Local historian shares his WWII experiences

Published 3:47 am Sunday, June 15, 2008

Local Historian, Sergeant John H. Napier III, USMC World Warr II, 1942-1946. Served on Guam and Saipan and in the Occupation of Japan at Nagasaki and Sasebo, 1945-46.

He is the grandson of E.F. Tate — “The Father of Picayune” — founder of The Bank of Picayune and the Picayune Item in 1904.

World War II Service

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After boot camp at San Diego and radar training at Camp Lejune, he was shipped out to Asiatic-Pacific Theatre, February 9, 1945.

First assignment was to Guam as a radar operator in the USMC 14th Anti-Aircraft (AAA) Battalion.

He was then reassigned to Saipan as a Message Centerman, Signal Co. HQ. BAC, U.S. Marine Division for a planned invasion of Kyushu November 1, 1945 in Operation Olympic.

Instead, after V.J. day he went with the U.S. Marine Division to Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan after the second A-Bomb was dropped there. He had occupation duty there and at Sasebo, until he returned stateside and was discharged as a Sergeant with USMC. He earned the good conduct medal and service campaign medals, July 26, 1946 at San Diego.

He served later as career USAF Officer from 1949-1977. He served in the Korean Conflict, occupation of Germany, Pakistan and Saigon, Viet Nam, earning of Merit Five and other U.S. Decorations, including British Order of St. John, Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry, and Parachutists Badge.

Retired Brig. Gen. John Hawkins Napier III is arguably Picayune’s historian, although his 40-year military career had long called him away from living here. He retired in 1977, but during and after the Gulf War he served in the Alabama State Defense Force.

At age 83, he retains his affection and interest in his ancestral Pearl River County. Over many years he wrote 65 articles on local history for the Picayune Item, which his grandfather E.F. Tate founed in 1904, and of which he was first sports editor in 1946, when he also taught at Picayune High School. In 1986 his alma mater Ole Miss published his book, “Lower Pearl River’s Piney Woods: Its Land and People.” He then contributed articles on this area to Mississippi’s Piney Woods, a symposium, edited by Picayune-born Noel Polk, and contributed three articles in The Gulf Coast Historical Review.

His ancestors, James Tate and Joseph Wheat were War of 1812 veterans. His forbearer Daniel Burks was a drummer boy in the War of 1812.