Like many other veterans, Gene doesn’t really like to talk about WWII and his experiences. Brokaw writes in The Greatest Generation, “ As they now reach the twilight of their adventurous and productive lives, they remain, for the most part, exceptionally modest. They have so many stories to tell, stories that in many cases they have never told before, because in a deep sense they didn’t think that what they were doing was that special, because everyone else was doing it too.”
But when you talk to him and read the letter from Major General Wade H. Haislip detailing why he was awarded the Bronze Star, Gene’s heroic action is crystal clear.
Gene served in the U.S. Army from October 1943 to October 1945 and was in the D-Day invasion at Normandy. “We lost a lot of guys going in there. There were eight or ten guys with me that were killed,” he remembers. “You couldn’t see the sky for all the airplanes and bombing overhead,” Gene said.
Gene and his friend and neighbor, Jerry Ramos, recently visited the Road to Victory Military Museum and talked about the war and in particular one battle in Brion, France on September 8, 1944.
Gene, age 20, was with the 2nd Platoon, Troop C, on road patrol in a ¼ ton truck with a .30 calibre machine gun. In the early hours of the morning, the Americans encountered an enemy convoy and set several of the enemy vehicles on fire. The enemy troops fled their burning vehicles but then deployed along the sides of the road and proceeded on foot to attack the American outpost.
In a letter of commendation that accompanied the Bronze Star Medal, dated October 31, 1944, Major General Wade H. Haislip described Gene’s actions:
“Without knowledge of the strength of the flanking force, you moved in rapidly and attacked them vigorously with your .30 calibre machine gun causing the enemy to flee. By your initiative and aggressive action, you prevented the outpost from being cut off and surrounded by an enemy force later learned to be approximately 200 men strong.”
Michael Roberts, president of the Road to Victory Military Museum (RTVMM) in Stuart, commented that veterans like Gene Barry are exactly the reason the RTVMM exists today. “Our mission is to honor and pay tribute to all the brave men and women who have and are presently serving our country in the Armed Forces. We commend Mr. Barry for his bravery and thank him for his remarkable service.”
Gene has four more Bronze Star Medals and a European African Eastern Service Medal.
Gene is a member of the VFW and the American Legion Post 126 in Jensen Beach and the Moose Lodge in Stuart. He is originally from Larksville, Pennsylvania and worked for the Budweiser Brewery in Newark, N.J. for 32 years before retiring. He has lived in Jensen Beach for 21 years and was married for 66 years; his wife died in February 2013. He has three children, seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
The Road to Victory Military Museum is located at 319 Stypmann Boulevard in Stuart. They are open Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm and by appointment for schools, veterans groups or special events. They have an impressive collection of mobile transport as well as artifacts and items of military history. Their annual fundraiser is the Stuart Air Show which will take place October 31 to November 2, 2014. You can learn more about the RTVMM at their website www.roadtovictorymilitarymuseum.org or phone 772-334-2990.
Beverly B Jones
Beverly B Jones