DECATUR COUNTY – Today, another name of a man who took part in Operation Overlord, better known as "D Day," can be added to the list.
Twenty-five years from now I'm sure the Greensburg Daily News will publish some reporter's story about those citizens from Decatur County who participated in D Day a century ago. Of course, no one who participated in that day will still be alive, nor will I. Even so, that day and many more shouldn't be forgotten.
Estelle Hargitt sent the following information about her brother-in-law who landed on Normandy on D Day. This was taped by Charles Rex Hargitt titled “War Stories WWII From the Perspective of a Private First Class (PFC), Infantry in the 71st Infantry Division" (the article was transcribed by Rex’s brother, Fred Hargitt, who was called Fritz by most people).
Rex was born July 2, 1925, in Pontiac, Michigan. He died Nov. 25, 2012, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents were James Frank and Muriel Eileen Hargitt, who raised their family on what is now Old S.R. 421 near St. Omer, Indiana.
Rex graduated from St. Paul High School in 1943. After his military service was completed, he graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music degree.
His military service information listed below is taken from his enlisted record and report of separation discharge form: Block 30: Recorded as Entertainment Specialist 442 because after the fighting was over, he joined a choral group that gave programs to the GIs. They performed a song called Meadowland for a Russian group which made those men cry. Block 31: Acknowledges his service on the frontlines as an infantryman and that he had qualified as a marksman with weapons. Block 33: Lists the decorations and citations received: American Theatre Ribbon EAME Theatre Ribbon W/2 bronze stars; Good Conduct Medal; Victory Medal World War II.
His story's highlights are listed below:
I went into the Service when I had just turned 18 in July of 1943 and basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, was quite an experience. The trainers were merciless but probably for our own good because they got us in shape.
After basic we were ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program). We were to graduate as Engineering Officers. They sent us to Stanford University which was a wonderful experience for all. We were then sent to Hunter Liggett Military Reservation to a Triangular Division. It was a mountain division with motor transportation being mules. We were then shipped to Fort Benning, Georgia, for more training to be shipped overseas. During this training period, I went from 150 lbs to 175 lbs but I was solid as a rock. The next trip was to a Port of Embarkation in New Jersey where we got on a liberty ship.
The landing was at La Havre which was deep in mud as it was the rainy season. Then the battalion was put in reserve where we went into reserve to relieve at the Battle of the Bulge. (From there, Rex describes many war incidents with Germans and then joined Patton’s Seventh Army going with them to the Rhine River.)
Rex describes many gruesome battles, but ends his story with the statement: “There were eight guys in my section when we landed at LeHarve but only two of us walked out at the end of the war.”
Rex landed on Normandy on the 2nd day of the invasion, June 7, 1944, having been stationed in England. He didn't say any more about that day.
I found a notice that stated that there were many D Days during World War II. I read that some people thought soldiers serving in Italy were avoiding "real combat in France and called them "D Day Dodgers." But troops had faced their own D Day at Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio.
Thanks to Estelle Hargitt and to everyone who helped make the information about our county's participation in D Day as accurate as possible.
Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at firstname.lastname@example.org.