• 55°

Veteran tales

By Steve Huffman
news@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó Ray Weddington remembers being in Belgium during the last year of World War II when a sergeant surveyed him and several of his fellow infantry members standing before him at attention.
The sergeant didn’t hesitate.
“Give that big boy over there a BAR,” he ordered, nodding in Weddington’s direction.
Weddington stood 6-foot-2 and weighed about 185 pounds, a strapping fellow for the era. “BAR” was the acronym for a Browning Automatic Rifle, a big weapon capable of laying down 20 shots at a squeeze of the trigger.
It was much more deadly than the M-1 rifles that most soldiers carried.
The trouble, Weddington recalled, is that the enemy knew the explosive firepower of a BAR. And they’d work hardest to take out any soldier carrying one of the guns.
“I was told that the life expectancy of a BAR carrier wasn’t but a few minutes,” Weddington said.
He asked what became of the infantryman who’d been carrying the BAR just before it was presented to him. His commanding officers paused.
“He didn’t make it back,” one of them finally replied.
Weddington, 84, relayed the story of his days in the military as he relaxed recently in the living room of his house on Lentz Road outside China Grove. He displayed pictures of himself in his Army uniform, the similarities between the young man he was and the senior citizen he’s become evident.
Weddington was drafted in August of 1944 as the war was beginning to wind to a close. But some of its most fierce fighting remained.
Weddington went through basic training at Camp Wheeler outside Macon, Ga. He was assigned to the Army’s 79th Infantry Division and traveled to England aboard the Queen Mary, a luxury liner converted during the war for use as a troop transport.
During the war’s final year, Weddington was stationed briefly in Scotland before crossing the English Channel and seeing action in France, Belgium and Germany. He was one of those brought in as replacements for the Allied troops lost during the infamous Battle of the Bulge, as bloody a struggle as the war offered.
Weddington earned two Battle Stars during his service and remembers the most fierce fighting of his career being the night after he and other members of his infantry division crossed the Rhine River into Germany.
Once they were in Germany, Weddington and his cohorts were given simple instructions.
“We were told, ‘Go as far as you can go as fast as you can,’ ” Weddington said.
They dug foxholes at one point, then were told to move further into the woods, orders that probably saved their lives. German planes that night strafed the woods where they’d first dug in.
“If we hadn’t done the second (foxholes), I wouldn’t be here today,” Weddington said.
On his second day in Germany, Weddington and his comrades had combat with German troops and tanks. He wasn’t far outside Berlin in April 1945 when Hitler committed suicide and Germany finally surrendered.
Following the end of the war in Europe, Weddington was given a two-week furlough, then sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi where he underwent jungle training in preparation for a transfer to the Pacific Theatre and invasion of Japan.
The dropping of atomic bombs in August 1944 and Japan’s subsequent surrender likely saved Weddington’s life ó as well as the lives of thousands upon thousands of other U.S. soldiers.
Following the war, Weddington returned to China Grove and the farm on which he was raised. He and his wife, Cora, were married in 1947. They’ve raised two sons, Stephen and Donald, and have three granddaughters.
Weddington spent his career working for Cannon Mills. He started as a loom cleaner, then moved through just about every job the textile manufacturer offered before retiring in March 1987 as an overseer.
Weddington and Cora have enjoyed a good life, just about everyone in their rural farming community agrees. They’re members of Mt. Zion United Church of Christ.
The one thing he won’t do, Weddington said, is watch war movies ó either at the theater or on television.
“If I do, I won’t sleep,” he said. “I’ll knock and fuss all night.”
Weddington was one of five brothers who all served in the military during the Second World War. Each returned home safely.
“I attribute that to my mother back home praying for us,” Weddington said.

Comments

Comments closed.

News

Catawba College hosts three in-person commencement ceremonies

Local

With high case loads causing numerous staff departures, Child Protective Services seeks more positions

Education

Livingstone College graduates celebrate ‘crossing the finish line’ during commencement celebration

Coronavirus

Rowan sees 4 new COVID-19 deaths as mask mandate lifted, vaccines administered continue decline

Local

Spencer is latest town updating its development ordinance

Local

Salisbury native Kristy Woodson Harvey makes NY Times bestseller list

Local

Board of Commissioners will convene for third time in May

Business

Biz Roundup: Salisbury, Kannapolis among recipients of Region of Excellence Awards

Local

Cheerleading team competes at Disney

Education

Salisbury High to celebrate football, swimming champions with parade

Local

Spencer awarded $10,000 to develop trails at Stanback Forest

High School

High school girls soccer: Isley, Webb lead all-county team

Books

‘Tails and Tales’ coming to library this summer

Local

Public Records: March Deeds

Entertainment

Salisbury Symphony’s ‘Return to the Concert Hall’ available May 24-31

Coronavirus

Salisbury teen becomes one of first in age group to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Business

Down Goat: Local farm and creamery poised to add goat yoga, artisan goat cheese to offerings

Local

Pandemic’s impact, uncertainty of transit funding prompt request to eliminate Rowan Express service

Lifestyle

New Waterworks’ exhibit opens June 1

High School

High school football: Walsh accepts the South football challenge

Lifestyle

Price of Freedom Museum gets donated landscape project

Lifestyle

Rowan Museum will have Upscale Yard Sale Saturday

Business

Seventh dragon boat festival set for July 24; deadline for sponsorships is May 28

Nation/World

‘Shocking and horrifying’: Israel destroys AP office in Gaza