In Batchelor, Louisiana in 1931, in the midst of The Great Depression, Rufus Sidney Ewing, Sr. became ill from cancer and could no longer work at his trade as a carpenter and house mover. He died in January of 1932, a few weeks before his 50th birthday, leaving behind his wife Eula Vick Ewing and their 7 children. The oldest of the children, twin boys, were 13. The youngest and the only girl was just 2 years old. At a time when the country's unemployment was the highest in history and few women worked outside the home, Eula was fortunate to have a job as post mistress of the Batchelor Post Office. Later, she was able to open a small store adjacent to the post office giving them another source of income. The children all learned to work early in life, helping their mother in the store and post office. Pulling together they survived as a family.
Rufus Sidney Ewing, Sr. 1920's
In the late 1930's and early 1940's war was spreading across the world. As the United States began making preparations to enter the fight, the call went out for young men to serve in the war effort. All across the country young men answered the call and Pointe Coupee Parish certainly contributed its share. This is the story of the six Ewing brothers of Batchelor that all came to serve in the military during World War II.
THE BROTHERS IN WORLD WAR II
Wilson Robert Ewing,Sr.US Army 1940-45
The oldest and first to answer the call to war, Wilson as an infantryman in the 2nd Armored "Hell on Wheels" Division (led by General George Patton), saw extensive and widespread action. He participated in campaigns in Algeria, French Morocco, Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe.
In November of 1942 during a beach landing in Morocco in Northern Africa, the assault boat he was in capsized in deep water drowning several soldiers. Wilson and some others were able to swim to shore but lost most of their weapons. On the beach, the men were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. Armed with only a few hand grenades, Wilson and two others were able to take out the machine gun nest, saving the lives of their men and earning Wilson the Silver Star. Below is a clipping from a British newspaper describing the event. Some readers might be confused to see the newspaper article states that the enemy machine gun was manned by French troops. Although the nation of France was our ally, some "Vichy" French sided with the Germans, especially in the French colony of Morocco.
After campaigns in Morocco and Sicily, Wilson's unit returned to England to prepare for "Operation Overlord", the D-Day Offensive. Landing on the beach at Normandy on June 9,1944, the third day of the offensive, they fought their way through central Europe all he way into Germany. However, before they could continue their advance they were hurried back back to Belgium in December of 1944 to reinforce troops after a German counter offensive penetrated the allied lines in the Ardennes Forest. After fierce fighting and heavy losses in this "Battle of the Bulge", the allies pushed the enemy back into Germany. Wilson and the 2nd Armored Division then continued pursuing the enemy deep into Germany becoming the first American unit to enter the German city of Berlin.
(Aug.8,1918-Jan 11, 2015 )
US Army 1942-45
Wilson's slightly younger twin brother William entered the Army in 1942. As an infantryman in the Phillipines, William endured the harsh jungle environment and savage fighting by the Japanese. He survived two close calls during the war. Once an artillery shell exploded so close to the assault boat he was in that it lifted the bow of the boat out of the water. Another time a rifle bullet creased his helmet. William was deeply affected by the war and never spoke much about it.
Rufus Sidney Ewing,Jr.
(Jan.31,1921-April 26, 1996)
US Army 1942-1945
Sidney Ewing joined the Army in August of 1942. When he learned there would be extra "jump pay" for paratroopers in the new 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles" Division being formed at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, he volunteered. He was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for training then to England for additional parachute training. The first action he saw was in the Normandy invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944, landing by Higgins Boat at Utah Beach. After fighting through Normandy, France and Belgium, Sidney and the 101st were sent back to England to prepare for the largest airborne assault in history.
In September of 1944, British and American airborne troops were dropped by parachutes and gliders (Sidney went in by glider) into the German held Netherlands to secure roads and bridges into Germany. While the American 101st achieved their objectives, the British fell short and the Netherlands campaign was aborted (subject of the classic movie "A Bridge too Far").
After the Netherlands campaign, Sidney and the 101st were scheduled to go back to England for rest and refitting with winter gear before their next deployment. Instead, in December of 1944, during the coldest winter in decades, troops of the 101st were hastily sent without winter gear to the Ardennes Forest of Belgium as reinforcements for the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that Sidney and many of his unit were surrounded and captured by the Germans. On December 23, 1944, Sidney and his fellow prisoners were crowded into train cars for transport to a POW camp. On the way, American planes bombed the German train transporting the POW’s and Sidney had to lie in a snow filled ditch to avoid the burning fuel. The prisoners were taken on to Muhlberg, Germany and placed in prison camp Stalag IV-B where they would endure the hardships of prison for nearly six months. Freedom came in May of 1945 when the prison camp was liberated by the Russian Army "led by a general on a big white horse".
Some of the 7,500 US troops taken to Stalag IV-B after their capture at the Battle of the Bulge.
For his military service Sidney was awarded four bronze service stars.
Earl Lee Ewing
US Navy 1942-1945
Earl Ewing served in the US Navy as a Motor Machinist. He trained at the US Navy Training Yard in San Diego, California and the Floating Dry Docks Training Center in Triton, California. Next he was sent to the Camp Bradford Amphibious Training Base in Norfolk, Virginia for additional training. He was then assigned to the USS Numitor repair ship performing maintenance and repairs on amphibious landing craft. Departing from Norfolk, Virginia aboard the Numitor on May 12, 1945, Earl sailed through the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean to Pearl Harbor, the Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands and arrived at Okinawa Island in early August,1945. It was near here that Earl witnessed a mushroom cloud from one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that ended the war.
Joseph James Ewing,Sr.
US Marine Corps 1943-1946
James Ewing spent his military career during the war as an Aviation Machinist Mate in the US Marine Corps at Norman Naval Air Station in Norman, Oklahoma. He contributed to the war effort by performing maintenance and repairs on airplanes.
