Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:00 AM
Several Neshoba County families contributed multiple members to the World War II war effort.
Seaman Coy Alligood served in the Merchant Marines, while his son, Charles, was a private in the United States Army.
Robert Carley Peebles, also a veteran of World War I, rose to the rank of major with the Provost Marshall's Office, while his son, Robert "Bob" Marvin Peebles, flew as a lieutenant with the Fifth Army Air Force in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations.
On August 18, 1943, the heavy bombers, B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators, joined with the medium B-25 Mitchell bombers to attack Japanese aircraft and to destroy the air base at Wewak, New Guinea.
One of the B-25 aircraft, piloted by First Lieutenant John M. Donegon and co-piloted by Second Lieutenant Bob Peebles, received numerous hits from both anti-aircraft fire and from Japanese interceptors.
Within minutes, the Japanese had blasted away the rudder controls and 250 bullets pierced the fuselage of Donegon's plane. Blood quickly covered four of the five man crew.
Donegon, age 26, sustained three shrapnel wounds in the arm. Peebles, 20, received injuries to his head, arm, wrist and chest. Shrapnel penetrated the head and body of First Lieutenant Victor Scammel, navigator.
Staff Sergeant Donald Bybee, tail turret gunner, 23, suffered a slight wound, and Staff Sergeant Joseph Carroll, radio operator and waist gunner, 21, was uninjured.
After the crippled aircraft ascended to an altitude of 16,500 feet to find clear weather, Waist Gunner John Carroll came forward to assist his injured officers.
Carroll remembered: "I put an oxygen mask on Scammel and then crawled back to see how Bybee was. He said he was alright, but he looked pretty bad.
"I got an oxygen mask out of the rear compartment," Carroll continued, "and took it forward. Lieutenant Donegon told me to give it to Peebles.
But Peebles was still conscious enough to refuse to take the mask. He insisted that Donegon wear it - after all, it was the pilot who would have to get us back."
During the remainder of the three-hour trip home, Donegon flew the B-25 without rudders, using only the throttle.
With little control of his bomber, the injured pilot told the two sergeants to bail out, but the loyal crew knew that Donegon needed them to crank down the flaps and assist with what had to be a very dangerous landing.
As the plane neared the runway, the men of the airship saw another plane parked in the middle of the airfield. Donegon circled five times, three times low right over the plane.
"With Schammel and Peebles apparently bleeding to death," said Donegon, "I couldn't wait any longer."
The bomber came in fast and landed in the grass to one side of the runway.
"We scraped and jolted along, throwing up a huge cloud of dust. It was pretty bumpy, but we didn't nose over or catch fire," added Donegon.
Awaiting ambulances transported Peebles and Schammel immediately to the Army hospital. Nurses provided blood transfusions and within hours their recovery began.
Later from his hospital bed, Victor Schammel said, "As a matter of fact, that was about the most masterful crash landing I've ever see. John did a perfect job."
The heroic and gracious John Donegon later wrote to Peebles's wife in Philadelphia, Mississippi: "Bob and I were flying together when he was wounded a few weeks ago ... I want you to know how courageous he proved himself ... Bob remained cool and controlled, and by calling out the various attackers enabled us to evade or force off most of them ... had lacerations on the shoulder and arm which cost him much blood - but weak and groggy as he was, he kept fighting in every way possible.
"It was only by a narrow margin that we were able to return to base, and if it had not been for Bob's part ... we would probably either have burned on our crash landing or else never returned at all. All of the crew agree on this; and the rest of the squadron too, for it had recommended him for the Silver Star."
The War Department agreed with the air squadron's recommendation and awarded the lieutenant from Neshoba County a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, commanding general of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific, presented the awards to the young Neshoba hero.
Civil War Veterans
Peebles, William Jefferson - Private; enlisted March 1, 1862, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-eight; farmer; sick at a hospital at Ashland, Virginia, April 1862.
Hospitalized after being struck by lightning at the South Carolina Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia, May 3, 1863.
Furloughed to Mississippi, July 20, 1863; retired as totally disabled to the Invalid Corps at Lauderdale, Mississippi, December 19, 1864.
Paroled by the Provost Marshal, U.S.A. Sixteenth Corps at Montgomery, Alabama, May 13, 1865.
Described as five feet ten inches tall, blue eyes, light hair and fair complexion.
World War II Veterans
Peebles, James - Private to Private First Class; enlisted on October 6, 1942 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age twenty-one; farmer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Camp Adair, Oregon, December 1942 to November 1943.
Quarantined with spinal meningitis at Camp Adair; furnished leave home March 1943 and March 1944.
Stationed at Camp Carson, Colorado, April 1944 to September 1944.
Served also in the European Theatre of Operations with the 415th Regimental Combat Team, 104th Infantry "Timberwolves" Division, First United States Army, September 1944 to December 1944.
Participated in the Campaign in the Rhineland.
Killed in action in Germany, December 12, 1944.
Died the "way he wanted ... fighting ... to restore peace to a world that has gone all out for war;" awarded the Purple Heart.
Initially buried "with full military honors and utmost reverence" in a military cemetery in Belgium.
Later re-interred with military honors at Cedarlawn Cemetery, Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Described as five feet two inches tall, weighing 140 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday