EDITOR'S NOTE: Historian Joe L. Todd interviewed Phillip Austin on June 26, 2015, in Claremore, Okla., for the Eisenhower Library.
Phillip Austin was born on Aug. 14, 1926, in Lockesburg, Ark., located between Texarkana and Fort Smith. His parents were Lee Austin, a farmer, and Fannie Austin. His mother's maiden name was Simpson. Phillip Austin attended a country school called Oak Grove. Austin helped on the farm that raised cotton, plowing, picking and chopping about 300 pounds per day. He also picked cotton in Waxahachie, Texas.
JOE TODD: Did your family own the farm?
PHILLIP AUSTIN: Yes.
T: Was your family able to keep the farm in the Depression?
T: What crops did you raise besides cotton?
A: Corn, tomatoes and all the crops.
T: Did you plow with horses or mules?
A: Both. Horses and mules.
T: Which did you prefer?
T: What were the names of your horses?
A: Cinder and Knee.
T: How many acres could you plow in one day?
A: Two or three acres with a walking plow. We had cultivator too.
T: Where was the cotton gin?
A: Right there in Lockesburg.
T: Who owned the cotton gin?
A: I think Dierks.
T: Describe your house on the farm.
A: We had a pretty nice house. Four bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. It wasn't all that fancy, but we had it.
T: How man brothers and sisters did you have?
A: Six boys and two girls.
T: Are you the oldest?
A: No, I am the youngest boy. I had a sister younger than I was.
T: How big was Lockesburg in those years?
A: Maybe 200 or 300 — it was a small town.
T: Did you have a movie theater?
A: We had to go to De Queen to go to the movies.
T: How often would you go to De Queen?
A: I had a car and went about every day.
T: How farm is Lockesburg from De Queen?
A: About 27 miles.
T: Did you do any work in the lumber industry around De Queen?
A: No. I used to clear land by cutting trees, but that was all.
T: How did you cut the trees?
A: With a crosscut saw.
T: How did you get the stumps out?
A: We dug them out and it was quite a bit of work.
T: Did you have good land?
A: It was pretty good. It was better in some places than in others. There was a lot of land down there that was better than what we had.
T: Where did you go to high school?
A: Sevier County High School; then I went to college.
T: Where did you go to college?
A: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. It used to be A&M.
T: What did you study?
T: Was this before or after the war?
A: This was before the war.
T: Do you remember when Germany invaded Poland in 1939?
A: I don't recall that.
T: Do you remember when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941?
T: Did you enlist or were you drafted?
A: I was drafted.
T: When were you drafted?
A: February 27, 1945. The war was winding down.
T: Where did you go for Basic Training?
A: Fort Lewis, Washington.
T: Tell me about the trip to Fort Lewis.
A: It was on the train, and it was pretty nice. I wasn't used to riding the train, but I got used to it.
T: When the train stopped were you allowed to get off?
A: We got off sometimes and could get something to drink like Coke — no hard drinks.
T: Tell me about Basic Training at Fort Lewis.
A: It was pretty rough. We had to do a lot of things. We had rifle shooting.
T: Were you a good shot?
A: I was pretty good, I used to hit that target pretty well.
T: How long did Basic last?
A: For me it didn't last too long. I was in the Army about a year and a half.
T: From Fort Lewis where did you go?
A: I went to Korea.
T: Had you seen the ocean before?
T: First time you saw the ocean what did you think?
A: I didn't know what it was, just a lot of water. I was used to rivers.
T: Tell me about the trip to Korea.
A: We were on a ship and one time it was a little scary, but we got there safe and sound.
T: What were you told to do in case the ship was sinking?
A: They told us they would tell us what to do.
T: Where did you sleep on the ship?
A: They had some beds that were stacked. I think I had the second or the third bed.
T: Many of the guys get seasick?
A: Some of them did.
T: Did you get seasick?
A: No I didn't.
T: How long did the trip take?
A: I don't recall how long it took.
T: What did you do in Korea?
A: I what whatever they told me to do each day but mainly I was a truck driver.
T: What truck were you driving?
A: It was the big truck with 18 wheels.
T: Did you pull maintenance on the truck?
A: I took it to the shop once a week for maintenance.
T: What were you hauling?
A: Everything. I had one bad event.
T: What happened?
A: I was backing the trailer at the colds to unload a ship, and I twisted the trailer but I reported it.
T: Who unloaded the truck?
A: They had people to do that. I just drove the truck. I took a lot of things to Seoul, Korea.
T: Where were you based in Korea?
T: Were you in a barracks?
A: We were in tents, and they were kept warm.
T: What do you remember most about Korea?
A: World War II was winding down, and we went over to help clean up.
T: Were there still Japanese in Korea?
T: Did you have any contact with the Japanese?
A: We didn't have any problems with them because the war was almost over.
T: Was Korea torn up?
A: Yes, everything was about destroyed.
T: How was the weather in Korea?
A: It was cold. I would park that truck on the side of the road because it was bad weather sometimes. There was a lot of snow and rain.
T: How long were you in Korea?
A: About a year and a half.
T: Tell me about coming home.
A: It was on a ship just like we went over.
T: When were you discharged?
A: December 16, 1946.
T: What did you do after you were discharged?
A: I came back and went to school.
T: After you got your degree what did you do?
A: I started teaching school.
T: Where did you teach?
A: I taught at Sevier County High School for 15 years. Then [I taught] in Chicago for about 30 years.
T: When did you come to Claremore?
A: I have been here about one year.
T: Would you join the Army again?
A: I don't think so.
T: Anything else you want to talk about. I got married, but my wife has been deceased about 20 years.
T: Where did you meet your wife?
A: In my home town at Lockesburg.
T: What is her name?
A: Frances Cravens.
T: When you hear the name Franklin Roosevelt, what is your reaction?
A: He was nice, he was a good president.
T: Harry Truman.
A: He was OK.
T: Sir, this is a very good interview. I want to thank you for your service and thank you for the interview.
A: Thank you.