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Jack Givens - World War II Memories

Jack M. Givens, 2012 recipient of the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture, shares memories from World War II.
Jack Givens - World War II Memories

Jack Givens - World War II Memories

Show Details

Show 1246: World War II Memories
Air Date: November 11, 2012



Rob McClendon: A child of the Dust Bowl, Jack Givens knew all too well the struggles of growing up in depression era Oklahoma. A farmer’s son, Givens headed off to Oklahoma A&M to get his education, until everything changed on December 7, 1941.

Jack Givens: It was on a Sunday, and I can remember hearing on the radio. Of course, they were still sinking ships and everything else at that time, and, uh, but we had no idea because we were in ROTC.

Rob: In ROTC, Jack went on to officer candidate school, only to find himself on the beaches of Normandy leading a platoon fighting their way through France.

Givens: We got pinned down in this rifle fire, and as a mortar shell came and went back behind us a couple hundred yards, and then there was another one came, and it went in front of us. So I told the sergeant, the next round’s coming right in on the top of us, and I said, “Better hit the ground.” And the next round came and just decimated our unit. We were out in front, and I had been hit in the face here; it was just a fragment of the shell hit.

Rob: Wounded and far away from home, young Jack was hospitalized for months.

Givens: I was really feeling sorry for myself, what I was gonna look like and I heard all this moanin’ and groanin’ in there, so I walked in there and there was guys with their legs blown-off and their arms blown-off and all that. So I no longer felt sorry for myself.

Rob: Sent back to the frontlines, Givens likes to tell people he walked and crawled his way across Europe dodging German bullets.

Givens: You could’ve got killed so many times that you didn’t, you know, and I felt watched over, I guarantee you for sure.

Rob: Wounded twice more, Mr. Givens earned three purple hearts and a bronze star before his war ended on a mission behind German lines in the early spring of 1945.

Givens: And the Americans were gonna go around this mountain with tanks and would take this town and cut the autobahn and hold it. Well, as this was like midnight when they got over this hill there, and there was a guard there, and he was asleep. He was laying up against a chair, and he didn’t even know there was any Americans anywhere close by. And then we captured over 200 there just inside this building and didn’t kill anybody. And we decided to make their headquarters, the biggest building we would find there, and it was like a five- or six-story hotel is what it was.

Rob: But the next morning Givens found his company surrounded by German troops, fighting their way out no longer an option.

Givens: And we threw down hand grenades in this open half-track, but then they called in a tank. They brought a big tank in there and were just blowing the sides out. So I told ’em then, everybody, we just had like 30 men left out of our company by that time, I said, “Just go ahead and surrender.”

Rob: But once captured, Jack Givens could even make a friend with his enemies.

Givens: They were taking me up to their commander up there, and while they was interrogating me, he said, “Where did you get that hole in your face there?” And I said, “It was a place named, called Filet Gap in Normandy.” And he pulled his boot off and pulled up his pants leg, and he had a scar down, about 10 inches long down this leg, and he said, “I got that at the Filet Gap just before. We were the ones that was running next to you.” [Laugh.] And he just laughed about that.

Rob: Mr. Givens was more than happy to leave the war behind, finishing up college and teaching ag education in California until the opportunity to come back home and farm.

Rob: And I’m happy to tell you that Mr. Givens, well into his 90s, still farms his land just outside of Mangum and just this past year, was the latest inductee into the Governor’s Ag Hall of Fame.