Orange County Veterans answer the call
Last updated 11/7/2017 at Noon
For The Record
A year ago, someone who works daily with U.S. military veterans guessed there was only a handful of men and women still living in Orange County who had served their country during World War II.
Seven WWII vets were pictured together in The Record Newspapers a month ago when they responded to an invite to join the Wednesday Lunch Bunch at Tuffy’s.
More than 20 World War II vets have since responded to a formal muster to add to the roll in a recent edition of the paper.
And we’d like to keep that roster growing. If you are a World War II veteran or a family member of a vet and they don’t appear on this list below of short bios, please contact us at 409-886-7183 or email [email protected]
Please note veterans Millard Cox, Clyde Chesson and Ruby Parks could not be reached to contribute to the bios. We’ll make another effort to add their bios in a later edition.
Orange County’s World War II Veterans
J.B. ARRINGTON, 92, Orange, Navy – His three-year hitch included sailing the Atlantic before D-Day and later, the Pacific, patrolling for submarines and performing sea rescue.
ALTHANASE BENOIT, 88, Bridge City, Navy, Merchant Marines, Air Force, Army – He forged his father’s name on the permission line and enlisted in the Navy when he was 14 in 1944. He made it through boot camp before being discovered. Benoit signed up as a Merchant Marine at 15 and made three trips to Europe as a deckhand on war supply ships. In 1946, at 17, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he spent most of his time in supply logistics at an air base in the Marshall Islands. In 1950, he enlisted in the Army and went to the Korean War, where he was wounded.
CHARLES J. BENOIT, 93, Orangefield, Marines – The DuPont retiree was in a dive bomber group called the Doodlebug Squadron that flew strike missions, search and patrol, and escort missions in the Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
LENNIE J. BENOIT, 94, Toomey, La., Army Air Corp – He worked in a support role for his unit in the Pacific Theater as a truck driver and dispatcher.
JOSEPH BERGERON, 90, Orange, Army – Orange-County born, he attended school in Prairie View, a no-longer existing community before the surrounding area became Bridge City. He was in basic training when World War II ended but spent a couple years as a driver in the post-war occupation of Germany.
TOM BROOKS, 93, Mauriceville, Army – He worked in supplies for the 82nd Airborne paratrooper unit but most vividly recalls flying into Holland on a WACO glider, sometimes called a “flying coffin.” He spent 57 freezing days during the Battle of the Bulge, where the snow was waist-deep, and marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in front of 4 million cheering parade watchers Jan. 12, 1946.
MAURICE FOURNET, 94, Mauriceville, Army Air Corps – An aerial gunnery instructor at Harlingen Army Airfield for three years, the Louisiana native and Port Neches High grad re-enlisted in the Air Force Reserve during the Korean Conflict but was not called up. He used his GI bill to collect degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, then founded Beaumont’s Matrix Engineering.
HARRY G. FULTON, 90, Orange, Navy – Illinois native was in boot camp in 1945 when the war ended and sailed to the Pacific as a replacement on amphibious landing craft. He served as a machinist mate for a crew repositioning men and supplies after the war’s end.
EUGENE GOUDEAU, 93, Orange, Navy – The son of an Orange sawmill worker signed up in 1942 and spent three years as a crewman on the USS Dyson, a destroyer built in Orange and destined to take part in 27 sea combat battles in the Pacific Theater during Goudeau’s time aboard ship.
Goudeau’s battle station was as a sight setter for one of the 5-inch guns.
ROBERT JACKSON, 97, Vidor, Army Air Corps – A tail-gunner and bombardier, the Port Arthur native’s plane was shot down over Germany in May of 1944 and he spent a year in a Nazi Prisoner of War camp. He survived a 90-day, 600-mile forced march across Germany during the war’s final months.
ROY McDANIEL, 92, Orange, Army – The Louisiana native never saw combat in his tour, 1943-46, spending much of his time in California. He moved to Orange in 1946 and worked for Chemical Row plants for 45 years.
LEVAN MYERS, 94, Orangefield, Army – Born in Port Arthur, raised in Orangefield, he was a commando in the Special Service Force, serving in North Africa, Italy and France.
BURDETTE OLDBURY SR., 90, Mauriceville, Navy – For two weeks in December 1944, in the Leyte Gulf, Philippines, the crew of the destroyer USS Reid was called to battle stations 10 times a day. Finally, on December 11, 1944, after an attack by a dozen Japanese planes and the shooting down of seven of those planes, the Reid was sunk. Oldbury was among 150 members of the 253-member crew that was pulled from the Pacific Ocean.
The Vidor native has been a carpenter and cabinet maker in Mauriceville since 1946.
JOHN M. PITTMAN, 91, Bridge City, Army – The infantryman reached France 6 months after D-Day and was wounded in March of 1945. The central Texas native rejoined his unit after the German surrender and served as part of the Honor Guard for U.S. Gen Mark Clark in Germany until mid-1946.
ROBERT ROTHROCK, 92, Orange, Navy – The Fort Worth native spent three years in the Pacific aboard the troop ship USS American Legion, a converted ocean liner. The ship put Marines on beach in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and the Solomon Islands.
PAUL A. ROY JR., 90, Orange, Navy – Joining the fight in the Pacific in 1945, Paul worked in supply at a Naval Air Base on Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. His squad helped put together one of the first Cold War atomic bomb tests.
STANLEY SIMON, 95, Orangefield, Army – A 1940 enlistee, this Orangefield native was a staff sergeant with the 60th Antiaircraft Artillery Division when he landed during the 1944 D-Day invasion. After helping liberate France, he was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, the final major battle in Europe, suffering frostbite and wounds from an explosion that gave him blurred vision and permanent hearing loss.
DONALD S. SLACUM, 94, Orangefield, Army Air Corps – New Jersey native was a navigator for bombers that took part in the D-Day Invasion of France in 1944. He navigated for refueling tankers during the Cold War and spent more than 20 years in what became, after World War II, the U.S. Air Force.
CEDRIC STOUT, 96, Bridge City, Navy – A Pearl Harbor survivor, having been one of the fortunate surviving crew members of the USS Utah, sunk on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian naval base that plunged the U.S. into World War II. Stout spent the rest of the war as an engine mechanic on a number of destroyers and smaller ships.