Because Arlie Scott taught 35 years as a professor of agriculture here at Murray State and because he served his country in such an extraordinary fashion, I thought it appropriate to honor him during this week that began with Veteran’s Day to recall his service during World War II.
Every Murray State student needs to know his name, and every Murray State student should remember it well. Scott saw enough of the war, for sure. Scott served, in former President Woodrow Wilson’s words, “to make the world safe for democracy.”
Wilson wanted to convince Americans that we should go to war in 1917, but Arlie Scott was born to John James and Nancy Elizabeth Holmes Scott in Webster County, Ky., on December 1, 1919, the year that the Treaty of Versailles ended World War I.
Born at the end of one world war, Scott grew, as the Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou would put it, “to honorable manhood,” in time to fight in a second world war.
I think I always admired Scott and the story of his life in part because of his Webster County roots. Scott graduated from Onton High School in 1938, and I graduated from Webster County High School in 1974. Here in Murray, I learned of our Webster County connection when I taught, for several years, Scott’s Sunday school class.
Believe me, I learned much more from him and the rest of the gentlemen in that class than they learned from me.
After high school, Scott joined the Army on Oct. 8, 1940, in Evansville, Ind., and he was sent promptly to Fort Knox in Kentucky for training.
Assigned to Company A, the 6th Armored Infantry, 1st Armored Division, he was promoted “to PFC in two months and two days, to Corporal in four months and four days, and to Staff Sergeant in six months and six days,” in time to parade for former President Franklin Roosevelt at his third inauguration in 1941.
Scott left the harbor in New York for Belfast, Ireland on the Queen Mary in May 1942. After five months at Newcastle, “where the Mountains o’ Mourne sweep down to the sea,” he was shipped to Manchester, England, training there for a month for the invasion of North Africa.
It was in the North Africa campaign, a few miles outside of Tunis, that Sergeant Scott was wounded and taken prisoner.
And that was the beginning of an ordeal that he would never forget, an ordeal that would forge his character.
He spent two years and four and half months in various POW camps in Italy and Germany. He remembers riding the box cars from camp to camp.
It was not until April, 1945 that he was finally liberated by the Russians from a camp southeast of Berlin.
He weighed 161 pounds when taken prisoner and 121, 40 pounds lighter, when he was freed.
And no wonder; his daily diet consisted of coffee – “Well, not really coffee, but I can’t think of the name,” he said – dehydrated rutabaga, and one slice of German black bread.
If not for occasional American Red Cross parcels, he was sure that he would have starved to death.
Several years ago, Scott gave me a recipe for the black bread, a slice of which he was given each day.
The recipe was put down by Joseph P. O’Donnell of Robbinsville, N.J.
O’Donnell found the recipe in the official record of the “Food Providing Ministry published (top secret) in Berlin”:
50 percent bruised rye grain
20 percent sliced sugar beets
20 percent tree flour (saw dust)
10 percent minced leaves and straw
O’Donnell recalled from his own experiences with the black bread, “we also saw bits of glass and sand. Someone was cheating on the recipe,” he said.
Somehow, Scott survived his long ordeal, and returned to America to marry Jayne Maxine Price, and to have two daughters, Jayne Katherine and Carolyn Elizabeth.
He came to teach animal science and agricultural engineering at Murray State in 1949, retiring after 35 years in the classroom and field on June 30, 1984.
Scott established Agriculture Field Day at Murray State and established the Alpha Omega chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Scott died at 92 on Feb. 10, 2012.
Of course, Arlie Scott was honored with the Purple Heart, a cherished reminder of heroic service rendered to his country.
Students, this humble hero lived for years with his wife at his home on Chestnut Street, the stone house tucked between the Baptist Campus Ministries and Elizabeth Residential College.
When we pass that house we should whisper a prayer of thanks for Arlie Scott and thousands of humble and able men and women like him who served and continue to serve our country with courage and grace.
Column by Duane Bolin, Professor of history