This Memorial Day, we salute all our service men and women who have paid the ultimate price in the line of duty, with the story of Marine demolition man, Alvy Ray Pittman. A Columbia, Mississippi native, Pittman volunteered to join the U.S. Marine Corp in November of 1942. After bootcamp, he went to demolition school for training in the use of high explosives and landmine removal. In this episode, Pittman explains the hazards of being on a demolition team and why their casualty rates were so high.
During WWII, the campaign to take the Pacific Islands held by Japanese forces, resulted in thousands of casualties. Pittman recalls how so many of his friends died in combat.
On February 19, 1945, U.S. Marine and Navy forces attacked the island of Iwo Jima. During five weeks of constant fighting, the Marines endured heavy artillery barrages from the entrenched and fortified positions of the Imperial Japanese Army. Pittman describes a phenomenon he calls “Combat Wisdom.”—a combination of battle experience and premonition that helped him and his team escape death on multiple occasions.
Given the human cost, some have questioned the strategic value of taking certain Pacific Islands during WWII. Pittman discusses why the battle of Iwo Jima saved more lives than were lost.
While most American cities had electricity by the 1930s, most farms were still without power. In this episode, George Taylor of Hattiesburg discusses designing power grids for rural electric cooperatives.
The South Mississippi Electric Power Association was formed by a group of rural electric co-ops, to provide their customers with affordable electricity. Taylor recalls the challenges they faced. In 1962, he left Southern Engineering and became Chief Engineer for the Singing River Electric Power Association. Taylor recalls being promoted to Manager of SMEPA and building the organization from the ground up.
PODCAST BONUS: According to Taylor, SMEPA provided its members affordable, dependable electricity through the buying power of a large organization. He explains why energy security and operational independence is so important.
In 2016, SMEPA changed its name to Cooperative Energy. They continue to provide electricity to over 417,000 homes and businesses.
PHOTO: Library of Congress
Dr. T.E. Ross came to Hattiesburg in 1892 and set up an office on Main Street. In this 1975 oral history interview, his son, Dr. T.E. Ross, Junior, recalls his father’s decision to move their family from Neshoba county.
Before vaccines and antibiotics, the only way to stop infectious diseases was through quarantine. Dr. Ross recounts how his father was blocked from returning home during a yellow fever outbreak.
Dr. Ross graduated from Tulane Medical School in 1918. He remembers the circumstances that led him to set up his practice in Hattiesburg like his father.
PODCAST EXTRA: W.S.F. Tatum was a successful Hattiesburg timber magnate who served as mayor in the 1920s and 30s. Dr. Ross describes the soft-spoken businessman as a frugal, yet good and generous man, who disliked ostentatious displays of wealth.