The Army drafted Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native John Powell in April 1941. He initially served with the 176th Field Artillery Battalion.
When World War II started in December, he went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for additional training. After that, he transferred to the 229th Field Artillery Battalion in 1942 and joined the 28th Infantry Division. When the battalion deployed to England in 1943, Powell went to California. He later rejoined the 229th in Pembrokeshire. In the months leading up to D-Day, Powell’s battalion underwent preparations for battle in France.
After previous waves cleared the beaches for entry, Powell’s battalion landed in Normandy in mid-June 1944. There, the 229th followed the Allied advance through northwest France. Powell worked in anti-air missile defense, preventing enemy targets from landing. The 28th Infantry Division participated in liberating the towns of Percy, Montbray, Montguoray, Gathemo and St. Sever de Calvados in July and were also among the groups who participated in the Liberation of Paris parade in August.
Following the liberation of Paris, the 28th Infantry began the advance into Germany through Belgium and Luxembourg. However, the battalion sustained heavy losses when it attempted to breach the Siegfried Line on the German frontier. In February 1944, the 28th supported the Third Army’s efforts to clear the Colmar Pocket in Alsace-Lorraine and later joined the First Army’s advance into the Rhineland. By April 1945, they had reached the Rhine River.
Despite expecting to serve only a year in the Army, Powell eventually served for five during the war. In 1946, he honorably discharged as a master sergeant. During his service in the 229th, Powell received many medals, including a Bronze Star Medal, an American Defense Medal and a World War II Victory Medal.
After leaving the military, Powell returned to Pennsylvania and worked for a company in Kingston, New York, as a branch manager. He later worked for the tech company IBM and moved to Lexington, Kentucky, after transferring to the branch there. He retired at the age of 82.
Powell wished to return to Europe to see the places his battalion served in, but could not because of his health. When he turned 100 in September 2019, one of the gifts he received was a bag of sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy.
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