Patriot, Chapter 1919
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,
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.