Scottsdale resident, WWII veteran honored at Fort Bliss

A Scottsdale World War II veteran has been recognized for his service to his country by receiving a special honor at Fort Bliss.
First Armored Division Artillery, DIVARTY recognized the 97-year-old former battery commander of Iron Soldiers during during a special ceremony June 11 at the base in El Paso, Texas.

Lt. Col. Bob Bard of Scottsdale and the exploits of his men and division will be forever remembered at Fort Bliss. The division has renamed its command conference room in his honor.

“We need to recognize the service you guys gave to the United States,” Col. Heyward G. Hutson III, DIVARTY commander, said to Lt. Col. Bard during his visit. “Our generation can’t fathom the sacrifice your generation made during the 1940s.”

In a tech savvy age of iPhones, the Internet, Skype and air-conditioning, it’s tough to fully grasp the scope of what Bob and his men endured during World War II, Col. Hutson added.

Born on George Washington’s birthday in 1918 in rural Indiana and raised in Chicago, Lt. Col. Bard knew as a youth that he wanted to serve his country. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Army in 1940 after graduating from the University of Illinois.

“It cost me $35 per semester while I was going through college,” Lt. Col. Bard said.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, the die-hard Cubs fan knew things were about to change.

“Before Pearl Harbor, the attitude around most of the country was to not get involved overseas.  When the Japanese hit the U.S.S. Arizona in Hawaii, I knew things weren’t ever going to be the same,” said Lt. Col. Bard.

“I went to Fort Knox, Ky. after ROTC and we started up the 1st Armored Division from scratch. This was a tall order considering none of us knew anything about a tank division.”

Lt. Col. Bard deployed in early 1942 and was overseas fighting the Axis Powers for four years.  He commanded soldiers in the 68th Armored Field Artillery within the 1st Armored Division, firing a 105mm howitzer.

“We must have fired over a million rounds fighting in the Tunisia Campaign against Erwin Rommel; then, up through Italy against Mussolini and the Italians as well as the Germans,” noted Lt. Col. Bard.

“You can’t imagine how tough the fight in Italy was. The terrain was terribly adverse to maneuvering our howitzers.”

The hardest fight was the battle for Rome, according to Lt. Col. Bard.

“The Italians were facades of the Germans.  Hitler had Mussolini and the Italians as puppets in Italy. He was the one calling the shots,” said Lt. Col. Bard.  “My men and I fought for two years in Italy alone against the Germans, driving them all the way from Rome to the Adriatic Sea.”

“The Nazis held Rome for as long and hard as they could, but we dug in and fought every day and night,” Lt. Col. Bard said. “They were so entrenched as we pushed across the peninsula that skirmishes turned into weeklong battles. We finally took Rome from them the day after D-Day, on June 5 of 1944.”

After encroaching on the northern part of Italy, Lt. Col. Bard and his men were ready for orders when they received word the war had ended.

After not being able to be with his wife for six years, Mr. Bard said their reunion couldn’t come quick enough.

Lt. Col. Bard returned to the states and was reunited with his family. His military service, however, didn’t end upon redeployment. He continued his service in the Army Reserves where he eventually retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He was one of the first men to attend college using the Montgomery G.I. Bill. Lt. Col. Bard applied and was accepted to Harvard University School of Law.

“Living in Cambridge was a great time in my life because I was able to continue my studies on the government’s dime. My daughter was also born during my second year of law school,” said Lt. Col. Bard.

After graduating from Harvard in 1949 as an attorney, Lt. Col. Bard returned to his hometown and practiced law for 10 years as a federal taxation specialist. He then went on to become an assistant and then president of a hardware manufacturer called SENG in the Windy City.

Col. Hutson heard of Lt. Col. Bard’s service and decided to dedicate his command conference room to him — but wanted it to be a more personal experience.  DIVARTY worked with some of Lt. Col. Bard’s caretakers and got relics from his service, having them displayed in the command suite. He arranged for Lt. Col. Bard to fly in and be formally recognized in person.

Upon Lt. Col. Bard’s arrival, DIVARTY soldiers greeted him and watched as he cut the ribbon over the door leading into the command conference room.

“This is truly the best day of my life. I feel so honored, I can’t even find the words to say,” Lt. Col. Bard said. “I accept this on behalf of all the fine officers and men from the 68th Armored Field Artillery.”

Lt. Col. Bard spent the next 30 minutes touring the conference room, pointing and talking about the displays on the wall – all in his honor.

“Look at that! That’s my whole battalion! I haven’t seen that picture in 75 years. There I am! Oh my, I can’t believe this,” Lt. Col. Bard exclaimed.

“This generation truly is the greatest generation,” said Col. Hutson.  “I want to make sure that as other commanders and soldiers serve here, they know Lt. Col. Bard and the sacrifices he and his men made for our country.”

The die-hard Cubs, Bears and jazz music fan who is fond of chocolate ice cream offered one last tidbit of wisdom during the ceremony. When asked what his secret was to a long life and good health, he said, “after I retired from the Army at 45, I swam 1,000 meters three days a week. I did this from 45 until I broke my legs when I turned 90. I’m no medical doctor, but that’s my secret – swimming.”

The story of Bob Bard is one worth preserving and sharing, which is exactly what Hutson and DIVARTY have done. Old Ironsides might be the motto of the 1st Armored Division, but after meeting this hero, it perfectly defines Lt.. Col. Bard as well.

Editor’s Note: Capt. Clark Tucker is the Public Affairs Officere at Fort Bliss.

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