The annual Veterans Day Parade boasts two WWII veterans including Master Sgt. Arthur (Pete) Hardy.
Organized by the Lumpkin County Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, the parade begins from Courthouse Hill Saturday, Nov. 9, 11 a.m. and winds its way around the Public Square.
There will be a reception for participating veterans following at the American Legion Post 239, 232 Legion Road just off Morrison Moore Parkway.
ARTHUR (PETE) HARDY
Born in Paulding County in 1925, graduating from Powder Springs High School in 1943, Pete Hardy worked in a warehouse in Atlanta while “many of my friends had been drafted and I had not. I went to the draft office to find out my status and learned they had lost my paperwork. Needless to say, the next week I was drafted,” Hardy said.
Hardy entered the U.S. Army May 2, 1944 and headed to Fort Blanding, Florida for basic training.
He was assigned to the 42nd Rainbow Division, 222nd Regiment, Company M, Infantry Division at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma and left for Marseille, France Nov. 25, 1944.
Marseille was supposedly a quiet zone along the Rhine River. Hardy’s division’s mission was to complete their training.
“But it turned out differently,” he said. “At Erlenbach we were relieving soldiers from the 79th Division and had been told that there wasn’t much going on, but two nights later a German patrol came out of the fog and a battle started. I fired my first rounds of fire at the enemy Dec. 25, 1944, from an old schoolhouse on the Rhine.”
From there Hardy and his fellow soldiers were sent to the front lines and fought in the last part of the Battle of the Bulge—the worst battle in terms of casualties for the United States.
“It was horrendous. … We were in the snow covered Ohlungen Forest. Many of the Germans were in white uniforms and difficult to see We were pushed back three times and on the third time told to hold at all costs,” Hardy said.
The Germans were just as determined. Three regiments attacked the 222nd, already under strength by half a battalion of riflemen, starting across the Moder River using their own dead to make a footbridge, Hardy said.
“We burned through 33 boxes of machine gun ammunition one night. It was one long artillery barrage after another but we stopped their efforts to advance,” Hardy said.
In 2001, the 222nd Infantry Regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its “extraordinary heroism in military operations” in the battle Jan. 24-25, 1945.
The men of 222nd would again be sent to the front lines of the fight, but before that Hardy was transferred to Headquarters Company as a switchboard operator. However, his part in the action was not over.
“At this time, we began chasing the Germans over the Haardt Mountains. There were no roads so we used mules to carry equipment and I carried the 60 pound switchboard on my back. We crossed the mountains dodging land mines, snipers and machine gun fire,” Hardy said.
The troops crossed the German lines and continued on, capturing key cities as they went—Wurzburg, Schweinfurt and Furth.
On the way to Munich, part of Hardy’s Division came across and liberated Dachau. Just after the concentration camp was liberated, Hardy arrived to see “one of the most horrible sights I will ever see,” he said. “I saw the boxcars of dead bodies stacked up. All I can say is that it was a place of horror and it made our mission more meaningful.”
One day before the war ended, Hardy heard the news over the switchboard.
“We celebrated a day early,” he said.
Hardy’s Division remained in Austria as part of the occupational troops. On June 13, 1946 he was discharged with the rank of Master Sergeant. He returned home to a hero’s welcome, but, he said, the true hero “were the ones who did not return home. I thank God I was able to.”
Following the war he worked for the Atlanta Stove Works for 40 years in various positions, ending as a Service Manager.
“During a revival in September of 1946, I kept a promise made to God while in a foxhole and joined a church. I had given my life to Christ in a foxhole during a battle and promised if I survived I would live for Him,” Hardy said.
The following month he married Ray, his wife of 39years. The two had met on a school bus when Hardy was 10-years-old. The couple made their home in Powder Springs until her death in 2005. He now lives in Dahlonega with his daughter, Pat Sandhagen.