In early 1944, a Mormon farm boy from Idaho named Dwight Percy Farnworth was called up to duty in the Army in World War II. Like so many men (and women) of his generation, he stepped up to serve his country, and fight for life, liberty and freedom of not only his own countrymen, but people from around the world. He trained and fought valiantly on the front lines in Germany, and received a serious wound. Today, on Purple Heart Day, I would like to honor and remember my grandfather, Dwight Farnworth, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his combat wound. Dwight tells his story in his own words (abridged from his life history):
“I went into the Army on February 23, 1944. I was shipped to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. After they finished with us there in Salt Lake, they sent us to Camp Swift, just outside of Austin, Texas. It was 105 degrees and better and we almost died of the heat. We went through nine weeks of basic training there and I learned to do KP and take an M-1 rifle apart and put it back together blindfolded. I learned to make a pack, and take a machine gun nest. I could shoot a Browning Automatic Rifle, and wash my mess kit in a barrel of scalding hot water. I crawled through a mine field with live bullets going over my head without getting dirt in the barrel of my rifle. “They gave me the last half of my Senior year in high school because I went into the Army. I received an emergency furlough to go home and get my High School Diploma. That was a satisfying time. I was proud to be in the Army. I was the only one with my robes over a uniform. “After my stay in Camp Swift, we were put on a troop train. It took us to Camp Kilmer, just outside Trenton, New Jersey. We were there for several months. I used to walk guard at night. We’d go through many obstacle courses and made several long forced marches. One forced march was twenty-five miles long. When we finished it, my feet swelled so I couldn’t get my shoes on. They were always showing us movies about what we were getting into, or we were having drills.
“I shipped out for overseas on the Marine Wolf from New York City. It was a Liberty Ship. We were twelve days crossing the Atlantic. The second or third day out, we were hit by a storm that made us restricted to the hold so we wouldn’t get lost overboard. The ship rocked to one side until you could hardly stand up, then it would flip to the other. It made it difficult to hit your helmet liner at times, and times, and times. Everyone was sick.
“We looked for days and days at the water. I thought we would never see land again. We landed in England and took on water but didn’t get off the ship. Instead, we crossed the channel to Cherbourg, France. We loaded into trucks and went through little narrow cobblestone streets that the trucks had a hard time squeezing through. We bivouacked about thirty miles outside of Cherbourg, France. It rained most all the time. It was so miserable. We lived, two in a puptent and slept on the ground. The only dry place you could find was in your pup tent, and some of them were all wet inside.
“We camped out there at Cherbourg for about four to six weeks. They then put us on trucks and brought us to a railroad. We then boarded a train. We went over near Paris, then into Holland, and then into Germany. Our first place in Germany was Hatarath. We were in a holding position, that means that we sat there and wouldn’t let the Germans get by us.
“The first night I was one scared kid. They put me outside of the main gate on guard. They didn’t know it, but I believe that I was more dangerous than the enemy. After the bombardment finished, everything was quiet. The night grew darker and with it my fears mounted. Every little noise brought me into a big sweat. About ten o’clock I heard a slight noise kept up for some time, off and on, and as they had told us, foolishly, that the Germans would sneak up and kill us, we were to be extra alert. I shouted over at the hedge for whoever was there to come out and show himself. When no one came out, I laid the tank gun that I had on its side and sprayed that hedge good with several bursts. The noise quit and rest of the night was uneventful. In the morning I went over to see what I had shot. Laying there were three of the deadest little pigs you have ever seen.
“I spent the next three weeks in a foxhole between the town and the fields. About three or four hundred feet away were the trenches of the Germans. You could see them walking around in the day time and at night you could hear them talking.
“We stood watch for four hours on and four hours off all the time. It became awful. If anyone made a sound, I was up and in the stand hole. I do believe that I stood a lot more than my watch just because of that. I became so jumpy!
“We left Hatarath and went to the town of Linder, Germany. Another thing that happened in Linder happened on Christmas Day. They brought us up a real turkey dinner. They really put on a spread for us out in the courtyard. We were all ready to line up and fill our mess kits when an enemy plane flew over He machine gunned us and, of course, we all ran for cover. He sure would have laughed for he riddled all of that dinner. We didn’t get to eat any of it. His bullets hit and scattered every kettle of food. From Linder we went into our first battle. We took the town of Brocklin, Germany.“From Brocklin, I went as a tried killer (the only time I ever killed anything that I was sure of was those three little pigs), to the real war. We fought for and took Flossdorff, Germany. They said it would be a piece of cake. We had such an easy time with Brocklin that we believed them. It took us a week and three fourths of our outfit to take it.
