Remembering Johnson City’s Homer L. Pease

Pease with his mother Ella Mae Raulston at their Johnson City home.

Compiled by Allen Jackson, Johnson City/Washington County Veteran’s Memorial historian. Edited by Bill Derby, Publisher.

Homer L. Pease was not your ordinary young boy in the early years of World War II. In fact, Homer who lived at 1100 East Chilhowie Ave. in Johnson City wanted to be a soldier. His only problem, he was only thirteen years old, not old enough to join any service.

In early 1942 the young Homer went down to the Marine Corps recruiter to join up but was turned away. The determined 13-year-old changed his method. He convinced a transient gentleman from Kentucky to pose as his father. When he applied at the Army recruitment center, he was accepted with his fake father’s blessing.

At only 13, Homer found himself in basic training and then volunteered to be a paratrooper and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. All this time Homer’s mother thought her son had run away from home. She didn’t know he had joined the Army.

Homer completed his training in Georgia and was shipped to England with his paratrooper unit. They continued to train and prepare for the invasion of Europe that they all knew would come. D-Day finally came and on June 6, 1944, Homer jumped into France and fought the Germans throughout D-Day getting wounded in heavy combat and earning the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for valor. Homer by now was only 15-years-old and promoted to Sergeant.

After recuperating from his wounds in England he was sent back to his unit fighting the Germans in the historic Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne. He continued on into Germany fighting at Bertesgarten, (Hitler’s Eagle Nest), and was wounded again receiving another Purple Heart. This time his real age was discovered. He was busted in rank to Private and sent home to Johnson City to recover from his wounds.

Homer Pease wore No. 96 while playing football for Science Hill after participating in the D-Day invasion.

He entered Science Hill but still longed to be a soldier and at age 16 re-joined the Army for a two-year hitch. When he got to his unit at Fort Bragg his military records caught up with him. His commander had also received a letter from Homer’s mother along with his extensive combat records.

His CO said, “I’m not going to bust you for fraudulent enlistment but I am going to send you back home again!”

Homer pleaded his case, “Sir, I have a Bronze Star for Valor, two Purple Hearts. I’m airborne qualified with a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, loads of ribbons and I want to serve my country.”

The CO was impressed but replied, “Homer, you’ve done your duty and now it’s time for you to be a kid. Go home, attend high school, play football and get an education, then come on back if you still feel the need. We’ll still be here.”

Homer returned home and took his commander’s advice, attending Science Hill. He played football as a defensive tackle wearing number #96 jersey and was in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). He had the distinction of graduating from Science Hill twice. First, in 1949, his yearbook quote states, “I Came, I Saw, I Conquered!” He later learned he had not earned all the credits he needed and had to finish high school the following year. His 1950 yearbook quote says, “I Came, I Saw, I Conquered Twice!”

He then joined the Tennessee Army National Guard and was selected to continue his education at East Tennessee State College entering the ROTC program and Milligan College. When he graduated he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the National Guard.

He continued to be active in the National Guard and at one time was a Johnson City Policeman and even drove racecars at the old Sportsman’s Speedway. In 1960 he ran for public office but due to paperwork inaccuracies was not elected.

He then changed his National Guard status to active duty in the Army and left for Fort Knox as a First Lieutenant. He was assigned to an armored unit to test new armored vehicles. He did his duties well but longed for more adventure and applied for a military advisor position but was denied.

Homer Pease as an officer in Vietnam.

In 1965, when his enlistment was up, his chance came again and he volunteered to be a military advisor in Vietnam and was accepted. He then completed the U.S. Army Ranger School and learned to speak French, a common language in Vietnam. He was a Ranger at age 36.

Now a Captain, Homer was assigned to Military Advisory Team 93 in support of an Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Regiment. He, along with an American NCO advised and led this force.

On a fateful day, November 19th, 1966 in the Kien Hoa Province while leading a ground combat operation and thinking only of the welfare of his Vietnamese comrades, Capt. Pease reached a vantage point where he could observe the entire battle and locate enemy positions. He then established contact with air support elements and proceeded to direct accurate and devastating fire on the attacking insurgents.

Capt. Homer L. Pease saved many lives that day but lost his after being hit by enemy fire. He earned the Silver Star and posthumous promotion to Major for his bravery. His citation reads, “His conspicuous gallantry in action, as he gave his life so that others might live, was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United State Army and reflected great credit upon himself.”

Homer L. Pease, who loved military service all his life, was 37 years old when he died. His body was sent back to Johnson City. He came home from military service for the third and final time.

Homer’s story is truly remarkable and has been shared by his friends, many who still live in Johnson City today. He was a kid who lived on East Chilhowie Ave., and a true hero at 15 years old. He is buried at Monte Vista Memorial Gardens, Sec. F, Lot 37, Space 4. If you get the chance, take a small flag or flower and tell Homer thanks.

Sources: U.S. Army, 101st Airborne History; National Archives; Vietnam Memorial; Press Clippings


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