Here are the stories of three local men who fought in World War II

June 06, 2004

Editor's Note: The following presentation was given to the Anaconda Club in March 1986. We thought it appropriate on the 60th anniversary of D-Day to remember those of our neighbors, brave Americans, who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives in the defense of our country. Here are the stories of just three.

Studs Terkel, in his bestseller "The Good War" presents men and women recalling the times when they were 18 and 19 years old, thrown into battle in the far Pacific or confronting the Germans in the European campaign.

About the book, Terkel says, "It was the ideals and the innocence of these 18 and 19 year olds that made World War II 'our good war.'"

These are the experiences of three young Boyle Countians who fought in that war. Their ages were 18, 21 and 22. Two of them made it through the war; one did not.


Forty-five Boyle Countians lost their lives in World War II.

Joe Stagg Jr. 1922-1943

In Bellevue Cemetery, just 30 yards northeast of Anacondian Jack Stith, is the grave of Joe 0. Stagg Jr., Staff Sergeant, United States Air Force.

Joe was born in Danville, Jan. 21, 1922. He was an excellent student, had lots of friends and was a fun person to be with. Because of a serious case of scarlet fever, Joe was held out of school a year, and he graduated from Danville High School with his brother Bob in the spring of 1941.

Joe went on to Washington and Lee, and Bob entered the University of Alabama. The military draft interrupted Joe's education, and he was inducted into the service in November 1942. He asked to be put into the Air Force.

Despite being deaf in one ear due to a mastoid operation, Joe was placed in the Air Force and assigned to radio school at Chanute Field, Illinois. Six months later, Joe was in the China-Burma-India Theater, serving as the radio operator on a C-46.

For the next nine months, Joe and his C-46 crew flew military supplies from India into Burma and China, supplying British and Chinese armies fighting the Japanese.

On Feb. 24, 1944, the Stagg family was notified that Sergeant Joe Stagg Jr., had been killed in action. The family never knew what happened on the fatal flight.

In 1949, years after the end of the war, the Stagg family was notified that the body of Joe Stagg Jr., had been identified and would be shipped home. The family was never convinced that the body in the casket buried in Bellevue was that of Joe Stagg Jr.

Benny Powell 1918-1992

The first flying Benny Powell did was here in Boyle County with Guy Jones and his son Guy Jones, Jr. Guy Jones, Jr., was a Danville High School classmate and friend. Mr. Jones had a WACO 10 and had barnstormed for years, flying out of a farm field on Lancaster Road.

In the summer of 1940, Jones invited Benny and his son Guy Jr. to go with him to CIinton, Tenn., and "hop passengers."

Benny was not a pilot, but as a high school boy, Benny was known to be able to fix anything. Many times he had held the stick of the WACO 10 and kept it in level flight, but he had never flown solo. Every weekend, while in Clinton, Guy, Jr. and his father flew passengers off a hillside strip. During the week they repaired the plane and, if needed, rebuilt the engine. For Guy Jr. and Benny, it was the best of times. Benny said, recalling that summer, "We sure didn't get rich, but we had a good time."

Before going to Tennessee that summer, Guy, Jr. enlisted in the Air Force.

By 1940, the build-up of the Air Force had begun, and Guy Jr. wanted to get in. In late August, while flying in Tennessee, Guy Jr. was called for induction, and Benny came home to Danville.

Benny knew he would be drafted in a few months, so he enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Fort Knox for induction. There Benny's plan to fly almost ended before it got started. At the processing center he was interviewed for placement in the Air Force. The interviewing officer was a first lieutenant in an armored division. When he read of Benny's experience as a mechanic, he pressured him to join the tankers. Benny insisted "his tail didn't fit a tank seat," and he was placed in pre-flight school there at Fort Knox.

He was at Knox for a year. He then went on to Sexton, Missouri, for primary and to Randolph Field for basic. At Randolph he soloed for the first time in a Steannan trainer, and for Benny the fun began.

His next stop was Brooks Field, Texas, for advanced training and a chance placement with a civilian instructor, whose favorite part of flying was aerobatics.

As soon as the instructor thought Benny had had enough time and experience, he took him up and introduced him to the snap roll, then a snap roll and a half. (That's a horizontal spin). As the plane loses its airspeed, it falls out and gains airspeed. Then the instructor pulled the plane back up, as if to loop it, but then rolled out of it at the top of the loop.

Benny loved it! At that moment he had no idea what a big part aerobatics would be in his flying future.

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