[Photo: Joe Landry, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, takes a photo at the Fort Jackson military museum during a recent tour.]
When Joe Landry was drafted, he asked to be "boosted up" so he could go into the Army with two of his friends. They ended up not going. In March 1944, Landry, an 18-year-old mechanic, landed in Scotland.
He became a heavy truck driver for anti-aircraft artillery. He drove, his comrades shot down planes.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Landry transported equipment and personnel.
"The closest call was on one of my trips I had a bullet go through the right-hand windshield and embed itself in what they call a headboard behind the cab," he said. He also saw the bodies of the men killed in the Malmedy Massacre in Belgium. "When you're 18, 19, there isn't really too much that really bothers you. You're indispensable."
At the time, the speed of the Army impressed him the most.
"With General Patton's 3rd Army trucks, he said he didn't want any of them idle, so everybody was moving," Landry said. Although as part of an anti-aircraft team, his truck would sometimes stay planted for a week or two, guns ready.
"Being a truck driver I got to go a lot of places and saw a lot of things but I was not in the ditches like the poor infantry guys," Landry said.
Meanwhile, back at home, his parents worried. Landry had three brothers and a sister serving, too.
"My mother's hair turned white while we were gone," he said. "They were proud. They had one of those five-star flags they had at the time."
Though two of his brothers and a sister served during World War II, it wasn't uncommon. Landry said from his hometown, which had a population of about 2500, 336 people served. However, one coincidence brought home to the front.
"I was going between the city or town of Metz, France to Dordogne, France, and there was a truck in front of me with my brother's numbers on it. I blew the horn and he finally stopped. I asked the driver where they were stationed and he said, 'Oh right down the street,' so I followed him to my older brother [Harold], who I hadn't seen in two-and-a-half years. ... It was about a week before Thanksgiving '44 and we spent Thanksgiving dinner together.
"I knew he was in Europe but I didn't know where. Both of us were kind of crying we were so happy to see each other," Landry said. They visited a few more times before they were separated. The next time they saw each other would be at home.
There, Landry married and had a family. His son, Steven, retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Chemical Corps. He's been a member of the American Legion George J. Morin Post 183 nearly 70 years, and enjoys Honor Guard and sharing his experiences with schoolchildren.