Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

ROBERT H. HARWOOD


1916-2013

6th Armored Division patch

44th Armored Infantry Battalion

(Doughboys)

50th, 44th, and 9th Armored Infantry Battalions consolidated 1 July 1959 to form the 50th Infantry


ROBERT H. HARWOOD

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (ARMY, WWII, Europe) Article May 1997

Robert H. (Bob) Harwood was born in Milam County, Texas. His family lived at Gause and Bob graduated from the nearby High School in Hearne. Bob was working on road construction when he first met Roberta Cole, a Southwest Texas State College girl on a weekend visit to Gause. Roberta graduated at San Marcos and got a job teaching school in Burnet County, not far from her family home in Bertram. Robert and Roberta had stayed in touch but didn’t see each another very often until Bob's company sent him to build the highway be­tween Buchanan Dam and Llano. That made it con­venient for a lot of Saturday night dates going to the movies in Burnet. Then the war came. Bob enlisted February 7, 1942 and after basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky he was assigned to the 6th Armored Division at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Bob made rank quickly, he was soon Sergeant in charge of 16 men, none of whom could read. He took them to school and before long they were all proudly walking around post reading aloud from “Baby Ray” (a first grade reader). The 6th Armored Division left Fort Chaffee, participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, and was then sent to Camp Cook, near Lompoc, California, for desert warfare training. The division moved by train from California to Camp Shanks, New York. They sailed from New York on the THEODORE ROOSEVELT and arrived in Glasgow, Scotland in February 1944. The division was spread over a large area in England with battalion sized elements camped outside the various small towns, training for the invasion of France. 

The 6th Armored Division landed at Omaha Beach on July 19, 1944 and was positioned to take part in the “breakout” from the Normandy beachhead. Technical Sergeant Bob Harwood was the senior man in 3rd Platoon, Company C, 44th Armored Infantry Battalion. Harwood's platoon was 100% mobile, with all squads mounted on halftracks. Third Army broke through the German lines on August 1st, and while the rest of the Army fanned out to the south and east in pursuit, the 6th Armored Division was ordered west on an independent operation to capture the large seaport of Brest. On August 8th when the 2,500 man Combat Command of 6th AD closed up to the approaches of Brest, they ran into 90,000 Germans (rather than the 5,000 that intelligence reports had estimated). The German coastal artillery had been repositioned for land defense and they knocked out every vehicle in Bob Harwood’s column, inflict­ing many casualties. “We ran up and down the hedgerows to get away as the ammunition in our vehicles was exploding.” 

 

General Patton ordered that Brest be bypassed, so 6th Armored Division redeployed to the southwest around Lorient.  For the next three and one-half months the 6th Armored Division was on the offensive moving east across France. Several officers were assigned to 3rd Platoon, but none lasted more than a day or two.  Bob says, “A Second Lieutenant from Dripping Springs joined us, I saw him coming and knew he was a Texan just from the way he walked.  He lasted two days, I don't remember his name.”  Bob con­tinued to function as the Platoon Leader. 

 

On November 15, 1944 Company C was in the attack in Eastern France between Nancy and Metz. Technical Sergeant Harwood had mounted his 34 Infantrymen atop three Tanks that moved in to capture a small village. They ran into determined opposition from a force of “Hitler Jungend” and when the shooting was over Bob’s platoon had only nine men left, and he wasn’t one of them.  Robert Harwood had been wounded three times himself, and he was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the day's action. Bob's third wound was a bullet through the face and it put him out of the war. It was a clean wound through the sinus cavity and he was medically evacuated to a hospital in England.

 

CITATION  

The Silver Star

Date of action: 15 November 1944

Technical Sergeant Robert H. Harwood, for gallantry in action in the vicinity of Eincheville, France on 15 November 1944.  After receiving a wound, he continued to lead his platoon in the attack and was wounded again.  Refusing to pause for medical treatment, he traveled sixty yards to direct supporting fire on enemy machine gun positions.  Returning to the head of his platoon, he continued the attack and aided in capturing seventy prisoners.  Only when the mission was completed, and he had been struck for the third time, would he allow himself to be evacuated.  His courageous actions and heroic efforts reflect high praise upon himself and the United States Army. 

 
 

England proved to be “too wet” to heal a shot-up and infected sinus, so he was sent to sunny California. From there, Bob was put on convalescent leave.  He came back home to Austin and he and Roberta were married on February 7, 1945. After release from the hospital, Bob was assigned to an Engineer unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. “We were out on a problem the night we heard Japan had surrendered. The Captain and I were out fishing.  We dropped our lines and drove all around the post telling everyone the war was over.”  

Bob Harwood was discharged in October 1945 and returned to Austin where he resumed his civilian career in construction. He retired in 1982 from Centex Materials. Since that time he has been an active member of the 6th Armored Division Association and served as a senior officer in that veterans organization; and has also devoted much volunteer work in Chapter 1919 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Bob Harwood, Chapter 1919's Senior Patriot, died October 17, 2013 at the age of 97.

Armored Infantry Squad Carrier, Halftrack

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