Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those killed in service to our nation. Double Purple Heart recipient Bluford E. Dyer didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice, but he came as close as you can.
Dyer, a resident of Kennesaw, was raised in the mountains of Georgia and was drafted after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. The 93 year-old U.S. Army Veteran was wounded twice during his time in Europe fighting Adolf Hitler’s army on a march to Berlin.
His trip across the “big
pond” was on a captured German transport ship to England, and after some advanced training he found himself headed to France where he served as a member of Company G in the 320th Infantry Division in the Third Army, led by Gen. George S. Patton.
“They woke us up one morning from our Quonset huts in England. As we went outside, we saw all these planes pulling gliders, we knew it had started, the invasion of Normandy.”
His unit left England four or five days later and he remembers the landing at Normandy.
“They told us to pack light, and I took heed to that,” he said. “One guy didn’t and he couldn’t swim and he drowned when we hit the beaches. He sank to the bottom.”
Sometime after the beach landing at 10 in the morning, Dyer found himself in a pasture in France near St. Lo, a German stronghold.
On July 11, 1944, Dyer found himself under enemy fire.
“I remember getting hit in my shoulder,” Dyer recalls. “I had taken cover behind a deceased cow. My rifle was perched across her back, when I got hit. I remember yelling ‘medics, medics.’ They came and got me over to the side and gave me a shot of morphine, I remember that well,” he added. After that he said, “I was a happy person, I mean I was happy.”
Dyer’s injury was so severe the Army transported him to an aid station and then to England for surgery and recovery. “I remember going on with the nurses there,” he chuckled.
“You ever had morphine,” he asked? “Boy it makes you feel good.”
After his recovery Dyer returned to his unit, which was headed toward Germany.
He took his place, once again, under Patton’s command. Upon his return a lot of his friends were no longer there due to death or injury.
After advancing forward to the Ardennes Forest, Patton’s Army received a break and dropped back while replacements were sent to the front.
On Dec. 16, 1944, the Battle of the Bulge began. It was the final push of the German Army against allied forces in the war. Patton ordered his troops to mount up and hurry back to the front to be a factor in stopping the German offensive. Surviving that battle and pushing toward the German border, General Eisenhower had Patton stop to let the Russians take Berlin.
Several months after the Bulge, on April 17, 1945, near the Elbe River, Dyer was shot again, earning him his second Purple Heart medal.
“There were snipers everywhere and that’s when I got hit in the leg from a German machine gun nest,” Dyer said. “I remember a major saying he couldn’t take the bullet out then, it was too close to a nerve.
Some 20 years after the injury, Dyer had the thumbsized piece of metal, “black as coal” he recalls, removed from his leg. He still carries a smaller metal particle from that injury to his leg to this day.
Dyer reflected on a buddy from a foxhole in France.
“The Germans knew how to put their shells into the trees, letting the shrapnel hit them and fall down upon us. My buddy got wounded there, he started yelling for a medic, but he passed right there in the foxhole … I remember that well,” Dyer said.
“I don’t know how to answer what Memorial Day means to me,” Dyer said. “I just wish all Americans would feel the way I do
about it, I’ll say that. I think we would have a happier country then.”
“Any time I hear the national anthem, you will find me standing,” he said from his wheelchair. “I salute the flag and probably have a tear in my eye. I am proud to be an American that’s all.”
Dyer is one of 16 million men and women who served this country during World War II. There were 558,000 left at the end of 2017 and these heroes are being lost at the rate of 352 a day nationally.
Those who came home from World War II, understand the real meaning of Memorial Day.