Alvin R. Hardy, 94
War zone: Europe
Years of service: 1942-45
Rank: Private first class
Most prominent honors: Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge
By Lou Michel
News Staff Reporter
Before Uncle Sam requested his services by way of a draft notice, Alvin R. Hardy found contentment working in the shipping department at the Columbus McKinnon chain factory in the City of Tonawanda.
It was steady work, and he enjoyed it, but with the draft notice in hand, Hardy dutifully headed for the draft board office on Main Street in Williamsville. That same day, he ended up on his way to World War II.
“A whole bunch of us went to Buffalo where we took the train to Niagara Falls and then we went to Fort Niagara in Youngstown,” he recalls.
Boot camp followed at Camp Wheeler, Ga., followed by advanced training. Then, Hardy and his comrades were packed into the RMS Queen Elizabeth and shipped to England to prepare for an anticipated invasion of Europe, though the location and time were top-secret.
“There was this beach in England that we would run onto from the English Channel,” Hardy said.
Practice ended the morning of June 6, 1944, with the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Waves of troops charged off landing crafts onto the French coast and into a barrage of German artillery fire, many spilling their blood and sacrificing their lives.
“There were five beaches, and we landed at Utah Beach. There was a lot of noise. All the shells going off and that stuff. Some of the soldiers were hit and floating in the water,” Hardy says. “I was scared.”
Yet even with death all around him, he says, it didn’t occur to him that he might die.
“You just kept on going forward,” he says. “Getting above Utah Beach wasn’t so bad. The incline wasn’t that steep, but next to us at Omaha Beach, it was tough.”
Though spared wounds on that momentous day in history, Hardy soon had a brush with mortality in the Battle of Cherbourg. A piece of shrapnel walloped his left shoulder from behind.
“That was a big port we were fighting for, and I was hit on June 23,” he says. “They took me to a field hospital and got rid of my old, rotten clothes. They wrapped me up in a sheet and a blanket. A day later we were taken to a hospital in England.”
Doctors operated and removed the shrapnel, which Hardy says bulged out of the front side of his left shoulder. For four months, he recuperated in England before being shipped back to the United States, where he was hospitalized for several more months before being honorably discharged in May 1945, when the war in Europe ended.
“I still don’t have full use of my left shoulder,” Hardy says.
Yet he was able to return to Columbus McKinnon.
“I went back to the chain works and worked as a forklift operator. I worked there until 1985. That’s when they closed up the Fillmore Avenue plant in Tonawanda and I retired.”
He and his late wife, Ruth Crittenden Hardy, raised four children.
As for the war, Hardy says he has never forgotten his service. Battle scars on his shoulder, he said, remind him.
And there is even a pleasant memory.
Twenty years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the invasion, Hardy and his youngest daughter, Lynne Bain, visited Normandy.
“It was a lot better then,” Hardy says. “It was all clear.”