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Fri May 25, 2012
The Day Taps Echoed Through Belgium's Hills
Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 10:09 am
During World War II, Harrison Wright served with the Army in Europe. And as he recalls during a visit to StoryCorps with his grandson Sean Guess, he was sent on a very special assignment to mark the end of the war.
Wright was drafted in March 1943.
"I was an 18-year-old boy," he says. "I blew the bugle in our outfit," he adds, largely because he had played the trumpet in high school.
Wright was a member of the 227th Battalion, which followed other divisions and furnished them with soldiers after large and costly battles. During the war, he participated in funerals for men killed in action.
"If a young man is killed in action or dies defending his country, you blow taps over his grave," Wright tells Guess. "And it just — there's no way to describe it, the emotion that you feel, knowing that those notes is going out."
When World War II ended in 1945, Wright and his battalion were in Belgium.
"And I remember the war was over just a few days," he says, "and they asked me to blow taps for all who died in the war."
That was in Dolhain, Belgium, in the country's hilly eastern section near Germany.
"We climbed this high hill. It was like a mountaintop," says Wright. "And my battalion was at the bottom. I blew those taps. And when I did, the men said it floated out across all that valley, and said it was beautiful."
"They were all telling me how good it sounded, and what a tribute it was to our fallen comrades."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps, recording the memories of people across the country. On this Friday before Memorial Day, we'll hear from a veteran of World War II. When the war ended, Harrison Wright was serving in the army in Europe in a small village in Belgium near the border with Germany. And at StoryCorps he told his grandson about being sent on a special assignment.
HARRISON WRIGHT: I was an 18-year-old boy, and I blew the bugle in our outfit. If a young man is killed in action or dies defending his country, you blow "Taps" over his grave. And it just - there's no way to describe it, the emotion that you feel, knowing that those notes is going out.
And I remember the war was over just a few days, and they asked me to blow "Taps" for all who died in the war.
We climbed this high hill. It was like a mountaintop. And my battalion was at the bottom. And I blew those "Taps." And when I did, the men said it floated out across all that valley, and said it was beautiful.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TAPS)
WRIGHT: They were all telling me how good it sounded, and what a tribute it was to our fallen comrades.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TAPS")
MONTAGNE: Harrison Wright with his grandson, Sean Guess, at StoryCorps in Austin, Texas. His interview will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. Hear more on the podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.