BETSY LAYNE – Veterans Day is celebrated every year in honor of those who have fought when their nation needed them most. For Orbie Boyd, of Betsy Layne, that occurred in 1944 on the front lines of the second world war.
Orbie volunteered for the Army in the winter of 1944 and was sent to Camp Landing in Florida for his basic training. Orbie said that the training was a lot like football. “You practice and practice, and keep practicin’. They try to get you ready for combat.”
Boyd says that due to his age, he wasn’t sent over as a replacement right away, and spent several more months training at various camps around the country. In November of 1944 he got his chance to go overseas with a heavy weapons company, in the 81st Mortars. The trip to France would prove memorable.
“The fourth day out on Sunday night, buddy it was so bad out the sailors couldn’t stand it hardly,” Boyd said of the storm that beset his ship.
“Here it went this time, and it stopped and went that way back over this way and at the same time it was going up and down,” said Boyd. “They said that feller up there in that crows news was going one hundred and eighty feet over this way and over that way; that’s how it was flopping back and forth.”
His ship did arrive safely in Marseilles France, where his group stayed until called to the front lines in December. Within a month Boyd would be captured.
“That day I was captured, was the first day I saw the Germans. They circled the town and moved in with the tanks,” said Boyd.
His unit fought until they ran out of ammunition said Boyd. “After we ran out of ammunition, we got out another one and got up there by the town in one of those buildings and tried to get ourselves a little bit of protection from the shells, them artillery shells, when they come in,” said Boyd. “When one of them hit, they explode and they throw scrap metal for four yards in every direction.”
Boyd estimates that he and about another hundred men were captured that day. He says he was marched, and carted, and driven, and hauled by train from the south of France to the north of Germany. During the journey, Boyd says the nights were bitterly cold.
“We marched for I don’t know how long… that night we stayed in something like a barn. The next morning when I woke up, my socks had frozen into ice on my feet.”
According to Boyd he was transferred to several camps while captured. The last one he believes was Stalag 12-IZA where he spent ninety-seven days until his liberation at the hands of the English Army. Of his incarceration Boyd says that he felt his captors treated the men decent enough. But Boyd says that as the war grew closer, and German supply lines were cut, food and rations for the camp dwindled away. He says that during his time there he was only afforded one shower.
“Americans kept squeezing them back; squeezing them into a small area and they couldn’t get things in there to’e,. Least that’s what I think. I don’t think the Germans was cruel to us. They treated us pretty nice.”
Boyd says that following his liberation he was transported to England where he was hospitalized for several days to restore his diet. After two missed opportunities to return to America, he finally caught a ride on the Queen Mary.
“I beat the first bunch home,” said Boyd. “My buddy got on the first ship, and he was more than three weeks coming across the Atlantic ocean. I was on the “Queen Mary” and made it home in five days.”
Boyd returned home to Eastern Kentucky to live with his wife Doris Gilliam. Boyd said of his war experience, “I learned one thing during this time, that war ain’t no fun. A lot of individuals jump in, start this war, and do this and that. They don’t realize just how many people they get killed, and how much hurt goes on.”
Orbie was born to B.P. and Golda Boyd on December 11, 1925. He attended Betsy Layne elementary and high schools.
This story was written from the notes collected in an interview of Orbie Boyd in 1979 by Mitchell Coleman, Tina Caudill, Rhonda Sanders, Jennifer Hollifield, and Randy Boyd.
Reach Jackson Latta at (606) 886-8506