by daughter Verla Cole and granddaughter Megan George

Verla tells about their background: My dad, Whitey George, was born on June 19, 1920, in Leslie, Iowa, one of the second set of twins born to my grandparents, Jess and Sylvia George. He had an older brother. The first set of twin sisters passed away when they were young children. They had heart problems which nowdays would probably have been taken care of, but at that time there wasn't the knowledge to do that. Dad and his twin sister grew up and went to the nearby country school. They rode their horse to school and sent it home.

The family always lived on a farm — one year east of the Leslie school house and the rest of their years at Lewis Springs, which was west of Leslie. This was a recreation area developed by Harold "Pete" Lewis as his son, Dr. George Lewis, told in his story (in Vol. 1 of Recipes for Living). It began when Pete built a pond that had lots of springs in it.

It became a popular swimming pool. Over the course of years, they improved on it, added a diving board and bath houses, and a swing out over the pool. There was even a miniature golf course and picnic tables. That was where everybody gathered to swim, and where Dad had learned to swim as a child. He could swim like a fish. Later, he helped to locate a community boy who drowned.

That would have been typical of Dad. He was always ready to help anybody that needed help. There were times he would drop what he was doing to help the neighbors. If there were any problems in the neighborhood, if anyone was sick, everybody would go to help. He was always one who did that.

His love for the outdoors probably began as a child and was characteristic of him all his life. Dad hunted every animal you could think of. We never lacked for wild animal meat. He hunted mushrooms. He could tell you where to find the best berry patches, nuts, and greens. He did a lot of living off the land. He and his mother did that a lot as he was growing up. The folks always had a big garden.

He went to the Leslie rural school, high school in Osceola, and was on a football team. He graduated in 1937, when the high school was still Osceola High School. From then until he entered the service January 1, 1942, he was classified as self employed, a "General Farmer." The military description of his farm operation was: "planted, cultivated, and harvested various grains. Raised hogs and cattle. Drove a tractor and operated all types of farm machinery, although Verla knows that "when Dad first started farming, Grandpa had a team of horses and Dad farmed some with horses. He picked corn by hand. He was a very fast corn shucker. I remember people talking about that."

All that was interrupted for his time in the service, This is Megan's part of the story, written for a class assignment on April 27, 1993, she used John Costello's The Pacific War 1941-1945, World War II from the World Book Encyclopedia, in addition to her grandfather's personal account. The title of her paper was "The Battle of Buna," It follows:

Japan's power in the Pacific Ocean increased after World War I. By mid 1942, Japanese troops had captured many of the islands in the South Pacific. The United States and its allies had many bloody battles against the Japanese, trying to drive them off the islands. The Japanese seized northern New Guinea in the summer of 1942.

The Battle of Buna was located in Papua, New Guinea during World War H. It was in the Pacific Theater. The Japanese and the United States were fighting because Japan was taking over New Guinea.  It was a small battle, but many lives were lost.

Leland 'Whitey' George was a known soldier that fought in the battle. He entered the war on January 1, 1942. He went to training at Fort Des Moines in Iowa. Then he went to Camp Roberts in California. They were shipped from the Cow Palace near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransico. It took twenty two days to get to Australia. They saw the Coral Sea Battle near Australia while enroute to where their ship landed at Adelaide in southern Australia.

The soldiers took a train from Adelaide to New Castle (Camp Cable) located along the eastern shore. Whitey then went from Rock Hampton, Australia to New Guinea by ship. They landed at Port Moresby in southern New Guinea. He flew by plane over some mountains to a grassy area near Buna.

He was shot through the left shoulder on February 22, 1942. The shell went in through the front shoulder and tore out the back. It was an explosive shell. The Battle of Buna took place from November 22, 1942 through December 26, 1942. The whole battalion went to Australia to recuperate. Most soldiers had malaria from mosquito bites. After recuperating they were sent back to Papua, New Guinea,

The U.S. soldiers were in a road block for twenty one days. They sent scouts out looking for the enemy and to find a way out. The Japanese surrounded the soldiers. They knew they would soon run out of supplies. The Australian soldiers saved them.

Whitey was shot in the left leg on November 24, 1944. He left for the United States on January 9, 1945, Then he was discharged on June 25, 1945.

On September 2, 1945, Japan signed a surrender and President Truman declared September 2 as V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day.

Whitey won many badges and medals. He won one Asiatic-Pacific Theater, one Bronze Star, one Purple Heart for getting shot the first time, one Oak Leaf Cluster for being shot the second time, five overseas bars, one Service Stripe, one combat Infantry Badge, and one Dist. Unit Badge. His dog tag was on a chain approximately 3 1/2 inches long, then a string was tied on it. He was in the 126th Infantry 32nd Division. Whitey brought many things home. Many memories went through his head when he was in the hospitals. He was happy to be home, and felt lucky to be a survivor of the war.

Additional information is gained from his discharge papers: Battles: Papua, Philippines, East Indies, and New Guinea. He had earned the rank of S/Sgt. (Staff Sergeant) as Section Leader. In that capacity he was in charge of a mortar section consisting of three 60mm mortars. He directed the mortar crew in action against the enemy.

Verla continues: As was the case with other servicemen who had seen and endured such horrors that they wanted nothing more than to come home and put it behind them. Dad never wanted to talk too much about it. He did get together with his Army buddies every summer and usually there were a few that were close, like in Creston, Corning and Villisca, and they would get together another time during the year and talk. But at times one of his buddies would want to tell me stuff and Dad wouldn't let him. He never wanted us to know what all he went through. However, occasionally something would slip out. We knew about Japanese snipers hiding in the trees and shooting when the fellows tried to cross the rivers. Clarence Wilkens from the Liberty community was killed, and I believe Dad witnessed the killing. He talked about their feet getting wet inside their socks and boots and no way to change them.

We know he was on the front lines, and he did get Malaria. Papers show that he had three attacks from September 14 to 20, 1946, January 30 to February 2, 1947, and April 16 to 19, 1947. During these attacks he had chills and fever, with a temperature between 102-104°. This may have hastened his death, because before he passed away in 1996, he had lung disease and part of that was from the Malaria. It could also have been because he had a very light complexion and had pneumonia a lot when he was a kid.

After Dad was out of the service, he married my mom, Mildred Neff. She had previously been married and had a son, Con (Conreid Austin) Smith. Then there were three of us kids —Con, then I was the next child, they lost a little boy who was still-born, and Lynn was the youngest. He and his wife, Lynn Lewis, still live in the Leslie community. Con married Karen Ford. They live in Colorado. I married Dennis Cole, and except for about nine years, I've lived in Osceola all my life.

Dad and Mom lived in the Leslie community the rest of their lives until Dad passed away and Mother moved to town. I believe our lives were fairly typical of farmers at that time — they were accustomed to hard work and little money. Mother taught school before she met my dad. She also worked at Penney's and Rindy's Super Valu, but when they got married, she was ahousewife. Dad didn't want her to be away from home. When they first moved to Lewis Springs, they did not have running water and they carried water on wash day up from a well about a quarter of a mile from the house. Mom washed on the front porch in the summertime, the basement in the winter. They had a big garden, which she took care of. Often neighbors worked together at harvest and other times, and Mom always cooked big meals for the men. She raised chickens, and we had ducks when I was younger. One summer Mom dressed 75 ducks, and threatened Dad if he brought a drake on the place. She did not intend to do that again, but one day he threw a drake over the back fence. I don't know, however, that we ever dressed that many again. Dad milked and they sold cream, then got the butter when the cream man came the next week. I don't remember Mother churning butter but perhaps she did. When we were younger, it was go to town on Saturday night. That was a big night in Osceola. And as long as the cream money held out we could buy groceries. A couple times a year Dad would sell hogs and we could go shopping for new clothes and shoes and things like that.

Mom was always busy. She spent a lot of time outside, which she enjoyed. Mom had a lot of flowers, and she took care of the yard most of the time because Dad was busy in the fields, and with cattle and hogs. He raised lots of hogs. Mom sewed some, and she was very active in the first Christian Church in Osceola. She taught Sunday School for 25+ years. In the summertime, we kids would go to Bible School in Lacelle, which was closer to home.

My dad was never still. He was doing something constantly. He lived on the run. He loved to tease and we had to be on the look-out for some prank he might play on us. He thought the world of all of us. Dad had a dog that could limb a tree. Maybe it was the Collie Terrier mix that we had. He was a work-a-holic or hunt-a-holic because he really had a good time when they hunted. There are stories to be told about that. They got kind of wild at times. One time he and Jerry Kelly went coyote hunting. They were driving Dad's truck and Jerry was riding with him. Suddenly they spotted a coyote! They knew they weren't supposed to shoot a gun out the window, but in their excitement one of them fired. He shot a hole in the floorboards and blew out a front tire. When my kids were little, I sometimes went coyote hunting with them. We would go and drive until we spotted a coyote. It wasn't all for the sport of it. I think they were paid for bringing in the ears as evidence that they had shot a predator. Dad and Ernie White used to go coon hunting almost every night. In the years when we were kids, coon pelts were worth money.

I have a son and grandkids that are so much like my dad. They are either working or hunting or riding motorcycles. They are busy. They don't let grass grow under their feet. I am a little bit like that but not like they are. And my day time hours are not like my dad's. He went to bed with the chickens and got up with the chickens. He was always up by 5:00 at the latest — 4:00 most of the time but then he would go to bed early. We lived in a small house and Mother would go out in the kitchen so he didn't have noise or lights to keep him awake, and she would read. Later on in life she had macular degeneration, and couldn't read. That was hard because she enjoyed that. She had stayed on the farm until Dad passed away in 1996, and she moved to town. Dad's obituary showed that at that time he had three children, eight grandchildren. He would have had ten, but two were deceased. He had two great grandsons.




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Last Revised June 1, 2015