So began the WONDERFUL and heartfelt message from the winner of the D-Day Militaria General Order/Citation Contest, Mr. Travis Archie. Read more about his grandfather below. Congratulations, Mr. Archie!
Look for future contests here on the blog!
There’s an old saying that I’ve heard that “A Grandparent is a child’s link to the past.” I would most assuredly agree with this. My late Grandpa was Technician Fourth Grade (at the time of his discharge) Walter C. Archie of Co. E, 303rd Infantry Regiment, of the 97th Infantry Division, and he, in more ways than one was my link to the past.
My earliest memories, and in fact most memories of my childhood involve him, and the stories he had to tell. He was born in 1923 in Dorena, Missouri in the “Bootheel” region of Missouri, to Tennessee parents. They moved around a lot but stayed in the Mississippi River Valley of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri…wherever his father could find work in the impoverished time and region. In 1930 his father died leaving his mother to take care of nine kids. This was of course, in the midst of the Great Depression and so Grandpa with about the equivalent of a third grade education, had to drop out of school, pick up a heavy duty canvas bag, and go to work in the cotton fields of Western Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
I grew up listening to his stories of how hard life was, how simple things couldn’t be had. Shoes were a winter time luxury (after the fall harvest), and it seemed no matter how much one toiled and worked, it seemed for naught. So when World War II broke out, it seemed that (among other factors) escape from poverty and monotony may have been some motivation to join up. It was passed down to me from family members, that he probably didn’t have a good meal until he enlisted. Along with Basic Training and Infantry school, Grandpa went through desert training at Camp Swift, Texas, jungle training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, urban, forest, and cold weather training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Amphibious training in Southern California.
They were originally slated to go to the Pacific Theatre of Operations, but Hitler launched the Ardennes Offensive aka. “Battle of the Bulge” from our perspective. The loss of nearly 80,000 Americans during the battle prompted the army to send the 97th Division to Europe as fresh troops for the final push into Germany. They fought in the Ruhr Pocket Campaign. Street-to-street, house-to-house, factory-to-factory fighting through the industrial center of Germany.
At some point Grandpa was one of a relatively small number of his twelve-thousand man division to receive the Bronze Star, of this I am very proud. He, however, could care less. When I was searching for knowledge on the subject (which in truth I always am), I naively asked Grandpa what he did to earn the medal….If I would have known what I know about veterans of combat and the psychological problems they have due to things that are even in their distant past, I never would have foolishly asked him. His response was simply “I don’t know”.
I have always had pride in him and his service, even though his pride was in a different way. He told me things about training and such, but he never really told me about his experiences in combat. He only talked of such things when he had a little to drink. I have literally had a lifelong obsession with American Military history, particularly The Civil War and World War II. It all started with the stories I heard from, and about this man I called Grandpa. Stories about the “Great Depression“, our lineage and his involvement in the Second World War. It may be a little selfish, but I feel like I’m missing a big part of my heritage and that history I love so much, by not knowing his full story. I humbly submit this story as the reason I am interested in winning your contest.