August 22, 2002
He lived his life as a farmer, father, and World War II fighter. Harry R. Crouch, 81, of Clifton, was born June 6, 1921, to Olive and Ralph Crouch on Union Mill Road, by the old school house his family helped build.
He attended school until he was 16 years old then stopped to help his father work the farm and sell their goods at the 5th and K St. Market in Washington, D.C.
At 17, he bought his first car — a 1936 Ford for $250. He was earning $1.50 a day.
After dating a bit, he met his wife, the former Nena Byrne and they wed Aug. 27, 1942; he was 21 and she was 18. This year they celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
In 1943, he was drafted to the U.S. Army. He reported to camp on his birthday.
After training in Oklahoma and England, his division was called to serve in The Battle of Normandy.
He says the battle was well depicted by the movie "'Saving Private Ryan.' Ninety five percent [of the movie] was true," Crouch said. "The other 5 percent was worse."
His division was supposed to be the second wave of attacks after the 29th Infantry. However, he was sent ahead of his division — the 90th Infantry — because he was a communications specialist. He landed on Omaha Beach with two other men while the 90th pulled back and landed on Utah Beach.
"For four days I was out there in no-man's land‚ with nobody but me and my radio," Crouch said. He continued on through World War II under the command of Gen. George Patton, until the Germans surrendered to Gen. Patton in Czechoslovakia.
A few months later, the 3rd Army moved to the Moselle River in France. The Germans shot out a water dam, contributed by excessive rain, the area was flooding.
Crouch was ordered to go across the river and establish communications, even though he could hardly see. He and a few others rested the night at the river, and the next morning awoke to find an old fisherman's boat to take across, Crouch said. The entire operation was under fire, and for that Gen. Patton awarded him the Bronze Star Medal "for service beyond the line of duty" — something that confuses Crouch to this day, because he said if he were not ordered to do it, he wouldn't have.
By the end of the war, Harry was given the following awards during his tours of duty:
Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Unit Award Medal from Gen. Patton, Combat Infantryman Badge, American Theater Service Medal, a European-African-Middle European Service Ribbon, and a Meritorious Unit Award Star. He also received five stars for his five tours of duty — in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.
Crouch was discharged Nov. 19, 1945, at Fort Meade, Md., and returned home to his wife Nena, and two children, Raymond and Ann.
"He looked like an old drunk when he was discharged," said Nena Crouch about his appearance after the war.
He returned to Virginia to help his father with the farm and raise his family. "They didn't have much but they enjoyed what they did," said his daughter Ann Deem.
Crouch got other jobs to help out as well, including positions as a Fairfax County police officer and mechanic with a bus company.
He retired as a sheet rock driver for Braddock Supply earning $6.50 an hour.
Today, Harry and Nena Crouch still live on the farm established by his grandfather. Nena spends her days gardening and Harry occupies his time with doctor-prescribed walks.
Every other Saturday, the Crouches host yard sales at the old school house at the corner of Compton and Union Mill Roads. In addition to selling his collection of trinkets to the public, he mostly tells his war stories to those who'll listen.
"I guess that's why so many of them call me a legend," he said.