The History of a War Hero

In December of 1942, a young man from Tennessee, who we’ll call Junior, got a letter from the United States Government that would change his life forever. It was a draft notice. He was to report to Fort Orglethorp, Georgia in January, 1943, to be inducted into the United States Army, to prepare for combat in World War II.

Junior bounced around from army base to army base, from Idaho to California, Texas to Washington DC. Finally, in late 1944, Junior departed for over seas duty and arrived in Belgium, Germany. He was assigned to Company I, 18th Regiment, First Infantry Division of the United States Army.
On the 8th day of February, 1945, Junior saw his first combat action. His regiment was under serious enemy fire when a bullet struck his rifle, destroying it.  The bullet richocheted as a result, grazing Junior’s left ear, leaving him partially deaf, and burning the cornea of his left eye. His rifle saved his life that night.
He was treated at the 18th Field Hospital, and kept out of combat for 3 weeks until the bandage could be removed from his eye.  By the first of March, Junior was headed back into combat.
In mid-March, 1945, Junior and his division were in the Early Crossing of the Rhine River. On March 24, 1945, he was injured again when struck by burning shrapnel from a white phosphorous shell.  It struck him in the face, and ignited his field jacket, which was completely destroyed, although it saved his upper body from what would have been life-threatening burns.  He also took shrapnel to his left thigh.
Once again, Junior was headed to the hospital, this time the 187 General Hospital near London to have the shrapnel removed from his leg. He was there recuperating from the surgery from the 25th of March until the first of May, 1945. He would have a slight limp for the rest of his life.
By May, this brave soldier was prepared to return to battle once again. He was enroute to combat duty at Camp Lucky Strike when the war in Europe ended.
Junior’s duties in WWII included that of a scout, a rifleman, a grenade launcher, and a B.A.R. Team member. Upon returning to the United States, he was decorated with 2 bronze stars, a Purple Heart with a cluster, a Combat Infantry Badge, a World War Victory badge, a Good Conduct Medal, and several other awards.
When he returned to the states, he married, had three beautiful baby girls, and grandchildren eventually followed. Junior became known as “Pappaw,” and he was a doting grandfather to my cousins and me.

Mammaw and Pappaw, 1984.

 

Me and Cousin Carrie with Pappaw, circa 1987.
A more recent picture of Carrie and me with Pappaw, September 2010.
Pappaw with my brother, Adam. One of our favorite pictures, ever. 1987.

On November 23, 2011, Pappaw turned 88 years old. And today, November 25, 2011, he left this world for a better place.

He was a husband. He was a father. He was a war hero. He was my grandfather. I love you, Pappaw.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *      *   *   *   *   *   *   *      *   *   *   *   *   *   *      *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Author’s Note: The information included above is from a timeline Pappaw gave us a few years ago. He never talked about the war, and if asked, would change the subject. Only after years of asking did he relinquish what information I’ve included in this post. This is all we know about his years during the war. For all you history buffs, I’m sorry if I’ve gotten anything wrong. I plan to spend some time researching the movement of his battalion at a later date, and will include any amendments here I may uncover.

6 thoughts on “The History of a War Hero

  1. Kristin at My Art and the Mom in Me

    I knew that post would bring me tears even before I read it. You are in my heart and thoughts tonight, my friend.. well, as you always are anyway, you are a dear friend to me, even if we are only “online” friends.. hey, we did talk on the phone a couple of times..
    Anyway.. much love to you and your family.
    Rest in Peach, Pappaw.. the world is one good man less today..

  2. Walt

    Rejoice for he is with the Lord.
    If you have a relative or a friend who is a WWII vet, go talk to them today. They are America’s Greatest Generation and they are disappearing fast. Thank them before it’s too late.

  3. blissflower1969

    Peace to you at this difficult time. My grandfather was also in the service in World War II, and he also never spoke of it. What little I know about his stint in the Army I gleaned from conversations with Grandma, but even then I felt I didn’t know the whole truth. I probably never will. You are so lucky to have been able to get at least some information about his involvement. Enjoy your memories and know that he will always be with you, even if not physically.

Comments are closed.