Edward Ralph Bard, 91, of Ashe County was among the Marines of the 6th Division charged with the unenviable task of rooting out the last pockets of Japanese resistance near the end of the Battle of Okinawa.
Bard was a sharpshooter in the 22nd infantry battalion. “I belonged to a combat unit. They didn’t want nobody but somebody that would fight.”
During an engagement on May 20, 1945, Bard’s sergeant sustained wounds to his feet, and was trapped in a shell crater under fire, he said. As he reached down to help his squad leader out of the hole, a mortar shell exploded nearby, injuring Bard and causing permanent hearing damage.
He was 22.
At the time, officers of Bard’s unit tried to put in for his Purple Heart in the field, he said, “and they were advised we were out of them.”
Nearly 39,000 American soldiers were wounded during 82 days of fighting on Okinawa. There weren’t enough medals to go around.
Bard was told he would have to wait until he got back to the states to be decorated, he said.
Like many young men of the time, Bard was drafted into the service. He was picked for the Marine Corps and combat duty during the selection process because he was near the front of a line when a recruiter came in “looking for a few good men,” he said.
“Bard is not a good name to have when they’re going to take it alphabetically,” he said.
He left the Marine Corps after the war and “went straight home” to Ashe County. “I didn’t like getting shot at,” he said.
Bard worked in purchasing for General Electric in Winston, Douglas Aircraft in Charlotte, and Sandvik in New Jersey before retiring. He and his wife of 71 years, Opal, live near Ashe Lake, and have three children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He never forget about claiming the medal he never received, but it didn’t keep him awake at night. “You get used to sleeping with both eyes shut,” he said.
Bard’s daughter, Evelyn Reeves, said he hadn’t talked much about the war until recent years, and the subject of the medal came to the fore. She decided to see to the unfinished business, and contacted U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who made the necessary inquiries with Marine headquarters at Quantico, Va., in December.
This morning — almost 68 years after sustaining wounds at Okinawa — a detail of Marines from Greensboro presented Pfc. Edward R. Bard with his Purple Heart in his living room.
“Well, I’d like to say I enjoyed it,” he said of his combat experience, “but I didn’t.”