A veteran looks back at service in World War II

 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

L.G. “Bo” Eubanks recalls that he was ready to go to war in January 1943, at the age of 19.

After taking a couple of years out of high school to help on the family farm, he was still a student at Albertville High School.

Eubanks was one of several veterans honored at Gaston School in a recent Veterans Day ceremony.

State Rep. Craig Ford, himself a veteran, shared some of Eubanks military history with Gaston students, and Eubanks shared more of the story.

“I wanted to go,” Eubanks said. “I could have stayed and finished high school.”

War was underway in Europe, when Eubanks entered the U.S. Army and went to Galveston, Texas for training, and a small bit of bad luck proved to be fortunate for Eubanks.

He had to have his tonsils removed, he said, and while he was sick his unit shipped out to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese. Instead, Eubanks was transferred to the 29th Battalion in the Signal Corps, which set him on a course that would take him to England, France and Germany.

But first Eubanks went to California for amphibious training.

He recalled that part of the training called for he and another soldier to make a boat out of their tents and put their weapons criss-crossed on top of them, then push them across a lake – a lake that was about three miles in diameter.

“If you let your gear get wet you had to do it again,” Eubanks said.

On a troop train, Eubanks encountered a young Richard Nixon, who talked to Eubanks and other soldiers about being sure to go to college when they came back from serving.

“He seemed like a nice man,” Eubanks said, speaking of the Nixon’s later career, “but he kind of got careless with those tapes and that tripped him up.”

Eubanks had classy transportation to Europe – aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

The ship’s second deck was full of artillery, he said, and because he’d had some artillery training in Galveston, he was assigned to watch for submarines in New York harbor and man a five-inch gun.

“There were German submarines in the harbor,” he said, “but I didn’t have to use it.”

When Eubanks made his way to England, he was assigned to handle communications at the top-secret signal center at No. 10 Downing Street, London – the headquarters of the British Prime Minister.

“We had to go 150 feet down in an elevator,” Eubanks recalled, to reach the message center, where, initially, he checked teletype messages for accuracy and language. “Later on, they put me to work as a switchboard operator.”

You might think the communications center would be well protected, but Eubanks said there was danger all around.

“I was in the battle zone all the way up,” he said. “We got bombed pretty regular on the way over (the Atlantic). And we were dodging bombs in London.”

Eubanks recalled sleeping in his helmet for about five nights, in case the “buzz bombs” came flying while he slept, but he got a band enough crick in his neck that he stopped.

“We were in a transport truck in London and a big apartment building got bombed,” Eubanks said. “We got there and the British rescue squad was pulling people out of the building. Some were dead.
“I saw a man, he’d been riding a bicycle, and he died, still on his bike. The tires were flattened into egg-shapes,” Eubanks said.

“When I was first there the German bombers would wake us up every day at 2 a.m. We’d run down the street to the shelter, sometimes in our shirttails,” Eubanks recalled.

While working the 11 to 7 shift, Eubanks handled telephone calls, including some between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

About a month after D-Day, Eubanks was moved to Versailles, France, to handle a field switchboard near Eisenhower’s headquarters as he commanded the European operations for the Allied forces.

The field switchboard was an 8×10 tent, Eubanks said. “We had a pen flashlight, a pencil and notebook,” he said. “We handled communications for five armies on the front.”

A summary of Eubanks military occupations describes him as a telephone switchboard operator, with service “in England, France and Germany with the 3118th Signal Service Group. Was switchboard operator in Supreme Headquarters while overseas. … Handled approximately 2000 calls per day.”

His listed battles and campaigns were in Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. His decorations and citations included the World War II Victory Medal, the Good Conduct medal, and European African midde Easter Service Medal with three Bronze Stars.

Eubanks said he was in Frankfort when he learned the war was over, and after that he went to Belgium and guarded German prisoners who worked on a cleaning detail.

“Some of them were no more than 17 or 18 years old,” Eubanks said. “They said they didn’t like Hitler, but they were afraid if they didn’t go (to war) they’d be shot.”

When it was time for Eubanks to come home, the accommodations were not the Queen Elizabeth. He came home on a Liberty ship, he said, and storms made the passage longer than expected.

“It was rough crossing the Atlantic in December,” Eubanks said. “We started to run out of food and they cut us back to two and a half meals a day.”

Eubanks recalled getting his corn flakes and milk one morning and suggesting to a buddy that they go on deck to eat. He put his poured his corn flakes into his mess kit and turned to get his milk. When he turned back, he said, his corn flakes had blown away.

But Eubanks’ ship made port in Virginia by Christmas 1945.

“They fed us cake and ice cream,” Eubanks said, “things we hadn’t had in quite a while.

Eubanks came home to Sand Mountain and to his childhood sweetheart Lanell Smith, who became his wife while he was on leave before heading to Galveston for training.

He farmed for a year and went to work at Republic Steel in 1947, where he worked for 36 years, retiring in 1983.

Eubanks got his that high school diploma he postponed to serve his country. While working at the steel plant, Eubanks said he took night classes at the University of Alabama Center.

Over the years he and Lanell had three sons and two daughters.

After Lanell died in 1993, Eubanks met Tommie Talbot, who had lost her husband as well. The couple started dating and married in 2000.

Eubanks said he wanted to see the world when he went into the Army at 19.

“And I did,” he said. Tommie said they’ve continued to see the world – Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Spain, Tangiers, Northern Africa, Nova Scotia and other destinations. “He didn’t’ know he married a woman with jackrabbits in her boots,” she joked, as she listened to Eubanks share his stories of his years in the war.

“I guess you can tell I’m proud of this boy,” Tommie, 84, said of her husband, 90.

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