Troops wading ashore at Normandy, France | Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection

BIOGRAPHY: 1943-1952

Call of Duty

In early 1944, Edgar Lee moved his family to a rented farm in the Birmingham community, and the Tippits said goodbye to Baker Lane and the life they had loved so well. For J.D., the war was beginning to weigh heavily on his mind. Many of his friends had already joined or had been drafted into the service. In June, a major push to rid the world of Adolph Hitler and his army had begun with an invasion of the French coast at Normandy.

J.D. learned that his Baker Lane pal, Jack Christopher, would soon join the ranks of the fighting force in Europe. The farm deferments that had kept him out of the fighting and on the front lines of cotton production didn't seem to be sacrifice enough.

"J.D. and I talked about everything," Jack Christopher recalled. "And at one point he said, 'I could get another deferment, but I just don't feel right about it. All these other guys are out there. They're going into the army, training,
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. Tippit, age 20
and going over seas; you'll be going, too.' He said, 'I just don't feel right being on the outside any longer.' " [1]

J.D.'s sister, Joyce, remembers the day in July, 1944, that he made up his mind to do something about it. "He'd been acting like he had something on his mind," Joyce recollected, "and he was real edgy, which wasn't like him because he was a pretty carefree, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Anyway, on this particular day he had gone to the field to plow and something broke. And he came in, turned the team of mules loose in the pasture, and went into town. When he came back that evening, he told the family that he'd enlisted in the army. And I remember, it was like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders." [2]

Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection
J.D.'s basic training booklet (inset) and an aerial view of Camp Wolters near Mineral Wells, TX

By the end of July, 1944, J.D. had begun seventeen weeks of basic training at Camp Wolters near Mineral Wells, Texas - one of the nations largest training centers which covered 7,500 acres and carried a troop capacity of 24,973. [3] Decorated war hero Audie Murphy also went through his basic training at Camp Wolters.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Jack and Chris (ca.1944)
While J.D. was away, his best friend and Baker Lane pal, Jack Christopher, married J.D.'s sister, Chris.

On furlough in mid-November, J.D. told his new brother-in-law about his intention to join the airborne and train to become a paratrooper - America's new, elite fighting force. J.D. knew it would require a strenuous training period, but it was something he wanted to do - perhaps, something he felt he needed to do to make up for the years of farm deferments.

"If something needed to be done, J.D. never slacked on doing it," Jack recalled. "His service record bares that out. Let me tell you, being a paratrooper is some of the roughest stuff in the army. And he volunteered for that. That says a whole lot about his character." [4]

At twenty, J.D. Tippit rode the rails to Fort Benning, Georgia to train with the 17th Airborne Division. It takes guts to jump out of an airplane loaded down with combat gear, and J.D. was not immune to the fear that crosses men's minds as they circle the jump field at two-thousand, fifteen hundred, one thousand, and finally six-hundred feet. But, he did it, and earned his wings as a paratrooper.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
A page from J.D.'s paratrooper training booklet on which he expressed his fears
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D.'s jump record in his own hand

The 17th Airborne Division, under the command Major General William M. (Bud) Miley, was one of five airborne divisions created by the U. S. Army during World War II. The Motto of the 17th Airborne Division Association is "THUNDER FROM HEAVEN".

Its shoulder patch insignia was a golden eagle's talon, signifying the razor-sharp claws of the American Bald Eagle, as it was about to strike terror into the heart and soul of enemies of the United States.

On March 24, 1945, the 17th Airborne troopers conducted a massive
17th Airborne Division Insignia patch
assault across the Rhine River, along with the British 6th Airborne Division, to seize and hold the high grounds just east of Eiersfordt and the bridge over the Issel River. Additionally, they were ordered to protect the right flank of the 18th Airborne Corps and to establish contact with the 1st Commando Brigade northeast of the German city of Wesel, with the 15th British Division, and the 6th Airborne Division. This operation was the largest single-lift of the war, utilizing 1,042 aircraft and 1,380 gliders in the initial assault.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and wings
The 17th Airborne Division was engaged in combat for 65 days, sustaining 6,130 casualties, including 1,226 killed in action. In the process, it had won four Congressional Medals of Honor, more than any other airborne division, all awarded posthumously. [5]

In January 1945, J.D. shipped out to France to join parachute infantry replacements for the 513th Battalion, 17th Airborne. On a patrol near the Rhine Valley, J.D. stumbled while carrying a fifty-caliber machine gun and
hurt his leg. When his name later came up on a list of Purple Heart candidates, he refused it, telling senior officers that his injury was due to his own negligence. That was J.D. He was later awarded the Bronze Star for his combat duty. [6] After the war ended in Europe, J.D. Tippit shipped stateside with troops destined for the war in Pacific. But six months later, J.D. received his discharge and returned to his father's farm in Red River County. J.D.'s younger brother Wayne wasted no time pestering the returning warrior.

Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection
The Tippit siblings after the war (ca.1946)
L to R: Wayne (age 10), Joyce (age 13), Don (age 16), Christene (age 19), and J.D. (age 22)

"I remember it just like it was yesterday," brother Wayne grinned. "J.D. had an old '32 Chevrolet and he was painting it with a brush in this sandy area. I was barefooted and I was running around kicking sand. And he told me not to do that 'cause it would get in his paint. A short time later, he was bent over painting a wheel and his pants were bowed out in the back. So, I went and got a double-hand full of sand and just filled his pants up. 'Course we had a little race right after that for about thirty minutes. He never did catch me." [7]
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and Marie (ca.1946)

On December 26, 1946, J.D. married his high school sweetheart, Marie Frances Gasway in Clarksville, Texas. J.D. was twenty-two, Marie just eighteen. J.D. took his new bride to Dallas in search of work. [8]

Post-war Dallas was a paradise of opportunity and for the Tippits the big city creature comforts were a far cry from the rustic farm life of Red River County. Electricity, indoor plumbing and public transportation were abundant.

For a while, they lived with J.D.'s sister, Chris and her husband, Jack, until the young couple could find a place of their own. "It was a very bonding time," Marie recalled warmly. "J.D. had a loving, close-knit family." [9]
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and Marie on West Commerce

Housing was sparse, but J.D. and Marie soon found a flat on West Commerce Road and J.D. landed work with the Dearborn Stove Company and later, Sears, Roebuck & Company. The times were good - filled with family, friends, and visits to the Texas State Fair. [10]

In the fall of 1949, J.D. was laid off from Sears, just four months before he and Marie expected the arrival of their first child. With few options, J.D. decided to move back to Red River County and try his hand at farming. The couple took up residence in the farming community near McCrury, Texas, and on New Years Day, 1950, Marie gave birth to Charles Allan. [11]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and son Allan (ca.1950)
J.D.and Marie were proud, doting parents and J.D. was anxious to make a go of farming, where he could raise a strong, healthy family.

He enrolled in a Veterans Administration sponsored vocational school at nearby Bogota and took classes in auto mechanics, general shop training, and farming. For a time, the hard work and dedication looked like it might pay off. [12]

But the fickle East Texas weather played havoc with
the lives of the farmers along the Sulphur River basin, including J.D. and his young family. "When J.D. lived in McCrury," Jack Christopher recalled, "Basil Robinson and his Dad lived on an adjoining farm. It was kind of a community thing there, a lot like it was on Baker Lane. J.D met Basil there and Basil had given up on farming and moved to Dallas where he joined the police force. Well, J.D., of course, he wanted to farm, but it seemed like everything was against him. If it wasn't dry spell, it was floods. The Sulphur River would wash out the entire area down there.

"So finally, J.D. said, 'Well, I got to do something.' So when Basil would come home from Dallas, J.D. would talk to him about the police force. And he grew more and more interested in police work." [13]

"I tried to talk him out of it and did - once," Marie said. "That lasted about a month. But obviously, that's what he wanted to do. So I said, 'If that's what you want to do, I'm behind you 100 percent. I just want you to do what you're happy with.' " [14]

Next: 1952-1963


  1. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  2. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  3. Tippit Military Files, 1944-46, National Personnel Records Center, Reconstruction Branch, St. Louis, MO.; FBI Report from SAC, St. Louis, May 15, 1964, FBI RIF 124-10019-10142 [RETURN]
  4. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  5. Basic Training with the 17th Airborne Division, 513th and 514th Airborne Infantry Regiments, Camp Pickett, VA. 1949, The Dorville Corporation, Philadelphia, PA, p.5-7 [RETURN]
  6. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999; Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  7. Videotaped interview of Wayne Tippit, November 13, 1999; Videotaped interview of Christene Christopher, November 12, 1999; Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  8. CE2985, p.4, 10-11 [RETURN]
  9. Granberry, Michael, "Pain Lingers for Tippit's Widow," Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2003 [RETURN]
  10. Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  11. CE2985, p.2-5, 10 [RETURN]
  12. Ibid, p.3, 5; Texas Attorney General's Files on the Kennedy Assassination (TAGF), Vol.12, Letter dated July 17, 1952 [RETURN]
  13. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  14. Granberry, Michael, "Pain Lingers for Tippit's Widow," Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2003 [RETURN]