Honoring My Grandfather, Bob Jarman
For Veterans Day I want to give a tribute to my maternal grandfather, Eugene Robert “Bob” Jarman. I had the privilege of visiting him in his home in Phoenix, Arizona during my early years. Then, when I was 11 years old, they moved just around the corner from our home in Gilbert, Arizona. In the ensuing years I learned much from him and came to love and respect him dearly.
My Grandpa Jarman spent most of his life in a uniform of one kind or another. He was a lifelong scouter, earning the distinguished Silver Beaver award from the Boy Scouts of America. In addition, he owned and operated a towing company and auto body shop throughout his life. His shirt with the embroidered name or his coveralls were his daily uniform.
Bob Jarman also served his country during World War II. He almost never spoke of these experiences until his final years. In fact, his own children grew up hearing almost nothing of his experiences in the European theatre. Then, in his 70s he began to reflect on those experiences. He pulled out his old relics and photographs, and he began to write a memoir.
As I prepared to write this I reviewed many photos, notes, his WWII memoir, and memories of my grandpa’s funeral service. I was overcome with emotion as I remembered this great man. So much could be said about Bob Jarman and his service throughout his life. However, I will limit this article to excerpts of his World War II memoirs.
Bob Jarman was inducted into the US Army on 14 April 1943 in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 19. About a week later, he and 18 other new recruits traveled by rail to Ft. MacArthur in California.
Prior to joining the Army, Bob had graduated from high school where he was in the ROTC for 2 years. He also worked nearly a year at Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. Goodyear was under contract to produce wings and engine housings for B-26 Marauders in support of the war effort. The company, based in Ohio, broke ground for a new facility near Phoenix in June 1941.
605th Tank Destroyer (TD) Battalion
At Fort MacArthur he was assigned to the 605th Tank Destroyers (TD) Battalion at Camp Hood, Texas. At Camp Hood he learned how to operate, repair, and maintain all weapons – from the .45 caliber sidearm to the 3 inch anti-tank gun. In July of 1943 his unit was shipped out to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in preparation to be deployed in North Africa. However, only a couple of days after arriving at Ft. Jackson their orders were changed since the North African campaign was winding down.
So they sent them to Tennessee for “winter maneuvers” training and to prepare to go to the European theatre. For someone born in the deserts of Phoenix, Arizona, his first winter exposed to the elements of Tennessee was quite a learning experience. They experienced record cold and snowfall that year. About this time he was promoted to Corporal.
In January 1944, with their winter maneuvers over, Bob Jarman was sent back to Camp Hood to the TD mechanic’s school. For 12 weeks he learned how to maintain and repair all of the wheeled and track laying vehicles that the army was using.
The 605th was still at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in June 1944 during the Normandy Invasion. My grandpa was spared that awesome and gruesome day, but those that bravely fought there paved the way for him and many other soldiers to follow. For now, the 605th was sent to the snake infested swamps of Alabama for 2 months to train for jungle combat. As bad as the snow and cold were, my grandpa was very glad he was not sent to the Pacific theatre. He hated the heat, humidity, and the insects.
Meeting His Future Bride
Bob Jarman and his unit had been state-side for about a year and a half since their enlistment. They were grateful for the training and the preparation, but many were eager to see “some action.”
In October 1944 they were all granted furloughs to visit loved ones. Grandpa Jarman went home and met his future bride, Louise Crouse, for the first time at a Halloween dance. Of this night he said, “She took my heart…I was introduced to Louise and danced with her once, then I danced once more with the first girl. Then I danced the rest of the dances with Louise. When the dance was over I took her home on my bicycle – no gas for cars in those war days.”
She wrote to him throughout the war and gave him encouragement during his 18 months overseas. She sent him a picture shortly after he arrived in Belgium which he carried with him throughout the war.
On 5 December 1944 they finally shipped out. They departed from New York City aboard the Queen Mary en route to Scotland. The headed by train south through England where they were outfitted. After spending Christmas in England they loaded their vehicles on to LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) and crossed from Portsmouth to Le Havre, France.
