A young man born and raised in Eldon landed in June of 1944 on Omaha Beach as part of the greatest military invasion in history. Harry Reed, as a member of the 3rd Armored Division, 1st Army, led the fight from Normandy across war-torn France as U.S. troops advanced upon Nazi Germany.

A young man born and raised in Eldon landed in June of 1944 on Omaha Beach as part of the greatest military invasion in history. Harry Reed, as a member of the 3rd Armored Division, 1st Army, led the fight from Normandy across war-torn France as U.S. troops advanced upon Nazi Germany.

Every year America recalls and honors the service and sacrifice of those military men who fought and died on D-Day as the world liberated France from the grip of Hitler’s army. France also remembers. Reed received the Legion of Honour medal in 2017, an honor only bestowed on those who have “done remarkable deeds for France.” World War II veterans have only received the French award since 2004, and a local veteran , age 95, is one of them.

Guillaume Lacroix, French Consul General of Chicago for midwestern states, pinned the medal on Reed and said, “France will never, never forget.” Lacroix came to Missouri to commemorate Reed’s service in a formal ceremony even though Reed had already received the medal from the French government earlier. At the time, only three other World War II veterans in Missouri had received the honor. Others have been recognized since 2017, however.

In an interview with Lake Sun, Reed talked of being drafted at 18, and finishing 13 weeks of basic training at Ft. Knox Kentucky. As his unit awaited orders the 3rd Armored Division needed one more recruit to fill its ranks, and Reed became that soldier. He took his place in the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

Reed and his fellow soldiers shipped out on the John Ericsson, a troop transport ship bound for Liverpool, England in February 1944. They were part of the largest convoy to ever cross the North Atlantic. Reed says just his group consisted of 15 ships accompanied by one battleship.

Reed’s passage across the Atlantic with his fellow soldiers became an ordeal as he described the misery of a 10-day voyage through stormy seas. The ship was overcrowded with 5000 soldiers, many of which were forced to sleep on the decks.

Violent storms rocked the ship and at one point almost a third of the division’s soldiers had lost bedrolls overboard as the storm whipped sea crashed wave after wave over the decks of the ship. Most of the soldiers suffered sea-sickness, just as he did according to Reed. At one point in the journey the battle ship crew thought they had encountered a German U-Boat but no attack came.

In an ironic twist of fate in a war-torn world, the troop ship USS John Ericsson had been built in Hamburg, Germany at the Blohm & Voss shipyard. She sailed as the MS Kungsholm from 1928 until 1941 for the Swedish American Line and plied the seas as a cruise ship and an excursion ship for years prior to the war. She was confiscated by the United States Government in the New York Harbor and sold to the U.S. Maritime Commission who recommissioned her before she carried Reed and his fellow soldiers toward what would be the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

Reed describes arriving at their barracks in Liverpool around midnight and finding a pile of straw to be used to fill their own mattress covers. The very next day the soldiers started training for the invasion and subsequent battles. He trained all day with the soldiers and still had to go out at night with his unit on “night maneuvers” so he got little sleep.

With good humor, Reed recounts the story of one fellow soldier calling the Lieutenant and saying he was lost from the unit. The Lieutenant asked if the soldier could identify any landmarks to help them find him in the dark. Finally, the soldier radioed back and said, “Can you see the stars overhead in the Big Dipper?” The Lieutenant said he could. “Well,” the soldier said, “I am right under the two stars in the handle that point down.”

Reed said on D-Day the channel was so rough his unit’s ships could barely maneuver. They were held off the coast until the heavy defensive pilings were removed so they could land. After landing and losing many soldiers to drowning instead of enemy fire. The next day his unit met a strong German counter-offensive. Reed described these moments as meeting “baptism by fire.”

Reed’s unit, once on land, was known as “spearhead” because it led the way into every battle of the war performing reconnaissance for the rest of the troops. All across France and Germany Reed says, when headquarters needed to know what they were marching into, his unit was the one to go find out.


At the time of the ceremony acknowledging Reed’s role in securing France, Reed did not speak of himself as a hero but referred to the heroism of all the others who went ashore that day. He was quoted as saying, “he just did what needed to be done.” He holds the same sentiment today. Through the war, marriage, five children and a working life, he’s done what needed to be done.