U.S. Army 764th Railway Shop Battalion
Born December 3, 1916, in Cullman, Alabama
WWII service: 1943- 1946
A sense of duty was part of Major’s life long before the war. At age 13, he quit school to help support his family after his father died. Major and his brother Felton left Alabama to work in California vineyards. Years later, in 1943, Major answered the call of duty again, this time alongside three brothers. Earle fought in the Pacific theater; Thomas fought in Europe, and in the Battle of the Bulge; Jackson served in Italy and was killed by a landmine.
“Not every soldier in a war fights it with a gun,” goes the refrain of a song Major co-wrote about his war experience at age 105. After landing on Utah Beach in August 1944, Major spent the war in France as a railway mechanic. He repaired damaged tanks, trucks, and hospital cars to resupply the front lines. When asked by a U.S. Air Corps pilot to describe his wartime service, Major said: “I cleaned up the mess you flyboys made.”
After the war, Wooten began a decades-long career at U.S. Steel repairing rail cars, while sharing stories from the war with community groups and schools. France awarded him the Legion of Honor Medal, calling him a “true hero” whose “legacy provides a moral compass for generations to come.”