John Dewire, A Young Soldier in the Invasion of Normandy
By: Joey O'Connor

     John Dewire was a teenager when the Second World War began.  My grandfather's cousin was only 17 in 1943, one of the youngest soldiers in the war.  He was a  demolition specialist in the 188th Combat Engineers battalion.  While he was serving in the US Army, he was in three different battles, The Invasion of Normandy, The Battle of the Bulge, and an unnamed battle when two sides of a bridge were blown up and his group was forced to build a new bridge.  These were some of the most important battles of the war.

John and me

This is a picture of John and me at my grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary.

     Countless American men enlisted in the US Army, including seventeen year old John Dewire, who enlisted in 1943.  John was one of the youngest men of the United States Army.  Many of these soldiers began their training in Elkins, West Virginia, like John Dewire.  West Virginia is where he learned that his MOS or Military Occupation Specialty number would be 533.  The Military Occupation Specialty number 533 stands for Demolition Specialist.  He then continued with the 188 Combat (Engineers) battalion to Fort Dix, New Jersey.  

     Fort Dix is where he learned how to become a Demolition Specialist.  He learned how to blow up bridges and mines with TNT.  This is one of the most vital jobs in the war because if the mines were not blown up, a soldier could accidentally step in the area of the mine and die.  If he were to blow up a bridge that the Germans or Japanese were planning on using, then that would hinder the enemies advance.  After a few months of his demolition training, John was sent to New York with the rest of the 188th Combat Engineers to a Port of Embarkation in Chanks, New York.
     The battalion sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mavaratania, which was a British transport ship.  He was stationed in England for almost two months before his battalion saw any combat action, but all that would change on the sixth of June, 1944.  Many of the soldiers that fought during the Invasion of Normandy were only trained for a few months.  The date for the D-Day Invasion was chosen six months before in November of 1943.  The date was chosen at the Teheran Conference.  The boats were deployed and the Invasion began.   

Soldiers charging Beaches of normandy

A picture of the soldiers charging the Normandy Beaches.

The Invasion of Normandy
     On June 6, 1944, an abundant amount of Allied soldiers were deployed onto the beaches of Normandy, France.  The Allies that attacked the beaches were made up of the Americans, the Canadians, French (that were stationed in England), and the British.  The Allied Soldiers outnumbered the Germans 50 to 1.  The Germans had a distinct advantage because the Allies were coming onto the beaches on boats and the beaches were covered in bunkers that the Germans were in.  The code names for the beaches that were being attacked were Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha.  

     The preparation was over and the soldiers were ready to begin the invasion.  The soldiers were deployed in waves and these waves were separated by twenty minutes.  In the third wave, John Dewire was deployed onto Utah beach with the US 1st Army.  As a Demolition Specialist, John had to put TNT onto a mine and blow it up, so that no one would step on the mine. John remembers the US bombers overhead as the US Army pushed the Germans back and were able to get into France.  During the next six weeks, the US Army would be pushing the Germans back into the middle of France and eventually back into Germany.  

Aftermath of Invasion       Aftermath of the Invasion

These two pictures are of the aftermath of the D-Day Invasion.

The Battle on the Bridge near the Moselle River
     In September 1944, while traveling through France, the 188th battalion was ambushed and the two bridges on either side of them were blown up.  They were stuck on a little section of a bridge over the Moselle River.  John was particularly helpless because he did not have the experience with a gun that the other soldiers did have.  The battalion was constantly bombarded by artillery fire from the Germans who were on the other side of the Moselle River.  The only way to get off the small piece of bridge was to build another bridge to the shore.  Once the bridge was built, the battalion forced their way to the shore with their wounded and dead.  Only 17 men were not wounded, and luckily John was not one of the many soldiers who were wounded.  But the 188th battalion with additional reinforcements was able to keep on pushing through France and eventually, they would run into the Germans again.

The Battle of the Bulge
     The 188th was traveling in Belgium, near Alon, where they encountered enemy forces again.  This would later be known as The Battle of the Bulge.  The US Army was ambushed by the Germans.  The Germans were trying to cut off the Allies and force them back to the English Channel when they would ask for an armistice.  This first part of their plan worked somewhat but, they were stopped in some parts of the ambush and forced to reconsider the plan.  On January 3rd of 1945, John was shot and wounded by the Germans and he and his battalion was forced to evacuate to England.  He was flown to Swindon, England which was south of London, where he recovered and was able to return to the United States. He was able to watch the Allies win the war, in the comfort of his own home.

Map of John's movements during the war

This is a map of John's movements during World War II.

    John fought a very courageous war.  Although he was wounded, he did not regret fighting for his country.  He fought bravely for his country during the war.  He pays the most to detail as any one I have known.  Now, almost 76, this veteran is one of the most amazing people I have met in my life.  I was so astounded at how much of a magnificent person John was and how much he remembered from the war. I am truly greatful for his assistance.

    1. Dewire, John. Telephone Interview. 30 Nov. 2003

    1. Ambrose, Stephen. D-Day June 6, 1944. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
    2. "D-Day."Encarta. CD-ROM. New York, Microsoft, 2001.
    3. Hogg, Ian. Great Land Battles of W.W.II, New York: Doubleday Inc., 1987.
4.  Snyder, Louis L. "D-Day, The Force of Victory" The War, A Concise History 1939-1945. New York, NY: Simon  
         and Schuster, 1953.
    5. Wright, Gordon. The Ordeal of Total War. New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1968.