By SALLY SEXTON
At the age of 90, James Thomson’s mind might not be as sharp as it once was, but that hasn’t diminished any memories he has from his military sting during Adolf Hitler’s suicide and the aftermath of World War II.
Thomson, born in Evergreen, Texas, north of Conroe, was working for General Dynamics in his teens prior to his enlistment at the age of 19.
“They were going to draft me if I didn’t volunteer, so I just went and signed up,” he said.
Newly married with an infant son, Thomson did his basic training in Texas and relocated to New York City, where he caught a steam ship to England.
“From England, I went to France, and from there, to Germany,” he said. “I got to ‘visit’ several countries while in Europe.”
Thomson was a member of several U.S. Army forces that helped liberate the concentration camps following the fall of Hitler and the Holocaust around Berlin in the early 1940s.
“When we found out Hitler had shot himself, it wasn’t a pleasant sight but we didn’t mind,” he said.
Thomson described a hallway inside one of Hitler’s properties as a place of torture.
“There was this one structure, about the size of a grandfather clock, with a very sharp blade on top attached to a rope that went off to the side,” he said, referring to a guillotine. “There was also a long hallway with about 13 rooms. Each room had a 4-foot deep concrete pit, with several wires crossing it. Hitler would take a prisoner and knock his head so that the guy fell onto the wiring. They would set fires inside the pit and burn them.”
Thomson was emotionless as he described the freeing of prisoners from concentration camps, adding, “It was just our job.”
Thomson received his discharge papers in May of 1946 at the Separation Center at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
He resumed his career at General Dynamics, where he ran engines and set them up for flight testing. After working there for close to 30 years, Thomson retired to enjoy a family life with a daughter, who lives in New Mexico, and his third wife, Ruby, whom he married in 2000.
“I found a girl in Weatherford that wanted to be married to me,” he laughed. “Third time was the charm!”
Looking back on his military career, Thomson, who turns 91 on Dec. 23, is unsure if he would go through the same motions as before.
“I just don’t know whether I would have volunteered again or not,” he said.