This interview was conducted by Doug Black on June 19, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Summer 2006 class.
I interviewed Henry Meador after hearing him talk about his experience with World War II a few weeks ago. Mr. Meador is my next door neighbor and our families have known each other for 21 years. He is 91 years old and has been retired for 23 years. Mr. Meador was born to Hazel and Ross Meador on February 19, 1915 in the small town of Denison, Texas along with a sister and three brothers. Mr. Meador served in the Army in medical units during World War II as a dentist for military personnel. He has achieved a Doctorate of Dental Sciences through the military and married his wife Nell in Canton, Mississippi. After his time in the service he went on to practice dentistry until he retired at the age of 67. He has four children and resides in San Antonio, Texas. Since his retirement, Mr. Meador enjoys baseball and football games, likes to shoot pool, and to spend time at his ranch near brownsville.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Denison, Texas and raised in San Antonio, Texas
Did you attend school in the area? Where?
I did. Highland park Elementary, poll Junior School, Brackenridge High School.
How did you become involved in the dental field?
My father was a dentist and he wanted me to go into the same.
How did you get involved with the military?
I was in the reserves-when i was in dental school they put me in the reserves-then put me in active duty for one year.
Where were you when pearl Harbor was bombed?
I was in Brownwood, Texas at Camp uh… bowie, Texas.
How were you selected to serve overseas?
There was no selection-i was just like everyone else being sent overseas.
What was the trip overseas like? What did you do to get there?
Well i started off here at Fort Sam Houston and i went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and caught a ship there, and we went over to Ireland, and then from Ireland went to England.
What sort of services did you provide while stationed in Europe?
I was a dentist-doing dental work for the soldiers.
How long were you stationed in Europe?
Did you work with military or civilian units? both?
No, I was in the service-military.
How did you keep in contact with family at home?
Through the mail service.
What was a typical day like for you during the war?
We’d get up in the morning and have calisthenics and then go to breakfast, and i’d go to the dental clinic and take care of any dental work needing to be done. And in the evenings, we’d have supper and maybe play some cards and then go to bed.
How did you recieve updates and info about the war?
Received information about the war? Well everything was pretty darn secret, you know? We were fighting the Japanese at the same time, but i can’t answer that specifically.
What did you learn about the military during your service?
How did i learn? Well i never learned too much about the military courtesies the regular military officers had. i just did my duty of doing dental work, and that was it.
Were you sent through any training like boot camp-things like that?
Yes, I did-before i went overseas they sent me to a place up in Pennsylvania where i had a bunch of training up there.
Do you have any memories that stand out from your time in Europe?
No, not anything specific.
What was your reaction to the end of the war?
I was very happy at the end of the war but i was really sweating it out about going to Japan because Japan was still fighting us by the time the Europe war was over.
What was your reaction to the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan and the total end of the war?
Well, of course i felt sorry for the civilians that were killed over in Japan, but it certainly brought the war to an end quicker than it would have. And it saved the lives of our soldiers many times over.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. When i came back from being out of the service they wanted to know if i would stay in for one more year and make a Major out of me, and i said i wouldn’t stay in if you made a general out of me. The reason why i was so bitter about it was that they had me doing so many other duties besides dentistry.
When I was on maneuvers before I went overseas, they had me running motorpool, and what they call a p/x officer, um… what else rubbed me the wrong way…yeah running a medical supply depot for awhile and I didn’t know more about medical supplies than the man on the moon, but I mean here they put me in charge of this thing, and I wasn’t doing any dentistry, see? And here i was supposed to be a qualified dentist in the army taking care of people’s teeth. And so it kind of irked me. And we used to go on maneuvers- I remember we used to go Lousiana on maneuvers out there and when i was speaking awhile ago about being a medical supply officer that was in Louisiana, and I wasn’t doing anything but running a medical supply warehouse…
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
Also over in Europe there was a German hospital that the U.S. had taken over, and they had me running that hospital. Well i didn’t know a thing about running a hospital-but i had a good sergeant that knew what was going on, and he could talk German, and so i just more or less would oversee what he was doing. That year when i was on active duty was when pearl Harbor happened so i was up here at Camp bowie in brownwood, Texas, working at a dental clinic there. So as soon as they bombed pearl Harbor of course everything went to pot. They were sending troops over there and sending us here and there and everyplace until finally like i said earlier sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. And we went overseas and stayed there until the war was over.
I learned a lot from my interview with Mr. Meador. i was not aware of the extent of his military career and gained a lot of insight into this part of his life. i also learned how it is sometimes necessary during war to make the most of the people and resources available. Mr. Meador’s hospital experience showed the shortage of manpower during the war and how the army was forced to deal with it by assigning any man they could to different positions. The main point Mr. Meador made was that he was expected to perform many other duties and assignments that he had no prior knowledge or preparation for. i learned about the military and travel experiences MR. Meador had during his service. i was not aware he had traveled all over the United States and Europe and enjoyed hearing about each location.
Mr. Meador was very honest and forthcoming with his information and eager to share. We have been friends for a long time so conversing was easy and nothing was held back or restrained. The stories taught me that it takes all kinds of people during wartime to come together for a collective effort to support the country. The story about Mr. Meador running a hospital with his sergeant was a good example of the teamwork required to make it through some situations.
The benefits of interviewing are the first-hand and personal accounts of individuals who experienced historical events as they occurred. The details and anecdotes people provide give a personal view that is easy to identify with, as opposed to textbooks with only an overview of an event. The drawbacks could include a fuzzy memory of the occasion or a subject that the interviewee feels uncomfortable with, and these can limit the amount of info about the subject. i think the interview process is a good way to learn about history because every person that is interviewed will have different accounts and stories about the same topic. This helps to make history a diverse and interesting subject.