S: A Story Worth Remembering for Generations
BC: With many thanks to Maw Maw & Paw Paw for being wonderful grandparents. And eternal gratitude to Paw Paw and all the other servicemen who risked their lives in service to our country.
FC: George Edward Mayfield & Marjorie Dixon McGill | Newlyweds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reasons that families work.
1: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach... ...I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life! ---and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. ~-Elizabeth Barret Browning | This story is told with love by Ruthanne Mayfield Szenasi, granddaughter of Ed & Marge Mayfield. April 2012.
2: Marge & Ed first met when Ed moved to Humboldt from Nashville, TN in the third grade (about 1933). They were classmates but nothing more until high school... | Marjorie - 8 or 9 years old, wearing her mother's (Rena's) pin | Ed - about 4 or 5 years old | 1937 12 years old | 1928 | The first date either of them can remember was actually more of a group date to the high school football game. Ed had his daddy's car and was driving a bunch of kids home from the game. Margie was sitting in the front seat.
3: Margie recalls, as they crossed the railroad tracks, he asked her on another date. "How about the picture show in Bells on Sunday?" Margie didn't think there was any way she would be allowed to go on a date Sunday night. If she was going to go anywhere, she knew it would be to church! She promised to ask, though, and her parents said she could go if she went to church first. Although they did NOT make it to church that night, they did make it to the picture show and a romance started blooming... | When Ed realized that Margie was dating several guys, he learned that he had to plan ahead and ask her out before anyone else could claim her. | Ed Mayfield 1945
4: By the following Spring, Ed & Margie were pretty steady. Their friends, Joe & Betty were, too, and they wanted to get married. It was against the law for them to do so without parental permission in the state of Tennessee, so they plotted another way... | Fall 1943 | It has been said that Margie knew how she could manage to sneak away and enjoy a movie out with Ed...she would tell her parents that her little brother, Gerald, wanted to go see a movie and she was willing to take him to the picture show!
5: So, Joe & Betty wanted to get married, and learned that they could drive to Mississippi and get married without the three-day waiting period. They asked Ed & Margie to go with them. At this time, gas was rationed, and it was not easy to get a reliable vehicle and enough gas to make a road trip! So they all saved up gas rations and managed to borrow a car with good tires. Ed drove and Margie sat in the front seat. Margie remembers that Joe & Betty "sat in the back seat and made out all the way." When they arrived at the courthouse in Corinth, Joe & Betty reported that they had changed their minds. They weren't ready to get married! Betty still had two years of high school left. | But three out of four of them rationalized that they had saved all those gas rations and borrowed a car, SOMEBODY needed to get married! Margie said no way! She and Ed had only been dating for six or eight months! This happened on a Friday, and Ed was scheduled to leave for basic training on the following Monday. Caving to peer pressure, Margie finally agreed to marry Ed on one condition: "There would be no sex until it was announced!" Surprisingly, Ed agreed! And Johnny Job, a Justice of the Peace, married them on May 28, 1943. | Winter, 1944. Ed was overseas by this time.
