James Neal: Going strong at 91

by | September 1, 2011 4:49 pm

   James Albert Neal was born in his family home on First Avenue in

Summit on August 24, 1920. In addition to the house in town, Neal

also lived on their farm, located near Nathan’s Creek. From the

stories, Neal was a precocious youngster, jumping onto passing

trains to get to school at Emanuel County Institute or scaring his

mother by jumping into their well.

   When he wasn’t catching a train, Neal walked a mile and a half

to his school bus stop and, at 15, he began driving a school bus

himself, as licenses were not required at that time.

   In 1942 at the age of 22, he entered the military at Ft.

McPherson in Atlanta, then transferred to Miami, Fla., before

training in Laredo, Tex., Salt Lake City, Utah, Boise, Idaho, and

Murock Desert in California.

   During World War II, Neal flew 26 missions and was shot down on

his last mission while 10 miles from Vienna. His B-24 took German

anti-aircraft fire through the left wing. The plane was able to

make it to Albania before it went down, and Neal “bailed out” at

7,000 feet. When he landed, he fractured his right leg and was

immediately captured by Germans. He was a prisoner of war for 11

months, held in 4-5 POW camps.

   When Neal returned to Twin City after being released from active

duty on October 6, 1945, he worked as an auto mechanic, a school

bus driver, and worked for the fire department, retiring as chief

after 27 1/2 years.

   Neal and his wife, Mary Virginia Williamson, who he married

prior to going into the service, have three children, Joyce (who

was born while Neal was overseas), Margaret and Jimmy. He has 6

grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, and his grandson, Wil

Carr, is currently in the Navy, stationed in Great Lakes, Mich.

   Neal’s daughter, Joyce Harrison, says that her father was never

hesitant about answering his children’s questions about his

experiences in the war, and that he was always making sure his

children had what they needed.

   “He was always the one that went shopping with us for coats or

shoes and took us to Savannah and things like that,” Harrison says.

“Mother was kind of a homebody, but he always took us out.”

   Neal is one of two Emanuel County World War II prisoners of war

still living, and recently celebrated his 91st birthday with his

friends at O.A. Hall’s store in Twin City. Loran Williamson sang

him a special rendition of “Happy Birthday,” and many friends and

family  members were in attendance. After the festivities, Neal was

back to business as usual, out on his lawn mower cutting the grass

at his home right down the street from where he grew up on First

Avenue.

  • James Neal: Going strong at 91
  • James Neal: Going strong at 91
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