American Legion Post 227 hosts WWII Veteran Bob Harmon as Guest Lecturer

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bob Harmon addresses Post 227
Photo by Jerry Pickard
By Jerry Pickard

On Tuesday December 5, 2017 Starr Sutherland Jr. Post 227 held its monthly membership meeting. The featured speaker was Mr. Charles Robert “Bob” Harmon.

Mr. Harmon was a member of General Patton’s 80th Division, 319th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Army.

Mr. Harmon stated that Gen. Patton was a family friend, he only saw him three times during his tour of duty.

Mr. Harmon said that when his unit landed at Normandy they were afraid that the beach had been mined, but he made it off the beach without encountering a mined area.
The Army Air Force did an excellent job of providing cover against the German aircraft. The P-47’s chased them away.

He came ashore on the 5th of August 1944, and crossed France in about a month’s time. He was impressed by the bombed out buildings they encountered along the way. The allies had done a thorough job on their assigned targets.

Bob was lucky, his only wound during the course of the war was when he cut himself trying to open a can of meat in his rations.

He asked, "How can you kill a man as a Christian? (thou shalt not kill)," but said he had no trouble killing the enemy as he considered it a just war. He related the terror and stress of combat and what is now known as PTSD. Back then it was known as Battle Fatigue.

He related stories of battles along the Siegfried Line. His unit had made three attempts to cross a river and had been repulsed every time by heavy mortar and artillery fire, each time with heavy casualties. He decided he didn’t want to fight anymore, but a sergeant convinced him to go on.

On the fourth try, he and another soldier were the only ones to make the crossing. They found that they were behind a line of five German bunkers. They radioed back to an artillery unit and gave them firing coordinates for each of the first four bunkers - which were promptly destroyed.

They worked their way behind the fifth bunker and as they both could speak German they convinced the Germans to surrender. They marched the prisoners back to their headquarters and arrived in the evening. After turning in the prisoners it was too late to go back to their own unit so they spent the night there. Bob said that it was the first hot meal and dry place to sleep they had in a long time.

Vice Commander Larry Fischer on right and Sergeant-At-Arms
Randall Kehrer present a Certificate of Appreciation
 to Mr. Harmon after his presentation.
Photo by Jerry Pickard
His unit was involved in saving art and treasures the Germans had stolen.

The Germans had hidden the art in ancient Roman salt mines. The soldiers were given carbide lamps to light their way while they searched the stacks. The carbide leaked sometimes and would burn holes in whatever it landed on. Some paintings ended up with tiny holes in them.

They marched into Austria, where Hitler had gone to school. The Austrians didn’t want to admit he had been there.

While traveling through a bombed out town Bob saw an old woman sitting on a stone block. He asked her why she was sitting on the block and she replied that “This is my home”. There was nothing left of her home but rubble.

Near the end of the war they came to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The guards had all fled and left the gates open. The inmates were all starving and some had wandered into the town five miles away to look for food. When they first encountered the Americans they were afraid to beg for food but soon learned that the troops were pushovers in sharing their food.

Bob Harmon’s war ended in January of 1946 when he left Europe for home.


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