A former Neosho resident has written a book about his father who was in World War II and also was the advertising manager/general manager for the Neosho Daily News in the early- to mid-1950s.
A former Neosho resident has written a book about his father who was in World War II and also was the advertising manager/general manager for the Neosho Daily News in the early- to mid-1950s. "The Last Battle" by John K. Hall includes pictures of his father, Capt. John W. Hall, along with written accounts of the elder Hall's time in the war.
"It starts with him as a child in dustbowl, Oklahoma, actually Durant, Okla., and kind of chronicles the process of him learning how to shoot and shoot with great dexterity and capability," said John, who, along with his brother, Gene, recently came to Neosho and stopped by the Daily News. "They were a very poor family, they actually survived the dustbowl by shooting rabbits and squirrels, growing their own garden. His father, as the book states, was ruined during the stock market crash of 1929. His mother was dying of ovarian cancer and died when he was about 15 years old. He had a sister at home, a couple of brothers and he took care of them, and they took care of one another. So the story kind of chronicles that to the point where he, through the mentorship of his oldest brother, became the Oklahoma State National Rifle Association champion, won the gold medal there. Then transitions to his going into the officer candidate school (OCS) in the U.S. Army, becoming a lieutenant and then a captain."
John said his father landed at Normandy in September 1944, and was a captain of the headquarters company of the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion.
"They moved into Luxemburg and obviously by that time, Hitler's army was in full retreat rom the D-Day invasion in June 1944, so Luxemburg sits right on the border of Germany," John said. "He was stationed there with part of the 9th Armored Division… and they sat from September 1944 until Dec. 18, 1944, sat there doing nothing in Luxemburg because everyone thought that Hitler's army was in retreat and probably was near surrender. But on Dec. 18, 1944, Hitler mounted a full frontal offensive called the Battle of the Bulge and my father was right on the line when that happened. He was sitting up on a large medieval castle with his headquarters company's officers and he was awakened one night by the sound of Nazi howitzers shelling the area and from that point on, he was in the thick of battle. His troops had never been in battle before. When Hitler's surprise attack took them, his platoon and a number of platoons were surrounded. What the book shows, in the first three days, what he did to extricate those troops, he won a distinguished service cross from his efforts there and used his marksmanship that he learned in Oklahoma to in essence to take on single-handedly a cache of Germans, who were trying to wipe out his troops."
John opted to do the book for a couple of reasons.
"The story is interesting I think from the standpoint of it is a human interest story, it is a story about someone who is brought face to face with battle in the most ferocious way," he said. "And how he deals with that. And it is also a little later on part of a story how he is able to actually save lives and capture German contingents rather than killing them."
After the war, Hall's father went to work with his two brothers in Lubbock, Texas, where they had a newspaper business.
"So he went to work for them, selling advertising and worked for them for a couple of years," John said.
John said his father then went off on his own, moving to some family acres in Bentonville, Ark., to farm it.
"It was a tough go, and he decided farming wasn't going to be able to feed the family of three boys, his wife and himself, so he decided to go back into the newspaper business," said John. "Howard Bush, I believe, was just coming on as publisher [at the Neosho Daily News]. He must have answered an ad or someone told him about it, so he came to work for Howard Bush as the general manager and advertising manager at the Neosho Daily News. So he was applying his skills here, a lot of them he picked up in the Lubbock newspaper market."
He came to the Daily News in 1952 and stayed until 1957.
"He was in the newspaper business from the transition from hot lead to cold type," said John. "So the offset process was something that changed the newspaper business considerably and changed the advertising because he was able to – and he was a very good designer – he not only sold ads, he designed them... I think the use of the image was very important in this transition because in the hot type world, the images were very crude, pictures were very crude, and it took a long time to create an ad in hot type. He thought that advertising was an essential part of the newspaper process. Not only did it help support the newspaper, but it helped support the community. Because it brought people into the community and educated them on the goods and services that the community had. He was very positive about advertising and doing it in a way that would have optimum impact on people."
"Back in the day, there were no corporate accounts, you walked around the Square and you sold to McGinty's, Hazel's…" said Gene.
"He was not the only ad salesman, he had a lot of accounts and he knew a lot of people," John added.
After the elder Hall left Neosho, he moved his family to Spencer, Iowa, where he became advertising director at the Spencer Daily Reporter.
But very late in life, the elder Hall recorded his time in the war.
"Very late in life, dad recorded on cassette tapes a bunch of these stories," Gene said. "He was in failing health at the time, so we have a dozen or so of these cassette tapes and our younger brother had a stenographer go through so we could get it in black and white."
"I didn't know this story until I discovered a box of memorabilia after my mother died," added John. "There was this long transcript of this account that was typed up, dictated by my father to, I believe, his oldest brother, soon after he came back after the war. It is a long account so I read it, there are a lot of holes in it, so I did some research and put this book together."
The family still made treks to Neosho.
"And for years, we would come back every year, every summer we would come back to Neosho," Gene said.
His brother, John, added, "We have very strong, solid, and very good memories of Neosho. Did a lot of fishing, it is a beautiful town."
Their father died at the age of 66.
John printed enough books for his family and a few libraries – one of which is the Neosho-Newton County Library.
"There might be a film that might be a part of this story," John said. "I think it is a really great human interest story. It also gives a glimpse into one of the pivotal battles of World War II as well. We are doing some research to see if someone might be interested in doing a film."