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Sgt. Grimes remembers wanting to come home - Albia Newspapers: News

Sgt. Grimes remembers wanting to come home

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Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016 9:01 am


Editor and Publisher

David Grimes celebrated some milestones this week. Saturday was his 99th birthday. Tuesday he voted for the 20th time for President of the United States. In October, he quietly observed his 71st year of life following 14 months of combat and occupation in southern France and Germany as a Staff Sgt. with a tank destroyer unit in WWII.

At 99 Grimes is the oldest living WWII veteran in Monroe County. His heavy wool “Eisenhower” jacket still fits the spry former Monroe County auditor like the day he first put in on. His eyesight is just about gone from macular degeneration but his mind is sharp and clear and if he could see, he’d still be out in his big yard located across the street from Trinity United Methodist Church where he and Gladys, his wife of 66 years have lived for many years.

He can tell you that he won his first election to Monroe County Auditor as a Republican in 1953 by 848 votes. He’ll tell you he won his last election in 1980 (the year of the Reagan revolution) by a 2-1 margin, even carrying Melrose, a deeply entrenched Democratic stronghold at that time.

For both David and Gladys, the memories of WWII are still vivid. Gladys had four brothers serve in the Army and Navy. One of her brothers, an Army medic, was wounded, but all four came home.

David served four years, two months in the Army after being drafted as a 24-year-old. He graduated from high school in 1937, worked three years on his parents’ farm and then graduated from the Iowa Success School (a business school) in Ottumwa. In August of 1941 he was drafted into the Army, did his basic training in New Jersey and was attached to Gen. George Patton’s 16th Tank Destroyer group.

A tank destroyer, said Grimes, was a lightly armored vehicle that looked like a tank with its turret removed. It had two cannons and was extremely quick and mobile, using armor piercing shells to hobble German Panzer tanks. He trained to both drive and operate the cannons in the vehicle.

Eventually he would be attached to the Seventh Army under Gen. Alexander Patch, do further training in California and New York, then head to England late in 1943 for more training.

“The first plan for the invasion of France was to land in Normandy and in southern France near Marseilles,” said Grimes the day after Donald Trump had won the election for president. Grimes voted for the Republican Trump, but his first vote for president was for a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt. “But the southern invasion of France was delayed and we didn’t go on shore until early August,” he said.

By August the U.S. Army, along with allies Brittain and Canada, were sweeping down from the north. Three weeks after landing in France, Grimes’ company of tank destroyers were engaged in battle with Panzer tanks. With infantry support and their own Sherman tanks going nose to nose with the Germans, U.S. troops swept north.

Now a Master Sergeant with the Seventh Army, Grimes saw lots of combat and was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery. Asked how he earned one of the Army’s highest commendations, Grimes simply said, “I never asked my men to do something I wouldn’t do.”

Following the Battle of the Bulge, U.S. armor drove out of France and into Germany. “I remember crossing the Rhine on a real bridge (much of the crossings were done over pontoon bridges) that the Germans weren’t able to blow up,” he said. Their goal was to take the home of the German Nazi Party, Munich. “By the time we were moving through Germany, we were mostly fighting kids,” he said. “We also saw all kinds of dead horses on the road.

See this full news story in the Thursday, November 10th issue of the Union Republican.

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