6: Her parents knew that Ed was leaving Monday, and so she told them they were spending the day together in Jackson. Ed took her home at ten o'clock and dropped her off as if they had just had a date! Margie knew if she breathed a word of her marriage to her parents, they would kick her out of the house. So it was a secret. | Margie put the marriage certificate in a sealed envelope and put it in the bottom of her foot locker, beneath all her clothes. Ed went to basic training in Georgia and Margie set her eyes on business school in Nashville. They had an agreement...she didn't know where he was going to be, but he was going to send her letters and her mother would forward them on to her at school... | Ed with his parents, Brent & Gertie Mayfield | 1943 | Summer, 1943 in Macon, GA
7: After Ed left for basic training, it was time for Margie to take advantage of her scholarship to business school. So she headed to Nashville with enough money from her parents to buy a ticket home if she ever needed it. | She lived at a boarding school rent-free in exchange for her help in the kitchen. After several weeks she had heard NOTHING from Ed. She knew to expect that, though. She didn't even know where he was! | 1943 | 1943
8: After only a few weeks, she decided she did not like how she was being treated by the lady in charge at the boarding school, so she bought herself a ticket and headed home - without telling her boss! She called her mama when she got to Medina to come and pick her up at the bus station. | By mid-July, Ed had been stationed in Macon, GA but Margie had still not gotten any letters from him! They'd been married since May 28! | Then, one day while she was at home, Margie heard her mama scream when she opened a letter. It was a letter from the school saying that her daughter had disappeared and they didn't know where she went. | They mentioned the possibility of her going "with her husband" and that's when mama started digging through Margie's foot locker until she found the marriage certificate buried at the bottom! | 1943 Ed, at basic training in Macon, GA | While living at home, and keeping her marriage a secret, Margie was asked out on several dates. She was afraid her parents would start asking questions if she kept turning them all down. She reasoned that she could sit on the other side of the truck from her date, and not even hold his hand. So she actually went on a date with James Lessenberry! Of course, there was lots of talk when it came out that she was married and went on a date with James! | Dixie & Rena McGill kicked her out of the house the day they learned that Margie had gotten married behind their backs. She went to stay with a friend, Mary Katherine, in Medina. | Mama & Daddy
9: Her parents were sure that she was pregnant, despite her arguments to the contrary. She made sure they knew that "there had been no sex!" Her daddy believed you took care of the girls until they got married, then their husbands took care of them. Margie was on her own that day! | 1944, in Medina, where she lived with Mary Katherine | Fortunately, she was scheduled to report to the Arsenal the next Monday for a new job. She was paid $18 a week, and paid $5 a week for rent. She saved what she could, but when Ed came home, they had a fuss and he left in the car. He had a car accident and because they had no insurance, it cost everything she had saved to fix the car.
10: Brent & Gertie Mayfield | Mr. & Mrs. Dixie M. McGill
11: "As long as he was in the states, (Ed) would come home for overnight or just slip off and I’d go back with him. Get a room and stay there with him for a week or so. They’d let me off work from the Arsenal for that time then I’d go back to work." -Marge Mayfield, 2009 | 1943 Basic Training Macon, GA | While Marge was staying with Ed in Macon, GA, she went to Parks Belk to ask for a job. They let her fill in for a girl who was out one day, and she sold so many baby clothes to soldiers who had just learned they were having babies that they gave her a job!
12: Ed had about thirteen weeks of basic training in Macon, GA. At the end of the training, they had to hike twenty miles with full pack. Ed says, "My feet played out on me (we marched all night long) and I had to ride back to the barracks. So they turned me down for going overseas. So they sent me to Camp Breckenridge, KY. With the 83rd infantry division. I stayed with them the whole time. That was in the summer (of 1943)." When asked about his experience overseas, Ed reports that he landed on Omaha beach just a few days after D-Day. Margie helps him recall the details: "...and there were soldiers laying everywhere. How much water did you have to drive through? They got off the boat into an LCT (Landing Craft Tank), into water that was up to his neck. He had to drive up from there in a Jeep. He’d been practicing driving in a Jeep in the water." Ed remembers, "We had to sit in the boat for about 7 days, because the water was too rough. There were bodies floating all over the place. I had amphibious training in Wales. I had to think about how to fix up the Jeep so I could run it under water."
13: Reading the history of the 83rd, or "Thunderboldt across Europe," as they were called, you learn that after training time in England, the boys were needed badly at Normandy: "ENGLAND! We left her with mixed emotions. Some were glad the final period of training was ended, glad to get started in battle. Some regretted leaving England, kept remembering how Spring had grown full in May, kept remembering the peace in Midland villages on Sundays, the rain and mud in Wales, kept remembering the pubs, the inns, the girls. It was a little like leaving home. We were headed straight for the enemy now. This was the move that would take us from a familiar life of training and playing to the unknown life of battle. This was it! The voyage was short in point of crossing. But we did not disembark. A storm rose out of nowhere and slashed at Omaha Beach and made life miserable for a week. We sat and stood and laid around on our ships. We sang songs, cleaned our weapons, used our vomit bags, ate our landing rations. We went down into the holds of the ships and drew more ten-in-ones. We steam-cooked and ate ten-in-ones until they were coming out our ears. Still the days and nights passed."
