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The Carthage Press
  • WWII Navy veteran shares war stories

  • You'll have to speak up for him to hear you, but he'll happily tell you about his experiences in WWII.
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  • You'll have to speak up for him to hear you, but he'll happily tell you about his experiences in WWII.
    Harold Layton, Carthage, will turn 90 in July this year. Originally from Sylvania, Ohio, Layton was the last child of Albert G. and Rebecca Layton. He had two brothers, a half-brother and a half-sister. He wasn't quite 17 when WWII broke out and he began serving his country in an air base warehouse in shipping and receiving.
    At the time, he tried to enlist in the Air Force, but five feet and three inches of stout heart wasn't enough. Instead, he enlisted in the Navy.
    He went to diesel school in Chicago and became a fireman first class in the engine room for the LCI (L) 229. [The landing craft infantry ship was 157 feet long and transported soldiers.] In his time in the service (1941-1944) that's where he lost his hearing.
    “We were passing through a canal in the arm of Massachusetts when one of the propellers was ripped off,” Layton said. “After it was fixed, we joined the 600-vessel convoy to Africa.”
    Harold spent his 18th birthday in northwest Africa.
    He said it wasn't much of a celebration.
    During Harold's service, he was a throttle-man and mechanic for eight diesel engines. Besides soldiers, the ship also delivered mail.
    “After we delivered reinforcements to General Patton, we went on to Tunis, Tunisia,” Layton said. “We delivered mail to the air base in Sicily, after two campaigns in Italy, left convoy and went to England.”
    While in Anzio, Italy, Harold looked through a pair of binoculars to see the 95th Evacuation Hospital was ashore.
    “I told them my brother was there,” Harold said. “They told me to get in a boat and go see him, but to be back by sundown.”
    His brother, Norvel E. Layton, was a cook and baker at the hospital. During that landing, four ladies visited the ship, one of which was Norvel's future wife. It was shortly after that, Anzio was bombed. A 12-inch artillery shell, weighing hundreds of pounds, landed in the hospital and among those killed were two of those four ladies that visited the ship.
    From there, Layton was sent us to Southampton across from the English Channel. This story was one of the half-dozen times his ship was attacked.
    “We heard buzz bombs going over us from the Germans,” Layton said. “You could hear this clicking sound as they flew over, and if you couldn't hear it anymore that meant they were about to hit. Our ship was hit all over, but we were lucky, they couldn't catch up to us.”
    Page 2 of 2 - After that experience, Layton noted his ship took troops to Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944.
    There were times when Layton manned a gun on the ship's deck during an attack, but the only injury he had was when a toolbox in the engine room slammed on his index finger. His friend and shipmate clipped his ring off to remove his broken finger. Layton said he was lucky to have only that one minor injury through his time in the service.
    “Then one day the skipper told us he found a way for us to go home,” Layton said.
    Australia purchased two of the six LCI boats for geodetic survey. So the sailors aided and traveled on an American hospital ship, carrying 190 casualties. The LCI 229 was decommissioned and handed over to Australia.
    When Layton got back to the states, his shipmates were scattered. He was sent to Jacksonville, Fla., for R&R, then to Mayport where he finished his service as an engine mechanic.
    When the war was over, Layton married Rebecca Grace. They enjoyed 58 years together before she died in 2002. Layton retired from Atlas Powder Company in 1986 after 37 years of service.
    Besides a war veteran, Layton is also a May 2011 Joplin tornado survivor. He wasn't home at the time of the storm, but his home was completely destroyed. In the rubble, he found a few items from his time in the service.
    At the time, he had been seeing Myrl Hawk, a Carthage widow. It only made sense for the two to be together. Now, they both enjoy their lives together in Carthage.
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