Jay A. Frantom
Chief Warrant Officer 4
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 11/28/1942 - 11/08/1945
Supply NCO, 84th Infantry Division

Nicknamed "Jay," he was born on an eighty-acre farm in Bellwood, Louisiana, where he grew up during the Depression as one of eight children of Thomas and Lucy Frantom. He says his mother was "three-fourths Choctaw Indian." The family raised cotton, sugar cane, peas, corn, and peanuts, using horse and mule power. Among other chores, Jay picked cotton. "I'd get on my knees, but I couldn't pick much cotton. Every fall, we'd finish up on the hill, we'd go to Melrose Plantation and stay there about a month. That's before they had the cotton pickers. We'd pick all the cotton we wanted down there," he recalls. He characterizes the Depression as a time when "Nobody had nothing." He says, "The only cash we got is when we went to Melrose Plantation and picked cotton, and they'd pay us in cash." He received fifty cents for 100 pounds, which would take him all day to pick. The family had no transportation, so they walked. "We didn't even have a wagon for a long time," he says. Each fall the Frantoms killed a hog and preserved much of the meat in salt in a box approximately two feet wide and eight to ten inches tall. The hams hung on a bar in a small building and were smoked with hickory. His mother cooked on a wood stove, milked cows, and washed clothes in pots in the yard. The family's one luxury was a battery-powered radio, purchased from the Sears, Roebuck & Company. They also attended a movie screened at a nearby Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. "The last year when I finished high school I told my dad, `I'm helping you make this crop but I ain't going to be here to help you gather it.' He said, `Oh, you'll be here.' I said, `No.' Next thing he knew I was in California." Jay graduated from Provencal High School in 1940 and joined the CCC in Orland, California, where he remained for eighteen months. Paid a dollar a day, Jay worked as a clerk and took typing and other courses in night school. Back in Louisiana, he was working at the Louisiana Ordnance Plant in Minden when he met Ruby Tolleson. They married on November 15, 1942, and would have two sons, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Jay was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to basic training at Camp Howze near Gainesville, Texas. He entered the 84th Infantry Division, where he was assigned as a Class 1 Supply Sergeant in the division's food department. From menus the army supplied to him, he requisitioned provisions for 170 mess halls and "thirteen, fourteen thousand people," he says. Jay participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, then was shipped out on the HMS Sterling Castle to England. He took an LST to La Havre, France. Jay recalls being only about five miles from the front lines where he oversaw the distribution of foods for cooked meals as well as C and K rations. He recalls officers requesting extra rations of liquor "when we got ready to make a jump off," he says of an upcoming campaign. "If those enlisted men would like to have a good strong drink of liquor, they'd give it to them. They made good soldiers then. I had to go draw extra rations for that." He also fed soup to survivors of a German concentration camp, and recalls that it took "maybe a month or so to get them on a soft diet." Jay was at the Elbe River when the war ended on May 8, 1945. Using German prisoners of war as laborers, he helped set up one of the "cigarette" camps (a holding area for men ready to board ships home), where used Germans as cooks. He prepared a meal for President Harry Truman who was touring Europe after the war. "I stayed back there in the mess hall, where the cooks were," he recalls of that day. "When they got done eating, he come up to shake hands. I never will forget, the colonel said, `This is the man got that food for you.' He said, `Sergeant, you did a good job.'" Jay sailed to America and was discharged at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on November 18, 1945. He earned a Bronze Star for his service. Jay joined the National Guard, as a member of the 39th Infantry Division, and eventually earned a Chief Warrant Officer rank. He switched over to the U.S. Army Reserves and helped run an USAR School, with "about forty, fifty instructors," who taught many aspects of military occupations. He retired in 1982 as a CW-4 warrant officer.