Birch, Castleberry Veteran Profiles (Nov. 19)

C.K. Castleberry
Date of birth: Sept. 6, 1924
Dates of service: 1941 to 1961
Hometown: Nome, Texas
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: Pacific, New Guinea, Philippines
Branch: Army Air Corps
Rank: 1st Sergeant
Unit and Specialty: 10th Service Squadron; mess sergeant

In his words: Serving as a mess sergeant in the South Pacific, was not as easy as some might think.

“It was pretty tough, we had to do a lot of stealing,” said Castleberry, explaining they had a hard time “trying to get groceries out of the quartermasters” so it resulted in a lot of trading and bartering to get supplies.

“We were generally a little bit short on the rations anyhow, so we had had to divide it up quite a bit” he said.

Living in tents on a fighter base, he said they were frequently under attack.

“We never had a normal day. Sometimes they bombed us day and night. We slept when we could.”

Castleberry also served in the Korean War and Vietnam.

Leroy Birch
Date of birth: Feb. 27, 1924
Dates of service: 1943 to 1946
Hometown: House
Lives in: Portales
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Navy
Rank: Signal man, 2nd class
Unit and specialty: Charlotte Cushman Cargo Ship, flag man and gunner
In his words: Using flags and lights, Birch signaled to other ships in the convoy from the deck.

After taking 100 barrels of fuel to New Guinea, Birch recalled their ship going into the invasion of Leyte carrying troops.
“The ship was 440 feet long, the troops slept topside,” he said. He said while unloading the troops into landing boats and hauling them to shore “we lost quite a few.”

His ship stayed in the harbor for two weeks during the invasion. Onboard, the men shot at Japanese planes that endangered the men on the beaches.

“We had air raids and the rascals would come in before daylight and just before dark. The first raid there were 50 planes that came in only five got away. We had a pretty good score that day.” Manning his gun turret, he could see the fighting on the beach— men battling and the occasional flame thrower, memories that stayed with him for some time
“It was a job we had to do. I had to ask the Lord to help me do what I had to do and he helped me.”