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cog2008cgCarnival of Genealogy 70th edition topic is Uncle, Uncle!

This edition is all about our uncles. Have you got a favorite or interesting uncle? Tell us about him! Maybe you had a older cousin, neighbor, or friend you called “uncle”… that works too! No uncles in your life? No problem. Write about any gentleman on your family tree who was an uncle to somebody.

George Lineberry was born in 1912 in Oklahoma City, the sixth of seven children born to Jacob and Eva Lineberry. In 1915, when George was thirteen years old, his father died and, as was fairly typical for the time period, his mother remarried within about a year. Over the next few years, Eva had two more children; then in 1922, when George was ten, his mother died due to complications from the birth of her tenth child, who also died. The family was living in Oilton, Oklahoma at that time.

Their stepfather was not given custody of the children so the oldest brother, Willie, escorted five of his siblings by train to Galax, Virginia where he left them to live with various Lineberry relatives. (Their stepsister, June, and stepbrother, Arthur, were sent to live in an orphanage until their father remarried and was able to get them).

None of the boys [Johnnie (16), Leonard (14), Joe (12) or George] had a steady home but rather stayed in one home after another. The youngest child, Virginia (8), though allowed the benefit of staying in only one home – the farm of her Uncle Dave and Aunt Piety – had only occasional opportunities to see her brothers.

Virginia, my grandmother, said her brother Johnnie lived in Galax and worked at a furniture factory while Leonard and George both lived with Everett Bryant (who owned a saw mill). Leonard worked at the saw mill until he was fifteen; George lived with Leonard, while Leonard worked, and was able to attend school. In the back hills of Virginia school generally consisted of only a couple of months each year. Although George also stayed with the Russells, Virginia said he would hardly stay with anyone but Leonard or his Uncle Harv. Joe worked in another saw mill with a cousin, Euliss.

Not having a permanent home seems to have manifested itself in George by a bit of wanderlust. My Grandma said he frequently rode the rails all across the country, even making it up for a visit with a maternal uncle in Canada. Though his life was cut short by his death during World War II, up to the very end, he apparently took advantage of his time in England, France and Holland to see more of the world and to buy little mementos to send home to his family.

Over the years, the Lineberry siblings had some hard times. Sometime about 1923 Willie, the oldest, was involved in something that the family has never fully shared or understood but it resulted in him serving time in prison. In 1929, while Willie was still serving a prison sentence at McAlester, Oklahoma, their oldest sister, Bernita, drove to Virginia to bring back any of her siblings who wanted to return to Oklahoma. Though George did not make the trip with Bernita, he did return on his own. Not long after they returned to Oklahoma, in 1931, the tuberculosis Willie had contracted in prison worsened and he received a special release from prison so he might die at home.siblings-3-copy

As you can probably gather, George and his siblings had many difficult times in their early lives. George had limited education and opportunities but by all accounts he was a great person who cared for his siblings, nephews and nieces. He never married but had many girlfriends and had, according to the family, intentions of marrying Nina Robinson, a girl from Galax, Virginia.

My great uncle George was drafted and entered the army in February 1941.  He served in the 101st Airborne 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company of the 502 regiment.  Over the years I asked my Grandma as well as other relatives about George and no one ever really knew what happened to him other than he was killed in Arnhem, Holland on September 18, 1944.  Discussing her brother’s death remained painful for my Grandma so I was sparing with my queries. Early this year, a year and half after my Grandma’s death, I began asking questions again but this time on the Internet.   One of my first steps involved posting my query on the online forum called Trigger Time, which is a group of researchers of the 101st Airborne.  By January 8, 2009, Mark Bando, an author and researcher, shared a troop photo of George with me; he also provided contact information to four living veterans who may have served with my great uncle. I phoned each one of them and had wonderful conversations with them. One of the gentlemen remembered George as one of the older men though he didn’t actually know him; he knew when he was killed but had no additional information.

Another veteran, George Koskimaki, was a radio operator for General Taylor and is one of the Division historians and an author. We spoke on January 15, 2009 and when I told him my great uncle’s name he said he remembered the name probably because he had to type the roster many, many times. He asked me to write to him, mainly as a reminder, and he would see what he had about my great uncle. Mr. Koskimaki writes articles for a 101st newsletter and sometimes writes about a specific person and includes a photo. He said, “You’d be surprised at how many people remember the person when they see the photo with a few details.” So, I wrote to Mr. Koskimaki and provided a photo of George. About a week later I received his reply and it included a roster and some information on the 101st newsletter.

