HOPKINTON – Back in 2018, I knocked on the door of Robert and Judy Morgan’s house in Hope Valley. Someone had told me this man, 94-year-old Bob Morgan, was a World War II veteran with incredible stories.
I wondered if the man who answered the door was Bob’s son. He was wearing a “WWII Veteran” ballcap but he looked about two decades too young to have served in a world war. I learned looks are indeed deceiving. Bob settled down in the living room to tell me about his life.
He was born in New London in 1924 and later moved to Westerly with his parents Kenneth and Bessie. As he grew, he pondered what he wanted to do with his life. He had learned from his mechanic father how to fix cars. But his real interests were in history, drawing and geography. Before he’d had time to decide on a career path, Uncle Sam came calling.
After being drafted into the Army, he served from 1943 to 1945. A combat medic in the 44th Division, he was sent to Normandy where the invasion, on June 6, 1944, resulted in the deaths of more than 425,000 people. He remembered it like it had just happened, telling me, “When we got to the shore, we went in on the ducks. I wasn’t really scared. I figured I had to do the job. But I guess I was a little bit scared.”
I sat with Bob that afternoon, flipping through old photo albums, talking about the realities of war. “Once, we got hit so close it shook the foxhole we were in,” he recalled. “I watched a white spot form on another guy’s head next to me, from fear. The hair turned white!”
He talked about being hit by enemy fire. “We were moving through the forest and there was an artillery barrage. Shells are bursting around you and you’re trying to find cover. I could feel the burning. I got some shrapnel in my back and the pieces are hot.”
At that moment, Bob could have secured a one-way ticket home with a Purple Heart. But he didn’t want to go home yet. He found a medic from another platoon to remove the shrapnel and dress the wounds and kept the injury a secret.
He showed me faded photographs of France where the number of cows amazed him; others taken in Austria, just minutes from what he called “Hitler’s place”; and snapshots of Germany which he described as immaculately clean.
Bob easily recalled dates, places and events and he wanted to share with me the one memory he said was etched the deepest into his mind. “I came upon a man with no legs. As I began to pass by him, he called ‘Medic, pray for me.’ I stopped and he said, ‘Medic, I got two pairs of dry socks in my pack. I won’t be needing them.’ Dry, clean socks were hard to come by and all he was worried about was that his didn’t go to waste. That stuck with me. I never forgot it.”
Bob returned home a decorated soldier with two Bronze Stars for heroism and went back to his job at Stillwater Worsted Mill in Ashaway. He reconnected with a childhood friend named Janet Arnold, they married and raised a family. He kept himself busy, even at 94. He had a little shop in which he fixed broken items for people. He enjoyed doing yard work and going out to eat. He liked watching “The Curse of Oak Island” and playing Bingo. He loved God.
Bob passed away on July 13; a father, grandfather, husband, hero and friend. As the number of World War II veterans decreases, I am honored I got to spend that afternoon with him as she shared memories of his incredible experiences. All those stories he told me, the ones he never forgot, I’ll never forget them either.