Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Guy Whidden, who served as a paratrooper during the Normandy landings.
Guy Whidden was born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, in June 1923. In 1940, he joined the Pennsylvania National Guard, but his father pulled him out of his service there so that he could graduate from high school first. Whidden eventually graduated from high school shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two months later in February 1942, he visited a recruiter’s office in Philadelphia and enlisted in the Army.
For a short period of time, he worked as a map maker at Fort Jackson, South Carolina,. Although Whidden felt the experience was interesting, he wanted action. While assigned to the 8th Infantry Division, he saw a bulletin posting regarding paratroopers and signed up. Whidden went to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in September 1942.
After completing jump school, Whidden’s unit went to England. The first action that Whidden saw during his time in the Army was during the Normandy landings. On June 6, 1944, he jumped with the 8th Air Force into Normandy. Whidden was supposed to drop in Sainte-Mère-Église, but due to some delays during the jump, he ended up just outside of the area. Upon landing, an equipment bag knocked Whidden unconscious for a period of time. When he awoke, he rejoined members of his division and moved toward the beach.
After Normandy, the 101st Airborne Division went to Holland for Operation Market Garden in September 1944. While in Best, Holland, Whidden’s unit was facing heavy mortar fire, which killed several fellow soldiers and severely injured Whidden. Doctors told him that he would need his leg amputated due to his injuries, but Whidden was able to convince his doctor to save his leg. In an interview with the American Veterans Center he noted, “I always felt like I owed him something. He took the time…It was easier to amputate than it was to preserve.”
Whidden recovered from his injuries and went back to Fort Benning, Georgia. Here, he was named acting sergeant and became a jump school instructor, where he trained paratroopers until the end of the war. During his service, Whidden received a Purple Heart and a Good Conduct Medal. After leaving the service, he became a schoolteacher and wrote a book, “Between the Lines and Beyond: Letters of a 101st Airborne Paratrooper,” about his experiences in the military.
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Writer: Amanda Baker
Editor: Rachel Falconer and Cassidy Reid
Fact checker: Alexys Santiago
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr