This is the third and last installment recollecting the saga of Bobby Harkey and his service during World War II.
In my last column Bobby and his pals were on the Normandy coast, trying to establish a secure beach head for the invading forces.
During the first day of brutal fighting Bobby had served as point man for his unit and had been wounded by shrapnel to his face. However, after treatment in a first-aid station he returned to his unit.
While on the beach Bobby’s unit had been attacked by snipers hidden in the heights above the shore and Bobby, being a sharp-shooter, had been effective in combating the snipers.
At the end of day one it appeared the Americans had been successful in securing the beach. The troops had broken out of the beach head and were moving into the countryside, following the retreating Germans.
Once our troops had broken out they began to move much faster with the aid of their armor and of course the cover provided by our mastery of the air by our fighter planes.
Bobby became a scout for his company as it moved across France. Due to his diminutive size, five-foot-two and 115 lbs., and his keen eye, he was well-suited to the job. He was also a sure shot, which had been proven when he battled the enemy snipers that harassed his unit on the beach.
One of the problems our men encountered was the hedgerows. These were natural barriers of trees and shrubs that separated the farmlands of Normandy into separate plots. Many of these thickets were almost impenetrable. The Germans would hide in this natural cover and when our troops broke through the hedges they would wipe our boys out.
As a scout Bobby moved ahead of his unit to search out the enemy, or the enemy would find him. The enemy’s position was exposed and the Americans could engage them. A scout was always in danger, especially if there was a sniper hidden in the woods.
As Bobby’s unit was fighting across France, on September 1, 1944, near the Belgian border, Bobby was felled by a German sniper hiding in a hedgerow. He was shot in the stomach and while falling to his knees he located the sniper and returned one shot before collapsing. His fellow soldiers told him later that his aim had been on the mark as they found the enemy sniper dead in the woods where he had been hiding.
This was Bobby’s second injury since landing on D-Day and the end of fighting for him. He was taken to a rear hospital and evacuated to England for further treatment. It is quite possible that I could have been flying the plane that carried him to England as we routinely flew injured soldiers from field hospitals across the channel to English hospitals for more intensive treatments.
This was the end of hostilities for Bobby. After months of recuperation he was returned to the United States. Bobby was awarded an oak leaf cluster in addition to his Purple Heart for the second wound in Belgium. Our intrepid warrior was discharged at the end of the war and returned to his home in Lincolnton.
In 1946 Bobby married my niece, Margaret Eurey, and they made their home in the Hilltop community, near her father and mother. In 1966 Bobby died of a heart attack. Whether the wounds inflicted on the battlefield had anything to do with this is not known, but his young life was snuffed out at age forty-two.
But wait a minute. Perhaps there is another hero here in Margaret, his wife. She stayed home and raised her family of one girl and three boys until they all finished school. After the last one completed his education she returned to the mill and continued to work until retirement.
I would say she was also a heroine to keep her family together and raise such a close-knit group of children, grandchildren and greats.
She was so proud of them all.
Margaret died in 2010 at age 84 and is now in heaven where I am sure she is watching over her loved ones. She and Bobby are together again. Hallelujah.
Charles Eurey is a Lincoln Times-News guest columnist. You can reach him at 704-735-6535.