Edsell H. Long was born in Parkin, Arkansas in 1925. His mother died when he was five years old and sometime around 1932 his family moved to Paris, Texas for a year and then moved again, to Mesa, Arizona. He had a childhood friend at school named Ben Gregory, but, times were hard and after 7th Grade Edsell left school for whatever work could be had. Later he left home at age 15. Eventually, he got a good job at Luke Field in Arizona and had been working there as a government employee for about a year when his draft call came. His supervisor was prepared to put in a deferment from the draft, but Edsell told him not to do so, if it was his turn to serve, then he was ready to go.
He was inducted into the Army on February 29, 1944 at Fort MacArthur, California and went through 17 weeks of Basic Training at Camp Roberts, graduating in late June. The D-Day landings in Normandy had happened only a few weeks before and huge numbers of men in training in the United States were being mobilized and sent to Europe to replace combat losses there. The timing was just right for Private Edsell Long to be one of them. After a 30-day leave back home in Mesa, he took the train to Camp Cook in New York and on August 11, 1944, sailed for the European Theatre on a troop transport. Shortly after arrival in England on August 22nd, he was shipped across the Channel to France and by September 1st, the replacement system had delivered him to Company B, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. His childhood friend, Ben Gregory, also reported in to Company B at the same time. Ben had been inducted at the same time as Edsell, and the two had been together every step of the way through training and travel to Europe.
Upon arrival, Private Ed Long became the assigned radio operator / messenger for one of the rifle platoon leaders of Company B. Of the next four months Edsell says, We marched all the way across France, fought the Germans all across the country, did a lot of cleaning up, took a lot of prisoners, and finally got into Germany at Frankfurt.
Ed tells of one especially disturbing engagement during the fighting to take the city of Metz, France. Part of his platoon had just entered a building. It was hotly contested and there were many casualties. Carrying the radio, it was hard to keep up, but; as best he could he was following after his platoon leader who had gone up a set of stairs. Then abruptly, he caught up to him. The lieutenant had been killed by a bullet through the forehead. Only one other man with him was still alive so Edsell determined to retrace his steps to locate the platoon sergeant (to place the command radio at his disposal). They found the platoon sergeant also dead, killed coming up the stairway. So then there were only those two men still alive in the building and it was under heavy fire. From inside the building, the radio could not contact the company command net, so Ed positioned himself so that he could run the radio aerial outside a window. A hail of gunfire immediately shot away the antenna, and that left them not only isolated but out of communication as well. Eventually, both men were able to withdraw and join the rest of the company about two hundred yards to the rear of that advanced position. Private Longs uniform had so many bullet holes through it that part of it was hanging in tatters, but he didnt have a mark on him. Edsell Long remained present for duty and fit for action, but; he says that was a very difficult time for him.
He was wounded on December 6, 1944 and he relates what happened, We left Frankfurt and had been marching all night long in the rain, walking along half asleep. About daybreak we were making a river crossing when I was wounded. My group had sat down behind an embankment with everyone exhausted and dozing, when some men could be seen approaching from the front. I started to look up over the embankment to discern if they were our own men or enemy, but had just barely raised my head up when a German machine gun opened fire and I was wounded by the burst. One bullet shot through my chin and knocked out a tooth. When the bullet hit my head I thought my neck was broken. A second bullet hit the stock near the butt of my rifle, deflected off the combo tool and hit me in the hand, lodging in my palm.
He was medically evacuated back through the system to a hospital in England, near London for treatment and recuperation. He was there at Christmas and on New Years Day and the hospital put on big parties on those holidays to lift the spirits of the patients. Shortly after that a call came for ambulatory hospital patients to voluntarily return to their units to replace casualties lost in the Battle of the Bulge that was raging at the time. Edsell volunteered.
He arrived back in Company B on January 29th and found his friend Ben Gregory was still there and present for duty. A little over three months later the war in Europe ended. Ed had been wounded, but Ben had never had so much as a scratch. The 5th Infantry Division remained in theatre for another two months, processing prisoners and doing guard duty, and then the entire division was returned to the United States. They left port on July 13, 1945 for the one-week voyage home and en-route an announcement was made over the loud speaker that they would be given 30 days leave, after which the 5th Infantry Division would be sent to the Pacific to take part in the invasion of Japan.
The war ended the day before Eds leave was up, so when the men reported in at Camp Campbell, Kentucky where the 5th Infantry Division was being reassembled, they all knew they would not be going back into combat again. Many of the men soon received their discharge, but Edsell did not have enough points to be eligible at that time. One day when the troops were standing formation there was a call for ten volunteers to be sent to Oakland, California to help handle the mail and Ed Long and Ben Gregory both held up their hands to volunteer. Edsell was the tenth man picked and Ben was left out, so when Edsell left for California, the two friends were finally parted. Edsell says, Ive never seen Ben again since that time. After arrival in Oakland, I was assigned to an MP Company and just before Christmas, I was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for a short while and then was discharged from the Army there on January 6, 1946.
After working for two years in Richmond, California, he re-enlisted in the Army in 1948, went to Automotive Mechanics School and was assigned back with the 5th Infantry Division, then in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In 1949 he was assigned to 25th Infantry Division in Osaka, Japan and when the Korean War broke out, he deployed with them to Pusan in June 1950. He returned to the United States for an assignment at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He met and married Oleta Brewer, a girl from Llano who was working in the bank on post.
In the coming years, he served two tours in Germany, two assignments to Fort Carson, Colorado, one at Fort Bliss, Texas, another year in Korea, and a tour at Fort Hood, Texas before retirement in 1966 at Fort Carson. In civilian life, he then worked a second career with the Steck Company in Austin, finally retiring as Warehouse Manager in 1988 after 22 years service. He and Oleta recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. Their three children and 4 grandchildren all live nearby in the local area, no further away than Dripping Springs. This month Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Edsell H. Long.