Elija un idioma principal para aprovechar al máximo nuestras páginas de la sección Artículos:
English 日本語 Español Português

Hemos realizado muchas mejoras en las páginas de la sección Artículos. ¡Por favor, envíe sus comentarios a editor@DiscoverNikkei.org!

My Friend: Joseph Wallace Hill (1915-1973)

Joseph Wallace Hill graduated from Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University) in Arkadelphia, Arkansas in May, 1942, as did I. Our class was small because most of the young men had either been drafted or enlisted in a branch of the Service. Joe was a first lieutenant in the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the college, as were several other graduates and did not report for duty until June 1, 1942, and so they “got to walk” in graduation.

Aileen Wright, Joe Hill, Margaret Hollingsworth, HSTC campus, c. 1942.

Joe’s family in Malvern, Arkansas, consisted of his parents, Hardy Wallace and Ella Sanford Hill, two brothers and six sisters—nine children in total. He was born September 16, 1915, and was the youngest son. As with most of our college class members, his father was a laborer and there was little money for education after high school. It took Hill five years to save money for his first year, but he was able to pay his expenses the next three years as the college bookstore manager.

After graduation, I stayed at the college as the business manager’s secretary until the War’s end while my husband, McDowell Turner, served in the Army. During that time we (secretaries) kept the doors open wide for any of our former student-servicemen. It was amazing how many came to share their experiences and learn about their service-friends. We connected their present with their past. It was special for them and for us. Joe Hill was one of those visitors before he went overseas, attached to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Japanese American troops).

In the summer of 1945, I was given the bookstore management along with my secretarial duties. How glad I was when Joe returned in December and took over the work! As we made the management change, Joe was eager to share his experiences. This six-foot-tall soldier had been assigned to a Japanese American regiment in which the men were much, much shorter. He explained that he tried to hide his height by walking on the down side of the road as they marched.

He told me in detail how they saved his life once when he and another soldier were ambushed by the Germans. Although I do not remember details of his stories, I have a clear memory of his love and admiration for the men and their skills. That was 60 years ago! I must have really been impressed to still remember this feeling.

On December 26, 1945, my husband came home from the Pacific and returned to Henderson to complete his college degree. He worked with Joe in the bookstore again as he had in 1940 and 1941. Joe was eager to get on with his life and soon left for other jobs. He was a representative of the Canadian Brett-McMillan Publishing Company, Librarian at the University of Arkansas and Kemper Military College. He was a Mason and Shriner and member of the Arkadelphia Methodist Church. His early death came on October 2, 1973, at the Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock, Arkansas after an illness of several years.

Jessie Faye Wright, Mary Nell Turner, Margaret Hollingsworth, and Aileen Wright, ca. 1942.

My husband and I had moved back to Hope, our birthplace, and started a family. I had not thought of Joe in many years until last March, when my daughter Susan Purvis and I visited the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. I mentioned to her that my friend Joe Hill was with a Japanese American unit in Europe. With that bit of information, the Hirasaki National Resource Center librarian found two books in which Joe was mentioned as an officer who was liked, and one had several photos that included him. I ordered the books, which I have read and reread. My daughter and I have also visited the Go For Broke (442nd) Memorial near the museum and found his name. I am sure he would be proud to be listed with his comrades.

The Fighting Men of Arkansas by Granville D. Davis, a book which included biographies of World War II veterans and a history of World War II includes the information that Captain Hill completed Officers Training School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and attended command and general staff schools at Fort Leavenworth, qualifying for troop commander. It listed a Purple Heart and Distinguished Unit Citation among his honors.

The books included a number of quotes that verified the stories he mentioned to me on his return to civilian life. In particular, The Men of Company F, 442nd Regimental Combat Team by Ronald Oba, and Boyhood to War, History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team by Dorothy Matsuo, specifically mentioned him.

So, there I was in March 2007—62 years later—visiting with Japanese Americans in Los Angeles, some of whom were incarcerated in Arkansas in 1942, and my friend from Arkansas had been the leader of some of their people in battles in 1944. How I wished he could have been with me as I celebrated his life–of leadership, love, and patriotism.

© 2009 Mary Nell Turner

442nd 442nd RCT arkansas janm World War II