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Ashe County Veterans History Project: James E. Hamm


James E. Hamm's Photos

Several soldiers in front of tent

James Hamm in Germany (1944-45)

James E. Hamm's Story

In 1944, before the war ended in Europe, James E. Hamm, son of Troy and Luna Hamm, received his draft notice. His brother Garland had volunteered for the army but was turned down because he had only one good lung due to his pneumonia bout he had when he was a small boy. 

At that time, Troy Ham, James’s dad, was working at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the Atomic Power Commission as a government worker. James wrote his mom and dad a letter and told them that he had been drafted. Troy acquired a leave of absence and brought Luna and the small children home to see James off to the war. James with a cousin by the name of Marvin Wayne Greer and a neighbor named Odell Miller went to be examined. James and Marvin were placed in the Army and Odell was placed in the Marines. Odell’s older half brother Arlen had been killed in the North African Campaign and he wanted to take his place. Anyway, he didn’t have a choice, he had to go where he was sent. 

James and Marvin were placed in the infantry and sent to Europe and Odell was sent to the Pacific Campaign. Before James and Marvin made it to Europe the Germans surrendered. The war in Europe was over. James and Marvin became Military Police, serving as guards and they were separated and sent to different prisons. James was on a train headed to his guard duty and the Russians, not the Germans, captured the train. The train was held up for one week and the passengers couldn't leave or get off the train. Finally, the Russians let the train go. Meantime, the ship that James and Marvin went to Europe on broke into two parts on its way back to the U.S. 

James Hamm as one of the guards at the prison was told if a prisoner escapes all he was required to do is bring back their shoes. The only problem, it was a women's prison and there were some mean women in the prison. He didn’t talk much about what happened but had nightmares years later. 

Guarding the prisoners and doing what he had to do got to him and he asked for a couple day’s leave and boy did he pull a drunk. He walked down the streets of Berlin shooting the lights out. That didn't go over too well with his superiors. 

In 1946, James E. Hamm finished his tour of duty in Europe, came home to Ashe County for a while and then went to Pennsylvania to work where he was engaged to a model from Philadelphia. Before the wedding James broke the engagement and moved. He eventually moved back to Ashe County and married Elaine Perry, daughter of Estel (a World War 2 veteran) and Elsie Perry. James died in 1990 at the age of 66. 

-- Written by J.B. Hamm