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The Unwavering Journey of Corporal Milford W. Crumplar

U.S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1942 – 1945
Rifleman, Guard, 704th Engineer Railway Grand Division

A native of Alexandria, Louisiana, Milford was born to Edwin Eugene Crumplar and Eloise Weaks Crumplar as the middle boy of three sons. His father, who was in the National Guard in another state when the nation entered World War I, came to Camp Beauregard for training. He married and fathered three children there but left the family when Milford was two. The family moved in with his maternal grandparents in their “big, rambling house”, which Milford remembers as “not a fun place with three kids” and only one bathroom. Milford’s deceased brothers were Edwin Eugene Crumplar, Jr., who died of yellow fever, and William Franklin Crumplar, who served in World War II. Milford recalls the hard times of the Great Depression when houses and businesses were boarded up. An Italian family, however, opened a grocery store with “fresh fruit and vegetables, and some meat”. Milford’s grandfather worked with the railroad, a job that often took him away from home. Milford’s mother got a job with Hotel Bentley as a secretary, a position she held “for quite some time”, then worked for the Coca-Cola Company. Blessed with a beautiful voice and trained as a pianist, she starred on a local radio program and “got some money for that,” he says. Her theme song was “Beautiful Lady”. She also worked as a secretary for F. A. Gehrman, a division freight and passenger agent for Missouri Pacific in Alexandria. Her railroad employment entitled her to a family pass; they sometimes used to go to Galveston, Texas and swim in the ocean. Meanwhile, Milford made wooden crosses, first with a coping saw, then with a scroll saw, using wood from boxes at the Italian grocery store. He sold the crosses from door to door for two cents each. During this time, the family attended a Methodist Church. After World War II, he married Emma Lou Walker, an Episcopalian and began going to her church. He entered West End Grammar School, but it closed. His mother enrolled him at Sacred Heart Menard Memorial High School, a Catholic school, where her two surviving sons attended for ten dollars a week for both. Soon after Milford graduated in 1940, he was hired to help build the plumbing system at a new army post, Camp Claiborne. He earned nine dollars a week as a driver, then went to work as Employment and Termination Clerk and raised his salary to $14 a week. Meanwhile, he learned to play piano by ear. He still plays daily at 3 p.m. at the facility where he lives. He took a job with Texas Pacific Railroad Company in Alexandria but enlisted in an army reserve unit in the 704th Railway Grand Division, which soon went on active duty. He was issued a uniform at Camp Beauregard and sent to St. Paul, Minnesota and Fort Snelling for basic training. In 1943, from Camp Shanks, New York, he boarded the Monticello with 10,000 men and sailed for North Africa, where he arrived in February of 1943 as a gunnery corporal. Once “fifteen to twenty” Arabs attacked his post where the defenders killed them all. “A lot of people didn’t like Americans over there,” he states. He recalls being poorly supplied. Instead of new combat boots, he wore brogans with leggings. He was armed with a 1903 Springfield rifle. After six months, he finally received an M1 carbine. Meanwhile, his unit kept the trains running, including taking over local lines. He was then sent to Italy, landing in Naples, and again to help manage the railroad system, including building a new track from Naples to Rome. In 1944, he sailed to Marseilles in southern France, where the 704th repaired track the Germans had destroyed. His unit’s work carried them near the Battle of the Bulge “when the Germans were just going plum crazy,” he remarks. Duty was almost non-stop. “I don’t even remember sleeping. I remember a lot of nighttime but no bed, not even a blanket,” he recalls. He had just crossed the Rhine River into Germany when the war ended. There he remained in Esslingen, a railroad town, for six months where Americans, he recalls, got along well with the Germans. “They were just interested in what we were doing and how things were in the United States. They all wanted to know that,” he says. Milford returned home on the Cody Victory, a small Victory ship. From New York, he took the train to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he was released from the service at Camp Shelby in late 1945. On 4 September 1946, he married Emma Louise Walker. (They would have two children, Milford, Jr., and a daughter, Claire.) He returned to work with the Texas and Pacific Railroad, then at a car dealership, then with Louisiana Industries, part of Texas Industries, at its plant in Shreveport. Eventually, he was an administrator for the personnel and safety of 2,000 employees, which required traveling around the state. He retired from the company after 21 years. Milford returned to his woodworking business, again making crosses and adding doll houses. In making crosses, he works with Dave Curry, a member of Milford’s church in Alexandria, St. James Episcopal Church.

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