More than 80 Modern World History students at the Hamilton Freshman School gathered to hear the story of a World War II veteran on Wednesday morning, as 99-year-old Russ Carr addressed the group with stories about his service to the country that included participation in the Battle of the Bulge and the Liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp.
Carr captivated his audience with details about his experiences and the toll that war takes on humanity.
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D-Day and surviving the German army
On July 1, 1944, Carr landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France with the 125th Mechanized Calvary as D-Day was underway. He drove on to the beach in his armored car with water up to his chest.
“Some of the fellas got dropped off on the beach with 65 pounds of equipment on but they couldn’t swim and we lost about 2,500 fellas in 15 minutes and a lot of equipment,” Carr recalled.
He said the carnage caused so many casualties that a bulldozer had to be used to move away the dead bodies so troops could advance on their mission.
Seeing people die and losing some who Carr became close to are memories that are still quite vivid for him.
“I seen my friend, the one who showed me how to play blackjack when we were playing cards in the tent, bent over in the jeep with a hole in the back of his head,” Carr said, as he moved his hands to show how big the wound was. “Over the road there was a big limb and there was a machine gun guy up there and every time a jeep would go by he would shoot somebody in the back of the head.”
Carr told the students that he was one of the American soldiers who participated in the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp shortly after D-Day.
“The Germans got the crazy notion of using tattooed skin for lamp shades and picture frames and using fingers for light switches,” Carr said.
Carr weaved several stories that revolved around his 308 days of combat duty following the 1944 landing in Normandy. He was involved in five major campaigns that took him through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He received the Bronze Star for heroic action in April 1945 by stopping a German Panzer tank.
“We weren’t able to take a shower or bath for those 308 days,” he told the students.
In September 1942, while delivering milk house to house for Probst Dairy, Carr was drafted into the Army.
“I opened up my draft notice and it said ‘Greeting and salutations. Your neighbors have selected you to serve,’” Carr said, as he laughed with the audience. “I don’t think they were my neighbors.”
Fun with the Russian army
Carr and his unit arrived at the Elbe River in Germany on April 29, 1945 making the first contact with the Russian Army as Berlin fell. His memories of the Russians were that they knew how to party.
“They liked their vodka like nobody’s business,” Carr said.
Creative cooking in his armored vehicle
Making eggs and potatoes in his armored vehicle for breakfast, lunch or dinner was a treat for Carr and the four-member crew that manned the vehicle.
“Sometimes we would cook and heat the food on the manifold of the vehicle,” he said with a laugh.
A true patriot to this day
Carr didn’t mince words when he offered his thoughts about what it means to serve his country.
“I am glad with what I done with my service. I love my country and I would do anything for it,” Carr said as the audience applauded. “I would go serve at my age now if they would take me.”
Carr was married to his wife Marilouise in 1946, and they moved to Hamilton so he could pursue a career as a butcher. The couple was married for 71 years, and they had one daughter, Willa Ramsey. Carr currently resides in the Lindenwald area, where he proudly displays the American flag.