How did Southerners in small farming communities react to the influx
of soldiers from every part of the country? Furthermore, how did
farmers react to tanks rumbling across their fields of tobacco or corn,
scaring cows and sending chickens scurrying in all directions?
Restaurants ran out of food, drugstore lunch counters ran out of
ice cream, and traffic was halted for hours while
implements of war and hundreds of soldiers marched by.
Stories of a secret war waged in Middle Tennessee from late 1941 through 1944, as seen through the eyes of young superheroes and wide-eyed children who were astonished to see candy and apples being thrown to them from tanks, jeeps and half-tracks.
Everyone had a job during World War II, even the children. Boy Scouts collected tons of newspapers, so much that storage became a problem and the nationwide paper drive had to be called off.
Our usual chores included answering the door and telephone, snapping fresh-picked beans into a pot, feeding the dog and cat, sweeping porches and walks ... and some of us tried to learn to crochet, though most of us were never very good at it. We collected eggs from our "city chickens," filled galvanized poultry feeders, and threw table scraps into noisy chicken yards.
Gemma and Ed lived on Main Street in Lebanon and collected scrap metal, which became bullets, rifles, gas masks or even hand grenades. Everyone became so accustomed to seeing implements of war everywhere that it wasn't until their mother got her developed photos back that she realized there was a tank in the background!
We are most likely among very few children who were respectful of but not necessarily threatened by massive implements of war. These are our stories.
Click HERE to read more stories.
Combat Boots By the Door
by Sandy Lawrence Zeigler
A series of interviews
in a documentary format
"Jimmy Gentry has become a living legend. He is a spectacular guy, a true Southern gentleman. When he graduated in 1943, he immediately went into service and was one of the first troops to go into Dachau. It was evidently quite a shock for prisoners and young soldiers alike.”
Williamson County Historian, TN
Click HERE to see short video clips.
Sandy Lawrence Zeigler
Sandy Lawrence Zeigler was a child during the Tennessee Maneuvers, but she vividly recalls men in uniform, some of whom lived across the street in pup tents on the campus of Cumberland University, the headquarters of the entire 2nd army.
It wasn't until recently that she realized how few people are left who can recall this largely unknown slice of American history. With this realization, she determined to find a way to keep history alive.
The result is both a book and a short film with interviews of people who lived this history in action - literally all around them, on a daily basis.
Sandy would love to hear your comments and answer any questions you may have. Contact her at CombatBootsByTheDoor@gmail.com.
Sandy pictured above with her parents in 1943.