I shared with my family all that had transpired in my research and asked one of my 1st cousins once removed, Billy, what he remembered about George. Billy was a young boy at the time George left to go overseas and he has very fond memories of him. To help with my goal of learning more about George, now becoming a family shared goal, Billy typed a document of his memories of his favorite uncle, George, and sent it to me on February 10, 2009.

Then on March 13, 2009 Mr. Koskimaki wrote me again with amazing news.

Yesterday I received a copy of a recently published book by Guy Whidden. He asked me to review it and write a blurb about it in my K’s Korner in the 101st ‘Screaming Eagle’ Newsletter.

I opened it up and the first page I turned to (234) has a picture of George Lineberry with three other troopers. I immediately thought of you requesting pictures of your brother.

That picture peeked my interest and I noted that George was mentioned several times in the text. He must have been a close friend.

Here is the address for Guy Whidden…He is probably calling you right now as I finish typing this letter. He was with George when he died.

I am sure you will find the closure that you had hoped for.

God Bless!

I received the letter on March 16 and the following day I called Mr. Whidden and learned more about George and his death. I sent an email to several relatives sharing what I learned from him and the next evening my 1st cousin once removed, Richard Lineberry, phoned and I provided Mr. Whidden’s contact information to him. He then shared with me that sometime recently he had prayed for enlightenment on George and he believed that finding Mr. Whidden was an answer to this prayer.

I ordered Mr. Whidden’s book , Between the Lines and Beyond, that same day and have now finished reading it. I have been wanting to learn more about what happened to George just about my entire life and now I know. Here is Mr. Whidden’s account:

My last hours or more of absolute helplessness during the Battle of Best will remain indelible in my mind, particularly that period when we were undergoing heavy German mortar fire. For some strange reason, I don’t recall terror but a feeling more like resignation. I was with friends who would never be equaled again in my lifetime. There were four of us including myself, all privates: Charles “Chuck” Schmollinger, George Lineberry, and Ira Brookings. We were grouped together in a closely cut field not too far from a hedgerow. Mortar fire was raining in on us from two sides and obviously in a well-orchestrated pattern. Getting close to the ground was the best way to survive unless you had a mortar round come in “dead on”. Until we decided our next move, two of us lay on the ground, both with our right legs resting on our bent left knees in a raised position. Both Chuck and George seemed to be kneeling too upright. The German prisoners given to me to “care for” were off to the side and hugging the ground. We would glance around to seek out our leaders for our next move, but the only movement was of those running for cover and they were dropping all around us. While Chuck looked down from his kneeling position, we carried on a constant conversation. I happened to glance off to my right and saw Pvt. John Markowitz running with a few others to a safer spot. John dropped to the ground and was later reported K.I.A. As we talked, mortars appeared to once again be approaching our spot. Our conversation halted when a mortar round landed beside us. As I looked up at Chuck, he continued to look down at me as he knelt, then blood appeared from his nose and ears. There was no immediate evidence of other wounds. Concussion had ended the life of my friend and a fearless young soldier. George, an older comrade and a very quiet-spoken trooper, died on the spot. Both Ira and I had wounds, the major damage being to our elevated legs. My boot was shattered above the ankle and had dropped off, partly exposing bones in my lower leg. There was minimal bleeding and I applied sulfa powder and bandaging and then helped Ira with his wound. Both Chuck and George were listed as K.I.A. But while Ira’s wounds had not appeared to be life-threatening at the time, he was reported to have died later on in the day. I started crawling across the field and found a sheltered spot…” (page 307 & 308)

Mr. Whidden was not able to share much in his letters home at the time but here are excerpts of those that discussed this incident.

Wednesday Oct 4, ’44

Dear Pop,

…Two of my best buddies were killed by the same mortar that hit me. They were darn good fellas. (page 320)

Note: at the time of the letter, he was not aware that the third friend had died.

Wednesday Oct 11 ’44

Dear pop,

This last jump was a pretty nice one being made at about noon on a bright sunny day and the spot at which I landed was so soft and made a most comfortable landing. The only part of it I didn’t like, was the usual flac. Sometime I’ll tell you all about this and how it scares hell out of a fella. I never saw so many mortar shells dropping into one place as the time I was hit. Everything was on fire (the buildings) and it all was quite a spectacle. There were lots of prisoners taken and I took the first one, among our fellas. (page 324)

Note: Mr. Whidden tells us in a footnote that he didn’t mention to his father how outnumbered they were and that they were mostly surrounded all of the time, at least on the first day of the battle.

