He was recognized for bravery in combat while serving with the 90th Division in World War II, from just after the D-Day invasion in June 1944, through the Battle of the Bulge, until the war in Europe ended in May 1945.
George enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He felt a deep sense of duty and thought there would be honor in fighting for a just cause. His unit was part of the massive Allied forces deployed to invade and take back Nazi-held Europe.
George served in the infantry in France and Germany, earning medals in skirmishes from the Normandy coast to the German motherland. During a mission to capture a railroad bridge over the Rhine River, everyone in his unit was wounded. He was hit with shrapnel in the hand, causing him to drop his rifle. Bleeding profusely, he retrieved his rifle and remembers being so frightened that he literally outran everyone to the Army hospital tent. That night he earned his Purple Heart.
A comparable encounter earned him a Silver Star. Under a barrage of enemy fire, he cleared a house of German soldiers and his unit confiscated their weapons. Like many veterans, George is willing to share some combat memories, but doesn’t dwell on the details. He recalls what it was like to take the life of an enemy. He still dreams about those moments occasionally.
“It still bothers me,” he said, shaking his head. “You never get used to it. You’re raised your whole life and learn not to kill. Then the first thing you learn in the Army is that your enemies are not human beings, they’re just targets.” The Army didn’t have to live with those memories, but he did. He carries the reminders with him still.
His exploits in battle left him a highly decorated soldier. So much so that he was soon reassigned to be part of the personal guard detail for General George S. Patton. He remembers it well.
Patton traveled mostly by private train, and George’s initial assignment was to meet his train and lead him from the train platform to his staff car. There were many Germans at the train station, and George impressed the general by parting the crowd and escorting him to the car. Wherever Patton traveled, George went with him. Being part of Patton’s entourage had privileges — he ate well, he slept on real beds, and he had access to whatever the general wanted.
“I have great admiration and respect for him,” said George, “though at the time, most of his men despised him.
“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won’t”
~ Gen. George S. Patton
He was the most wrinkly guy you ever saw,” George remarked. Patton had a reputation among the other generals as a drinker. Patton actively cultivated a persona of being an especially severe man, always looking to earn the respect of those in his command. George would not drink with him, under any circumstances. “The real General Patton and the nickname we gave him, ‘Old Blood and Guts,’ were very different,” said George. “It wasn’t an act. He was simultaneously loved and hated.”
George served for two years, but it seemed like a lifetime. He enlisted as a naïve Ohio farm boy and returned to the accolades accorded a hero. His chest full of medals attracted the attention of many, especially young ladies. He met his wife through a blind date and says she changed him forever. He jokes that she was the last woman he ever dated, and he was a decidedly better man for having met her. The rest is history.
He returned stateside, earned a degree at Marietta College in his hometown, and worked as a chemical engineer for Firestone for 38 years before retiring.
He shares war stories with other veterans at Chapel Hill and connects to residents and staff who genuinely care for him. People like George remind us daily of our mission to transform aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace — ideals that never concerned a young soldier who says he might not remember all the details, but does remember he was being shot at, constantly.
Resting in his recliner, he is now at peace. It was through his personal sacrifices, his harrowing individual moments of terror, that he earned this respite. United Church Homes wishes to thank George and all veterans that serve or have served our country.