Jerry G. Higgs
Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class (MOMM 3C)
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 11/16/1942 - 03/1946
Motor Machinist Mate/Gunner, Higgins Boat, LST 77, LST 742
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"Jerry" was born in Wichita, Kansas to Elmer Floyd Higgs and Leone May Brady Higgs, the second child and the only brother to three sisters. Jerry grew up during the Depression in Wichita, where his father was a stillman at Barnsall Oil Refinery. He recalls taking left-overs from a meal to "Shanty Town" where people who were traveling to find work lived temporarily. Most were on the road to California. His paternal uncles and their families lived nearby, and the families spent much time together, enjoying homemade ice cream and watermelon feasts. "I want to say this: We had a lovely life. We have love in our families," Jerry recalls. He also classifies his family then as "very poor". Because rabbits abounded in the area, his father, like other men, shot the game for the family table. "So we lived on rabbit in the wintertime. Rabbit and rabbit and more rabbit," he remarks. The family, except for his father, attended church each Sunday. Jerry graduated from Wichita High School North, but had a "delayed graduation". He quit school and joined the navy on 16 November 1942, but was not called up for boot camp until February of 1943 in Farragut, Idaho. He recalls that boot camp (it lasted 90 days) toughened everyone and it taught them discipline. After boot camp he was ordered to Iowa State College to diesel engineering school, another 90-day program. As a mechanic while a youngster, he enjoyed the training. At its end he was a motor machinist mate or MOMM. He then was assigned to LST 77, based at Solomon Island, Maryland. He was part of the "black gang" or men who kept the craft running. Of the crew of 120, about 30, he recalls, were part of the black gang. He was also in one of the two-man crews that operated the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel), better known as Higgins boats. LST 77, as part of a 107-vessel convoy, was ordered into the North Atlantic. After 36 days the convoy reached the Cape of Gibraltar, only to have German aircraft bomb the craft as the Americans filled the night sky with fire. When "General Quarters" was sounded, Jerry served on a 20-millimeter gun as a gunner. The LST landed at Bizerte in North Africa, and unloaded war material. He also sailed into ports in Oran, Tunisia, and Algeria. One job of his flotilla of seven LSTs was in transporting the French Foreign Legion and the Gurkha Night Fighters to land operations. He also transported Greek and repatriated Italian troops. Jerry served in the Mediterranean until the end of 1944, including operations in Sicily and the mainland of Italy. On June 6, 1944 he landed troops on Anzio in three runs in LCVPs. He next participated in the invasion of southern France at Saint Tropez. The landing was little contested by the Germans. Jerry remained three days around the beach before returning to the LST. Soon Army personnel returned with jeeps, artillery pieces, and other things that needed to be taken to repair. On Christmas of 1944, LST-77 was ordered to Bizerte and turned over to the British Navy. A crew of British officers and sailors came aboard, and the ship was re-commissioned as a British vessel, HMS-77. Jerry returned to America and to Wichita, Kansas where he was told by Navy officials, "You will never have to go overseas again." After a 30-day leave he was ordered to serve aboard LST-742 in the Pacific. At Pearl Harbor he saw that much of the damage from the 1941 attack had not been cleared away. He boarded LST 742 and stopped at ports in the Philippines. Jerry served aboard another vessel, YR-76. Soon, however he sailed for home, winding up in Norman, Oklahoma. He returned to his job at Grant Billingsly Produce Company. Soon, however, he moved to Missouri with his uncle where the family ran a small motel on US 71, the Beaver Springs Motel. He worked for Luce Manufacturing Company in Kansas City, Missouri, making card tables, then as a fireman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. On April 16, 1949 he married Inez Collier. (They would have two children. Inez passed away on June 5, 2003. He is now married to Lavonn Jeanette Higgs.) Soon the and Inez moved to Texas City where his father lived. Jerry became a route salesman for Carnation Milk Company. He then worked for American Oil Company from 1955 to 1959. Monsanto Chemical Company hired him. Harboring a love of horticulture, he later opened a nursery that Inez ran while Jerry continued working for Monsanto. He later left Monsanto and began landscaping areas for other oil refineries. He purchased land beside I-45 and built on 4 oe acres a large garden center. When he retired he sold his business to Wolfe Nursery Company and began raising racehorses on a farm near Lufkin, Texas. He and Inez traveled in a recreational vehicle across the country for two years before settling near Ben Wheeler, Texas where, as a hobby, he began crafting large decorative crosses of agate and cedar. Inez passed away in 2003. He presently lives in Flint, Texas with his present wife, Lavonn Jeanette Higgs.