WWII Vet – the Texas Tarzan

Texas Tarzan swings from a tree like the movies

Texas Tarzan swings from a tree like the movies

HOUSTON (Tribune News Service) — In April 1944, Paramount News cameras came to Houston to document the living situation of one George Witters, a young World War II veteran living in a forest like a “Texas Shipyard Tarzan.”

When Witters, 25, wasn’t working the overnight shift at a nearby shipyard as a welder, he lived in a treehouse, hence the Tarzan angle taken by narrator Jerry Macy.

Apparently Witters’ story was of national interest, as news syndicate UPI even caught up with him for a story that same month.

The ex-soldier had had a hard time finding a place to live in the area so he took to the trees just two miles from work. He had been discharged from the service that past September.

“There is really nothing complicated about tree living if you approach it with determination,” Witters said.

George Witters

George Witters

At around this time, a year or so before the end of the war, many enlisted men were coming back to the United States, looking for work and housing. Many of those were returning injured or otherwise forever changed.

Witters told reporters he had been discharged from the U.S. Army due to ill health after being assigned to Fort Sill.

According to UPI his home was a 9-foot-long tent about 45 feet above the ground, anchored on a platform. He only had to climb 30 feet up – taking the first half up a ladder before climbing the rest of the way – to get home. He cooked his meals on a hearth-like brick oven he constructed on the ground below, which apparently would have been somewhere near the Houston Ship Channel.

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If the landowner wasn’t charging Witters rent for living in that tree, he was probably able to save a great deal of money at the time. No rent, no utility bills.

He told UPI that his weekly expenses were around $4 and that he saved money on bus rides to work by actually running to work.

“My living expenses are about $4 a week and they wouldn’t be anything if I didn’t have to buy groceries,” Witters said

Witters made do with old Army supplies and got water for cooking and cleaning at a nearby lake. He surrounded the area with barbed wire and posted a “KEEP OUT” sign to ward off uninvited guests.

UPI reported that the former Louisiana State University student had studied zoology and biology among other sciences at the Baton Rouge school before the Army came calling in 1941.

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“The Witters Plan, as it came to be known, is a postwar program, a during-the-war program, a design for living and just a real good idea, all rolled into one,” the paper wrote.

“Lest it be thought that Mr. Witters is a feckless fellow, with no thought of the morrow, it should be mentioned that he has long-range plans. He means to live in the tree until the war is over. Then he intends to* go to Alaska and make his living by catching fish,” the paper continues. Witters told reporters that his wages not spent on groceries were going into war bonds he was hoping to later cash in to buy a boat.

It’s not known if he made it to Alaska after all.

If Mr. Witters is still alive today in 2016, he is nearing 100 years old.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS!!

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/slideshow/Texas-style-Tarzan-lived-in-a-tree-to-save-131483/photo-10441494.php

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 Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes –

Roy Bayliss – Kernstown, VA; US Navy Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Martin PBM Rescue plane

June DeYoung – Chicago, IL; US Navy Wave, WWII

"Tribute to Courage" by Rich Thistle

“Tribute to Courage” by Rich Thistle

Grant ‘Gully’ Gullickson – Taylor, ND; US Navy, WWII, ETO, USS Corry Mississippi

Emmett Kines – Grafton, WV, USMC, WWII, PTO, F/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Selwyn Olney – Whangarei, NZ; Reg. L # 265928, WWII, 21st Battalion

John Macleod – Wallingford, VT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 457th Artillery/11th Airborne Div.

Frank Penna – Canastota, NY; USMC, WWII, PTO, E/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Fosdick Smith – Amherst, NY; US Merchant Marine, WWII

Ronald Vosmer – Denver, CO; USMC, WWII, PTO, E/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Lloyd Weems – Grand Junction, IA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 34th Div., Bronze Star

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 5, 2016, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. I would love to know the end of this story. The young man sounds both damaged and very together. When I was a child my father built an elaborate tree house high up in a dying Monterey Pine. I tried to post a picture of it here, but without success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many of us were curious about the end of this story, but nothing has come from further investigation so far. If only we had become informed about him earlier. Thank you for reading his story, Hilary.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent piece of post discharge story, maybe somewhere up in the Alaskan mountains, an old man with memory’s is happily fishing for Salmon.
    Pity there is no sequel to this story

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wish there had been a follow up to this because it is such a unique story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Too bad they didn’t follow up on the story.

    This is, of course, still happening. If not in trees, in underpasses, under bridges, and near public parks. Places like Colorado Springs have whole (unofficial) communities of people living not far from expensive housing. The landscape of the place make it easy to hide from the public literally under the public’s nose.

    Like

    • Very true, only Mr. Witters was doing this on purpose. I put it in so the readers didn’t just have war to read about. I am well aware of the sorry state of affairs for our veterans while our politicians continue to aid our illegals. [I know that isn’t a politically correct statement – but think about, where would WE be without our troops?]

      Like

  5. Sadly we have lots of ex-forces personnel living rough in tents in the woods. The government wanted them to fight their wars, but they’re not quite so interested when their mental health is poor.

    Like

  6. Very interesting story. Hope he did make it to Alaska!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A real sense of the pioneer spirit still existing in the 1940s. Great stuff, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wish we could find out what happened to the guy. He definitely was resourceful. But like these days, a commentary on the problems returning Vets face as they look for jobs and housing.

    Like

  9. What a story! Wish we could find George!

    >

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  10. What an amazing story. Just hope he found what he was looking for in his life.
    All the best. Kris.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this guy. I started sailing out of Clear Lake in 1987, and working in the area in 1990. For twenty-five years I’ve been around the shipyards, the bars and cafés, and the old-timers, and never have heard even a whisper of his story.

    Sunday morning, I’m going to call the really early morning fishing show (starts at 4 a.m.!) and ask if anyone knows anything about him. The hosts were born and raised in the area, as were their parents and grandparents — it’s the same for a lot of the callers. Someone is bound to know something about him. At least, I’d think so. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fascinating! I’d love to know what happened to him. Have you tried searching on any genealogy sites? I don’t want to repeat work you’ve done,but if not, let me know, and I could give it a quick look.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t had any luck locating additional info or even an obituary. Maybe someone else will know where to look.
      Thank you for the link,.the story sounds familiar, but i had forgotten about it.

      Like

  13. There’s an interesting twist on the “return from war” story. I hope he made it to Alaska.

    Liked by 1 person

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