Brothers in arms: Siblings with ties to county recount service in WWII
by Megan Thornton
November 10, 2011 11:59 PM | 3152 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brothers Andy and Charles Roach both served in the military during World War II. Andy served in the 25th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army. The 87-year-old was in the Army for 2½ years, two of which he served in the South Pacific. Charles, 86, entered the Marine Corps in December of 1944. He went to boot camp in San Diego, and was enlisted for a year before he contracted rheumatic fever and was discharged.<br>Cherokee Tribune/Todd Hull
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CANTON — Thomas A. Roach and Charles Roach are brothers who both served in the United States military, yet have very different stories to tell. Their legacy of service, though completed so many years ago, reflects the true meaning of honoring servicemen and women on Veterans Day.

Both brothers attended Canton High School before they joined the United States Armed Forces. Older brother Thomas, who goes by Andy, served in the 25th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army. The 87-year-old was in the Army for 2½ years, two of which he served in the South Pacific.

Andy was drafted in August of 1943. He went to Tyler, Texas, for basic training and finished in December of that year.

His unit then left for San Francisco to go overseas on Jan. 1, 1944.

Andy said he didn’t know where they were going, and about three or four days into traveling, his unit was told it was heading to New Zealand. During his deployment, he took jungle training in New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean and saw 65 days of continuous combat while on Luzon, the main island in the Philippines.

“It was difficult to get through,” said Andy, whose role was mortar gunner.

He recalled the white phosphorous shells used at the time as one of the most dangerous aspects of wartime.

“They were highly explosive,” he said. “They exploded into white particles that were red hot and would stick to your clothes and skin.”

Andy said he also remembered the announcement of Japan’s surrender soon after the resistance had ceased on Luzon.

“On this particular night, it was drizzling rain but I still decided to go see the movie,” Andy said.

Andy said that other soldiers had put up a movie screen at the bottom of the mountain after the fighting had ended, and many of his comrades went to watch films in the evenings.

“I saw headlights coming in our direction,” Andy said. “It was the colonel assigned to our division. He went up on stage and announced Japan had surrendered.”

Japan actually surrendered a few days later, but Andy said the news was welcome. Andy and his division soon left Luzon to become part of the occupational forces in Japan for six months. He left Japan on Jan. 1, 1946, making his deployment overseas exactly two years to the day.

After returning home, Andy received a Bronze Star, which is usually awarded for acts of merit or bravery.

His brother joked that he received the honor for “being a good boy.”

After Andy’s service, he went on to graduate from Mercer University with a law degree in 1950. He then began working as an FBI special agent. He resigned in 1953 and began practicing law with Judge Marion T. Pope, Jr. Andy also served two years as a state senator and 10 as a state representative.

He currently resides in Canton and is now a senior member of the Law Firm of Roach, Geiger & Caudill. Although semi-retired, he regularly goes to his law office.

Andy and his wife, Louise, have three children and nine grandchildren.

Andy’s son, Tom Roach, is the Cherokee County School District school board attorney. Andy held his son’s position beginning in 1954 up until his retirement when Tom took over.

Andy’s brother, Charles, 86, entered the Marine Corps in December of 1944. He went through boot training in San Diego, and was enlisted for a year before he contracted rheumatic fever and was discharged.

After Charles was discharged, he went to the University of Georgia. He began teaching and coaching at a small school south of Atlanta after graduation. He soon became the assistant principal and spent his time teaching five classes a day and coaching every boys and girls sport at the school.

He said his salary was $1,700 a year.

“Not $1,700 a week, as you might guess,” he joked.

Charles went on to become school superintendent in Henry County, then finally settled in his role as principal at Stone Mountain High School where he and his wife, Louise, raised their children.

Charles also earned his master’s degree at the University of Georgia as well as two certificates in school administration and school curriculum.

Charles’ son, Cherokee County Superior Court Judge C. Michael Roach, was 52 when he died at his Canton home of complications from a brain tumor in December 2000. Michael joined his uncle, Andy, in his private practice in Canton after completing law school in 1974. In addition to serving individual clients, he served as attorney for the Cherokee County School Board and the Cherokee County Water Authority.

For this year’s Veterans Day festivities, the brothers plan to attend the American Legion Post 45 parade and dinner. The two have been members of the American Legion for more than 65 years.

“It’s a very worthwhile organization, and I’ve enjoyed being a member,” said Andy. “It allows you to associate and get to know all of your comrades who were in various branches of the service.”

They, along with their families, attend every year to spend time with friends and honor those who have died.

Andy and Charles are very humble about their service to their country.

“If you were of age, you went like everyone else,” Andy said. “You did what you had to do.”

Andy added that he was glad he was able to do his part.

Charles never served overseas, but said he lost several friends in the Battle of Iwo Jima and appreciates being able to honor them on Veterans Day.

“Had I not gone into the hospital, I would have been with my outfit landing in Iwo Jima,” Charles said. “I lost a lot of friends to that battle.”
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