Becoming a Paratrooper

North Africa to France

Battle of the Bulge

Perfect Firing Position

Cold and Wet

Fighting a King Tiger

The Bulge and Me-262s

Purple Hearts and Frozen Feet

End of the War and Feelings Toward Enemies

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Richard Boyd was born in November 1924 and grew up in York, Pennsylvania. During World War 2 he served in Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. He had enlisted in the Army in February or March 1943 and was discharged in December 1945. Boyd dropped out of high school to enlist. After the war, he returned home, got his GED then took classes part time at Penn State York campus studying industrial relations for a couple years. Boyd was working at the Nehi Bottling Company in York when he and three of his coworkers decided to enlist in the military. Three of them joined up for the duration of the war and the fourth volunteered for ten years. Boyd was assigned to the 44th Infantry Division which was then in training on the West Coast and guarding against an invasion by the Japanese. In Boyd's platoon of 36 men there were only 12 rifles to go around. The rest of the men were armed with sticks. One Sunday morning, a call went out for a volunteer to help out an officer. Boyd stepped up. The officer asked Boyd to take his clothes to the cleaners and Boyd agreed if the officer would sign his transfer papers. That is how he got into the airborne. Boyd is color blind. He originally wanted to join the Navy and go into the submarine service but was turned down. The airborne training was unbelievable. There were a lot of men who washed out. One of the things they did was a 25 mile march during which Boyd had to help carry a man across the finish line. After completing his training, Boyd felt very confident in his abilities. Boyd first trained on a jump tower. He made two jumps on the first day, then his third on another day then the fourth and fifth on another. Boyd enjoyed the sensation of jumping out of a plane. There were a number of injuries during jump training. Boyd hurt himself while training on the jump tower. The men were told to keep their feet together but he did not and ended up getting hurt.

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Richard Boyd joined his company [Annotator's Note: Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion] as a replacement in Africa. To Boyd, the people in North Africa were different that they were. Boyd and his wife went to Europe in 1984 to visit their son. Boyd and his son visited some of the areas he had fought in during the war. Boyd and his wife then took the train to Nice [Annotator's Note: Nice, France]. Boyd's outfit spent more than 90 days in the Maritime Alps after the invasion of Southern France. For that invasion, Boyd's unit was assigned as a reserve. Things went well and they were not needed. They ended up being shipped to Marseilles aboard an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] then were sent up the coast to the Maritime mountains. After a few months there, they were given a short rest after which they were to start preparing to make the jump across the Rhine River which was scheduled for the spring [Annotator's Note: spring of 1945]. There were 540 men in Boyd's outfit. They were told that the first 35 or so men who behaved themselves would be allowed to go to Paris. Boyd was one of those selected to go. He was in Paris and got to see the follies and went to a club on the Champs Elysees. The pass lasted for five days. While Boyd was in Paris, his outfit was sent to the bulge. A man at the hotel told him that he had to leave and rejoin his unit but Boyd resisted until a colonel showed up.

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Richard Boyd returned to his outfit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion] and was sent right to the front lines while still wearing his dress uniform. A truck driver dropped him off at a location and pointed the way to the front. Boyd had no winter clothing and did not even have a weapon. When he mentioned this to the truck driver, the driver told him to just follow the road to the front and that he would find plenty of guns and ammunition along the way. That is how Boyd got into the Battle of the Bulge. He managed to find an overcoat then joined his company. Boyd's unit was sent to a small town called Sadzot where the Germans had overrun a 4.2 inch mortar platoon and captured the town. Boyd's group was to chase the Germans out of Sadzot. He was later told that there were 420 dead Germans in the field outside of the town. Boyd arrived back at his outfit in the middle of this battle. Boyd had seen some combat in Italy. They made one combat jump there but the main action occurred when they got to the Maritime Alps. When Boyd was in Paris, all he knew was that the Germans had broken through. He went out the night he learned about the breakthrough then returned to his unit the following day. The entire time Boyd was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge he was wearing his dress uniform. When Boyd got to his outfit the fighting was very intense. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion was used to plug holes in the lines. Where Boyd did most of his fighting, with the exception of a few cities and towns, was very heavily forested. Boyd was captured by the Germans on one occasion. He was not wearing his parachute wings at the moment. He thought that if the Germans knew he was a paratrooper they would shoot him. Some of the guys were able to slip away but the German soldier saw Boyd and called him over. Boyd left his rifle on the ground and started heading toward the German but an artillery shell suddenly came in and went off. As soon as that happened Boyd took off running. He grabbed his rifle and kept running through the waist deep snow. The Germans started shooting at him but he was able to get away and rejoin his unit. On another occasion, Boyd got separated from his unit and went without food and water for three days. During that time there were Germans who had infiltrated the American lines wearing American uniforms and speaking perfect English. After being on his own for three days, Boyd came across a field artillery unit. He approached the unit and asked for some food. The artilleryman asked him who he was and when he replied that he was with the 509th, the artilleryman told him that he would not get any rations from them. Boyd pulled his .45 pistol out and pointed it at the artilleryman and demanded something to eat. After that the man fed him.

