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World War II veteran shares some perspective
Gainesville man talks about his life as a soldier
World War II veteran Cecil Boswell, 96, still fits into his enlisted man’s uniform more than seven decades later. The Gainesville native wears it when he marches in the Memorial Day parade. - photo by SAVANNAH KING

More than seven decades ago, Cecil Boswell joined the U.S. Army.

The 96-year-old served as a cook in the 4th Infantry Division for five years, 22 months of which were spent in Europe. He refers to himself as a “graduated meat-cutter,” explaining he cooked the food and brought it to the troops on the front lines.

Boswell said he was a part of the second wave invading Normandy on D-Day and helped with the liberation of Paris in 1944. He also pointed out that he made friends in Paris including one particular female, who he promised to see before returning to the states.

“I hope she’s not still waiting on that railroad track,” Boswell said.

When Boswell returned home, he married and went to work for the New Holland Mill, where he was employed for 20 years.

As a reminder of his service to his country, the World War II veteran keeps a framed panoramic photograph of his division on the wall in his living room next to his medals.

The enlisted man’s uniform still hangs in his bedroom closet. Every year he wears it during Gainesville’s annual Memorial Day parade in May.

The Times talks to Boswell about his experience during the war and what life was like when he returned to Gainesville.

Question: It took three attempts for you to join the U.S. Army. Why were you so persistent?

Answer: “I had a job down here at the (Gainesville) mill where I’d work all night and sleep all day. I got tired of that. So one morning I just didn’t come home. I got off work at 6 o’clock in the morning and went downtown and sat down at the courthouse steps and joined the army. I left that day. I’d tried three times before they ever let me get in because I was too short. They told me to go home and do some stretching and then I got in.”

Q: Did many other young men from your neighborhood join?

A: “There were five or six of us from here, my neighborhood, to join that morning. Then when we got to Atlanta after about three or four days there were 12 or 15 of us that walked out of here and went to the army.”

Q: After serving for five years, what did it feel like to come home?

A: “I was always happy at home. Most everywhere I got, I was pretty well happy. I had a reputation anyway.”

Q: Was it difficult to adjust to civilian life?

A: “In the army, there was one fella who’d tell me what to do and I had one fella I’d tell him what to do. When I came back home, there wasn’t anybody to bother me. I didn’t want to but if I’da had two cents I’da went back to the Army. I liked the Army. I had a good time in the Army. Work a day and off a day. I used to work one day and off two until we had a wreck.”

Q: How did people react to seeing you when you returned. Did people treat you differently?

A: “They were glad to see me. My mother showed more concern than any of them. ...

They didn’t make no to-do when I came home. A little boat came out in the water and it had one or two horns and a drum on it. They didn’t make no to-do. we got off the ship in Maine and road a train to Augusta and then I just went on home.”