“The next day we were still bringing the Germans out of the pill boxes along the river. The tanks would go down street after street and shoot into the basements to clear them. It was such an awful ordeal.
“I must have looked a mess, bloody, dirty, and unshaven. I was standing there alongside the road eating the first crackers from a ‘K’ ration that I had eaten in 6 days. Along came one of the fellows with some women and men and children from somewhere near the river. When they saw me they cringed over against the buildings on the far side of the street. I couldn’t imagine what was the matter until I realized just what I was doing. I then felt sick that I could sink so low. There in front of me was a German that had had a direct hit and was laying all over the road in little pieces. I was looking at him and eating. I hadn’t realized how used to death I’d gotten. There were many other things that happened that would be better left unsaid. I’ll skip over to our final attack across the Roer River.
“We went into Lindern, Germany, it had been taken a few days before. It was about twenty minutes before dark. That was another awful night. We crossed the river. We went on, sometimes we’d be walking on dry land and then we’d be up to our neck in water. They had flooded the valley shortly before. We went on like that and took two or three towns and then we went into this one town and really had to fight to take it.
“It was a town similar to Boise in that it had a little hill all around it. A scout plane radioed that the Germans had massed a lot of their tanks just a few miles to the east of us. We started to line the town with anti-tank mines and dig in for a big fight. I grabbed four mines, two in each hand and went to a hill that was covered with trees and underbrush and was about like the hill going out of Boise to the bench. It was about eighty feet high and real steep. We clawed our way to the top of it and lay our mines.
“Just as we started back, the Germans started throwing in a lot of mortar fire. The other fellows were closer to the edge of the hill than I and they dove over. I just dropped where I stood. That drop wasn’t fast enough I guess. When a mortar comes in, you hear a little sssst and then it explodes. Well, I heard that sssst and started going for the ground. The thing exploded right in front of me. As I understand, I should be deaf from the concussion. It should have also cut me to ribbons. I was hit just once in the lower left leg. It took all the muscle out and went through clean. I understand that it chipped the shin and that I have a plate in it.
“I put a bandage on it and took my sulfa tablets, then the fellows started carrying me back to the town. I had to crawl down the hill by myself, as it was too steep for them to carry me down. At the bottom we found some fellows that were bringing in some German soldiers. They made the Germans carry me on a chair made of their arms until I passed out. They then made a stretcher out of their overcoats. We went just a little way and the medics came with a stretcher. As they were taking me through the camp, everyone was shouting “Million Dollar Wound” and wishing they were me. At camp they ripped off my shoe pack and dressed my leg. They then shot some morphine from a little tube, into my stomach. They put me on the front of a jeep and took me back across the Roer River, several miles away.
“It seems to me that we floated clear back to Herlene, Holland. The next thing I remember, I was being carried into an operating room and being held down. The doctor shot some stuff into my leg and then started probing. All of a sudden, it felt just like they had poured hot oil on my ankle. I broke the straps that held me down and threw both fellows away that were holding me down then came clear off the table. They must have then given me another shot for I knew nothing more until I was being lifted onto the shoulders of German Prisoners and carried into another large room.
“From Herlene, Holland they brought me by ambulance to Belgium. They then put me on a plane and flew me to Paris, France. All this time I thought I was going back to the front lines at anytime. I was in Paris for three weeks. We flew to England and I was in three or four hospitals. They operated on my leg in the first one. My leg drained for about four months. They kept me in bed for most of that time. I was a good patient and stayed down as they asked me. When they did tell me I could get up, I went at it too hard. I almost put myself back in bed. I went all over on crutches. I even gave a pint of blood.“They gave me a convalescent furlough. I went home and helped Dad put up hay on the farm. I went from home to Salt Lake City and then on to Oakland, California to the Oakland Army Base. I was on limited service there. I was there for about nine months. I worked in the stockroom. It was a snap job. I just keep it clean and issued the clothing. I received an honorable discharge from the Army, May 10, 1946.”
Dwight Percy Farnworth would later be awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded during his service. He suffered, silently, from his leg injury throughout his life, but was always proud to have served his country. He was buried with full military honors after his death in 2008.For further information on the unit that Dwight Farnworth fought with see these websites and videos: