In recognition of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, state Rep. Sheilla Lampkin continues her tributes to WWII veterans. This week, she writes about the late Robie Scott.
T. Robie Scott was an intensely strong-willed patriot, a devoted family man and a fervent supporter of our country. Robie Scott was one of a kind – the kind America needs more of today.
Scott began life on a very important date in US history – March 4, 1924. March 4 is quite significant because it was the original inaugural date for all United States presidents from George Washington through Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Inaugurations have since been changed to the 20th of January.
Scott graduated from Monticello High School in May, 1942, and enrolled at Arkansas A&M (now UAM). However, he felt a very strong desire to serve his country, so he volunteered for the army on November 18, 1942, at the age of 18.
After training in Texas and stateside service a couple of years, Scott went overseas with the 103rd Infantry Division in October, 1944, landing in Marseilles, France. Coincidentally, the ship he sailed on was the USS Monticello.
During his overseas deployment, Scott saw action in southern France, over the mountains, along the Siegfried Line and along the Rhine River in central Europe. At one point his squad went 100 days straight on the front lines of battle without any relief. He received a Bronze Star and the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge.
He was with the forces that took Innsbruck, Austria, on May 7, 1945. He then proceeded to link up with the 5th Army at Brenner Pass (Austria) to head toward Berlin, Germany.
However, WWII on the European Front ended the next day, May 8, 1945. Soon afterward, Scott was transferred to the 45th Infantry Division. The division was then loaded into boxcars – 20 men to a car. The young soldiers traveled by rail from Munich, Germany, to the beaches at LeHavre, France.
Upon their arrival at LeHavre, Scott noticed that there were literally thousands of soldiers living in tents on the beaches awaiting transport ships to go to the Pacific front for the invasion of Japan.
On August 6, 1945, while Scott was still on the beach at LeHarve, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. A few days later the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. In a flash WWII finally came to an end.
The ships they were awaiting to take them to Japan became the ships to take the young soldiers home. What a joyous wonderful day!
After a three-day pass to Paris, Scott returned to England and then back to the USA. He did stateside service for a time and was discharged on January 28, 1946. Robie now set out to build “the American dream.”
Three days later, Scott re-enrolled at Arkansas A&M and took the first forestry class the institution offered. He lettered in football and was a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity and graduated with a two-year degree in 1947.
Scott then enrolled in Louisiana State University and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry in 1948. He had planned to then enroll at Yale but a significant opportunity occurred and he never attended.
A few days after graduation, Robie Scott went to work for Pomeroy-McGowin as a forester. He began at 75 cents an hour, but four years later became a junior partner of the firm. In 1966, Scott was made a full partner and worked there until his retirement in 1996 as senior partner and principal owner.
During those years, Scott met and married the love of his life, Opal Bell. The couple celebrated a long happy marriage that produced three sons, Tom, Michael and Phillip, and a host of grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.
Scott was highly active in a variety of community organizations and activities, many involving youths. He even helped develop the scoutmasters program for the Boy Scouts in Monticello.
After his 1966 retirement from Pomeroy-McGowin, Scott worked for Arkansas CAMA Technology, Inc. making aerial photographs of property for appraisals. He photographed from the air a large number of the counties in Arkansas.
When the advent of GIS mapping led to the diminishment of aerial photography, Scott kept busy coding maps from his office at Arkansas CAMA Technology in Monticello.
After 50 years of hard work and dedication to “a job well done” Scott again announced his retirement in May 17, 2003. He devoted the rest of his life to enjoying a well deserved rest and caring for his beloved Opal.
In my Veterans Oral History Project interview, Scott spoke of his memories of WWII. He said there are things he remembered; things he’s forgotten and things he’d like to forget.
He remembered that war is Hell.
He remembered that war is fought by 18, 19, and 20 year olds.
He remembered that Congress declares war. They are the only body of our government that can do this – according to our Constitution.
He remembered that our country was united during WWII because united we stand, divided we fall.
He remembered that women left the home for the first time to serve in shipyards, the WACs, the WAVES, the factories, as nurses – or whatever it took to do their part in the war effort and support our soldiers and our country.
He remembered Gold Star flags in the windows of homes that had lost loved ones.
He remembered seeing his first dead German soldier.
He remembered seeing his last dead GI.
He remembered being wet.
He remembered being cold.
He remembered being afraid.
He remembered praying to God in foxholes.
He remembered how old his parents looked when he got home. His mother was 45; his father 49. Certainly the years of worry about their only son had taken its toll on both of them.
Scott said that at 82 years of age the memory gets fuzzy but he had one memory in particular to share because it said so much about life – and wars. Here is his memory:
It was Christmas Eve, 1944. It had been a hard December for the young GIs. They were in a hay barn in the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany. The barn was like heaven because they were out of the cold and snow. Near the barn was a house. The couple who lived there owned the barn; they looked the same age as his parents.
That Christmas Eve, Scott’s squad took their K-rations to the house and shared with the couple. After eating around the table someone suggested singing carols. Everyone began to sing the only carol they all knew – Silent Night. Then someone in the squad asked if the couple had any children. They said, “Yes, we have one son.” Then someone asked where he was. They replied, “He was forced to fight in the German army.”
Suddenly the irony of the situation left the young soldiers dumbfounded. Here the soldiers were – Christmas Eve, singing Christmas carols, sharing food around the table with parents much like theirs who had a son about the same age as the soldiers were. Their job was to try to kill the couple’s son; the son’s job was to try to kill them. It was a sobering experience.
Scott was a man of strong convictions. He believed that his generation did not fight to see someone burn the American flag, to take prayer from school, nor to disallow display of the Ten Commandments or a Nativity scene on public property.
Scott pondered what would be attacked next: removal of “In God We Trust” from our money? He wondered if we don’t believe in God, family and country, in what do we believe.
He believed that people fight for what they believe in. If a situation similar to WWII happened today, he wondered if we would fight. Would we be united? Would we win?
On my first visit with Scott he was upset because someone had burned a flag on TV. He particularly detested this. He talked on for a while and then pointed his finger at me and asked, “And what are you doing about it?” I had to sheepishly reply “Nothing.” That was Robie – direct and to the point.
Robie Scott is gone but his legacy as a great American remains in the hearts and lives of those who knew and loved him.
Thank you to all the veterans and God bless America!