Paul John Lux may have rubbed shoulders with Gen. George S. Patton in the mess hall at Fort Bliss, Texas, but he wasn’t going to share his wine with him.
As the mess sergeant, with a best friend as the supply sergeant, Lux had special access to some of the more desirable amenities of Army life.
“No, that was for us,” Lux said of sharing his wine with Patton.
Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1939, the 100-year-old World War II veteran originally from Subiaco became a mess sergeant with the 575th Anti-Aircraft Division protecting the Panama Canal Zone and later survived German shells in the Battle of the Bulge.
He was interviewed Friday at Mercy Crest Assisted Living in Barling by Anita Deason, a retired colonel and now U.S. Sen. John Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, as part of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. Lux was joined by his daughter, Jane Lux Sharum, and grandson, Shawn J. Johnson, senior assistant attorney general for Arkansas.
Lux found Army life a breeze compared to picking cotton, corn and grains on the family farm during the Great Depression with one brother, eight sisters and his parents, Ann and Alfred Lux.
“To get off the farm,” he said when asked why he joined the Army. “I just thought I’d like the Army and I loved the Army. ... I was used to rough work. I really enjoyed the Army.”
Born Dec. 21, 1917, the centenarian credits hard work in his youth for his longevity. It may also include a sense of humor.
“A horse tripped over a log and there I was,” Lux said of how he was born. “That’s what my dad always said anyway.”
The amount of wine he and his Army buddies drank during the war years may have also had something to do with it. His best buddy, Joseph McNamara, kept a cask of wine in the mess truck during the war. When it got low, they found more to put in it.
“We had a party every night,” Lux said of his time with McNamara.
His unit spent about three months in England, enjoying the local pubs, before a move across the English Channel and into Paris on Christmas Day 1944. The Battle of the Bulge had begun. They proceeded into Belgium, where they traded coffee for a comfortable bed. On the way to Germany they slept in abandoned farmhouses and foxholes in the heavy snow. Lux said he woke up in a snow-covered foxhole one morning next to a dead German soldier.
“I didn’t know he was there,” Lux said. “He didn’t say anything.”
At the close of the war in 1945, Lux was stationed with Russians. His access to the wine paid. He traded a bottle for one of the Russian’s rifles.
Upon returning home, after a stop in St. Louis, Lux came home to meet the love of his life, Ann Seiter of Morrison’s Bluff, on July 4, 1945. They were married in September of that year at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Conway and made their home in Fort Smith. They had six children. Lux worked for 30 years for Railway Express in Fort Smith.
Veterans History Project
Deason will lead a training session from 2:30-4 p.m. Thursday at the Benton County Veterans Services Office, 1204 SW 14th St., in Bentonville for Arkansans interested in learning how to help collect the oral histories of veterans for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
Space is limited and RSVPs are required. Anyone interested should contact Pete Rathmell no later than Monday firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past three years, Deason has trained more than 400 Arkansans to conduct and submit interviews with local veterans to the Library of Congress’ collection. The project is an initiative that "aims to preserve and make accessible the personal stories of American war veterans."
Since 2000, the VHP has recorded 100,000 veterans’ stories nationally. However, only 1,200 of those veterans from Arkansas. The project is open to students in the 10th grade or higher, Deason noted. Interviews must be video recorded and at least 30 minutes long.