Sunday, November 10, 2013


When World War II broke out, Halley L. "Red" Cooper was working as a grocery store clerk.  He had previously worked in Austin delivering ice, then milk.  He was married to Lois Bird in July, 1940, and their first child, James, was born in October, 1941.  In August, 1942, he learned that Kerrville Bus Company was looking for experienced drivers.  The army had opened Camp Swift about 30 miles east of Austin.   


Camp Swift was an infantry training camp that held 90,000 soldiers at its peak, along with 4,000 German prisoners of war from the battles in North Africa. Kerrville Bus Co. was running ten or more runs a day between the bus station in Austin to Camp Swift, and needed more drivers.  Halley applied for the job and passed the driving test, when a problem arose.  He was not yet 21 years old, which was the age required for a chauffeur's license to drive a bus.  Like many people of that era, he didn't have a birth certificate, so the manager at the bus company fudged his age by two years to make him old enough.

His wife was delighted, because he was making much more money than before, and more than that, he would have a war-time protected occupation. Bus drivers were needed to transport service men around the nation for training.

Lois had reasons to not want him to join the service.  Her brother was in the Texas-Oklahoma 36th Infantry Division, on active duty when the war broke out.  She was expecting another child and felt having her brother serving was sacrifice enough for her family.

Red had tried to join the marines when he was 15.  A friendly doctor in Sabine County had verified his age as 17.  His mother had died when he was four, and his father had left him in East Texas on his own.  He had been working as much as he could, but not eating regularly.  After a few days of training with the marines, he passed out and their doctor disqualified him from the program for malnutrition.  He hitchhiked to Austin with a man who had a load of oranges, and he ate his fill.

A second child, Tammy, was born in January, 1943.  With two children and a protected job, he was safe from being drafted.  In September of 1943, his brother-in-law, James Wilbur Bird, was captured after landing at Salerno, Italy, during the first invasion of United States forces in Europe.  He didn't feel that he could remain on the sidelines while his brother-in-law was not only a veteran of combat, but now a POW.  Halley decided to go against his wife's wishes and go to war.  He knew someone  working at the draft board, and arranged to be drafted into the Navy.

Home on leave with Tammy and Jimmy

He began his service on May 31, 1944, going to Camp Wallace in Galveston County for training.  After eight weeks of training, he came home for a short liberty.

Ready to ship out

Halley went by train to Treasure Island, in San Francisco Bay.  After a short wait, he boarded the USS Hollandia.  His destination was, coincidentally, Hollandia, New Guinea, which was a large naval supply depot.
USS Hollandia

In Hollandia, Red's nickname became "Tex," which was not unusual for men from Texas.  He was promoted to Storekeeper 3rd Class.  He spent his time off gambling with good results.  As a child, I recall our mother receiving packages from him, containing handicraft items that he had made.  The boxes were always stuffed with U. S. Currency from his gambling winnings, which my mother put in the bank.  

His gambling activities were further related to me by two of my Aunt Ellen's brothers that I was interviewing for family history information on the occasion of my Aunt Ellen and Uncle Wilbur's 50th wedding anniversary.  Frank and Johnnie Hoes told me they were walking down a barracks at Camp Wallace, not knowing my father was also there.  They could hear a loud commotion down at the end of the barracks where the men were shooting dice.  Frank said to Johnnie that it sounded like Red Cooper's voice shouting at the dice.   When they got there, Red was counting his money and had cleaned out everyone in the barracks.  He gave some money to Frank and Johnny and asked them to go to the base exchange and buy enough pints of ice cream for every one in the barracks.  

He had somehow obtained a Graflex Speed Graphic camera in New Guinea, and proceeded to take photographs of the base and of the native population.  He had made friends with the chaplain, Scott Field Bailey, who was also from Austin, and who later became a Bishop in the Episcopal Church.  Chaplain Bailey let him make a dark room underneath the Chapel, which was raised on stilts.  Red also hand made an enlarger and other developing equipment out of plywood and spare parts.  

To his gambling winnings he added the money earned by shooting photos of the men for them to send home.  He sent photos to us, as well--in boxes stuffed with currency. 

Below are some of the photographs he made while in New Guinea.  Unfortunately, the names of most of the men are unknown to me.  If you recognize anyone in the photos that would have served at Hollandia, New Guinea,  between late 1944 and early 1946, please contact me with the information.  

Tex Cooper and Lt. Kyser
Lt. Kyser and Chaplain Scott F. Bailey

Dad's first Boy Scout troop

Chaplain Bailey
H. L. "Tex" Cooper

It appears that he didn't miss any days on this month's Beer Ration Card.  Note his name is spelled "Hallie." He didn't know it was supposed to be "Halley" until he got out of the service and applied for a VA loan to buy a house.  He had to get a delayed birth certificate, and found out then that the doctor he had been named after was Dr. Halley.  So, his navy records have both his name and birth date wrong.


Here is a chow hall pass.
The monkey was just one of the guys, sitting with Chaplain Bailey, who listened to all.

Native Dancers would put on exhibitions

There were native tribes living nearby, and in a village several miles up a river.  

Dad traded for a bow and arrows, which we still have today.

He also brought back a miniature outrigger carved by a native that looks nearly identical to the one shown above.

The Shellback card (top left) was received after a ceremony to initiate men who were crossing the equator for the first time.  Bottom left is his draft registration card.  The two cards on the right are driving licenses.  Having been a professional driver, he was detailed to teach other sailors and marines how to drive everything from jeeps to buses and large trucks.

H. L. "Tex" Cooper

Supply depot

Native village on the river.

Tex Cooper in middle, shirtless.

When the Japanese surrendered, numerous enemy ships came to Hollandia to surrender.  Once, Red and Chaplain Bailey went out in a small boat to accept the surrender of the ship shown below.  He said that they were reprimanded and almost court martialed for doing so, but there was no one else available.

The ship that surrendered to them was a Japanese navy command ship.

Japanese flag Tex Cooper obtained in a trade.  These flags were called "Good Luck" flags by the Japanese. They were presented to soldiers and sailors when they left town to go to war.   
They had messages wishing them good luck written on them from the towns people.
My son Warren had this framed.

In this photo and the one above, the base commander at Hollandia meets with the 
Japanese naval commanders that had just surrendered.

Shortly after Dad left for the war, Mother received notice that the owners of the little house with the white picket fence that we had been living in were moving back to Austin and wanted their house back.  There was a shortage of housing during the war and Mother, who didn't have a car and had two kids had no easy way to look for another place to live.

She finally received an eviction notice, so she took both me and Tammy to her meeting with the Judge and asked him if he was going to kick the wife and children of a serviceman out in the street.  The judge personally found us a place to live, in just a few days.  It was on West 34th Street, and is where we were living when Daddy came home from the war.

We lived in a one room duplex, and in the other unit was Josephine French and her daughter, Nancy Kathleen, who was my age, as well.  Her husband was in the army, fighting in Europe, so we had quite a community of people waiting for their loved ones to come home from the war.

While Red was overseas, Lois asked her mother and father, Julia and Jim Bird, and her sister Bette to come live with us in Austin.  Granddaddy got a job at Capitol Saddlery, Mom got a job at the bus station (see photo below) as a baggage handler.  Bette went to school and Grandmother stayed at home with Tammy and me.  It must have been cramped in that one bedroom duplex, but I thought it was wonderful having my grandparents and aunt living with us.

Uncle Wilbur's wife, Bertha, and her son, James, lived just down the street from us and we saw them nearly every day as well.

 James' cousin, Sandra Gale Hoes, who was born the same month I was in October, 1941, and her mother, Josephine Marko Hoes, spent time with us as well, while  their father and husband, Frank Hoes,was also in the navy. Frank was a brother to Bertha.  

Lois Bird Cooper on right.  

Lois took numerous photos as well, like the one below of Tammy and Jimmy holding portraits of their dad.  She would send them to him and that's how he kept up with his children's lives.  

This was in a time of wartime shortages for film, so where did they each acquire the necessary film for all the photos they each made?  Red was able to obtain the unused end strips from cameras in planes.  He would then cut the rolls and modify them to fit his camera.  Lois had a source as well, but I have forgotten that story.

Tammy and Jimmy with photos of their father.

When Red came home, Tammy didn't recognize him because she was so young when he had left.  She wasn't comfortable around him for a couple of days.  She got over it quickly and we spent many afternoons with Dad on the front porch watching all the cars go by and trying to identify them.

Tammy was not a very articulate talker and we all enjoyed her excitement every time she she could identify and point out a "tudabecker cabertable."  You never saw anyone get so excited at seeing a Studebaker convertible.  
Jimmy-- 1946

Finally home! -1946

Lois and Red

elow are some links I have found on the web with information on Hollandia, New Guinea during WWII.

Building Naval Bases in South Pacific --scroll down to Hollandia





  1. Very nice. I have seen some of these pictures, but not all. Had, of course, heard about the gambling, but not how he got into the Navy.

    1. I know you've seen the bow and arrows that used to hang above the fireplace. When he traded for them, the warrior broke the bow over his knee so it could never be used against him. Dad repaired it, wrapping twine around the break, The arrows were the interesting part, I thought. They were nearly as long as the bow, had barbed flares at the tip, and were decorated with red paint. Dad would never let us play with them because the natives dipped some of their arrows in poison.


About Me

My Photo

I have been working on my family history and genealogy for about 30 or 40 years.  My Cooper-Bird-Sauls-Thorp and Associated Families tree on Ancestry.com has over 15,000 individuals on it, with over 1500 photos and documents.  See my blog at www.TrailsToTexas.com for articles and photos of my extended families.

Blog Archive