Uncle Bob and Aunt Jackie Arnold Black
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Uncle Bob---Robert Sherman Black (1920-1975)---son of Sherman and Ellen Whitehead Black and twin brother of Uncle William (Bill) Wilson Black (1920-2001), husband (1946) of Jackie Arnold Black (1924-1996), and father of (Robert) Sherman Black, Jr. (1947-1970), (William) Rogers Black (1958-yyyy), and Jay Arnold Black (1959-yyyy).


STORY # 1: My reflections upon Uncle Bob's life---
Uncle Bob came out of the 1930's depression years working in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps--- a public works program run along military lines) and when the CCC was disbanded in the late 1930's, he joined the US Marine Corps as did many of the young men in the CCC program.  On the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) the entire U.S. Marine Corps, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, was stationed in the Philippines at Corregidor and the Bataan Peninsula.  Uncle Bob, along with the entire U.S. Marine Corps, was taken prisoner by the Japanese Imperial Army in May, 1942.  The Japanese culture at that time considered death in the name of the Emperor of Japan to be the duty of every soldier despite all odds---hence Japanese POW's were severely mistreated because their superior officers ordered them to surrender rather than die for their country in what would have been a hopelessly desperate and ultimately futile combat battle.  Uncle Bob survived the infamous "death march" to the sea and was put in the cargo hold of a ship bound for Japan without food or water or any sanitation facilities.  The stench itself was unbearable.  For the duration of the war, he was treated as a slave without shoes and just rags for clothing where he worked in a lead mine in Japan.  Working barefoot in freezing water, by day's end he would rub his legs and feet with snow to keep his circulation going during wintertime.  He survived solely on rice and a bit of fish that came his way and by war's end he weighed only 98 lbs. (Uncle Bill's unpublished manuscript says his weight got down to 120 lbs., but my personal recollection was 98 lbs).  Miraculously, Uncle Bob survived this long  inhumane ordeal until Japan itself finally surrendered in May, 1945.  When finally liberated after three years of harsh captivity,  he was suffering from berry-berry and disentery.
Looking back over the years I think that one of the reasons Uncle Bob was able to survive the terrible human condition of being a Japanese POW for the entire duration of the war, whereas most did not, was the deprevation he learned to live with when he, along with his brother, Uncle Bill, and his father, Sherman Butler Black, literally lived off the land in a cabin near Norfork, Arkansas during  the Great Depression years of 1934-36.
After his liberation at the end of WWII, Uncle Bob was airlifted back to the United States and sent to Great Lakes Naval Hospital where he recuperated for many months before being allowed any visitors.  And it was at Great Lakes in the fall of 1945 that I met Uncle Bob for the very first time.  He was promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps, the highest rank then obtainable for an enlisted man, and was honorably discharged, having fulfilled his duty to his country.
Uncle Bob went on to college under the GI Bill of Rights, receiving both a bachelor's degree followed by a master's degree from the University of Virginia.  And in 1946, in a double wedding ceremony which I attended, Uncle Bob married Jackie Arnold whom he had known as a teenager from his Arkansas days before the war, as his twin brother, my Uncle Bill Black, married Juanita Reinhold.  Uncle Bob and Aunt Jackie had three children---Sherman (now deceased), Rogers, and Jay.  Uncle Bob went on to become a principal of a public school in Arkansas where the Black family had its roots.
My own personal recollection of Uncle Bob after WWII was that he was a very quiet, non-gregarious, and very moody person---one who was difficult to get to know, unlike his twin brother, my Uncle Bill. who was always a very out-going guy.  Looking back now to those days, I think Uncle Bob suffered from severe depression which went undetected and hence, untreated, for all those many post-war years.  After overcoming so many obstacles that lesser men could not have delt with and despite his obvious later success as both a family man and an educator of young people, Uncle Bob ultimately could not overcome his final obstacle---post-traumatic stress syndrome---which went undiagnosed and hence, was never treated.  And so in the end, Uncle Bob understandably took his own life in 1975 when he was but 55 years old.   May God grant him His Grace and His Forgivenss and may God rest his troubled, weary soul.
....His nephew, H. Bruce Downey, September, 2003

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STORY # 2: The early years of the life and times of Robert Sherman Black (1920-1975) as told by his twin brother, William Wilson Black (1920-2001)...  


" Robert (Bob) was the twin brother of this writer, born of the marriage of Sherman B. Black to Ellen S. Whitehead in 1918. Bob was born at 9:51 on July 26, 1920 and I followed at 10:09, ten minutes later. Our father assisted the doctor in the front bedroom of No.12 Cushing St. in Craddock, Va. After the deliveries were over our father said never again. My Mother was 35 years of age and the deliveries were anything but easy. True to his word, there never was another time. Bob was larger at birth, weighing 9 lbs. while I was 8˝ lbs. and I never did catch up to him in size. I was the prettier baby according to all reports but he grew up much better looking (we were not identical twins) and acquired a better education. Bob grew to 6'l" and had a normal weight of 180, while I grew to 5'11" and 170 lbs. I mention this now as the last 20 years of our life were not normal, as you note later on.