14: "We received orders to proceed to France from England to relieve the paratroopers (101st Airborne). They had landed by air and were holding the area...and we were supposed to land by boat to relieve them pronto and use the element of surprise. Then we were supposed to organize for the attack and obliterate the enemy and proceed on attacking forward without stopping. We encountered a big storm in the English channel for 6 days and we could not land. Most of the men were sick as dogs...they couldn't or wouldn't eat. Instead of preparing (psychologically), we were becoming physically worse. Losing weight, and strength...tossing out food...all the while the paratroopers were trying to hold on to their position and needed us there. The men were sick although a few could eat. Then of all things...we started running out of food for the few that could eat! What a mess...and we had not even landed yet! I contacted regimental HQ and told them in no uncertain terms 'Get me food or get me the hell out of here immediately!...My men are in lousy condition...I got to get off this damn floating sick bay. I've now got the healthy ones getting sick because everyone around them is sick with so much vomiting taking place.' I received word back from regimental HQ and they got us into small boats that carried 10 per boat. Finally after 6 days we landed...the element of surprise of our arrival was completely lost." | - James Shonak, commander, Anti-Tank Company, 331st Infantry | Omaha Beach | The Hedge Rows of France
15: Ed recounts, "I was all over the country. We went through Belgium and Luxembourg. We headed first to the hedge rows of France. From there, on to St. Malo. One of our regiments went all the way out to the Peninsula. That’s when they had that island and I thought we were going to have to make a landing there, but they finally gave up. After that we went to Belgium." | A letter from a soldier named James Shonak shines light on the men's experience at the hedge rows. "Although we attempted to train for the hedgerows back in the States, it was of questionable usefulness. IT WAS THE MOST GOD FORSAKEN, UNFORGIVING, MURDEROUS TERRAIN THAT I EVER ENCOUNTERED AND FOUGHT ON. THE BODY COUNT TESTIFIES TO THAT... Each individual hedgerow was in and of itself it's own separate battle. Understand that when we entered a strong occupied area (many times unaware), we were dealing with snipers, mines, booby traps, strong artillery and...GERMAN TUNNELS all over the place. One minute they are in front of you and you're preparing with recon to advance forward...and the next minute, all hell is breaking loose because you suddenly realize you're surrounded and artillery is pouring down on you and you're getting slaughtered screaming for support with no idea how badly you have been hit and who and what you've lost...God we lost a lot of men. My worst nightmares are still in those rows." "To say that the hedgerows were difficult to maneuver through (as TV documentaries do) is an understatement to say the least. They were high rows of whatever the farmers had planted (corn, apple trees, bushes and vines of grapes, grain and vegetation, etc.), with rows between each to barely drive through. There were row upon row of hedgerows. Miles of them. They could be 10 feet or 30 feet wide...thick with vegetation...and you did not know what or whom was on the other side, and only feet away. You can be on top of the enemy and not even realize it. You listen for sounds and sense for human. And they're doing the same." | Brent & Gertie Mayfield, Ed's parents | The Hedge Rows of France
16: It is a rare opportunity to hear Ed talk about his experience fighting in WWII. I (Ruthanne Mayfield Szenasi) managed to open that door one day when visiting him in the hospital. Marge and I were asking him some questions. Hers was, "Is the battle of the bulge where you shot the guy? Remember telling Gerald and them when they asked if you killed anybody?" Opening up old wounds, Ed tells us, "Yeah, we’s up in the mountains and they brought our meal up there. And a German patrol surrounded that durn Jeep. We went back to try to get a hold of it. I was walking around a rock and I bumped into a German soldier. He turned to run, and I turned to run, and I shot him. I think. As far as I knew. I killed him, I guess... "I was a transportation corporal. I drove a jeep. I stayed with the troops up front with a trailer full of ammunition, extra clothes, and stuff. But when they wanted food up there, I didn’t have a driver who would come to the front. I had to go get it and bring it to the front myself." Marge asks, "Why did you carry the wounded back to the tent? Why weren’t the medics doing that?" Ed answers, "Because none of them wanted to do it. We had a commander – whenever he wanted to go to the front, I had to drive him up there. He couldn’t get anyone else to do it. | The Battle of the Bulge/ Ardennes | "I went in a little town where our company was. I got out and as soon as I stepped out of that jeep a mortar shell landed right on top of it. I had just got out. I didn’t get a scratch, though." Unfortunately, this was not Ed's only brush with death while fighting in the war. He goes on to tell us more... "A bunch of American tankers got knocked out, and I had to take a bunch of wounded back. There wasn’t enough room, so Joe was up on the hood. He got hit, and I was going off the road, snow on the ground. I couldn’t get back up on the road. I was hauling just as fast as I could go. The German tanks were over there on the other side of the hill, shooting at us. I don’t know how I kept from getting hit. All the wounded I had in the jeep with me got hit more times, but it never hit me." Marge reminds him of the story about the little steel-plated pocket New Testament Bible saving his life once, too. She had given it to him before he left for the war and he carried it in his shirt pocket. Once a piece of shrapnel ricocheted off of it, leaving a dent and missing his heart. She remembers seeing the dent in it when he brought it back home.
