At 93 years old, the Eldon resident and former Eldon businessman gets around well despite frost-bite damage to his feet he received during the wicked, winter trek from Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, to Dessau, Germany on the Elbe River.
Harry Reed, a Battle of the Bulge survivor from World War II, proudly points to the newest of his array of medals he's received over the years because of his service to his country — this one he never thought or expected he'd receive.
In a letter dated July 5, Reed was notified he was to receive the French Knight of the Legion of Honor medal as a "tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France and Western Europe." Sure enough, arriving by FedEx was a package which contained a small red box with the medal.
What's more, Harry and his wife, Anjelynne, will be attending a special ceremony in Jefferson City this fall at which time an representative of the French government will officially bestow the honor.
The letter commemorating Reed came from the Consul General of France in Chicago.
The letter said, in part:
"Thanks to your courage and to our American friends and allies, France and Europe have been living in peace for the past seven decades. You saved us. We will never forget. For us, the French people, you are a hero. Gratitude and remembrance are forever in our souls."
The Legion of Honor award complements numerous other honors and awards including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Reed was wounded three times, but never badly enough to prevent him from moving forward with his fellow soldiers.
Born and raised in Eldon, Reed also has a home in Glasgow, about 20 miles north of Bonneville. He was visiting with a friend in Glasgow who also served in World War II. The friend, who received the Legion of Honor, suggested to Reed that he seek the honor as well, which he did through contacts in Washington, D.C. Reed received a form to fill out with the warning that it could be a year before any response. Eighteen months later, his prized Legion of Honor award arrived.
At 93 years old, the Eldon resident and former Eldon businessman gets around well despite frost-bite damage to his feet he received during the wicked, winter trek from Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, to Dessau, Germany on the Elbe River. Reed was part of the U.S. Army's 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, that spearheaded the advance through Western Europe.
"Whatever was out front, Division wanted to know. And that was our job, to see what was ahead," Reed explained.
When Reed's recon assignment discovered German tanks, the command staff found another way to move forward because the German tanks were far superior to U.S. tanks. One time, on Dec. 24, 1944, Reed recalls, his lieutenant sent him and a crew up some main roads. They took off with two jeeps, an armored car and a tank.
"We hadn't gone 200 yards when we ran into the Germans," he said.
He rode in the back of the jeep with the radios and other soldiers were in front with a 50-cal. machine gun. A gun battle ensued, and the radios and the jeep were shot up, with shrapnel striking Reed. One bullet hit within three inches of his leg as he sat on the radios.
That adventure earned him the Bronze Star.
Another time, the 3rd Armored Division approached the Siegfried Line, a German defense system stretching more than 390 miles with more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. There was a large concentration of Germans including some "big guns."
"We had to find a place to break through, and we had a tank with a bulldozer blade on the front and the tank just pushed a huge pile of dirt that was part of a bunker right on top of the guns," Reed said.
The 3rd Armored Division won five battle stars and Reed was awarded battle stars for Normandy, Northern France, Ardennese, Rhineland and Central Europe.
After the war, he was awarded these medals:
Two Purple Hearts with Cluster
Good Conduct Medal
Battle of Bulge Medal
Five Battle Stars
Five Overseas Stars
Reed came home in September 1945 as the war ended with the rank of sergeant, starting a career in the auto salvage business in Eldon that would win him even more honors and accolades.
In 1978, Midway Auto Salvage was named first place winner in the National Beautification Division of the Automotive Dismantler's and Recyclers Association competition. A few years later Midway Auto Salvage won the International Division. According to a news release from that time, automotive parts were removed from vehicles and placed in numbered bins, vehicle bodies were parked in neat rows behind the warehouse and offices. The front of the business was landscaped with flowers and shrubs among Reed's own artwork made from used auto parts.
The emotional and physical pain of his three years in the U.S. Army remain. Reed doesn't see himself as a hero. Rather, he speaks of the thousands who died during the Battle of the Bulge and throughout the war. He is a Holocaust witness who saw the bodies of some 83,000 slave laborers laid out in the street of Nordhausen, Germany, near the Nordhausen Concentration Camp. Most of those died from starvation and dehydration.
Nearly every night he has to get up and walk around because he suffers from Reynaulds Syndrome due to his damaged feet. The condition can cause pain within the affected extremities, discoloration and sensations of cold and/or numbness.
But he endures, one slow step at a time with the aid of his cane and the strong support of his wife — and with the deep appreciation of not only the French but of his family, friends and residents of his beloved country.