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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

WW2 Vet Warren Birkhead Is Turning 100

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Article contributed by son-in-law Jim Young

On November 22, 2020, Mr. Warren Birkhead of Ola, AR will be turning 100! Warren was born in 1920 in New Blaine where he also attended grade school but went to high school in Paris, AR. Shortly after high school graduation, his family moved to Ola where he met the love of his life Tincey, married and they became lifetime residents. Immediately following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Warren entered the Army and received military training in Texas, North Carolina, and New Jersey.

In May of 1944, he boarded a troopship and departed from New Jersey headed to Britain. At the same time, Tincey, his wife (for 66 years until her passing in 2007) departed Ola for Wichita, Kansas. There, she became a “Rosie the Riveter” in the Boeing factory assembling the B-29 Superfortress bombers. This bomber, together with the courageous men who flew her, played a significant role in ending World War II, particularly in the Pacific with Japan. One B-29 Superfortress was the Enola Gay.

Upon arriving in Britain, Warren boarded another troopship headed across the English Channel en route to France. On June 10, 1944, he arrived at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. He said the vision of body parts floating on the beach was permanently etched into his brain (D-Day was June 6). He and his 4th Infantry Division fought the Germans and helped push their army back across France and Belgium.

On December 03, 1944, as his unit crossed into Germany, a German 88 artillery shell exploded above his head, spraying him with shrapnel. The shrapnel shredded both legs, his hip, and back. He was immediately removed from the front line to a field hospital. From there, he was moved to several other hospitals, finally arriving back in London. All the shrapnel was removed except a piece in his back which was located too close to the spinal cord and trying to remove it could paralyze him from the waist down.

That piece of a German 88 is still his constant companion. Warren was also awarded the Purple Heart. In April of 1945, after many surgeries, Warren was placed on a troopship and sent home to the USA. As he steamed into New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty became visible and he remembered how happy he was to see Lady Liberty. Tincey met him in New York City for a joyful reunion and 9 months later their daughter Linda (my wife) was born.

Upon their return to Ola and after sufficient healing time had passed, he became the rural mail carrier for that area of Yell County. He “carried the mail” for several decades and made many friends on his route, both old and young. Warren is the oldest living Mason in Arkansas and recently received a very rare 75-year pen. Also, he has been an American Legion member for 74 years, served as Fire Chief at Ola, and numerous other civic positions as well as being a lifetime member of the Ola Methodist Church.

It is said that God scatters his common wares with a lavish hand, but his special sorts he creates only seldom. Certainly, Warren Birkhead is one of God’s special sorts. If our country could be populated with more people like Warren and Tincey, what a wonderful place this would be. He is not just my father-in-law, he is a special friend. 

On Saturday November 21, the Ola community is holding a birthday parade for Warren. Line up will be at 1:30 at the Ola ball fields and the parade will start at 2. Everyone is invited to make signs, banners, decorate vehicles, etc. The parade will go by the community center where Warren will be inside watching and waving while his grandkids will be at the road with baskets for birthday cards.

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