Local man, service station owner landed on the beaches of Normandy 78 years ago with several other local patriots

Published 5:40 pm Thursday, June 9, 2022

BROOKHAVEN — Monday marked the 78th anniversary of the Allied Forces landing on the beaches of Normandy in Operation Overlord to drive the Nazis out of France. Brookhaven native  J.B. Russell was one of the 156,000 allied soldiers who landed the morning of June 6, 1944. 

Russell enlisted in the Army as a 22 year old and saw service in Luxembourg after D-Day as the Allied forces liberated the nation by September 1944. His daughter Sara Nelson was born in 1949 and said he never spoke about D-Day. However, she was able to visit Europe once. 

“On the River Thames in England I got to ride a ferry. It brought me chills knowing he had been over there,” Nelson said. “I learned in Luxembourg they loved us for saving them. They had one of the prettiest cemeteries there for the soldiers who had died.” 

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Upon his return home he went to work at his sister’s grocery on Mississippi 583 before working at Sinclair as a mechanic. He would eventually open up a store Russell’s Service Station and Grocery on Old US84 before his death in 2002. 

“I always think of him on D-Day or Memorial Day. We have a cemetery right in front of where we live,” Nelson said. “His grave is there as is my mother’s (Doris). The men served but the wives served by being at home and taking care of things here.” 

The Remember When Lincoln and Lawrence Counties Mississippi Facebook members said these area servicemen participated in the Normandy Landings.

  • Donald A Hemphill was a graduate of Bude High School and served in the US Army from 1943 to 1945. He died in 2018.
  • Marvin Smith, a member of Macedonia Baptist Church, served in the US Navy during World War II. He died in 2010.
  • Lee Bruce Speight, a native of Monticello, served in the Army’s Field Artillery Unit. He was in the second wave to land on Omaha Beach. 
  • Oscar Cole, a Bogue Chitto native, served in the US Army. He died in 2010. 
  • Henry Reid, a Jayess native, served in the US Army. He died in 2011. 
  • Willie Reeves, a Brookhaven native, was in the US Army’s 29th Infantry Division and landed on Omaha Beach. 
  • Carl Gatlin, a Bogue Chitto native, landed in Normandy and was in the 30th Infantry Division. He saw action in North Africa in addition to Europe. He died in 2013. 
  • Herman Johnson, a Bogue Chitto native, was in the 81st Chemical Battalion. 
  • Marvin Carpenter drove a Higgins Boat delivering troops to the beaches on D-Day, he now lives in Mobile, Alabama. 
  • Paul Foster landed in a glider behind enemy lines. 
  • Donald Price, a Brookhaven native, served in the Field Artillery Unit and saw action at the Battle of Brest where he earned a Bronze Star. He moved to Baton Rouge after the war. 
  • Bill Hardy Cole paid the ultimate price for his country. He died in September 1944 in France and is buried at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.