James Carson

Jim Carson was born Nov. 22, 1922.

In 1943, when he was 21, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and went off to World War II.

On Tuesday he will celebrate his 100th birthday.

The VA Clinic in Guntersville helped him celebrate his birthday a little early last week with a reception.

“What a significant milestone to kick off Veterans Day,” said a statement from the VA. “An entire century of stories, knowledge and growth. Carson served in World War II from 1943 to 1946 and then enlisted in the Army Reserves from 1946 to 1949.”

The Arab man has been recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and more.

He served Arab’s American Legion as post adjutant in the mid 1950s and was elected post commander in the early ’60s.

He was elected post adjutant in 1968 and held that spot for 42 years, serving under nine different post commanders.

He also served as post adjutant in the second and 13th districts for about 30 years during this time.

In addition to his service to the American Legion, Carson served with the Alabama Defense Force until his retirement in 2010. He retired with the rank of Sergeant Major.

Soon after enlisting in 1943, he was stationed in Shelby, Miss., where he trained with the 69th Infantry Division.

He found interest as a radio operator and became a member of the 569th Signal Corps. Carson made friends quickly within his division and found the differences among the men were interesting and humorous.

“Most of the guys in my division were from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and a few other New England states. They always found my accent pretty funny,” he laughed.

By November 1944 American forces had pushed into France and liberated most of the allied country from Nazi occupation.

It was at this time that Carson and his division were shipped to England in preparation to assist the American forces in Belgium.

Carson’s time during the war began in Belgium in the winter of 1944.

Allied forces were attempting to break through the German lines and liberate Belgium, which would help to secure victory in Europe.

“Eisenhower thought we had it won before we got there, but that wasn’t quite the case,” Carson said.

The fighting in Belgium would famously become known as The Battle of the Bulge and Carson’s division played an important role by re-supplying the effort.

The 69th division had spent the last year training together in the States, so they brought the American forces a boost in energy.

There were a large number of American soldiers who had fought from D-Day all the way up to the Bulge who were happy to see the reinforcements.

“Those guys were glad to see us for sure,” Carson said, “We had plenty of ammunition and rations which were in short supply on the front.”

One of the scariest times came Feb. 22. While they had caught a little break in the freezing temperatures, the Germans had a hot artillery crew on a mountain a few miles away, overlooking the valley Carson and his crew were passing through.

Suddenly, he said, they heard the incoming scream of 88 shells.

They hit about 25-50 yards from the truck, he said.

They abandoned the vehicle, obviously visible to spotters on the hill with binoculars, and dove into the mud and snow in a nearby ditch. The shelling continued for 15-20 minutes, Carson said, but they and their truck were never hit.

Carson spent his time on the front-line relaying messages back to those in command.

The men he worked with in the 569th signal corps became longtime friends after the war.

Following the liberation of Europe, Carson was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, where he worked occupational duty.

“We were basically police officers at that time,” Carson said, “Most of the citizens there were happy to have us, but there were those who resented the fact that we were on occupational duty.”

Carson returned home in 1946 after he was honorably discharged from the Army.

He returned to his familiar surroundings in the Strawberry community and became involved with the American Legion immediately.

Carson has been a member of the American Legion Arab Post since 1946.

After returning, he went to Snead State then taught veteran agriculture about three years for the Blount County Board of Education.

Carson worked 19 years at Redstone Arsenal for Rhom and Hass Co. Afterward he worked 15 years for Hall Chemical, retiring in 1988.

He also served as chaplain for VFW Post 6226 and the adjutant for American Legion Post 114.

These days, Carson doesn’t get out much on doctor’s orders. When he does venture out, he wears a mask, including a scheduled visit to the American Legion in Arab Tuesday night for another birthday celebration.

Carson and his wife, Dorothy, 91, whom he married in 1953 (almost 70 years), have two sons: Mike, 67, who died in January, and Lynn, 65, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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