WWII veteran and Bronze Star recipient Richard Parkins, a Conway resident, grew up in West Virginia. He wanted to enlist in order to get in the same naval specialty as his brother. After his family talked him out of this, he worked in a B-26 factory in Baltimore, Maryland before being drafted.
Parkins served in the Army as a switchboard operator, a position he was assigned after becoming ill.
“I couldn’t take some of the food they were giving us apparently. It upset me so I couldn’t operate. In fact, I landed in Italy and they put me in an aid station and kept me there for about a week. They sent me to the frontlines and it recurred there and they finally said we can’t send you up to the front so we’ll put you in the communications group so I stayed there,” Parkins recalled.
Much of his service overseas was in Italy where he brought a piece of home with him.
“My father was a veteran of WWI. I carried his Bible through WWII. It’s a little cloth covered, a big square. It’s got his name on the front of it and my name right after it,” Parkins said.
He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Anzio, and remains very humble about this honor.
“That was a surprise to me because I didn’t think we did anything that justified that kind of action, but we were in Anzio and the Germans had the high ground and complete observation of any movement on the beach. All of our forces were in old buildings or bombed buildings but they could hide, well when we lost communication with one of our four platoons, someone had to go and fix it and two of us volunteered and had to go across about a mile of open field under observation. Had the Germans been looking we would have been prime targets. We were lucky enough to get all the way to the frontline to the trenches and fix the problem,” he said about his actions that earned him the Bronze Star.
U.S. Senator John Boozman submitted the 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.