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Virgil Pinnell saw two sides of World War II

By Kay S. Pedrotti U.S. Army veteran Virgil Pinnell of Barnesville tells many different stories from his World War II experiences, displaying a remarkable memory for a 93-year-old. He can actually remember where he was during his three years of Army service, and he was in many places. Drafted in 1942 and sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, an ‘old Cavalry post’ where such lights as Gen. George Patton had trained, he thought he might become part of the tanks-and-trucks units that replaced Army horses. ’Was I surprised,’ he said, ‘when they decided I would be an MP,’ he said. He said that basic training for military police ‘was the same as for infantry,’ so the MPs were prepared for combat. Pinnell said he served mostly ‘on the edges, seeing the war as the people in those countries saw it,’ barely missing the worst of the fighting in places like Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. His MP duties in London included security for Ambassador Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, who had to flee his post as ambassador to Poland after the Nazi invasion in 1939. When Pinnell guarded the diplomat and his staff, Biddle had been commissioned ambassador to the governments-inexile of eight European countries occupied by the Nazis in 1941-42. Later he was part of a cadre of around-the-clock guards for ‘the war room,’ where plans for the Operation Overlord invasion of France were being developed. He said the guards themselves were ‘never allowed in the room.’ He was in five separate battle zones, he said, from the Battle of the Bulge to parts of France and Belgium after the invasion. Sometimes he and other MPs were assigned to protect USO entertainers, including Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Edward G. Robinson and ‘many girl singers and dancers ‘¦ we kept the troops from badgering them.’ Another time his group guarded a ‘truckload of money’ for financing the war; he said the driver took a wrong turn and they wound up parked in a barn at a French farmhouse but eventually made it to their destination. Pinnell is a member of both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He and his wife Martha have been married for 63 years. Their son Jeff has a Ph.D. from UGA and lives in Atlanta; daughter Carol Pinnell Allison is an agronomist living in Louisiana. Pinnell went to Georgia Tech and became an architect after the war. Pinnell wants to remind everyone that in the 70 years since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, effectively ending the war, ‘no one has died in an atomic attack, and we should be vigilant against another such terrible happening because of man’s inhumanity to man.’

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