Honored For Bravery; Returns Safely Home To Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky
By Cynthia Long
John Walker volunteered for service in WWII. He was in the Battle of Normandy and completed boot camp at Camp Croft in South Carolina. He was in Army Infantry Division 115. While in boot camp he recalled marching in the rain at night for hours and digging a fox hole so deep that a tank could drive over and no one got hurt. He spoke of sleeping, eating, and celebrating his birthday in one of these fox holes with his entire troop around.
John, my grandfather, was stationed in Germany, Holland, and France. While in France he wrote in one of his many letters to his wife, Winnie Stacey Walker, back in Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky, about him and his troop sitting in a cow pasture listening to Dinah Shore sing and described the farm homes around him. An excerpt from one of John Walker’s letters to his Winnie reads: “Today is such a beautiful day here in Germany. Right now, I am on a beautiful farm which has been untouched by the war. I am sitting out in the sun all alone writing this letter. All kinds of birds are singing. People are working on their fields, as if there is not a war going on. This farm is much like one of our Bluegrass farms, except there is no sign of tobacco or races horses. All the horses are very large work horses. There are some fine flocks of white leghorn chickens and several hogs and sheep. The houses on these farms are regular mansions.”
In 1944 in Germany, John earned a medal for bravery. His bravery was reported in his hometown newspaper for crossing the front lines, to take men supplies, four times, being over 2,000 yards, during a heavy gun battle. My grandfather also received a Sharp Shooter medal for excellent marksmanship.
In Germany John speaks of not being able to take a bath or to have sheets to sleep on. He and other soldiers looted bombed-out buildings to find furniture to create a makeshift church for all the men.
On Sunday mornings he noticed the people of the town on their way to church walking past those who were homeless in the street, acting as if they weren’t there. He thought it was terrible for Christian people to not stop and help those less fortunate.
While in Holland, John spoke quite fondly of the people. He said they would come out every morning to sweep and wash down the walks in front of their homes and businesses, just like there was no war going on, even though in the distance one could hear the guns. He mentions the towns’ people wearing their wooden shoes and stuffing straw in them to make them fit better.
In Holland, John spent as much time as he could with an artist named Martin Koblo. John loved art and had his picture painted by the artist. At the request of the artist, my grandfather was asked to wear civilian clothing instead of military.
When the war was over and John was about to be released, he sent a final letter from France to his wife to tell her of the good news that he would be coming home soon. He was mustered out of the service at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. My grandmother went to bring her brave soldier back home that day. It was a grand homecoming for all the men who came back, especially to the little town of Hazard, Kentucky.
John’s parents were Rev. John Walker and Margaret Baker Walker. John and Winnie (Stacy) had three children JoAnne, Margaret, and Louise.
Cynthia Long 3355 E. John Hinkle Place, Bloomington, IN 47408; [email protected], shares this article and photos with our readers.
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