Combat veteran gets his medals, decades after earning them WAR IN THE GULF

March 29, 1991|By Robert A. Erlandson

When a German sniper shot Sgt. Frederick J. Haynes through the left arm in November 1944, the wound earned the Arbutus man a Purple Heart and a 28-day respite from combat at a French military hospital.

Despite being wounded twice more and slogging across Europe from Omaha Beach to the Siegfried Line and the Bulge, that was the only medal the former infantryman got -- until last month.

On Feb. 28, the morning after the Persian Gulf war ended, the postman delivered a small box to the Haynes home in Arbutus.

And there they were: another Purple Heart; a Bronze Star for gallantry; the American Campaign Medal; the European

Campaign Medal with three battle stars; the Victory Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; a marksmanship medal for rifle and machine gun; a Combat Infantryman's Badge; and, finally, a discharge emblem, the famous Ruptured Duck.

Now, when Mr. Haynes' grandson, Airman 1st Class John C. Haynes, 19, flies home from the Persian Gulf in a couple of months, the two veterans can really swap some war stories.

"I only did it because of my grandson. I wanted to be able to show him," said Mr. Haynes, now 72 and a retired carpenter, who applied for the medals a year ago when he found out from fellow veterans that he should have received them.

Airman John Haynes has been in the gulf since December with the 728th Tactical Support Squadron, and the family is hoping he can make it home in time for his grandparents' golden wedding anniversary celebration June 2.

John's father is the Haynes' only son, Frederick M. Haynes, 44, of Olney, a retired Navy commander who works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Having a grandson in the gulf has brought the specter of war closer to the Haynes' home than at any time for years. Doris Haynes said her husband seldom discusses his experiences in World War II but "sometimes he wakes up at night yelling and waving his arms."

"I know what they're going through, and I guess I'm still fighting," Mr. Haynes said of the gulf troops. "They did a great job and I wouldn't take anything away from them, but I didn't like it when President Bush said they are the greatest troops this country's ever had. Our guys did pretty well, too."

He and his wife, childhood sweethearts from East Fort Avenue in South Baltimore, had been married a year when he got his notice to report to the 5th Regiment Armory.

"They turned me down the first time, told me I had epilepsy," Mr. Haynes recalled. "I knew that wasn't right, so I went back and asked to see a doctor."

The Army had mistakenly switched his records and another man's, so a month later he got orders to report to Fort Meade.

He was assigned to a heavy weapons company of the 319th Infantry of the 80th Infantry Division at Camp Forrest, Tenn. The unit was shipped to England in June 1944 and hit Omaha Beach a few days after D-day, the 6th of June.

"We had constant contact with the enemy for 183 straight days," Mr. Haynes said. "We fought at the Siegfried Line and we fought to relieve the troops in the Battle of the Bulge. We took 13 towns in Luxembourg on our way to Germany."

He was first wounded near Nancy, France, by a German sniper. "My canteen really saved my life. The bullet ricocheted off the canteen and then went through my arm, through the muscle," Mr. Haynes said.

"I finally got a letter from him, with the Purple Heart, saying that he was all right," Mrs. Haynes said.

But their reprieve was to be brief. Less than a week after he went back on duty, just after Christmas 1944, Mr. Haynes was hit again.

"A shell burst at a farm house where we stopped and I took shrapnel in my right thigh," he said. "It went right through, though, so I got a medic to bandage it and I never reported it because Doris had just gotten over the first time."

Mr. Haynes limped along for another week, but his service ended abruptly on Jan. 8, 1945, when an 88mm shell from a German tank blasted the farmhouse in Luxembourg where his unit was holed up.

"I looked out a window and saw a flash. I woke up as they dragged me into another room. The next time I woke up, I was on a litter on a jeep," Mr. Haynes recalled. "I said, 'Lord, this is the third time. I'm not coming back.' "

The shrapnel penetrated his neck and veered downward, lodging near his heart. Surgery left him partially paralyzed on his left side.

Discharged in 1946, Mr. Haynes returned to Baltimore and began working as a floor-installer and carpenter. Not an active veteran, he joined only the Disabled American Veterans. He didn't even know there was an 80th Division Veterans Association until a few years ago, when a friend became association commander and tracked him down.

The 80th had a reunion in Baltimore and "they really put out the red carpet for us; they all thought I was dead," Mr. Haynes said.

He also didn't know what medals he had earned in combat, but he learned that he could apply for them. He wrote to the Army a year ago and "they arrived on the day of the cease-fire in the gulf."

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