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WWII Combat Veteran Visits Cavaliers

WWII Combat Veteran James Boyd Crump recently shared his war experiences with students in Mr. Butch Phaneuf's 20th Century America class.

The following is a special Veteran's Day tribute written in honor of WWII Combat Veteran James Boyd Crump who recently visited CHS. 

“I’ve been through a lot. How long have I been at the Post? Four? Five years? Before that you couldn’t get me to tell nothing about it. I was like a clam,” so said distinguished World War II Veteran James Boyd Crump to Mr. Phaneuf’s 20th Century America class on October 31, 2012. Crump went on explain that he decided to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.

“I got together with fellows who had been in different wars and I finally opened up,” he said. Crump served in the US Army and was a rifleman in the 13th Infantry, 8th Division. He participated in the landing on Omaha Beach in the Normandy Invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Crump's visit stemmed from previous interviews with students in the class.

Junior Alyssa Ingram said, "I was very moved when Mr. Crump told us how much joining the VFW Post and talking with others who shared the same experiences of war as he did helped him come to terms with some of the situations he encountered while serving in WWII. I am glad there is an organization where our country's heroes can bond and find opportunities to share their experiences with others, like my class."

"I was honored that Mr. Crump chose to come and tell us about his experiences. He's seen some pretty horrific things and the fact that he has opened up to us about them is pretty humbling. It was amazing that he had taken part in such historic and important events," said senior David Page.

"What touched me most about his visit," said Mr. Phaneuf, "was his willingness to talk about even his most disturbing experiences and his enthusiasm for the younger generation."

Crump shared albums full of photos, clippings and medals he was awarded including the American Defense Medal, two Bronze stars, and three Purple Hearts. The Purple Heart is a military decoration given for the wounded or killed. It is the oldest award that is still given in the military. Crump told the class about his wounds.

“A bullet shattered that shoulder,” he said, pointing to his right shoulder. “That was my third wound. That’s the one that got me out of the war. The first one went through my helmet.” Crump took off his hat and showed the scar. “The first one was a mortar shell that got me in the back.” Crump indicated the area behind his left ear and told the students it was 1972 before the wound caused trouble and was eventually treated and healed.

He went on to describe his experience in an England hospital while he recovered from the shoulder wound and while there suffered from Trench Foot. Trench Foot is a medical condition caused by a person's feet staying cold and wet over a long period time. It was a common condition in World War I and II.

"I didn't know I had Trench Foot until I got back to the hospital in England, and boy - those feet were twice their size. They began to turn blue. And you talk about pain. They put pillows under my legs to keep my feet off the bed and you'd know it if a fly would come and land on that toe. You'd know it. They're so sensitive. Took three months for me to get over it before I could maybe sit side of the bed and put my feet off it. They said that was the coldest winter they had in years and we happened to be right in it," shared Crump.

Crump shared details about his training at Fort Jackson including the building of barracks in 1940-41, and the loss of his own brother in the war.

"I was in Luxembourg when I got a letter from home. My brother was killed."

He recounted his landing on Omaha Beach and the Battle of Normandy, his crossing of the Ay River to break through enemy lines, his experiences in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest which was a hard, bitter fight in bone-chilling cold, and the acceptance of the surrender of the Germans. He told the class that he was part of General Patton's drive across France. He recalled that in the town of Avranches, France, he was part of a firefight with the German patrol in which he killed a German soldier. He said that killing another human being has a profound affect on a person that never leaves. He was haunted by that incident in his sleep for years afterwards.

"It does bother you... to kill somebody," he said quietly, and paused.

"The nightmares I got, at home, after I got married... man... in the middle of the night..." Crump stopped speaking for a moment and looked away.

"It took some more power... a power higher than mankind to get me straightened out."

"He made me realize and feel like I was fighting alongside of him. Mr. Crump was a very wise man and the fact that he now shares this information after so many years of not telling anyone about it is so brave and strong," commented senior Seth Regan.

Senior Caleb Spencer said, "He showed the true result of war; someone who had been through so much and it was so overwhelming that he couldn't bear to think of it all until a few years ago, nearly 70-some years later. He somehow found the courage and chose to share with us."

"Something about him talking was just very interesting. It's hard to believe he was at all those key events in WWII. I really feel a much stronger connection to WWII after his visit," said junior Charlie Diller.

Senior Taylor Glover said, "What really touched my heart was hearing him explain about multiple deaths at that time and seeing how strong of a person he is today. He truly is a hero and a respectable man."

Phaneuf remarked, "His visit brought what we've been studying to life. He made us feel a much greater appreciation for the men, women, and generation that served in the war."

Senior Dean Melchionda said, "He influenced me to live my life to the fullest, because at 92 one of the things you have is memories. The memories he shared provided wisdom and helped others learn about our past; I say our past, because his actions and the actions of others like him shaped who we are today."

Crump told the class that he is regularly called to be a Veteran flag bearer in military funerals.

He said, "I don't know how many funerals I've been to. Over a hundred last year. We go there and give them a good military service."

He mused over the events that led to his being able to share his experiences.

"Here up to about four years ago you couldn't get me to show one of these pictures. I'd lay in my bed and look at my wall full of pictures. One day I thought, 'what in the world am I doing? I've got all these medals and uniforms - why in the world am I holding these?' It hit me. Just like that. I went out and joined the Post. I thought maybe it could help me. Sure enough - meeting all those fellows - you know, it opened me up. And I'm glad it did now, because it let people know. About war, you see."

The staff and students of Cuthbertson High School wish to thank Mr. Crump, not only for his class visit, but for his sacrifice, service, and dedication to our country.

Written by: Paula White
Posted: Nov 11, 2012 by Paula White

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