James Woods, Philip S. Gillespie

Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.

James Woods
Date of birth: July 8, 1924
Dates of service: July 1944 to February 1946
Hometown: Grady
Lives in: Grady
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Army
Rank: Corporal
Unit and Specialty: 96th Division 381st Infantry, M Company; 1st platoon, 1st squad, machine gunner

In his words: Woods’ squad arrived in Okinowa in time for the heavy fighting. Woods role was to handle the ammunition for one of two .30-caliber machine guns. However, as more and more men were lost, he found himself operating the only gun that remained.

“Take my word for it, you hit the ground, dug that thing in and started firing. When somebody is shooting at you, you can do a lot of things.”

Despite high casualties and fierce fighting, Woods said his unit would push forward in the daytime and try to hold their position through the night.

“We kept trying to go forward, and the (Japanese) knew where we were, and they’d sure kill us if we sat still. If you was gonna be killed, you might as well get killed goin’ forward. No use being killed sitting still.

He said most nights his unit just hoped the Japanese would let up long enough so they could sleep, even if it was just for an hour.

Philip S. Gillespie
Date of birth: March 15, 1926
Dates of service: 1944 to 1947
Hometown: Levelland, Texas
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Navy
Rank: 3rd Class Petty Officer
Unit and specialty: Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines; Combat Air Crew

In his words: A gunner on an SP2C Hell Diver, his unit’s job was ground support.

He flew three missions before his plane was hit. “We knew we’d been hit but we didn’t know what it was that hit us.”

Gillespie suffered a stomach injury during the attack that plagued sporadically him for a few years to follow.

Later, Gillespie was assigned as a patrol bomber during the atomic testing at Bikini, Atoll. Securing the perimeter of the testing area, he was able to view of the blasts.

“It looked pretty awesome to me.”

World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: