The historical account of the people of Macon County who served their country so bravely during the 1,364 days of World War II, will soon come to life as Doyle Gaines has compiled 596 veterans stories over a ten year period, and the Macon County Historical Society is proudly publishing Macon County Veterans of World War II.
Doyle Gaines was born on November 29th, 1928 in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, and from a very early age he was a conscientious young man who built a shoe shine box with his Dad’s carpentry tools, and roamed the eight hotels and five rooming houses, which were booked solid with guests from Memorial Day in May through Labor Day in September.
“I had a new bicycle and would go to each of the establishments twice a day shining shoes,” Doyle said early last Saturday morning, “and when school would start in the fall, I would have more money than anyone else in the class.”
“I was too young for World War II, but I was certainly interested,” he laughed, “and I remember going to the York Theater in Red Boiling, not to see the movie, but the news segment that showed what was going on in the war. Long before Tom Brokaw and Steven Ambrose coined the phrase “our greatest generation” I already knew it.”
“In high school I spent all my spare time looking at major magazines with war stories and I kept up on the different divisions and where they were, and at night I would go meet the bus to get a glimpse of the soldiers getting off and try to figure out where they had been, as I watched them catch one of the three taxis that were in town back then.”
“In the summer of 1944, I went to work for Tri County Electric.” Doyle continued, “and on my first day I rode to Bloody Crossing, Kentucky, in the manager’s car with a Mr. Will Hall Sullivan. It was the 6th of June, 1944 (D-Day) and he had the car radio on and the famous announcers of that day, were reporting what they were seeing on the beach-head at Normandy, France.”
After the three summers that Doyle worked with Tri-County and high school was completed, he joined a carpentry crew building houses, the cheese plant, department stores, churches and etc.
“When the Korean War began in 1950, Homer Blankenship, Billy Keene Johnson, Charles Lee Patterson and I went to Nashville and joined the Navy,” Doyle recalled. “My first 2 ½ years I was stationed on a small yard oiler at Pearl Harbor and when I came home for that long awaited boot leave I was reassigned to Treasure Island in the Bay of San Francisco and I played for our baseball team there at the base. I later went to Bikini Atoll in the Marshal Islands, where five hydrogen bombs were detonated, and I’m sure we absorbed a tremendous amount of radiation working in the water, drinking it, and bathing in it. I developed diabetes soon after I came home and started college at Tennessee Tech.”
Doyle received a B.S. degree in Education in one quarter less than three calendar years by taking a heavy load and going straight through.
“There was a provision in the G.I. bill that said if you enroll before a calendar year passes,” Doyle remembers, “any unused G.I. bill can be used on a Master’s Degree, so Rad Spivey and I went to Middle Tennessee and enrolled in December in a course and took an incomplete and finished it in the third summer in summer school and went back part time to TTU and received a Specialist Degree in the Superintendent Administration.”
Doyle taught school and coached boy’s basketball for seven years, before he ran for the position of Superintendent of Schools, and was successfully elected and served for 16 years. Then after ten years as Assistant Commissioner of Education and Executive Director of the State Special Schools, he ran for County Executive and served in that position for 12 years, before retiring in 2002, at the age of 72.
“In 1985, I had already concocted the idea of a book of war stories and I was in Nashville working during that time. I would make a list of Macon Countians that were working there also and I would call them and ask to meet at Shoney’s Restaurant and I would talk to them about their involvement in World War II and on weekends I would go out and visit the veterans in their homes and interview these individuals about the war. And some I would write their stories from the papers their relatives supplied me with and a few I did from the courthouse records in the Register’s office. If you know how to read a 214 page copy of discharge papers, there is a tremendous amount of information at your disposal.”
“World War II, which of course was instigated by Hilter, consumed 60 million lives from 30 different nations,” Doyle said, “and many Macon Countians never returned to their loved ones. They gave it all for the freedom of those they left behind. These men are heroes of the highest order and their deeds should always be remembered. What better way than to record them in a county history?”
“If my book reaches only one person, I will be delighted to know my efforts served a purpose, and compiling this book was very small compared to those who answered the call of World War II and gave their lives so unselfishly.”
“I am very pleased that this is finally happening,” Doyle said with a peaceful smile on his face, “and I want to thank the Macon County Historical Society and the wonderful veterans of World War II, who certainly deserve to see this published.”
Macon County Veterans of World War II should be out by late fall, and if anyone would like to inquire about the list of veterans in the book please call the Macon County Historical Society at 688-6247 or Teresa Whittemore at 666-5882.