, NC. The prisoner
needed to be picked up, and the Company Commander decided to let the
NCO whose home was nearest to Camp Butner be given first choice for
this assignment. He would also be given a couple extra days to visit
his family. John went to the provost Marshal’s office, the security
unit of the military, and was issued a side arm with ammo, handcuffs,
train tickets, and meal tickets. He was eastward bound…
Arriving in Thomasville at 3 a.m., John had no idea how he would get to
Denton until a Lindale Milk delivery truck driver gave him a lift - not
only to Denton, but right to his mom and dad’s back door on High Rock
Road! His arrival was indeed a surprise for his parents, considering he
had just been home two weeks earlier.
Three days later, John arrived at Camp Butner as planned, signed for
the prisoner, and - as per written orders - cuffed the prisoner to
himself. He was given a (MP) Military Police armband to be worn for the
return trip, which allowed John to board the train in Durham first and
to have selected seating for security reasons. From there, they headed
back to Camp Hood.
John recalled that while he was home, his brother Blanton had shared a
letter he had just received from a former employee, Joel Russell, who
was in basic training at Camp Hood. John assured his brother that he
would locate Joel and visit him upon his return to Camp Hood. Later,
when John got to Joel’s barracks, he found the young man alone and
homesick on a Sunday afternoon. One can imagine how excited Joel was to
see a friendly face from back home, some 1,500 miles away.
“Joel’s facial expression and demeanor changed immediately on eye
contact,” John said. That afternoon, the men spent a couple of hours
together visiting at the PX. Later, John checked with Joel’s commanding
officer for permission for the soldier to go to his and Jerrie’s
apartment in Waco for a Sunday dinner. Because he was a basic trainee,
Joel was not allowed to leave camp. However, because John was a Non -
Commissioned officer, special permission was granted with the
requirement that Joel must be back at the required hour.
“When John invited Joel over, we had a great visit,” Jerrie said. “Our
meal was just a simple meal, but the fellowship was great. It was a
time in all our lives we remember fondly. Just sitting down to a meal
with home folks was a cherished memory.”
Jerrie said that her most prominent memory of that meal, unfortunately, was that she “burned the biscuits.”
John noted that after the war was over and he, Jerrie and Joel were all
back at home in Denton, Joel would still recall that Sunday dinner
fondly. To Joel, it seemed like a back-home kind of meal; Jerrie must
have served a plate full of encouragement for dessert.
A real homemaker that Mrs. Lomax was…John recalled that Jerrie searched
diligently to locate a place for them to live. She found an apartment
in which the owner had divided up her own house to make two apartments,
with the landlady living in a third section of the house as well. Their
apartment was a simple two-room floor plan with a private rear
entrance, private bath and kitchen privileges. One unique feature this
kitchen had was a “pay-cook-stove.” To cook a meal, one had to put a
quarter in a slot in the stove for so many minutes of use!
“We felt so lucky to have this two room apartment, because the other
apartment only had a hot plate and a shared bathroom!” Jerrie said. In
fact, many couples had to share a small apartment and a hot plate.
“When John and I look back at that little simple apartment, with all of
its uniqueness, we are so thankful that we had such a good place to
live. We were happy to be together there. So many newly married couples
were thousands of miles apart. John was eventually given different
orders and was a part of Patton’s 3rd Army that marched into Germany,
but we learned to enjoy and treasure each day we had together.”
For whatever reason, the Army was not sending the volume of new
recruits to Camp Hood as anticipated. As a result, life in general and
the daily duties involved were not as difficult there as at most
training stations. However, the easy life in Texas soon came to an end
with orders to report to Camp Blanding, Florida, to train new recruits.
With John’s transfer, Jerrie returned home to Denton to await the
arrival of their daughter, Marcia, who was born April 16, 1944. John
was finally given a leave to visit them when Marcia was six weeks old.
Eleven months after going to Camp Blanding, John was transferred to
Camp Butner, NC, to join the 89th Division under Major General Finley
and to prepare for deployment. He made Sergeant and was assigned to
lead a 60 MM mortar squad, consisting of a gunner, assistant gunner and
two ammo bearers. In January 1945, the 89th Division left New York on
the troop ship Marine Wolf. They sailed under total blackout
conditions, landing at La Harve, France, on January 22, 1945. From
there they went to Camp Lucky Strike and XXI Corp assigned to General
George Patton’s 3rd Army and began 66 days of combat.
“Moving forward at a rapid pace was our goal,” John said. “We were
given the ‘name’ of the ‘Rolling W.’ We advanced 350 miles into
Germany. The first major test came with the crossing of the Moselle
River between Neef and Bullaz on March 14th, 1945, in assault boats
under the protection of chemical smoke. Then we moved on to St. Goar,
where we crossed the Rhine River on March 24.
Pictured above is an assault boat that was used in battle while
crossing one of the rivers. The X at the top is the location of the
German position with one of their famous and accurate 88 MM guns. The
lower three X’s is the location of the 3rd Army’s mortars firing at the
88MM guns. John was sergeant in charge of one of the 60 MM mortar
squads during the advance.
“The Rhine River crossing presented a greater challenge than most of
the rivers because the enemy was well dug in behind stonewalls and in
caves,” Lomax explained. “The enemy had excellent observation posts in
the castles, and they knew what was coming. This was the point where we
encountered Panzerfaust, S.S. troops, the 11th Panzer Division and
plenty of 88 MM fire. Enemy planes - ME-105’s - appeared for the first
“It was almost forty years later that Jerrie and I toured Germany on
vacation in 1980,” he continued. “We cruised down the Rhine River from
just below Cologne to St. Goar. What a coincidence! Jerrie and I were
at the very same town that I remember passing through. However, the
last time I was there, we were under enemy fire. Although it had been
almost forty years, just crossing that same river brought goose bumps
all over me and a flood of emotions and memories too.”
From St. Goar, the 3rd Army advanced in combat through Hersfel,
Eisenach and Zwickhau. During the advance, John recalled one particular
story about the “Company Goofball.” It seems that every military
company had someone who continued to do foolish things, and John’s
“Company Goofball” was someone they referred to as their “Special
Company Goofball”! This solder was so clumsy and awkward that fellow
soldiers took his ammunition away from him if there was danger of
engaging the enemy. They were afraid he would shoot one of his fellow
soldiers rather than the enemy.
John shared that, as his 353rd infantry division was advancing on one
German town, the “Company Goofball” had discovered a bike in a ditch.
“He began riding the bike down a hill, similar to Denton’s Red hill,
but longer,” John recounted. The “Goofball” rode along with the company
as they began marching ahead to take the town, Lomax continued. He soon
overtook the marching soldiers and was quickly at the head of the
column as it approached town; then, all of a sudden, German snipers
started firing at the lone biker. It was at that moment that the
“Company Goofball” discovered his bike had NO BRAKES!
“Rather than getting off the bike and seeking cover from enemy fire, he
just kept peddling, but this time he kept peddling backwards, trying to
find the brakes on his brakeless bike,” John laughed. “The German
snipers kept firing, and he just kept picking up speed. The “Company
Goofball” zoomed right on into town, and somehow he didn’t get a
scratch on him! What’s amazing is that he had several snipers firing at
just him. We were all amazed and astonished at his dumb luck! Of
course, we all enjoyed picking on him for his ‘bravery’. We accused him
of single handedly attacking the town…it’s a humorous story that’s
fondly told by all who were there, yet at the time this happened, with
bullets flying around from snipers, it was a very serious situation.”
During their advance, John said the winter of 1945 was one of the
coldest on record in France and Germany. The ground was covered with
snow; soldiers slept where they could; and living conditions were
difficult. Being cold, tired and dirty was the norm. Many men soon
became casualties as a result of “trench foot fungus” - a condition
resulting from having wet feet all the time - as well as frostbite.
John and his fellow soldiers worked diligently to avoid foot problems
by melting snow in their steel helmets and washing their socks in the
heated water. They would dry their socks by draping them inside their
underwear and allowing their body heat to serve as a natural dryer as
they kept marching forward. Once they were dry, the men would store the
socks in their helmets.
“We kept rolling until we got word that a change in Corps boundaries
came down,” John said. “On April 6, our drive was altered and we headed
toward Berlin. The division surged southeast until VE day, May 8, when
we met the Russians in Czechoslovakia at Saxony.
“On May 9, 1945, we received word that the war was over,” he continued.
“Then we started the slow march back to Camp Lucky Strike, Camp Twenty
Grand and Camp Old Gold, where we were being processed for redeployment
back to the States.”
On December 14, the 89th was moved to Southhampton, England, for the
return voyage. John had 68 points, certainly more than the required 45
points under the green point system to get out of the service. “On
December 26, we boarded the aircraft carrier Wasp,” he said. “On the
way home we ran into a tremendous storm which damaged the bow of the
flight deck. We were re-routed, taking 10 days to return home…we landed
in New York on January 5, 1946.
Accomplishments of the “Rolling W” during WWII
The 89th Division suffered 186 casualties, 615 wounded in action and 95
missing in action. They took 43,212 German prisoners. It was the 89th
that liberated Ohrdruf Concentration Camp in April 1945 - the first
camp to be freed by the Western Allies. They took 1,700 prisoners in
Zwichau and a nearby camp, including 500 Americans. One of them was a
Dentonian, Dallas Ward.
“I did not see Ward, only heard about it in mail from home,” John
noted. “One of the things that impressed me about General Patton was
that on Easter Sunday the 89th was rolling and pushing the Germans back
quickly. But he halted us, and Patton ordered us to hold memorial
services for those of the 89th Division who had fallen in battle.”
• Hitler’s tattering Third Reich was crushed
• Their assignment was to relieve elements of the 5th and 76th Inf. Division.
