John Horace Beauford, Sr.
John Horace Beauford, A Real Hero Who Stormed Normandy...by accident
In May of 2017, we had the privilege to meet Mr. John Horace Beauford, Sr. at the NarroWay Theatre. A true American hero, Mr. Beauford served as a soldier with the U.S. Army during World War II. He was one of the 156,000 troops to storm Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. But how he got to Utah Beach was an accident! Read his story below as told by his daughter, Rene Beauford.
John Horace Beauford was drafted to Fort Jackson, SC in 1943 where he began his career with the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with the 506th Infantry at Camp Toccoa, GA. From there he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division for a short time, but for personal family reasons he transferred to the 663rd Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Hood, TX. The 663rd was disbanded and John was reassigned to the 86th Blackhawk Infantry Division, Company H - Heavy Weapons.
Beauford's unit was deployed to San Luis Obispo, CA for assignment to General Patton's Ghost Army. However, the MP's loaded John on the wrong train and sent him to Newark, NJ where he ended up on a ship headed to France. When he discovered that he was on the wrong ship, with the wrong unit he asked the Sergeant, "What do you want me to do? I can swim back if you want." The Sergeant asked him what was his assigned M.O.S. When he responded that he was a tank driver, the Sergeant replied, "Well, guess what son, I have a tank waiting for you with your name on it!"
John's ship landed in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 at Utah Beach. He climbed down a rope ladder off the side of the ship and onto a Landing Ship Tank (LST). He drove a tank off the LST, onto the shore and up the hillside of Utah Beach with literally zero visability. His unit fought their way across France to the city of Le Harve, where he rejoined his assigned unit around January 1945.
John assumed his duties with the 86th Blackhawk Division, Company H, as a .50 caliber machine-gunner on the back of a jeep. Under General Patton's command, the 86th Blackhawks moved out of France, fighting their way through the Rhine River to the Ruhr Pocket where Beauford's unit captured the Axix Minister of Hungary and recovered the stolen Crown of St. Stephen. They spearheaded General Patton's 3rd Army for the Bavarian Push across the Danube River into Austria and overtook Hitler's home, "The Eagle's Nest," at Berchtesgaden.
After Germany and a short furlough back in the United States, John's unit was deployed to Japan. They were aboard a ship sitting in the harbor waiting for their command to "move in" and invade Japan when the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima and a second at Nagasaki. John's ship was then turned around and sent to the Philippine Islands to secure the Japanese that were in hiding. He stayed in the Philippines until the end of World War II.
Following the war, John was discharged from the Army and returned to his hometown of Abbeville, SC, where he joined the National Guard. He stayed with the National Guard for a short time, then transferred to the U.S. Army Reserves where he completed 24 years of service.
In 2014, John Beauford had the opportunity to travel to Normandy and attend the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. There, he re-visited the banks of Utah Beach. Upon his return to Normandy some 70 years after D-Day, this is what John had to say...
When I stood at the top of Utah Beach, where I had landed 70 years ago, my heart was heavy and tears filled my eyes as I thought of all my friends and brethren that never made it past the beach. I have carried a burden in my heart all these years for the soldiers I ignored that were lying on that beach wounded and begging for help. But I try to always remember that I was assigned that mission, and my responsibility was to successfully complete that mission - no matter what the cost. Just like in life, God gives each one of us a mission and NO MATTER the cost, we must live our lives fully for Him, striving to fulfill His command. He spared my life on that beach so that I may share these stories and my faith with others. For that I am grateful and owe it all to His glory."
John Horace Beauford, Sr.
Born: 24 June 1924
Branch of Service: U.S. Army
Inducted: April 1943
Discharged: June 1965
- 506th Infantry Airborne
- 101st Airborne Division
- 663rd Tank Destroyers
- 86th Blackhawk Infantry, Company H
- National Guard, 178th Field Artillery
- U.S. Army Reserves, Training Division
- Purple Heart
- Bronze Star
- World War II Victory Medal
- Combat Infantry Medal 3 Battle Stars
- Combat Infantry Badge
- Combat Action Ribbon
- Paratrooper Wings
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign
- Normandy Campaign
- Northern France Campaign
- Rhineland Campaign
- Good Conduct Medal