PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On June 20, 1944, just four days after his 19th birthday, Eugene E. Sawyer was embroiled in World War II, far away from birthday cake and a party with family and friends in Houlton.
Sawyer, a member of the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division, 47th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, was in Normandy, participating in the Allied forces’ retaking of the Cotentin, also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula. A machine gunner in H Company, Sawyer soon became involved in the infamous “hedgerow fighting” around St-Lo, France.
“It was the dead of night, around 3 a.m.,” the now 85-year-old Presque Isle resident recalled Sunday, sitting in his apartment surrounded by personal war memorabilia. “We couldn’t see a thing.”
Crowded into a foxhole with five other people, Sawyer said he and the other men decided to look around and find out where they were. It was, he acknowledged Monday, a big mistake.
“We were right on top of a tank,” he said. “It was so dark and the tank was camouflaged so well that we didn’t see it until it started firing. They shot us point-blank.”
Sawyer suffered shrapnel wounds in his left shoulder, an injury that led to his first medal, a Purple Heart. By the time his military career was over, he had accumulated 13 more medals.
Sawyer thought that the medal count was final — until Sunday evening.
Click for the rest of the story by Jen Lynds in the Bangor Daily News.