• From a Blankinshin Camp, the 89er’s freed 325 Polish women officers who were captured in the 1944 Warsaw uprising.
• Men of the 89th located miles of recently constructed tunnels,
underground assembly plants and hidden factories turning out jet
planes, hurp-guns and aerial cameras.
• The 89th division was formally deactivated December 1945.
• The 89th has had several reunions: 1982- Colorado Springs,
1990-Kansas City, 1996-Saint Louis, and the largest in 2001 at the
Raddison Hotel, Raleigh, NC.
“After we returned to the States, the 89th division men from the east
were sent to Fort Bragg, NC, to be processed for separation,” John
concluded. “There we learned that our medical records had been lost.
This brought another three days of delay to receive all those shots
that were already required before boarding the ship back to the US. I
had not been on sick call during the entire three years, but this
‘Snafu’ made it tempting…we all ended up taking the shots again. They
made us sick for several days, but we got over it and were finally
released from active duty.”
The 89th was decorated with the American Theater Campaign Medal; the
EAMET Campaign Medal; two Bronze Stars; the Victory Medal; and the Good
After more than two years of making their home wherever the Army led
them, John and Jerrie have now happily resided in Denton for 60 years.
They are the proud parents of daughter, Marcie, and son, Johnny. It was
Johnny Haven Lomax III, in fact, who was also drafted into the U.S.
Army many years later. He was with the 335th Transportation Co.,
And they have also been blessed with one of the greatest joys resulting
from parenthood – five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Aside from serving his country well, John has a distinguished service
record in his community. He is a past president (1977 – 1978) of the
Denton Lions Club and has continued to serve as an active member of the
Club for 50 years. He is a vital member of Central United Methodist
Church of Denton, where he is a volunteer caretaker of the facility. He
is also a Mason in the Denton Lodge.
The bible refers to people eating grapes, whose vines they did not
plant, and harvesting fruit from trees they did not plant. We as a
nation are harvesting from the labor and the toil of the men and women
known as the “Greatest Generation.” During the war, many soldiers
served faithfully, some were wounded, and others gave their lives in
battle. But the sacrifices on the home front by Moms, Dads, families,
girlfriends, wives, children - and small town mechanics from Texas and
across this nation - were tremendous as well.
The sacrifice made by this Greatest Generation is a blessing to all of
us today. Because, if they had not answered the call, if they had not
stood up for the needs of the nation, if this Greatest Generation had
not fully and whole heartedly committed themselves to a greater calling
than themselves, we would not be living in a Christian civilized
society which still exists today.
Extinguishing Christianity and Democracy was one of the goals of Hitler
and the Third Reich. Their attempt failed miserably, thanks to men like
John Lomax, Elwood Dockham, Mack Cranford, Ozzie Freund, and Robert
Johnson – faithful community members and leaders in our Denton Lions
Farm accident claims life of local man
Don Elliott “took care of the community”
Handy Road resident Don Elliott, age 72, died last week from injuries received in an accident on his farm.
According to reports, Mr. Elliott was working on a tractor in his barn
on the evening of June 26 when the accident occurred. He was attempting
to change one of the tractor’s front tires, Davidson County Sheriff
David Grice said, when the tractor apparently slipped off its blocks
and fell onto his midsection. A neighbor discovered him that evening
and placed a call to authorities around 10 p.m.
Mr. Elliott and his wife Dot shared their time between a restored home south of Denton and a home in Greensboro.
While they were longtime members of Jamestown United Methodist Church,
they regularly attended Lineberry UMC on Handy Road and made many
friends there. Mr. Elliott was highly regarded in the community.
“I think he’s the finest man I ever met,” said Rev. Sandy Young, pastor
of Siloam UMC where the Elliott family held their annual reunion. “I’d
gotten really close to them…Don and Dot were just the perfect match.”
Rev. Young noted that he first became aware of the Elliotts’ service to
the community when he moved to the area in 1990. He said he noticed
right away the repetition of their names on the guest register at
Mountain Vista Health Park as well as at the local funeral home. “Don
and Dot came to the aid of everybody,” Rev. Young said. One memory in
particular stood out in his mind, Young added, and that was regarding
his now-deceased daughter Anna, who was stricken with a form of
cerebral palsy. “Don would speak to me about Anna like there was
nothing different about her,” he said. “It’s as if he could see her for
who she really was on the inside.”
Even Young’s son, 14-year-old Charlie, saw the impact left by Elliott.
“Charlie jotted down a note to me while I was on the phone that morning
after Don died,” Rev. Young said. “And the note simply said, ‘This
raises one question, who will take care of this community?’ And you
know, Charlie’s right! Don always included everybody…”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Elliott leaves behind a son, Douglas Bruce
Elliott of Trinity, daughters Donna Elliott Brown of Charlotte and Amy
Elliott Mescanti of Cary, and five grandchildren.