My mother had a sister, whom she called “Sissy,” I believe. Or he could have been Aunt Pearl’s son. In any event, one of her sisters had a son, a Nephew. Last name: Stallworth. Mom told me he’d been in the Army. There were always members of my family who’d served. Uncle B.C., Big Cousin, Reggie, Johnny A. Stallworth, Adolphus Stallworth.
On my father’s side was his brother (that’s Benjamin Caldwell (aka “B.C.”), Johnny Boy King and a couple of others I don’t know, forgot or who otherwise related (there’s a bunch, I assure you).
My mother had always talked to me about things. White people … what they’d done … could do. She’d call relatives back in St. Louis. She’d have me talk to them … her sisters and cousins. Sometimes she told me about one of her nephews. She told me about Stallworth and that he’d served in the war and got shot.
She told me her nephew was coming to visit us one day. And, I was going to meet him. I was thrilled and honored with disbelief to actually meet a man who had been in battle, who had got a Purple Heart. The day for his arrival came. I waited for him anxiously, walking around the house, opening the front door. It seemed like hours passed.
I was just about to walk outside after opening the door for the upteenth time, when there he was walking in the gate, with a gold tipped can, one leg bent and stiff. Nice suit and tie, gentlemanly, with nice shoes.
Sitting on the couch with inches between us, he told me of being a machine gunner with other guys in a fox hole with bunkers in front facing the enemy line. He said they were coming in waves. “Human waves,” I thought, remembering with my father told me. The strategy was to have more people killed than the enemy had bullets. That’s how they fought. I listened intensely to him, sitting on that old red corduroy couch.
The machine guns used were air cooled. That meant when rounds were fired rapidly, the heat from the explosion of gunpowder would cause the barrel to heat up. When it became too hot, you can get premature ignition and misfire and jam. Thus, there were multiple (two) barrels and asbestos gloves. A cool barrel would be substituted for the useless one to keep firing.
‘They came so fast and so many, the barrel that was hot and useless had not cooled down before the one being used glowed red hot.’ He tried to change the barrel with the cooling one, but the heat from the hot barrel seared through the glove.
‘They kept coming.’
I asked, “Did the machine gun work at all?”
He told me it didn’t, even with the cooler barrel. It didn’t have time to cool down.
“Did you have a M-1?” He said, yes. But, too many of them kept coming.
“Did you have a 45?”
He just looked down moving his head side-to-side, indicating it was no use. The other guns didn’t help at all. He continued: ‘They kept coming.’
He surmised it must have been a grenade or a mortar. Hew didn’t really know. Then he said, “The last thing I remember, I saw one-half of my buddy coming down, sliding towards me.
After a brief while, he said … ‘The next thing I remember was a bunch of men’ he told me. ‘I didn’t know what they were speaking … words … and then one came in a sort of uniform standing over me. He saw my wedding ring and wanted it. He grabbed my left hand and tried to pull it off and it would come off. Then, he took a machete and whacked off fingers including the one with the ring, took the ring. I blacked out.
‘The next thing I remember is being in Heaven. The most beautiful White woman was there, looking at me. Long blonde hair. Actually, I thought she was an angel, and all angles look like that.’ He put his head back, chuckling.
‘I was in a hospital, and had come-to. I was in Guam in a hospital.’ He laughed and laughed about that.
He stayed with us a few hours. He showed me his medal, but quickly put it away not wanting to have it distracting the visit. He told me other things, most of them I can’t remember. Staying in school … getting educated and never be on the ground, he said. “If you got to go.”
Soon, he asked Mom to call a Yellow Cab, saying he had to leave. We asked him to stay, but, he was on schedule and had to continue on his journey.
I looked him up a couple of years ago. Just put in Stallworth, Alabama. I found him. It’s a long road: Keep the love, brothers and sisters. Fight on! Who I am is but a reflection of what he said and what my uncles, aunts and cousins have done.