News


Temple Emmanuel Member Gets Award for Special Military Service

By Bryant Taylor, DMin

Jesse Alli Sr., a member of the Temple Emmanuel church in Youngstown, Ohio, was recently honored for his service in the Red Ball Express, the codename for one of World War II's most massive logistics operations. The special day was marked with family, friends, and governmental dignitaries.

The ceremony started with an opening procession led by the Temple Emmanuel Pathfinders and Drum Corp, under the direction of Keyona Carter and Merriam Fields. As the young people played, all stood and saluted Alli and his wife, Lula Mae, as they entered the sanctuary.

Dignitaries from several governmental agencies took their turns presenting proclamations and sharing their appreciation to Alli. Among them was Jean Smith, representing Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan's office; Richard Atkinson, representing Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams; commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt; as well as Chaplain Earl McAway from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department Donald Lockett Post.

The Red Ball Express was in charge of a fleet of more than 6,000 trucks and trailers that delivered over 412,000 tons of ammunition, food, and fuel to the Allied armies in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) between August 25 and November 16, 1944. For members of the semi-mobile 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion, like Alli, being a "Red Ball" trucker meant that you were charged with driving battalion trucks to the Red Ball depots and picking up supplies—especially gasoline and ammo—and then ferrying them back to the 225th's positions at forward airfields along the West Wall. Though you didn't make the long hauls from Normandy into eastern France and Belgium, you kept the battalion supplied as a last, vital hop in the supply chain.

The Red Ball Express was comprised of 75 percent African Americans soldiers who were not permitted in combat units. This unit received its name because the road signs that marked the route had red balls on them. To other travelers, it was simply a sign with a red ball on it. To the men of this unit it was the secret sign marking the route of passage for them. These young drivers always traveled at night because it was too dangerous in the day. Read more at www.skylighters.org/redball/index.html.

During the ceremony, Alli commented on the fear associated with the job. He told about one night when he was driving behind his best friend when suddenly an explosion rocked his friend’s truck. When Alli went to check on him, he found only his boots with the feet still inside. Alli served for two years, eight months, and 21 days in the Army and was discharged as a corporal.

“Knowing that he was a part of this operation and history, and that he put his life on the line, makes me feel extremely blessed and proud of him,” says daughter Cheryl Alli, AWC administrative assistant to the president.