Rev. Ancil Childress

Interviewed by: Sarah Harman
Date of Interview: April 14, 2007

Sarah Harman reports:

"The man I interviewed was Ancil Childress. He was born in September 1923. Ancil is considered a legend in our area. He is an eighty-three year old preacher. He is married to Kathleen Childress. Ancil has preached more funerals and visited more sick people than any minister I know. He also cares a great deal about all the people in his community. I had often heard Ancil mention fighting in World War II in his funeral eulogies, so as soon as I read about this assignment I immediately thought of him."

Interviewer: How old are you?

Rev. Childress: I'm either 38 or 83, one of 'em. No, I'm just kiddin'. I'm 83 years old.

Interviewer: How old were you when you became a soldier?

Rev. Childress: Well, it was in November of 1943. So, I was about 20 years and 2 months old.

Interviewer: I know that you are a preacher now, but what other occupations before the war?

Rev. Childress: Most of my life I was a minin' boy. I worked up at the sawmill for a few years, too.

Interviewer: Were you drafted for World War II or did you volunteer?

Rev. Childress: I was drafted. I didn't choose to go.

Interviewer: Was there a training period before you had to go fight?

Rev. Childress: Yeah, I trained for upwards about 6 months.

Interviewer: Did you carry any pictures or a Bible to help you through the war?

Rev. Childress: Yeah, I carried a New Testament Bible sent to me from my Momma. She sent it overseas to me, and I carried it everywhere.

Interviewer: Were you married when you had to go away to fight?

Rev. Childress: No, no I wasn't.

Interviewer: What were your parents reactions when you told them you were going to fight in World War II?

Rev. Childress: My Daddy was broken-hearted. My Momma was to upset that she wouldn't even go see me off.

Interviewer: Did you get any injuries while fighting?

Rev. Childress: No, I was one of the lucky few that didn't. The only injury I got was when I parachuted out from a plane. My parachute got hung up in a tree, and I was holdin' on to the cords. The cords ripped through my hands so fast it tore the hide off of my fingers.

Interviewer: Did you have any close friends that were killed during the war?

Rev. Childress: I didn't really make many friends. They kept a lot of the friends pretty well separate. I'm not sure why, I guess so we wouldn't goof off. The few friends I did have were all killed though.

Interviewer: What part of Europe were you stationed in during the war?

Rev. Childress: I was in a heap of different places. I was stationed in England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Berlin.

Interviewer: What kind of weapons did you use during the war?

Rev. Childress: Mostly I used a 45-pistol or an M-1.

Interviewer: Did you all fight from trenches or what kind of protective cover did you have?

Rev. Childress: We didn't have much protection if we had any at all. As soon as we'd start buildin' a trench, we have to move on again. Sometimes, we dig trenches and fox holes, but that's about it.

Interviewer: Did you ever become an officer, or were a soldier the whole time?

Rev. Childress: I was a Sergeant.

Interviewer: Did you have any down time during the war, and if so what did you do to occupy your time and keep your mind off the horrors of the war?

Rev. Childress: I didn't have any free time, and I didn't have sense enough about me to really be scared about the war.

Interviewer: Did you send letters to and from your family and friends?

Rev. Childress: Yes. Our mailing service wasn't that good so we had a hard time sendin' letters, but our families didn't have no problems at all. I would get a lot of letters from Daddy, Momma and Kathleen.

Interviewer: Were you at all prepared for the horrors you saw and endured throughout the war?

Rev. Childress: No, I wasn't prepared at all. I saw a lot of things I'd like to forget.

Interviewer: Were you a Christian, or did you attend church before you went to fight?

Rev. Childress: No, I had never gone to church a day in my life.

Interviewer: What was the first thing you did when you got home from the war?

Rev. Childress: I saw my uncle. We talked for hours. He was one of my best friends.

Interviewer: How did the war change you?

Rev. Childress: Well, you know, it helped me to grow up. It matured me a little bit.

Interviewer: Do you think the war influenced you to be a man of faith and a preacher?

Rev. Childress: No, no I don't think so. I bargained with God a lot in the war. I'd tell him that if he'd just keep me alive, I'd be a preacher, but that wasn't the reason. It took me a long time to pay my debt to God.

Interviewer: Is it hard for you, even today, to think about and talk about the things you saw and did during World War II?

Rev. Childress: No, no not really. Sometimes it's good to look back at the past as long as you don't get stuck there.