Throughout his time in World War II, Elizabethton resident Carl Estep served in the U.S. Army working with weapons and ammunition in an ordnance outfit.
He took training at Parts/Clerical School in Toledo, Ohio, to become a parts clerk qualified to work with small arms, receiving his Certificate of Proficiency from Ordnance Parts Clerical School on Aug. 7, 1943.
He shipped to Europe in December of 1944. “We went from New York to Scotland,” Estep recalled. “From there, we crossed the English Channel into Normandy.”
The young man who grew up around Wilbur Lake in Carter County saw plenty of dramatic action as the Allied Forces began their push into German-occupied France.
The son of S.M. and Nannie Estep, he has four brothers, one who died as a baby, and one sister. He was the oldest of his siblings and is now the only one still living.
“I’ll be 90 in December,” Estep said.
He said he wanted to join the U.S. Navy, but found that branch of the service full. Instead, he got drafted by the U.S. Army.
He completed his basic training in Pomona, Calif. From there, he traveled to Fort Rucker in Alabama and then to Ohio for his training as a parts clerk.
Once his training was complete, he was assigned to Company G with the 147th Infantry of the U.S. Army.
During the Invasion of Normandy, Estep was part of the landings on Utah and Omaha Beaches. He said he went ashore on the peninsula near Sainte- Mère-Église, or the Church of St. Mary. This part of France is named for a commune founded in the 11th Century.
The historic landings commenced on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 (now known as D-Day) in the early morning. From there, the U.S. forces took off across France. By the end of August, German-occupied Paris had been liberated and the German forces retreated across the River Seine.
For his part in the operations that led to the total defeat of Nazi Germany, Estep received two Battle Stars, one for Normandy and another for his service in Northern France. He also received a Good Conduct Medal and Victory Medals for the American Theater, the African/Middle Eastern Theater and the Asiatic/Pacific Theater.
Once Germany had been defeated, U.S. forces were needed in the Pacific campaign against Japan.
After the German defeat, Estep transferred to another ordnance outfit for service in the Pacific.
Estep embarked from Marseilles, France, and traveled through the Panama Canal to reach the Pacific Ocean.
“I was on that boat hoping it would turn around and go back,” he said.
Service in the Pacific took him to Guam, the Canary Islands and, finally, to Okinawa.
“I was sitting on a ship in Guam when they announced over the P.A. system that the first atomic bomb had been dropped,” Estep said.
His ship kept steaming across the Pacific when word arrived that the second atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan, followed by the news of Japan’s surrender.
World War II had ended, and his return home looked all that much closer. A few months later Estep received word he was going home. Although he left the United States bound for Europe from New York City, he returned to his home country through Seattle on the Pacific Coast.
When he received his honorable discharge on Dec. 27, 1945, he left Company G 147th Infantry with the rank of Technician Fifth Grade.
Estep welcomed his homecoming. “There’s nothing like home,” he said.
He and his wife, Eunice, will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary in August. Estep and his wife were married when he was on his way to parts/clerical school.
After he got home, he trained on the G.I. Bill as a dental technician and worked for 27 years at the dental clinic at Mountain Home Veterans Administration until his retirement.
Estep is a member of the Roan Street Church of God, where he has been treasurer for 55 years.
The couple’s children are Sue Tinker of Hampton, Kathy Ensor of Siam, Edward Dean Estep of Kingsport and the late Robert Harold Estep.
They also have five grandchildren: Jamie Carpenter, Jason Ensor, Renee Ensor, Mark Estep and Beth Estep. Their two great-grandsons are David and Jacob Carpenter.