Longtime Jasper dentist, 99, shares memories of World War II

By JENNIFER COHRON
Posted 12/16/18

Doyce Briscoe was born one year after the end of World War I, which many hoped would be the war to end all wars. Because it was not, Briscoe spent three years serving as a naval dental officer during …

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Longtime Jasper dentist, 99, shares memories of World War II

Posted

Doyce Briscoe was born one year after the end of World War I, which many hoped would be the war to end all wars. Because it was not, Briscoe spent three years serving as a naval dental officer during World War II.

Briscoe, a longtime Jasper dentist who celebrated his 99th birthday on Tuesday, was in the Pacific theater with the 2nd Marine Division. He spent time in Saipan and Okinawa and arrived in Nagasaki on Sept. 23, 1945 — approximately one month after an atomic bomb had been dropped on the city.

"I had a lot of close calls, but I never was hit by a bullet. I heard them go by my head a few times, though, and that was too close," Briscoe said. 

A native of Double Springs, Briscoe received his pre-dental training at Alabama Polytechnic Institue (now Auburn University) and graduated from Atlanta Southern Dental College (now Emory University School of Medicine).

Every member of his class was called into service. 

Though young men with professional training were in high demand, Briscoe was given time to take the state board exam before reporting for duty at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, in June 1943.

While in limbo, Briscoe spent a brief period working at a clinic in Birmingham.

"This guy was extracting teeth. One of the dentists told me, 'He might need some help.' I was only going to be there a few days. After a week, that guy was called into service, and I was there by myself," Briscoe said. 

The clinic charged $1 per tooth for Briscoe's services. 

Briscoe kept a journal during the war, and a scrapbook provides a detailed timeline of the three years he spent in the Navy.

After Texas, Briscoe was assigned to Camp Elliott in San Diego. In April 1944, he departed for Hawaii.

The 2nd Marine Division embarked for Saipan in June 1944 and arrived in August. 

In April 1945, they participated in the Battle of Okinawa. 

Briscoe was one of 33 dentists who provided care to tens of thousands of troops. In combat, he was also called upon for other duties, such as administering anesthesia. 

In one battle, approximately 70 men were lost when a ship traveling behind Briscoe's in a convoy was attacked. 

"About 60 of those boys were ones who I had worked on personally. It was terrible," Briscoe said. 

Briscoe returned to San Diego in December 1945 and received his discharge in May 1946. 

He worked briefly in the dental department of T.C.I. Ensley until he had the opportunity to open his own practice in the First National Bank building in Jasper.

He purchased his equipment from a fellow veteran who was moving to Montgomery.

"You couldn't get equipment because of the war. I was very fortunate to get the dental equipment, and I opened up over the bank," Briscoe said.

Briscoe later moved the practice to another location downtown. He retired in 1986.

Briscoe and his wife, Millie, were among the first couples to build a home on Smith Lake. They had two children, Patricia and Michael. 

On Monday, Briscoe's family and friends joined him for a birthday celebration at Warehouse 319.