Royce Jarrell was born in November 1924 and grew up in DeRidder, Louisiana. He was 17 years old and attending Merryville High School when Pearl Harbor was attacked. On the Sunday that it happened, he was playing baseball with his church group. The family did not have a radio in those days, and it wasn't until the next day when he was on his way to school, that he learned what happened, and he knew that America was at war. At school the other boys were talking about the fact that it wouldn't be long before they were all involved. Jarrell was drafted into the Army in January 1943 and started his military career at the end of that month. He went to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and in a specialty school he learned to be a company clerk. He worked as a clerk for the 20th Armored Division until December 1943 when he went into training with the Army Air Corps, but was then sent to the 65th Infantry Division ground forces in April 1944. Jarrell was deployed to Europe in January 1945.
After landing in LeHarvre, France, Royce Jarrell got his introduction to combat at Saarlautern, Germany. By then he was serving as a medic for an infantry company at the rank of T4 [Annotator's Note: Technician Fourth Grade, the equivalent pay grade of sergeant]. His first real encounter with the Germans was at night, and Jarrell said he was scared. They could hear the 88s [Annotator's Note: German 88mm multi-purpose artillery] and the machine guns going off. By daylight, the Germans had retreated and his company moved into the area where the fighting had been. Jarrell said the carnage was unbelievable, and there were body parts scattered all around. The most impressive part of the experience was treating a GI who had stepped on a shoe mine, a weapon designed to blow off a soldier's foot. Jarrell said the psychology behind the explosive was that a wounded soldier was more of a detriment to an advancing army than a dead one. The guy, whose foot was gone, kept complaining that his non-existent big toe hurt. Jarrell said they lost a few men, but the war was coming to an end, and there were fewer casualties as time went on. After the war ended in May 1945, he was part of the Army of Occupation in Austria until March 1946 when he was discharged.
It was quite an experience for Royce Jarrell to be stationed in the beautiful mountain country of Austria. His interactions with the local populations were interesting. There were few eligible men left in Germany and Austria, and Jarrell said all the GIs had girlfriends. When he went home, he had no interest in staying in the Army. He used the G.I. Bill to embark on an education at Southwestern Louisiana University in Lafayette during the summer of 1946, but dropped out after two semesters. After a short stint with a chemical company in DeRidder, he decided to enroll at Tulane University in New Orleans where he had a sister living. He went to work for Shell Oil Company and spent the next 36 years working for that company, retiring in 1984. Looking back, Jarrell feels the war caused him to grow up quickly, and exposed him to different environments he wouldn't have otherwise known.
Royce Jarrell's message to future generations is to get an education; although he was fortunate enough during his lifetime to get by with only a limited amount of higher education, the same is not true for young people today. He became a member of The National WWII Museum when it opened, and encourages others to avail themselves of the history that is preserved and displayed there. He hopes there will never be another war like that one. He feels blessed to have experienced it and survived to the age of 90 in good health.
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