Today, at age 99, J.D. Feaster still goes with his wife, Maurene, to Thursday morning coffees sponsored by the Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce and even drives, still. He’s led a fruitful life, a long-time business man, a private pilot who once flew his own plane and a former Rotary Club president.
Feaster lives today, having survived the last major German offensive of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, which took place between December of 1944 and January of 1945. He remembers being in mountainous terrain, feet freezing and hiding with other soldiers in a foxhole, so cold their breath would turn to ice on the walls of the hole.
“Who you are in a foreign country in the bad weather and all that and people trying to eliminate you, you did everything you did to survive,” Feaster said. “That’s about what it amounted to. There were different times I was in places where I was scared.”
Feaster was born in Wichita in 1920, but for most of his childhood, he lived in Oxford. At around age 21, he was drafted into the Army in 1942, went through basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. He recalls drills, such as having to take 20-mile hike, carrying a heavy pack back.
Following basic training, he took a train to Fort Ord, California.
“Basically all I was doing was training, guarding the coastline of California because some people around LA had seen Japanese submarines,” he said. “We Were guarding rail roads and bridges. They used our unit to send on maneuvers in the Mojave desert for three months. It was 120 degrees a lot of days. There was nothing but cactus and scorpions.”
The Army was preparing to leave and fight its African campaign. Much of the terrain on the continent was similar to the desert and the men were testing their equipment to see if it would withstand the hot, sandy conditions.
Feaster didn’t go to Africa.
A sergeant in a motor crew, Feaster and other men were ordered by their colonel to start a new division, 99th division in McCone.
“I had a platoon of people I was training,” he said. “Every unit in the army is involved in a division -- engineers, radio, -- to me, it was no problem, I was a young kid. You just flew with it like anything else.”
He recalled being in England and Belgium, crossing a bridge across the Rhine River all night, hearing German soldiers and not knowing where they were, being shot at by Germans and men getting their feet frozen in the snow.
“You could stomp your feet,” Feaster said. “That could get the circulation going, but it wouldn’t stop your feet from being cold.”
The infantry lost a lot of men, he said.
“You just lived with it,” he said. “It was something you had to do and you did it.”