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During one battle, Richard Boyd and about five other soldiers were pinned down. The rest of the group ran into the cellar of a house. Boyd and another soldier from Texas went up into the attic of the house. As the Germans tried to cut off the American soldiers in the field, Boyd and the other soldier would fire at the German soldiers. The German soldiers did not know where they were until Boyd looked out of the window to take another shot at a German soldier. The Germans fired at Boyd and shot the helmet off of his head. From their vantage point they could see American troops, possibly of the 14th Armored Division, moving across a field. Two German machine gun nests opened fire and was mowing the Americans down until the guy in the attic with Boyd located the nest and wiped out the two machine gun teams. Boyd put the guy in for a Silver Star but it was not awarded. Boyd has no idea how many people that guy saved. When Boyd and the other soldier ran out of ammunition they went into the cellar and took the ammunition from the soldiers hiding in there. One day, Boyd saw a pig that he wanted to shoot for the meat but decided against it when he saw the pig eating the bodies of dead German soldiers.

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[Annotator's Note: This segment begins with the interviewer talking about another interview he recorded with a soldier who shared a similar background with Richard Boyd.] Due to the dense forests, orientation was often difficult for Richard Boyd. One time, Boyd was in a deep forest and could hear people digging in. They approached the sounds and called out to the people asking if they were Americans. The people did not answer at first but they later ended up yelling back and forth at each other, neither side believing the other. The next morning, whoever was digging in was gone. One night, in an effort to keep warm, Boyd crawled in bed with two French girls. The weather was miserable. During one attack they were working with an armored division and were riding on the tanks. The weather was so cold that when some of the guys jumped off the tanks they hit the ground in the same position they had been in on the tank. Sometimes Boyd would fire his rifle real fast then put his hands on the barrel to warm them up. Boyd's unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion] was usually at the front so they were not able to build fires very often. When they were in a safe area they were occasionally able to dig a hole and fill it with gasoline to set on fire and warm up. They were always cold. Boyd found it impossible to stay dry too. One time when his outfit was working with an armored division, Boyd ended up in a stream bed and his feet got wet. His feet began giving him problems but he just kept going. He did not want to get left behind.

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Richard Boyd had been taught that fighting the war was his job. He never gave any thought to the fact that the enemy was trying to kill him. In every outfit there were thieves and cheaters. While on outpost duty one night, one of the guys turned his watch ahead and woke up Boyd for watch. Boyd thought something was strange when the watch said it was six o'clock and the sun was not up. Another night while on outpost, Boyd had a severe coughing attack. He went out on outpost duty anyway but was not out there long before he was called back. The other soldiers were afraid that Boyd was going to get them killed by his coughing. The first thing Boyd learned in paratrooper training was to respect the guys he served with but not to get personally attached to them. Boyd believes that it was the right advice. Boyd trusted his training. In airborne training he learned to use every piece of equipment there was. One time Boyd was walking with a bazooka man when a German soldier shot the strap on the bazooka, knocking it right off the guy's back. The guy decided that he did not want to carry the bazooka anymore after that so Boyd picked it up and carried it. Not long after that Boyd was called on by a lieutenant when a Tiger Royal [Annotator's Note: German Mk. VI Ausf. B, known as the Tiger II or King Tiger heavy tank] broke into a field and started shooting everything up. The lieutenant told Boyd that if he knocked the tank out he would get a Bronze Star. Boyd and his ammo bearer went after the enemy tank. Boyd fired a rocket at the tank but the only thing that accomplished was letting the German tanker know where he was. The German tank fired at round directly at Boyd which he assumes was an armor piercing round because it blew a tree in half right behind him. At that point, Boyd dropped the bazooka and started digging a hole to get in. Luckily, the enemy tank left right after it fired. The bazooka was a light weapon and would usually only stop an enemy tank if they hit it in the tracks. The Germans had a lot of good equipment.

