Homer Duke Harris was born to Auther Harris and Virige H. Nelly on January 30, 1928, in Nashville, TN. 1 It is not known if he had any siblings or if he was the only child. There is no information on what occupation his father held during this time; there is a possibility his father, like many other people in Tennessee, was unemployed. Two years after Homer was born, the Great Depression reached Nashville and by 1931, one in four people in the city were unemployed. 2 Due to the actions of Tennessee leaders Senator Kenneth D. McKellar, Representative Joseph W. Byrns, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and political boss Edward Crump in Washington, DC, the state secured federal dollars for New Deal programs. 3 Homer completed at least one year of high school. 4
Although not a great deal is known about Harris’ early life, there is slightly more information about his military career. However, there is still little information about his time spent in the military due to a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) on July 12, 1973. The fire destroyed between sixteen and eighteen million Official Military Personnel Files, eighty percent of which were Army papers dating from 1912 to 1960. 5
Harris enlisted in April 1946. Though World War II had ended by August 1945, Harris is still listed as serving in World War II 6 and is one of 404,000 World War II veterans who served in the Korean War. 7 His first Army release came in October 1947. 8 Harris enlisted in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA and was assigned to the Panama Canal Department, 9 one of three overseas departments created before World War I, and remained after the reorganization of divisions after World War I. The other two such departments were in Hawaii and the Philippines. 10 The Panama Canal Department defended the Canal Zone including all land, coastal, harbor, air, and sea areas. 11
Harris either reenlisted or was called back to active duty in August 1950, 12 shortly after the June 25, 1950 start of the Korean War. 13 Between 1950 and 1953, the war went through four phases defined by the levels of commitment towards unifying the Koreas. Peace negotiations started in July 1951 and extended to July 1953, when the Korean War officially ended. 14 Harris served another two years after the end of the Korean War and was discharged on June 16, 1955 as a private. 15
While still serving in the Army, Harris married Joan V. Fairhall in 1953 in Southwark, Surrey. 16 According to ship records, Joan remained in England with their daughter until May 1955, when they came over on the General Maurice Rose. 17
Upon returning from the Army, Harris and his wife lived in Nashville, TN. According to the 1958 city directory, Harris worked as a salesman. 18 Yet, by the following year his occupation is listed as sander. 19 During this time the Harris family had at least one other child, a son. 20
2 “The Great Depression & WWII,” The Tennessee State Museum, accessed July 17, 2017, http://www.tn4me.org/major_cat.cfm/major_id/8/era_id/7.
5 Walter W. Stender and Evans Walker, “The National Personnel Records Center Fire: A Study in Disaster,” The American Archivist 37, no. 4 (October 1974): 521-522, accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.archives.gov/files/st-louis/military-personnel/NPRC_fire_a_study_in_disaster.pdf.
7 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “Data on Veterans of the Korean War,” Assistant Secretary for Planning and Analysis Office of Program and Data Analyses, June 2000.
9 “WWII Army Enlistment Records,” entry for Homer D Harris.
10 Lieutenant Colonel Steven E. Clay, U.S. Army Order of Battle 1919-1941, vol. 1, The Arms: Major Commands and Infantry Organizations (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 1957), 11, http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/OrderOfBattle/OrderofBattle1.pdf.
11 Ibid., 91.
12 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” entry for Homer Harris.
13 Allan R. Millett, “The Korean War,” History Now 31 (Spring 2012) accessed July 19, 2017, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/postwar-politics-and-origins-cold-war/essays/korean-war.
15 “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” entry for Homer Harris; “U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006,” entry for Homer Duke Sr Harris.
17 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com (accessed June 2, 2017) entry for Joan V Harris, Year: 1955; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 8584; Line: 17; Page Number: 160.
20 “U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006,” entry for Homer Duke Sr Harris.
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