Below is a bit about these two members of this country's Greatest Generation.
James O. DeVaney, a veteran of WWII, was born on 16 February 1919 in Florence, Alabama. During his early teens, his family moved to Noxubee County, Mississippi. After finishing high school, DeVaney went to work for Bell Telephone Company in Georgia.
In June 1941, James was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Camp Roberts, California for basic training. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, James was transferred numerous times before embarking to England. Those assignments included Stratton Hospital in San Diego as an administrative clerk; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey for Signal Corps training; Camp Pickett, Virginia; then Lexington Signal Depot, Richmond, Kentucky and finally to Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania for further assignment.
In April 1943, James was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and in November of that year, he was sent to Massachusetts, then to Liverpool, England, where he was assigned to the 286th Assault Signal Company in St. Austell, England. Lt. DeVaney and his unit redeployed to Southampton, England in preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion of France. Then on 17 June 1944, 11 days after the initial assault on D-Day, Lieutenant DeVaney landed with his unit to begin follow-on operations
After participation in numerous operations, in December 1944, James and his unit we were redeployed back to the U.S., given 20 days leave, then regrouped at Camp Callan, California. By this time in the war, Camp Callan was transitioned from Anti-Aircraft gun training to Amphibious Assault training with preparations for the invasion of Japan. With the surrender of Japan, the flow of military personnel for an invasion was terminated and James was released from active duty.
During the time that James was in military service, his parents had moved to Mobile where he returned upon his release. He requested reemployment with Southern Bell and was assigned to the Mobile area, where he met his beloved wife, Marie Mitternight. James retired from South Central Bell in 1981 after 41 years of employment.
He continued his military service in the Army Reserve and retired as a major in February 1979. His military decorations include Armed Service Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European African Service Medal and American Service Medal.
John Bankston was born March 10, 1926 in Center Ridge, MS. In June 1944, at the age of 18, he joined the US Marine Corps, and after boot camp at Parris Island, SC, was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. Sailing on the Dutch flag ship MS J Bloemfountein, Bankston departed San Diego to Saipan, Marina Island.
Forty-nine days after the atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki, John and his unit of Marines began the occupation of Japan. Their purpose was to maintain order and discipline in support of the rebuilding of Nagasaki. He was ordered back to the United States on 8 June 1946, and received his first discharge from the Marine Corps on 9 August 1946.
On 24 June 1947, John reenlisted for an additional three years and was assigned to the Naval Aviation Training Center, Millington, TN. His Marine service took him to Guam then to Shanghai; he was attached to the 9th Marine Regiment for service in China.
After John’s service in the far-east, he was stationed in Riverside, CA where he finished high school through the United States Armed Forces Institute, then later attended Business College. He was didcharged 3 June 1950 and was called back to active duty in September of that same year. His second discharge from the USMC came in September, 1951 following the armistice negotiations in Korea.
In 1952, John entered the Civil Service System at Brookley AFB in Mobile, working in several positions, and was prominently involved with the F-105, F-86 and C-5 Program.
Due to his exposure to radiation during his unit's occupation of Nagasaki, John suffered long-term illness and the loss of two of his sons. Because of that, he was move to write a book about the veterans of that era’s struggles after the war.
John's civic accomplishments included Maryland State National Commander for the National Association of Atomic, Veterans. from 2003 to 2005; board member of the Radiated Veterans of America in 2006 and State Vice-chairman of the for Alabama Veterans.
As the Executive Chairman for Chapter 7 of the Disabled American Veterans, John made the nomination for the Veterans Home in Bay Minette, AL to be named in honor of William F. Green. He has a lifetime membership with the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and is a member of the National Association of Atomic Veterans, the American Legion, and is an Honorary Member of the Korean War Veterans.
Some of the medals John received are the Good Conduct Medal; Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon; Navy Presidential Unit Citation with star; Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal; Combat Ribbon WWII Medal; Navy Occupation Medal and China Service Medal.