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When the break though in the Bulge came [Annotator's Note: the beginning of the German Ardennes Offensive, also referred to as the Battle of the Bulge], Richard Boyd and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion] were moving up from the south. They were supposed the stay in one location for the winter then in the spring they were to jump the Rhine River. During this time, Boyd and the other guys in his outfit got passes to go to Paris. He was in Paris when the Battle of the Bulge began. The guy who brought him back to his outfit drove him to a certain point then dropped him off and pointed to the front lines. Boyd walked in that direction and eventually rejoined his outfit. On 21 or 22 January [Annotator's Note: January 1945] Boyd was sent to the hospital. That was the end of combat for him. After the war he was told that he could return to the paratroops but that he would never be able to jump again. He did not want to go back if he could not jump. He was assigned to a disarmament unit and was given the job of clearing out the plant that manufactured the Me-262 jet fighter. The plans for those planes were sent back to the United States and that is how the Americans got jet aircraft. Ten of the German scientists were brought to the United States as well to work on the jet aircraft program. Boyd had 40 Germans working for him who were paid ten cents per hour. After Boyd's group was finished clearing the factory they turned it over to the Russians. Boyd was ordered to destroy every piece of equipment in the factory that the Russians could have used, which he did. Everything Boyd could not haul back to Frankfurt he had to dump in the river.

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Richard Boyd was wounded on 22 January [Annotator's Note: 22 January 1945]. His Purple Heart was awarded for frozen feet. Boyd did not learn until after the war that every Purple Heart he received was worth five points [Annotator's Note: the US Military developed a point system which it used to determine who went home and when]. The Germans broke through at St. Vith. Boyd's unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion] was on its way to retake St. Vith and stopped in the town of Born which it was going to use as a jump off point for the attack. There, a doctor asked Boyd how he was and Boyd told him that his feet were cold. The doctor left but returned shortly after and told Boyd to take his boots off. Boyd could not take them off because his feet would swell and he would not be able to put them back on. The doctor insisted and Boyd took off his boots. Within moments his feet were swollen so he was placed in an ambulance and taken to a hospital where he was told that his feet were going to be amputated. Boyd protested so he was given penicillin instead. The pain from frozen feet was intense. Boyd's feet were black nearly up to his knees. He could not walk for almost three months. Boyd was released from the hospital around the end of April. After the Germans surrendered, Boyd was sent to London, England and was there for the big end of the war celebration.

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Richard Boyd was not trained to go to Japan after the Germans surrendered. He was assigned to a unit disarming the German air force and a factory [Annotator's Note: Boyd was in a disarmament unit that was tasked with disassembling a Messerschmitt Me-262 factory] in preparation for turning the place over to the Russians. Boyd was not very nice to the Germans he oversaw but when he left they cried because they knew that the Russians were coming. Boyd's philosophy is that you should never use a war. After the war he could order the Germans to do whatever he wanted and they had to do it. Of all Boyd's experiences of the war, what bothers him the most was the Italian kids and the situation they were in. The Germans and Japanese had their citizens convinced that going to war was necessary but the Italians did not want to go to war. When Boyd was in Italy, kids would go to their camp and would dig through the garbage with a gallon size can and would take it home for their family to eat. Boyd felt sorry for the Italians but he has never felt pity for the Germans or Japanese.

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