John Robert Slaughter a D-Day survivor and member of the “greatest generation” died on May 29th, he was 87 years old. Bob as he was called was born in Bristol, Tennessee on February 3, 1925. He enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard in 1940 at the age of 15.
He served in Company D, which was a heavy weapons company in the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. The Virginia National Guard was called to active duty the following year on his 17th birthday. In 1942 he trained for 11 months with an elite force known as the 29th Rangers in the Scottish Highlands.
Members of the 29th Ranger Battalion were recruited to be an elite hit-and-run strike force whose mission would be to gather enemy intelligence. They were also committed to disruptive sabotage or simply to raid-in-force enemy installations.
The shock-troop concept, which the 29th employed, was fashioned after German “Stosstruppen” of World War I. Their regimen contained aggressive qualities and first-class fighting spirit which were well-known to senior British officers.
The 29th’s stratagem would involve using stealth and taking advantage of cover to outflank the enemy. They never got the chance to employ these strategies as the 29th was disbanded in October of 1943. Slaughter returned to the 116th as a result.
On D-Day, Slaughter hit the infamous Dog Green Sector with Company D in the first wave of troops to come across “Bloody Omaha.”
Company D lost over 70 men, which included 20 from Slaughter’s hometown. He recalled the bloody losses his unit endured. There were five of nine officers, ten sergeants, and two corporals that were killed. He was quoted as saying,
It was just a bunch of privates and sergeants and corporals trying to get something going and trying to get it to succeed.
Slaughter lived through the bloody carnage of Omaha Beach and lived on to fight in Normandy. He was involved in the Battle of Saint-Lô. His battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation for that action.
He was shot twice in Normandy. He was severely wounded on a hill overlooking Vire, on August 7. His battalion earned an Oak Leaf Cluster to their Presidential Unit Citation.
He was evacuated to England due to his wounds but later returned to his unit and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Slaughter was honorably discharged from service as a Staff Sergeant at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, on July 13, 1945.
In 2007 his memoirs were released. It was called, Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sergeant Bob Slaughter. The following is what has been said of the book.
It offers a rare eyewitness account of what General Bradley called “the greatest show on earth.” Painting vivid scenes of some of the most ferocious and epic battles of our time.
Slaughter also incorporates a wealth of data. It pinpoints names, dates and places; and quotes many other 116th Infantry veterans. An appendix contains fifteen eyewitness accounts of Omaha Beach, many published for the first time, by survivors of the 29th Infantry Division.
Slaughter was the founder and chairman of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia which was dedicated on June 6, 2001. On the 50th anniversary of Omaha Beach, he was only one of three veterans of WWII that walked the beach with President Clinton.
Slaughter returned to France for the 60th anniversary and became the subject of a French documentary. He was the keynote speaker at Saint-Lô and led a parade of the 29th Infantry veterans as they marched through the streets of the city.
His civic awards as documented on his Facebook fan page are noted as follows.
Civic Awards: The Republic of France awarded Slaughter its highest award, a Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honor. He was awarded the Rotary Foundation’s Paul Harris Fellow. Winner of the first National Ruritan (Non-Ruritan), Outstanding Citizens Award, 2000.
West Florida Post 2, 29th Division Assn., awarded him its First Annual D-Day Award, 1999; DAR Medal of Honor; 1997 Virginia DAR Excellence in Community Service Award. He was nominated twice for Citizen of the Year.
America has truly lost a great man of courage and honor. May he rest in peace.