Samuel Williams was a young man from Merryville who served his country in World War II but never returned home. He served with his younger brother, L.C. Williams, both in the same Engineer Aviation Battalion, the 1898th Engineer Battalion, Aviation, made up of all African-American troops.
Very little is written about these men but they were skilled construction and engineer troops who did difficult and dangerous work. The men built key combat infrastructure, repaired airfields, runways and more, in varying terrain and combat situations.
The circumstances of Samuel’s death are unknown and battalion records are scant. However, Samuel’s file in the American Battle Monuments Commission lists his death date as Sept. 26, 1944.
Loretha Williams, L.C.’s daughter, said her father rarely spoke of the war – or that day.
“My grandmother, the late Mollie Tolivar Williams Palmer, was very unhappy that the U.S. decided to draft her ‘then’ two youngest sons of the Williams set, to war at the same time. My daddy and Uncle Sammy Williams vowed to attempt to protect and check on each other. Because they were great hunters and excellent marksmen, they fought with (alongside) white soldiers. Daddy didn’t talk about it much,” Loretha wrote.
After Samuel’s death, Loretha said her grandmother contacted the military and pleaded with them to send “her baby,” L.C., home.
Samuel’s remains were never returned. He is one of many young Beauregard Parish men who died overseas in combat. He is memorialized in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. A grave cross there is inscribed with his name.
Raymond Gipson was born in Leesville and graduated from Leesville High School. Gipson was mayor pro-tem for the City of DeRidder from 1986 to 1990. He died at age 93 in February 2017.
During World War II, Gipson, an Army Air Corps member, spent 395 days in prison camps 100 miles southeast of Berlin. He was once forced to march four days in subzero temperatures and endure a three-day rail transport to a new camp.
Gipson was a bombardier with the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress called, “The Nasty Habit.” He had to bail out of the plane, along with nine other crew members, on March 3, 1944, when his crew was attempting to bomb a V-2 rocket site in France.
Gipson and four others survived the ordeal. Gipson landed in a hog pen and was taken captive.
Gipson was liberated in April 1945 by Gen. George Patton’s 14th Armored Division.
Gipson earned four air medals and the POW medal for his service. He went on to earn a forestry degree from LSU and worked for the Lutcher Stark Land Co. He retired from Boise Cascade.
It is possible the remains of Cpl. Murphy Joseph Cole are at the Tablets of the Missing at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. A memorial marker is at Woodlawn Cemetery in DeRidder.
Cole, of DeRidder, was 26 when he was likely killed in the Second Battle of the Marne, the last major German offensive on the Western Front during World War I. Some records reflect he was a Private. He was a member of the Army’s H Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division.
Cole was born Nov. 29, 1891 to Joseph and Denise Cole in Reeves. He was the tenth of 12 children. The family moved to DeRidder in the 1890s. His father, a farmer, died in 1905. Joseph and Denise Cole are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Cole joined the Louisiana National Guard in December 1913. Military records show he served at the Mexican border with the National Guard. He remained in the National Guard until joining the Army.
He was working as a freight checker for Lake Charles Northern Railroad Company in June 1917 when he registered for the draft.
The VFW Cole-Miers Post 3619 in DeRidder was named in memory of Cole and Corporal John Franklin Miers, who also died in combat on July 18, 1918, the same day Cole is believed to have died.
Cole’s name is inscribed along with 1,059 others at Sea Tablets of the Missing at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
Murphy J. Cole
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