Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Four Boys From Happy Hollow

An early Veterans Day service will be Friday morning at 9 in Grantville to honor the "Four Boys From Happy Hollow," Grantville residents and neighbors who were killed in World War II.

A monument honoring the four will be dedicated during ceremonies at the park across from Grantville First United Methodist Church. The park is near Grantville's Happy Hollow neighborhood. Dick Stender, Past Commander of Newnan VFW Post 2667 and American Legion Post 57, will be the featured speaker.

The four men, Ralph Cleaveland Glanton, Jim Austin Lambert, James P. Rainwater and Eddie Rivers Thornton, were also honored at Memorial Day services in Newnan in 2005.

According to remarks made at the 2005 Memorial Day service, Thornton was the only one of the four born in Grantville. He was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and became a tail gunner with the 376th Heavy Bomber Group, stationed in Tunisia. On July 8, 1943, his unit was assigned to attack the Sicilian port of Messina.

The Germans had built tunnels, which made it hard to effectively bomb the port. In response, American forces had begun "skip bombing" -- flying extremely low so the bomb would bounce on the water and enter a tunnel before exploding.

The planes flew so low that soldiers sometimes had to pick bits of treetops out of the undercarriage of the planes. Because of illness of other soldiers, Thornton and his pilot and co-pilot were assigned to a different plane that day.

The plane was hit and damaged in the bomb run and fire broke out aboard the aircraft. Thornton put on his parachute and jumped out moments before the craft exploded. The co-pilot survived and floated in the Mediterranean for three days before he was rescued. Thornton was never found.

Ralph Glanton spent his early years in LaGrange. The family moved to Grantville after his father died in 1922. Ralph Glanton attended Georgia Military College and graduated from Clemson University.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Glanton was an Army reservist with the rank of Second Lieutenant. Six weeks later, he was called to active duty, serving with A Company, 6th Armored Infantry Battalion in North Africa.

After serving in North Africa Glanton was sent to Italy as part of the force attacking Monte Cassino. During one battle, Glanton led his platoon into a defensible position and was severely wounded. He could not be removed to a hospital and three days later, died from his wounds.

James P. Rainwater -- known as "Jay" or "J.P." -- grew up in East Newnan and graduated from Newnan High. He married Edna Brooks, and they rented a house in the Happy Hollow neighborhood. She went with her husband to his Army training at Ft. House, Texas. After her husband went overseas to fight, Edna returned to Grantville carrying a son who never knew his father.

Rainwater was assigned to the 410th Army Regiment, which landed in Marseilles after D-Day and then joined the attack against Germany. Rainwater was a staff sergeant and was involved in heavy fighting against a superior German force in the Vosges Mountains near the French-German border. A few days before Rainwater's 23rd birthday, his unit was pinned down by fire from a heavy machine gun at the town of St. Die. Rainwater lost his life during that battle and was buried in France.

Lambert's death was "the most tragic and ironic" of the four, according to Stender. He was almost 31 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. A native of Carroll County, Lambert was a textile mill mechanic and moved to Grantville after marrying Ruth Justiss. They lived in Happy Hollow until he was inducted into the military in 1942.

Lambert worked as a military mechanic and was and first stationed in England and later in France after the Normandy Invasion.

Three weeks after the war in Europe ended Lambert was in LeHavre, France, preparing to return home when he was struck and killed by a military vehicle as he walked down a narrow street.

Hat tip: Newnan Times-Herald