17: From LONESENTRY.com-- "We came of age in the Ardennes. We rose to our full stature. The enemy fought us in vain. Our thrusts were fatal to him. "But more than the mere German we fought the weather. Those winter days when snow fell like powder without pause, when the sweat of our dirty bodies froze our clothes to us! Our knuckles were raw and bleeding, and our lips were cracked. Our noses ran and our eyes were blinded by the whiteness that was everywhere. Our feet were wet and frozen and numbed with pain. The walking that had to be done was agony. When we could use our mess kits the once hot food was icy, the coffee useless. And in the howling wind of the afternoon or the cutting blast of the night, it was painful to use a latrine. For most of us sleep was a thing beyond our ken. There was time for nothing but fighting the enemy."
18: The Bronze Star Medal is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. It is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations. The oak leaf cluster indicates that the decoration has been awarded a second time. | To be awarded the American Campaign Medal, a service member was required to either perform one year of duty (cumulative) within the continental borders of the United States, or perform 30 days consecutive/60 non-consecutive days of duty outside the borders of the United States but within the American Theater of Operations. | The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal was intended to recognize those military service members who had performed military duty in the European Theater during the years of the Second World War. Colored bands representing Germany (on the ribbon's left side), Italy (on the ribbon's right side), and the United States (in the center of the ribbon) are visible in the ribbon. The brown and green areas of the ribbon represent the terrain of the area of conflict, which ranged from beaches and sand, to grass and woodlands, to mountains. | Decorations | Ed received several decorations for his courage, bravery and heroism in serving the cause of freedom in World War II. While he is hesitant to talk about his acts of bravery, his family is very proud of him for the sacrifices he made for freedom.
19: The World War II Victory Medal commemorates military service during World War II and is awarded to any member of the U.S. military who served between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946. First issued as a ribbon, it was referred to simply as the "Victory Ribbon” until 1946, when a full medal was established. The front depicts Nike holding a broken sword, representing the broken power of the Axis, with one foot upon the helmet of Mars, the Roman god of war, representing the end of the conflict. Behind her a sunburst represents the dawn of peace. The back recalls the "Four Freedoms" speech by President Roosevelt, with a laurel sprig, surrounded by the words "United States of America", and the dates of the conflict, "1941-1945". The wide red center represents the new sacrifice of blood by World War II combatants. The thin white lines separating the central red band from the outer multi-colored bands represent the rays of new hope, two of them signifying that this was the second global conflict. | The Combat Infantryman Badge was created during World War II as primary recognition of the combat service and sacrifices of the infantrymen who would likely be wounded or killed in numbers disproportionate to those of soldiers from the Army’s other service branches. | A Marksmanship Qualification Badge is a military badge of the United States Army and United States Marine Corps which is presented to service members upon successful completion of a weapons qualification course. They are issued in the three grades: Expert, Sharpshooter, and Marksman. | The Good Conduct Medal is awarded for exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity in active Federal Military service. It is awarded on a selective basis to each soldier who distinguishes himself/herself from among his/her fellow soldiers by their exemplary conduct, efficiency, and fidelity throughout a specified period of continuous enlisted active Federal military service. | and Honors
