LOGAN - Serving in World War II wasn't something Clyde Largent set out to do, but that's exactly what happened when he was plucked away from his Vinton County home at the age of 24 and sent to Europe to fight alongside the U.S. Army.
LOGAN — Serving in World War II wasn’t something Clyde Largent set out to do, but that’s exactly what happened when he was plucked away from his Vinton County home at the age of 24 and sent to Europe to fight alongside the U.S. Army.
“I always tell everyone I still got splinters under my fingernails from when they pulled me out from underneath the porch to take me to the Army,” explained Largent, who now lives in Logan. “It was hell.”
At 95-years-old, Largent is the second oldest surviving veteran in Hocking County, second only to Eugene Taulbee, who resides in South Logan.
Although reluctant to relive his time spent in the war as a sergeant and tank commander in the 7th Armored Division’s 17th Tank Battalion Armored Company C, his medals and certificates tell the story of a heroic man who witnessed untold sacrifices, time and time again.
Largent was awarded a certificate of merit for superior performance as a gunner in the European Theater and helped hold off overwhelming enemy forces on Dec. 17, 1944 at Recht, Belgium, during Battle of the Bulge. The 7th Armored Division, of which Largent was a part, held the road southeast of Recht, Belgium when the Germans advanced one day prior on Dec. 16, 1944.
“Well, it was scary at times,” Largent said. “It wasn’t fun. Everything that had to be done, I had to know it all, and I mostly drove, but I ended up as tank commander.”
He was promoted to the rank of sergeant and tank commander, he noted, when another never came back.
As tank commander, Largent was responsible for the lives of the entire crew inside the armored track vehicle. He took it to heart and did his best to protect his men while fighting from France to the Baltic Sea in the European Theater.
“From France to the Baltic Sea, that was hell,” he noted.
Largent departed from the United States for Europe on June 2, 1944 and arrived 12 days later, just six months before the Battle of the Bulge broke out in December of that year. The battle, which took place during one of the worst winters Europe had seen in years, involved 610,000 American men, 89,000 of whom became casualties, including 19,000 who were killed.
It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.
Three months later on March 30, 1945, Largent and other members of his tank crew braved intense enemy shelling and succeeded in destroying four enemy anti-tank guns, one 105 mm field piece, 23 motor vehicles and captured 25 enemy troops. “By his courageous action, he helped make possible continued full scale operations by his unit,” a second certificate states.
Despite all the destruction going on around him during the year and five months he fought in Europe, one of the highlights of the war, he noted, was witnessing one of Gen. George Patton’s speeches in England.
“I was about 15 feet in front of him,” he recalled of the monumental occasion.
For his service and sacrifice, Largent received the Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Award — Mediterranean, European/Mediterranean Theater Service Medal with four bronze stars, and the Victory Medal.
After serving nearly four years in the military in both the United States and Europe, Largent returned home to his new bride, Kathryn, whom he met while home on military leave. They married in 1944, six months before he left for Europe.
Largent was honorably discharged on Dec. 11, 1945 and traveled back to Southeastern Ohio where he started working for the family coal mining business, Largent Coal, located in the Lake Hope region. The business was started by his dad, Thomas Largent, and also employed his brothers, Floyd, Virgil and Kenneth.
In January 2014, Largent and his wife will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. Though the couple never had children, Largent said he’s enjoyed every minute of their life together.
After working in the coal mines, Largent took a job working for the City of Logan for three or four years as a maintenance man.
“All the old stuff they had sitting around they hadn’t used for years, well I fixed it all up for them,” he said of his work for the city. “I kind of rebuilt it and I did just about everything for them.”
After working for the city, he started working at Carborundum, where he eventually retired after 27 years.
Largent has kept himself busy over the years by tinkering with machines and even opened up a repair shop in the basement behind Saving Hardware called Fuller & Largent Repair Shop.
“We repaired appliances, washers, refrigerators and things,” he said. “I don’t know how long ago, it’s been quite a few years.”
Though the repair shop has closed, Largent still occupies his time by tinkering and is now somewhat of a clockmaker. If he sees a clock he likes, he’ll make one himself, he said.
The trick is to buy the works that make the clock tick, and then go from there, he added.
Largent isn’t too active with local veterans groups, but once a week, he and some friends gather at McDonald’s to talk about the happenings of the community, and it keeps his mind active. And, to this day, he drives himself there each time.