Driving through Marion County, West Virginia, you will notice memorial road signs honoring Army Sergeant Harrison Summers.
75 years ago on D-Day, Summers and his fellow paratroopers with the 502nd Paratrooper Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, landed at Normandy, France which helped Allied forces begin to end World War II. It’s what Sergeant Summers did that day all those years ago, that gave him legendary status, but not all the full honors he deserved.
Sergeant Summers didn’t make a big deal of it. He would return from war and become a coal miner.
“He was quiet … proud man … hard-working … honest,” recalled Richard Summers, a Vietnam veteran and son of Sergeant Summers, who began to look deeper into his father’s experience while serving in the big war.
The family would soon find out Sergeant Summers’ legendary acts of bravery on D-Day and be given credit for one of the most remarkable feats that day.
He single handedly killed 31 German soldiers, and with very little help from his squad, kill or force to retreat another 70 Germans. For his actions, Sergeant Summers was put in for a Medal of Honor.
“He should have received the Medal of Honor … plain and simple because he deserved it,” declared Richard Summers. But bureaucratic blunders and errors cost him that honor. “They said they lost the paperwork … and when they went back to get the affidavits … the people who were with him were dead.”
When Sergeant Summers died in 1983, one last ditch effort was made by members of the 101st Infantry Division located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. to verify Summers’ bravery. But the family would only receive a letter of regret from the unit’s Commanding General Maxwell D. Taylor.
“He says he (Taylor) owes some responsibility for not uh … not making sure he got the Medal of Honor,” said Richard Summers, who still hopes something can be done to award his father the honor posthumously. “He would be very proud … very proud for the country and proud for West Virginia.”
Sergeant Summers was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross instead of the Medal of Honor, but in many history books, there are numerous accounts of soldiers who witnessed his exploits. However, they are reportedly all deceased.