Willard H. Blevins Sr., a highly decorated Harford County World War II veteran who fought on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge, died Jan. 27 of congestive heart failure at his home in Fallston. He was 95.
Mr. Blevins began his Army career when he was drafted in 1942, and served in the European Theater as a squad leader with the 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, whose nickname was “Tough ’Ombres,” and was part of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s fabled Third Army.
In March 1944, Mr. Blevins and the 357th embarked aboard the HMS Dominion Monarch, a former British luxury liner that had been converted into a troop transport, for Liverpool, England.
While initial elements of the 90th Infantry Division landed at 7 a.m. on June 6, 1944 — D-Day — on Utah Beach, Mr. Blevins landed with the remaining members of the division four days later, and despite heavy fighting through the thick French hedgerows, successfully took Pont-l’Abbé.
He was wounded by enemy artillery fire that injured his back.
“He said his back had been on fire and had the marks on his back for the rest of his life to prove it,” said a son, Robert J. Blevins of Bel Air. “I don’t know whether there wasn’t room in a hospital, but a French couple took him into their home for his recuperation, and then he returned to the front line.”
In early December 1944, Mr. Blevins and the 357th crossed the Saar River and took Saarlauten, and with the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 16, which marked the last major German offensive of the war along an 80-mile front, they were drawn into the historic battle that ended the enemy’s wartime ambitions.
“He didn’t bring up the Bulge too often, but did say it was very, very cold,” his son said.
On March 15, 1945, in a battle near Germany’s Rhine River, the war ended for Mr. Blevins. He and several comrades were taking cover in a house when a rocket from a German bazooka shattered their momentary refuge from the horrors of war.
“A guy shot the bazooka right through the wall and got five of us with one shot,” he told The Aegis in a 2015 interview.
“He pulled up his pants leg to reveal his left calf, which is covered in dark spots, bumps and raised squiggly lines — shrapnel from a German rocket that struck the house where he and his fellow soldiers were taking cover,” the newspaper reported.
Mr. Blevins carried shrapnel in his leg the remainder of his life.
Wounded a second time during the war, Mr. Blevins was sent to Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va., for recovery. He was in the military hospital when news arrived on May 8, 1945 — V-E Day — that Germany had surrendered.
He said in The Aegis interview that while people in Europe “went crazy,” he added, “I was just happy about it, but I was with a lot of wounded guys.”
Mr. Blevins, who had attained the rank of staff sergeant, was medically discharged in October 1945 and returned home to Harford County. His decorations included the Bronze Star for heroism, two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
“I think if he hadn’t gotten a medical discharge, he would have stayed in,” his son said. “He loved it.”
Willard Hughes Blevins, who was the son of Wiley Cicero Blevins, and his wife, Mary Ruth Bare Blevins, both farmers, was born in West Jefferson, N.C., and later moved with his family to a farm in Jarrettsville.
He was a 1942 graduate of Jarrettsville High School, and after completing his military service, he went to work in Bel Air for Mark Hopkins, who owned the Hopkins Motor Co., an auto shop.
In 1962, he established Vale Body & Fender Shop on Old Fallston Road, where he continued working until he was 92, when he retired and closed the business.
An avid baseball and Orioles fan, he had coached his children’s Little League teams and had been league president. He enjoyed duckpin bowling, horseshoes, shooting pool and playing his electric guitar.
He was a member of Union Chapel United Methodist Church in Joppa.
Mr. Blevins, who is thought to be the last of Harford County’s D-Day veterans, was an active member of the Rossville Disabled Veterans.
“He didn’t talk about the war a lot, but because I’m an Air Force veteran we would discuss military matters once in a while. He was still interested,” his son said.
“War is war,” Mr. Blevins told The Aegis. “It’s hard to explain; if you weren’t there, it’s hard to explain a lot of things.”
Services were held Thursday at the McComas Funeral Home in Bel Air.
In addition to his son, Mr. Blevins is survived by two other sons, David R. Blevins of Havre de Grace and Willard H. “Bill” Blevins Jr. of Livonia, Mich.; three brothers, Wint Blevins of Forest Hill, John Blevins of Street and Dale Blevins of Jarrettsville; a sister, Thelma B. Bauguess of Forest Hill; three grandsons; and eight great-grandchildren.