WALNUT – When brothers Thomas Roy “Tommy” Martindale, 20, and James Delton “Doodie” Martindale, 18, were drafted into the U.S. Army on Oct. 19, 1943 and Dec. 30, 1943, only about six weeks separated their enlistment dates.
When they were killed in action in World War II on Oct. 8, 1944 and Dec. 17, 1944, about six weeks again separated their deaths.
“I remember when the call came from the War Department after Tommy died,” said his sister, Jimmye “Ruth” Trulove, 77, of Ripley. “I was 9 years old but I knew what it meant, and I couldn’t tell my mama when she came home. When they called again later, I went and hid in the closet. I can still hear my mama’s scream.”
The deaths of these two soldiers – the sons of C.H. “Chess” and Rual Martindale – left an imprint on the rest of Trulove’s life.
“My mama never got over it,” she said. “It was terrible. I don’t think you can ever recover from something like that.”
It didn’t help that another son, older brother Frank “F.R.” Martindale, had been drafted a year earlier and was still serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bombardier.
“He made it back, but she didn’t know if she might get the same call any day,” Trulove said.
F.R. Martindale, 90, has moved to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in retirement. The family’s fifth child and youngest son, W.A. “Sonny” Martindale, of Walnut, was only 6 when his brothers went to war.
“We grew up in Walnut where we were farmers and my daddy worked at the Army depot in Memphis,” Trulove said. “After they were drafted we had to sell the farm because there was nobody to work it, and we moved to Memphis.”
Tommy had been a farmer at heart so his joy was working the farm, Trulove said.
Doodie, however, loved school and chemistry, with plans to become a chemistry teacher one day.
“The war took them right out of the country,” Trulove said. “They had never been anywhere or done anything.”
Doodie was drafted before his high school graduation. During graduation, his diploma was placed on an empty chair.
The brothers were able to share a little of their experiences in A-mail letters the Army provided for them to write home. Trulove described them as little foldover mailers with space for “a few lines.”
“My mother wrote them probably every two to three weeks,” she said. “Their letters told where they were, what they were doing that day, about their buddies, what they had to eat.”
Tommy died in France, and Doodie was killed in Germany at the Battle of the Bulge. Though their deaths were in late 1944, their bodies were not brought home for burial until after the war ended in 1945.
“My uncle and first cousin went to identify the bodies because my parents couldn’t do it,” Trulove said. “There were so many bodies to be shipped back, it was about a year before they brought them. They’re buried in Walnut at New Salem Cemetery with their Purple Hearts encased next to them.”
Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal