And Now You Know: Sammy and Betty, a wartime marriage during WWII
Published 12:08 pm Saturday, January 25, 2020
Sammy and Betty went to church together at North Orange Baptist Church. One Sunday after church, Sammy asked Betty if he could walk her home. Sammy was 17, Betty was 15. Their courtship began that day.
After Sammy graduated from Orange High School, he got a job at Consolidated Steel, the big local shipyard.
He asked Betty to marry him, she was 16. They were young and knew that he would probably be drafted into the war.
Betty promised her mother that she would finish high school, her mother agreed to the wedding plans. The couple were married on June 15, 1943 in North Orange Baptist Church.
Sammy had joined the National Guard and, in December 1943, he was placed on active duty and sent to basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Betty was only able to visit Sammy for a few weekends before he was sent overseas. He was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. The division sailed for England on the troopship S.S. General A.E. Anderson. In England the 35th Division became part of the 3rd Army under the command of Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr.
The division landed at Omaha Beach on July 5, 1944 and went into combat. Sammy was killed on September 20, 1944 at the village of St. Mack, just outside of the city of Nancy, France.
Sammy was buried in a temporary military cemetery in Andilly, France.
After the end of the war, the family was given the options to have his remains sent home, or for him to be permanently buried in France. His family decided to leave him where he fell. Sammy was buried in the Lorriane American Cemetery and Memorial in St. Avold, France.
When Betty learned of Sammy’s death, she was enrolled in North Texas State College in Denton, Texas as a music major. She was living as a border in a private home. When she got home, she learned there was a telegraph for her at the local office. She took a taxi to the office.
“When I got the telegram, I knew what it was. I just held it in my hands a while without opening it,” Betty said.
Her mother and the church music director drove to Denton to get Betty and take her home for a while. She soon went back to school.
“There was nothing at home that did not remind me of him. If I would have stayed at home it probably would have been a lot harder to come to terms with his death,” Betty said.
All she had left of her brief wartime marriage were memories, a photo of them taken shortly before he left to go overseas, and a few letters from him. She never knew if he had received any of the letters from her.
Betty remarried some years later and had five children, but the short wartime marriage and life’s experiences never erased the memory of her first love.
She was able to visit Sammy’s grave in 1985. Betty died at age 91 in 2018.
Like many young couples, Sammy and Betty talked about what they wanted to do after the war ended. They talked of Sammy going to a university and becoming a minister, and of the children they hoped to have.
During WWII more than 16 million Americans put on military uniforms. Of those, 406,000 would not return home, there were 2,947 from the 35th Division, including Sammy.
“And now you know.”