SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Being 90 years old, his eyes are still
clear, his mind and memories sharp, and his hand shake firm. Having
just walked 300 yards up hill, and then up a flight of stairs, he
shows no signs of being winded and still smiles politely when
meeting someone for the first time.
Retired Maj. Byron D.
Lemmon was formerly attached to the 76th Infantry Division during
World War II, now known as the 76th Operational Response Command,
and as a veteran has seen and done more in his life than most people
Retired Maj. Byron Lemmon, World War
II veteran and vice chair of the Employer Support of the Guard and
Reserve, stands in front of the 76th Army Reserve Operational
Response Command sign at Fort Douglas, Utah on May 8, 2014. Lemmon was
briefly attached to the 76th Infantry Division during WWII, now
known as the 76th ORC. (US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Kai L. Jensen,
76th Operational Response Command)
“The rules back then were that everyone had to go through
the draft,” said Lemmon, now a volunteer with the Employer
Support of the Guard and Reserve at Fort Douglas, Utah.
“When you were drafted, the Navy; Army and Marines came and
would each take so many [draftees]. In the morning they
lined us up alphabetically and the Navy took six, the
Marines took two and the rest of us went into the Army. So
there I was.”
Every year there are fewer WWII
veterans to share their experiences with the next generation
but telling those stories allows lessons to still be learned
and inspiration to still be had.
“Anytime we can
locate and regain contact with a WWII 76th Infantry Division
Soldier it is a good news story for us,” said Maj. Gen.
Daniel L. York, commanding general of the 76th ORC at Fort
Douglas, Utah. “It ties us to the ‘greatest generation' and
forms a bond between the past and the present. We learn and
are inspired from our WWII Soldiers and we share their
lineage through the 76th that is special and should give us
cause to do our best to maintain the honor of this great
Lemmon, a native of Pocatello, Idaho,
was 19-years-old when he was drafted, and in 1943 was sent
to Camp Rucker, Ala. (now Fort Rucker) for Basic Training.
He then went to Camp Stewart, Ga. (now Fort Stewart) where
he received anti-aircraft training before being sent
overseas to the city of Oran, in North Africa, and the start
of his involvement in WWII.
During his service Lemmon
participated in multiple battles and was
The first time he was hit in the chest by shrapnel during
the Colmar Pocket campaign, known by many as where Audie
Murphy received the Medal of Honor, and then by a snipers
bullet in southern Germany.
“There was fierce
fighting, it was the worst winter they had had in 25 years
in Germany and we were out in it most of the time as
infantry troops,” said Lemmon. “Then we moved into a little
town called Middleware and set up mortars but the German's
wanted this town back so they hit around our ammunition with
artillery and the white phosphorous began leaking out,
burning into the ammunition.”
“I grabbed a shovel and
threw it in the creak but some more rounds came in and a
piece of shrapnel hit me in the chest,” he continued. “I had
a cut in my [uniform] but with everything I was wearing it
saved my life.”
The second time Lemmon was wounded
was on April 1, 1945 (Easter Sunday) in southern Germany.
When a German jet began to strafe his convoy, he went to
take cover in the doorway of a nearby building.
sniper from somewhere nearby took a shot at my head but hit
me in the shoulder instead,” said Lemmon. “So I was
evacuated by jeep to the 4th Division aid station and then
loaded into an ambulance to try and find a hospital.”
After recovering in the hospital Lemmon was evacuated to
Nancy, France and eventually shipped back home, ending his
time in Europe.
After the war Lemmon came back into
the military by commissioning in the Army Reserve in 1951
and eventually retired at the rank of major in 1983.
“The Army meant an awful lot to me,” said Lemmon. “The most
enjoyable part of my life was being with the Army.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kai L. Jensen
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