Saturday, April 20, 2019

Valley machine gunners of different wars inducted into HOF

Published: 11/11/17 @ 12:10

By William K. Alcorn


Vietnam War Air Force veteran James W. Campbell of Howland and World War II Army veteran Howard B. Friend of Poland are from different generations and fought in wars a quarter of a century apart.

Despite those differences, though, they have much in common.

They answered their nation’s call and risked their lives in combat, and are among the millions of military veterans who are being recognized and honored in Veterans Day ceremonies today in the Mahoning Valley and across the country.

Additionally, on Thursday, they were inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in recognition of their lifetime of contributions to their communities and the nation.

Here are their stories.

Howard B. “Howdy” Friend lay in a ditch along a secondary road in the Ardennes forest just outside Bastogne, bleeding from a severe leg wound suffered Jan. 9, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, one of the decisive battles of World War II.

“A medic came along and put a tourniquet on my leg and gave me morphine and left me to help someone else. Eventually, they brought a jeep up and put me on a stretcher and took me to the hospital,” said Friend, a gunner in a machine-gun squad.

He spent 18 months in hospitals in Luxembourg, France, England and the United States recovering from wounds from shrapnel that tore up his left femur and knee.

“I’m very fortunate. I came back home. That medic saved my leg and probably my life. I got 72 extra years,” said Friend, who will be 92 on Dec. 27.

Friend, a longtime area educator and star athlete for Woodrow Wilson High School, tells his military story, titled “War is the Rage of Hell – My Life as a Combat Infantryman in WWII’s Battle of the Bulge,” to community groups.

Within a few months after being drafted into the Army just eight days after graduating from high school, on June 6, 1944, D-Day, the date of the Normandy invasion, Friend found himself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge, a surprise attack by the Germans through the Ardennes forest. As the Germans drove deeper into the Ardennes, the Allied line took on the appearance of a large bulge, giving the battle its name.

Friend was attached to Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army, which was sent to the Ardennes to provide relief and to reinforce the Allied forces. The battle raged from Dec. 14, 1944, to Jan. 16, 1945.

“When I got home, I went to the Youngstown YMCA’s Camp Fitch to kind of recuperate and I met a little girl there,” said Friend, referring to his wife, Ellen, known as “Gert.” They were both camp staff members, went to Mount Union College together and were married for 63 years.

James W. Campbell of Howland served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 in security forces and was highly decorated as a machine gunner on an armored personnel carrier called a quick-reaction team.

An enlistee, he served four years on active duty, from 1967 to 1971, and many years in the active and inactive Air Force Reserve before retiring in 2000.

Campbell, 68, has a long history of service for veterans leadership within the veteran community.

A 22-year member of Howland American Legion Post 700, Campbell has supported former service members through the Veterans Helping Veterans organization, assisted hospitalized veterans through First For Yanks and visits veterans in nursing homes. He is a Buckeye Boys State trustee and helps interview candidates, secure sponsors for delegates and arrange transportation.

He has held numerous offices at the post, county, district and state levels within the American Legion, including commander of the American Legion Department of Ohio in 2015-16.

He said he is “very proud” to be a member of the Trumbull County Honor Guard, which has provided full military honors for more than 3,000 veterans since 2000.

Campbell was a member of several area law-enforcement departments before retiring from the Howland Police Department as a detective in the criminal investigations section.

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