Oct 27th ’44

Dearest mom,

…You asked me how long it was before I was treated, and you want to know more of the details; so long as you want to hear it, here it is.

When I was hit, the first thing that I did was put a shell dressing over the wound and then dressed a buddy of mine and gave him a shot of morphine. There weren’t too many medics for the number of wounded and so I crawled away to a ditch to get away from further shells. We had a couple dozen Jerry prisoners and there was one man left guarding them. He had a bandaged arm and a pistol in the other hand. The prisoners looked contented. A medic bandaged me up a little more and then Lt. Banker carried me fireman style to a Dutch home where a temporary medical aid station was set up. Evacuation was impossible for quite a while as the Jerries had us surrounded. There were no doctors present, but my hat goes off to our medical enlisted men. I was operated on in Belgium a few days later, and then again in England. I’m in fine shape….” (page 330)

Oct 28th ’44

Dear Pop,
One of the boys is going back to the states tomorrow…and said that he’d mail a letter for me (beating the censors) if I desired to write a letter without fear of censorship. There aren’t many secrets but I might tell you a few things of interest whereas ordinarily it would be different…

A few that I have been to and a little of what happened: I jumped west of St. Martin de Varreille on D-Day in France and we were spread over 30 square miles (our regiment). We had our big engagement at Carentan. Our bn. Came to the rescue of the other bns. just as as the German S.S. and the paratroopers were attacking in force. Our only route to the battle area was through waist deep water on both sides of the causeway, but the causeway itself was unsafe because the Jerries were raking the causeway with machine guns. One of our col.’s as a final fling ordered a desperate bayonet charge (he got the D.F.C. Later on). [Note: LTC Robert G. Cole] At the time we came in and saved the day. The Jerries are clever and they pulled a fast one on us. They pulled a truce to talk over surrender terms. It lasted long enough for them to change all their positions and make other preparations. They refused to surrender because they said that they feared that we’d kill them (as we had been doing with prisoners for good reasons). Later on when we had contact with the rear, we treated prisoners with respect. They (the Jerries) called, the “Americans with the baggy pants”, and they would think twice before they’d meddle with us. Some of our boys jumped on D-Day into Carentan itself and were shown no mercy. They were knifed in their chutes. Some of those who dropped in trees were cut to pieces. The night we jumped was something, I’ll never forget – the flak and machine gun fire was something, and as we stood up to jump the plane rocked like hell as flak missed our plane. A couple of planes landed off the coast and a couple in the flooded area. It was a great experience.

Holland was the toughest of all – let me tell you. It was a beautiful day to jump and the field was a nice soft one and made a nice landing. Our regiment was jumped East of Tilburg and N.W. Of Eindhover. As I hit the ground I noticed 3 C-47’s burning up and I hoped that some of them had gotten out. There was one fella who’s chute hadn’t opened. The Jerries were zeroing in on the field with 88’s and mortars but didn’t get near me. That evening we were in reserve, but the next morning it was different – we attacked towards Best (E-of Tilburg). Those babies threw everything but tomatoes at us. Across our front was a road and down this road the Jerries kept pounding anti-aircraft stuff at us. My squad leader took off across the road and he missed getting hit and then I followed. Then the mortars started coming in and they worked a pattern about 8 a.m. Until 5 p.m. We were attached to a rifle company, but I hardly saw riflemen the whole time I was up there (they’d all gotten hit). About 5 p.m. the mortars were coming in nice – and as I talked to Chuck, my buddy, the mortars were hitting all around and then one hit right beside me. It got Charles Smollinger and PFC George Lineberry, and the next thing I knew everyone of us were lying on the ground. There were 30 prisoners huddled together and no one to guard them. Some of them were killed and the rest just stayed there and didn’t make any attempt to escape. A Lt. carried me to a first-aid station (which was the only Dutch home intact). There weren’t any means of evacuation for a few hours, as the enemy had come around on the flanks and to the rear, cutting off all exits…” (page 333-334)

Somewhere in Virginia
April 16, ’45

Dearest Mother,
… According to Otto – Brooksy, the boy who was hit next to me and who I patched up is officially dead, according to reports. (page 364)