It was 70 years ago, but Robert “Bob” Powell remembers walking through those German-occupied woods in France well.
Near-death experiences have a tendency to do that. The World War II soldier was out on scouting detail when the new scout accompanying him, who didn’t know to send signals discretely by tapping the butt of his rifle with a rock, verbally warned Powell of the enemy soldiers he spotted in the woods.
The call ended up revealing their location, sending a volley of gunfire toward them. Powell said he turned at the last moment and a bullet went right through his shoulder.
“If I hadn’t turned right then, I probably would’ve been shot right through the heart,” he said. “Someone was looking out for me, there had to be.”
Powell has 11 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and will soon have a total of four great-great-grandchildren, none of whom would be here today had it not been for that last-second turn in the woods seven decades ago.
This weekend, one of Powell’s descendants showed her appreciation for him by accompanying him on a trip to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Tracey Riley, Powell’s granddaughter, arranged the trip through Indy Honor Flight, part of the Honor Flight Network, a national organization that raises funds to send veterans to war memorials.
Powell, who grew up in Logansport, enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War II at the age of 18.
After basic training in South Carolina and a stint at Camp Shanks in New York, Powell ended up in England on the day of the Normandy landings in France. He recalled ambulances transporting the wounded down a road “as far as the eye could see.”
About five days later, he landed on Omaha Beach. A couple weeks after that, he made his way up to the front lines, where he stayed until taking that bullet to his shoulder. After getting out of the hospital, he went straight back to the front, where he stayed throughout the remainder of his service.