World War One, 1914 – 1918, was a bloody struggle brought on by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It was a war of imperial arrogance, differing political ideology, stupidity, old treaties, and simmering disputes over boundaries and territorial intrigues. Over 10,000,000 soldiers perished, and 7,000,000 civilians. The United States entered the war April 6, 1917 under the command of General “Black Jack” Pershing. The conflict ended November 11, 1918. Uncle Sam lost 117,465 souls.
|(L-R) Lloyd Morris, Jay Henry (father), ?, General Tire Rep.|
Lloyd Morris was my father’s business partner at Morris and Henry General Tire in Knoxville. I was young then and never questioned Lloyd about his military career. I remember bits and pieces of conversations I overheard at the tire company. He was a happy individual, impeccably dressed, who always had a nice word for me and a warm smile. Mister Morris was an officer in the Army, a captain as I recall. He spoke a few times about conditions at the Front. It was pretty grim stuff, dead men strewn all over the battlefield and unexploded ordinance in no-man’s land. He once spoke about the mutinies by the French soldiers. Many of their officers were incompetent and poorly trained. Lloyd had a sense of duty and purpose about him. I imagine the war made him that way.
Bob Sams, another military man, was a relative of mine, another cousin. Bob was my father’s best friend. They grew up in Vestal where I was born. Vestal was a thriving lumber center at the turn of the 20th Century. Huge trees were cut and hauled by rail from Townsend, Tennessee.
Bob told me about the time he was blown out of a trench by an artillery shell. He laughed and said it got him in the ass. Bob was a currier delivering messages between command posts whenever the telephone lines were cut by shell fire. He was also gassed in France. Bob was lucky. The mustard gas only made him sick for a few weeks. He was a delightful individual who marveled at life and just being alive. I guess that had something to do with the war too.
Bob had three blue tick hounds. Old Abe was the lead dog. Daddy and Bob took me possum hunting many times when I was a youngster. He loved to fish, and came to our place on Little River once or twice a week.
Mister Sams had a daughter, Doris, who played professional baseball during World War Two. Doris Sams is credited as one of the greatest women players that ever lived.
Bob Sams died in his early sixties. My father passed away when he was eighty six. Those were the best years this country ever saw. Our greatest generations, World War One and World War Two, are mostly gone now. I miss those marvelous men and women, and their love for God and country.