Bob and I always maintained good relations in our younger years. We boxed quite a bit and I almost always ended up the winner, but only on points. I was faster than Bob on my feet and mastered the rudiments of boxing a bit better. I usually won with my left jab that held Bob at bay. He had a tremendous right hand when he was able to land it. In the 6 or 8 times we boxed each other he only landed grazing right hands on me but I certainly did feel them. The thing that saved me was that I hit him 6 or 7 blows for each one he landed on me. I recall one day in Park Manor School when we were in 6th grade. The boxing champion of the school collided with Bob and made a nasty remark. Bob hit him once with his right hand and the kid was knocked cold. Bob was never bothered again by any of the kids in that school. To explain why Bob and I boxed so many times with each other, the other kids were afraid of his right hand. I could stand up to him because I was faster and a better boxer.


Bobs life followed mine till about 17 years of age. He did not have too much luck in picking up odd jobs and sometimes when he did land one he ended up slugging the straw boss and of course had to leave the job, usually with no pay. I was more fortunate and picked up a few days work from time to time. There just were no full time jobs available in those days. The great depression was on and the unemployment rate was somewhere around 35%. Added to that Bob fell in with some neighborhood boys that did things like shoplifting, etc.


Bob decided to join the CCC at 17 years of age. The Civilian Conservation Corps utilized young men to work on state parks, roads, etc. and they were paid a small weekly wage and given their room and board. Bob was always an adventurous type, while I was more of a home boy, though I was much more active in sports than he was. I also seemed to have better coordination than Bob. I was also a happy type and Bob, withdrawn. I say all these things to point out how different we were in disposition as well as in physical makeup. If people did not know us they wouldnt think we were twins.


Bob returned home in 1938 and a short time later enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. As stated before Bob was daring, though a bit rash at times. He never picked fights but always jumped at the chance to engage in fisticuffs. Unlike boxing, Bob was able to land his right in street fights, so generally won out. I always said if he had my speed and boxing ability and left jab he would probably have made it as a professional boxer.


Bob's discharge from the Marines was being typed up when war broke out. He was a machine gunner and spent the next few months that the fighting lasted killing Japs by the dozens, probably hundreds. One time when he had too much to drink (the only time he would talk about his war experiences) he told me of a suicide charge by the Japs. He said they were stacked up like cordwood in front of his gun emplacement and they kept coming.  They finally overran Bobs position and the last thing he remembered was being hit in the head with a rifle butt. He woke up some time later and joined the other prisoners. There seemed to be very little security as the Japs felt the prisoners had no place to go anyway. Bob and several others sneaked off that night and made their way to Subic Bay. They pushed a log in the water and pushed and swam to Corregidor. He spent the balance of the fighting there till the U.S. surrender in May, 1942. He told me on one occasion he jumped into a foxhole at night and joined the General Officer that McArthur had left behind in charge of Corregidor when he left for Australia. His name slips my mind at this moment.  EDITORS NOTE: The name of the commanding officer left in charge of the U.S. Marines in the Philippines was Maj. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright.  General Wainwright was the highest ranking U.S. officer taken prisoner in WWII and may have been the highest ranking U.S. officer ever taken prisoner in the entire history of the United States.  General Wainwright lived to see the day when the Japanese Government formally surrendered on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in 1945 as he stood at attention on the deck of that battleship and saluted General Douglas A. MacArthur.   


For the next 3˝ years Bob spent time in two separate prison camps, one at Cabanatuan and he even put some time in the Japanese province of Honshu, working in the lead mines there. His weight fell from 190 to 120 pounds. When the Japs slaughtered horses, mules and cattle for food, they threw the entrails to the prisoners which were cleaned and used for soup. Its a horrible thought for those who have not had that experience but Bob said the soup was delicious. The diet of the prisoners consisted of anything they could scrounge that was edible. They all consumed roasted grasshoppers which Bob said tasted like peanuts, bees, and snakes were also eaten.


Many of the prisoners died from malnutrition but Bob was among the more fortunate ones and though his weight continued to drop, he survived the next 3+ years. Bob obtained a book on Catholicism and practically wore it out reading it over and over. It was the only thing that kept him from losing his mind. While malnutrition was the reason for the death of so many prisoners I just wonder if it was not the fact that they had nothing to occupy their minds and that may have contributed heavily toward their deaths. At least when Bob read the book he was able to get his mind off the deplorable conditions under which they existed.


Bob was liberated when the Japs surrendered and he weighed about 120 at the time. I asked him how he managed to keep his weight even to 120 and he said he was lucky at scrounging and also had a strong stomach that would keep down almost anything. The one thing he could not stand for years was rice, he ate so much of it. Some of it was wild and the prisoners would gather it without the knowledge of the Japs. This added to their diet, as they still received their rations from the Japanese. Bob always maintained that the prisoners were given the same food as the Japs ate, but they kept the choice parts and gave the prisoners the rest...."


...excerpts taken directly from an unpublished manuscript written by William Wilson Black before his death in 2001 at the age of 80.

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Uncle Bob---Robert Sherman Black (1920-1975)---son of Sherman and Ellen Whitehead Black and twin brother of Uncle William (Bill) Wilson Black (1920-2001), husband (1946) of Jackie Arnold Black (1924-1996), and father of (Robert) Sherman Black, Jr. (1947-1970), (William) Rogers Black (1958-yyyy), and Jay Arnold Black (1959-yyyy).