Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas


1915 - 1999



Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (ARMY, WWII, Pacific) Article January-February 1997

This colorful figure became a rodeo performer at age 7, a horse cavalryman (Texas National Guard) at age 14, a skilled trick-rider as a teenager, and was a stunt rider for Republic Pictures in 1930’s western movies.  He was also wounded eight times in the Pacific while serving in the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team.  This is his story.

Jesse Daniel (J.D.) Stallings was born in Terrell, Texas, in 1915, and he spent his early years on a ranch near Bryan. He rode in his first rodeo in Navasota, at age seven; and by the time he was a teen-ager he was an accomplished stunt rider, particularly skilled at taking an intentional fall without injury from a galloping horse. In 1929, J.D. enlisted at age 14 as a Private in "Machine Gun" Troop, 112th Cavalry Regiment, Texas National Guard, in Dallas, Texas. Troops of the Regiment did most of their field training at Camp Wolters (Near Mineral Wells) or Camp Bullis. Between WWI and WWII, the 112th Cavalry Regiment was called up for service by the Governor for imposition of martial law or disaster relief more times than any other unit. J.D. says he participated in at least 25 such emergency call-ups prior to 1940; two of which were to restore order and impose Texas law in the East Texas Oil Fields during the wild oil boom years. In many natural disasters, units of the 112th Cavalry Regiment often were the first relief to arrive on the scene following a tornado or flood. 

While he was in the Guard, J.D. finished High School, entered in rodeo competitions, broke and trained horses, and started to do trick riding in western movies. He became a contract actor and stunt rider for Republic Pictures, mostly in Zachary Scott films of the late 1930's. He was an expert at taking a fall from a horse running at full gallop, he did it hundreds of times in front of the cameras without ever being hurt.  Millions of moviegoers around the world have seen J.D. Stallings in his most frequent role - getting shot off a horse. 

Texas celebrated its centennial in 1936, and it did so in a big way all across the state. Dallas celebrated with an outdoor drama, the “Cavalcade of Texas” performed on an enormous stage.   J.D. Stallings was the leading actor, playing “Smokey” the cowboy; and starring opposite the actress Gladine Parr. In one scene J.D. also played a “bad guy” that abducted a little girl, played by Toinette Heffington, who was twelve years old. The production was so successful that it was repeated in 1937, as "Cavalcade of America", with J.D. again as leading man. 

He served nine years in successive positions as: Machine Gunner Private, Corporal of a Machine Gun Squad, "Line Closer" Sergeant, and Acting 1st Sergeant of Machine Gun Troop.  J.D. was then accepted for Officer Candidate School (OCS) at the Cavalry School in Fort Riley, Kansas.  He graduated in 1938 and was commissioned  Second Lieutenant, Cavalry.  He was posted to his initial assignment in “A” Troop, 112th Cavalry Regiment with duty as a “Horse Cavalry Unit Commander”.  Among his other duties, J.D. also was an instructor in horsemanship, horse-mastership, scouting, marksmanship, and horse shoeing. The 112th Cavalry Regiment was mobilized in November 1940 and was stationed at old Fort Clark at Brackettville, Texas in February 1941. 

The 112th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to ride border patrol along the Rio Grande. Upon promotion to first lieutenant, J.D was reassigned to “G” Troop which was stationed at Fort Bliss.  In July 1942, the regiment left their horses behind in America and deployed overseas to New Caledonia. The Regiment was remounted on Australian horses and then trained for nine months to go into action as a horse cavalry regiment, but; finally they were ordered to leave those horses behind also. 

Operating as dismounted cavalry, the 112th Cavalry Regiment took Woodlark Island without opposition in July 1943. Then, reorganized as a Regimental Combat Team, the 112th landed on Arawe, New Britain in December 1943.  They would see much hard fighting from then on until war's end. 

J.D. was promoted again on New Britain and assigned to 2nd Squadron Headquarters; and from that day forward, J.D. was always addressed by one-and-all as “Captain Stallings”.  He commanded a composite force that was assigned a sector on the Main Line of Resistance (MLR), and he led reconnaissance and combat patrols behind Japanese lines.  J.D. later said that four of his eight wounds in WWII were sustained on New Britain. He was twice wounded ­by bombing, once by a Japanese plane and once by one of our own B-24's that the said, “bombed short”. One of his men, Sergeant Calvin Young, would write an inspirational story for publication after the war, about how Captain Stallings (and his brother, Lt "Wild Bill" Stallings, a platoon leader) had saved his life in combat on December 23, 1943. 

Captain Stallings was also in the thick of things later in New Guinea, and on Leyte and Luzon, but; there simply isn't space enough to do justice in telling the story of his service here. Shortly after the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team (then with the 1st Cavalry Division) drive to take Manila, he returned home "on points" shortly before the end of the war. J.D. got 30 days leave, went to Dallas, and married Toni (the same Toinette Heffington that he met playing in the 1936 “Cavalcade of Texas”). The newlyweds were at Fort Riley, Kansas where J.D. was in the School Troops Regiment of the Cavalry School when VJ-Day was announced. After later assignments at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Knox, Kentucky, Captain J.D. Stallings was retired in grade on October 3, 1947.

Ever since WWII, J.D. Stallings was promoter of the 112th Cavalry Association and helped in making it one of the strongest veterans groups anywhere for a regimental size organization. He was also responsible for moving the regimental displays and paraphernalia from Dallas to its present location in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin where it is prominently displayed.  Captain Stallings was President of the Museum and Chief of Volunteer Services.  He also served as Trustee in Chapter 1919 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Jesse D. "J.D." Stallings provided this Purple Heart story for publication in the January-February 1997 issue of PATRIOT BULLETIN.  J.D. passed away in November 1999.

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