Eugene Allen
Staff Sergeant
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 02/14/1942 - 10/15/1945
Sergeant Major, 450th Bomb Squadron, 322 Bomb Group

Eugene was born in Bessemer, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, as one of three children of Eugene and Virgie Belle Allen. A railroad engineer, his father died in a train accident when Eugene was about 18 months old. "A cow got on the track and the train turned over on him on the Birmingham-New Orleans run of the Southern Railway," Eugene says. Because he was only an infant when the incident occurred, Eugene says he never attached the junior to his name. In 1921 his mother married his uncle, W.S. Allen. The family moved to Minden, near his mother's hometown of Arcadia, where the couple would have three more children for a household of six siblings. In Minden his parents purchased a cleaners, a business in which Eugene would work much of his life. He's owned Allen-N-Way Cleaners for "all but nine years of my life," he remarks. As a child Eugene roamed nearby woodlands, plunged into swimming holes, hunted and fished. At night he and his brothers slept on a sleeping porch with five beds. The family had a telephone (its number was 46) and a radio. He recalls the "iceman" delivering blocks of ice in a wagon, while another deliveryman brought milk from a dairy. In high school Eugene played football, boxed, and ran track. He worked for Avenger's Grocery as a delivery boy, earning fifteen dollars a week. "I bought a 1934 Model Ford coupe and paid cash for it--six hundred dollars," he says of his earnings. Eugene graduated from Minden High School in 1938 and entered Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, where he stayed one year before returning to Minden. "I couldn't afford it," he says of college. Eugene married Maxine Williams on February 18, 1941. (They would have two children, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.) He was managing the cleaners when Pearl Harbor was bombed. "The recruiting stations couldn't handle the people enlisting," he says of the patriotic response to the surprise attack. "They were absolutely lined up at the recruiting station." Drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces, Eugene took basic training at MacDill Field in Tampa, Florida, where he was issued uniforms unsuitable for Florida weather. "They were wool and they'd sting the fire out of you down in Florida," he says. After basic, then clerical school in Denver, Colorado, he reported to Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he was assigned to the 450th Bombardment Squadron, 322nd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force. In November of 1942 he sailed to Great Britain aboard the Queen Elizabeth, along with 20,000 soldiers. "The line must have been three or four blocks long for mess hall, every lunch, breakfast, or dinner," he remarks. For Thanksgiving dinner on the voyage, he remembers officers were served turkey, while the enlisted men ate sauerkraut and wieners. A personnel sergeant, Eugene was stationed at Andrews Field near Bury St. Edmunds, England. It was several months before the unit's B-26's arrived. The plane was new and did not have a good reputation for reliability, he says. "They got a name for them when they started out: `One a day in Tampa Bay,'" he recalls. At the base he was quartered in Nissen huts, with about eighteen men in each. (He lived in tents in France and hotels in Germany.) He made out payrolls and oversaw casualty reports sent home to families, among other duties. Through his work in personnel files, he says, he got to know the men and their families well, and grieved when men were killed in combat. Eugene soon grew weary of the food in Great Britain. "The English paid the war debt in Spam," he quips. "We got that running out of our ears sometimes, and brussel sprouts. I still can't stand Brussels sprouts." He became acquainted with a neighboring family named Holt, often taking rations to them for cooking. After D-Day, the unit crossed into Europe where living quarters at an air strip were adjacent to the ammunition dump, while the mess hall was set up in a horse stable. In Belgium the squadron was stationed in a children's home, while he was lodged in a private home whose owner he now calls affectionately, "Mama Hortense." Eugene remarks that he loved the Belgian people. When Germany surrendered he remembers revelers in downtown Brussels, where "the streets were so crowded you couldn't walk through. Everybody was grabbing you and hugging you. I've never been kissed so much in my life," he says. Eugene was settled into a hotel in Frankenberg, Germany when the occupation began. "We had to send out crews every day to some German factory where they'd been making ammunition on the airplanes or whatever," he says. "They just took heavy hammers and such and just destroyed whatever machinery was in there." After three years overseas Eugene came home on the USS America in October of 1945. A staff sergeant, he was discharged at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Eugene returned to Minden to run the family cleaning business.