Jennings Theophilus Ewing
US Navy 1944-1947
They youngest of the brothers, known as "J.T.", served in the US Navy as a MAM3 or Mailman 3rd Class Petty Officer (equivalent to a buck sergeant in the Army) in San Diego, California. Prior to modern electronic communication technology, mail service was vital to the armed services. Congress authorized US Post Offices aboard Navy vessels during war time and the Navy utilized the "mailman" rating from 1944-1948. The Navy mailman had many of the same duties as a civilian counterpoint and J.T.'s experience assisting his mother in the Batchelor post office served him well in his duties in the Navy.
II. LIFE ON THE HOME FRONT
Everyone back home made sacrifices for the war effort. The war caused shortages of gasoline, metal and rubber but what affected people most was shortages of some food items like meat, sugar, cooking oil and canned goods. To more fairly distribute these items the government issued ration stamps to each American household. A person could not buy any rationed items without the proper stamps and when ration stamps were used up for the month they couldn't buy any more of those items. Women learned to be creative in their meal planning, substituting recipe ingredients and minimizing waste.
Rationing affected trading at Eula Ewing's store in Batchelor and the war made things more difficult and busy at the post office as well. Mail service was the vital communication link between the folks at home and those off in the military or distant cities working in factories to support the war effort. Eula and daughter Suzie even helped some of their less literate customers read and answer their mail. Everyone waited anxiously for news of the war and with 6 sons in the military Eula had plenty of reasons to be anxious.
All of Eula's sons regularly wrote letters home, always reassuring her and telling her not to worry. When she didn't hear from Sidney for a long time and letters that she and Sidney's fiance, Emily Graham wrote to him were returned to them as "non-deliverable", they knew something was wrong. After months with no word, an Army telegram arrived in late January of 1945, saying Sidney was MIA (missing in action) since Dec. 23, 1944. They still didn't know if he had been killed or captured until April of 1945 when Eula was notified that a German radio broadcast had been intercepted that named Sidney among a list of prisoners. Post cards that Sidney sent from the prison camp didn’t reach them until after the war in Europe was over.
Wilson Ewing was among the first of the family members to get word that his brother Sidney and their first cousin Dalton Ewing were MIA. During a brief rest period in February of 1945, shortly before his unit crossed the Rhine River into Germany, Wilson took the time to write and reassure folks back home that Sidney and Dalton were likely alive and taken prisoner and that the Germans wouldn't mistreat them because they knew they would soon be defeated. In the letter he wrote to his Uncle Theo (Dalton's father) Wilson predicted that the war would soon be over and all the Ewing brothers and cousins would get together for a joyous family reunion.
In addition to Dalton, other Ewing cousins from Batchelor that served in World War II included Joseph Bar Ewing,Jr. (known as "J.B."), Riley Lionel Ewing and John Lee Ewing (known as "Buoy"). Dalton's younger brother Rodney Ewing served in the Korean Conflict.
III. AFTER THE WAR
After the war ended and the Ewing brothers completed their military service they returned home to Batchelor for a joyous family reunion. Then each would soon marry and start families of their own.
Photo of the family just after the war
L to R: Wilson, Earl, Sidney, Susie, William, James, Eula and J.T.
After the war Wilson Ewing married Ella Marie Tessier. They made their home in rural New California near Batchelor. Wilson had a long career as a corrections officer at Angola State Penitentiary while Ella worked for the Batchelor Post Office. They raised eight children: Stephanie Jean, Eloise Patricia, Wilson Robert,Jr., Eula Lynn, Camilla Joyce, Ella Christine, Daniel Tessier and Barbara Gale. (Photographed is Ella Marie Tessier)
William Ewing married Ella Mary Lacour on April 18, 1948. They lived in Baton Rouge where William worked for the US Postal Service. They had no children. After retirement, they returned to Batchelor and operated The Raccourci Country Store on Old River.
(Photographed are William and Ella Ewing)
Sidney Ewing married Emily Anne Graham on June 30, 1945. He received a BA degree from SLI (now Univ. of LA Lafayette) and a masters degree from LSU. For a time they lived in a small rent house in Morganza. When Sidney wanted to build a house on property he owned near Innis, the bank refused to give the young veteran a loan. Mr. Bordelon who owned the lumber yard in Morganza, made a generous offer - he would loan Sidney enough lumber to frame up the house and once he had a structure he could use that as collateral to secure a bank loan and finish the house. In this way Sidney was able to build his home near Innis where he would raise his family and live out the rest of his life. Sidney enjoyed a long career as a teacher and coach at Innis High School where he was known as "Chief". Emily taught school at both Morganza and Innis. They raised five children: Ann Elizabeth, Mary Linda, Michael Sidney, William Matthew and Margaret Ellen. (Photographed are Emily and Sidney)
Earl Ewing married Edna Mae Connel on April 4, 1953. They lived in Port Allen where Earl worked for the US Postal Service. They had three children: Leslie Ann, Bryan Lee and Penny Sue. After retirement, Earl and Edna Mae returned to Batchelor to live out their lives.
James Ewing married Elizabeth Jean Hebert on July 14, 1946. They lived near Innis where James built his own successful business, Ewings Grocery. Betty was a long time school teacher at Innis High. They had six children: Joesph James, Jr., Alton Ralph, Mickey Lane and twins John Lane and Jerry Wayne.
After the war J.T. Ewing married Margaret Ann Maggio on September 4, 1951. They lived in Lake Charles and had three children: Dana Margaret, Jennings Theopolis, Jr. and Winona Ann.
(Photographed are Margaret and J.T.)
All of the Ewing brothers are gone now but their memory still lives on.