(WFXR) — John C. Eakin, a local United States Army veteran of World War II shares his story and some of his closest calls during his service overseas.
Mr. Eakin, of Catawba, was born on October 2nd, 1924. As a teenager, he dropped out of school to help his parents on their farm before being drafted into the army in July of 1944 at the age of 19.
Following basic training, he joined the eighth army, 34th Red Bull Division, which was the first division deployed to Europe in World War II. He served as a foot soldier, rifleman, infantry, and for a short time- as a sniper.
“About that time, there was a loud pop right above my head. And there was a German, puttin’ another round in his 8mm. That was the scariest thing. I still think about that today, about how close it was. He could’ve got me right between the eyes, but he didn’t.”John C. Eakin, U.S. 8th Army, 34th Red Bull Division (World War II)
Although he did not suffer any major injuries, he injured his ankle while on scouting patrol, forcing him to hide in a ditch to avoid capture by the Germans. Mr. Eakin says he used his rifle as a crutch because he had no strength in his ankle.
He distinctly remembers traveling with his fellow soldiers, who he said were like family. One time, after waking up late, he and the other soldiers sprinted for a foxhole, only to be shot at by Germans. As they ran across a cornfield, machine guns fired away and cornstalks flew through the air.
Mr. Eakin was involved in capturing the Tower of Pisa and the German 34th Division in Italy, marking a pivotal moment in the war.
After the war ended, he was transferred to the 88th Blue Devils Division as a part of the post-war occupational forces in Italy.
Mr. Eakin was discharged in July of 1946, and he came back home to Roanoke and celebrated for a week. He then became a self-employed contractor and farmer, and later received the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements.
Mr. Eakin, now 96, says he is thankful for his health and the lessons he learned.
“We were doing it for a good cause . . . I learned a lot of things – how to take care of myself and others. My fellow soldiers were closer than my own family, brothers and sisters. They depended on me and I depended on them.”John C. Eakin, U.S. 8th Army, 34th Red Bull Division (World War II)
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