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge is one of the most famous German offensives of World War II. It was a desperate attack by the Germans that nearly succeeded. It began on 16 December 1944 against a weakly defended section of the Allied line of the Ardennes region. The Germans achieved total surprise, and Americans suffered the heaviest casualties of the war during this 5 week campaign. About 610,000 Americans were involved in the fighting against 450,000 German troops and 1,500 tanks.
They saw the “action” they had asked for.
My grandfather and the 605th TD Battalion arrived about 2 weeks after the start of the campaign. Initially they were assigned to the 9th Army near the Belgian-German border. They were then sent south and assigned to reinforce the north side of the line with General Patton’s 3rd Armored Division. They were positioned for about 2 weeks in Belgium before moving near the village of Feialdenhoven, Germany along the Ruhr River.
Of this time Bob Jarman wrote, “We had several casualties in this position…we really became hardened combat veterans. It was cold! And they were shooting at us.”
Effects of War
During this campaign, the Germans committed many atrocities including the infamous Malmedy Massacre. In this and other incidents American Prisoners of War were slaughtered. This behavior increased the hatred of American soldiers towards the enemy army. In some cases, men were apt to “retaliate” in vengeful acts. Although my grandfather never mentioned Malmedy in particular he did write:
“As the news trickled down to us about the “bulge” and the way German soldiers treated our soldiers that surrendered, it made me become hardened and unsympathetic toward the enemy and their people…I lost total respect for German soldiers.”
However, Bob Jarman couldn’t descend to the level that some in his unit did. He tells of a story in February of 1945 in which he captured some German soldiers:
“I took 4 prisoners one day and asked [name of soldier] to take them back to the POW cage about a mile back behind us. I heard gun fire behind us. [He] came back and said they tried to get away and he shot them. This same thing happened the next day with 3 prisoners. I wouldn’t give [him] any more prisoners.”
His faith and letters from home kept him grounded and reminded him that there was still good in the world.
As part of a Tank Destroyer Battalion, Bob Jarman had many and varied responsibilities. He was a crew member in an M-10 tank, he fired bazookas (anti-tank guns), and other responsibilities. In addition, for much of the time he was sent on reconnaissance. He had a Jeep and his own driver. Having a Jeep gave him a little more flexibility to move around and he saw much of the countryside.
Over the ensuing months Grandpa Jarman saw many of the atrocities of war. He experienced cold, deprivation, and hunger. Some of his friends and comrades were killed. He blew up bridges, committed acts of heroism, and felt guilt and shame when he couldn’t save an injured soldier. He also participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, and was reminded why he was fighting the war.
Despite the horrors of war, there were also great friendships formed. For example, a lifelong friendship was formed with Delos Champaign. Bob Jarman and Delos Champaign are pictured to the right.
Bob looked forward to letters from home, especially from his dear Louise. Occasionally, there were even funny moments, however brief. Like the time he finally managed to wash his wool uniform covered in 8 weeks of grease and sweat. Not knowing he shouldn’t wash wool in hot water, he put his uniform in a pot of boiling water. When it was done drying it would only fit a small child!
Discharged from Active Duty
He was discharged from active duty on 28 March 1946 as a T-4 Technician. He went in to the Reserves shortly after his discharge. Then, his unit was mobilized during the Korean War, but never went to Korea. He was discharged as a Sergeant First Class on 31 December 1952.
I am grateful for the sacrifices made by my grandfather, Bob Jarman. I am thankful for his generation who stood up to fight immense evil in his day. As Tom Brokaw is famous for saying, “this is the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
What a privilege to have his memories recorded in about 40 handwritten pages along with many photographs documenting this time in his life. The war affected him greatly, and he had no desire to remember it. But in his later years he realized his experiences could help future generations.
E. Robert “Bob” Jarman passed away on June 20, 2012 at the age of 88. He had fought the good fight and finished the race. I was honored to be a pallbearer at his funeral service. At his service I heard stories that were more touching than war stories. They spoke of his work ethic, his faith, and his family. People told of the kindness and service he had rendered to them. I learned how his life of service and sacrificed and influenced so many others.
He was buried in Mesa, Arizona with full military honors.
I am proud to call him Grandpa, and I honor him on this Veterans Day.