Union County, Blairsville, Georgia Holiday-Winter 2018-2019 - Page 4

Page 4 Union County GA Magazine . Holiday & Winter 2018-19 . www.unioncountymag.com I.T. Harkins 99, Clyde Harkins 93, part of family with five brothers in World War II, sister later joined the military On a warm and very pleasant day in the community known as the ‘Valley Above the Clouds’ near the unincorporated town of Suches in the southern side of Union County, Georgia, brothers Clyde and Ira recalled times spent in the military and spoke about their family with five boys in World War II and a sister who later joined the military. Parents James and Lola Harkins, living near Cooper’s Creek, sent five boys off to World War II and were fortunate to have all five return alive. I.T. was drafted in 1941 and served in the Army. Eldo answered the draft by the Army in 1942. Twin brothers Harley and Ralph went into the Navy in 1943 via the draft. Clyde went into the Navy in 1944. Stella Mae enlisted in the Air Force in 1956. Clyde in the War “When I went in I left a little sister at the house and she was 11 years younger than I was,” said Clyde. “Later, Stella Mae had her time in the military but it was not during the war.” Clyde had his amphibious warfare training in Camp Peary, Virginia. Clyde was part of the invasion in southern France in 1944, the goal of the operation was to secure vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and increase pressure on German forces by opening a second front. Clyde spent time in Africa. There was time in Cuba, Panama Canal, San Diego and then to the Philippines. “I was fortunate enough after the I.T. Harkins (left) Clyde Harkins (right) photo/Norm C By Norm Cooper Editor, Union County GA Magazine war to go to Toyko in Japan,” recalls Clyde, who had time aboard the ship USS Missouri. Time was spent on a Tank Landing Ship 284, a boat used to transport machines and people. That ship could barely go through the locks in the canal. Clyde saw action in southern France, Italy, the South Pacific and Okinawa. He traveled more than 60,000 miles. While witnessing many air raids and watching bombs fall from the sky, the closest Clyde came to being killed was on a ship where enemy planes were firing with machine guns. Clyde was close enough to see the paint being shot off the deck. “When battleships came in to load ammunition we usually laid down a smoke screen to conceal ships coming in,” said Clyde. “We did a lot of that at night.” Clyde recalls going to the Philippines and standing at the very spot General MacArthur stood at Corregidor. All the brothers saw combat. Clyde and his brothers had a mother who prayed for her boys. “You know, I think I felt those prayers. It was nice that we all came back.” Clyde being the youngest and with four brothers in military service, Clyde could have elected not to go. “I could not imagine being the one brother who didn’t go,” said Clyde. I.T. becomes Ira Thomas Before joining the military, Ira worked jobs that paid 50 cents a day and another time working for $15 a month. He felt fortunate since a lot of people did not have a job. He decided to go to a CCC Camp in 1941. When he was interviewed, they told I.T. that they needed his full name. “I told them, I. T. Harkins.” The girl questioned him, insisting that surely his parents gave him a full name. “No, I don’t think they did,” said I. T. “She said that when I find out my full name to come back and see her.” As I.T. began to leave the courthouse in Blairsville, he realized that walking to Cooper’s Creek and back was a long walk. “I went back with a smile on my face,” said I.T., “I remember, they named me Ira Thomas Harkins. She threw up her hands and said ‘I knew they gave you a full name.’” His quick thinking changed his name indefinitely. Since that day, he has been Ira Thomas Harkins. Once in the Army, a captain at Fort Benning wanted to know the story about one name being I.T. and the other name Ira Thomas,” said Ira. “I repeated the story of why I needed a full name and why I used it ever since.” I.T. spent 31 years in the Army, the only one to make it a career, spending time in combat in Vietnam and retiring as a Sergeant Major in 1973. I.T. was a good marksman, using a 30.06 at 200 yards and hit 19 to 20 bull’s-eye out of every 20 shots. He liked basic training. There was a brief time later when he was put on KP (kitchen patrol) and he wanted no part of that. They pulled him out of bed and Ira found himself late at night still washing pots and pans. He thought about going AWOL, but changed his mind. He recalls the heaters fired by coal, and one of his jobs was to keep the fire going. Continued on page 5 Total Recovery Paint & Body Shop Jerry Jewell, Owner Jessica Jewell Berry, CEO Hwy. 515 W Blue Ridge Hwy. Total Recovery Downtown Blairsville www.totalrecoveryga.com 391 Blue Ridge Highway, Blairsville, Georgia 706-745-9703 Lifetime Warranty