20: The 83rd entered France on the 21st through 24th of June 1944. They landed across Omaha Beach and from there, they fought all across Europe. The men of the 83rd Division weren't just on the front line. Most of the time they were in the center of the front line, and often out in front leading the way. They not only fought in Normandy and Brittany, but liberated Luxembourg. They fought in the Ardennes, facing the point of the German Bulge. They fought in the Rhineland, and were the first to reach the Rhine. They literally raced across the rest of Germany, covering 280 miles in 13 days and were within 60 miles of Berlin when they were ordered to stop. | Heroes | The amount of ground covered by the 83rd Division from Normandy in June 1944 to Central Germany in April 1945 is difficult to comprehend--over 1,400 miles. They spent 244 days in combat and suffered 23,980 casualties, 15,248 of which were combat casualties. Of the 68 divisions deployed by the U.S. Army in the European Theater, the 83rd was ninth in the number of combat deaths. The number of 83rd Division GIs killed in combat totaled 3,620. The odds were that if you were on the front line, you probably wouldn't make it home in one piece, if at all. (from ncweb.com) | But Ed did make it home. And in one piece. Despite all those close encounters with death. He was the only one from his division who came home that wasn’t wounded or dead. He and the bride he left three days after they vowed to love each other for life settled down and started a family. | May 1956 Ed & Marge with their two children, Bobby, 10 and Kay Dixon, 6 | The Army started handing out furloughs. Ed was coming across Holland when the war ended in Europe. He then had to report back to Atlanta and they told him he was going to have to go to Japan...
21: Their first house was on Maple Circle in Humboldt, TN. It was a government house built to help support the people who worked at the arsenal. Margie took a fold-away couch and made a bed out of it. They had two chairs, a radio and a wooden table. Not much else but love and dreams... | "They locked up all the liquor stores but we beat them – we got some liquor. I had never had a drink in my life. That was the first. Nobody told me I should have been sipping it! | He & Margie stayed for four weeks in Atlanta, and he reported everyday waiting for the papers to send him to Japan (or somewhere in the Pacific). Marge recalls, "We got word that the war was over, and you talk about some celebrating! | "I turned it up and they just kept filling my glass. That’s the only time I ever got drunk in my life. I had more sense after that. That’s when I got pregnant." | Six-week-old Bobby, being held by Margie's little brother, Kenny, 4 years old. About 1949
22: Ed & Marge were sure proud of their kids. It seemed they had the perfect life. But a series of life-threatening illnesses and tragedies threatened the life they worked hard for. While in his thirties, Ed nearly died from complications with a ruptured appendix. At 50 years old, Ed suffered his first heart attack. After being in the hospital several days, the doctors declared he needed bypass surgery. After looking at him again, however, they discovered that his heart had already made its own bypass. A rare occurrence, this can happen with enough time and rest. | Bobby & Kay
23: Ed had colon cancer and had to have fourteen inches of his colon removed. In 1991, he had a blood clot travel to his lungs. In November of 1999, Ed & Marge lost their only daughter to a horrible and tragic car accident. Kay Dixon was just 49 years old when she died. Just a few weeks later, Ed went into the hospital for hernia repair surgery and the gas they used to blow up his abdomen ended up blowing a hole on the inside wall of his abdomen. He was septic before they could get him to surgery and was in a coma for 45 days. No one thought he would pull through that, but he did. | Ed & Bobby, Summer 1950 | 1963 Margie at home
24: Ask me about my Grandchildren
25: 1993 | 2009 | Six weeks after he woke from the coma, the doctor discovered a blockage in his small intestine. Even though the surgeon did not think Ed would survive the surgery that was required, there were really no other options. He performed the surgery, removing four inches of his small intestine...and once again, he survived. He also survived a lung infection in 2009. It was during this illness that I decided to spend a long weekend with these two and start collecting information for this book. We had a good time talking about their extremely interesting lives. The picture on the right was taken during one of those interviews.
26: A Legacy
27: of Love