WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) honored the service and sacrifice of the late William Kenneth Harp, a World War II veteran who served in the European Theater, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series commemorating the military service of Arkansans.
On March 2, 2019, while surrounded by his loving family, 99-year-old Kenneth Harp shared stories from his life’s experiences during an interview by a member of Boozman’s staff for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Harp passed away a few weeks after the interview.
Harp grew up on his family’s farm in Strawberry, Arkansas. He graduated from Strawberry High School in a class of 27 in 1939. Soon after high school he met his wife Pauline. They were married for about a year when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Harp was draftedinto the U.S. Army.
“My wife was pregnant at that time,” Harp said. He was granted a waiver until the birth of their baby. Two weeks after his oldest son was born he reported for duty.
Harp went to basic training at Camp Maxey, near Paris, TX. There he received initial training as an infantryman, and was later trained on mine detection.
By November 1942, Harp was on a ship headed to Europe where his assignment was to search for mines ahead of the advancing Allied Forces.
“When we’d find a minefield then we had to clear it out and put yellow tape up” so the tank drivers would know it’s safe, Harp said.
He had to work quickly in dangerous conditions. “It’s scary but you more or less had to forget it,” Harp said. In one risky assignment,he was clearing the path for Allied troopsby hand while carrying 10 pounds of nitroglycerine.
Throughout the war, Harp wrote to his wife. “I tried to write her a letter every day,” he said. She also wrote to him, updating Harp on their young son.
Harp saw the atrocities the Nazis perpetrated against Jews. The SS had “a trench dug and people laying down there and they had a bulldozer there ready to cover it over” so we stopped them before they had a chance to hide their war crimes,herecounted.
Harp returned to the United States on a liberty ship that docked in New York harbor. “They told us the night before we’ll get to see the lights of New York City.” He remembered a ship displaying a ‘welcome home soldiers’ sign.
For his service he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals and other campaign medals for his valor in Europe.
“Kenneth Harp courageously served his countrywhile fighting against the forces of fascism in Europe. His memories of his time in uniform are an important part of our history as much as his own story. I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Harp’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.